Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Another Week

Another week has come and gone...with lots to show for it!

First the wine:

As I mentioned before, its going to be a very small vintage - we got hit by mildew pretty hard. We've pressed everything now, with the cuvee in barrels, the rose in a petite tank and the regular red in a large stainless steel tank - about 52 hectoliters (enough for about 600 cases ). The cuvee and the rose are going to be really small this year (100 cases each). bath

Now the house:

We made great strides this last week or so in getting the remodeling work behind us. In this last week, we've finished both the bathroom and the kitchen.

As some of you know, the bathroom was in dire need of help. The small little room with the sink and shower was small, closed-in, poorly lit......not much going for it. Add to that the fact that the room just next door - which was the laundry room - had all the things the bathroom was missing - including the WC (toilet). So, to make it more hospitable, we've turned the laundry room into the full-on bathroom,with its seperate toilet room, and decommissioned the old bathroom and turned it into a storage area.

As for the kitchen. It was last touched probably 25+ years ago - and showed it. With dark wood cabinets and dark gold tile, it was a wee bit on the dark and gloomy side. So, we;ve ripped out all the old cabinets and tilework (incuding the counter) and replaced it all with new. Mostly in white, with the 'inox' (stainless steel ) apppliances, and a dark counter top, the room has really brightened up...and just feels better.

NOW....its time to start learning how to cook. As many of you know, over the past few years my cooking ahs been virtually nil - so - as one of my resolutions on moving over here is to get myself starting really cooking. And with the nice new gas cooktop and new oven with convection heating - there really isn't anything stopping me.....except me.

On another note - perhaps more serious - it has been interesting to 'watch from afar' the trials and tribulations of the US economy. I must admit I am a bit isolated and insulated from all that, what with all my financials tied-up in the vineyard here. The same is true for most of my neighbors. They are much more concerned with the current harvest than international mortgage financia; issues, although some share with me the concern they have as to whether or not, when the next release of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine is made, will there be a market for it at a reasonable price. But they always come back to first things first - - -make the wine - - make it well - - then it will sell itself. Great philosophy, and one that has continued to work for them for years...AND..one I plan to follow as well.

Back to work - the barrels need topping and the rose needs a little something added. More later.

Be good out there.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Winemaking Hiatus

While the various juices are 'burbling' away, it gives me an opportunity to fill you in on every thing else going on here, now that I have been here about 2 months. For those who have not seen a picture of the place.....

As most of you know, I bought the house/winery 'as is', which in European parlance means 'without anything'. So I have been spending my non-winery time outfitting the place - everything from light fixtures for the various ceilings, appliances, furniture, kitchenware, etc. At the same time I have been working with a local contractor here to remodel the bathroom, kitchen and 2nd bedroom( a 'Room with a view'). And the yard was a disaster, so I have had to tear that out and do a 'Do-Over'. And, of course have had to arrange for electricity, telephone, cell-phone, car (utility vehicle actually - a Renault Kangoo),

Most all of this has gone well- everyone has been real accomodating.....except for the INTERNET. I don't know why, but it has taken about 7 weeks to get the service installed. Here in France, internet service runs over the phone lines - operated by French Telecom -Orange. OK - no problem there, right? - you just call them up like you would COMCAST or AT&T and they add it to your land-line phone. Been there - - did that - - and several weeks and several calls later.....

UNLIKE what we are used to, they don't have A GUY who comes out and gets you hooked up.

They have A GUY who comes out and works from the pole in the street to the house.

And A GUY who works inside the h0use to set-up the phone line.

And A GUY who will come and install the modem (called a LIVEBOX here - it can give you wireless internet, internet-phone and cable TV).

AND A GUY who turns the system on for your account ..somewhere.

Unfortunately, these GUYS don't talk to one another - to get EACH GUY, you need to make an appointment.

So - after multiple calls and appointments, I got all the way to the end - the LIVEBOX guy was here...but THE OTHER GUY hadn't turned on the system.....so that meant another appointment....and another week. And then the GUY came back with the LIVEBOX, after the system was turned on....and voila...EUREKA...INTERNET!

And then 2 days later... 2 GUYS show up to fix my internet (which I didn't know was broken).....and worked for about 1/2 day - took everything the OTHER GUYS had done apart and re-did it all.......and then had trouble getting it to work again ( I of course, explained to them in my broken French. that it "was working just fine BEFORE THEY GOT THERE!!"). But - good GUYS that they were - they - THOSE GUYS fixed it...and now I have internet at the house

and I am now a Happy GUY.

All for now.

Oh -by the way...the olive trees in the picture...we have 9......and we take the olives to the local coop to make oil...Mas de la Lionne Domaine-bottled Olive Oil.....hmmmmm...we do it in November......and Christmas is coming......

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Here's the latest from wine country-France:

All the wines have about finished fermentation. The cinsault rose finished last week, and is just waiting for the grenache, which should finish tomorrow or Saturday.

The Cuvee finished yesterday - and now it will sit on its skins (extended maceration) for about a week to extract the necessary tannins and polyphenols to make it special. I can tell you, however, that at this point it is tasting pretty good - good fruit, with spice and a little licorice. I think it will be ready to press late next week. As you can see the barrels for this wine have arrived and are nestled snugly in the lower caveau.

The regular Cotes du Rhone red, which we finished picking last Friday, should also finish alcoholic fermentation tomorrow. Then we'll let it sit for a bit and press. This wine will not get to see the barrels - it will stay in stainless steel tanks until bottling.

