And just like that it’s over… Well, almost. We’re planning to take Thursday November 11th off as “End-of-Harvest” Day – sleep in, clean the house, get at haircut… a blissful day of not thinking about grapes or wine!
It was a strange harvest – but I guess we always say that. The grapes were not plentiful or spectacular so worked extra-hard to create excellent wines for you. The Grenache noir came in first and fermented perfectly. The Syrah was next and it exhibited a low sugar, high pH characteristic that was alarming back in September but became the “norm” by the end of October. A high temperature spike during the first week of September caused the grapes to basically shut down. To further complicate the issue vineyard managers immediately began pumping lots of water onto the vines to save the canopy (the leaves) which caused the brix to drop more and the pH to rise further. In the end it became a game of “how long can we let the fruit hang?”. The reds did pretty well with the Mourvèdre being better than usual and the Carignane (a first for us) being spectacular. On the white side of the house the Viognier came in early and clean, fermenting into an exceptional wine. Marsanne was next (yes, we’re planning to recreate the “Audition” that everybody loved so well) and then we waited to the very end of Harvest to pull the Roussanne, the Grenache blanc, and the Picpoul blanc. The whites are being carefully watched over and should make it through well but all-in-all it was an awful lot of work to produce such a little bit of wine.
Lots of work has and will be happening on the Tasting Room. The outdoor tasting area is pretty much complete except for the final tables. Inside the insulation and walls should be installed in the next 30 days or so. We know everybody likes our “rustic” style but we’d like to have it a little more finished (and warm) for the winter. The holidays are just around the corner and we’re looking forward to our next Wine Club release on November 18th and the Christmas Eve-Eve party on December 23rd. We’re expecting a lot of rain this winter but don’t worry, we’ll be snug and warm inside.
Well, we’ve made it to “Half-Time” in the game of harvest. Due to the way Rhone varietals tend to ripen in the Santa Clara Valley we usually get 75% of our grapes arriving on the crush pad in mid-September. These grapes are processed, fermented, and moved to settling tanks by the first week of October. The remaining 25% of the grapes – the whites strangely enough – don’t arrive until the last couple weeks of October or even early November. This gives us about 10 days in the middle of October to catch up on paperwork, clean up the winery, take the dog to the park, maybe even sleep a little before it’s back to the harvest grind. So right now we’re at half-time; Grenache noir and rose, Syrah, Carignane, Viognier, and Marsanne are all in and done. Next week or the following we’re expecting Grenache blanc, Picpoul blanc, Roussanne and hopefully Mourvedre (if it ripens fully this year).
So far harvest has been pretty smooth. The fruit’s been a little uneven due to the huge heat spike we had in the first week of September but good winemakers will make good wine, even in off years. It might be the experience of several more harvest behind me talking but I think this has been the easiest one so far and we’re on the downhill slope. Famous last words.
Sounds like we’re just lazing around in the October sunshine, laying in the grass and watching the clouds, right? Nope. This weekend is the Fall Passport for the Wineries of Santa Clara county so there’s that craziness to prepare for as well as a few projects we’ve been putting off around the winery. We’ve gotten rid of the old carport cover that we were using for shade in the outdoor picnic area and replaced it with a number of “Shade Sails”. We put them up yesterday to check the layout but right now they’re only attached using cheap line that’s way too small for the job… and here comes the first of the winter winds. We’ve also put together a list of “Winter” projects for after harvest. On the top of that list is “Finish the Tasting Room” which includes running power and lights, insulation, heat, and a fancy ceiling. I know everybody likes the “rustic” look, and we promise not to get too far away from that, but I’m looking forward to being a little more like a nice winery and a little less like a tractor shed.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been stressing over preparations for the 2017 harvest. There’s always so much to do and something is going to get overlooked. It doesn’t do any good to worry… but I can’t help it.
This afternoon I found out that we can expect the first fruit to arrive at the winery on Thursday, September 8th – Eight whole days from now. My first reaction was pure panic – “how can we possibly be ready?” We have the 2016 whites and some custom crush bottle, the winery to clean, and equipment to prepare. On top of all that there’s a Wine Club release, Fall Passport, Campbell Wine Walk, and Noe’s Birthday party to plan.
