On Tuesday, February 24, 2015, we bottled over a thousand cases of the 2012 Elodian Cabernet Sauvignon. From the moment the grapes were picked in the fall of 2012, until the day of bottling, the wine was meticulously cared for while barrel aging for two and a half years. This makes the bottling process an intense but essential climax to the winemaking process; it is the moment when the winemaker cuts the umbilical cord to the baby, thereby releasing it to the waiting public. It’s like watching your child go off to college, hoping and praying you did everything in your power to make them the best they can be. A dramatic analogy, I know, but it demonstrates that everything must be perfectly aligned on bottling day in order for the consumer to enjoy the wine as the winemaker originally intended.

Signature Mobile Bottling Truck

Signature Mobile Bottling Truck

Bottling Day

Cows bellow in the distance as the sun rises over the green rolling hills adjacent to the Eddy’s Calistoga ranch. Steam rises
from the concrete crush pad of the winery as the Signature Mobile Bottling truck finishes sanitizing the bottling line. Two tanks full of 2012 Elodian Cab (exactly 1003 cases) sit idle, waiting to fill the antique green, claret-style bottles. Bags of corks and boxes of capsules standby, ready to put the finishing touches and seal the wine until it is time to be consumed.

Elodian Bottling Line

The Bottling Line

The 48 foot long bottling trailer is a marvel of modern engineering. Thousands of moving parts, made of stainless steel, rubber and plastic move seamlessly in unison to fill the bottles with wine, pushing the corks into the necks of the bottles, sealing the top with a capsule and slapping on a front and back label at a rate of 180 bottles per minute. Whew, that’s really cranking! A crew of workers hums around the truck, like honey bees, ensuring each bottle is ready to be filled. Each capsule is perfectly placed and each case is rapidly packaged and gently loaded on to empty pallets. This is a well-oiled machine of human labor and mechanical prowess working in near perfect coordination to ensure a clean and efficient day of bottling!

Tom Eddy Bottling Crew

The Tom Eddy Bottling Crew

This was our first-ever bottling at the new Tom Eddy Winery. Thanks to our friends and Signature and Vinpack, it could not have gone any better. It takes a small army and many great vendors to get our precious wine into the bottle and to your door, and for that we are thankful.

Well, our baby is graduated and off to be consumed…we hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we enjoyed making it!

Cheers, Jason Gerard.

(Sex) In The Vineyard

June 24, 2013

When is a cluster not yet a cluster?

As springtime weather permeates the Napa Valley with consistent warmth and blankets the vineyards in daily sunshine, the vines react and begin to reveal early clues about their future grape crop. The steady warm weather coaxes the vine into producing an abundance of leaves while at the same time exposing its most precious asset, the flower cluster. But how does a flower cluster transform into a grape cluster?

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Flower cluster that looks like baby grape cluster.

 

At this early stage in the life of the flower cluster, the rachis (or structural component of the cluster) is dotted with hundreds of tiny green bee bee-sized spheres. Over time, the cells within these bee bees begin to differentiate into unique and essential components of the grape flower, including male and female reproductive organs necessary for pollination. Six to eight weeks after leafing begins, the development of these flower parts is complete and the flowers are ready to bloom. The creation of a grape flower is a delicate process influenced by many factors including plant nutrition and weather. Cold temperatures in spring will delay development, and rainy or cold weather can hinder the process by not allowing for proper pollination, often referred to as “shatter”.

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Maturing grape cluster

 

Once the grape flower has developed and its reproductive organs have been properly exposed (I apologize for the near x-rated description, but it’s just biology!), pollination can occur. Without pollination, grapes would never develop on the vine so the whole global wine industry relies on this fragile process that occurs over only a handful of days). It is unclear what method the grape flowers use to become pollinated but it is believed that self-pollination is the most common process followed by wind and insects each playing a minor role. If temperatures drop below 60º F, pollination will be greatly reduced and if temperatures rise above 104º F, pollination will also be inhibited. Clearly the environment must be in the right “mood” for grapes to be created, so hopefully this year Mother Nature has turned on her version of Tom Jones or Barry White in the vineyards and makes the magic happen!

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Blogger and Assistant Winemaker, Jason Gerard.

Jason

If you’ve ever been to Tom Eddy Wines in Napa Valley, you know that we’re located about 4 miles out of Calistoga and about 1,000 feet higher.  What you may not know is that we are not open to the public.

In other words, according to County law, you must first call to make an appointment.  Since this is our home, workplace, studio, garden, etc. you can imagine that we’re pretty private and not keen on having a lot of visitors, normally.  But having serious wine buyers over? That’s a different story.

