Friday, January 29, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
For the last two years I have had the unique opportunity to work in the wine industry. I have been lucky to get to work for what I consider to be one of the very best wineries in the state of Washington. I have been fortunate enough to get to work with and for a talented and fun group of people. From the wine making team to the vineyard crew to the tasting room staff and the partners, I love everyone in the Pepper Bridge family. I have learned so much about wine in the last two years. Norm has taught me about the vineyards and grapes. Arturo has let me follow him around the vineyard, pestering him with questions and taking pictures. Tim and Horacio have both been willing to explain anything and everything that happens in the winery throughout the year. They have answered all my questions, even the stupid ones. Jean-François has taught me so much about the wine making process, about the vines, about tasting wines. I've also learned the other side of the wine industry, the selling side, having fun with Lisa, Dana, and Sharon. I also have to thank all the great guests and club members that I have had the chance to meet and become friends with. I have learned much about wine from all the great people that have visited Pepper Bridge over the last two years. It has been such a fun and rewarding experience. I am grateful that I was given the chance to be a part of such a great team. I will miss everyone.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
All of the glass has arrived, we have corks and labels, this means it is time for bottling the wines of 2008! This week we will be bottling the 2008 vintage of Amavi Cellars, our sister winery. In preparation for bottling, our Assistant Winemaker, Tim Kerrigan is busy getting all of the wines into tanks. He pulls the wine out of barrel using a wand with a sight glass, being careful not to disturb the lees that have accumulated in the bottom of the barrel. The wine is then pumped into one of our large stainless steel, temperature controlled tanks. Next the wine will get filtered. We have a gentle pad filter that pulls out any remaining sediment so that the wine will be clear and polished. The wine will then rest in the tanks till our mobile bottling truck arrives. For Amavi Cellars, we have a Semillon that is blended with a little Sauvignon Blanc, and we have a Cab Franc Rose, always a staff favorite for the hot Walla Walla summers. Both of these wines are from the 2009 vintage of course, since these wines aren't aged in barrel as long as the reds, which typically spend 15 months in barrel. For the reds we have a Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course the flag ship is the Syrah. We do also have two special wines that Jean-François makes for Amavi Coin Club members only. Both of these wines are sourced from the Les Collines Vineyard, our youngest vineyard situated in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. Each year Jean-François bottles a small amount of 100% Les Collines Syrah and this year we will be offering a brand new wine to our club members called Ceres, a blend of 50% Cab and 50% Syrah from the Les Collines Vineyard. This new wine is a way to showcase the distinctive terrior of the Les Collines Vineyard. All in all the 2008 vintage is solid, with good fruit and acidity. After bottling, the 08 wines will rest for the next few months while they go through bottle shock. We will begin releasing these wines over Spring Release Weekend in May!
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Now that the 2009 vintage is finished and resting in barrel, it is time to prepare for bottling the wines from 2008. Every year at this time we print the labels for our new vintage. Our winemaker, Jean-François just returned from British Columbia where we have our labels printed. It is a very sophisticated and ecologically friendly printing process. Tapp Technologies uses a waterless offset printing press that adds colors to the blank paper one color at a time until the image is complete. The copper foil embellishment is than added and the labels are ready for us to use. Jean-François was visiting Tapp Technologies to observe the printing process and to do the final print check of the new Pepper Bridge label. We have made a label upgrade starting with the 2008 vintage. It isn't a huge label redesign, just a tweaking of the great label we already have. More than anything it is just a difference of font size for the vintage and varietal, making both easier to read. The new label also uses a little more copper foil which looks fabulous. This new label will be attached to a new bottle size as well. We have a new slightly taller, more elegant bottle for the 2008 vintage. We will be using our new labels and bottles when we bottle the 2008 Merlot and Seven Hills Vineyard in March. These wines will have their grand unveiling in the fall of 2010, so until then here is a sneak preview of our new label!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Holiday Barrel Weekend was a fabulous way to finish the 2009 year. We kicked off the celebration with our Bridge Club party on Friday. It was a night of food, wine, and visiting with friends, a thank you to all of our club members for their support during the past year. We opened some treats from the library, our vineyard designate blends, Pepper Bridge and Seven Hills from various past vintages. Its always nice to taste wines that aren't available. We were lucky enough to talk Chef Andrae Bopp into cooking up some excellent hors d'oeuvres to pair with the wines. Andrae is the Cellar Master for our neighbor, Dusted Valley Vintners, but he is also a fabulous chef that can be persuaded into catering on occasion. For entertainment we had the chance to enjoy The Mike Wagoner Band singing holiday tunes and some classic tracks. All and all a great party. We got lucky this year and had nice weather for the entire Barrel Weekend, no snow, no ice, no freezing fog. It made tasting around the valley much easier for all the visitors. Saturday we hosted guests in the winery and treated them to barrel samples of 2008 Reserve and 2008 Pepper Bridge Vineyard, both wines will not be bottled until next July and won't be released until 2011. Even so young, the wines were rich and fruity and delicious, so they will only get better over the next 2 years. The big news of the weekend was the unveiling of our 2007 Merlot. 2007 is shaping up to be one of the best vintages that we have had in Walla Walla to date. The growing season was just about perfect with a warm summer and a cool fall, with nighttime temperatures during harvest getting downright chilly. Warm days and cool nights at the end of the growing season set more color and aroma and acidity in the grapes. The resulting wines from 2007 are complex and full bodied, with lots of earth tones and great natural acidity. The 2007 Merlot is the first wine of the vintage to be released and it is fantastic. It is perhaps the most full bodied Merlot that Jean-François has made, perfect for cold winter nights. We thank all the guests that joined us for Holiday Barrel Weekend and we appreciate our Bridge Club members coming to visit. You made the weekend fun. Cheers!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The seasons have changed here in Walla Walla. The 2009 harvest is over, the wine is finished and in barrel. The weather has turned windy and cold and of course the days are suddenly getting dark very early. We have had a nice dusting of snow in the Blue Mountains for the last couple of weeks, a sure sign that fall is turning into winter in a hurry here in the Walla Walla Valley. The change in the weather means lots of work for the vineyard crew. Every winter we run the risk of damaging cold temperatures. Most winters are mild in Walla Walla, but every so often we have extreme temperatures that can be way too cold for the grape vines. In 2004 we saw temperatures of 17 degrees below in the Pepper Bridge Vineyard. Temperatures that cold are too extreme for the varietals that we are growing, Cabernet and Merlot are particularly cold sensitive. As a result, we sustained substantial damage in the vineyard and in many sections, the vines had to be cut down to the ground. The vines will grow back after being cut to the ground but it means one year without fruit. So as an insurance policy against the cold, our crew is out in the vineyard burying canes. Each spring we allow two canes to grow at the base of our vines, they are suckers and normally would be clipped off. These canes grow along the ground all summer and now that it is fall, Arturo and crew are burying these canes under a blanket of dirt. Hopefully if we were to experience an extra cold winter that damaged the above ground growth, the canes that are buried would be protected from the cold. In the spring we would be able to cut down the dead growth, unbury the canes, trellis them and they will bear fruit. Of course all this work is done by hand, with the crew walking every row with shovels. With the weather turning quickly into winter, it is cold and windy work. But without their hard work we run the risk of going a season without fruit.