As the fine weather continues, growers and winemakers alike are anxiously awaiting the weeks ahead. In the vineyards, veraison – the period when grapes soften and change color from green to red or yellow – has begun, indicating an early September start of this much anticipated harvest.
We just enjoyed our third concert with The Smilin’ Iguanas and had our biggest turnout ever! A very mellow time was had by all, and we look forward to our next event with The Rhythm Rangers on Sunday, August 26th.
The next big wine industry affair is the Sonoma County Wine Country Weekend, September 1st – 3rd. We’ll be pouring our 2011 Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc, our 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Gris, our 2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, and our 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. You can find us in the Russian River Valley tent!
Overall sales continue at a brisk pace, with particularly strong action in our California direct market and in the state of Texas. Our remodeled Tasting Room is getting rave reviews. If you haven’t been here for a while, there is no better time to try some of your old favorites and some new releases.
Be sure to check our my August recipe: Blackberry Rose Sorbet. See ya!
President, Taft Street Winery
This one has summer written all over it. Fresh blackberries (any berry will do), our favorite Rose (currently the 2011 Taft Street Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir), and simple syrup add up to a refreshing end to any meal. It’s also great by itself.
- 2 cups fresh blackberries
- 2 cups Rose of Pinot Noir (only Taft Street will do!)
- 2 cups simple syrup
- Cook all ingredients for 10 minutes. Cool. Pass through food mill to extract most of the seeds. Refrigerate for an hour.
- Put into ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze.
It’s grilling time! Much of our entertaining this time of year is done behind the bar b que grill or smoker. I always keep a supply of chile paste on hand, using it as a rub, sauce or part of dressings or spreads.
- 2 ounces dried guajillo or other dark chile
- ¼ cup chopped garlic
- ¼ cup soaking water
- ¼ cup cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Toast the chiles in a dry skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes, then soak in hot water for 20 minutes or until soft. Drain, seed and stem, and save ¼ cup soaking liquid.
- Put chiles and remaining ingredients in a blender and puree to a smooth paste. Can be refrigerated for the rest of the summer.
On the 4th of July we’ll be serving this with ribs and our just released 2011 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir!
The skies are blue, the weather is warm and the vines are in that important stage of flowering. Warm weather appears to be in store for the next week or so, and growers are cautiously optimistic about this first critical aspect of the growing season.
In the cellar, Evelyn is waiting for our new screw capper, which will signal several months of bottling for custom crush clients. All our 2011 wines that would go into screw tops (Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, and Pinot Gris) are already bottled, so we will have to wait for the 2012 vintage. Evelyn and Mike Martini are in discussion with a number of growers concerning grape sources for the upcoming vintage. Demand is high and stocks are low, and prices are on the rise. Beware!
I just returned from a trip to Massachusetts, where our distributor – Café Europa – continues to do a bang up job, opening new (and good) accounts throughout the state. Mike Martini and Mosha poured our wines at the Sonoma County Vintners’ Association Tasting in Los Angeles, where they reported big crowds and an enthusiastic reception for the wines of Taft Street.
Kaitlyn and crew are gearing up for our spring President’s Club party, the first to be held in our newly redecorated Tasting Room. Later in the month we will begin our first concert series – A Little Street Music.
Be sure to check out my recipe for May: Sraracha Chicken Nuggets.
The season is quickly getting into gear. Come join the fun!
President Taft Street Winery
Who wudda thunk? Thirty years ago, on April 1,1982 six intrepid travelers left the confines of the garage on Taft Street in Oakland, and journeyed north to the soon to be famous Russian River Valley.
Here we began making wines from local vineyards, and immediately discovered the suitability of Chardonnay to local soils. Sauvignon Blanc , Zinfandel and Merlot were added to the mix. Later Pinot Noir was found to fit perfectly into nearby vineyards.
So here we are today – older if not wiser, and experienced in the seasonal changes and challenges of the wine business. Everyone here at Taft Street shares a common thought – we all are convinced we have picked the perfect job, and we wouldn’t change it.
The vines are starting to push, though heavy rains during March slowed things down a bit. While the rains relieved growers of the threat of drought, there is still another month of frost season.
In the winery Evelyn and crew are gearing up for spring bottlings. Our new twist top machine arrives at the end of the month, and this year we will use it on clients’ bottlings, as our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Rose of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris have already been bottled.
