Watch the vlog
Monday, December 11, 2006
The Vilafonte winery is almost finished.
Watch the vlog
Friday, December 08, 2006
Introducing Vilafonté Team members
It gives us pleasure to introduce two members of the Vilafonté team.
They are pictured here last week receiving the GOLD medal at the Classic Wine Trophy, the only wine competition in South Africa judged solely by French sommeliers.
Mike, Zelma and Phil
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
The Vilafonte winery is taking shape
Watch the vlog
Saturday, October 21, 2006
The value of charitable auctions in brand building
After the recent record-breaking Cape Winemakers Guild Auction and in a year that saw a similar record tumble at the Nederburg auction – it would perhaps be appropriate to reflect on the value (or lack of value) that these events can add to the South African wine industry.
The recent press release from Nederburg announcing the intention to move the long immortalized April auction date to a more ‘appropriate’ September date in order to allow recently released white wines to be auctioned appears, at face value, to be a decision which will for the first time place the Nederburg auction in direct competition with the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction. To quote the press release; “We hope that by giving the market advance warning of our decision to move to September, they will be able to plan their budgets accordingly.” At face value, it would appear naïve to assume that annual auction buying budgets will simply be all allocated to a new time of year and that the ‘spoils’ will simply be divided between the two competing auctions. It would be prudent to ask if, in fact, the two auctions are competing. This opens a debate which would surely provoke a lot of debate. Nederburg organizers would have discussed the virtues of the change and concluded that they do not compete with the CWG auction. The CWG on the other hand, I am fairly sure, were not given the benefit of expressing an opinion as they read about this event in the news like the rest of us. So where to from here? I don’t know, but this does provide an opportunity to revert to the original question intended to be addressed by these ramblings. What value do the South African auctions add to our industry?
The traditional international wine auction circuit is spearheaded by the conventional auction houses like Sotheby’s Christies, Zachy’s, Langtons and many others of smaller yet equally impressive repute. They tend to provide a forum for the auction and trade in rare and extremely valuable wines that have become commodities in this day and age. It is only the few wineries that populate the rarefied atmosphere of the ‘unobtainable’ that have the resources, reputation and clout to build their brands in these environments. Access to these auctions is not automatic and it is invariably demand that spurns demand – a vicious cycle for a brand trying to break into this mold. Australia achieved it with Grange, Hill of Grace and a number of other wannabe’s that have been thrust on the world by an enthusiastic antipodean package holiday by Parker.
In contrast, the Americans have long used charity auctions as one of the mainstays of regional wine promotion. Cooperation with deserving charities and generous patrons that regularly raise enormous amounts of money has been a branding boon to the Californians cults that have excelled at auction. It may well be the auctions that created the cult culture .To outsiders, the charity auction provides a disconnect between value and price. This is the key. Any conventional commercial auction will generally have buyers concocting fanciful theorems around the value of the auction lot and what they are prepared to pay for it. Bidding will seldom occur for the sake of donation and buyers will inevitably conclude their vigorous negotiations based on value rather than affordability. This impasse was recently broken by the inimitable Niels Verburg when, at the 2006 CWG Ball, he auctioned ‘nothing’ for R10,000 to a group of extroverted bidders determined to make a donation to the CWG Trust. A successful lot was sold for the auction with the goals of the CWG and the bidder achieved because at no time was there a promise of value. If that auction lot of ‘nothing’ had included a bottle of a rare South African vinous gem, it would have signalled the start of auction brand building which could have a significant impact on the growth of the reputation of South African wines.
The commercial objectives of the major SA wine auctions are a material obstacle to the real benefits which could be accrued to the wine industry if they were to have a greater social objective. It would appear that the Nederburg calendar adjustment has created a void in the SA wine industry for a summer charity wine event that would have as an objective the raising of a noteworthy amount of money for a significant local charity. Our industry deserves an event that would allow patrons to dig deep as a charitable donation and which in return would reward them with a rare and unique wine lot. We could learn an enormous amount by studying events like the Napa Valley wine auction itself. A signed magnum will no longer suffice as a desirable auction lot. The value of this auctions would be best served if the number of lots was severely restricted and if wineries start competing among themselves to provide the most exotic, the rarest, the most luxurious and the most personal auction experiences for the sake of charitable donation and brand building. To quote Anne Colgin, the auctioneer at the Naples Wine Festival, the most successful wine auction in the world; “Auction lots are highly prized because they are items and experiences people can't duplicate on their own." Any takers?
