Category Archives: Wine Education

Maui Winery (Take Me Back to Paradise City)

As January cruises by I’m noticing things are getting serious. Every year I feel like January sets the tone for what’s to come so as of today I’m making a concerted effort to turn my internal bass beat dowwwwn. Between tax season deadlines and planning events and marketing for the year and thinking about Lila’s kindergarten registration (just kidding, I’m in denial!) and this teeny tiny insanely gargantuous tradeshow in Vegas we’re exhibiting at in six weeks (more on that down the road) and the always-exciting commitment levels happening with clients at the studio, I’m taking a deep breath and thinking about wine and the ocean. Specifically: Our visit to Maui Winery last November.

So there. This shall be the tone I set for the year.

At about the precise moment we learned we would be going to Maui I started thinking about write offs the local wine scene. Did they even have one? Can you grow decent winemaking grapes on the island? And so my winemaker and I discovered mauiwine.com. From the looks of what we read they are best known for pineapple wine. Well yes, that makes sense in the Pacific Ocean market. But wait, hang on to your perfectly poised wine glass: They grow Syrah, Malbec, Grenache, Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer grapes too. All I needed was a willing winemaker hubby and my partner-in-wine-drinking mother to venture up that windy Hawaiian mountain road with me. I kept reminding them both for about ten months that we had to make a point to visit the winery once we set foot on the island. I’m sure they grew tired of me dropping not-so-subtle hints. You had me at wine, their faces countered back. I was simply doing what I do best and making sure no one forgets about wine for a week.

Fast-forward to our week in Kihei when we set a date. We began our ascent up the windy, lush mountain (which is actually a volcano and the locals made sure we understood that) full of shockingly gorgeous vistas overlooking the sandy beaches we’d just come from. It was like a completely different island at 1800 feet above sea level. Forty-five minutes earlier it had been palm trees and sand and humid 80-degree weather. That landscape quickly morphed into green-covered hillsides and houses and misty rain and refreshing mountain air. This was our sixth day on Maui and the first I could say I didn’t need sunscreen.

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These were taken out the window of our rental car. Not bad for a Wednesday drive, huh?

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To say I was surprised by this place would be entirely accurate. It was adorable/charming/gorgeous/historical/welcoming/perfect.

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The King’s Cottage and tasting room.
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“The Shed”

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And the trees! I spent a long minute trying to mentally coordinate how I would move one of these guys into my future back yard. Curse the cost of shipping!

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Turns out there’s a lot of history behind this place. The estate grounds are known as Rose Ranch, which was established over 150 years ago. The main building where the tasting room is housed is the King’s Cottage where, according to the website, “King Kalakaua – the last reigning king of Hawai’i – and Queen Kapi’olani would come to relax and be entertained.” And so were we as we stepped up to the bar, which was made from a mango tree. I mean, isn’t everyone’s?

Heather greeted us with wine glasses and answers to all our questions. I felt like maybe she’d done this before. She explained how the vineyards sit beneath a blanket of cool mountain air yet are bathed in steady high temperatures year-round, which makes for a very long growing season. The vines actually have to go into a forced dormancy, meaning there is an even greater degree of labor and amount of time spent in the vineyards than is typical for most grape growers.

Very interesting indeed. Now let’s see the wine list.

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We each were given three complimentary tastings so we tried to divide and conquer most of the list and pass our glasses around. Out of the pineapple wines selection, we each liked the semi-dry Maui Blanc best. Perhaps we should have brought a sweet wine lover with us, as none of us are big on dessert wines. However both the Hula O Maui and the Maui Blanc were refreshing and would be perfect on a hot sultry day lying on the beach.

We moved on to the Rose Ranch selections where of the four I believe we enjoyed Upcountry Gold and Ulupalakua Red most.

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Again, given the sweetness factor of the remaining two I think we may have been a bit biased. The Upcountry Gold was easy to drink and the red blend was subtle and simple. This may be the time to plug in a fun fact to insinuate my own hunch about the winemaker’s style: He is from and was once a winemaker in Oregon. Noted.

The unanimous winner however was the 2012 Estate Syrah. This was the meatiest wine on the list so of course it was bound to be our pick. We purchased a few bottles and when we opened one a month later at home it was surprisingly dry, something I don’t remember noticing at the winery probably because I was sopping wet from island rain showers at the time. It was nice, enjoyable, and reminded me of the ocean which felt light years away from the 17 degree temps at home. Thank goodness for photos and wine, or I may have dreamt the whole vacation.

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After tasting and walking around the grounds and letting the kiddos emit some energy we were ready for some local fare. Heather had recommended the place just a hop/skip/jump across the street which was perfect considering it was the only place within about 30 miles to eat.

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The Cowboy’s Place was eclectic, charismatic and full of fun gifts, convenience goodies and a little café in the back where I ordered up the curry salmon salad-stuffed avocado. I mean, the avocadoes on this island are ridiculously superior to any others. Don’t talk about how many calories are on this plate. I don’t give two shakes of a Hawaiian pig’s tail.

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We ended the day on the beach drinking a glass of wine while the kids splashed around in the salty waves.

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Hana hou! (Let’s do it again!)

