Prickly Pear

Prickly_pear_cactus_beedHave you ever eaten prickly pear?. If you have not, you should consider it next time you see them at the farmer’s market, prickly pear is a cactus with jointed stems and oval flattened segments, having barbed bristles and large pear-shaped, prickly fruits.

This fruit is fruit is very common in Mexico which is known as “tuna”, it comes in three different colors red, green and yellow Tunas (prickly pear) is not only delicious and refreshing and with a nice watermelon aroma, it’s got a ton of benefits, has been promoted for treating diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and even hangovers!.,

prickly_redThere are numerous of recipes that you can make at home too, jam, Margaritas and even wine, just remember “Be careful with the spines or the wine could have a bite”.

 

Week 4…Harvest 2014 – We Have WINE!

9:15image-1 copyWe have WINE! The first fruit, Pinot noir, to come into the winery has now evolved into wine! I noticed that the cap of grape skins was falling on a small fermenter yesterday morning. By the end of the day it was completely submerged and we had wine. It tastes very fresh, with tart cranberry and raspberry notes, deliciously refreshing! It will be pressed today and put into French oak barrels to rest for about 9 months before it is bottled.

We continued to receive and process Pinot noir fruit this week along with more Chardonnay and some Viognier. When the white grapes come into the winery they are immediately pressed and the juice is pumped into an enclosed tank where it settles over night. The next day the juice is racked off the settled solids and into either stainless steel barrels or French oak barrels for fermentation. The cellar sounds like it has multiple fish aquariums running with the consistent bubbling from the air locks on the barrels. The air locks allow the carbon dioxide created during fermentation to escape while keeping oxygen out.

9:15 copyMy biggest accomplishment this week was doing ALL of the punch downs on ALL the fermenters for midday. I am developing some definite muscles along with some blisters too and we aren’t even half way through harvest yet! The reward is knowing that we will make a good wine and the views from the top of the fermenters.

Week 3…Harvest 2014

9:7image-1A thrilling and exhausting week it was! I had some of my first 10 hour days and we saw the first obvious signs that fermentation has begun. Harvest is a big, messy chaos of receiving and processing fruit, managing fermenting fruit, cleaning incessantly, and still dealing with all the other daily tasks of a small winery such as bottling 100 cases of 2013 wine and cleaning 94 oak barrels.

The most exciting aspect of all this is the daily arrival of new grapes. We received and processed nearly 20 tons of grapes this week! As the black grapes come into the winery, the individual berries are removed from the stems and then they are placed into large vessels for fermentation. The grapes just hang out for a few days and then you begin to see obvious signs that fermentation is beginning. Bubbles develop and the fermenter begins to warm up…nice on our cool, foggy mornings! This is where things are with the estate fruit that was the very first to come in last week. We even had one tank with overflowing yeasty froth. The froth tastes like a spritzy sort of sweet, tart candy! We also started punch downs on the fermenters this week.

9:7image-2 copyAs the yeast begin to ferment the sugar in the juice, the grapes that are still whole rise to the top of the fermenting vessel pushed up by the yeast creating carbon dioxide. The skins on the top need to be kept moist to prevent microbial growth and to be sure to get all the color, flavors, and tannins desired from the grape skins. To perform a punch down you use a tool made of hollow stainless steel that has a dinner plate sized disc at the bottom of the handle. It also has two handles coming out the sides. You place the disc on the top of the skins and…push…until the disc breaks down to the looser, more juicy lower layers. This is hard work and sometimes you have to step on the middle handles to push it through the dense grapes. Then you pull it up, heavy with a layer of wet fruit from the lower part of the fermenter, and start over again, inch by inch, until the entire upper layer has been punched down and the top of the fermenter is all covered with wet grapes again. Initially this is done once a day and eventually it increases to four times a day. With all of our large fermenters now full, and many of our smaller ones too, punching down can take over an hour now. It can only be described as a labor of love!

Second Week….Harvest 2014

8-30-14image-2 copyAs predicted, the beginning of harvest week for us started with bottling all the 2013 Chardonnay.  As a small, family owned winery, most of the bottling is done in house and only very large lots require a bottling truck company.  We finished up in two days bottling nearly 500 cases of wine and we were ready for vintage 2014 to begin!