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Listen to this podcast!
Enjoy! -- Mike Ratcliffe
Click here to get your own player.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Construction starts on the new Vilafonte winery
Watch the vlog
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The next big thing!
We are also proud to showcase and launch our new sideline project that we are rolling out - the Vilafonte Series C Cuban cigar is an excellent mild cigar designed as the perfect accompaniment to our full-bodied and highly structured wines. Please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating in our wine and cigar program in your establishment or would like to purchase some for your home. I will publish a tasting note of our exciting new cigar shortly. It will also be on our website soon at www.vilafonte.com
Monday, July 03, 2006
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Wow - we took the GOLD on the first attempt!
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Wine across America Blog Los Angeles
Todays PODCAST from
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Distribution in America is the key to success. Like anywhere in the
world, route to market is always going to be the killer attribute that can
mean the difference between success and failure. Nowhere in the world is
this more apparent than in the United States where the neo-prohibitionist
hangover of federal liquor controls hangs thick in the air. Americans, it
seems, have reached an uneasy state of acceptance of this extraordinary
status quo where every facet of a wines journey to the end consumer pads
somebodys pocket. To recapr for those who are confised by these statements.
America (generally) has a 3 tiered system of wine distribution whereby the
non-American producer cannot legally sell wine to anyone but a wine
importer. The absurdity starts when you understand that no single person or
business entity may own both a distribution and import license. What this
means is that the importer cannot sell wine to the consumer or even the
retailer/restaurateur and can only sell wine toa distributor who in turn can
also only sell wine to the trade. Technically speaking, the only place a
consumer can gain access to imported wines is through the 3rd tier of the
channel which is the retailer or restaurateur. Once you understand the
vastness of the US market, it is understandable that perhaps this system
would have evolved independently as few companies have the infrastructure
and capabilities to own and distribute nationally with efficiency. But the
system really falls down in the sense that it suppresses free market
activities and that the larger National distributors have little in the way
of competition. As a result of this and to further entrench this skewed
power balance, the larger distributors are being consolidated at a rate
that is unprecedented and fewer distributors are controlling more of the
market. It feels sometimes that every medium-size distributor in the US is
simply waiting for the big guys to come along and buy them out. Might I be
over-dramatising this? Maybe, but this is the feeling on the ground.
So what does this mean for South Africa? Well, for every distributor that
gets purchased, this means fewer distribution slots for South African wines
exist and fewer small producers are able to participate in what becomes a
much larger structure. The larger a distributor gets, the larger the
supplier has to become in order to become a meaningful contributor to bottom-
line. The big brands become bigger and the smaller brands get squeezed out.
The consolidation of distribution and ongoing production fragmentation
continues apace. The two trends are not compatible and we will have to win
over some serious buyers to grow South African wine in the US usually at
the expense of another global supplier.
So where are the opportunities?
The federal and state regulators are slowly (very slowly) dismantling the
complex wine distribution laws, but a combineation of big business
(distributor) lobbying in Washington, a very religious and conservative
population and misplaced priorities is hampering this progress. A high-
profile battle between retail giant Costco and the state of Washington
recently threw up a couple of clues about the future when Costco won the
first step in the battle to allow it to ship directly from the producer. Of
course this judgement will go to appeal and will probably be held up for
years, but Costco is being aggressive and has set a valuable precedent which
any sensible judge cannot fail to respect.
Is this a good thing? Well, yes and no as it si being championed by the
mammoth retailers and you can be sure that they are not pursuing a
Samaritanian endeavour to make money for the supplier no, they are chasing
margin for their bottom-line because they know that through direct imports
and direct shipments, that they can leverage their massive nation-wide
distribution network to exponentially multiply their sales and balloon
already embarrassing margins.
Opportunities exist for South African suppliers to find routes to market
that narrow the gap between importer, distributor and retailer. In some
states, it is (kind-of) legal for the husband to own an import license, the
wife to own a distribution license and the kids to own multiple retail
licenses. It happens another symptom of an idiotic system. Many California
wineries drive a substantial volume of their sales through wine clubs and
direct shipments to customers. Of course there is a limited amount of states
that you can ship to directly, but this has been growing over the years. Is
there a business model here for South African wineries. Is there an
effective model for a South African winery to run a wine club for direct
sales to customers? The answer must be yes, but there has to be demand first
and brand South Africa must become more entrenched before this will work. So
the hard work lies ahead in this massive market opportunity that is the USA.
