Harvest 2013 @ A.P. Vin – An end without a beginning

I used to laugh at every blog I came across, of some bright eyed, bushy tailed wine industry newbie looking to chronicle the daily experiences of their first harvest.   The story would look a little something like this – You’d read a post about their first few days or week in the winery and then poof, no posts until the end of harvest, sometimes even several months after their harvest experience was over.  Usually it was because of fatigue and lack of time to do anything else other than eat and sleep after working 12- 14-hour days.  So here I am now, writing an “end of harvest” post of my own harvest experience, without even having written a “beginning of harvest” post.  My blog is worse off than the ones I used to laugh at!

My experience at A.P. Vin Winery during the harvest 2013 season was fast, furious and intense.  After only a couple of hours removed from the end of Harvest 2013, I find myself sitting on the couch writing about how much I think I miss the pain of working 36 out of a possible 38 days.  What the heck is wrong with me?

First pinot noir grapes of the season from Ridgetop Vineyard

First pinot noir grapes of the season from Ridgetop Vineyard

After working my second harvest, I think I’m beginning to realize that despite the many stresses and fatigue of working days on end in a winery during the crush season, I really do want to make wine for a living.  There, I said it and actually mean it.  I didn’t think wine making was going to be something that I would take seriously until I had a chance to experience making wine first-hand; twice now in 2012 and 2013.

I’ve always considered myself a traditional desk job kind-of-guy, so waking up every morning, throwing on dirty jeans and going to work in a warehouse to make something with my hands was not what I was thinking when I decided to major in Finance back in college.

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Clean work boots ready for duty on the first day of harvest

I still don’t know exactly how I’m going to approach this shift in my wine industry career.  The obvious thing to do would be to find a job in a winery up north in Sonoma or Napa.  Doing so would mean we’d either have to move out of San Francisco, which we’re both not ready to do because we love living here too much or and that’s a big or, I commute at least 60 miles each way to wine country – something I’m definitely not interested in doing.  The other path I could take would be to start my own wine brand and company and make my own wine.  But then I’d be starting my own wine brand and company and that means owning a business again – something I’ve already tried and struck out with.  There’s something there for me, I know it and feel positive about it.  I just don’t know exactly what it is yet.

Before I down that path though, let’s see if I can at least re-chronicle some of my experiences this past Harvest 2013.

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Pinot Noir cluster on the vine in Keefer Ranch in the Russian River Valley

2009 Regis Bouvier Marsannay Clos du Roy

It may be more of a product of my search and discovery process more than the region’s wines themselves, but I usually have a hard time finding good, affordable Burgundy that tastes downright delicious. Sure, I’ve tasted a few Premier and Grand Crus along the way that were absolutely stunning, but most often wines I’ve tasted in this arena are way out of my price arena and are usually not “ready” to drink anyway. I want something that I can easily swipe off a retail shelf or order by the glass in restaurant, like this glass. 

Fresh, balanced, lush, perfumed and spicy are just a few of the words to describe this awesome glass of 2009 Regis Bouvier Marsannay Clos du Roy.  I had this past Saturday evening at Spruce restaurant in San Francisco. This was the kind of Burgundy that makes me ecstatic when I find it.  Because I tend to come across more insipid, drying and frankly, unexciting Burgundies on restaurant BTG lists and retail shelves, stumbling upon this one made me, hmmmm….smile?

I know, not the best picture, but just wanted to make sure that you saw that this review was legit.

The importer of this wine is Kermit Lynch, so I’m not surprised at the quality and individuality of this wine.  Any retailer carrying a handful of Kermit’s wines will be a good bet and good starting point in tracking this wine down.  Of course, if you live in San Francisco or the East Bay, you can easily pop your head in Kermit’s shop in Berkeley.

Winery Visit – C. Donatiello Winery

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The C. Donatiello Winery, which just celebrated its one year anniversary in March 2009, is a beautifully re-incarnated building occupying the land at 4035 Westside Rd. where the now-defunct Belvedere Winery used to reside.

