Friday, December 17, 2010


I am on my way to Seattle for the holidays. A great chance to catch-up with friends and family.

No pictures to share, as the vineyard is sleeping. Just finished blending the 2009 CDR rouge Cuvee....its gonna be good !!! Its 100% grenache, with 20% barrel-aged for 13 months. I topped it off with the 'normal' 2009 to retain the fruit we've all come to love. Goes into bottles the first week of January, and releases in March/April. Will produce about 1500 bottles. Not a large amount but very special. (pssst..bringing samples to Seattle next week). Im going to name it "Ombre de Chateau" - shade of the castle - to reflect that it is every bit a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, just not in name.

Also put the finishing touches on the 2010 rose. This year's wine will be Vin de Pays de Vaucluse instead of Cotes du Rhone. There was/is an issue over a part of the vineyard and its designation. We have not yet resolved the problem, so in the interim (this year and maybe longer) the rose will not be Cotes du Rhone. Still just as FABULOUS (even better than the 2009), but the name isn't the same.

All for now .. need to pack. SO MANY presents for SO MANY people....3 bags full (good thing I have good premium status on United !!).

Be well and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Whew, crush is all over. All the reds are in their respective barrels and tanks; all the fermentation is complete. They will now 'rest' until next summer at the earliest. I had to add a new tank to the cellar - a 3000 liter floating-lid fiberglass tank - for the red. We picked the vineyard in pieces as they came ripe, and the bigger tanks were too big to hold the individual pieces.

The rose has been filtered, and is now just lying in wait of bottling next month. I will bottle it at the same time I bottle the 2009 CDR 'Reserve'....still working on a proprietary name for it, as "Reserve" or "Vielles Vignes" both seem too commonplace.

Fall has come to the vineyard, and with it all the beautiful colors you would expect. The leaves will start to fall within the next couple of weeks, and in the mean time, I am out working on pulling up the dead vines to make room for the replanting in the Spring. With the emphasis this year on the old vine areas which I had not touched before, I think there will be about 500 new plants to put in the ground come April.

For the moment, thoughts turn to olives and OLIVE OIL. Due to the heavy snowfall last winter, the olive trees took a beating, and I had to do some heavy pruning to help them out. The result of that, however, has been a tremendous fruit set. I am thinking that I should get about 6-8 times the olives I have been getting in years past, so there will be plenty of Mas de la Lionne Huile d'Olive de la Domaine to go around this year; maybe even enough for me to keep a bottle!

All for now, I need to get back out on the back-hoe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fermentation of all the various tanks is now finished. We started the pressing about 10 days ago with the first of the harvest - the grenache from the near side of the vineyard. After pulling out the 'free-run' juice (the juice you get before you press) we use a conveyor belt (tapis) to move the must of juice and skins and seeds from the tank into the press.

With one person inside the tank shoveling onto the conveyor, the other is at the press directing the must into the press. Once filled the press rotates and squeezes the must by compressing from the two ends. The juice then filters through the slats in the side of the press and falls into the resevoir below. We then taste that 'press fraction' to determine whether it should be combined with the free-run. Usually it is not an issue and the two are combined into the receiver tank. See how light-colored the must is in the press - this is because during the fermentation, the color is pulled out of the skins and into the juice.

The last of the three pressings - the "Old Vines" grenache from behind the house and between my house and the next- was finished just yesterday. That tank underwent about 10 days of extended maceration where we keep the wine and skins together even though fermentation is complete - to get that final extraction of color and fruit tannins that help to make the wine more robust. During that period we taste the wine every day and monitor its progress. Over this last weekend we (my oenologist and I) made the decision that it was ready, so into the press it went. But first, I took the 'free-run' juice from that tank, 'the best of the best', and moved it into barrels for long-term aging.

Like the 2009 before it, this wine will sit in barrels for about 1 year before bottling. As the wine went into the barrels, I re-checked the color, and I am quite pleased with the deep, dark red/purple coloring. We got very good extraction from the berries this year, and I think this will be a very good wine when it is ready in 2012!