About an hour later I realized that I’m much more calm than I’ve been in weeks. It’s finally here, harvest has arrived, and there’s nothing I can do about it except deal with the pressure. If there’s one thing I’m good at it’s dealing with pressure. Just knowing the date when it all starts was enough to take away all of the stress and anxiety.
So it’s that time of year, the time when things get crazy and fun. There are a ton of upcoming events and reasons to stop by the winery in the next few months so come on by and see what we’re like in crisis mode. It may not be pretty but it’s sure to be exciting!
On Saturday August 12th we’ll be releasing the first wine under our secondary label “LVD Wine Company”. The LVD Wine Co marque was created to allow us to offer wines of unique character and exceptional value that don’t strictly fit into the La Vie Dansante Wines philosophy, i.e. they’re not made from Rhone varietals, or they’ll collaborations with other winemakers. These wines can be fun, playful, and at times event a little experimental. The first release is “Stage Right”, a blend of Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Six weeks to go until harvest, things are starting to move fast! Today we saw the first indications of veraison – the changing of colors in the grapes – in the Zinfandel. It seems like everyday we remember one more thing that needs cleaning or something we need to order for harvest. That reminds me…. filters…
So far it looks like a stellar year for the grapes. Lots of water early on but no rain since May, good heat during the day but nice cool nights. We’re also spending a lot more effort on our spray and canopy programs which should show in the quality of the Estate grapes. Last year was a great year but everything is falling into place to make 2017 event better.
In August we’re taking it a little easy. Although the project list is still a mile long, we’re trying to save money and energy for a busy September and October. See, that’s the thing about running a winery – there’s never an even flow. Certain times of the year, like crush and and bottling, require long days and lots of money, but other times are much less taxing. To keep sane you need to remember to go with the flow and if it’s an “easy” month, enjoy, and if it’s not… work your ass off.
In the life of a Winemaker, June is a month to catch-up and July is a month to begin preparing for harvest. As a rule-of-thumb I figure that 90 days after the Fourth of July we’ll be knee deep in harvest. Right now I’m feeling a combination of “more ready that ever”, and “pure panic” which pretty much describes me every year at this time.
On the “ready” side, we’ve got all of our grapes under contract and the quality this year is looking exceptional. This is mostly because of the wonderful winter rains and the temperate days we’ve been having but also because over the past four years we’ve developed relationships with the local growers and are no longer the low man on the totem pole – we get better fruit. This is also the first year we don’t need to purchase a bunch of new supplies and equipment. We’re in the fourth full year of winemaking and we plan to produce about the same amount of wine as last year – 1,500 cases – so instead of buying new gear we’ll be able to use the tanks, barrels, and such that until recently held the 2014 wines which are now in bottle.
On the “panic” side – there’s only about 75 days until the first day of harvest… are you kidding me? Where did the time go? We’ve got a MILLION things to take care of before the first grapes hit the crushpad. There’s equipment to clean and repair, the Flatbed needs a smog check, we need to bottle the 2016 Whites, etc, etc, etc.
This month we’re kicking-off the La Vie Dansante Wine Symposia with “The Art and Science of Tasting Wine” on July 13th, be sure to check out the additional information under the “Events” section of this page. We’re hoping to provide a new symposium each month going forward. A list of topic can be found under “The Life”, “Wine Symposia (Classes)” tab at the top of this page. A calendar hasn’t yet been determined
We’re starting to get a little more serious about distributing La Vie Dansante wines locally. Leanne Burr (firstname.lastname@example.org) has joined the team to head our sales and marketing effort and take a little of the stress off of me. She’ll be working with our accounts to ensure they have a supply of our latest wines at all times as well as upgrading our retail merchandising and marketing materials.