When determining when grapes are ready for harvest there are three major factors involved.  The first factor is the varietal.  Chardonnay and Pinot noir have a shorter ripening time than Cabernet Sauvignon, for example.  The second factor that determines the time necessary for ripening is where the grapes are planted.  Vines on slopes at higher elevations ripen more quickly than vines planted on flat valley floor or on slopes at lower elevations.  The last, and most definitive sign of ripeness and the date of harvest, is the winemaker’s decision.  Winemakers have many different parameters to consider in determining if a particular vineyard, or block of a vineyard, is ready to pick.  8-30-14image-1 copyThis is influenced by the sugar level and the taste of the grapes, the signs of physiological ripeness, such as the color of the seeds, and also by the style of wine he or she is making.  Sparkling wines are made from grapes that would be much too under ripe for making a bigger, bolder style of wine.

8-30-14image copyHarvest began for us on a foggy morning that turned into warm sunshine as it often does in these valleys.  The first grapes to come in were the younger vines of Pinot noir from the estate vineyard.  The next day it was Chardonnay from a neighboring vineyard.  In the Russian River AVA, things are ripening a week or so earlier than usual, probably due to the consistent warm temperatures for most of the summer.  Yields are quite high again as they were for 2013.  There is some speculation that this may be due to the drought, but no one knows for sure.  The Pinot was especially beautiful with perfect small, dense clusters.  Harvest is a lot of work, but it is an exciting time too!

First Week…. Getting Ready for the Harvest

image copyMy life was good, maybe even perfect…but I got bit hard by the whole wine thing.  I was a happy, successful medical professional and I just couldn’t be satisfied with the answers to my questions given to me in the tasting rooms….oh, no…I had to learn more…had to know more.  Here I am, a middle aged woman, completing a degree in Wine Making doing an Internship at a Russian River winery…and this is how it goes…

Week 1 – What I learned:

  1. Preparations for harvest are as serious as the impending harvest.
  2. You have to get organized.  We spent all day, ALL DAY reorganizing the cellar.  We moved stacks of barrel racks, each carrying 6 full barrels of wine holding 60 gallons, outside.  We rearranged them, and then moved them all back inside.  This put all the empty barrels in one place, all the wine still aging in barrels at the back, and all the wine to be bottled soon, up front.  At the end of the day no one but us would have been able to tell the difference.  I thought it was gorgeous!
  3. Pressure washing is loads of fun!  There is a sort of POWER derived from pressure image-2 copywashing.  I pressure washed all day…I washed the destemmer, the filter, multiple fermenters of various sizes, holding tanks, and last but not least LOTS of FYB’s (fu#%ing yellow bins).  There is a reason they bear this name.
  4. Don’t put off what you can do today.  In the shadow of harvest it is not uncommon to bottle what you can bottle, as you won’t be able to do much of anything to older vintages once harvest begins.  The toddlers will be on their own for a few months.  To that end, we racked Chardonnay into tank, let it settle, lightly filtered it into another tank where it will wait for bottling next week.
  5. Harvest truly is right around the corner.  I was asked to pull a grape berry sample from the estate vineyard.  This involves walking down the vine rows and doing your very best to pull a random sample of about 100 grapes.  You want to pick berries from the top, middle, and bottom of different clusters as you walk down the row.  You can’t just pick the ones you would like to eat!  Once picked they are crushed all together and a sugar reading is taken.  It was close to being right where our winemaker wants it.  What does this mean?  We may be processing grapes right alongside all that bottling!

Earthquake

erthqWhat is an earthquake?, we all know is a shaking of the ground caused by the sudden breaking and movement of large sections (tectonic plates) of the earth’s rocky outermost crust. The edges of the tectonic plates are marked by faults (or fractures). Most earthquakes occur along the fault lines when the plates slide past each other or collide against each other.

How did you feel our most recent earthquake this early morning of August 24th? Did it wake you up?? For me, yes–indeed for a second I thought that my old two story apartment building was going to fall apart!  Certainly not a nice feeling. The epicenter at American Canyon is 60 miles from Geyserville and this was the strongest earthquake that we have experienced since 1989 triggering six major fires. The Napa High School was requisitioned a shelter for those who lost their homes.

Some historic buildings in downtown Napa were damaged extensively.

Any wine damage? Of course. Mentioning just one, at a famous store in Napa the shelving had moved 2 feet to 3 feet from the wall and much of their inventory had fallen to the floor including $200 dollar bottles of wine.

After many conversations its clear we all felt this earthquake in many different ways but the more than 100 year old building that houses Locals is still standing just as it was after the 1906 earthquake and Loma Prieta.  Geyservillians are debating whether the crack in the masonry on the front of the building may have gotten a little bigger, but we are still here selling great wine!