Potter Wines 2015 Calendar of Events

This post was originally written back in March of this year, when August seemed so very far away. Fast forward to today and it’s time to start thinking about 2016 (business-wise, that is). I’ve updated our Calendar of Events a bit and will continue to do so as we book events for the holidays as well as solidify our indoor market dates. Remember: To be absolutely certain where we are during any given week, check out our Potter Wines Facebook page.

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‘Tis the season! As in, wine event season. My winemaker and I had a brief break in wine events (Jan/Feb/March are typically slower months in the wine industry) which allowed us to focus on a whole host of other projects, many of which you’ll see introduced throughout 2015. In my mind, this “break” meant we would be caught up on business paperwork and home projects…HA! You silly, silly girl with your free thinking!

Nevertheless, we have a LOT in store for you this year. As soon as we launch our next project you can bet I’ll be running off my fingers right here. But in the meantime, if you’re local to Boise, are new in town or are planning a visit, here’s where you can find us for the next seven months. Some dates are tentative and we are always adding events as they come up. So if you want to be completely sure whether we’re at a specific farmer’s market or venue on a specific day, your best bet is to check our Facebook page.

And remember, you can ALWAYS find us and buy online at www.jalapenowine.com!

Potter Wines Calendar of Events (Through October 2015)

March:

  • Sunday the 15th: Fred Meyer Tasting. 12 to 4pm (Located at Glenwood and Chinden in Garden City)

April:

  • Thursday the 2nd: First Thursday at Gallery Five18. I will be pouring our Jalapeno Wines as well as our Riesling and Jalapeno Lemonade by the glass. Come visit me and see some terrific local art! 5 to 9pm, located at 518 S. Americana Blvd.
  • Saturday the 4th: Opening day of The Boise Farmer’s Market! We made our big debut at this market last year, we’re more than thrilled to return as members. Open 9am to 1pm, located @ 10th & Grove Streets
  • Saturday the 11th: The Boise Farmer’s Market (see above for times and location).
  • Saturday the 18th: Opening day of The Capital City Public Market! This is our first appearance at this market, we’re excited to add it to our 2015 line-up. Open 9:30am to 1:30pm. located downtown Boise on 8th street We’ll also be at The Boise Farmer’s Market (see above for times and location).
  • Thursday the 23rd: The Oak Tree. A special Mother’s Day event with giveaways, raffles, massages and wine! 5 to 8pm, located at Americana Terrace, between the river and the entrance to Kathryn Albertson’s Park.
  • Saturday the 25th: Both The Boise Farmer’s Market and The Capital City Public Market (see above for times and locations).
Boise Farmer's Market
The Boise Farmer’s Market; Photo Credit: BoiseFoodieGuild.wordpress.com

May:

 

Capital City Public Market
The Capital City Public Market; Photo Credit: Idahostatesman.com

June (Idaho Wine Month):

  • Thursday the 4th: First Thursday at Boise Art Glass, 5-9pm. Yes, we love pouring here so you’ll find us here often. This place is a blast!
  • Saturday the 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th: The Boise Farmer’s Market and Capital City Public Market
  • Sunday the 14th: Savor Idaho. This event is always top-notch, on beautiful grounds (at the Idaho Botanical Gardens) and loads of fun. Get your tickets fast though before they sell out, because they will!
  • Monday the 29th: Bodovino, 5-7pm. Join us for tastings to celebrate Idaho Wine Month. 404 S. 8th St, Boise 83702
Savor Idaho
Savor Idaho; Photo Credit: Savoridaho.org

July:

August:

September:

September events are loosely scheduled due to unforeseeable harvest times/travel. Check out our Facebook page for updates.

Boise Art Glass
Boise Art Glass; Photo Credit: Basilhaydens.com

October:

Eagle Food & Wine Festival at Banbury Golf Club
Eagle Food & Wine Festival at Banbury Golf Club

This takes us to the busy holiday season, where we’re adding events frequently and will be in at least one of the indoor markets on Saturdays. Watch for another update to this post sometime in October (which is also about the time I’ll be telling you all about our nifty Christmas gift boxes…ooooh, aaaah!).

How to Stay Fit…and Still Drink Wine

Look at me! I’m blogging! Hard to believe my last post occurred almost a month ago, who let that happen? If you could freeze this sentence in time you’d see that as I write this, I sit in the middle of a newly-laminated living room among freshly painted walls and a bright white ceiling and lovely natural light beaming through our temporarily-bare windows and…$#*% everywhere.

There’s a bit of a situation at home base. We decided to remodel our tiny space before we eventually leave it for good. Do you know the best way to clean your house? Answer: Tear it DOWWN. Really. Just start pulling boards from your walls and don’t feel surprised when you see the photo your spouse sends you of the massive mound of dirt (See also: Newly discovered planet where it appears living organisms could safely dwell.) he swept up after he ripped out the carpet.

Until this past weekend there was no way I was pulling our oven away from the wall to Dawn dish soap the crap out of it. But look at me twice: Did it! The upside and downside: We’re going on day 4 of no oven because we still need to install the flooring underneath it. This means lots of salads and grilling and picnics (both indoors and out). This also means I’ve had to get creative at cooking my eggs. FYI: Cooking eggs over-easy in the microwave is a ridiculous concept to tackle, especially before 7 AM.

