home wine cellars

Overrun by fermenting grapes

Overrun by fermenting grapes

OK, this time of year I expect to find multiple vessels containing fermenting grapes at the winery and even downstairs in our home wine cellar.  But I did not expect to find this in my kitchen this morning.  It is a small sample of our Sonoma Coast, Corona Creek Vineyard, Pinot fermenting naturally with native yeast…naturally in the mixing bowl of my Kitchen Aid.  I’m afraid to check the bath tub.

Last night I watched a 60 minutes story about scientists that managed to put Resveratrol in a pill.  

My first thought was, this is great! Another story about the benefits of drinking red wine.  I recalled that a 60 minutes show 17 years ago titled The French Paradox, set off a steady upward trend in wine consumption, I thought, this must be a good story for wineries.

The French Paradox, the apparent French health, longevity and lower rate of heart diseases, despite a diet reach in butter and meat, was attributed to regular consumption of red wine.  One particular ingredient in red wine, Resveratrol, was identified as the magic ingredient.  The race was on to put it in the al- American convenient package, the pill.

Now the scientists would have you believe that you would need to drink thousands of bottles of wine a DAY, to match the benefits of one pill. Hmmm, I wonder how the French manage that?

Of course, any reminder that wine consumption, in moderation, is good for you, is a good thing. I’ll take that. Especially since the government makes you put the opposite claim on a label.

I do have a little problem with a pill, though. 😉

One can’t swirl and sniff a pill, you can not enjoy a pill’s aroma, flavors, body and mouth feel, nor can you admire it’s legs as it goes down and settles at the bottom of a glass after each sip. A pill, can’t make you appreciate the company of others as well as a good glass of wine can. Well at least not that pill, unless there are other ‘active ingredients’

So, take your wine in a Pill if you think it may make you live longer, however, wine in a glass will make you live happier!



Maybe you’d rather just be pressing with your friends.  I just came across this fabulous photo of our great friend Ann embracing the wine she makes with us–literally.  She and several other friends are partnering with us on our 2008 Las Brisas Pinot Noir.  I hope she doesn’t mind if I put a photo of it here.  

Many of us feel very affectionate  toward  wine at some point or another. But imagine for a moment how you might feel about a wine you had handcrafted yourself AND you really enjoy drinking.  Ann epitomizes our feelings here:   

that's amore

that's amore

No time to explain why the wine is in such a container, my point is that it is so rewarding to make wine and it is even more so to do it with friends.  

zap, paul and mark pressing; uzi tasting

zap, paul and mark pressing; uzi tasting

‘Tis the season to appreciate great friends.

continued from Crawl Space, Part 2

It was a holiday, Memorial Day.  No construction crews were due to work today on the nano-winery we were building below our house.  No alarm clocks were set for school or work.  But small children don’t usually need loud noises to wake up early and we are thanking our lucky stars (at least this once!) that this morning was no exception in our house. At 7:15 that morning our kids (then 7 and 5) came in our bedroom saying they heard noises in the wall.  There were ghosts in the wall, they said.  Like good parents we sent them away telling them it was a holiday; there’s no school, there are no ghosts, go back to sleep, we said.  They left us and let us go back to sleep, but they weren’t buying our parental half-hearted reassurances.  This time when they called to me from the living room I detected true fright in their voices.  We leapt to the living room and sure enough heard startlingly loud and frequent creaks.  Then we saw the cracks in the wall around the fireplace.  We ran outside around the side of the house near the chimney where construction was taking place and much to our horror saw our brick and mortar chimney pulling away from our house.  With each creak, the chimney separated a little farther.  One small piece of wood at the top was pretty much holding the chimney to our house.  

We really hated to bother our architect/contractor on a holiday but did.  He was at our house in no time, along with a fire truck, his work crew and evacuation orders for our next door neighbors.  After this, things get a little hazy.  I think I was in shock. We were told to quickly move any valuables away from the fireplace inside and pack some things in case our house became inhabitable.  


chimney bricks in the old basement, before


Chimney bricks, after


Thankfully, the crew managed to bring down the chimney in a controlled manner.  Nobody was hurt and nothing was damaged.  We did have to add a new fireplace, fireplace surround and chimney to our remodeling list.  And next time I may just speak up when something doesn’t look right.

