Sunday, November 30, 2008

Happy Holidays and the Vintage is Fine

I am now enjoying the end of harvest and Thanksgiving weekend! My first real days off, but still thinking about the wines that are residing in the cellar. So maybe not entirely days off, but at least not at the winery.

The wines this year have been a challenge, but no more so than any year. There are the usual suspects- Zinfandel that just never seems to want to finish, malolactic barrels that start then stop. This is going to be a landmark year in my mind. As one of my cork vendors put it- "the vintage of wrath- the frost, the heatwaves, and all that smoke!"

It is a landmark for me, not only because of the environmental challenges, but also making sure that the 20+ clients I work with at Rack and Riddle Custom Wine Services made it through all of this as well. Working with many different varieties, winemaking styles, vineyards I have no knowledge of, and some winemaking tools that are new to me- maybe not in theory, but definitely in real time.

One of these tools is Micro-Ox. Really a pretty cool tool that helps to soften tannins in wine at an expedited rate versus the long haul of cellar aging. So far the verdict is out for me on the real comparison between the two, but for those quicker turn around reds, this is certainly a very 'natural' tool.

Another challenge was working around the construction going on- the landmark part of this is that the major construction will be over in about one week. I and my co-workers will have real offices, a new cellar, and space to use the new equipment that we have and that we will be getting. This has been quite an experience as I know I have mentioned before- being a part of a new operation and where I can make my wines knowing that I have the 'right stuff' to make them.

Now that I can breath I am revamping my website. I am having a bit of a slow start, but hope to have it up in the next week. I will be posting it on my blog, as well as Open Wine Consortium. Facebook, VinoShipper, Wine Space, and..........

Back to the website building- Cheers and hoping you all had a great Thanksgiving Holiday!

Penny, The Mustang Winemaker

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Grape Harvest Over?

The grape vines think it is!
This is what the vineyards are looking like now, getting ready for the big sleep of winter. There is still a little green, but for the most part the reds and yellows are kickin' in. Where I am in Hopland there is another color- brown- due to the frost damage that happened here after the vines were already putting out their crop. Mother Nature was tough this year on growers. For the first two months of harvest I was getting the phone calls of "well, thought I was going to have 50 tons, only have 10"- happened across the board with large and small. There are some small wineries that didn't have grapes to bring in.

Hopland is in Mendocino County, California. The smoke here was horrendous with the fires that were happening north of us- settling into the valleys. I have to admit, when I first heard the words 'smoke taint' - I poo-poo'd it as another ploy for some kind of wine services. But now I have seen it first hand- it does exist! It is interesting how it has exibited itseld in different varities. In some wines it is a beautiful smoky oak, in others a burnt rubber that can also be found in some french oak barrels. There has been a running 'joke' that there will not be the need for as much oak- between the smoke taint and the lack of grapes there may be some truth to this.

On a different note- I had a suggestion form a fellow vintner to promote the seahorse. I love seahorses- they are fascinating creatures! I have my seahorse logo now featured on logo wear at CafePress- go to
For every shirt, hat, whatever, I will be donating $2.00 to Project Seahorse ( This is a great organization dedicated to the preservation of seahorses and their habitat. Some of you know that my first major in college was marine biology. I went a different course, but my heart is still with the ocean.

Time to get back to fermenting wine, but dreamin' seahorses,
The Mustang Winemaker

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