So the other day my sister, Laura, asked me how we decide who comes to our house to taste our wine. The funny thing is that Tom had just been interviewed by Kris Chislett at BlogYourWine.com, and that was one of the questions he asked, too.  So I’ve attached that portion of the interview for your reading pleasure (scroll down).  To read the entire interview, go here:  

http://blogyourwine.com/interview-with-tom-eddy-from-tom-eddy-winery/#disqus_thread

Cheers,

Kerry

(An excerpt taken from http://www.BlogYourWine.com talking to Tom Eddy about our winery project):

Kris: Are you going to open it to the public?

Tom: It’ll be very private. By appointment only. You know, since 1991 in Napa Valley, they passed a law that any new winery must be “by appointment only” and cannot be public.

 Kris: Is that right? I didn’t know that! I’m learning a lot here…

Tom: What happens, as a consumer coming to Napa, you don’t notice it. If you knock on a winery door and ask for a tasting, the winery has to say: “Yes, but you need an appointment.”
And the consumer will say: “Well, it’s 5:10pm right now, what time can I make an appointment for?”
The winery will say: “You can make an appointment for 5:10pm,” and then let them do a tasting that way. It’s pretty silly, but it works.

For guys like me, we don’t want a tour bus pulling in to our winery, looking for a tasting. We want people that are passionate about wine, that understand wine and who will buy wine that will come to our ranch. Remember, we have to live here. This is our home. We try and screen people a little-bit. If I’m not here, they can’t come up, because I personally want to take them and show them around the vineyard. 

Kris: Ok, I want to know your secret…what questions do you ask to screen people?

Tom: We ask them about 3-4 questions. First, we’ll ask them how they found out about us. If they can’t remember, they’re out. If they say they bought the wine at the grocery store, and the wine was 10 years old, and they got it for $19 and it was the best wine they ever had, then they’re out.

We’ll also ask what wine you drink, and if you reply Sutter Home White Zinfandel,” then you’re out.

The last question we’ll ask is: “How big is your cellar?” If they reply with “3,000 bottles,” we’ll say“Well, we’ll send a car to pick you up.” <laughs> If they say, “We don’t have a cellar, but we have 2 wines in our refrigerator,” then chances are they’re not serious about wine.

It’s not that we don’t enjoy people; but as I said, we live here and it’s like having house guests 24 hours a day.

(To read the entire interview, go to:http://blogyourwine.com/interview-with-tom-eddy-from-tom-eddy-winery/#disqus_thread )

Image  Try as we might, the King duo cannot seem to get it together to be in Napa for the Kerry’s Vineyard harvest. There was still plenty do, however, when we met Jason at Cuvaison. The wine was already in the tanks, and there were nutrients to be added. We measured out DAP and Superfood, dissolved it in water, and added it to the tanks. It is safe to say both my chemistry and measuring skills remain questionable, but this may be because I left my tentative grasp of the metric system back in high school with my calculus skills. Jason, on the other hand, measures out DAP in kilos like he is the Pablo Escobar of nutrients. After nutrients were added, the Kerry’s Vineyard tank needed to be punched down. Affectionately referred to as the “punch down of death”, this process involves standing on a wood plank over the tank and mixing the grapes and juice with a metal instrument. You may remember from the Harvest 2010 post that falling off this plank into the tank would mean suffocation because of the carbon dioxide emitted by the fermenting yeast. After we survived the punch down, we went to their Malbec vineyard to take samples. We zig-zagged up and down every few rows of grapes and took one grape from each point, making sure to grab grapes from different parts of the cluster each time. This is to account for different parts of the vineyard being exposed to more sun and other factors. We took the samples back to the office, crushed up the grapes, and filtered the juice into beakers. Tom put a few drops of juice into this little scientific machine to measure the Brix. We ended the day the only acceptable way: with cheese and a glass Tom Eddy wine.

            The next morning, we woke up bright and early to head up to Stagecoach for that harvest. After a very long bumpy drive up to the top of the mountain across which Stagecoach sprawls, we arrived at the vineyard just in time to see bins full of grapes be trucked down the way we came. Luckily Jason was already at Cuvaison waiting for the delivery. We then headed back down the mountain and made a pit stop to check out the Syrah that was still on the vines. When we arrived at Cuvaison, there was sorting, sorting, sorting, and more sorting to be done. The fruit looked great and there were very few MOGs (Materials Other than Grapes) to be sorted out. There were a few black widows calling the clusters their home, and were it not for my preoccupation with finding and avoiding spiders, Jason may not have lived to tell the tale of the never-ending Stagecoach sort. Nine tons and what felt like days later, we finished sorting and cautiously stepped down from the platform next to the conveyor belt, unsure of whether it was the platform or the belt moving after staring at grapes marching by for so long. A barbeque at the Eddy ranch concluded the day’s work.