In related news: Wine. There’s been that over here too. I know, you didn’t see that coming. I’ve got that post – so cleverly titled “A Wino’s Wine List: Part 2” – coming at you next week (see Part 1 here). But in the meantime, I was luckily contacted by Fix several weeks ago regarding an article they wrote for their fun site, called “Skinny Wine: Keeping Fit While Still Enjoying a Glass…or Two.” They thought that post might be a good fit for this blog and, truth be told, it took me weeks to read over it and get back to them. Typically these kinds of things end with me saying “thanks but no thanks” because the content rarely fits what I rant about here. But this one makes all kinds of sense! I think you’ll agree, unless you’re only here for the housecleaning tips and flawless child-rearing lessons. In which case, you really need to look into using a different search engine.

So without further disjointedness, I bring you the real portion of this blog post, written by food and wine writer Maggie Unzueta, who you can also find over at In Mama Maggie’s Kitchen (I’ll bet her kitchen doesn’t look like a cross between Home Depot and an episode of Hoarders.)

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Skinny Wine: Keeping Fit While Still Enjoying a Glass… or Two

Any good dieter knows to stay away from wine when trying to shed the pounds, but we all know that’s not always a realistic option. With so many amazing wines out there, it’s hard not to have a glass of wine or two after a long day of work from time to time. Instead, let’s look at how you can modify your wine-drinking habits to avoid gaining weight.

What’s the Whine About?

In case you don’t know why you should limit your wine when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s simply because our bodies digest alcohol differently than food. Excess alcohol (or ethanol) is sent through a complex metabolic process. This involves the liver, which potentially can be harmed if too much wine is consumed. The body will burn the alcohol first as energy and store other nutrients as fat.1

Know Your Limits

For safety reasons, drinking too much alcohol is not recommended. We often hear the phrase: “Everything in moderation.” The same applies to wine. With wine calories varying from 110 to 300+ for just four ounces, you should determine your calorie budget before hitting the wine bar.

Photo Credit: Fix.com
Photo Credit: Fix.com

Some restaurants serve six- to eight-ounce glasses of wine. So when you think you’re just having one, you could possibly be having two glasses of wine. Try using this general rule: For every ounce, calculate 25 calories. Next time you are eating out, try to gauge how much you have been poured by ounces, and from there you can estimate the calories in your glass. If you’re not sure how to measure ounces, ask the waiter or bartender how many ounces they are serving. They usually know.2

Calories, Calories, and More Calories

Knowing the caloric content in wines is the key. The highest-calorie wines tend to have the highest alcohol content. Most red and white wines range anywhere from 110 to 175 calories per four-ounce glass, but there are some sweet wines that go up to 300 calories per glass. If you are at home, you can easily search online for the exact calories. If you are hanging out with friends, it might be a little more difficult to figure out the calorie count. Since most of us tend to prefer one wine varietal to another, here is a breakdown of calories by wines to help you:

Wine from Least to Most Calories
Source: Fix.com

To compare, here are the caloric contents of other adult drinks:12 oz wine spritzer: 100-120 calories

  • 12 oz wine cooler: 215 calories
  • 12 oz can of beer: 146 calories
  • 2.5 oz shot of rum, vodka, etc: Approximately 100-120 calories

Sweet wines like Port, Tawny Port and Banyuls not only have very high alcohol levels, but they also hit you with high sugar carb calories. That’s probably why these wines are normally served in relatively small amounts.3

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

When you go to a wine bar, it‘s standard to order a cheese plate with a variety of cheeses, nuts, and dried fruit. Translation: fat, calories, and sugar. With 650 calories per serving in a normal cheese plate, this is not necessarily the healthiest option on the menu. Yes, there is the matter of pairing delicious cheeses with wines. You can’t argue against that, but you can pair wine with healthier alternatives.4

Healthy Snack Options with Wine
Source: Fix.com

If you are going out for a happy-hour hangout, one very good tip is to eat something before you go out. It will prevent you from overindulging and from having more than you should.5

Burn, Baby, Burn

We all know that exercising is a great way to lose weight. It’s also the best way not to gain weight while drinking. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a gym rat to have a glass of wine. Here are some examples of typical 30-minute exercises for a 125-pound woman, and how many glasses of wine she can have as a result.

Half Hour Till Wine
Source: Fix.com

In short, the more you exercise you do, the more wine you can have. Also, know that alcohol causes dehydration and stunts muscle growth. Drink plenty of water to keep your muscles hydrated and your organs functioning normally. Although we do burn calories doing activities like gardening and walking to and from the car, we don’t burn enough to consume even one glass of wine guilt-free.

Other Tips and Wine Bits

  • One of the easiest and best ways to cut down on calories is to make a wine spritzer. Take half a glass of wine and pour it over ice. Top it off with club soda. Club soda has zero calories. A typical wine spritzer is roughly 100-120 calories.6
  • Be a wine snob. Most studies show that people buy wine according to price. If you pay for an expensive glass of wine, you are more likely to have only two unless you are related to Donald Trump.7
  • Drink water in between drinks. Water has zero calories and will make you feel full. Not only that, but it will also help lessen the next day’s after-drinking effects.

