What a difference a year – or two – makes!
After two years of “challenging” harvest – wet springs, followed by fruit shattering heat waves, followed by early rains – this year’s harvest is headed for the record books as about as ideal as possible.
Production across the board is way above the last two years, and above the most optimistic predictions of even a few months ago. Even more important is the quality of the fruit. Growers and winemakers alike are raving about the purity and intensity of flavors. We processed more than 1100 tons of fruit this year, up from 700+ in 2011. In fact, we turned away a number of offers of grapes, as wineries throughout the county (and the state) found themselves with full tanks and barrels.
Our staff, led by winemaker Evelyn White and ably assisted by general manager Mike Martini, put in the 12 – 16 hour days week after week to get the job done correctly. Cleanup has begun and our hats are off to our talented and dedicated production staff!
So what do we do during the chaos of harvest? We party! First we poured our DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL/BEST OF CLASS 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. The next weekend we hosted our annual fall President’s Club party; and we ended the month with a harvest party!
How do we start this month? The Russian River Wine Road’s Wine and Food Affair, where we will pair our 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris with a spicy sriracha chicken. Also check out this month’s Mike Kitchen featuring Garlic Tarts.
There’s more going on. Our new sales manager Paul Young was off on his first outing – to New Orleans, and followed that with a quick visit to Southern California. In the winery we are making our plans and budget for 2013, and the energy and enthusiasm are palpable!
With the harvest over and things returning to normal, it’s a great time to stop by for a glass of wine. Kaitlyn and crew will help you enjoy the bounty of our special place.
President, Taft Street Winery
Some great photos from the 2012 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Judges Dinner, hosted by Taft Street Winery. A special thanks to all the judges for their time with this year’s competition.
No doubt about it – we are in the thick of it. It is now raining lightly and we expect continued wet weather over the next several days. We enjoyed a picture perfect September, with day after day in the mid 80′s; but things changed quickly over the weekend. Last week was our busiest of the harvest, and this week we expect the hectic pace to continue. Most of the white grapes, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, have been picked. A fair amount of Pinot Noir from warmer regions is already in, but a large amount of fruit remains on the vines. Many growers are “spraying and praying.”
All the grapes we had under contracted are currently fermenting. While we didn’t always receive as much fruit as we wanted, the quality of the fruit appears excellent, and we are confident Evelyn will produce some knockout wines from the 2011 vintage.
Another Harvest Fair – another slew of ribbons. Our 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris won a GOLD MEDAL; and SILVER MEDALS went to our 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay Garagistes, 2010 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir, 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and 2009 Russian River Valley Riesling.
It’s a busy month for everyone at the winery. Yesterday we hosted a reception for wine clubs in western Sonoma County. On Sunday, October 9th, we will have our fall President’s Club party – this time in our new picnic area. Two weeks later, on October 23, we will host our annual Harvest Party. Kaitlyn and Greg are in full party mode. I’ll be off to Colorado and Massachusetts for fall tastings, and the folks in the cellar have more than enough to do in the weeks ahead.
If you are planning on attending one of our upcoming events, we are looking forward to seeing you. Any time you are in the area you are more than welcome to drop in for a taste of two of our award winning wines.
Cheers to Harvest 2011!
President, Taft Street Winery
The rush is over. We opened our cellar doors one last time on November 8th for some Late Harvest Riesling, but that was it. The wines have finished primary fermentation and are awaiting their long winter’s nap. May they rest in peace.
Meanwhile the cellar staff is gearing up for winter bottling. Through the New Year we will attend to our clients’ bottlings. After the Holidays we will bottle out 2011 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, followed by the 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris and the 2011 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir. These bottlings are timely, as we are out of the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and are quickly running out of the 2010 Pinot Gris. We might add that stocks of our two stunning 2007 Pinot Noirs – the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River Valley – are running low. This is an excellent time to take advantage of great pricing on a fine vintage.
Our California direct sales staff enjoyed another best-month-ever in November. Kudos to Clayton, Mosha and Diana. Our Tasting Room is busy with Holiday shoppers, both in person and online. This Sunday, December 4th, is wine club appreciation day for all West Sonoma County Wineries wine club members. We will try something new this month, as we host a private dinner in our barrel room. If it works as well as we expect, barrel room dinners could become yet another arrow in our party sheath.
West County is gorgeous this time of year, as there is still color in the trees and vineyards. The pace has slowed, and a stop in our Tasting Room will invigorate those exhausted by Holiday shopping. We will be open daily at our regular hours with the exception of Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Season’s Greetings from the folks at Taft Street!