Everybody’s been asking what affect all the early spring rains had on the vines… well, now we know – they’re going crazy! I’ve only been making wine for a half a dozen years and we’ve been in drought pretty much all of that time. I’m not used to seeing what a little water can do for vegetation. The vines are extremely vigorous which is causing us to do a lot of extra maintenance. First we did a pretty extreme shoot thinning early on to cut back on the non-productive canes, now we’re about to go through and hedge the vines. “Hedging” is when we trim the individual canes back to about four feet. This corrects the cluster to leaf ratio and opens up the canopy so that spraying can be more efficient. We don’t want the vines to “struggle”, but we don’t want them to think they’re on vacation either.
The first of the new Rosés, the Rosé of Mourvèdre, is out this month. It’s the perfect summertime pool wine. Low in alcohol but high in flavor and acids, it’s meant to be served well-chilled and not taken too seriously. This is a fun wine to accompany the warm afternoons ahead! Coming up next should be the first of the “LVD Wine Company” wines, “Stage Right” (or maybe “Left” depending on which is most ready in the first week of July). LVD Wine Company is a second label for La Vie Dansante Wines. It’s our play-around label where we can produce wines from non-Rhone varietals (I SWEAR I’ll be doing a Tempranillo…someday). The first wines, the “Stages” – Left and Right – are our answer to the question “do you use the grapes off this property?” Well, yes, yes we do – a bit. Stage Left is an Estate wine blended from Cabernet sauvignon and Zinfandel. Stage Right uses the Estate Cabernet but blends it with Syrah sourced from across the valley.
We’ve been working on the landscaping around the Tasting Room. This month we expect to plant grass in the picnic area and Olives along the parking lot. We’d also like to get the shade sails installed over the outdoor Tasting Area but that’s going to take some serious engineering – which around here means some serious drinking. We’ll see how that one goes. Speaking of engineering, our top priority for post-harvest is a patio with a firepit. We don’t even know where it’s going to be right now but we WILL have a nice fire to lounge around this fall. Of course you’re all invited too!
Happy Mother’s Day!
We had a very busy month in April and we were hoping for a chance to slow down a little… nope.
This month we’ve made a ton of progress on the Tasting Room and grounds including finishing the front wall, pouring epoxy on the bars, and installing a sprinkler system for the grass. That last one may not sound all that cool but one of the worst jobs last summer was dragging the rainbird around every day so we could water a tiny patch of grass. Now the sprinklers are all in-ground and controlled by three valves. That’s one less chore each day.
Speaking of watering, after much thought and going back-and-forth, we’ve re-planted the garden behind the winery building. Tomatoes, Peppers, herbs, cucumbers, and edemame so far. Basically, things we love to snack on or pickle. It’s a lot of work, the veggies aren’t usually as good as those at the Farmer’s Market, and you certainly don’t save and money, but hey… we like watching things grow.
The big, big news this month is that we’re finally getting to start up the “La Vie Dansante Wine Symposiums”! These are a series of classes to be held once a month on a Tuesday at GVA Cafe in downtown Morgan Hill. The first class will be on wine appreciation and how to get the most out of your visit to a Tasting Room. More details will becoming within the next couple of weeks via eMail and Facebook.
Speaking of social media, we also just created a Pinterest page for La Vie Dansante Wines. On it we’re tracking all of the DIY projects we’ve done around here as well as keeping track of other projects we’d like to tackle as we free up time/money. If you use Pinterest, follow along here: La Vie Dansante Wines
Heads up, our next wine club release will be next month on Saturday, June 3rd. We’re planning an All-American Picnic with food, music, and lots of wine in the form of a combined party for all three wine clubs. A number of Founder’s Club members elected the six bottle per year version of the club and as such won’t actually have a release this time around since they’re three bottles twice a year rather than the more common three bottles four times a year. No worries, you’re still invited to the party. Another option is to have me bump you up to the 12 bottle a year club. All of the discounts and benefits remain the same but you’ll be gaining the other two releases each year. Look for a separate email soon to explain your options further.
Lots of winemaking going on around here these days.
The new Grenache noir – a fully red Grenache – premiers in the Tasting Room on April 8th. If you’re on our email list you’ve gotten an heads-up to a pre-release tasting happening on April 5th in downtown Morgan Hill. Due to some old, out-of-date laws I can’t tell you where in this forum but if you’re interested drop me an email or give me a call and I can tell you the details.