Monday, May 08, 2006
Wine across America California Dreaming!
On the subject of repeating myself, If I hear another consumer complaining that the wines on the WOSA show are not available in the USA, I will scream. It is always going to be difficult to give new entrants an opportunity to show their wines, but perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse on this one. Perhaps these producers have had an opportunity to learn a huge amount about the US market and get a feeling for how to go about positioning themselves to enter the market, but it seems like an illogical and costly entry and market research solution. The tasting this afternoon in Costa Mesa, South of LA is being hosted by a prominent retailer called Hi-Time liquors. Once again the problem is going to raise its head as the consumers can only purchase the wines that the retailer stocks, and at best wines that have Californian distribution its a tough school.
Wow! The Costa Mesa Orange County tasting was a hit the consumers came out in droves and we were run off of our feet. This tasting must have rated as one the most intense and focused consumer wine tastings that I have ever been privileged to participate in. Wines poured, winemakers sweated, consumers listened and the wines of South Africa touched the perfect Southern California market. It was a monumental tasting and even impressed the organizers. I arrived a little more than 10 minutes before the tasting started ( a little late) and had to fight through about 100 people queuing at the door to get in. Big thank must go to Hi-Time Cellars for their excellent organization and boundless energy the show was great!
Friday, May 05, 2006
Thursday, May 04, 2006
The Wines of South Africa tour heads West
San Francisco the flight from Chicago is only 4 hours, but takes in 3
times zones and even this short distance leaves you with jet lag after a
run along the Embarcadero, the waterfront of San Francisco I feel refreshed
and ready for another big day.
But first, lets chat about Chicago. I had some very detailed debates about
the efficacy of the South African presence in the USA with Norman Cilliers
and Ken Forrester who are co-conspirators on this unabashed assault on the
USA. A lot of thoughts came out along with a lot of things that I wanted to
share. A question was posed about how many of the people manning the stands
on the WOSA roadshow actually have authority to transact business and take
any kind of meaningful business decisions. A lot of comment has been
received from consumers, retailers and restaurateurs that they have liked a
lot of the wines and upon enquiring about the producers distributor, were
told that the wines are not available in the USA. Now we understand that
many of the producers are looking for importers and distributors and that
this is a fishing expedition, it was seen as intensely negative from many.
Another thought was that there may be examples of people from South Africa
on the tour who were considering this as a mini vacation from the office and
really had very little likelihood of doing any business. I would encourage a
thorough evaluation of the process upon return to South Africa to see if
there has been any return at all from this trip across America. This is a
concern does this apply to other WOSA road trips? It was suggested in the
same debate that if a follow-up meeting was called for South Africa upon
return, how many of the tour participants would attend?
On the positive side, we had a very beneficial day in Chicago and saw a lot
of existing clients and customers as well as spent some valuable time with
our distributors who are doing a great job. Business was done, relationships
formed and strengthened and the Wines of South Africa made a very positive
Another debate was raised in Chicago. The question about the coordination of
South Africas marketing efforts was discussed and it was felt that we
should be seeking greater cooperation between South Africas marketing
agencies. A South African wine tour would be a perfect companion for a
tourism tour, a finance tour and perhaps even a Safari lodge tour of
America we have invested heavily in this tour and it is a certainty that
we should be cross-pollinating our efforts to a larger extent. The financial
economies of scale alone scream for this type of cooperation. What if the
big South African investment conference that was in NYC at the same time as
the WOSA tour had been in the same venue??? The missed opportunities hurt
the more you think about them. This is not a finger-pointing exercise. It is
however an effort to spark debate about the future of South Africas
investment into the world market with the greatest potential for South
Africa and our wines in particular.
Many producers have reported exceptional sales into the USA, but this could
easily be explained away with filling the pipeline the shelves are
starting to report increased populations of South African wines but are
they moving. The answer has to be yes, but too slowly. This is a consumer
issue and not an importer/distributor issue. Distributors will not take on
any more brands if the existing ones are not moving. This is what is
happening and we should welcome debate on this. This is not a rule, but a
generalization many producers are doing well but Brand South Africa is
NOT flying off the shelf. We need to coordinate our icons what about gold
and diamonds, table mountain, wild animals, Nelson Mandela, Charlize Theron,
Dave Matthews and many other wonderful SA icons that are yet to be
Another contentious question has to be raised about the (negligible)
representation of WOSA board members at this event. The board members on the
tour numbered one (excluding the hard-working CEO, Su) out of a possible
13. If this market is going to be successful we need the support of the
board and this is only going to come about if they understand the market and
this will only ever come about as a result of having been here. It is my
contention that in the next year we are going to have to raise our game
significantly through greater man-power, significantly increased funding and
national coordination if we are going to win the consumer over. Without a
thorough understanding of the complexities and challenges of the US market,
we cannot have strong leadership and without this we are dead in the water.
