Harvest is just about here! One of my favorites times to be in Wine Country. Just something about all the sights and smells going around the winery that makes this time of year particularly miraculous. Taking these luscious little grapes and turning them into a beautiful bottle of wine is no easy task. From all the extra help of those picking, and sorting. The cellar crew works vigorously going through the fermentation processes and non-stop pump overs. It’s lengthy and exhausting, but a magnificent journey! If you have never been out to the area to witness this incredible time of year, then I would highly recommend that you book the trip at some point. And for the first time ever, I’m going to make an attempt at making wine myself. I have helped pick grapes, worked in the cellar, and been on the bottling line, but never before have I actually tried to make my own wine. Here goes… everything! Wish me luck and I hope to see you all out here for a harvest!
I am a dog lover – animal lover really – and as I travel the Valley doing tastings of my own, I’ve seen an increase in dog friendly wineries. Dogs are commonly viewed as people’s kids and they take them everywhere – on vacation, to the grocery store, to the department store, to work…everywhere. We even have a few here at the winery, 3 to be exact.
Now dog friendly doesn’t always mean the same thing at each winery. Here at Montelena we say bring on the dogs! But please not in the tasting room (service dogs are welcome). There are beautiful grounds to walk them and we even have created at safe and convenient “Dog Parking” area right outside the tasting room. As you can see in my picture, these 3 cuties are patiently waiting for their mommy or daddy to finish up tasting. Some wineries allow the dogs in the tasting area, mingling amongst the guests, looking for that belly scratch or ear rub, but to be honest, not everyone is a dog lover and we try to be considerate of that.
If you’re like me, summer means time reading by the pool, crisp & cool white wines, and a bounty of summer veggies gifted from friends and neighbors… and by a bounty, I mean a BOUNTY. I never get tired of carting in armloads of squash and tomatoes, but recently I noticed the the stack of veggies was starting to take over the kitchen counter. My friend Christina had the perfect solution:
- Pre-baked & beautiful! I love Christina’s heart-shaped le creuset
She found a recipe by one of my favorite food bloggers, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen for Ratatouille’s Ratatouille and this recipe gets 5 stars from me.
- There is no such thing as too much thyme
I’m planning on re-creating this for our upcoming Montelena BBQ, I’m envisioning that this is going to pair perfectly with our 2006 Montelena Estate Zinfandel that has been tasting so nicely in our CellarMaster Tastings lately.
It’s that time of the year where Gil and I do our veggie garden. Realistically, it’s Gil doing the veggie garden and me swooping in and sharing credit. Anyways, truths aside, it’s been a strange year for sure. Last year was a bountiful harvest of heirloom tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, beans, cucumbers, peppers…. This year, squash producing like a weed, but sadly, all else has been spotty at best. What I thought would be good for the tomatoes (those heat spikes we’ve been feeling all Summer), have actually been detrimental. I always thought tomatoes just love heat. I guess I’m wrong. Apparently, that hurt the actual fruit development. The plants look like a million bucks, just very few tomatoes on them. Cucumbers, shishitos, eh… Padrons; those have been great and plentiful. Beans, not so good. After 4 years of success with tomatoes, I just figured it was a given. What it makes me realize, it’s still agriculture. Nothing is for certain. Only mother nature knows and dictates.
Humility in respecting nature is a good thing. Whether it’s the shear power and destructive violence of a hurricane or earthquake, or reflecting on that absolute perfect, 70 degree afternoon, we adjust or prosper according to those forces. When I pull a bottle of wine and get excited about a particular vintage or sigh about a year with challenges, I really look back at what we were dealt with. I’m happy to drink a vintage with less pedrigee and understand the efforts that went into it. I treat each year like a different child; each with their own unique character and personality. I try and be less critical and more open minded, and appreciate the nuances rather than criticize. Yes, all this philosophy came from me swearing off the weak tomato crop this year. I will no longer take it for granted!
Great squash! Tough love tomatoes.
One of my favorite things to do when I’m not working is to get a few friends together and go wine tasting. While I don’t get out and do this as often as I would like, when I do, it’s a great way to enjoy the experience of trying new wines without having to commit to buying a whole bottle based on nothing more than the label. I find I’m a lot more adventurous about trying new things when I can just taste and spit without having to worry about the cost of a bottle. By going wine tasting you are getting the opportunity to try wines that you may not be at all familiar with which is great because even wines made from the same grape variety can be drastically different depending on the winemaker’s decisions.
