inspiration


Vines growing in carneros

Shoot reaching out to the sun

I always say that spring is the second best time of the year (the first is harvest in the fall.)

Watching the new shoots reach for the sun, performing their annual miracle painting the vineyard green, sprouting from the brown, dead looking trunks, never ceases to amaze me.

Tiny baby clusters appear and the leaves open up, spread and gorge on the sun.

This is also the time of the year when planting replacement vines happen.  Some of the old vines are too tired and can barley produce a cluster or two each year. We plant new, young vines in the field, right next to the old ones.  It will be three years before the new vines will produce any meaningful fruit, under the watchful eyes of their elders.

new vine in milk carton

New vines receive protection from frost and bunnies with an old milk carton and sawdust.

passover dinnerYou may be familiar with our story and the inspiration for our name–Stomping Girl–and already know this:  Uzi’s Grandmother Esther grew grapes on their property, his sister Michal took off her shoes and stomped them and Esther turned the grapes into wine.  The wine was primarily for their Passover celebration each year.

Officially, kosher wine is served for Passover.  For a wine to be kosher, there are many rules that must be followed, such as:

  1. The vines on which the grapes are grown must be at least 4 years old and left unharvested every seventh year.
  2. Only kosher, non-animal ingredients may go into the wine (i.e., only certain yeasts may be used and egg white, a common fining ingredient, may not be used.)
  3. Only male, Sabbath-observant Jews are allowed to handle the wine through the entire winemaking process from the harvesting of the grapes, through fermentation, to bottling.
  4. One Percent of the wine must be discarded.
  5. Barrels must cleaned 3 times before use.

The Cohen family Passover wine enjoyed by them every year in Israel was not officially kosher, being that Esther and Michal handled the grapes and the wine.  But it was close enough for Grandmother Esther.

For us here in California, the # 1 rule for Passover wine is that it must taste great.  After all, you are supposed to drink four glass of it every night.  And, though not Sabbath observant, our chief winemaker is Jewish and from Israel…and that makes Stomping Girl Wine pretty close to being kosher.  Passover starts next week, and I bet you know what wine we’ll be serving.


International Women's Day Logo

Stomping Girl Wines is named in honor of Uzi’s independent and hardworking grandmother who grew grapes and made wine on the family property; for Uzi’s sister who was originally “employed” to stomp the grapes for the family wine; and for Kathryn, Lea and Hannah–our modern day Stomping Girls who stomp the grapes, punch the cap, press the wine and are involved in our family winery.  (read more about our history here)

To honor and recognize these women in our family and women everywhere, Stomping Girl is celebrating International Women’s Day this March 8th by donating 10% of our wine sales between now and March 8 to a non-profit group called Mujeres Unidas y Activas.  This group educates and advocates for Latina women, many working as domestic and childcare workers on issues such as immigration law, domestic violence and women’s health.  Stomping Girl is proud to be able to contribute to MUA.

To help you help us donate 10% to a good cause, we are offering Free Shipping anywhere we ship in the US on orders of 2 bottles or more placed by March 8th.  Click here to order and use promo code: IWD.

There is not a better day to raise a glass and salute the women who make a difference in your life than International Women’s Day.   Cheers!!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!  We had a great 2 week break starting off with a road trip to Seattle.  On the way, we spent 2 days in Oregon seeing a couple of friends and wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.  We wish we had had more time to spend in the Willamette Valley but we had just enough time to taste some impressive Oregon Pinots at the incredible Domaine Drouhin; the serene, indeed, Domaine Serene; and the beautiful Stoller Vineyards.

Domaine Drouhin vines in winter

Domaine Serene

Stoller Vineyards

After a fun, relaxing and indulgent Christmas week with family in Seattle we rushed back to spend the 2nd week with our big, “stomping girl” who was home from college for a short break. I know it’s cliche but all I’m going to say about that is they grow up way too fast!!

Now it’s back to work and we are in high gear preparing for the release of our 2008 Pinot Noirs–putting the final touches on our online ordering site, printing up tasting and technical notes and planning the February Release Party.  Stay tuned and we hope to see some of you there!

1991 Calera Mt Harlan Chardonnay

1991 Calera Mt Harlan Chardonnay

We recently had our good friends over for dinner and were looking forward to opening a special bottle from the cellar.  It was a 1991 Calera Mt. Harlan Chardonnay we had picked up on a visit to the Calera winery last year.  Calera has an incredible and inspiring story and their wines are really quite unique for California Pinots and Chardonnays.

Look closely at the picture above and you will see the large (some may say disturbing) amount of tartrates. Tartrates had solidified and ended up on the bottom of this old bottle of Calera.  Looks bad but it is not a fault.  It was a 1991 for god’s sake.  And, in fact it is a testimony to the quality of the wine and the natural winemaking methods used.  Read more about tartrates here.  The Calera was fantastic and was a perfect match for rich halibut we served.

By the way, for those of you looking for Thanksgiving wines, an old Calera Chardonnay Mt. Harlan would make an excellent addition to your turkey dinner…so would a Pinot Noir.

