Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What's Up in the Winery?

Anatomy of our Newest Wine Label

There's a new arrival at Satori.
T., with the help of Orion in New Hampshire, sourced
our first (voluptuous) Pinot Noir,
from Monterey County,
and it will be appearing
at a colorful tasting cabana near you
around the first of September.
But, first, our full but label-less wine bottle,
 like the one on the right,
(called a shiner)
needed a satori label.

Step 1 send some text describing the wine and 
what we're thinking about this wine
to our ridiculously-good graphic designer, Mark.
 His website:
Ridiculously-Good Graphic Designer 

Step 2 Our Ridiculously-Good Graphic Designer (RGGD) 
returns the text to us in label format. This part was easy
because we already had an established back-of-the-label look.
Small but important change: we chose the color green 
to differentiate our non-estate wines
(made from grapes not grown here at Satori) 
from our estate wines
(made from grapes we grow and love on campus).
There will be a new green swirl capsule as well.

Step 3 Our RGGD sends us a "new look" front label
for this first of our non-estate red wines ...
but something doesn't seem right to us.
AdoRah (correctly) points out that the "R"
seems too prominent and "Far East" in appearance ... 
which doesn't make too much sense for a 
California Pinot Noir. So our RGGD literally goes back
to the drawing board.

Step 4 RGGD sends us two new versions. This is the first one.
Notice that the "R" is till here, but it's subtle, not the first
thing that hits you.

This is the Second Version. Again, the "R" is subtle, 
almost sub-conscious, which we like. And we like how 
both versions capture the "tendril" look and feel of Satori
but it's not just another swirl like our estate wine labels.
More differentiation. 
But we have to choose. Which would you choose?

Step 5 We choose this version, mostly because it seems
more balanced. And we tweak it a little, adding 
a second color to the swirling grape tendril, and our friend Julia 
suggests "R Noir" as a fun way to refer to this voluptuous Pinot.
You know we love our rhymes at Satori! 

Step 6 T. sends the finished label (front and back) 
to the Department of the Treasury, specifically the TTB
the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
which regulates everything about selling wine in this country,
including approving wine labels. They can take 6 weeks
or more to do this ... and we're still waiting for approval
(much to T.'s chagrin) ...

Step 7: ... because the bottling truck 
is coming in early August and the labels still have
to be printed as well. We'll let you know
 how it all turns out. (It always does!)
Meanwhile, label or not, R Noir
is tasting quite delicious and voluptuous.


Friday, May 11, 2012

What's Up in the Vineyard?
Owl Boxes
You can now see owl boxes 
scattered among our 15 acres of vines
and rising 12 feet into the air. 

Gophers love vineyards as much as golf courses
and, unlike Bill Murray in Caddyshack,
we like to find more natural methods
to balance out the ecosystem.

Gophers burrow under vines
munching on roots
and will kill younger vines.

So earlier this year,
T. fired up the power tools
and played with the plywood.

Starting with one box,
he ended up with six ...

... and raised them 
like the flag at Iwo Jima
throughout the vineyard
where they stand sentinel 
over spring roses and grape shoots.

"If T. builds them, will they come?"
A pair of barn owls, like this one,
can consume 2,000 rodents a year ...
but only if they like the neighborhood
and the new condos. 
Was this going to be another real estate boondoggle?

One dusk night, however,
our friends, Chris and Jennifer Will,
(Jennifer volunteers at a peninsula bird sanctuary)
released a rehabilitated barn owl at Satori
and our fingers were crossed
that it would take up residence ...
and bring its friends.

The Proof is in the Pudding.
Or in the bird droppings,
and the hairball-like things
-- called pellets --
 they regurgitate
after a nosh of gopher sushi.

Barn Owls and Western Screech Owls.
How do we know we have both types?
In the middle of the night
you can hear the eerie screech of the latter
and the crisp, loud clicking of the former.
Haunting, actually,
because you rarely see them in flight;
you just hear fast-moving sounds
of predators in the darkness.

4 out of the 6 vacancies are filled!
And springtime means raptor babies (we hope).
Each night we go to bed
knowing that our vines and tomatoes
have a much better chance now of surviving to harvest
thanks to our newest bird buddies. 


Thursday, May 3, 2012

What's Up in the Vineyard?

Springtimewhich means Bud Break!

Looking West over the Satori vineyards 
toward the Santa Cruz Mountains 
and a tempestuous spring sky.
 Lots of rain in April (after a dry winter) and things 
are literally pushing and popping all over the vineyard.

In late February, you may remember, 
we removed and burned about 200,000 "canes" (last year's growth) 
from our nearly 10,000 estate vines.

 Then, in early April, all sorts of tiny buds 
started to erupt -- Bud Break! -- from the spurs
on the roughly-pruned vines.

While Buds Break Horse and Dog could care less.
Wonder (the wonder horse) fancies grass.
Easy prefers mining for gophers.

Adorah (Sandy) and T.  eyeball some new Merlot buds.

Looking toward the Winery 
from a quadrilateral-trained Merlot vine. 
Quadrilateral means four horizontal cordons
each with five or six spurs. 

Circle of Life.
  Ideally, each spur has two buds ... 
which become two shoots ... 
which become two cluster-carrying vines ... 
which, after harvest, become two canes

But grape vines are extraordinarily prolific
scoffing at the viticulturist's
  best-laid plans 
for an orderly
two buds per spur.
Someone has to come by
and pinch off these tiny interlopers
(over and over and over)
lest the vineyard become an over-grown chaos by June.

Buds appear everywhere
  on the trunk
on the undersides of cordons
and all over spurs.
T. likens the second pruning of vines
to painting the Golden Gate Bridge.
As soon as you finish one pass,
you go back and do it again ...
until the vines finally give in
and get down
to some serious 
two vines per spur grape production.