March was a busy month. Evelyn and I spent a week in the New York market, where we opened accounts with the folks at Vision Wine Brands. Then Mike Martini and I were off to Chicago with the Sonoma County Vintners’ Association for a trade tasting. We were fortunate to pick up new distribution in the Chicago area – welcome Platinum Distributing!
This month I’ll visit the Boston area to work with the good people at Café Europa – our Massachusetts distributor.
On the home front, our sales team of Clayton and Mosha continue to rock and roll. New accounts are opening weekly, and we now have almost 400 restaurants and wine shops on our California accounts list!
Our Tasting Room has reopened – better than ever. The architectural firm of Tierney Conner Design came up with a simple yet elegant restructuring of our Tasting Room space and surrounding grounds. It is now more fun than ever to enjoy a glass of Taft Street wine. We experimented with 200 guests on April 1st, and an overall thumbs up was the verdict. We’ll have special events throughout the year and we’ll keep you posted. Look for some “Street Music” in the coming months.
As Spring gets into gear there is even more reason to visit us. The hills are still green, the weather is quite comfortable, the crowds are yet to come, and we’ve prepared a terrific venue. Join the fun!
President, Taft Street Winery
The vineyards are ablaze with mustard and wild flowers, the vineyards have been pruned and mowed, and warm days alternate with periods of much needed rain. It’s springtime in Sonoma.
The big news in the wine industry is the sharp change in the bulk market. With two lighter than normal harvests in a row and an upturn in sales, wineries have snapped up what little excess juice existed. Prices have increased dramatically, suggesting consumer bargains will be harder to come by.
In February we participated in two public events. On February 11th local wineries hosted “Sweet 116” – a terrific showcase for six of the West County’s finest family wineries. We saw over 200 visitors. On a much larger scale we poured our Gold Medal Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir and Russian River Valley Riesling to several thousand tasters at the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition Tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco on February 18th.
March is a big months for us. The first two weekends mark the Wine Road’s annual Barrel Tasting. We’ll be pouring our 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay from both new and two year old French oak barrels on Friday – Sunday, March 2 – 4; and March 9 – 11. We plan to have our Grand Reopening of the Tasting Room for the second weekend’s event. We are very excited about the progress that has been made, and we can’t wait to show off our new digs.
Marketing never sleeps. Winemaker Evelyn White and I will be off to New York City the second week of the month to work with our friends at Vision Wine Brands. The last week of the month GM Mike Martini and I are off to Chicago to participate in the Sonoma County Vintners Association tasting – Sonoma in the City. We will also meet with potential distributors.
Meanwhile, sales are up, up and up. Both distributor sales and (especially) our direct sales in California have far outstripped projections. Let it continue.
Finally, on April Fool’s Day Taft Street Winery will be 30 years old. Who would of thunk? You can still trust us, however. Come by and hoist a glass!
President, Taft Street Winery
- Gold – 2010 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir
- Gold – 2009 Russian River Valley Riesling
- Silver – 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
- Silver – 2008 Russian River Valley Garagistes Chardonnay
- Silver – 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
- Bronze – 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
- Bronze – 2008 Russian River Valley Cobblestone Vineyard Zinfandel
- Bronze – 2009 Alexander Valley Merlot
Last week we released our 2010 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir. The wine is delicious and we have boosted production in an effort to meet an increasing demand. Rose is no longer a summer – only beverage, and is rightfully taking its place as a year round choice. The reason is clear – Rose can and should be an attraction to the eye and a pleasure to the palate.
Mike T. Rose is quickly becoming a real part of our family of wines. The reason is pretty clear – the wine is a treat – clean, tasty and refreshing. What’s the secret?
Evelyn W. There are a couple of things we do that set our wine apart. The first thing is our choice of grape; Pinot Noir has bright fruit flavors, especially when not overly ripe.
Mike T. Does that mean we pick our Rose fruit earlier than that out our regular Pinot Noir?
Evelyn W. Exactly. We can then accentuate the fruit while keeping the acid levels lively.
Mike T. Then what?
Evelyn W. We keep the juice in skin contact for 8 – 10 hours in order to get the color we want, and then we have the wine go through a slow cold fermentation.
Mike T. A traditional process for Rose production is known as “saignee,” whereby red grapes are crushed and left on their skins for hours, then a certain amount is “bled” off to make Rose. The rest is made into red wine. Why not use that method?
Evelyn W. Mostly because the main effort in that procedure is concentrated on the red wine production. The grapes
are picked at optimum conditions for the red wine, usually too ripe for rose.
Mike T. So now we know.