We had the privilege of being given a quick, but personal tour of the new winery’s facilities by my fiancee’s old friend from high school in San Diego, Robert Conard.  Robert is the Hospitality Director at the winery, but today and probably on many other days, he wears many hats.  Today he was mainly the ambassador to the winery’s many local guests stopping by to soak up the sun and the complimentary live music on the estate’s beautifully manicured garden and lawn.

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View of the gardens and the estate from the parking lot.

The winery is a partnership between the winery’s namesake Chris Donatiello and San Francisco investment banking legend Bill Hambrecht.  The winery’s focus is on the production of small-lot pinot noir and chardonnay sourced from premium vineyard sites in the Russian River Valley.  I can’t remember, but I think farming is done either organically, or in a very responsible and sustainable manner.  Most, if not all of the vineyards they source fruit from are owned by the winery.

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Wine Review – 2007 Domaine Gachot-Monot Bourgogne Rouge, Burgundy, France

Winery: Domaine Gachot-Monot GachotRedux

Bottling: 2007 Bourgogne Rouge AOC

Importer: Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant

Region: France

Sub-Region: Burgundy

Estimated Retail Price: $20

Purchase Details: Purchased directly from Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant in Berkeley California for $19.95.

Tasting Notes: I’ve seen many roses that have darker hues than this wine.  Very pretty reddish pink tint.  On the nose, aromas of cherry, herb, lavender and roses.  In the mouth more cherry, mineral, strawberry and a really distinct sandalwood, rose water, perfumed finish.

I’ve had several vintages of this domaine’s Bourgogne and their Cotes de Nuits Villages now and they tend to be on the leaner side and have a floral and elegant style that is pretty consistent year after year.  I wasn’t too crazy about them in the beginning because I thought they were too austere, but now I’m really into the style of their wines.

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Wine Review – 2007 Pali Wines “Huntington” Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California

Winery: Pali Wine Co.PaliHuntFront

Bottling: 2007 “Huntington” Pinot Noir, AVA Blend

Region: California

Sub-Region: Santa Barbara, California Central Coast

Estimated Retail Price: $20

Purchase Details: Purchased from the San Francisco Wine Trading Company in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco, California for $19.95 plus tax.

Tasting Notes: In the glass, ruby red hues.  On the nose aromas of plum, spice and dark berries.  In the mouth, flavors of red plum, dusty cherries and raspberries and a slight tinge of mineral.  The Huntington is juicy, lush and a lot more fruit driven than the Pali “Bluffs” Russian River blend which shows much more of an earthy, damp earth profile.

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Under $20 Value Wine Pick – 2007 Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir, California

Winery: Cartlidge & Browne WineryC&B Pinot

Bottling: 2007 Pinot Noir

Region: California

Sub-Regions: Fruit source breakdown — Monterey(56%), Solano(18%), Mendocino(15%), San Luis Obispo(6%) and Sonoma County(5%)

Estimated Retail Price: $12

Purchase Details: Purchased for $13.99 plus tax at Beverages & More on Geary Avenue in San Francisco, California.

Tasting Notes: A medium light ruby hue in the glass.  On the nose, aromas of wild berries, cherries and spice.  In the mouth, flavors of red cherries, red plum, fennel, baking spices and cola on the finish.  Light-bodied, juicy fruit and non-existent tannins allow for supreme gulping pleasure.

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Wine Review – 2007 DeLoach Russian River Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, California

Winery: De Loach Vineyards and WineryDeLoach

Bottling: 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir

Region: California

Sub-Region: Russian River Valley, Sonoma

Estimated Retail Price: $16 – $25

Purchase Details: I paid $23 for this at Safeway and realized that after checking the winery’s website out, that I got severely ripped off, even with my Safeway Club Card.  $16 on the DeLoach website.  (Correction – 8/4/09 – I made an error in quoting prices for this bottle. On the De Loach website, the 07 bottling is $24, not $16 like I stated here. Thanks Larry The Wine Guy for pointing this error out)

Tasting Notes: In the glass, a medium-dark ruby hue.  On the nose, classic pinot smells of cola, sassafras and cherry.  In the mouth lush fruit flavors of black cherries framed by warm baking spice flavors of clove, anise and cinnamon.  Fine grained tannins a medium body and a fairly long finish of cherry cola complete the wine.

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