Monday, October 26, 2009

Hand made from start to finish

How's this for hand made wine? A few Rockroom wines get a dot of wax instead of the usual tin capsule right before we put them into bottle aging. We pull out the deep-fryer, melt a batch of wax and drip it on one bottle at a time. Is all this fuss necessary? Probably not but it seems to make sense to add this little hand-crafted reminder now and then. Like on this La Encantada pinot noir that was so carefully grown in an organically farmed vineyard in Santa Barbara's Santa Rita Hills. Hand crafted from start to finish.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last pinot pick of 09

Yesterday we sorted our pinot noir from this vineyard - Bohemian in Freestone. Here we are walking the rows with Tom the vineyard owner and Chris our consulting winemaker. This chilly site had a challenging season this year with all the Asian typhoon rain swirling around, but thanks to some quick pruning action and warmer dryer weather it looks like we got some nice fruit.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pressing syrahhhhhh

Santa Barbara County syrah came in beautifully ripe a couple weeks back and we pressed it today after a textbook fermentation. I just never get enough of that deep purple that syrah does so well.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Beached Syrah

Our syrah was harvested from White Hawk vineyard in Santa Barbara County after last week's dash to the vineyard showed the grapes to be in great condition for the pick. Check out this shot of the vineyard when I visited it and youi can see that it looks like the vines are growing on the beach. Sure enough, while the vineyard is miles inland the soil is pure sand. It took a visionary grower to plant in this stuff and boy did it pay off - this fruit makes amazing wine.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Santa Rita harvest

A 5 hour drive south of the winery we get our most distant fruit from Sanford's La Encantada vineyard. This beautiful hilltop vineyard is organically farmed and even went to the trouble to become the first certified organic vineyard in Santa Barbara County. We will pick pinot noir this week for the 2009 wine. Three different Dijon clones for those of you keeping score.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Howell Mountain crush

Today our Napa cab was picked and hauled down from Howell Mountain for winemaking in San Francisco. We hand sorted the clusters and then sorted berries on a shaker table after destemming to pull out any fruit that was over or under the ripeness we are looking for.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Westlake's only California winery

Today was crush for some very unique California cabernet as Cross Creek vineyards owner Richard Schwartz airlifted his Sonoma cab picked yesterday into Austin for crush today. Family and friends turned out for gourmet snacks, grape destemming and a fun sampling of vintages back to 1999. Here is Dave from The Grove taking his turn at the hand destemmer. Good times as the 2009 grapes look nicely ripened and prior vintages are tasting impressive. Standouts were the 2000 and 2004 and a 2007 barrel sample shows promise with some time for tannins to soften. There will soon be a way to try Richard's grapes in action as Spann Vineyards has done a 2007 Cross Creek Vineyard designated wine so watch for that. Maybe at The Grove?

Monday, September 07, 2009

wow - special occassion wine

Special occassions like, say, an anniversary, deserve something special to sip. Two ways to do that: pull something from the cellar or pick a special bottle from the shelf or wine list. Tonight we popped a bottle of 1994 Gran Reserva tempranillo from Torre de Oria. Not a true Rioja as it sits outside that region of Spain, this beauty sure had me fooled. Well worth the $40 price tag and 8 year wait. When is your next occasion for a special bottle?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Takes a lot of beer to make wine?

Today we finished bottling 2008 pinot noirs and to keep the machinery humming we cracked open a few Texas brews. And it struck me that every step along the winemaking path seems to involve beer. Which begs the question, what do they drink at the brewery? Beer I guess.
Anyway, with bottling out of the way we are ready for harvest. First grapes should be in two or three weeks!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

WOW Club Seghesio

Wine of the week this week is well known Seghesio but not the zinfandel you would expect. As a member if their wine club we get occasional shipments of their awesome zins of course, but this 05 Alexander Valley cab was included in a Spring shipment. A nice surprise wine that just goes to club members and winery visitors. Clubs are fun that way. Hmmmm - maybe Rockroom needs a club.....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tasting in good company