So Crush is officially finished with the last of the pressing. Now the tasks at hand are to taste and blend the rose components (cinsault and grenache), and wait for the reds to complete their malolactic fermentaion (where via bacterial interaction with the wine it transforms the acid in the wine from malic (think apple) to lactic (milk) - to soften it out but retain its acidic nature. That will take about a month to complete, so we wait.

All in all I think this will be the best year yet for me here at la Lionne - the wines keep improving every year as I get more comfortable with my decisions..mostly that means being patient and not doing things too early. Hard for me because I get anxious and don't want to screw up, but I am learning that the both the grapes and the wine really will 'tell' you when they are ready.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harvest is done - all the grapes are snuggled into their respective stainless steel (inox) tanks for fermentation. Now in the midst of pump-overs. That's where we take the juice from the bottom of the tank and 'pump-over' to the top. Both the tanks in the picture are set up for it, with the pump running on the tank on the right

The pump runs for about an hour to turn the entire amount of juice over once, and I do that 2 times per day ( 8 am and 8pm). This is to ensure good extraction of color and fruit aromas and tannins from the skins into the juice - if you don't pump-over (or "punch-down" - a technique used in open-top fermenters) you don't get the good deep color -because the skins all float on the top as a 'cap'. As you can see, color is extracted pretty quickly - this is the 'Old Vines" grapes - we picked those on Tuesday and they are just getting started at fermentation, but already you can see the color in the juice as it sprays back over the top of the berries.

That's why we press the juice off the skins immediately when making rose - it takes almost NO time to get too much color. By the way, the rose's are done fermenting - both the cinsault and the grenache. Lovely light colors and lots of fruit flavors - with the acidity you want for a rose. I think this one will be even better than the 2009.

On a personal note, I went yesterday to take the written exam for my driver's license (Permit de Conduit)..FLUNKED IT! Missed 8 questions - you can only miss 4 to pass. Still having a language issue with some of the questions..and then some were just pretty obscure. Wish I could blame it on the harvest - your know, mind elsewhere and all, but....guess I just wasn't prepared. Oh well..BACK TO SCHOOL I go.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

HARVEST has begun !!

Late last week we started pulling grapes in from the vineyard. We started with the cinsault - about 3 tons. That took most of Thursday morning. Friday we continued with the grenache from the vines along-side the cinsault. We brought in about 4 tons. The rose will be a combo of the two - to be blended after fermentation is complete (each 'wine' will be fermented seperately). Looks like we'll get about 1500 bottles again this year.

Had planned to continue the harvest the end of this week - Thurs / Fri - but we got RAIN last night and this morning, so we will delay until the first of next week. But, longer hang-time on the vine is better for the maturity of the grapes, and the rain will keep the sugar levels under control. We'll keep testing and tasting the grapes in the vineyard and make the final "Pick" decision later in the week.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Great weekend in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Spent all day Saturday and Sunday with a booth in the middle of the town, along with about 20 other wineries.

With my neighbors' son helping (fluent in French, English, German and Belgian (the twirp), he was a great help to me when I would get stuck with my less-than-perfect French.

Lots of people, lots of sun, and we poured and sold lots of wine. Interestingly, the 2008 Red was more popular than the 2009. I think because it is a little more fruit-forward, and of course a year older, it was more appealing in the hot sun. Of course, the rose went over very well -clean and crisp - but we seemed to get as many repeat tasters (can you say 'free aperitif') as buyers!!

In addition to the sales, I was able to increase awareness of the domaine (lots of people took brochures and cards) and I made a few good contacts for future business, which is part of why I went. SO, all in all, a very successful outing!

Monday, August 2, 2010

VERAISON has arrived - grape color is changing. Things are starting to ripen. And we FIANALLY GOT RAIN !!! After 6 weeks without, we got a dump last night - vines are VERY happy !!!

This coming weekend is the "Fete de la Versaion" in
Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Its their annual (26th) celebration of the founding of the village and its ties both to the church and to wine. Lots of costumes (knights, damsels) parades, food and wine. And a medeival banquet with jousting and swordfights, and all. Quite the deal. I have booth on the main street and will be pouring and selling my 2008 and 2009 red as well as my 2009 rose. Wish me luck !!

