Friday, January 30, 2009

HI All

Another couple-three weeks have gone by. And I have some so-so news and some so-so news.

The Wine:

So, it turns out that here in the Cotes du Rhone they take their wine pretty seriously. Here, to get the head-nod to call your wine a "Cotes du Rhone" wine, every year you must submit samples to the local CDR office where they analyze AND TASTE the wine to determine whether or not it meets their standards. If they don't think it meets their standards, then you cannot call it a 'Cotes du Rhone' - it is only a "Vin de Pays". This can have significant impact on the price you can charge, as Cotes du Rhone does carry a certain cache.

Per the rules, I sent them a notification 10 days prior to bottling, so they could come sample. Well - they came early this week (2 days before bottling day) to collect the samples...and then I had to wait for the results:..tension, tension,, with my consultant oenologist, we called and got the results:

The ROSE passed with flying colors (got an "A" score).

The RED , however, did not quite meet their standards and received a "B" score.

That means that I can resubmit for further analysis/testing if I choose. We knew we were close, so while not a surprise, it is a bit of a disappointment. And it isn't a big deal to fix - it just means we have to make a couple of minor adjustments to get it right - which I will do next week - and then resubmit.

BUT - in the mean time, I missed the bottling window I had set for this week. And the next opportunity to bottle is not until March 16!!! The truck is tied-up until then. Now it looks as though I will still have wine to bring back to Seattle in April for Linda's dinner, etc., but just barely!

The Vineyard:

Winter pruning is almost done - we should finish next week. And the pulling up of the old dead vines is on-going - I am about 25% there - have been focused on the wine and on 'raking' the dead wood from the pruning.

I had an 'almost' thing today.Was out raking the cut-off dead wood using the big red tractor with a claw attachment. An at the end of every row, you take the stuff you've raked and put it onto a pile for burning. Had been doiing this all morning, and the last couple of days, so I was feeling pretty conficant in my ability to cruise around on the tractor and get this done.

Well at the end of one of the rows, as I was turning to go up the little incline, the throttle stuck on me and the tractor decided to pull a 'tractor wheelie'...not a fun thing on something that big!!! I thought for sure that it was going to go over on its back! Only by quickly hitting the clutch, did I get the front wheels back on the ground.

Unfortunately, in rearing up like that it put excessive force on the framework that supports the claw attachment, and I bent a couple of pieces......Tractor Repair!!! Fortunately I called my friend Thierry, - my all-around mechanic ( thank you Jean Marie) who came over this afternoon - scoped it out - and told me he could have it fixed by Wednesday!! So I only lose a few days.....and add several new grey hairs.

Home Front:

I heard this week (after my accountant and I visited and called them) that my Carte de Sejour (residency card) was on hold because the tax administration didn't think that the winery would make enough profit to support me...yup - knew that. With the help of my accountant, we submitted more info to them that showed my Boeing pension, and the winery business plan...and that seemed to suffice. However - my VISA expired this month...and I don't yet have my Carte de Sejour, so I am only sorta street legal..need to watch my driving, etc.

I think that's it for now. Will let you know the results of the re-submit of the red...and how we finish up with pruning.

Be good to each other.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hi All

Just a quick note:

Well - Winter has REALLY arrived here in the South of France. This started just this morning (it had been forecast) and we've got about 2" so far - with maybe a total of 4-6" by the time its done today/tonight. We will have to delay the winter pruning for a couple of days, but this is a fleeting thing (rain and then sun to return by Friday).

But - for those of you who were wondering...YES it does snow here! And because it happens so infrequently, the drivers here are no better than in took me 2 hours to get back from the 'mall' at noon. But it is really pretty.

Next up after pruning will be bottling the Cotes-du-Rhone red and rose - in about three weeks. More from me again when we're done.

Be well out there.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Happy New Year to you all!!

Sorry I haven't written more often, but the time just has gotten past me. I realized yesterday that it was exactly 6 months ago I got the keys to this place....WOW - a lot has happened in that time: a new start for me here in France; a "new start" for the economy (too bad it had to go back to square 1.!! - can't go anywhere but up from here, right?), a new start to the US political climate (about time too, huh!?!). A lot has happened.

Hope you all had a great Holiday Season - mine was wonderful - went back to Seattle for a week and got to spend time family and friends...too short but felt good to get back here - to what is now home.

A friend recently asked me whether or not this was all I had hoped for. As I told her, in many ways it is and in a few it is not. I don't think you really ever know how its going to just leap into it and let it happen....which is really what I did. I mean, after all, I only found this place a year ago..and here I am!

To answer her question...How is it?...its great, good, fine, OK, not bad. All some level of positive, but not all over-the-top...................

The people here have been fantastic to me - they have all gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable - every where I turn people are willing to help - more than I expected.

The 'farm' is taking more work than I anticipated, and I am needing to find help ( and spend $) to make sure I am doing the right things. Again, everyone I ask is forthcoming, its just I don't always know what to ask. I had expected some of this, just not to the extent it has become necessary.

The Winemaking is as expected - just a larger scale (10,000 bottles vs 1000). So there are no issues there (other than finding sources for materials - no Boeing Winemakers' Club to call for help).

The house remodel has gone better than I expected - Michel has proven to be a first-rate contractor, and between himself and his contacts I have been able to get anything I need done pretty quickly. With apologies to Peter Mayle, you can get word done here on-time and at a reasonable price.

Finally, on the personal side, I am finally settling. As most of you know I retired from Boeing in May after 34 years to set off on this adventure, and then spent the next 2 months getting ready to get here; and then the next 2 months getting settled (vineyard, winery, house remodel...all the usual things). So - its only been in the last month that I have really had a chance to catch my breath and start thinking about what I got myself into.

I must say that the one thing I am missing is the 'constant incidental' interaction with people - the socialization that came both with the job and with my friends in close proximity. Living as I am now in a rural environment - where my nearest neighbors are really a vineyard away - interaction is limited, particularly since this is a family-owned 'wine-farmer' community. People her tend to keep to themselves. So you really have to be outgoing. And my French language skill, while improving, is still not enough or me to feel comfortable just striking up a conversation with strangers...I am more than a little intimidated....yet. My New Year's resolution is to work on this.....go to town for coffee more mornings and just strike up conversations.....and just get out there........well...maybe....

But all things considered, it IS the right thing for me to have done. I am still very excited about it. AND - with the wine getting close to release, I know I will start having more and more visitors / clients, and it will be great.

And now that I have heard from a number of you that perhaps you will come visit....I have to wonder whether I have created a monster - Everyone wants to come at once....How will I keep you all entertained... What will I do when more than a few of you want to come at the same can I say 'NO'??!! Will I have to move out or sleep in the winery to make room...?!?!?? BUT Never Fear - I have a PLAN - I am starting a calendar. And so take this as a hint to get your reservations in early, cause I can only take a few at a time...and first come first served!!!

Have to run - we start winter pruning this week, and I have a few clean-up things to do before we start.

Be good to each other, and be well.