Both of the new Rosé’s are headed into the bottle next week. The first to be released, the Mourvèdre Rosé will be available in May and the Grenache Rosé is expected to release in August.
Two new wines under a brand new label – “LVD Wine Co” are also being bottled next week with expected releases over the summer. These wines are blends based on Cabernet sauvignon farmed here on the property. They’re being released under a different label because they’re not Rhone wines and don’t fit into the La Vie Dansante brand. They’re be available in the Tasting Room and your wine club discount can be applied to them.
April starts up the wine Walk, Stroll, Stumble season and we’ll be pouring at Willow Glen on the 22nd and Morgan Hill on the 29th. La Vie Dansante Wines will also be part of a trio of winemakers showcasing their wares at Bubbles Wine Bar on Thursday April 27th as part of the Morgan Hill Wine Week.
Finally, have you noticed all the press we’ve been getting recently? It’s kind of flattering. We’ve been in the Mercury News, The Morgan Hill Times, and the Gilroy dispatch in the past 30 days.
Busy days indeed!
Vacation (Ha!) is over and it’s time to get busy. March begins a three month schedule of Wine Walks and Strolls. We’ll be pouring in Willow Glen, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and possibly Campbell. Check out the event listings on the right side of this page for more information.
In addition to the walks and strolls there are a couple of other events this month. Hop N Vine on March 11th at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds promises wineries, breweries, food, and entertainment. This is a first time event so we don’t know what to expect but we’re anticipating a fun time. Then there’s the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley Spring Passport the following weekend on March 17th, 18th, and 19th. We’ll again be having food available for purchase provided by GVA Cafe in Morgan Hill – I’ve heard they’re planning Skirt Steak Nachos – and music by Jeff Smith.
Of course there’s some winemaking going on in our free time. Our 2014 Prelude – a Grenache noir, Syrah, and Mourvèdré blend – will be released on March 4th. We’ve sold out of our Rosé of Grenache but are working hard on it’s successor. We’re anticipating several days of bottling near the end of the month to get the remainder of our wine calendar ready for release.
We got a puppy. We Got a Puppy! We Got a PUPPY!!
Her name is “Noe” which is short for Noelani, a Hawaiian word meaning “heavenly mist”. Since January was one long wet slog I thought the name is pretty appropriate. Noe is about 14 weeks old (born around the first of November) and a mix of Border Collie and Aussie Shepard. She’s a sweetie so stop in and say “Hi”, I know she’d love to meet you.
In more wine related things… We’ve sold out of the Audition – but don’t panic, we’ve released it’s follow-on, “Overture”. “By definition an Overture is a orchestral piece at the beginning of a performance that leads to something more substantial”. Our lead-off piece is a blend of 45% Roussanne, 35% Grenache blanc, and 20% Picpoul blanc. We’ve also put together the list of “Coming Attractions” which have us releasing a new wine each month through October. Next up will be our “GSM”, Prelude, a blend of 55% Grenache noir, 25% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedré being released in March.
We’re busy in the winery blending the new Rosé’s. First up is a light, fresh, fruity Rosé based on Mourvedré that will be ready for the summer, then we’ll have a darker, structured Rosé based on Grenace noir for the late-summer or early fall.
OK, “break’s over, back on your heads” (very old, very inside joke). January is a time to take care of a lot of Planning, Financials, and Paperwork. The government wants it’s pound of flesh so we have to take a really serious inventory and figure out what we produced and sold last year. It’s also time to figure out where we’re going in the coming season. It seems each year is shorter than the one before it. Last year I sat down in early February and planning out what I would produce in the upcoming harvest and where I was going to get the grapes. This year I had growers calling me in December looking for commitments. Sigh, “break’s over”.
The 2016 wines show great promise, now we need to move the reds to oak and get the stainless whites ready to bottle. Speaking of bottling, we need to start giving the new Rosés some thought. We have a really nice dry Grenache Rosé in the tank but there’s also a new Mourvedre Rosé to play with. What will it be, a little of each, of a blend of both?