Most of the time, we start a trip with a destination in mind. Usually we have an idea why we are headed that way and what to expect. We look forward to that destination, we almost rush to get there.  The anticipation building as we get closer, we reach our destination and our expectations are either met, or not.

But, sometimes the best trips are the unintentional ones. Such as the one I had last week on the way back from visiting som growers in  Sonoma Coast.

On my way back I was planning to stop at another vineyard in Carneros for  a visit.  The fastest way would have been to hop back on highway 101 and be in Carneros in 15 minutes.

Sonoma fields

Instead, I took the backroad, Old Adobe Road, east of Petaluma and headed south to Carneros.

The countryside was green with yellow fields of flowers here and there. The recent rain had allowed the outbursts of yellow and some pink.

A few minutes later,  I came across a herd of goats, mowing the tall grass in a vineyard. I stopped to take a picture of that. Since I had to make a u-turn to get to the side closer to the goats, I was facing the other direction.

Goat in the vineyards

Then I noticed that the farm stand I passed on my way over was really just a couple of hundred yards away and it was getting close to lunch. So I headed back there.

Anything to eat? I asked, meaning any prepared food I can just grab.

The amused farm girl/cashier looked up and pointed at the abundance of greens, pickled beets and freshly laid eggs.

As if on cue, another woman came in carrying a basket of eggs she had just collected from the chickens in the back. “Come, I’ll show you the chickens,” she said. “What are you doing doing this way?” she asked as we heading back into the chicken coop. “Visiting some growers and their vineyards.” I said.  I handed her my card and she busted out in Hebrew, said her name was Heela, and proceeded to  tell me about her brother’s Bar Mitzva’s picture with Yitzak Rabin in Israel.  Heela, was very proud of her chickens, almost as proud as she was of her daughter who works in Washington DC. Egg layers extraodinare

Heela is an artist, a paint maker using natural ingredients, such as egg shells. Perfect place for an artist.

I took a dozen eggs and a jar of pickled beets and left behind a bottle of wine. Hannah, the farm girl/cashier was listening to some Spanish music I hadn’t heard in 20 years when another woman came in breathless–the goats have gotten away and are on the road. Hannah would have to go get Pedro to get them back. With that, I left. Out in the parking log, the Bee keeper was showing a photographer with a big camera his bees while explaining what type goes best with what crop. On the highway, the woman’s friend was trying to keep a lone goat from getting to the pavement. Idyllic.

By the time I got to Carneros, it was way past my appointment time. I didn’t care. I was somewhere else. High on natural Sonoma county beauty.

If you want to visit some of the nicest people in Sonoma and get the freshest organic eggs straight from under a chicken, visit Green String Farms on Old Adobe  Road. I highly recommend taking the backroad from Petaluma to Sonoma/Carneros. No destination, just the Old Adobe Road.

It has been a while since Uzi and I have indulged ourselves with top notch Burgundy. grand_cru I won’t go into the reasons but I want to let you know that amidst what has become a daily barrage of economic and financial bad news, it was a pleasure to receive a bit of good news in this month’s newsletter from Kermit Lynch in Berkeley, CA.  He is offering Red Burgundy at 40% off by the bottle and 50% off by the case.   

We are rarely disappointed with a Kermit Lynch purchase–from his roses, to his Cote de Rhones, to his Burgundy offerings–and are definitely going to take advantage of that 40% off and take home some of these red Burgundies.  I’m thinking of picking up a 2006 Bourgogne Rouge that’ll work for any day of the week.  I think I’ll take a 2006 Santaney “Les Gravieres”–Uzi and I enjoyed a bottle of this years ago at Rivoli and liked it so much we tracked down the importer and bought a case.  I can’t pass up a 2005 Gevrey-Cambertin Domaine Boillot “Les Evocelles” on sale.  We shared a bottle of this on our anniversary a few years back and I can’t wait to do it again this year.  And finally, a 2004 Chambolle-Musigny on the list looks good.  I don’t think I’ve had this wine, it is one of Uzi’s picks and he has great taste in Burgundies. Besides, the name is so beautiful and fun to say that it is nice to have a bottle around to remind you of this poetic sounding and poetic tasting wine. Try saying it… “Chambolle-Musigny…”  

Burgundy has served as inspiration for our own production of Pinot Noir from Carneros, Santa Lucia Highlands and Sonoma Coast.  So this is a perfect opportunity to taste a few bottles and keep us on track to producing a Burgundian-style Pinot Noir.  

Go enjoy some for yourself.  And let us know of any other wine deals you come across.

  

Beautiful Anderson Valley

 

Beautiful Anderson Valley

We recently spent a few days in the Anderson Valley (thank you Grammy for keeping the kids) sampling the region’s Pinot Noirs and talking to growers and wine makers.  If you haven’t been there, the area is incredibly beautiful–pastoral and bucolic, almost unreal.  The green hillsides, small vineyards, majestic redwood forests, flocks of sheep, organic cuisine and nice, interesting people make it a fabulous place to visit if you are looking for a quiet place to do wine tasting.  We have stopped there several times in the past on our way to and from Mendocino.  This time we went specifically to spend time in the valley.