There are plenty of ways to keep from adding the pounds while still enjoying the wines you love. It does not have to be a dieter’s downfall. Additionally, wine is good for blood circulation and has stress-relieving benefits. Just for those reasons alone, you should not let the fear of adding weight stop you from drinking a glass of wine. Cheers!

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You can view the article at its original source here.

Interview with My Winemaker

I rarely read winemaker interviews unless I absolutely love the wine being made or the winemaker lives in Idaho (we like to support our fellow masochists winery owners). It’s not that I don’t want to learn about a winemaker’s style or the method to their madness for turning water into magic. It’s because I know from experience it’s not as glamorous as the interviewer makes it sound. Wine is complex and mysterious and evasive and always developing. It is also simple and straightforward and truthful and methodical. It is hard @$$ work. It’s sweat and blood and tears (both the triumphant and frustrating kind). So for me, interviews that only highlight the interviewer’s glamorous perception of the wine and winemaking process tend to dissuade me. But that’s just me. I’m just a humble winemaker’s wife learning the business side of wine.

A few weeks ago in the middle of the night, an idea popped into my head for a blog post: Why not interview my own winemaker and ask him a few questions I like to know about winemakers? Leave out the details about the process and the sources and the technical (yet very important) aspects. Just ask him about what he enjoys drinking, where he gets his inspiration and what he thinks about this tough and grueling and rewarding and eye-opening business. Luckily, my husband rose to the occasion even though last night I gave him a deadline somewhere along the lines of “Get these answers to me ten minutes ago.”

Here you are, my interview with my winemaker…

What is your winemaking philosophy?

“I hear people say ‘Why?’ Always ‘Why?’ They see things and they say ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were and I say ‘Why not?'”

[Deep, isn’t it? I asked for philosophy and I got it. You should be holding a glass of wine when you re-read that, by the way.]

What are your favorite types of wine to drink?

“Peppery reds, Syrah, Zinfandel, Mourvedre. And always a glass of Chipotle Jalapeno.”

If you could drink wine anywhere, in any region or country, where would it be and why?

“Australia and Argentina in the winter. Idaho and Spain in the summer. I believe that Idaho will soon be recognized as a premier site for world-renowned wines. It’s incredibly exciting to not only be near so many great wines, but also to be involved with them.”

What is the up-side to being a self-taught winemaker?

“Not being tied down to a particular style. If I were traditionally trained I may not have known that jalapeno wine isn’t mainstream and for the masses.”

What has been the most challenging part of the wine business? The most rewarding?

“Without a doubt, the hours of hard work. It never stops. From harvest to bottling to cleaning to marketing to keeping up with paperwork, there are countless hours of work to be done.

“The most rewarding? For me it’s the hard work and knowing you are making something people enjoy. Oh, and watching the puzzlement on people’s faces when they want to dislike a wine but are amazed they like it.”

[Agreed, that last part is way fun.]

Where do you get your inspiration?

“Bad dreams? My mind never stops, I have hundreds more ideas that I may torture my wife with.”

For the record, he usually chooses to torture me with them before 7 AM. But I’m finding my place amid the idea tornado and am learning to ask the right questions when he comes up with something and I have no idea how he thinks we’ll pull it off. Typically those questions are:

“What do you need? and “When do we make it happen?”

*For more info about our wines and winery, visit jalapenowine.com or read this post.*

 

Writing Wine Tasting Notes: A Satire

Since I am relatively new to the winery business and not-so-new at being a wino, there are definitely a few things I’ve learned about the wine industry in the last three years that baffle me. One of those things is tasting notes. No, I’m not baffled that they exist and I do understand what they’re for and I do appreciate them. But they can be so vague and subjective that I often wonder…”who in the world writes this stuff?”

Well, wine writers write this stuff. People who know wine much better than myself write this stuff. And get paid for it. So clearly I’m the weakest link here, I’m going to be very humble about that up-front. But terms such as “stone-fruit” just feel tiresome and vague to me. And what if one person tastes the suggested “cherry” note and the next person tastes rotten strawberries? Okay that’s extreme (maybe), but you get the idea.

I only bring this up because my winemaker and I write our own tasting notes for our wines and recently we had to write some for our popular-and-short-lived 2012 Syrah. Now I have always loved writing, but I have always despised technical writing. As soon as it starts getting form-like, I’m over it. I understand there’s beauty in that and the world needs technicality. It’s just not my bag. I’m much better at doing whatever the hell I want writing freely and conveying my point on paper the way it sounds in my head, before my lips get a hold of it and de-stem the tact out of it. So as you can imagine, writing tasting notes can become a necessary ordeal over here. I love it until I think people want conventional. Our Jalapeno Wine tasting notes are a blast to write because they’re fun, silly and they hopefully paint the picture we want to paint of the product as a whole. I mean when I pick up a bottle and read this on the back, I’m gonna buy it:

“The crazy cousin. Has been spotted skinny dipping, running off to weekends in Vegas and sneaking away with baked chicken and a daiquiri.” – Our soon-to-be-released Pineapple Jalapeno Wine

The thing is, we do make conventional wines as well which call for conventional tasting notes. So here’s what we eventually came up with for the Syrah:

“This full-bodied Syrah fills your glass with aromas of dark cocoa and pepper. It hits your pallet with dark fruit and notes of licorice and tobacco, leaving you with a spicy, peppery impression. Aged in American oak for 1.5 years.”