Friday Night Fun

Friday-Night-Live-from-Sue-Bonzell2

It’s a warm Friday evening in Cloverdale, and some friends and I are brainstorming up a game plan for the night. In the distance the smell of BBQ beckons to me as it wafts through the house. We elect to head downtown and check out Friday Night Live for a change of pace. As we walk by Pick’s Drive-In, I can see the street blocked off to traffic and hundreds of people swarming around the local eateries stands, talking dancing and gorging themselves on all kinds of tasty delights. We locate the Hamburger Ranch stand for dinner; two sandwiches feed the four of us, a welcome surprise and a delicious experience. After clearing our table we walk a few feet over to the front of the stage and begin clumsy dancing to the live salsa music. Before I know the band is done and it’s 10:30pm, we find a place to watch the band pack up as finish our drinks and wait out the exit rush. I am happy to say that the music, food, drinks and vibes were all god. We will definitely be coming back next Friday for more.

By Spencer.

Aug. 28th Locals Salsa Class and Dancing

bachata

Take your first step and find your next one with us. Join us at Locals for a glass of wine to loosen your hips then we will head upstairs for a Bachata and Salsa dance class!

Hector, a native of Mexico City, will be our amazing teacher. No experience necessary just come and have fun and get ready for our new Locals Salsa Club.

Lesson starts at 6:30 for one hour and then we will have free dance time to practice our new moves. Meet at Locals Tasting Room at 6PM. Tickets are $15 and include a glass of wine. Are you in? Call Locals at 707-857-4900 to reserve your spot.

OH HOW SWEET THE SIMPLE LIFE CAN BE (THE SOUTH COMES TO CALIFORNIA WITH A TWIST)

TomatoesRecipeIMG_6035So my sister asked me to think of a recipe that she could pair a wine with that really speaks to summer.

The answer came to me quite easily because here in the south nothing speaks to summer like corn and tomatoes. I don’t know if this is really a tradition of Southern origin but I have been told that it is. But I’ve given it a bit of sophistication as it travels to California.

In Virginia you would find this dish in its simplest form on the back of a flatbed truck after church on Sunday. It would be one of may dishes. Biscuits and ham. Egg salad. Sometimes even a jello mold if tradition is really taking the fore. But enough. The star of the show would be tomatos topped with a mound of sweet corn. But here is how I envision the recipe brought to California:

Shuck the corn and baste it with a little choice California Olive Oil
Grill the corn. Ideally over charcoal but gas is ok, until the kernels begin to char (that’s what brings the sweetness out.)

The tomatoes – leave them alone – if its summer and they’re good (which is the only time to make this dish) they will easily stand on their own two feet. Set them in the sun for a little while and then slice thickly.

Once the charred corn has cooled, cut it from the cob with a sharp knife into a deep bowl. Season the corn – go for it – salt, pepper, olive oil (good stuff) maybe a little finely chopped basil.

Mound the corn on the slices of tomato

Here’s what I would do to make the dish complete. Get some rustic fresh bread. Slice thickly and brush with olive oil and grill. Serve with the tomatoes and corn. Maybe add a fresh mozzarella to the mix

What more could you ask of summer – except a delicious wine pairing to come from my sister

Xocolāt (Chocolate)

semillas de cacao

A little history about chocolate

The History of chocolate begins in Mesoamerica there was evidence of chocolate beverage dating back to 1900 BC, the word chocolate comes from the Nahuatl xocolātl which means “bitter water “and entered the English language from Spanish.

Originally was prepared only as a drink, chocolate was served as a bitter frothy liquid mixed with spices. Both Mayans and Aztecs believed that cacao bean had magical or even divine properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death.

Until the 16th century this cacao bean drink was unknown to Europeans, Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Colombus) encountered the cacao bean on his fourth mission to the Americas.

Chocolate is the confectionery match to wine. Perhaps this is because the process of making chocolate is very similar to wine. Both cocoa beans and wine are fermented with the very same type of yeast. No wonder there are so many wine and chocolate lovers!

When matching wine with chocolate you are usually talking about dark chocolate the best ones range from 60% to 85% cocoa, the higher cocoa content the sharper the taste.

Recommended Wines to pair with chocolate

2011 Eric Ross Old Vine Zinfandel Port
Ripe rich fruit from 90 year old “Old Vine Zinfandel” with just a kiss of sweetness, no syrup here. The balance of quality brandy, jammy fruit with plenty of acidity follows through with subtle hints of oak aging explode on the palate.

2009 Pendleton Late Harvest Petite Sirah
A blend of 90% Ponzo Petite Sirah with 10% Cabernet Blanc, dark and jammy, yet seductively smooth.

red-wine-dark-chocolate