 

top of Raye's Hill

top of Raye's Hill

Pinot producer Raye’s Hill has a guesthouse on the hill with amazing views of the valley where we spent 2 nights.  Dan and Raye Sokolow own the winery and a small vineyard and live on the property.   We enjoyed a bottle of their 2003 Pinot Blanc which was lovely and refreshing.  We also enjoyed the silence surrounding the house.  At night, the only sounds were those of raindrops and frogs.

There are essentially two towns in the Anderson Valley along Hwy 128.  One is Philo, which if you blink you’ll miss it.  The other is Boonville which is also tiny but large in comparison–a couple of good restaurants and cafes, a couple of shops, a school and the county fair grounds.  Many residents seem to piece together various part-time jobs to make a living.  One person who greeted us at the organic yarn and spinning store also sat us for dinner that night at the Boonville Hotel.  Another gal I had noticed sitting in the ice cream “shop” earlier in the day, served us dinner that night. 

Our first wine tasting stop was Breggo where owner/winemaker Doug took time from bottling to talk about the wine and the vineyards.  We loved his Anderson Vally PN as well as a single vineyard PN (also from Anderson Valley) he produces. 

Next stop–Toulouse.  The wine maker, Vern, a former fire captain, talked extensively with us even though he was also in the middle of bottling.  We took home some of his acclaimed estate grown Pinot Noir (2006)–very Burgundian in style.

We stopped at Roederer because I have a soft spot for sparkling wine.  We caught them in the process of disgorging and watched them hand-label their magnums.  That was interesting but it seemed so huge and corporate in comparison to the smaller wineries in the area. 

Navarro is also relatively large but is always a pleasant place to visit.  We stopped there to get a bottle of their dry Gewurztraminer and watch the baby doll sheep roam their vineyards as a natural, sustainable form of weed control.

natural weed control
Navarro’s natural weed control
distinct pruning technique

distinct pruning technique

Next day we met with a Pinot grower and wine maker right outside Boonville.  She generously spent an hour walking thru her vineyards with us, discussing her specialized cane pruning methods and lamenting the lack of rain.  She seems to take great care in the pruning of her vines and of her vineyard workers. Her wine was delicious too. 

Despite the fact that it rained while we were there, everyone was concerned about the water shortages they are experiencing. The situation is so dire there that on our last day communities were gathering from all over the valley holding rain dances in Ukiah, Willits, Mendocino and elsewhere.  We missed by an hour the rain dance gathering in Boonville held during lunchbreak of the monthly permaculture meeting.  According to one source, “A lot of pot (was) going to be smoked there.”  The area is known for its quirky, eccentric residents.  Quirky or not, you decide.  What we confirmed is that there are some amazing Pinot Noir, Alsatian varietal and sparkling wine producers there in that beautiful, beautiful place.

The label of our hobby wine is Domaine Carlotta.  Domaine, of course, refers to a property with vineyards that produces and bottles it’s own wine. We do have a few grapevines in our back yard here in Berkeley but fruit from better wine-growing regions go into our wine.  However, since the wine I’m referring to here is for our own consumption we didn’t worry about the technicalities.  

Carlotta is the name of the street we live on.  In a side note and much more interesting story, Carlotta is also the name of the Belgium-born wife of the Austrian archduke Maximilian who served a term as Emperor of Mexico during the early 1860’s.  His term, during a short French intervention in Mexico, was cut short by his overthrow and assassination.  

,Carlotta Empress of Mexico

Carlotta Empress of Mexico

Our next door neighbor and his friend (both Cal professors of Mexican descent) reminded us of this colorful bit of history while we were discussing current and potential names for our wine.  The Mexicans apparently had nothing against Carlotta, in fact they rather liked her.  They were simply rejecting foreign rule and had no choice but to kill her husband.  Carlotta, as a result, suffered profound emotional collapse and slipped into a state of paranoia upon her return to Europe which haunted her until her death.  That makes for a good story to tell when asked about our wine label; however, truth is, we really named our hobby wine after the street we live on.  

Now we are working on the name and label design for our 2 Pinot Noirs that will be released and available commercially later this year.  We considered keeping Domaine Carlotta; after all, that is where we got started making wine.  Besides, if we needed to spice things up a bit, we had the great story and images of intrigue and drama surrounding Carlotta, Empress of Mexico.  

Ultimately we decided, heck, you know what, we have our own genuine, even intriguing, female figures in our own interesting family history.  This is what inspired our entry into winemaking and eventually inspired the name we’ve chosen for our new release:  Stomping Girl Wines.  We founded Stomping Girl last year in honor of Uzi’s grandmother who started the family winemaking tradition and recruited Uzi’s sister, then a child, to stomp grapes during harvest.  Nowadays, we don’t stomp the grapes, of course. Rather, Stomping Girl is used more in a figurative sense represented by our daughters and myself, involved in the winemaking alongside Uzi.  We are confident it represents our family and our wine as well.

  

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