For the record, we actually tasted each and every one of those things in it while we wrote this. Will you? Who knows. Here’s what I wanted to write:

“This full-bodied Syrah fills your glass with relief. The kind of relief only a darn good wine can give. It hits your pallet with well-cared for grapes fermented in small, pretty barrels that smell like heaven, if heaven smells like American oak and wine yeast. It was made with purple hands and a love of bold choices. And it will never be created exactly the same again.”

But then people would wonder: Is it smoky? Is it sweet? Is it fruity or dry? So I suppose the answer to the perfect tasting note is somewhere in the middle. Maybe we can be brutally honest and classy?

Let’s try that, shall we? Take a bottle of Cabernet my mom and I opened on Christmas vacation, for example. Here’s what we read on the bottle:

“Deep ruby red color shows pure cherry, currant and star anise aromas. Deep and voluptuous texture is complemented with rich currant, raspberry, anise and cedar. Full bodied, this wine finishes with well-balanced tannins.”

In reality, my mom and I dumped it out and couldn’t drink a glass of it. Yes, wine is subjective. So here are the tasting notes I would (subjectively) write for this wine instead:

“Sugary corn flavors and fishy oatmeal elements are fused together in this burnt chili-like production. The wine finishes best with a chaser of gin and tonic.”

Or, take the Merlot we opened the next night, which did not have tasting notes on the bottle. If it had, I’m sure they would have read something like this:

“A mildewed leather finish with cool ranch undertones and a triumphant ketchup bouquet.”

Hey, to each their own right? Maybe you like that sort of thing. Just for fun, let’s pull a Captain Obvious out of the bag to wrap this up and pick on a cheap wine. You know the kind, it’s the stuff on the grocery store end cap that goes for $2.99. Here are the notes for the (brand-omitted) Washington State 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon I’m picking on (and have tasted) today:

“Aromas of red berry, ripe cherry and cola fill the nose, followed by luscious berry sweetness on the palate that culminates into a long velvety finish. This Cabernet Sauvignon is elegant yet approachable and complex.”

Ohhkay. Let’s have a shot at this, from my humble palate’s perspective:

“If you enjoy pickles, kit-kats and soluble fiber fruits, you will certainly enjoy them as one in this. Do not travel far from the loo. This Cabernet Sauvignon is rugged yet transparent and argumentative.”

I probably shouldn’t quit my day job, huh? At any rate, what are your thoughts on tasting notes? Love ’em, leave ’em, or don’t even read ’em?

Crushing on Grapes – Part Two

Growing up, harvest was a season. An entire season devoted to potatoes, beets and grain. They even pulled us out of school (seriously, they shut school DOWN) so that we could go help out the farmers. Sometimes I enjoyed this if I got to drive truck. Many times I despised it since it meant standing on your feet for 12+ hours picking clods off the conveyor line. At the end of each day you were guaranteed a sweet paycheck and an album’s worth of unique and really stupid songs about potatoes.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d experience another harvest first-hand after leaving for college. But it seems the joke’s on me – not only am I experiencing another harvest but I’m kind of LIKING it. Clearly, I’ve been sipping some juice.

I don’t love the physical toll it takes on my husband but I do love the look of accomplishment on his face from time to time, even though nothing ever feels completely accomplished in the world of a winemaker. I love the grapes. They’re pretty and messy and smell like super earthy and undrinkable wine just a day after being picked and sitting in mounds in their bins. I hate the bees, those cocky jerks. I love the sound of the grape juice rushing out of the crusher/de-stemmer and into containers for fermentation. The clean-up is tedious and never-ending. The fruit flies are unrelenting. But the reward is amazing and the end result is a bit hard to wrap your mind around if you’ve never witnessed the winemaking process from start to finish. I mean we all understand that in the end there is WINE and that is exciting! But if you knew every little detail about how it became wine you’d find a generous amount of fascination to it, as simple as it might be.

With that said, here are a few photos from our Syrah crush last week as well as a few I snapped just yesterday from the fermentation bins, which we have to stir up every 4 to 6 hours right now. I meant to take some photos of the Riesling as it was actively fermenting but it has already been laid to rest in shiny stainless steel barrels. If you missed the Riesling crush photos from my last post you can check that out here.

So now that harvest is over for us we have just entered the next phase in the winemaking process of our Riesling and Syrah – The Wait. You likely won’t taste the end result until late 2015 for the Riesling and at the very least it’ll be late 2016 for the Syrah. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you updated on their journeys here.

For now, enjoy!

The Arrival

Pretty clusters all ready to go
Pretty clusters all ready to go

syraharrival2.jpg

 

The Crushing/De-stemming

Those paddles do the work of minions.
Those paddles do the work of minions.

 

The paddles break it all up and send the grapes out the bottom and into bins for fermentation.
The paddles break it all up and send the grapes out the bottom and into bins for fermentation.
Scraping the bottom of one grape bin, where the juice already smells like wine.
Scraping the bottom of one grape bin, where the juice already smells like wine.

 

The Sidelines

The unwanted pile
The unwanted pile.