We’ll also need to spend some time getting ready for the first ever La Vie Dansante Wine Club release in February. We had to delay it last year because the wines just weren’t ready. I’d love to let them sit longer still but we’re a new winery and sometimes we don’t have that luxury. The wines are at the point that sometimes I think they’re wonderful, and sometimes I wonder what went wrong. Don’t worry, it’s just the wines coming through “bottle shock”. I really liked them all when they were bottled and I’m confident they’ll be even better given some time.
December is a time of catching up – catching up on cleaning, catching up on sleep, catching up on friendships and family. Things are progressing nicely, the spiders have all been evicted – I used to stress over the number of spiders that accumulate in our agricultural building (winery) until I realized that they were doing a noble job of trapping flies and other bugs – but the flies are gone so the spiders needed to follow. Mostly December is a month of planning.
Next year is a big one for us, it’s our third year and the third year is normally the hardest for a start-up company. In the first year you burn up all of your cash, in the second year you use your credit, and in the third year you play of game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. But… if you can get through the third year… well, then you might just make it.
In 2017 we’re plan to start selling our wine in wine shops, restaurants, and small grocery store around Morgan Hill and Gilroy. We’ll start teaching classes. There will be a small amount of branded merchandise available for purchase. We’re playing around with aged red wine and champagne vinegar. We’re also starting to bring in new people to help with all of the growth. In addition to Richard, who has been here from the start, you’ll be introduced to Amy, Kimberlee, and Kora who will all play a part in the coming year. Oh, and the wines – the 2015 Overture (a white blend, Audition’s replacement), 2015 Roussanne, 2014 Prelude (a red GSM blend), 2014 Grenache Noir, and 2014 Syrah are all in bottle, aging and awaiting release.
I think we’re past the “terrifying” part of the journey and now we’re just excited about the future.
Harvest is done, all of the wines are sitting peacefully in their tanks awaiting the next phase of winemaking – racking, where the new wines are transferred off of the gross lees and into clean tanks and barrels – which won’t happen until the first weeks of January. This month is traditionally the time winery staff gets away for a well-deserved respite. Not us though, at least not this year, because we’re way behind in bottling the 2014 vintage Reds. This should have been done before harvest began to free up tank space and allow the young wines a chance to bottle age but all of our time between June and September was focused on the completing the Tasting Room.
The Tasting Room is done… mostly and now we’re spending all of our time blending and bottling. It’s looking like we’ll have a GSM (Grenache, Syrah, & Mourvedre), a Grenache Noir, and a Syrah. The GSM blend is taking up more of the Mourvedre than we expected so the chance of a single-varietal bottling is looking slim.
With a little “free” time this month we’re hoping to publish the first edition of the La Vie Dansante newsletter and catch up on a few blog posts along the way. You might have noticed we’ve fleshed out the website a little with more to come soon.
October is the peak of harvest as well as the changing of the seasons. We’re expecting to bring in the last of the fruit (Grenache Blanc) about mid-month, right about the time the first rains should arrive. There’s also an outside chance of Mourvedre landing late in October. It’s been a cool year and Mourvedre is famously hard to ripen so we have pretty much written it off for this year, but maybe, just maybe….
This month we’re hosting our first private winemaker dinner at the home of a wine club member. It’s a multi-course event featuring La Vie Dansante Wine pairings for a group of about ten couples. This is still so new to us that people wanting to share our wine with their friends at dinner is an amazing thing. Can’t wait to tell the stories behind the wines and taste the imaginative pairings they try.
Bottling, bottling and more bottling! The 2015 whites are in the bottle and resting for their debut early next year (or late this winter if we run out of Audition). In the next two weeks we’ll push to get the 2014 reds – a GSM, a Grenache, and a Syrah into bottles. Then, finally… a wine club release! We want the first wine club release to be three wines new to the members and with the bottling of the 2014 vintage we’ll be able to accomplish that.
