This has been a really strange harvest season.
First it started late, and now I’ve been having trouble getting all of the fruit I was promised. I had two sources of Roussanne setup up for this season, each was supposed to provide one ton of grapes. The first source called on the day they picked to tell me there wasn’t enough to fill our order… would we care for some Marsanne instead? Marsanne is a terrific grape but without it’s blending partner, Roussanne, it’s not very useful. I said “yes” anyway because we need something for the 2018 Aubade, even though it’s not my first (or even second) choice. It didn’t matter since a couple of hours later I got a call saying “not enough Marsanne either”. Well, now what? Luckily my second source didn’t cancel on me and we have enough Roussanne for the blend, just not enough for a 2018 Roussanne single varietal.
The cool summer has also led to low brix, or sugar, numbers on some of the other fruit. The Mourvedre ended at 20 brix when we needed at least 23 brix for a stand-alone wine. At 20 brix you get about an 11% alcohol wine – luckily we need it mostly for the 2018 Serenade, a GSM blend, where it’s job is to brighten up the Syrah and Grenache. Following a trend, the Grenache blanc is looking like it will end at 22 brix, also a little light for the stand-alone wine. I saw this coming and the other wines that blend with it for the 2018 Aubade are a little bigger than I would normally like. Put them together with the light Grenache blanc and we should have perfection.
So, are there any bright spots to this harvest? Yes! The fruit this year is beautiful, acids are still there, and pH’s are lower than usual. This is perfect for the kind of wines we all enjoy. Also, the ancient vines Carignane is looking perfect. We’ll definitely have a single variety 2018 Carignane in our future. In the end, it’s all farming. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but mostly it all works out. One thing about winemaking, it’s never boring!
Harvest finally began! Normally we’d be busy from the first week of September on but this year we didn’t get our first grapes until near the end of the month. In fact it got so bad we needed to slide our “hands-on” Boutique Winemaking class into October because we had no fruit to put in our hands. That’s all changed now and we’re busy fermenting the 2018 Grenache and Syrah. Viognier is already done and in the tank and we’re anxiously awaiting the next load of grapes. The climate is a little strange this year but we hope to still bring in Grenache blanc, Roussanne, Carignane, and Mourvedre. There’ll probably also be a little Cabernet Sauvignon in the near future so we can continue to make our popular “Stage Right”.
We have one more class on the 2018 schedule, Candlemaking, which we’ll hold on the night of Thursday, October 18th. The cost is $45 and tickets are available at our online wine shop or in the Tasting Room. In this class you’ll learn how to make professional, long lasting candles from a selection of seasonal and holiday scents. Come enjoy the class and take home a candle for yourself or as a present for a friend.
Being open on weekdays has turned out to be our favorite part of the week. We offer a different, La Vie Dansante Wines-centric tasting list. The smaller weekday crowds give us time for one-on-one conversations about wine, wine making and grapes or whatever catches your fancy. Come join us for a wine tasting in a relaxed vineyard atmosphere.
Whelp, it’s September and here we sit waiting for grapes. Normally by now this place is a beehive of activity. Fruit, starting with Viognier, begins landing during the first week of September and then really gets going with the Grenache and Syrah two weeks later. Unfortunately this has been a really cool summer – yes, I know there were our normal unbearably hot days in July and August, but overall we had quite a bit fewer of what we call “degree days”. Grapes ripen in two ways; first, sunlight brings flavor, and second, heat brings sugars. We’ve had great sunlight so we’re confident we’ll have exceptional flavors the year, the problem is the lack of heat. Grapes will ripen about 1% of sugar for every week that averages over 85 degrees. We want to harvest at about 24% sugar and we’re currently sitting at about 20%. That means we need about four more weeks of good heat, and we’re just not getting it this year. Don’t panic though. It’s farming and everything could change tomorrow. In the end everything will turn out ok, it’s just the impatient waiting that’s killing us.
We have two more movies in our fall series, “Airplane!” on the 14th and “Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery” on the 28th. These movie nights are turning out to be a lot of fun so don’t miss out on the last two of the season. “Curtain” will be about 7:45. There’s no admission charge and we provide the popcorn. You should bring a camping or beach chair (we have chairs but ours aren’t very comfortable), a jacket and/or blankets, and snacks if you want them. 21 and over only, no pets, and no outside alcohol please. Support your local winemaker and drink local.
There’s also two classes remaining in the summer series, “Boutique” winemaking on the 20th of September, and “Candle Making” on October 18th. Both classes are $45 per person but wine club discounts apply. You’ll receive a fascinating lecture, 2 glasses of wine, and in the case of the Candle Making class, your very own candle to take home with you. Tickets are available at our online wine shop or in the Tasting Room.