The wine of the week this week is one you will not find on the store shelf and probably not on the wine list of your favorite steakhouse. It is the Lail Bluebrint 2005 cabernet. A luscious big "cult" cab with demand far exceeding supply, this magnum was consumed as part of a tasting that Rockroom participated in about an hour west of Austin overlooking beautiful Lake LBJ. A hundred or so folks turned out to try this wine, along with our own 07 chardonnay and 07 Bohemian pinot and a few other treats. We also discussed the idea of a restaurant on the site to take advantage of the great views. I like the idea and saw a lot of enthusiasm among the folks attending. Could it really happen that we could get a taste of the Tuscan experience this close to home?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

WOW - this wine is spot on

Spot On is actually the winery name and this syrah is a beautiful fit with the name. It is a 2006 whole cluster fermented wine and it has all the funky complexity a good syrah should with minimal oak so the good stuff really shines. Outstanding wine. The only problem is tiny production so it may be a while before a Texas distributor picks it up. Watch for it though. We have a co-op member workin to get it here

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Co-op bottling day

After fining with a little bentonite we bottled our experimental Napa sauv blanc today. A nice bright wine but just not sure this source is worth taking in a commercial direction. For now this one will be co-op only wine, great for light seafood pairing on a hundred degree day. Plenty of those this year!.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2007 Cabernet bottled

We had a great day bottling the Howell Mountain cab today. The label for 2007 features a painting by Austin artist Nancy Hoover as our first cabernet art label. With the wine bottled now comes the hard part: waiting for the release!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bottling the first of the 08 vintage

We lined up some barrel samples to get down to the serious work of coming up with our 2008 Rockroom pinot noir lineup. For such serious work it sure was fun as 08 gave us some really nice stuff to work with! The first went to bottle today: Bohemian Vineyard from Russian River Valley.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day posting for Kiva

The Rockroom blog is generally reserved for all things wine and so today is a good opportunity to remind folks of how at Rockroom we link wine with community. We started out doing this by making and sharing wine as a group of wine lovers. Then when we decided to make more wine than we could drink ourselves, we decided to sell it and use the profits to fund microloans in the developing world. Not a donation, these microloans fund entrepreneurs that go on to build small businesses that can dramatically improve the quality of their lives and the well being of their families and communities. And they generate enough income to repay the zero-interest loans in full at which time we get the funds back to deploy again. In this way we now have expanded our community to include dozens of friends that act as trusted agents for change in the world. And that's the connection to Memorial Day. What better way to honor those who have given their lives to protect our American freedoms than to participate in the perpetuation of those freedoms around the world? After all, it is widely recognized that the economic opportunity and hope embodied in these microventures is a highly stabilizing force for peace. That is why Muhammad Yunus, the creator of the microfinance industry, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, not economics. What we are doing is participating in a very clever grassroots movement in capitalist free enterprise for peace, one bottle of wine at a time!
And we do all this through Kiva, a San Francisco based social business that bundles funds from Rockroom and thousands of other participants into millions of dollars in funding for microloans, one entrepreneur at a time. So today we are promoting Kiva in the Rockroom blog and encouraging you to go check out our Kiva lender page, buy a bottle of wine, or even go to Kiva and start your own lending.
This blog post is part of Zemanta's "Blogging For a Cause" campaign to raise awareness and funds for worthy causes that bloggers care about.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

wow - syrah by any other name

Last weekend a few of us Rockroom co-op-ers got together to enjoy some spring weather, spring lamb and syrah. Syrah can have so many different personalities and the picture shows a couple that you might consider trying. First of course is Shiraz from Australia, but not your garden variety grocery store colorful critter wine. This 2003 Brokenwood is more serious, complex and chewy than those simple or over-amped cocktail wines. Aged for a few years too which makes a big difference in allowing flavors to integrate and mellow. And then there is the Cornas, a syrah from France's Northern Rhone River valley. A very complex and aromatic wine, this 1995 example just kept getting more and more interesting with color and aromas almost like a fine Bordeaux with a pinch of black and white pepper added. Both beautiful food wines and stellar with chargrilled rack of lamb.