 

This is how the grapes look as soon as they find a new home in the fermentation bins.
This is how the grapes look as soon as they find a new home in the fermentation bins
What you don't see here are about 50 more of these guys' friends hovering over us.
What you don’t see are about 50 more of these guys’ friends hovering over us.

 

The Fermentation (3 Days Later)

3 days later, the grapes have started to break down
3 days later, the grapes have started to break down
Stirring it all up every 4 to 6 hours so every grape has a chance to touch the juice.
Stirring it all up every 4 to 6 hours so every grape has a chance to touch the juice.

Crushing on Grapes – Part One

As I type this post we are anticipating the arrival of our Syrah grapes in a few hours. Life has not been short on things to do around here since our Riesling grapes arrived! As glamorous as having a winery might sound I can assure you there are many unglamorous moments – like bee stings that make your hand unrecognizable, back spasms that mirror Michael Jackson dance moves, leg cramps in the middle of the night that make your wife think you’re having a heart attack and grape juice that has started fermenting in your ear.

With those mental images painted, I’m much more excited to bring you the beautiful side of winemaking. These pictures capture a bit of the charm that keeps us engaged in this whole journey. I hope you enjoy and stay tuned for Part Two next week when I show you the Syrah crush and how to run from bees without twisting your ankle.

Riesling Arrival

Riesling arrival
Each grape bin has roughly 1200 lbs of grapes.

Arrival2

Arrival3

The Crush

Snapping a good picture in mid-day sun is unlikely. Had I been standing on the right side of the crusher/destemmer to avoid a shadow I would have been standing in grape juice.
Snapping a good picture in mid-day sun is unlikely. Had I been standing on the right side of the crusher/destemmer to avoid a shadow I would have been standing in grape juice.
Coming out of the crusher/destemmer and into bins for pressing.
Coming out of the crusher/destemmer and into bins for pressing.
This is what halfway through one grape bin looks like. Part grapes, part juice.
This is what halfway through one grape bin looks like. Part grapes, part juice.
Leftover stems and grape skins the destemmer spits out.
Leftover stems and grape skins the destemmer spits out.

The Press

This is where the juice and grape skins get completely separated, in the case of white wine.
This is where the juice and grape skins get completely separated, in the case of white wine.
The sweet, sweet grape nectar that will eventually become fermented perfection in a bottle.
The sweet, sweet grape nectar that will eventually become fermented perfection in a bottle.

A Food and Wine Festival Recap

Golfing was very much a normal weekend activity for many of the approximately 5,000 people who lived in the town I grew up in. And as you might expect to hear from a small-town girl, my uncle was the manager of the city golf course which meant I spent a lot of time there. So naturally, I joined the high school golf team. Now it would make for some boring writing if I told you I went on to be one of the golf greats of my town, right? As it is, I am best known on the course for driving my grandma’s golf cart straight into the porta-potty my mom was using at the time. No embellishment of the facts there.

I’m a terrible golfer. I could probably be good at it, at least in some capacity (I’m a really fast walker), but that would require me to get excited about some part of the game and…I got nothin’. As you may have caught on by now, I’m more likely to be the girl drinking in the clubhouse or running laps around the course. Actually, the best thing I can think of to do at a golf club is have a food and wine festival!

Enter: The Eagle Food & Wine Festival at the Banbury Golf Club in Eagle, Idaho. Von and I signed up last spring to pour our wines at this event knowing it was to take place on our anniversary. I suppose when you really like what you do and when you get invited to participate along with nearly 30 other wineries and restaurants at a sell-out event that benefits a great organization and takes place at a well-respected golf club, you don’t hesitate to say yes. Or maybe you realize you’ve been married long enough that working together at a cool event like this one IS kind of a great way to celebrate your marriage and the fact that yes, although you may know exactly how to push the other person’s buttons, you still genuinely like one another. I guess in our case it was a nice pairing of both situations.

We arrived early to set up our table and admire the grounds, which I’d been to numerous times (for brunch, in case you were thinking I’d actually pay the money to embarrass myself golfing at a place like that). We took a few moments to grab some photos and play ‘Where’s the Wine?’

I kept waiting to get kicked off. I harbor that much guilt when it comes to my past behavior on golf courses.
I kept waiting to get kicked off. I harbor that much guilt when it comes to my past behavior on golf courses.
It's safe to say that if you didn't see our table at this event, you clearly had enough to drink.
It’s safe to say that if you didn’t see our table at this event, you clearly had enough to drink.

As you may notice we had somewhat of a flashy table. I think we were the only winery to bring our own custom tablecloth and signage. We don’t believe in being subtle about what we do – there’s nothing subtle about jalapeno wine.

So we set up shop and argued about my control-freak behavior (I don’t even know I’m doing it, I swear). We had over 2 hours to kill before the event began and the place was pretty quiet. (We learned that although the contract states to be set up within a certain time-frame, most people just do what they want and set up an hour before start time. As a former event planner that would give me an ulcer.) So we traveled up the road a mile for appetizers and a drink at Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery. Waitaminute! Was this an impromptu anniversary celebration?! No kids, no chores, no entertainment, just us? Well I’ll be! It was indeed. Anniversary acknowledged, cheers to us! A cheese plate for everyone!