Can you believe we’re already in the last half of the summer? For us that means it’s time to start thinking about harvest – and the feelings of anxiety and panic that go with it. It’s still a little early to start cleaning and actually preparing for grapes so there’s not a lot for us to do besides sit around worrying. Worrying about grapes – are my growers going to come through with what I need (and how in the world will we pay for them)? Worry about supplies – yeast, tannins, acid, cleaners, etc. Worry about staffing – will we have people to help process the fruit? Worry about events – Harvest Party, Passport, Movie Nights, Classes. For us August is the most stressful time of the year. You can see all the work coming but there’s nothing you can do to get a head start! But don’t panic. By next month everything will fall into place, it always does, and we’ll be happily working to produce the sixth (!) vintage of La Vie Dansante Wines.
We’ve really started to up our events games with movie nights – The Princess Bride and Top Gun – and classes – Wines of the Rhone; Our Inspiration – this month. We have our first Harvest Party scheduled for early next month which means lots of recipe testing and preparation in August. We’ve also tried to step up our Tasting Room experience during the week. Traffic is still slow but it’s starting to build and we want to be sure our guests have a fantastic visit when they stop by mid-week.
It’s a busy time, but it’s an exciting time. We feel like kids and it’s only six weeks until Christmas!
Happy 4th of July everyone! Can you believe the year is half over? It doesn’t seem possible but the growing grape clusters and the fact I just closed fiscal week 26 in the books say it must be so. There’s lots going on around the winery these days as we settle into being open five days a week. Thanks to all of you wonderful people who enjoy our wines and like to come hang out with us we continue to grow and expand. I firmly believe a “real” winery is open at least every weekend and preferably all seven days. I knew moving to five days a week would be a bit taxing on my time but the payoff is a little extra business and the ability to connect one-on-one with our weekday guests. It’s definitely been a win for us so now I’m starting to think about how to be open those other two days. What does all of this mean? La Vie Dansante Wines is looking to hire our first (paid) employee. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I know it has to happen. I’m currently writing the job description which will include working in the Tasting Room and driving our Social Media campaigns. If you know anybody looking for a part time, low paying, hard working position in a beautiful location let me know.
As part of being a “real” winery I’m re-committing (is that even a word) to our events calendar. Look for more info on the “Events” tab of this website and on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We’re finally going to begin those movie nights and wine classes. We’re also looking forward to hosting a couple candle making classes this fall.
Saturday, September 8th from 6 to 9pm will be La Vie Dansante Wine’s first Harvest Party! We have a fantastic band lined up, Eric Stone from Destin Florida, harvest games, and lots of food planned. The party coincides with our Fall Wine Club release so members will receive two complimentary tickets and have the ability to purchase discounted tickets for their friends – better yet, get your friends to join and they’ll get their own free tickets and I’ll increase your member discount by 5% for the next 12 months (up to a maximum of 15% total increase per year).
Lots of exciting things in the works so watch for the emails. Which reminds me… Wine Club members, did you know you can add additional email addresses to your account so everyone can be in the loop? Just drop me a note at “info@LaVieDansanteWines.com” with the address you’d like to add.
Time to get at it. Happy Fourth everybody, stay safe and have a great holiday.
A strange thing is happening inside the winery building… for the first time since we started this wild ride we seem to be caught up on winemaking tasks! The 2015 reds will be in bottle in the next two weeks, the 2016 rough blending will (probably) be done by the end of the month. Racking is complete on the 2017’s. We’re even starting to think about filtering and bottling the 2017 whites! Probably the best indication of this new level of organization is that I’ve been able to spend a couple of hours a day for the past week or so catching up on my magazine reading.
I subscribe to four magazines – “Wines and Vines”, “Wine Business Monthly”, “Wine Spectator”, and “Wine Enthusiast” – that help keep my head in the game as far as continually increasing wine quality and the guest experience in our Tasting Room. Unfortunately, for the past several years reading magazines has fallen to the bottom of the priority list. When I finally found time to attack the pile of past issues I discovered magazines dated April 2015! Anybody care about the 2014 California Crush Report? Me neither so my first task was to go through all of those back issues and tear out the interesting or still pertinent articles – a much more approachable task!
Now that we have a handle on the winemaking we’re turning our eye towards the Tasting Room, finishing some outstanding projects and working on the event calendar. I feel like we’ve made great strides in providing a fun, educational wine tasting experience but then I look around and see all of the progress other wineries have made and I know we need to continue to innovate and improve. It’s not really a competition and I’m honestly proud to be a part of our fellow Santa Clara Wineries and what we’ve become in just a few short years – but I still want to win!
So, until next month… time to get back to work!