            We opened our final day there with a breakfast at Café Sarafornia, which is always a staple during our trips: I am very much a fan of how many tea options they bring with your personal size teapot.  My dad went with Tom to sample the Cabernet, and I went with Jason to the winery to inoculate the Stagecoach. Inoculation is definitely my favorite part of the winemaking process. Seeing the “yeast babies” come to life is a magical process, and Jason takes special care to make sure as many of them as possible survive the inoculation process. There were a lot of juice adds to be done, but I managed to get the juice out of the tank without spraying wine across the room. After the “yeast babies” were added to the Stagecoach tank, we added nutrients to the Kerry’s Vineyard tank again. We then went in to the cave to burp the bungs, as one had shot out of the barrel the day prior. Being the smallest of the group, it was mine to climb the barrel racks and remove the bungs from the barrels and let any remaining carbon dioxide gas escape. When this was done, it was time for us to head back to San Francisco, with a pit stop at Dean and Deluca. Covered in yeast, Superfood, and grape slime, we looked like legitimate members of the winemaking business decked out in our Tom Eddy gear. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who thought so, as a chef in Dean and Deluca stopped us to ask about Tom Eddy Wines. As another year’s harvest came to an end, we headed back to San Francisco anxiously awaiting a chance to return.

 

JessicaImageImageImageImage

Yes, the 2008 vintage (affectionately now known as the “wildfire vintage”) took us by firestorm (I know, cheesy pun).  No one winemaker in the North Coast was immune to some challenging maturity schedules with such a moderate spring, but an extraordinary summer dry period, culminating with a significant amount of heat in the months of August and September, ensured our salvation.

One of the blessings we have is that with a small program such as ours, and with talented growers working with us in the mountains with their small ranches, looking at the vineyard row by row, and even vine by vine, we were able to manage literally every plant (as impossible as it may seem).  I would liken this care and attention to herding cats on a hot, sandy beach. You might ask how we could do such a thing…..Catskills!  But honestly?  Leaf canopy manipulation and very conscientious irrigation (to give those babies a drink at the correct time) was really the difference in our program in 2008.  While some folks were lamenting about prunes turning to raisins, we were dancing lightly on our feet, and skipping around the vineyard coaxing in the upper-elevation breezes (cooling type that is).  

The glorious 2008 vintage was one of the smallest in our long wine career.  From top to bottom, start to finish, we knew that we were facing a small, but high quality crop.  Early indications showed few fruitful buds and Mother Nature had her way with us……..I think in an effort to prevent greed from setting in. No worries.  Not only was the crop smaller but the berries were smaller.  Normally, for most farming endeavors, this would be a difficult pill to swallow, but for our hillside winemaking with a singular goal of making elegant, long-lived wine, this was literally a God-send.  Our benefit (or your benefit) is a very highly-structured, powerful, long-lived monster.  I use this term “monster” with a timid piety, as well as a jaundiced eye, because our monsters are more cuddly and complex than most (kind of like the Sesame Street cookie monster washing down his Oreos with Bordeaux……….).

That said, this may be the most robust and age-worthy wine we’ve made in a decade….almost similar to the 1992 vintage upon release.  The flavors are evolving like “monsters”, so let’s go there and hold on the cookies for now. (this guy will age well for a long, long time).

 The 2008 vintage is very condensed, both organoleptically and quantitatively…….only 700 six packs will be bottled (same a350, 750ml- cases).   

“Oh no!” you might gasp.  But for quality, we want to go for small volumes.  The 2008 TE is unique in many ways, including the fact that we tickled the blend of Cabernet with 7% Petite Verdot from Pritchard Hill.  With the immensely violet floral addition, the very masculine and robust beast has been tamed. For the most part the 2008 is a quintessential balance between Stagecoach (Atlas Peak), Spanos-Berberian (Pritchard Hill), and Meteor (Mt. St. George).  The appropriate color and thick tannins from Stagecoach, with the background silkiness from Pritchard Hill and the classic ripe blackberry from Mt. St. George marries the 2008 into longevity and regal structure.    TE

Weather in the Vineyard

June 21, 2011

Is the weather wacky or is it just us?