A bientot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The grapes, the grapes..!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here it is the latter part of July, and the fruit is set...and even a few are starting to change color.
In Chateauneuf-du-Pape in early August they have a festival to celebrate 'Veraison' - which is the changing of the color in the 'raisins' you can see it has started. Looks like it will be a good harvest this year!

On another note - - - the rose wine has arrived in Seattle, and should be available next week at local wine shops!!!! So get your orders in now, 'cause when its gone....its gone !!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Hi to All

Did the Open House thing again - this time for the 2009 red wine, last Saturday. It didn't generate a great turn-out, but it wasn't a complete waste of time. Even though I only had about 15-18 people stop by I sold about 20 boxes of wine - so worth the effort. Though I suspect i need to re-think the advertising of it. The direct mail to questionable clients (left over from Julien) wasn't the lure I had hoped for.

In the vineyard, things are going great. We've had good weather for the last month (its in the 85-90 range again this week, for the third week straight..with more to follow. Haven't seen any rain in the last month. So, I've been out plowing between rows of vines, and watering the new plants. With it being so hot...and me being 'retired'..I find myself working for a couple of hours in the morning (9-12) and then a couple of hours in the late afternoon (4-7). Seems to be working so far.

That schedule does, however, interfere with my Driving License schooling. I have not been back to the class in a month or so, so I am way behind. Will try to pick that up again next week. I was just about to the point of being ready for the written exam...and now I've lost work work......its always something!!!

On the WINE side, the latest is that I did get about 2500 bottles of the 2009 Cotes du Rhone red into bottles - no issues with the OIVR (the administration) over the quality this time - passed with flying colors!` So, with the Open House, I have that for sale here at the domaine. I have begun to send samples out to people to I can generate some interest....we'll see?!?!!?

The 2009 rose is still selling, slowly, here. The pallet I sent to Nobvle Wines is due to arrive in about 2 weeks - I will be sending out a notice in the "E-Newletter" as that gets wath for that !!

The 2008 red continues to not sell here, so I have set that aside for now and I am focusing on the 2009. In Seattle, Noble still has some 2008 left...SOOoooo


We need to make room for the 2009, by getting the 2008 out the door, so keep up the good work!!!!! I am hopeful that Noble will order some of the 2009 red (sent them samples to try)...but they are more likely if there cupboard is bare................

Other than that things are good. The Tour de France comes close-by again this year - next week - so I plan to go see it (I went and saw a stage (time trial) of the Duphine Libere last month here in Sorgues) - boy those guys really scoot. Not like me on my way to market!!!

Y'all be good out there.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bonjour to All

Its been just about a year since my very good friends Terry and Kathryn came to visit. in honor of that, and to give you an idea of what I am up to in the vineyard this week/month, I am turning the Blog over to my "Guest Blogger" - Kathryn...ENJOY !!!

"In 2009 Terry and I decided it was time to spend some months in France assisting Doug in the Mas de la Lionne's vineyards during June and July; returning in September to help with the harvest. We left an unseasonably sunny Pacific Northwest on June 10th to be picked up in Avignon by Doug in his cute white Renault Kangoo sedan van.

We quickly fell into a pattern of arising at 7 AM and after coffee, cereal and bananas going into the vineyards to trim vines while Doug sprayed the weeds (who exhibited a liking for the terroir compatible to the vines). After a couple of hours in the sun, which made us sweat as if we were pedaling in Le Tour de France, we would take a break, ultimately returning to the fields and working until approximately noon.

Anything after noonish was difficult because of the heat. The attached pictures show one of many of Doug's tractors (can you say manly?) and Doug and Terry in the vineyard. Note the spraying tank on Doug’s back so the spray gets the weeds not the grapes

.Lunch was either taken at small restaurants located in Chateauneuf du Pape, a 5 minute drive from Mas de la Lionne, or on the patio of Mas de la Lionne. The attached picture represents one of our repasts, which all seemed to feature cheese, tomatoes, thinly sliced meats, melon and Mas de la Lionne rosé wine.

Afternoons were a leisurely affair, with the boys watching sports on the television and me reading or walking the roads. Always looking for sunflower fields, one day I hit the mother lode and must have taken three million photos, none of which were particularly good, of a multitude of flower fields near the house.