Monday, May 11, 2009

WOW some good old Hangtime

Waiting 5 years to pop this 2002 Carneros Hangtime pinot was well worth the wait. It made for good Mothers' Day wine with coconut curried chicken and red rice. More evidence that putting aside a few bottles now and then for special dinners is usually rewarded. Dark ruby red with cherry fruit and just a kiss of oak with only six months in barrel.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

wow - gamay on a warm afternoon

I recently read someone lamenting the warm weather as it prompted them to set aside the reds in favor of chilled whites. Oh, wait - that was me! But why fall into such "rule traps"? Drink what you like fer cryin out loud! So if warm weather means turning to lighter fare, maybe a light fruity red is in order. Pinot is a given. Gamay is great too and not as pricey. Here is a cru Beaujolais from Brouilly that is a great example. Perfect with coconut curried lentils and pan seared jerk snapper. The fruit driven juicy berry flavors are a nice balance to the warm (not hot) spices.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

WOW as the weather warms pinot grigio chills

It was a mostly warm weekend in Texas and promises to get warmer, so meals are likely to lighten up and wines cool down. Perfect conditions for pinot grigio with a nice caesar salad. Jamaican jerk chicken was the next course and it worked even better as the cool well-rounded fruit of the pinot grigio chilled the burn of the peppers and ginger in the jerk seasoning. Awesome! Experiment with a variety of pinot grigios: Italian for sure, maybe some California or Oregon and for sure try some pinot gris from Alsace - crisp and bone dry. And yes, those silver slivers are anchovies on the salad, and not the oversalted brown thingies from a can. Mandola's grocery on Lamar sells the real deal: anchovies in vinegar that are perfect on a good caesar. They come from the deli case so you can get exactly enough to put in your salad without a bunch left over to scent the fridgie. Of course all by themselves they make a nice little tapas plate...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rockroom - built to last?

As we say on the Rockroom website, one of the four Rockroom Winemaking Cooperative cornerstones is sustainability. That is a popular term right now, and not just in grape growing or wine making circles, and our view is that there is much work to be done to build clarity and understanding about just what sustainability means. For now we are happy to be part of that conversation and intend to make the topic of sustainability an important and growing aspect of what makes Rockroom wines special.
And so last week it was great to have some time to speak with Director of Vineyard Management Mitchell Klug. Mitchell recently joined the custom crush where we make Rockroom wines and that means we have access to this vineyard veteran as we continue to evolve our sustainability emphasis. (We could never afford access to a pro like Mitchell all by ourselves so here is another real plus to working with a premium custom crush facility.) By way of background, Mitchell has most recently overseen the development and management of a portfolio of over 25 vineyards and prior to that was in charge of nearly 1,400 acres of premium vineyards including the Opus One and To Kalon vineyards and he developed the sustainable farming program under the Mondavi Family wineries. Our meeting in San Francisco was a great discussion of the three legs of the vineyard "sustainability stool": environmental conditions, economics of the vineyard and social integrity of vineyard management. Look for more on this conversation in future posts, but for now I will say we are in good shape to continue evolving our sustainability mission.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blending 07 syrahhhhhhh

Here sits consulting winemaker Mike Z measuring out some samples for blending trials as we consider final thoughts before bottling the 2007 Rockroom syrah. Yes, bottling time is approaching for this our third vintage of the Santa Barbara County syrah from White Hawk Vineyard. "But I've only had the 2005!" you say, "What about the 2006?" Patience, grasshopper - you haven't missed it: it's in bottle aging mode. Now if you are a Rockroom co-op member (or know someone who is) you may have had some pre-release tastes. Tasted great whenever you tried it, right? - so why the long wait? Well, as anyone who has been tasting the 2005 since release will tell you, this wine gets better and better with a little time. So expect this year to see the 06 released and next year the 07.
And how did we end up with the blending trials? Well the baseline wine is really nice so we mostly just played with some small additions of syrah from other barrels to punch up certain bright flavors. And then for just a tad of dark fruit and tannin structure to fill out the mid-palate profile a bit, we went with a 2% add of dark, brooding petite syrah. This seemed to hold the wine together nicely, maybe because we were missing the contributions from stems that we got in prior years as the 07 was made with fully destemmed grapes. Whatever the reason, the minute tinkering was great fun and we look forward to a final verification test before bottling next month.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

W.O.W. Irish eyes are smilin'

