new vineyard growth

new vineyard growth

We went up with the kids to the vineyard in the Russian River Valley we source fruit from this weekend.  The young shoots are out in full force, reaching for the sun and tiny clusters of flowers are starting to form.  It was a beautiful day and we are off to a fabulous start for another great harvest from Lauterbach vineyard.

spring in russian river valley vineyard

spring in russian river valley vineyard

We have been taking the kids to wineries and vineyards for so many years and it is starting to pay off.  Finally, no complaints, no arguing in the back seat. And they happily trekked after Dad up and down the rows, stopping, inspecting and enjoying themselves.  A picnic and a stop at Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Windsor on the way home might have helped a bit as well.

After much anticipation, we are proud to announce the inaugural release of Stomping Girl Wines.  Our two 2008 Pinot Noirs are so seductive that it is difficult not to keep it all for ourselves! Alas, we are releasing it…

Order Now and Save

Order yours before February 1st and save 10%.  Just put your order in the shopping cart and use the coupon code: PreRelease.

Celebrate with us at our February 6th 2-4 PM Release Party at the winery at 2323 4th St, Berkeley, pick up your wine there and also save on shipping.  Just place your order by February 1st and designate Pick up/Local as your shipping option.

Otherwise,  wine orders will be shipped out on February 1st, weather permitting.

Unique Opportunity

Stomping Girl produces very small lots of handcrafted, artisanal Pinot Noir and 2008 is our first commercial vintage.  Consider this an opportunity to buy some to enjoy now and some to tuck away in your cellar for future special occasions before it’s gone.  After all, there is only one first release of Stomping Girl Pinot Noir.

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!

fermentation bin  

We are increasing production this coming year, 2009, and purchasing some additional equipment–barrel racks, macro bins and barrels.  Uzi found some lightly used barrel racks and macro bins from a contact at Joseph Phelps Vineyards in Napa and made arrangements for me to inspect the equipment in person before purchase.   

My trip to Joseph Phelps reminded me why Napa is such a sought after destination.  Uzi and I tend to visit Sonoma or other wine regions more frequently than Napa.  A drive on Hwy 29 is like a trip down the wine aisle at a large grocery store–Beringer, Mondavi, Sutter Home, Freemark Abbey.  There are countless B&Bs, Auberges, tour buses and gift shops. Despite all that, the scenery this time of year in Napa Valley is spectacular.  The grape vines are lush, full and green.  There are mountains, country lanes and weathered barns amid the vineyards.  And once you get off the beaten path you can find less frequented, more intimate wineries.  

joseph phelps   Napa vineyards

Unfortunately my business in Napa Valley this time did not include wine tasting or luxury accomodations.  I was there to inspect winery equipment–which passed the test–and camp with some friends.  Our big splurge was Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in St. Helena where you can enjoy Calera Pinot Noir in a proper glass with your cheeseburger and fries. A fine way by me to enjoy Napa Valley.

Stomping Girl Wines is happy to announce the addition of another stellar vineyard to our 2009 lineup, Corona Creek Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation.Corona Creek

Corona Creek is situated in the area known as the Petaluma Gap. Vineyards in the Petaluma Gap benefits from the cooling effect of the morning fog, coming in from the Pacific ocean. The cool fog moderates the area’s temperature and prolongs the growing season, giving the grapes time to slowly reach full physiological maturity and develop robust complex flavors.

Corona Creek vineyard owners, Janet Seddon and Chris Ritcey have a unique vineyard and  one which we are very lucky to secure fruit from.  Their vineyard is only one part of their 20 acre farm, actually a very diverse farm where they grow olive trees, fruit and vegetables renowned for their high quality in the Sonoma area. I heard the tomatoes are especially prized and I can’t wait to try some.

They take a holistic approach to farming, which we appreciate. In the addition to the Owl boxes for gopher management, they have sheep for the purposes of weed control, the sheep are miniature and can’t reach the ‘yummy’ grapes above them. And of course, while the sheep are at it, they help fertilize the soil!  Cover crop between the rows provide for a natural way to introduce nitrogen to the vineyard.  Read more about Corona Creek  farming practices here.

Bees were buzzing by on one of my visits and Chris noted that they go from the cover crop in between the vine rows on to pollinating his Pluot orchard.  A complete farm.  I can’t wait to make wine out of Corona Creek’s grapes, from the Hillside Block.CKBabyBunches

The vineyards are alive!  After a long winter dormancy, signs of life abound and the cycle begins again.

Bud Break in Sonoma

Bud Break in Sonoma

This is one of the most exciting times in the vineyards–the beginning of the next vintage. The buds popping up all over the place now will develop into canes which will  eventually bare the fruit. Don’t take my word for it, it is front page news in Sonoma. In between the rows, cover crops which supply the vine with nitrogen and other nutrients the natural way, are growing too.

Now is also a time of danger, for the young buds are susceptible to frost damage. Temperatures that dip below the freezing point cause frost that will burn the young buds. Everyone is watchful of the thermometers and are on alert. Vineyards on hillsides are less vulnerable because frost flows downhill, like water. Some vineyards are ready with a host of frost protection measures, from wind machines which circulate warmer air down with the colder air and increase the temperature, to heaters and overhead sprinklers. Some, like our grower, Chris, cut down the cover crop to allow the frost to flow downhill. It’s a trade off, says Chris, because the bees that made the cover crop their home and have been busy pollinating the pluots nearby will have to find a new home.  I am sure they will manage.  p1020833

Chris also has owl boxes around the vineyard.  The owls take care of the gophers which seem to come out once the cover crop is mowed.  Not all of these safety measures are 100% gaurentee but we do what we can.  In any case, this is an exciting time.  I have been getting updates on frost from my weather widget and from Chris.  A few more weeks and we will be over the frost hump and on to the next stage, bloom. In the mean time, 2009 looks like it is off to a good start.

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.

  

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.