Despite these challenges, South Africa is gaining traction that will provide
us with a solid platform for our REAL marketing push. Lets call this a
scouting expedition shall we?
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois - the train continues rolling!
> The train to NYC was uneventful and a late arrival and check into the crappy Holiday Inn was not very exciting! My shoebox (hotel room) at $290 per night was a firm welcome to NYC gift and I realized that NYC is back after the horrors of 9/11. Boy this place is expensive.
> Back onto the train on Saturday and a great visit to Farmingdale, a vaguely charming town on Long Island. My train was delayed twice due to brush fires and I ended up taking a bus, another train and 2 taxis to make my way to Stew Leonards Wine Shop. I spent the afternoon doing a tasting and educating the guys on South African wine â they reported a steady growth in their South African sales, but mentioned that South Africa had not yet really dome anything significant to compel customers to reach for our wines. The shelves were also (at the bottom) languishing with expired vintages of wines that I cringed at. Perhaps our friends at the big winery in Paarl could do something to try to sell through some of the unsold back vintages polluting the South African category and taking up valuable shelf space around the country?
> Monday â¦ the big day and the WOSA tasting in the Puck building on Lafayette street was all ready to go. Wines of South Africa and the supporting contingent have to be congratulated for putting on a great show and showing a spectacular face to the buyers and trade of NYC. I was proud to be South African as I saw all the winemakers and agents in a beautiful venue, well dressed and with a wonderful selection of SA wines. The tasting started slowly and then started building until it was fantastically busy â it really was good and the trade poured in. For those that had dome some preparation, it was a great opportunity. I cannot speak for the participating producers without importers about the success of the day â but my gut feel is that it might have been a little less successful business wise? There was a good mix of sommeliers, waiting staff, wine shop owners/buyers and other wine buyers and they all seemed really interested. Pinotage was popular and I heard this remark a number of producers who were caught off guard. The fruity, yummy Pinotage wines that had a little sugar found favour with the patrons. You can agree or choose to disagree, but the fact remains that wines with higher extract, good concentration, some sweet oak, a little residual sugar and a smooth finish do wine the customer over in the US. Now, we can fight this, or we can accept it and listen to the market. This does not mean a wholesale corruption of winemaking philosophy and South African terroir â we should just make a point to understand our markets and adapt ourselves to this. This is not a global direction and w4e should treat this topic carefully and not just accept it. It could get heated if treated lightly. We should perhaps open this topic to greater debate and I intend raising this topic at a Rootstock forum some time this year. Anyone want to join in the debate? Click on the comment tab below to start the debate.
> I write this column from my airplane seat en route Chicago for the next installment of the WOSA tour â the windy city will meat the marauding South African wine industry on Wednesday and we can expect to meet some interested and influential customers. Stay tuned.
The WOSA tasting in NYC
Watch the vlog
A brief video showing the space and the excellent attendacne at the WOSA New York City show a couple of days ago.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Wine across America - DC, PA, NY 28th April 2006
Wow, it has really been a whirlwind and things are going well so far - I am now 4 days into the tour and looking forward to meeting up with the WOSA gang in
I spent Tuesday night in Baltimore and presented a well-attended South African wine dinner at a restaurant called Abacrombie which has the reputation (I later realized) as one the best restaurants in the state of Maryland, Sonny Sweetman is the chef/owner along with his beautiful wife and they were filled to capacity with 53 people crammed in for a wonderful dinner. The cuisine was exceptional and the guests were intent on learning as much as possible it was at this evening that it dawned on me that
After a wonderful early-morning run around historic
The next day was spent on a ride-with (literally spending the day with a distributor sales person) doing tastings for a number of restaurants. We visited the eponymous Restaurant Eve, a great wine shop FineWine.com owned by the passionate Jonas Gustafsson. Then on to Le Paradou, an awe inspiring restaurant owned by legendary chef Yannick Cam; we tasted for at least an hour and shared rugby stories with sommelier, Nicolas Rouet who is a big South African fan. We got 2 listings on their epic winelist, the first time a wine from the Southern hemisphere has been listed we felt very proud and decided to celebrate with a couple of cold beers at Vidalia, the famed DC eatery where we planned to meet fine wine merchant, Mike Tilch from Silesia Liquors for a 7 course tasting menu presented by Manager/Sommelier Doug Mohr. I have included (below) a video blog in which I interviewed Mike on his positive feelings about South African wines. The evening was capped with a spectacular 1970 Chateau D Yquem which was at the height of its powers a very generous gift from Mike. What an evening!