Young Merlot in training.
  Sometimes, for various reasons, you have to replace a vine,
like this one, which is being trained
to conform to its quadrilateral trellis.
Green tape signals the trainer/pruner
to proceed carefully when pinching buds
to avoid loss of a year's growth.

So here it is May 3.
  Buds have become shoots,
growing an inch or more each day.
The leaves on the shoots increase photosynthesis
giving the vine the energy to produce the coming fruit.
You can already see
tendrils reaching for trellis wires
and nascent clusters of grapes.
(More on this, soon, when we talk about flowering and setting.)


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What's Up in Lodi?

Satori mining Gold, Silver and ... Platinum?

Wine Competition. The 7th Annual Consumer Wine Awards were held March 17 and 18 in Lodi (the land of Old Vine Zin) ... and Satori had entered two Zins and a Syrah.

A New Wrinkle. But this is no traditional wine competition. The judges are not professional wine tasters; they are just wine lovers who enjoy drinking wine. For the fifth year in a row, a panel of approximately 60 consumers, monitored by six wine experts, collaborated to evaluate more than 600 wines from many of California's largest and most popular wineries in a blind taste test.

Oh, Lord, Sipping in Lodi again.  "What's unique about this competition is that the winners represent the opinions of actual wine consumers, not 'experts' whose palates, experience and focus may not agree with the consumer at all," says Harvey Posert, spokesperson for the Consumer Wine Awards competition. 

According to Tim Hanni, one of the industry leaders in sensory sciences, "Trained wine experts brains are scrambled. They are wired to recognize and evaluate certain characteristics of a wine, and sometimes forget to determine if it simply tastes good." 

Another New Wrinkle. The competition actually divides the tasters -- after they have taken a rigorous preferences survey -- into four categories of wine drinkers. The idea is that every person has unique physiological and sensory differences that profoundly affect their wine and food preferences. The Lodi tasters who evaluate the wines in each category are the very consumers who are most inclined to buy and enjoy the wines of that category.

So how did we do in The Land of Old Vine Zin? Our 2009 Estate Zen-Zin (100% Primitivo) won the highest medal at the competition -- Platinum (94 points)! The 2009 Estate Oh-So Zin, Gambit's Blend (a blend of 4 different zinfandel clones) won a Silver medal. And the 2009 Estate Ta-Da Syrah (the first time T. has ever entered a Satori syrah into a competition) took home a Gold medal. Not bad for a humble winery from the Santa Clara Valley ("Oh, Lord, stuck in Gilroy again"). 

Today Lodi ... tomorrow the World.



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Waiter ... There are Magic Crystals in my Wine!

Oh So Sorry ... How tartaric of us.

Have you ever observed these crystals in your glass?

Or attached to your cork? 
Do you know they are one sign 
of a very good wine?
"But how can that be, monsieur?"
you are perhaps asking.

And you thought it was just a Grape? A typical bottle of red wine is composed of Water (70-85%), Alcohol (11-16%), and "other components" (15-19%) -- magical acids and tannins and pigments -- which are what really make wine taste like wine and not alcoholic water.

This is the Culprit! Two of the magical "other components" in wine are tartaric acid and potassium -- both found naturally in grapes -- but under the proper cold conditions (like storing a bottle of wine properly around 55 degrees), they can come together to form a  white (pigments in red wine turn it red) crystal called ... potassium bitartrate! Or, more simply ...

Cream of Tartar? Yes, potassium bitartrate is the same stuff you've had up in your spice rack for 12 years without a clue as to what to do with it. What is this stuff anyway?

Satori Swirls? Well, apparently bakers use it
to put a little more oomph
in their cream pies and meringues
It's kind of like Viagra for egg whites. 

Back to Our StoryA quality red wine is more likely to have these tartrates because the winery wants to maintain all the flavor from all the natural elements in the grapes ... instead of removing essential flavor ingredients that may or may not (it's very unpredictable!) crystallize after the wine is bottled.

Freeze, baby, FreezeMany wineries, however, chill new wines to just above the freezing point; the crystals form and settle to the bottom of the tank. The wine is then racked or filtered while still cold to remove every bit of cream of tartar crystal. This process -- called cold stabilization -- is fine for white wines since it does not affect their taste. But for red wines, chilling may cause pigments, tannins, and other magical components of wine structure or "body" or flavor to drop out with the C of T. That's why T. says Satori chooses to not cold stabilize or super-micro-filter its wines. It's a "baby out with the bathwater" kind of thing.

Don't WorryIf you drink lesser-quality wines, 
tartrates are never an issue ... 
there's not enough good acids in plonk
to precipitate into
"flavor savers," as T. calls them.

Does it Hurt? Nope
Odorless, tasteless, harmless. Just a bit gritty. 
As noted author, Hugh Johnson, puts it in "Wine."
It is remarkably hard to convince people (especially in the U.S.) that sediment in wine is harmless and natural and untampered with.  If wine has been pasteurized, put through very fine filters or otherwise denatured, IT IS POSSIBLE TO AVOID SEDIMENT. 
But it is no longer natural wine
it seems too high a price to pay to avoid 
the chance of a speck (on the cork) or
 in the bottom of the bottle. 

Decant, baby, Decant. But if you like good wine ... 
and suspect the presence of magic crystals therein ... 
and prefer to leave them in the bottle ... 
and not in your glass or mouth ... 
just put the bottle upright for a few hours 
so the crystals can settle ...
then pour the wine carefully
into decanter or glass
leaving the red diamonds
in the last few drops.

(Or you can use them in your next red meringues.)