So far so good. Wish we had more juice, but......what can you do??? Just wait till next year!!

I spent the day working in the vineyard - trying to stay ahead of the excess vegetation. Today was plowing day, with more tomorrow. Ah, the retired life................

All for today.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Harvest - the Rest

Hi all

Well - its over. We finished harvest yesterday (Friday) evening. We picked the entire vineyard of its grenache, which turnbed out to take us just about 2 1/2 days.
The crew was a bit larger for this effort, as you can see - we were about 18 total. We started on Wednesday morning with the old vines to the north of the house, and worked our way around the vineyard. By mid-morning Thursday, we had picked the older grenache for the 'Cuvee' , crushed it into the middle tank (cuve 3) and moved on to pick the rest.

At day's end on Thursday it looked like we had just about a day's work ahead. And then DISASTER. We had a horrendous thunderstorm that hit late Thursday afternoon - right after we were done for the day. By 8:30 pm, it had mostly passed - but in the 2 hours or heavy heavy rain it left the vineyard with standing water!!! Not a good thing. So we called all the pickers and told them to wait - that it wouldn't be until at least the afternoon, and maybe we would needs to wait for Saturday...something nobody wanted with grapes in the tank. Fortunately, dawn came, and with it some sun and the Mistral wind. By 10:00 am, as we walked the vineyard, it looked like it would be OK to pick that afternoon, so we called everyone in after lunch. The folks really got into it, and they ended up picking the rest of the vineyard Friday afternoon - though it took about an hour and a half extra to get it done...but it was done!
And today, all the grapes are in - the Cinsault rose has completed fermentation, and is now resting awaiting the grenache for assembling into the final blend.
The special 'Cuvee' is in tank 3 and fermentation is well under way. We are 'pumping over' twice daily at this point, and using water cooling to maintain temperature for the right flavors.
The Cotes du Rhone grenache - the last to be picked - is just starting fermentation in its tank - so pumping over won't start for a day or so.
We did, however, saignee (bleed off) the grenache today - taking juice out of the larger tank, without skins - to make the grenache portion of the rose. This small amount of juice, like the cinsault, will be fermented seperately, and cooly, to retain its fruit characteristics. Its in the little tank all by itself for now. Once its finished, including settling and racking, then we'll add it to the cinsault and assemble the finished rose - according to how it looks and tastes.

All in all, harvest went really well. For my first time at this, I thought I did OK. We got all the grapes in - the various tanks are fermenting - and we haven't spoiled anything - so far so good!!!

One down side, however. Due to the cool wet Spring, and the onset of mildew throughout the vineyard, the yields are very low. This year's crop is about half a normal harvest. That means ultimately fewer bottles of finished wine. This is a common complaint throught the Cotes du Rhone this year, including Chateauneuf-du-Pape - everyone's yields are down this year.

So we will have to re-think the 3-wine plan. It may be necessary to cut back on the 'Cuvee' this year - perhaps doing only 6 barrels instead of 12 - and use the balance for the standard wine. Its going to be a question of economics...so we'll see. For now, the important part is to successfully get through the pressing (in about 10 days) - and then decide how much of the 'Cuvee' gets into barrels and get the others into their respective tanks.

I think that's it for wine news for today.

Oh - by the way - for those of you tracking along, I should get intenet service at the house the first of next week and we have started on the 'Room with a View' for friends and visitors.

More as we get further along.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Harvest - Day 1

As promised, we did start harvest yesterday - picking the Cinsault, which lies in the middle of the vineyard. We brought in only a small crew, and with the 4 of them and Mr. Marignane and myself, we were done by noon.

Then it was on to the cellar. As you can see in this picture, there are large bins attached to the rear of the tractor - which allows the pickers to dump their small buckets, and then the tractor will move them on to the cellar. And with 2 tractors, it makes for a continuous flow of grapes from vineyard to cellar.

Once at the cellar door, its into the destemmer-crusher and then into the press ( because you need to press off the skins right away to get that lovely pale rosy color.

Here is the tractor unloading into the destemmer - pretty easy and without much manual labor - letting gravity do as much of the work as possible. The hose at the bottom of the photo leads from the must pump (beneath the destemmer/crusher) to the press.

We, Mr. Marignane ( Julien) and I - finished it all - destemmed, crushed, and pressed into the tank - by about 6:00 pm, including clean-up of the destemmer, pump, press, hoses and ourselves.

This first day was small - only about 1 1/2 tons of fruit. Next week will take about 3 days to pick the Grenache - all 35 tons.

The Cinsault is now in-tank, with yeast added, and beginning fementation.

More to follow as we go.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Harvest T -1

Well - been here exactly a month and a half now, and thought it was time for an update, so here it is. I continue to be busy both in the vineyard/winery and in the house and yard....this week we started the remodeling of the bathroom (the works- including new tile floor) and kitchen ( new cabinets and countertop), and the guest bedroom - " A Room with a View".

The new crusher-destemmer that had arrived has been set up and is ready for use - and just in time.

September has come, and the grapes are getting ripe.

So much so that we will start harvesting tomoorow - picking the Cinsault that will be a part of the rosé for this year.

We had planned to start yesterday, but a thunderstorm blew in late Sunday night (3-4 am) and dropped a lot of rain. So we've given the vines a day to digest the water. Pickers will arrive firsth thing in the morning and we'll pick about 3 tons of gqpes - destem and crush and then immediately press off the skins.
I'll fill you in more after we get this first crush under 'our' belt.