A 04h45 wake-up was not really what was needed at this stage but it had to be to catch an early flight from Dulles to
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
Mike Tilch, fine wine dealer from Maryland talking about SA wine
Watch the vlog
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
American Wine Diaries – Baltimore, Maryland
CLICK HERE FOR TODAYS BALTIMORE PODCAST
I woke up too early in DC and then forced myself to go back to sleep – jetlag in traveling across timezones is a reality and you have to really take it into consideration. I got up and went for run in Rock Creek Park which is barely 5 minutes walk from my B&B. It was such a beautiful day and one can only marvel at the beauty of some of Americas parklands. Bumped into my first Starbucks coffee. Whether you are an anti-globalization activist or not – you have to admire the Starbucks ability to make a good cup of coffee – every time! OK, so engines recharged time to get ready, check out of the hotel and head for the most beautiful railway station in the world – Washington DC’s Union station. See the photo attached. I got some good advice and avoided AMTRAK and instead went for the local MARC train system which runs parallel to AMTRAK – the fare for the same ride was $7 versus $22 for AMTRAK.
I arrived in Baltimore very efficiently and was collected by Julia and then we headed to the Country Vintner trade tasting. About 150-200 people in attendance and wines from allover the world. I managed to get in some good tasting and some excellent wines. I fell in love with the Bassermann-Jordan Riesling Trocken 2004 from the Pfalz which has always been a favourite – the 2004 vintage is such a step up on the hot 2003 German wines. I digress…
I was asked to present a seminar on South Africa which (as it turns out) was the only seminar on the day and was certainly a big drawcard with a huge turnout. I felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared, but in the end I adopted a very informal ‘round table’ discussion and luckily had some awesome slides that I could present as part of a powerpoint presentation – it went well and the half hour allotted for the event stretched to almost an hour as a large proportion of the audience stayed for the entire hour. What a great time and so many intelligent questions. There is no question in my mind that Americans have an enormous propensity to collect and collate information better than any nation on earth. When they become interested in something, they go harder and show more dedication to getting all the facts. Shields T. Hood and Lisa Airey from the Society of Wine Educators were at the tasting and they remarked on how positive their image of South African wine is. Rory Callahan and Robin O’Conner will be presenting a large seminar on South African wine at the SWE conference in Eugene Orgeon this year. Now this is a fantastic opportunity to preach the SA gospel.
OK, make sure that you have listened to the PODCAST this morning. Any comments or requests are most appreciated.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
First podcast from Washington DC
Monday, April 24, 2006
'The American wine diaries' - Heathrow
Heathrow terminal 4 ... the first 11 hour flight to London is completed and
it is just about time to head for BA217 to Washington DC. I sat next to lady
on the BA flight who had been in SA for Cape Wine 2006 and had then followed
this with a week's holiday - she was bowled over by the show and by the
country in particular. She has already booked her 2nd trip and will be back
in SA in December. Well done WOSA!
This daily 'American Wine Diary' has a number of goals - first is to try to
help as many people as possible gain an understanding of the American market
with lots of insights, thoughts and anecdotes. The USA has been identified
as the market showing the most potential for South African wine and it is up
to the whole SA wine industry to make sure that we take our rightful place
alongside the other top wine producing countries. It can only happen with a
collective effort. At the same time, lets have some fun and see how we can
harness technology as a road warrior. We won't get over-concerned about
grammar and spelling as it will be regularly posted via Blackberry. (the
first hot tip for communicating on the road!) The USA is a long way from
South Africa - we need to harness the power of the internet to bring our two
diverse cultures together and bring South African wine to Americans who are
amongst the most adventurous and eager-to-learn wine drinkers in the world.
This diary has been commissioned by www.wine.co.za and is going to last for
about 3-4 weeks. It is intended to be interactive and we invite you to post
comments and generally get interactive. The diary will be posted
simlutaneously on the ROOTSTOCK BLOG www.rootstockforum.blogspot.com so log
on and check it out.