Harvest is here! The first of the white grapes – Lion Ranch Viognier – is scheduled to hit the crush pad on Friday the 9th. The first red – likely Dorcich Family Syrah – is expected about four weeks later. This year’s harvest is a little later than normal and the total production is expected to be a little less. We’re guessing we’ll turn approximately 15 tons of grapes into around 1,000 cases of wine over then next 12 weeks.
The Wineries of Santa Clara County Fall Passport coming at the end of the month. La Vie Dansante Wines will be pouring Friday night, September 30th at the Morgan Hill Community Center from 6pm to 8pm and then Saturday the 1st and Sunday the 2nd at Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door.
We’re within about two weeks of having the “Tractor Shed” weather-tight and painted. The barn doors were fitted last week and it’s starting to look like a real building. We’re expecting to work on landscaping over the winter and have a whole new Tasting experience available in the spring.
The Rosé is ready and will be released on the 6th of August!
Construction on the “tractor shed”, “truck garage”, “vintage motorcycle museum”, or whatever you choose to call it is going along well. It’s turning out to be a ton more work that anticipated but that’s because we’re doing a better job than I expected. The siding, windows, and doors should be on by the middle of the month and hopefully we’ll have the roof structure complete soon after.
Harvest is coming. Lots of work these next few weeks pulling equipment out of storage, cleaning, and inspecting. Most of the machinery only gets used for a couple of months a year but those two months are non-stop and we can’t afford to have a pump die in the middle of crush. Preparation is truly the key to success!
The 2014 Rose of Grenache is in the bottle and resting comfortably in the winery. I’m guessing it will be ready for release in about a month. Rosé’s tend to spend less time in bottle shock and we treated it pretty carefully during the bottling process so that should speed things up as well. What does all that mean? Chilled Rosé for the hottest days of summer!
Next up is pulling samples of all the 2015 whites and beginning the blending process. My goal is to have six more wines in bottle before the first of September. Even just writing that down scares me but it’s time to get things done before the first grapes of the 2016 harvest arrive.
We’re rushing headlong toward harvest which will be here way before we know it – but that’s how it always goes. As a small winery sourcing grapes is always an anxiety filled process but I think we’re looking pretty good. I have quality sources for Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre. The whites are a little up in the air but I’m guessing we’ll get a little Viognier along with our Roussanne and Grenache Blanc.
The next month or so are all about bottling the 2014 Reds and the 2015 Whites. Seven wines total coming between now and Christmas including two Wine Club only releases so if you’re not yet a member, what are you waiting for?
We’re getting a little tired of only having two wines to pour so we’re working hard to get the next wine, a dry Grenache Rose, into the bottle. The bottling equipment is set to arrive in a couple of days, the glass and corks are on order, now we’re just waiting for the government to give their OK on the label and we’ll be ready to go! Target release date is July first, just in time for the holiday and the hot summer weather. Mmmm, chilled Rose on a warm summer night – that’s what La Vie Dansante is all about.
In April we also started construction on the Tasting Room. Our first attempt didn’t go so well so we’ll stop for a couple of weeks and then start again – attempt number two will begin by the end of May. An anticipated completion date is difficult to predict because we think it’s going to be an on-going evolution all summer but expect to be moving “inside” before harvest starts in September.
The first week in April was our super-secret soft-opening. It was also the first time two winemakers had poured side-by-side on a normal weekend at Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio. After an hour or two Tammy Medeiros and Jeff had developed a little behind the bar ballet and everything went smoothly.
La Vie Dansante wines were poured for the very first time as part of the “Super Barrel” event held by the Wineries of Santa Clara County on February 6th. You couldn’t purchase any – much to the accountant’s dispair – because they had yet to be bottled. Even though we couldn’t sell wine we did sign-up our first Founder’s Club members – it was a dead heat between Nichole Groppe and Sara Sheets. It was so close I’m going to call them both member number 001 which will probably cause chaos in the computer somewhere down the line.
We poured again for the Spring Passport weekend on March 18th-20th and this time we actually had wine in bottles. The very first wine sold under the La Vie Dansante label was a bottle of 2013 Rehearsal sold on March 19th.