 

Global warming?

It is no secret that California boasts some of the greatest year round weather in the U.S. if not the world. Mild winters and beautiful, sunny summer coupled with lavish leaf-filled falls and flowery lush springs create a temporal utopia for both flora and fauna to flourish. So what happens when this paradigm of gorgeous weather fails us? What happens when the sky brings hail and CalTrans brings chain control in the month of June? Is it global warming? Climate change? La Nina or El Nino? The Rapture?…..is it some other buzzword induced catastrophe that has yet to be named?

The Rapture

In my mind it is all of these things and none of them (well maybe not the rapture). The global weather fluctuations are a complex and dynamic process, so much so that even experts struggle to understand the nuanced relationship between our atmosphere and our lives. It is human nature to over simplify such complexities:  give it a name and move on in an attempt to pretend like we know what’s really going on….when in fact, deep down, we do not. I believe we understand the multi-faceted complexity of weather to a degree but we cannot kid ourselves into believing we truly grasp the dynamics of global weather patterns.

Rain in June?

Despite our unceasing faith in predictable California weather, this spring has shaken our confidence.  So, what is the bottom line? For grape growers, gardeners and other farmers, the weather is the truth we live by. We can only wait and react to the multifarious world around us. Yes, rain and hail and wind in June is out of the ordinary but as grape growers and winemakers we don’t have the luxury of asking why? We ask, how will this effect our crop?…..Hail can (and did) damage leaves in the vineyards, this leads to decreased photosynthesis and susceptibility to bugs and disease. Rain can be a good thing bringing more life-giving water to the vines but too much this time of year can lead to mildew growing on the vines which can damage and kill the essential green growth and basically cripple the vine and its ability to produce fresh and beautiful grapes necessary for making great wines. Mildew can also grow on the grapes themselves rendering them completely useless for wine production. Too much water trapped in poorly drained soils can also lead to excessive green growth on the vines which can lead to over cropping and difficulties in ripening.

It also appears we may be heading into a second consecutive cool spring and summer time (not today, however;-) which, as we saw last year, can make it challenging to get all the grapes to the appropriate ripeness before the winter rains come back in October and November.

While I enjoy pondering and debating the deeper meanings and explanations of

Jason pondering the future.

the odd weather we are experiencing right now, when it comes to winemaking and grape growing, I remain concerned and observant, ready to adjust vineyard practices and winemaking techniques in order to maximize the quality of wine we are going to produce when fall comes back around. Despite the adversity brought about by unusual weather patterns over the last several growing seasons, we are still farmers and producers of crop based commodities, and like those who have come before us throughout human history, we will adapt as we always have.           Jason Gerard

Kerry’s Vineyard Grape Pool

September 22, 2010

As Sherlock would say, the game is afoot.  In this case, pounds.

That’s right. If you can guess how many pounds of grapes we will harvest this year from our own Kerry’s Vineyard, you have a chance to win a certificate good for a 3Liter bottle OR 2 Magnums of the 2004 Tom Eddy Cabernet.

What are you waiting for?  Contest ends October 5th at midnight.

Go to kerrysvineyard.com to get all the skinny.

Good luck!

Even though we won’t officially release this wine until 2011, I thought I’d share some musings about the decidedly decadent 2006 Tom Eddy Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. I say decadent because it’s just plain rich and tasty, without being overly pretentious or harboring gut-wrenching tannins. This wine is also a perfect example of why winemaking is so darn exciting. 2006 was a crazy and wild harvest year. The winter months were wet, and March was sloppy! I remember on New Year’s Eve the Napa River crested, flooded, and submerged most of the valley. Our party plans were cancelled, so just for fun, I drove my truck over the then extraordinarily dangerous road on Mt. Veeder to “rescue” our teenage daughter from boredom in Napa with friends, and deliver her (more boredom) to Calistoga, where we played UNO under candlelight! The precipitation that winter was record setting. Does that mean the wine tastes even better…of course it does! Subsequent months were moderate to warm to hot and by October, all maturity indicators revealed that the grapes had come into balance, and voila! we had a blockbuster wine!

