The wine industry is a very large and uniqe business. While many of us drink wine on a regular basis there are general questions of what we do to produce and sell it. We hope that this blog offers some insight on what we do on a weekly basis written by members of the family.
We are bringing in the whites! We have finished Sauvignon Blanc and now Semillon as of yesterday. With the weather cooler this summer and everything being pushed back a couple weeks, we get to sit and sort without dying in the heat! However, the days are still long with much of the time waiting for the fruit to be picked and then to arrive at the winery for processing. Here are a few tons of Semillon from Yountville that will all be used in our Michael Pozzan Sauvignon Blanc.
There are many stages in winemaking where your actions can greatly affect the quality. Sorting is one of those main steps. The goal here is to take out all things that aren't grapes. There is a destemmer at the end of the conveyor belt that seperates the grape berries from the stems and funnels the grapes to the tanks. Therefore many of the things you try to find while sorting are leaves, mold and little critters like stink bugs that can alter the taste of wine. Since these grapes were harvest by hand, you do not get critters like lizzards or snakes that are more common if you were to harvest by machine.
For Molly and I, we really only needed to focus on the leaves since the fruit was picked pretty clean. Sorting the dead leaves is not that big of a concern in comparison to the bright green ones that made its way into the bins. The phenolics that are still present in the leaves can make the wine have undesirable flavors such as a green bell pepper or vegetative taste. These flavors can also develop due to soil type or from too much canopy on the vine that was not cut back enough when pruning. It wasn't long until we were covered with grape juice, making our hands and arms very sticky. Bits of grape pulp magically find their way all over the body; appearing in your hair, back and legs. The only remedy is a hot shower to wash it all off. And later, a cold beer to ease your back from being hunched over sorting.
It's that time of year again where we see veraison happening in grapes. The ripening of grapes from green to purple signifies that harvest is near and soon the real work starts. The timing for veraison happens at different times all over the valley according to climate and geographical location as well as grape varietal and clone. Our estate vineyard in Calistoga is just now finishing veraison while the valley floor has finished this process weeks before. However, even within our own vineyard our low yielding clone 6 cabernet sauvignon, is two weeks behind our higher yielding clone 7 cabernet sauvignon.
What these differences show is that each vine is unique in its characteristics in ripening and quality, therefore each vine must be given equal scrutiny in determining when to pick. The days leading up to harvest will be filled with crop sampling from different blocks to determine when the sugar levels (aka brix) have reached optimum levels. Good winemaking starts in the vineyard and this is just one of many things to keep track of.
Michael was on the road this week down in the Central Coast visiting one of our favorite wine purveyors, Bevmo! He hosted a few tastings with some new vintages of our wines, and was thrilled with our Sailors Grave Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (a favorite of ours) and the Michael Pozzan Russian River Pinot Noir. Russian River produces incredible Pinot Noir & Chardonnay and we are lucky enough to have forged strong relationships with growers to continue with that fruit source.
His next stop was the beautiful city of Carmel, where he enjoyed a great lunch at 7th & Delores. If you're not hungry, you might be after seeing these pictures! He started with a endive salad with sliced red pears and gorgonzola cheese and moved on to a grilled octopus with braised greens and gigante beans in a Romesco sauce. And of course the wine that pairs well with the dish? The Michael Pozzan Russian River Pinot Noir.
It was a short trip, but the beautiful coastal weather and the wonderful dining experiences won't soon fade from memory.
I am often asked how the craft beer market is affecting the wine business. It’s a good question. The craft beer market has exploded in recent years. What was initially a niche market has extended into a focal point for beer lovers. Stores and restaurants adorn their alcohol selection with craft beers from all over the country in various styles and flavors. The cases of Budweiser, Coors, and the occasional Sierra Nevada no longer dominate the market. While it is still customary to carry some of these well known mass market beers, people are demanding new exciting brews that are often big, hoppy, and high in alcohol. As a result, people are willing to pay a higher price.
It has always been a challenge to get “beer-only drinkers” to begin buying wine. A big part of this was because of price. But now, as craft beer prices climb to around $10 a bottle, the gap towards premium wine shrinks. I am reminded of a story I heard from the Franzia’s, who own Bronco Wine Company, where they received flak for producing Charles Shaw…or as you may know it, “two buck chuck”. Many people in the industry felt that the production of this wine cheapened the outlook of the industry, especially if other producers wanted their wine to be considered “luxury goods”. It wasn’t until years later that many vintners praised Franzia for what he had done; which was getting people to buy wine when they wouldn’t have otherwise because of the price.
Now, the beer industry has created a large social aspect which also benefits the wine industry. Brew pubs have become a hip place to drink, eat and play games. Many breweries have opened their doors to the public for beer tasting and feature food trucks, pizza ovens, and games such as corn hole or shuffle board. And some of these breweries offer a limited selection of wine to appeal to the few wino’s who join.
So, although craft beer has begun to play a bigger role in the alcohol industry, it also provides more opportunity for wine sales. Cheers to beer!....and wine of course.
In the wine business, there are three little letters with a big meaning: OND. Standing for October, November, December, it is a sales term that has become synonymous with the busiest time of the year. The last three months are when you expect businesses to make a big push to hit their end-of-year sales goals. While most businesses are affected in some way by the Holidays, the wine business goes into a special kind of frenzy as people begin to drink more.
As a producer, we also spend this time working distributor & trade shows. These allow retailers and restaurateurs to set their wine line-up for the holiday season. Every year, come October, we are busy traveling the country in pursuit of these wine placements. And as abruptly as our traveling begins, it ends. Mid October signals the start of the sales staff race as they begin calling on the accounts to secure wine placements for the remainder of the year.
With this increase in sales comes the need for an increase in inventory. Bottling is shut down during the harvest period, so with the end of Harvest comes the beginning of bottling. This means it is full speed ahead to finalize our wine blends. Just in the past few weeks we have put together the Dante Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, our Annabella Red Blend, and the Matthew Joseph Cabernet and Chardonnay.
OND can be stressful, exhausting, and will quickly remind you that there is always something happening in the Wine Industry. Luckily, we’re always working with family and have the added benefit of loving what we do. We are thrilled with the wines we produced this OND and can’t wait to share them with our customers.
Our New Wine Project – Giapoza
I am happy to say that we have just completed our newest wine project, Giapoza! Being a family owned and operated winery, we try to stress this theme by naming wine labels after our loved ones. As a result, Giapoza comes from my first child, and daughter, Gianna. However, we hit a speed bump getting there. The name Gianna was already used as a wine label. The wine industry is so large with the so many wines in the market, past and present, that many common names at one time or another have already been used. I was recently speaking with a friend of mine whose family has a new winery in Coombsville and, when creating the name for the winery, he was surprised by how many were already taken. Eventually after much research on the many variations of Gianna or Gia, we centered on the combination of Gianna and Pozzan, thus creating Giapoza; dropping a “z” for the sake of symmetry.
Luckily, the difficulty of trade marking the name is over and we can focus on the winemaking. For now Giapoza comes in only 2 varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. 1,000 cases made of each; they are California appellated wines that are meant to retail around $18. This is currently where we have a gap in pricing. Even though they are California appellated we decided to some Napa fruit in the Cabernet and Russian River fruit in the Pinot inorder to boost the quality. These wines will first be released in our September wine club, and be released to the public sometime thereafter.