What is a great pairing with Irish dinner of roast beef, cabbage, onions and new potatoes? Well, other than green beer? (Ugh) How about a Chateauneuf du Pape, 2003 from Domaine de Villeneuve? This wine sat on the shelf for a few years which allows it to show its great stuff. Just terrific with layers of bright fruit and more subtle spice and tobacco aromas. The lesson here is to get some Chat du Pee NOW and open today the one you got 3 years ago. Yum. These wines can be a little tight and one-dimensional in their youth and you think, "why did I spend forty bucks when I could have had a Spanish garnacha for twelve?". But then you age one for just a few short years and it just keeps opening up with layer after layer.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

WOW club pinot

Known as a producer of terrific single vineyard zinfandels, Seghesio has for several years now been turning out Russian River pinots. And each year they seem to steadily improve - the newly released 2007 Costieri may be the best yet. The way we have come to realize this is by being in the Seghesio wine club for years. While we would not normally seek out their pinots, it has been fun to see the evolution and enjoy the ever improving wines. And that is exactly why wine clubs are so fun - unexpected arrivals of unexpected wines that keep wine drinking interesting and spontaneous. Hmmm, maybe Rockroom should start a wine be continued

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Wine Spectator checks out Rockroom

Exciting news for Rockroom as we just received our first reviews from the trade. Here is what Wine Spectator's pinot noir critic James Laube had to say about the 2 current release pinots:

Tasting Highlights: California Pinot Noir
10 exciting new California Pinot Noirs...

ROCKROOM Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Hein Vineyard 2006 Score: 90 $44 Flinty minerality joins snappy wild berry and black cherry fruit that's fresh and zesty. Medium-bodied, complex and focused, gaining depth on the pebble-laced finish. Drink now through 2013. 50 cases made. —J.L.

ROCKROOM Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Bohemian Vineyard 2007 Score: 89 $44 Complex and distinctive, if a tad earthy, with touches of herb in the dark fruit mix. Full-bodied and persistent, with lots of spice and sage. Drink now through 2012. 100 cases made. —J.L.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Wine of the Week goes Foodie

For wine of the week this week let's just say it's anything that matches what you are eating. Or another way to do it (my preferred approach) is to figure out what to have with that wine you are going to open. So to help with that I have finally found (and installed on the Rockroom blog!) a handy dandy wine selector that I like. Use it to either suggest a wine for your food or a food for your wine. I have tried it out a number of ways and can say it is (mostly) an excellent quickie tool for making wine and food pairings easy. The only bug I have found so far is that to find duck dishes you have to look in the food listings under chicken. IMHO this does not elevate duck to the status it deserves but maybe that is just my personal taste coming through - I tend to love any meal that combines duck, mushrooms and pinot noir. So give the wine selector a try - it is over there on the right side of the blog. Fun!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chardonnay 08

Today we racked 2008 chardonnay to keep it moving to clarity by natural settling. Malolactic fermentation is done in the primary chard batch although we have a small "commando" batch that is doing its own thing (native yeasts, etc.) that is still creeping along. A few more months to let things sort out and we should be ready to bottle.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rockroom on Facebook

Taking a break from sorting out vineyard choices for the 2009 harvest (it's only 7 months away!), we thought it was time to get Facebookin'. Check out our new page which will include updates from the rockroom winemaking cooperative blog. Come have a chat!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

WOW - a little age is a good thing

I know I just posted a pinot with a little age on it a couple weeks back but this week the wine is older and the staying power even more impressive. This 2002 Siduri pinot from Van Der Kamp Vineyard was stunning with bold fruit and a silky texture that was perfect with mushroom and tomato saute on pasta. So just a reminder to pick up an extra bottle or two when you buy the good stuff. Then leave at least one bottle alone and pop it for a special occasion at least a year later. You will almost certainly be rewarded for your patience. Oh and yes, Saturday night qualifies as a special occasion. Or even Friday. And sometimes Monday...