Back at the event we were able to sneak in a tasting of some of our local winery friends’ wines. We’d never met the people behind Cellar 616 nor had we tasted their wine so that was a treat (Ken is super nice and down to Earth). Also on our must-have list was Periple. I adore Angie, the winemaker and one-woman team behind the biz, and her wines also happen to be very, very good. Particularly her Syrah although I have yet to try her Tuesday Night White which sold out at the event. Another favorite is Mouvance – Judy (one of the owners) seems like an absolute real person (to stay true to the use and definition of the word ‘real’ on this blog – she seems unfiltered and not full of artificial ingredients). Mouvance makes some of my favorite whites and their Viognier did not disappoint.

On the restaurant side of things, we were paired up with Wild West Bakery (located in Eagle) and they brought their gluten-free lemon bars and red velvet bites to showcase. Dangerous! Suuuuure, put the personal trainer by the baked goods. Well played. Naomi (the owner) is fantastic and I liked her from the moment we spoke on the phone two months ago. Meeting her in person to talk food and wine and have her serving next to us was a great time. There’s talk of her carrying our mild jalapeno wine mixed with lemonade in her bakery next summer!

Although we didn’t have much time to sample food once the festivities began, we did get to sneak in the balls-on-a-stick from 3 Girls Catering which chef Lisa was so kind to bring us in exchange for “some of that hot wine!” That woman is a riot, we just enjoy her spirit and she drinks chipotle wine by the glass, folks. Do not mess with her and DO eat their food (it’s balls-on-a-stick good).

Another scrumptious showing was by Chef Dean Fuller from the Boise Hotel & Conference Center/Castle Ranch. I’d heard about his wonderful gourmet food and use of local ingredients. Turns out his reputation is just as it should be. First let me say I think I’m the only person in the world besides my mother who doesn’t like bacon. Nothing ethical involved, I just don’t care for it and in case you’re wondering I do eat pork otherwise. Now back to Chef Fuller – the guy had baked his own potato chips (Idaho potatoes, be certain) and topped them with a piece of bacon, chocolate something-or-other (sweet bliss) and some chili pepper flakes and maybe some sea salt…I’m probably completely missing it but he accomplished something incredible – he made me like that bacon a LOT. I went back for seconds. Okay…thirds. At any rate, nicely done, Chef.

As for our take on the event from our side of the table – it was a hit. We were pouring our mild and chipotle wines as well as our Riesling and the feedback, excitement, conversations and reactions going on around our table were so encouraging. I only wish we had a camera to tape the reactions we get upon first sip of the jalapeno wines, followed up with their commentary once people realize they love it. We met people all the way from Cape Cod, Massachusetts who were excited to see and try something new. I can’t believe I get paid to do this stuff! Oh…that’s right, I don’t. I do get paid in wine and good-time vibes from doing events like this one.

At the end of the night we packed up our wares, said our thanks, nice-to-meet-yous, see-you-next-years and goodbyes and we picked up the kiddos from grandma and papa’s. Another year together and another fun event under our belts. Looking forward to seeing what next year brings! I can pretty much guarantee you won’t see me on a golf course before then…

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What You Don’t Know About Wine Won’t Hurt You

I’m going to let you in on a little something you may not know and may be appalled to learn: Winemakers don’t wash their grapes.

Does that freak you out? You might want to get over it, or start favoring a different libation.

Last week there was a big to-do made in the media about how Trader Joe’s infamous wine, Two Buck Chuck, allegedly contains rodent blood and other miscellaneous nasties because the grapes they use to make the wine are harvested by huge machines that grab anything and everything, throw it all in a receptacle without sorting and make vino, essentially. In case you missed it, here’s the article that explains how the mess got started and what the owners had to say about it after this accusation was made:

The really big ruckus over ‘Two Buck Chuck’

I’m not saying I think Two Buck Chuck is as exceptional for the price as others believe it is. But certainly, if you like it and enjoy it, then drink it. I myself think you get what you pay for and sometimes that’s A-OK with me if I’m in a bind and need some vino, ANY vino, STAT. And furthermore, if you simply don’t like how wine tastes or a winery/winemaker’s ethics then those are good reasons not to drink the wine. But it’s not rodents that should keep you away (or even the stomping bare feet of strangers). The idea of wine having animal blood in it is ridiculous. But I realize that many people probably don’t know why it’s so ridiculous, especially if the fermentation process has never been explained to them. I certainly didn’t understand until Von started making wine years ago and I saw the process myself.

So I’m going to give you my version of how this all works. If you’d like a more scientific one, feel free to contact my husband or go Google crazy.

Grapes are harvested, sometimes by machines if it’s a major production winery and often by the hands of vineyard workers who can pick an insane amount of grapes in a couple hours. I know this because two years ago we chose to pick our own grapes from one of the vineyards we purchase from out in Sunnyslope and it took four of us adults and one toddler HOURS to get 1,000 pounds of grapes. The people out in the fields? They can knock that out in about an hour, I’m sure.

