Month: October 2019

Fire on the Mountain

Fire on the mountain and ferments in the vats…
As everyone has heard by now, fires have once again struck in parts of Wine Country. Though much of Sonoma County is open for business, there is a large swath of the Russian River, Alexander and Dry Creek valleys that are under mandatory evacuation orders, including the two wineries where we make Alquimista wines, Owl Ridge Wine Services and Ektimo Winery. Both are in the Green Valley of Russian River Valley and are miles away from the fires, but history has taught us that, with high winds expected to kick back up in the next few hours, miles are not measures of safety. Already over 100 square miles have been consumed in the Kincaid Fire, so the authorities are exhibiting a wise abundance of caution.

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Transformations

The day began a little differently than most days of harvest do:
We weighed out for tare the two ¾-ton fermentors and loaded them into the back of my bullet-riddled pickup truck, evacuated the air from the vessels with carbon dioxide snow, and strapped the lids down tight. Once again pointing the nose of said truck easterly, we headed up to one of the highest vineyards on Sonoma Mountain, the storied van der Kamp Vineyard for a first-light pick of whole-cluster, carbonic maceration Pinot Meunier.

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Life Among the Interns

OK, it is harvest time for Alquimista Cellars.
Life is pretty busy with early rising to either pick grapes, often in the middle of the night, or to commence the daily 7 AM punchdown routine. And then there are all the other things of harvest, such as processing fruit, pressing off fermentors (yes, the vessels that hold fermentations are fermentors with an “o” – a fermenter is a yeast), the endless job of sanitation (it is said that winemaking is 85% sanitation, i.e. boredom, 10% interesting challenges and 5% sheer terror) and managing wayward fermentations. We are all working a gazillion hours a day and getting little sleep. This is the time of year when a famous winemaker has said that everyone “goes into asshole mode”. Thank you for that quote, Michael S.

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Alquimista Cellars Begins the 2019 Harvest of the Heart

A Vineyard Full of Age and Youth
I always say that I’m the luckiest man I know. How lucky? Let me elucidate…

Yesterday morning at 3 AM I pointed the nose of my bullet-riddled pickup truck, loaded with 4 empty half-ton bins, towards the Mokolumne River AVA (American Viticultural Appellation) of west Lodi. The goal was to pick 1.5 tons from one of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards on the planet at Jessie’s Grove Winery’s “Royal Tee” Vineyard. Planted in 1888, the vineyard is, as were many vineyards planted in those days, a scattering of varietals other than Zin. There are also Carignane and Mission grapes as well as the almost-extinct table grapes Flame Tokay and Black Prince. Flame Tokay was so important to the Lodi region in days gone by that the local high school sports teams are still known as the “Flames”.

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