In my daydreams May is the first of the “slack” months of summer, a time to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy some time off before harvest. By this time of the year all of the spring winery-related activities – Racking, Bottling, Event Planning, etc – have been finished. Unfortunately this is just a daydream, the life of a young winery is a much different reality! We’ve made great progress, all of wine work is current and things are looking good. The spring bottling is pretty much done (shout out to Ruth and Jeff for their many hours of help!). Only three lots left to get into the bottle; Serenade (the successor to Prelude), Nocturne (the new darker red cuvée), and an LVD Wine Co Zinfandel. We’re just waiting on the labels to be printed and then we’ll get those three in bottle and be done with this year’s wines. Of course then we’ll need to get busy on blending the 2016 reds. If we can get that done in June we’ll be “caught up” for the first time…ever.
We’ve pretty much finished up the spring wine walk season with only the South Valley Wine Auction on the 11th remaining. Each year we try to do about four wine walks, two because they’re in our neighborhood (Gilroy and Morgan Hill), and two more to extend our reach into new areas. We’ve been moving northward, Campbell, Willow Glen, Saratoga but recently I’ve been thinking we need to look southward more – Hollister is happening y’all. Sadly we came to this realization on the exact day – last Saturday – that Hollister was holding it’s annual wine walk. Oh well, next year for sure.
The biggest thing we’re trying to catch up on is the overall events calendar. We’ve been promising classes, music, movie nights, etc but haven’t been really good on following through. We’re working hard this week to get all those dates figured out and people/space reserved. Look for a newsletter coming out next week that has the full plan for the rest of the summer. Another thing that will be in the newsletter is the announcement of our next Wine Club release which will be on June 9th. We’re a little thin on details right now but the newsletter should have all the info you’ll need.
The last big news for this month is that the Spring Rosé, our 2016 Rosé of Mourvedre will be released on Mother’s day weekend. This is a crisp, clean Rosé perfect for enjoying during a lazy afternoon around the pool. It’s low(er) alcohol, only 12%, and sells for $24 a bottle ($19.20 for Wine Club members). We have less than 50 cases and expect it to sell out quickly so stop by soon and pick up your summer case.
The big news for April is the formation of a new group supporting the resurgence of Rhone varietals here in Santa Clara County. La Vie Dansante Wines is very proud to be a Charter Member of the GSM Rhone Society which also features Sarah’s Vineyard, Aver Family Wines, and Lion Ranch Vineyards and Winery. Normally “GSM”, when it pertains to wine, means “Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre”, a common blend in the south of the Rhone Valley. In this case “GSM” stands for “Gilroy, San Martin, and Morgan Hill”. Yeah, we think we’re pretty clever.
The GSM Rhone Society was formed as a mutual support society for wineries who are actively pushing the resurgence of Rhone grapes and wines in our valley. To be a member the focus of your vineyard or winery must be on the Rhone grapes and wines we make from them. You must also be actively promoting the varietals and those other wineries that make them. Basically you can be a member if when people think of your winery they immediately. There is also some talk of establishing a “quality mark” similar to the embossed keys you see on bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape or the rooster you find on bottle of Chianti.
Watch for the GSM Launch Party being held on at 5:30pm Wednesday April 25th at The Grapevine on Depot Street in downtown Morgan Hill. You’ll have a chance to meet all four winemakers and sample locally produced Rhone-style wines.
In the winery we’re crazy busy bottling wines to be released this fall. So far we’ve finished a Mourvèdre Rosé, the 2016 Roussanne, the 2015 Syrah, a bunch more Stage Right, and a little Chardonnay (for a friend). Still to go are the 2015 Serenade, the 2015 Nocturne, and possibly a little 2015 Zinfandel (under the LVD Wine Co label). This is also the time of year when we start talking to all of our Vineyard Managers, trying to pin down some prices and commitments on grapes. We’ve got our 2018 Production Plan all worked out but right now it’s just words on paper – time to start turning it into reality.
In the February News post we mentioned a “big announcement” for March. Well, here it is… Beginning March 4th La Vie Dansante Wines will be open for Tasting five days a week from noon to 5pm. That’s right, you’ll be able to stop by and enjoy a glass or two of wine from Thursday through Monday. We’ll be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesday to allow us some time to get the rest of our projects done around the winery and hopefully enjoy a little down time. If all goes well we plan to hire a part time server to assist us later this summer and we’ll be able to be open daily.
But wait, there’s more! During Passport weekend – March 2nd, 3rd, and 4th – we’ll be releasing La Vie Dansante’s Barrel Aged Syrah and Champagne vinegars. Both of these are hand-crafted in the premium Orleans method and then allowed to age for a year in oak – new french for the Syrah, and neutral french for the Champagne. As lovers of anything pickled we have to say these are going be amazing in pickles, a vinaigrette, or just plain on veggies.