Courtesy of Luce Della Vite
Courtesy of Luce Della Vite

The grapes get to the winery, where we put them in the crusher/destemmer to sort through the stems and leaves and weed out all the junk (this would apply to rodents too, if you’re still hung up on those). We do NOT wash our grapes. I know that causes shock to some since we live in a world obsessed with sanitation yet we want our food fresh. We do see spiders, ear wigs, occasional wasps and other insects. Typically vineyards don’t use a lot of pesticides because pesticides can change the natural fermentation process. This is good news for you, the wine drinker, as well as the wine itself. The thing is, all that grapey bacteria – the must and flora and natural yeast – is stuff we want in the wine. Washing it off would be…dumb. Have you ever thought you’d like to see a winery who advertises that they have the cleanest wine? Me, I want my wine DIRTY.

After all that stuff is sorted out, we start making the good stuff. Depending on the varietal, some grapes will get pressed (or stomped) and tossed in with the skins, others will get pressed and the skins will be thrown out. No matter which way it goes, all will start the first phase of fermentation, which is a very active process because the yeast (both added and natural) works like wild fire. It’s so active that it needs open air to do its thing. It never gets old to see the thick cap of skins on wine when it’s fermenting the first few days. We “punch down” the cap of skins often so they can continue to mix with the yeast. This is fun for me, because I’m punching things with the knowledge that my punching will be rewarded later on with lots of glasses of liquid happiness.

Punching down the grape cap
Punching down the grape cap

The second phase is when the yeast calms down and does its hard work quietly, so it’s time to cover it. There’s more appropriate and more wine-sophisticated ways to say that but I don’t have those words for you.

Now here’s the important part, so pay attention: This 2-phase fermentation process, the one I just walked you through so eloquently? It is responsible for killing any crazy bacteria or virus that could possibly infect a human being. Wine is not a place for human diseases and, subsequently, it is not a place for animal blood. The yeast bacteria destroys any and all harmful pathogens during fermentation. While an occasional rodent may have been spotted at some point between the field and the destemmer (although we have yet to witness that ourselves), I assure you there’s not even a micro-trace of it anywhere in that bottle of wine you’re thinking about buying. There is only good, productive, and essential bacteria.

So now you know. And you’re feeling good about it, aren’t you? So drink up!

Embracing White Wine

Here’s a quick note to my younger self: You will like white wine one day.

"Brace. Yourself."
“Brace. Yourself.”

I started out drinking red wine in my early 20’s mostly because, I’ll admit, I was embarking on my career in fitness and wanted to enjoy social drinking without killing my gut and calorie budget. Red wine seemed like the way to go. I started drinking merlot (a good entry-level variety), then cabernet, then tempranillo….then I became a red wine equal-opportunist. I guess it sort of negates the calorie-dodging argument if you go into full fledged wino mode, huh?

With all the wine drinking I was doing never did I get excited about white wines. Don’t take this personally, my white-wine-loving friends, but I actually thought white wine was for wimps. To me it was the equivalent of ordering a wine spritzer and the only people I knew who drank white wine were my girly friends who always complained about their weight and ordered salad for dinner everywhere we went never mind the fact that it was covered in crispy fried chicken and ranch dressing. (Enter Despicable Me Minion voice here: “Whaaaat?!”)

It wasn’t until Von started making wine that I gave white wine a shot. In fact, the first wine he ever made was white and to this day it is my favorite. Too bad we were amateurs then and only made a few cases. He probably did everything wrong as far as wine making goes and it was a huge hit, at least among our family, friends, and the judges at the Western Idaho Fair. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Actually more often than not.

While red wine is still the breadwinner of our wine cellar (and by cellar I mean the rack on our kitchen counter), this whole winery ownership thing has forced me out of my comfort zone and into the realm of white wine. Here are a few of my favorites:

New Age with Ice and Lime

This has been around a while and most people who drink it know it’s best fixed this way.

Good for when it's 100+ degrees outside and you want to forget about how much you're sweating just from walking to your mailbox.
Good for when it’s 100+ degrees outside and you want to forget about how much you’re sweating just from walking to your mailbox.

Mouvance Pinot Gris (local winery)

They’ve sold out of the 2010 but their 2009 is exciting too. We purchased a bottle last Fall when we took my mom to the Boise urban wineries for a day of tasting. I’m sure they all loved our children crawling around on their stuff.

Check out Mouvance on Grove Street downtown.
Check out Mouvance on Grove Street downtown.

Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

You’ll find a lot of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc since Marlborough is a region in New Zealand. I’m sure there are quite a few good ones out there. This is one we were given by a friend and really enjoyed.

Give it up for the people of Marlborough, they seem to know their @#$!.
Give it up for the people of Marlborough, they seem to know their @#$!.

Potter Wines Riesling

Oh c’mon, you knew this was coming! But shameless plug aside, we’re pretty happy with this. Neither of us are sweet wine lovers so in order for us to do a Riesling it had to be on the dry/off-dry side and taste like this. (Von says I’m sweet enough for the both of us. His sarcasm drew me to him in the first place.)

“I'll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano." - Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey), Dumb and Dumber
“I’ll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano.” – Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey), Dumb and Dumber

My younger self would probably call my present self a snob. Little does my younger self know what she’s in for, or that she should enjoy that social drinking while she can because someday very soon the majority of her drinking will be done inside her living room after the kids go to bed. Who am I kidding? I never wait that long.

Do you have some favorite white wines, local or other? Please comment and share what they are!