Monday, February 09, 2009

WOW - Ridge with paella

Appropriate I think that with this Wine of the Week we honor the memory of Donn Reisen who died last week after 32 years building Ridge into one of only a few true icons of California wine. Remember that Ridge, with its Montebello cab blend, joined with a few other California wineries (like Stags' Leap Cellars, the ultimate winner) to beat the French at the 1976 "Judgement of Paris" pitting California cabs against some of Bordeaux's finest. A much more humble wine, Ridge's Three Valleys is a Sonoma County blend that is mostly zin with a splash of petite sirah and carignan. It is pretty easy to find, easy drinking and like most Ridge zins is a friend to food. A hit with paella Saturday as we celebrated Eugene Sepulveda's birthday. Happy birthday Eugene!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Racking the 07s

While 2007 whites and lighter reds like pinot noir have already gone to bottle (and in some cases table) many of the bigger reds are being moved (racked) from one barrel to another one last time before bottling. This will help settle out any remaining solids and clarify the wine without requiring filtering. Here is a shot of our experimental zinfandel being racked. This week I will be in CA to check on syrah and cab too.

Friday, January 30, 2009

wine for your valentine

We just did a bit of a news flash about a couple specials on rockroom wine for Valentine's Day wine buyers. Wine is such a no-brainer for Val Day and our super sexy food friendly pinot noirs and chardonnay should be on more tables for dinner. Fun thing about niche wines like ours is that gift recipients won't see them on store shelves everywhere so it feels like a unique gift instead of just checkin' off the box with chocolates or roses. Anyway, enough of a ramble and I know I'm mostly preaching to the choir on this one!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

wine science

Co-op member Dave and daughter Sam have some dark pink plonk here as we made some science fair wine from grocery store grapes. A fun learning experience about fruit and yeast and what happens when they get together. And how's the wine, you ask? ...Uh, a fun learning experience...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

WOW Burgundy by any other name

A wine factoid that many of us learn early on is that a red French wine from Burgundy is always made from pinot noir. Great rule of thumb for us varietal-focused Americanos, right? Only it's wrong. Wine of the week this week is Beaujolais. Named for a region that sits inside the Burgundy appellation, these red wines are 100% gamay, not pinot noir. And it often says right there on the label "Red Burgundy Wine" as well as "Red Beaujolais Wine". Confusing, no? Now maybe you sip Noveau Beaujolais each November when it is released but this is different stuff - same grape but built for aging, these wines are beautiful. All fruit, no oak with soft tannins and aromas of fresh flowers, cherries and subtle spices. Simple wines that don't persist on the finish or keep up with bold foods, but for $12-25 these are a great deal. Especially look for the Francois Labet 2006 (the off-the-bottle label in this photo). Terrific wine. The other two pictured here are very good as well. Avoid the cheapest that just carry the "Beaujolais" name and spend an extra buck or two for "Beaujolais Villages" or one of the subregions like Julienas, Morgan, Brouilly or Fleurie (especially a hit on Valentines Day - which is coming soon!)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

wow - great American pinot still showing great

Loring pinot noirs are generally made in a style to be big, bold and fresh immediately upon release with less emphasis on how the wines will age. That is not just my experience over the couple dozen Loring wines I have had - it is the stated goal of winemaker Brian Loring. So when I ran across this 2004 Keefer Ranch pinot I thought it might be past its prime. So did I snub it? Sorry, no - curiosity got the better of me. Well not to worry! The wine was fabulous starting off with smoky, earthy aromas and finishing strong with bold fruit and soft oak nuances. Maybe the screwtop (an unusual feature on a $50 wine) held in all that goodness, but probably just good winemaking from a great vineyard. So don't hesitate to pop some American pinots that are a year or two or three past release - most hold up pretty well.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

wow - Not Champagne

Where the heck is Limoux? Because if it's on the way home from work I will definitely stop in to have some bubbly! Well Limoux, situated in southern France just up from the Spanish border, is just one of several regions in France making sparkling wine. In fact locals there claim sparkling wine, labeled as either Blanquette or Cremant if from Limoux, was invented in the early 1500s by the Benedictine monks at the local abbey and that dom Perignon stole the idea by taking it to Champagne when he was just passing through. Fun tempest-in-a-teapot rivalry that of course will never be settled since it is all REALLY ancient history. So what's the diff when compared with better known French bubbly? Well there can be a healthy dose of chenin blanc and little if any pinot noir so the wines will lean toward leaner, crisper style. Think fresh green apples. And there is no Champagne regional pedigree so you may have to search a bit for something like this Cremant de Limoux Brut from Domaine Collin. Now if you are in Austin don't search: just go downtown to Austin Wine Merchant on 6th Street and get a bottle. A screamin deal at 17 bucks.