Also happening in March is the La Vie Dansante Wines Spring Wine Club release party which will be held March 17th from 1pm to 4pm. Yes, that’s St Patrick’s Day, and No, we won’t be coloring the wine green. The 17th will be the release of La Vie Dansante’s first every Viognier. We were coerced into opening a bottle last week and it is simply delicious. We’re planning to have food and some live music so be sure to join us for this fun event.
On the winemaking front we have a ton of bottling to do. Basically, all of the 2015 Reds, the 2016 Roussanne, the 2017 Rose, more Stage Right, and even a little Chardonnay for a friend. Anybody interested in working on the bottling line (it pays Pizza and wine) drop a note to Jeff at Jeff@LaVieDansanteWines.com – we can always use another pair of hands.
When I was first thinking about starting up a winery we thought “what a great job, you work hard from March through December and then you get to take three months off”. Boy, were we wrong. Really wrong. We sat down at the beginning of February and put together a detailed project list for the upcoming year. Everything from finishing the Tasting Room to creating an entertainment calendar. I wanted to capture ALL of the upcoming projects so that nothing could slip through the cracks. Well, two problems; first, we did a GREAT job on the list – something like 125 projects – second, all of the projects seem to have a due date of “Before the first of March”. Why? Check out the News for March and see our big announcement.
So this month, after a bunch of organizational stuff, boils down to a ton of physical labor. We plan to completely dismantle and refinish all of the picnic tables, complete the small patch of pavers in front of the Tasting Room, finish the gaming area, make food and soft drinks available in the Tasting Room. Then there’s the winemaking stuff; a vineyard to prune, wines to blend, vinegar to bottle, labels to design an get approved… you get the idea. What we thought was going to be an “easy” month turns out to be 12 hour days, seven days a week to get ready for our big season!
Welcome to a brand new year! We’re back from a few days of relaxation and we’re ready to go.
January, at least the first part of it, is all about administrative stuff. Taxes – Federal and State Excise, State Sales, and State Usage – are all due this month as is all of our reporting to the government about the amount of wine we produced, sold, and consumed. Later this month we’ll sit down and go over the numbers and if it’s anything like last year it will resemble the four stages of grief: Denial – there’s no way we drank that much. Anger – How could you let me drink all the profits? Bargaining – Can I say we donated a bunch to charities to hide the loss from the accountant? Finally, Acceptance – Ok, what’s done is done we’ll just have to work harder this year (and not drink our own wine!).
This is also the time of year we put together our operational calendar – what we’ll be doing at the winery (or offsite) every weekend between now and the Holidays. Working and pouring at Blended, a Winemaker’s Studio makes this both more important and more difficult than it could be – there are two other wineries to deconflict with for Wine Club releases and such. Beyond the Wine Club there are Wine Walks and Strolls, Winemaker Dinners, Music, and classes to consider. It’s only the third day of the year and I already feel like we’re a month behind!
Finally (probably not, but I’m running out of space), there’s the Facilities work to consider. Last month we prepped the picnic area and seeded grass. Now the first rains have come and all of the gophers have emerged from wherever gophers go to celebrate their gopher holidays so we need to arms ourselves for the upcoming “battle of the grass”. So far we’re losing a bit, it’s 1 gopher caught, and 2 that got away. We’ll keep you posted on the results. One sure way to wine against the gophers is to lay down concrete pavers. The first load of what is supposed to be 15 tons (roughly 2,000 sqft) arrived last week and the next load is due this week. Our plan is to put down pavers on the approach to the Tasting Room, in the Outdoor Tasting Area, on the way to the Restrooms, and to build an area around the palm tree with a firepit and benches… right on top of that damned gopher that evaded me twice today.
Oh, and there’s that winemaking thing to do. I guess I best get at it!
I keep forgetting that December is the busiest time of the year for a winery. I get lost in the feeling that Harvest is in, all the wines are safe, and it’s time to finally relax. Then I realize we’ve got Holiday parties to plan, dinners to attend, music to arrange, and merchandise to build!
On the bright side I feel much more in control this year than in the previous two. The wines are all safely put away and slumbering away the winter. The Wine Club release went well and everybody is well-stocked on La Vie Dansante Wines for the holidays (although you could always use more!). We got the electricity put into the Tasting Room in time for all of the holiday light.
The Tasting Room is all warm, cozy, and decorated for the holidays and the weather is just perfect for celebrating. Remember last year when we thought we were going to drown? We had a bridge across the river in front of the Tasting Room so you could get through the mud. This year is the complete opposite – lots of sun, temperatures in the high 60’s and not a drop of rain so far.
Nothing left to do this year except celebrate! Join us on Friday, December 22nd from noon to 7pm for a glass of wine or hot chocolate, holiday goodies, and Christmas music. This is our favorite time of the year because it gives us a chance to just hang out and enjoy all of our new friends.
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.