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.