President, Taft Street Winery
The last grapes are in today, putting an end to a long and difficult harvest. It was a season characterized by low yields (up to 25% below projections). Furthermore, grapes picked over the last several weeks often were faced with mildew, adding to the challenge. However, our own grapes came in prior to the rains, and Evelyn White is confident the 2011 vintage will produce some fine wine. We believe her.
The high season for sales is upon us, and Team Taft Street has responded accordingly. Our Tasting Room enjoyed its biggest month ever in October, and the direct sales team and our national distributors have exceeded expectations. Well done! Taft Street welcomes Jake Martini to the team. Jake will be our technical wizard and well as our marketing & sales representative in the San Francisco market. Any connection between Jake and others in the Taft Street family is not coincidental.
Taft Street’s new picnic area and bocce court were kicked off in style at the recent President’s Club party. The fun continues this weekend with the Russian River Wine Road’s annual Food & Wine Affair (November 5 & 6).
Never standing still, Kaitlyn has helped form a new group of local wineries – Taste Route 116. Together with Dutton Estate, Graton Ridge, Russian River Vineyard and Balletto Winery; Taste Route 116 will promote the home-grown, family nature of businesses that once were the standard of wine country life.
The last beautiful days of autumn are still with us. Come visit and enjoy our picnic area and bocce court while you pick appropriate Thanksgiving wines.
President, Taft Street Winery
So what do you do with a bunch of quinces? Jam doesn’t quite work. After a little research, it seems that quince is the main ingredient in membrillo – a Spanish spread that goes well with cheese and red wine. And it’s easy!
- 4 Quinces, peeled, cored and chopped
- Sugar, to be determined
- Place quince in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook 30 minutes, or until fruit is soft. Drain.
- Process fruit until smooth. Add equal amount of sugar and combine.
- Cook over low heat until paste thickens and quince has turned a deep orange color (60-90 minutes).
- Spread evenly on a parchment paper lined rimmed pan. Place in a low oven (125F) for one hour.
- To serve (with cheese) – cut in small wedges.
This goes great with our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and our Russian River Valley Zinfandel!
We gave Harvest 2009 a fitting farewell last Saturday. Under perfect fall skies we gathered the Taft Street family, including growers and other folks with ties to the winery; and had ourselves a party! We built a fire pit and started a fire with a load of oak and a couple of old wine barrels and let it roar for four and a half hours. Then we loaded the grill with a full sirloin, New York and filet (58 pounds total) and cooked. We gathered on the crush pad between tanks filled with new wine and watched the moon rise. We also enjoyed several bottles of Taft Street wine. A good time was had by all.
The harvest went quite smoothly, and for us at Taft Street it couldn’t have gone much better. All our grapes came in before the mid October rainstorm, and indications point to excellent wines. Some of our custom crush clients had grapes hanging and there was some problem with rot, but the good weather which followed the storm helped salvage most of the grapes. Things are slowly getting back to normal at the winery, with 14 hour days a thing of the past. Attention is now focused on following fermentations, getting wines into barrel, and cleaning equipment.
October was a busy month for everyone. While Evelyn and her crew were making wine, Mike Martini changed his cellar outfit for something a bit more presentable and worked with our distributor in Florida. I hit the Boston and New York markets, and then was off to Denver to catch their first snowfall of the season. Next week I’ll visit Florida, and the following week will be in the Phoenix area. We are seeing an increase in sales activity in most of our markets – a hopeful sign.
November is always a big month in the Tasting Room. This weekend we will participate in the Wine and Food Affair, when more than 150 wines in the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley offer wine pairing with specially prepared foods. I’ll make smoked sausages, which we’ll pair with our 2007 Russian River Valley Zinfandel Cobblestone Vineyard and our 2006 Dry Creek Valley Syrah St. Emydius Acres. Kaitlyn reports October was our best month ever in the Tasting Room – kudos to Kaitlyn and her staff!
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we have decided to promote two wines which go especially well with turkey and all the trimmings. Until Thanksgiving we will offer six bottles of either the 2008 Russian River Valley Riesling and/or the 2008 Mendocino Gewurztraminer for the price of five. On top of that we will through in free shipping! The Riesling won a Best of Class at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair; the Gewurztraminer a Gold Medal at the Mendocino County Fair. It’s time to act now to gussy up your Thanksgiving table.
We note with sadness the passing of longtime Sonoma County resident and musician Norton Buffalo. Norton’s music graced innumerable Taft Street parties and that tradition will continue. R.I.P. Norton Buffalo.
All for now. My blog will be around the 15th of the month.