The 2006 grapes bucked the storm, the season and the calamities to round out into a superb example of fine, long-lived, complex Cabernet Sauvignon. In order to take advantage of varied weather conditions and unique terroir aspects, we blended copious amounts of Diamond Mountain Cab with sprinklings of Mt. Veeder, Atlas Peak and Mount George. For an unusual twist, and not seen since the early 90’s, we threw in a splash of Merlot to add full-bodied red berry sensuality. Oh My! We think it’s a CLASSIC! It’s yummy, but that’s a term for jellybeans, so let’s just say delicious. The acid is bright and will age for many, many years, as is typical for our Cabs. Of course, as Kerry would say. (“yes, but if it’s an Eddy, it’s ready…). What she really means is that we TAKE BACK THE CAB, BABY! (that’s our style of winemaking) and we agree that we should aim not to make wines so overripe and alcoholic that they fall apart in two years… No way, we are here to lust and enjoy our TE Cabs!

In 2006 we made a whopping 1,390 six packs (half cases), or as our accountant knows, about 8,000 bottles (this is not a lot but enough for 14 soccer teams to drink one bottle each & every Friday night for a year. If you followed that it’s time for a well-deserved glass of wine!). Our vines work overtime (this is a good thing) as our mountain fruit crawls to the finish line each and every harvest, barely able to function, with just enough energy to burst forth at the end with the best of the best (don’t get me started on Grape Vine physiology..). Tom Eddy

For a couple of generations one family ran cattle on a very wild, mountainous area of southern Mendocino near the Sonoma county line.  This gorgeous “untamed” area essentially was populated by coastal cedars, majestic pines and firs and a few black bears.  It was not uncommon to stumble across a secret patch of Cannabis on occasion.  

 

At the higher elevations of well over 2,000 feet, there were a few flat top areas that seemed suitable for grapes.  One family member elected to start a small 30-acre vineyard.  After struggling to lay out the perfect plan in a rugged area not exactly close to the local farm supply store, the family retained vineyard industry veteran Martin Mochizuki to lead the charge, finish the vineyard development, and start the processing of growing the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Mendocino County.  It was quite a challenge because of terrain, long distances, and unfamiliarity to the region by growers and winemakers in the California wine business.   A marketing plan was also in order.

 

After a very tiny initial harvest in 2005, the vineyard yielded a few tons in 2006, and then a reasonable sized crop in 2007 of about 2 tons per acre, or about 100 cases per acre.  Martin sought to pull several high-end, cult winemakers into the program to each buy a few tons.  Most winemakers that were interested in the far-away and magical project were known for Pinot Noir.  We were the exception.  I was looking for something special and unique that would challenge our traditional Bordeaux-winemaking style plus I just wanted to experiment more with Pinot Noir. 

 

The vintage year 2007 was crazy at Manchester Ridge Vineyard because every weather challenge known to viticultural man descended upon this area.  One day the fog rolled up and over the ridge from the Pacific Ocean below and dropped temperatures 40 degrees.  The next day, strong blustery winds pounded the vineyard, compounding the impact of hot temperatures and intense sunshine.  It was a good environment for Black Bear, but not really a time-tested climate for ultra-premium grape production…or so we thought.   In 2007 we picked at a high sugar and every single cluster was sorted; every berry inspected.  The fruit looked beat up.  The result, however, was that the wine produced was magical, like the terrain and climate.  The varietal Pinot intensity was profound, and the perfume was clearly Burgundian, but with the special spice built in we have now term “the Manchester moment”.   This area and terroir is clearly unique in California, and the wine is clearly unique in its aroma and flavor profile in the fraternity of Pinot Noir.  

 

The vineyard will never produce more that 2 ½ tons per acre.  Conditions are extremely harsh and challenging, but this could be why the wait is worth it. to produce impactful, unique, and courageous wines of solid pedigree.  Every detail of winemaking technique was carefully orchestrated to insure that the 07’ Pinot Noir would be given every chance to excel, including extending cold berry maceration in the tank for three days, leaving each berry intact and uncrushed.  Yeast was carefully selected, and gentle punchdowns of the wine by hand were the only consideration.  With barrel aging, only the best French oak was used…but not too much; otherwise the induction of woody vanilla tones would overwhelm the delicacy and berry nuances of the wine.  After only 8 months in the barrel, contrasted with 30 months for our Tom Eddy Cabernet wines, the Manchester Ridge Pinot Noir was bottled.

 

Everyone has heard the expression, that “..good things come in small packages”.  Here we say that the Manchester Pinot Noir comes in “limited supply”, as only 59 cases were produced.  That means only our ‘FOB’ best friends and family will every have a chance to drink this wine.  A real collector’s item from a very special vineyard.          Cheers,     Tom

Aerial view of Manchester Ridge Vineyard in Mendocino County, CA

Aerial view of Manchester Ridge Vineyard in Mendocino County, CA