Sundays and days the mistral was blowing enough that work in the field was prohibited, were for markets and traveling to quaint French provencal towns. One big exception was on Monday, July 6th, when a stage of Le Tour was breezing

through Les Beaux (look it up on the Internet...very cool hilltop town which is a tourist "must").

Le Tour is like Mardi Gras without the boobs, and even has a parade that leads the route several hours in advance of the cyclists. The floats throw candy and hats and all sorts of stupid memorabilia to the crowd lining the roads. The attached picture shows the pelaton whizzing by at mach 9.....I still wonder if Armstrong (Lance not Neil) is in the picture somewhere.

We also helped with labeling the 2008 Cote du Rhone, which I hope you are enjoying as you read this article, although article might be a too fancy word for my musings. Nonetheless, it was fun to pit ourselves against the machinery in true Lucille and Ethel fashion and the result is the attached photo.

All too soon our time to leave caught up with us, although a highlight, before our flight home, was celebrating Bastille Day in Paris We left France planning to return to help Doug with the harvest, which he assured us always falls within a specific number of days in September.

Remember how great last year's spring and summer was in the Pacific Northwest? Well that weather was present in Provence as well. The upshot was the brix [sugar] count of the grapes got high enough that Doug decided to pick the week before we arrived. We still were able to see a lot of grapes being harvested when we returned but we did not have to perform any "plucking" motions ourselves. The attached picture shows some grapes from another field close to Mas de la Lionne, which represents what the grapes look like when they are going to be harvested.

What we did get to do was help Doug in the winery. Since the tanks are very tall and hard to exit via the small door very high on the tanks' front, Terry (who is 6 feet tall) was selected to climb into the vats and shovel out the stems and grapes and various residuals that are left after the juice is drained. There is a lot of alcohol in the air so a table fan was jerry-rigged by the guys (no OSHA in France) so Terry would not pass out.

Doug meanwhile ran around moving equipment and making me wonder how he could ever do all that is required by himself. The pictures show Terry in a stainless steel tank squatting on the material he will be shoveling and Doug cleaning a piece of equipment.

All too soon our time with Doug at Mas de la Lionne came to an end, but we have wonderful memories, good pictures and some great wine to remember the experience."

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Its been a little while, I know...I really am not being very good about posting, am I ?!?!

I think mostly its because this time of year it is pretty quiet around here (...boring..?) and there's not much to pass along.

The winter, since the holidays, has been fairly cold and wet...we got about 12 inches of snow here and about 20 inches in Chateauneuf in early January....A RECORD for around here.

My friend Jean Marie tells me that his father-in-law, who has lived herre all his life, had not seen snow like that since 1956! (Jean Marie had never seen so much here at one time). Needless to say, the community was snowbound for about a week. I had to use the tractor to make a path for me to get the car out of the driveway (and had to shovel a bunch to make clearance for the gate to swing open and shut). When the 'plow' came down the road, of course it left me with a nice pile of snow across the entrance to the drive - so I used the tractor to break it all up and smash it down. Helped out the neighbors with their driveway as well.

Since then, it has been off and on rain and clear...but generally cool (30's and 40's). So that has made it a little difficult to finish the work in the vineyard (pulling up dead vines to make way for replanting). Its hard on the vineyard to run the heavy tractor between the rows when it is really wet - they compact the soil. I DID get all the trimmings 'raked' up and burned, so any left-over mildew on the trimmed branches will not infect the vineyard.

And then - today - we got another round of snow!!! For crying out loud its MARCH...its PROVENCE !!..its THE SOUTH of France.!!!!

The forecast calls for cold weather for the next couple of days, so I'm sure the snow won't go away 'till the end of the week. Oh least its real pretty !! And I have lots of books and DVD's to keep me occupied in the house (thank you

For those of you on my e-mail list, you will know that the second shipment of the 2008 red reached Seattle in late January. I got a report this week that the wine is still selling nicely - they have sold about 1/2 the shipment (which was twice the size of the first one) in the first 5 weeks!!! So you are all doing the job I asked you to do!! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK !!!!

Also, it looks like we will be bringing the 2009 ROSE into Seattle in the Spring - I am hoping to receive a Purchase Order from Noble in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully the wine will arrive in time for the BREAST CANCER CLIMB DINNER at BRASA! Watch for more news on that soon.

