The moment we’ve all been waiting for is here! Come join us in celebrating the inaugural release of Stomping Girl wine. We’ll be pouring our newly released 2008 Pinot Noirs, serving food and enjoying good music.

What: Stomping Girl Release and Pick Up Party
When: February 6, 2010, 2:00 – 4:00pm
Where: 2323 4th Street, Berkeley, CA
Cross street is Bancroft, our driveway is across from Kiss that Frog

Please RSVP by February 1

Why Pick Up? If you order wine by February 1, you can pick it up at the party, get 10% off and pay no shipping.  Order wine at using coupon code “PreRelease” or by calling 707-317-6617.

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.

Last Thursday we bottled the last of our 2008 wines.  “Last” sounds like we made many wines, we only made wine from two vineyards, but it does feel good to have our 2008 vintage safely in bottles. Now we wait for the delicate Pinot to recover.  As many of you know, wine goes thru a shock when it is bottled and needs some rest to recover before it is ready to drink.

Even though the bottling process is mostly automated, contrary to our home wine bottling in the last 7 years, we still make sure we touch every single bottle and leave our prints on  it. Such are the joys of winemaking.

Take a look at the steps in pictures:

First the bottles are emptied of oxygen, filled with wine and the wine level is adjusted.

Bottling  Machine

Bottling Machine

Corks are inserted and the red sleeves are put on and spun into place.

Corks inserted and bottle sleeves put on.

Next, the labeler applies our lovely label to the bottles.

Labeling Machine

Labels applied to Stomping Girl Pinot Noir

Then the bottles come off the line and are boxed by hand.

Kathryn boxing Split Rock

Kathryn boxing Stomping Girl Pinot

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.

A recent development in wine bottle closure that I almost hope takes hold is the screw cap.

Life is easy

Life is easy

I have to admit, I am as old fashioned as the next guy, when it comes to wine in any case.  I love hearing a cork being pulled out, it’s the sound of happiness for me. When I hear it in a restaurant I usually exclaim ‘Mazal Tov!’  I also love to play this little game with my wife, without her knowledge.  This is how it goes:  She is quietly reading in the living room at the end of the day.  I secretly pull out a bottle a wine, insert the corkscrew, turn it, turn it and then quickly pull out the cork to make as loud a popping sound as possible.  I can almost feel her ears perk up to that familiar sound as she wonders what bottle I just opened.  Inevitably, she stops what she is doing and saunters into the kitchen.  Ah, the games we play.

So, with all these fun and games, why do “I love screw tops”? This one is for you, Daddy Winebucks. One evening last week we are sitting around the kitchen island, our usual hangout.  Kathryn is busy at the stove, I am reading, Hannah is playing with her bunny and Ben also has his head buried in a book. By the way, before you get all Steinem on me, we usually take turns around the stove and Ben often makes pancakes for Mommy on his days off from school.  So, Kathryn says, “Honey, can you get me a glass of wine?”  Before I have a chance to respond, Ben opens the fridge and takes out a bottle of white wine.  He proceeds to screw open the cap, fill up a wine glass, hand it to my wife and then he says, “Is this ok, Mommy?”  My wife is flabbergasted…and pleased. Now Ben is a smart and dexterous guy, but he is only seven and he cannot do that with a bottle that requires a cork screw.

This beats the romantic sound of a cork popping out any day!

Chromotagraphy test fro malo conversion

chromotography test

This weekend we performed the chromotagraphy tests on our Las Brisas Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir rose. I am happy to report that the Malo-lactic, or ‘Malo’ conversion is complete–right on schedule.  Just like in the previous five years, by the time the first week of November rolls around, the little bugs have done their job. Basically wine contains a few different kinds of acids, Tartaric is one and Malic another.  There are others but not in high enough quantities to be noticed.  During malo conversion (also referred to as Secondary Fermentation) Malolactic bacteria eat away at the Malic acid and covert it to Lactic acid and Carbon Dioxide.  Being about half as strong as Malic acid, Lactic acid is softer on the pallet. The total effect is reduction in total acidity and a rounder softer, mouth feel. For a real technical description see here.  In my opinion it has been overdone in many California Chardonnays and I do not like it in that varietal.  However, many red wines benefit and are enhanced by it, so we pursue it with our Pinot.  In addition to the reduction of acid, it stabilizes wine and should be done before bottling. If you bottle before Malo conversion is complete, it might be triggered spontaneously when the weather warms up.  This will put the bugs in motion, only this time while they are enclosed in a bottle. You will end up with ugly deposits, aromas and fizz that could potentially push out corks. 

Which gets me back to Chromatography, how do you know when ‘malo’ is done? At the winery we take a sample and send to the lab.  A day later we get an email that tells us the Malic acid content in grams per liter.  If it is under a certain number, i.e. .09 grams per liter, it is done! Easy.

At home, we get to play Mad Scientist and do our own fun, chromotography test.  Ben and I just did one this weekend and the image you see here shows the results.  

We dot a special paper with wine samples and reference acids (Tartaric and Malic in this case.)  Then we put the paper in a special ‘developer’ liquid for 8 hours and watch the liquid travel up the paper. As it travels up it carries with it the different acids to different levels.

Tartaric is at the bottom third, Malic is in the middle and Lactic is at the top. The acids from the wine sample travels up the paper as well.  The test is to observe and see if the wine sample has a spot at the same level as the Malic spot. If it does, Malic conversion did not take place; if the spot is faint, it is only part way done. If there is no spot, Malo is done!  

Chromotagraphy test fro malo conversion

ooh, pretty

Look at the image again.  There are six columns.  The spot in the far left column is the Tartaric reference; the second is the Malic reference; the third, fourth and fifth columns are the Pinot Noir samples from three different vessels; the last is our Pinot Noir rose. This means that Malo is done for the three Pinot reds–note there are no yellow spots at the same level as the Malic reference dot (mid way thru the paper hights). The Rose however, did not go thru Malo.  This is a good thing because we like Rose more acidic, that’s what makes it more refreshing served chilled on a hot afternoon.

If there are winemaker scientists out there wondering what the light dot above the Tartaric and the light dot below the Malic references are, well, my guess is that it is a bit of contamination from the reference solutions while I was preparing the tests. Unless someone else has a different explanation.  I did not see these in previous years.  In any case, whether malo conversion took place or not, it makes a nice piece of psychedelic, abstract art to hang on the cellar walls.