This is why when I go wine tasting I try to keep an open mind. I don’t like to read any tasting notes or hear a friend’s opinion about a wine until I have had my first taste lest the power of suggestion cloud my palette. I want my opinion to be biased only by my own personal preference. I must say, I’m always surprised to hear people decline a taste of wine that they’ve never tried before; trying something is the only way to really be sure of disliking it. Honestly, even if I try something I don’t particularly enjoy I’m happy I did it, as I’ve still learned from the experience (even if all I learned was to not ever buy that wine). My motto: Keep trying new wines you never know when you’ll find a new favorite.
Something new to club members this year is the 2012 Rose. In June, ‘Rosie’ made a trip to the coast of Maine. The weather was perfect and all who met her, loved her! If you are a wine club member, hurry and order before we run out. Rosie will be going back to the beach for a longer stay this time, and will undoubtedly bring her friends, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay! Stay tuned for updates from Drakes Island, Maine and the Chateau Montelena wines. (who knows…Rosie might even go paddleboarding!)
It was root, root, root for the home-team last Friday at Giant’s Stadium. Chateau Montelena Winery hosted the second annual Montelena Day at the Giants event. Our Club Members enjoyed the Club-level Audi Suite complete with food and fantastic Montelena wines… check out that view of the field! Even better, the Giants pulled out all the stops for a 2-0 win over the Diamondbacks.
A special congratulations to CellarMaster Club Member Stephen King, who won the raffle that night. The one-of-a-kind Giants Montelena jersey signed by our wine-making team will look fantastic on you!
Aaaah, Lunch Break….my favorite time of day. Not that I don’t enjoy my time in the Tasting Room, Library and on Private Tours with you, but a little break is always welcome particularly when I time it right so I can share it with the Cellar Crew. The Cellar Crew works hard in the tunnels and the caves of the chateau and sometimes rarely sees the light of day. Maybe that’s why we fondly call them “Cellar Rats”. Secretly I call them the “Heart and Lung Machine” of the winery…because without them, the wine would not get made.
We share many things during our break. I ask them what’s going on in the cellar, barrels, bottling line, etc. depending on the time of year. Right now the guys are moving the 2012 Chardonnay from the barrels and readying it for bottling. Bottling is often done before harvest to make room for the new vintage. I also fill them in on what’s going on in the Tasting Room, Special Events and any “beefs” I might have. We also talk a lot about our personal lives, family, and experiences. Stories are embellished and dramatized. Jokes fly and much laughter can be heard coming from the Employee Kitchen. Sometimes we even tell the truth.
I’d like to thank the Cellar Crew for giving me a genuine break in the middle of my day. What we share is special to me……Thanks to Gil for his diet tips and special hot sauce, thanks to Louis for his daily fresh lemonade, George for our special connection, young Eddie for his silliness, and Alex for his caustic insight. You know, I may change my mind about the Cellar Crew “Heart and Lung Machine” moniker. I just might change it to the “Heart and Soul” of Montelena.
One of the joys of working at Montelena his having dogs around our office. I personally don’t have a dog right now, but I get my daily fix here at work. It also helps that I keep dog treats in my desk so they keep coming to visit. Bruno the French Bulldog, Mikki the “Hunting” Lab and Maddie the Golden Retriever keep a normal 8 to 5 schedule in our Direct Sales Offices here at the winery. They even attend our department meetings. The dogs help to keep the mood light and the stress levels low. Our moods should already be light and stress free…after all we work at a winery.
Here is something fun to try with your friends or family. Each month my Fiancé and I get together with some friends/family and someone will host a dinner and the rest of us will bring the wines. We pick a certain varietal or region and each couple/person has to bring something between $5 – $50. We bag up the wine bottles so nobody knows what each wine is, and pour them into a set of glasses in front of each person. Everyone gets a glass for each wine; so, if 5 wines were brought in, then each person has 5 glasses. Next step: pour and taste! We rate the wines 1 through 5 – 1 being your favorite and 5 being your least favorite. We also have a pad of paper and a pen to make notes. Once everyone is finished, we go around the table and tally up the numbers for each wine. The three lowest scoring wines are determined and the persons responsible for bringing those wines get a little prize. We uncover all the wines and go around the table to see who brought which bottle. Performing fun little tastings like this are great because you get to try a couple of wines, all at different price points, and you just might surprise yourself or the rest of the group with the winners.
Each month you get to pick different wines, paired with new meals, and you can even pick wines from a particular region. Or, have people bring the same varietal but from different regions. Have fun, and best of all, enjoy the wines and good times to be had with those close to you!