In the end, our tiny, back-breaking crawl space was converted to this fabulous place to make wine with (full-size) friends and family…

no more chimney

brick chimney was where the window is now

bottling the 07 Merlot

at work in the new cellar bottling the 07 Merlot

Tuesday we bottled our 2007 Pinot from the famous Carneros vineyard – Las Brisas.

This will be the fifth year we are producing Pinot from this vineyard and I can honestly say that we are getting better and better wine every year. My personal observations: dark ruby red, light vanilla nose with hints of spice aided by 13 months in a 1 year old French St. Martin barrel, medium toast (no toasted heads). There is just a touch of French oak so as not to overpower the Carneros footprint. The wine exhibits dark cherries and any other red berries you can think of; it’s great acid back-bone will make this wine last for at least the next five years.

In my opinion, 2007 is by far the best bottled Las Brisas and 2008, which is in the barrels,  is shaping up to be a fantastic year as well.

Wine stats: Brix at Harvest 24.75, final PH 3.43 TA .61 Alc. 13.8%

We bottled with the help of our friend Paul. We wanted to highlight the differences between bottling our ‘Estate’ wines in our own cellar vs. bottling at the winery we use for our commercial label.

When we bottle our 2008, it  will be our first commercial bottling, which will take place at the end of 2009. We will post pictures and describe the process here as well, so you can compare and contrast.

Here’s the process in a nut shell. We use new bottles so all we have to do is give them a quick rinse and place on the bottle tree to drain  We fill the bottles using our trusted Enolmatic Bottle filler under vacuum and Argon gas and we cork using our Italian floor corker. That’s it.  

Kathryn at the Eno and Uzi at the Corker

Kathryn at the Enolmatic and Uzi at the Corker

The Bottle filler hose connects to the Barrel and sucks wine out of the barrel to the bottle by creating a vacuum in the bottle that is being filled at the moment. The tip of the filler that goes into the bottle neck has two small openings, one sucks air out and the other lets wine in. The other nice thing about this bottle filler is that it has an automatic shutoff when the wine in bottle reaches the level you indicate. Overflow goes to the overflow reservoir, which we happily consumed with lunch!

Below you see Kathryn working the ‘Machine’.

Kathryn Working the Enolmatic

Kathryn Working the Enolmatic

Another hose from an Argon gas tank to the Barrel trickles Argon gas, which is heavier than air and therefore sinks and creates a protective layer over the wine. This minimizes air contact with the wine preventing oxidation. Air is the enemy at this point.

Next comes the corking, pretty simple, place cork in hole, place bottle underneath and lower the handle to squeeze and push cork into bottle. With a little adjustment in the beginning, you get a perfectly leveled cork every time!


We bottled a 150 bottles in a leisurely pace of 1.5 hours. Obviously a manageable quantity for 3 people. But will be real work if you have to do a couple thousand bottles, for that we will need to move on to the real bottling line. Stay Tuned.

The 'Crew' breaking for lunch

The "Crew" - Kathryn and Paul - breaking for Lunch








A month or so ago, I wrote about where and how we started making wine.  

little people at work

basement before

As you can see from the pictures in the Crawl Space post, full grown adults just could not stand up in there. Our hobby required the help of shorter members of our family.  After three years of this nonsense, Uzi hatched a plan. 

In a crafty way, Uzi suggested we remodel the bathroom–make wife happy–and while we’re at it, expand the basement for additional “storage”–make husband happy.  Before I had even said yes, he began drawing up plans for a full-blown wine making operation downstairs.  He studied optimal floor plans for wineries, he devised lists of winery requirements (such as a floor drain, stainless steel double sink for washing, hot and cold water hoses for barrel rinsing) and he reminded me of what a beautiful bathroom we would soon have.

Before we could stop ourselves, we had hired our tried and true design/build team, Levitch Associates.  

The plan to expand the basement/crawl space involved a major excavation dig below our house all by hand. The workers dug like gophers.  They filled up and hauled away dumpster after dumpster of dirt. 

men digging

men digging










dirt pile

dirt pile

Our house was shored up with a couple of 2x4s in the giant void of space above which we walked, we ate, we slept, we lived.  

excavation efforts

excavation efforts

I expressed my uncertainty of the strength and integrity of what looked like toothpicks holding up our house.  Just look at that photo, wouldn’t you?  But my husband convinced me they knew what they were doing.  If only someone had listened to me…

to be continued…