On a personal note, I am continuing to work on getting a French drivers license (Permit de Conduire). It is REALLY TOUGH!! The written portion is very difficult - you must answer 36 out of 40 questions corfrectly, and the questions may have multiple correct answers. Taken together with the fact that it is all in French, and my language skills are good but not perfect.....I have been struggling to get over the 30 correct hurdle....quelle dommage.....SO I go to the 'Auto Ecole' every evening for about 1 hour and study. Of course there are NO English speakers around to it is a bit frustrating.....oh well...c'est la vie en france. I'll just keep sluggin away at it.

Other than that, things are good. Looking forward to Spring and Summer - warm weather, sun, exploring, vineyard work, clients for the wine........and VISITORS!?!?!?!

Be well out there.


Friday, January 1, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all !!!!

Sorry for taking so long to post...again....

Its been a quiet winter so far. The vineyard has gone dormant for the winter - most all the leaves had dropped by early December.

We finished the heavy winter pruning just before I left for the holidays, so I have to get out on the tractor with the rake attachment and pull all the dead branches out of the vineyard.
We do that so that any mildew that might have become ingrained into the wood during the season is not left in the vineyard - we pile up the cuttings and burn them. In addition, I need to get back out with the back-hoe and finish pulling up the dead vines in anticipation of the Spring re-planting. I am about 1/4 way through the vineyard, but I have the old vines (with their slightly tighter spacing) yet to do, so that will take some time.

In the meantime, the 2009 wines are all aging along nicely. With the higher yield this year, we have the opportunity to create more of the "Old Vines" (Veilles Vignes) this year. Its looking like we will get about 5 barrles (200 boxes - 1200 bottles) from this vintage (its the wine in the middle set of barrels in the picture at left). And, based on my tasting of it at this stage, and comparing it to the 2008 vintage, I think it will be a very good wine when it is ready a year or so from now.

As I mentioned before, I will be bottling the 2008 shortly (its in the near barrel) - at the same time I do the 2009 rose.
The rose is currently sitting in the L.H. stainless steel tank (one I bought this year just for the rose). On my list of "To Do's" this next week or so is to send it through its first filtering, in preparation for testing and bottling. It will need 2 rounds of filtering- the 2nd round ('sterile') will occur at the time we bottle. I am thinking we should get about 250 boxes (1500 bottles) of the rose this year - about twice last year's production. And latest tastings indicate this will be as good as last year's, so I am happy about that.

Sales so far this winter have been slow. Without the follow-on order from Noble it would be fairly dismal - sales 'out the door' are a dribble at best. But Spring is coming soon, and I think the New Release of the 2009 rose will bring people back into the winery, and hopefully sell both the new rose and the 2008 red.

And - GOOD NEWS - I had the opportunity when I was in Seattle to visit with the folks at Noble Wines (Naomi Smith and others) and give them the chance to taste the new wines (2009 rose, red, and Vielles Vignes) as well as the 2008 Vielles Vignes. Thankfully, all of them had traveled well, and were received positively. So, I am hopeful that when they are released, Noble will place orders - they are great people to work with.

And MORE OF THE 2008 RED IS COMING - - -SOON!!!! The follow-on order from Noble departed here early last month, and it looks like it will arrive the end of the ASK FOR IT STARTING JANUARY 25!!!!!

Remember - "ALL I ASK IS A BOTTLE A WEEK!!!!

On the personal side, there's not much new to report. I had a great time in Seattle over Christmas with friends and family. And of course have now returned home to 'get back to work'........hrumph....some retirement.........

Also - I am starting through the process of getting a French Driver's License (Permit de Conduire). As it turns out some US state licenses transfer (i.e. Kansas) but Washington does not, SO I need to go through the process of both a written and driving examination....of course all in we'll see how that goes. I have signed-up with a local school who will help coordinate it all, but it means going to 'classes' and 'instructor-led driving'...Back to being 16 again..But it is necessary since I have been here a year and I run the risk of my car insurance not being valid. SO off I go - I start the classes next week. I will fill you in on how it goes next time.

More later. Out to start raking.

Be well out there.