This diary is going to take in a huge and active itinerary commencing in
Washington DC and followed by brief stints in Arlington Virginia, Baltimore
Maryland (home of Robert Parker), Virgina, Delaware and then a short flip
over to Harrisburg (the state capital of Pennsylvania. At this stage I will
be joing the WOSA USA tour in New York which will then progress to Chicago,
San Francisco and then onwards to LA culminating in a grand tasting at the
famous (or is it infamous) Beverley Hills Hotel.
We will be doing some daily podcasting, I will be posting Video Blogs and
attempting to do some interviews and chats with people across the USA - so
watch this space. If there is something that you would like to hear about,
let me know. if you like it, let me know.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Announcing the new 'Wine across America' Blog
Starting from Monday April 24th, I will be departing on a 3 week tour across the
The itinerary takes in
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Grape sorting video at midnight
Friday, April 07, 2006
End of Vilafonte harvest
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Today Zelma delarted for a well-deserved holiday with one of her 'rock-star' winemaking buddies called May-Anne Graf who actually worked as assistant winemaker under Zelma at Simi. They are off to the Natal Midlands which is in Kwazulu-Natal - for those that dont know this is one of the ten provinces of SOuth Africa. I am very jealous.
We are now starting to think about beddding the vines down and starting to get them ready for a good sleep during the upcoming winter. There is a lot to be done and the first order of business is to spread a fine layer of 'designer mulch' onto every drip emitter in the vine yard - this is an enormous job and going to be crucial as we plan to leach the nutrients from the mulch/manure into the soil through the organically sensitive techniwue of runnning drip irrigation through it.
We also took delivery of our new tracctor last week - very exciting.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Vilafonte 'Harvest Reflections' - day 29
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Vilafonte Fermentation Blog - day 28
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Vilafonte 'Disaster Averted' - day 27
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Harvest interview with Zelma Long
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Vilafonte 2006 Harvest Blog - day 25
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Vilafonte 'Barrel Blog' - day 24
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Vilafonte 'Grape Chemistry' Blog - day 24
Today Julie, and friend and visitor Mary Ann Graf from California, worked from 8 am to 6 pm, in the vineyard, sorting grapes as they were harvested into our bins. In the heat, some small clusters had shriveled and needed to be discarded. Tonight (starting 9 p.m.) we will crush these, and Bernard and I will be sorting clusters for the final touch up. And so it will go all week.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Vilafonte 'Cabernet' blog Friday - day 24
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Vilafonte 2006 Harvest Blog - day 23
I’m quite happy with weather this harvest. Yes, it was windy and warm earlier, and drove the Brix up fast, but then the vines stopped adding brix yet continued to ripen… Yes, we had a particularly hot Saturday. And yes, we’ve had perfect ripening days…warm days, cool nights. And yes, we had a light rainy day, with more to come this week. But all in all, to me it has been good harvest weather, with just a few hiccups.
Cape weather, similar to California’s north coast, comes in cycles of temperature. See below Phil’s weather graph for February, and watch how warm and cool cycles over 3-5 days. This chart by Phil Freese, taken from weather station near Fairview, 2.06 Graph shows max and min
temperature and ET (evapotranspiration – represents evaporative demand on the grapevines due to heat, wind, low humidity, etc). For reference, our harvest started Feb. 9.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Vilafonte Harvest - day 22 - Dubai Visitors
Monday, February 27, 2006
Vilafonte 'Babysitting blog' Saturday -day 21
Here is Zelma's update on all fronts:
Weather: The weather has been perfect this last week; cool nights and warm days. Next week rain is projected for Tuesday and Thursday. We will see what really will happen! Weather changes frequently in the Cape.
Sorting: After the vineyard check, Julie and I went to help Bernard with the sorting. Block E had a lot of raisins; fortunately no small green berries (like we saw in the Cab Franc). But it took "heavy sorting" - Bernard and I doing cluster sorting; 9 women on the sorting belts, and Julie at the end, just before the grapes fall in, to catch anything we missed.
Fermentations: As of today we will have 2 tanks on cold soak (Merlot and Cabernet Franc); 1 actively fermenting tank (Merlot) just in the midst of fermentation; 2 tanks finishing fermentation (Merlot Z and Malbec) and one (Merlot AB - our first harvest) in barrels finishing fermentation. In addition to overseeing grape reception, destemming, sorting and crushing, Bernard oversees these fermenters, making sure their temperature what we want; that the mixing morning, noon, and night, is what we should do…(and it is different for each tank, both in timing, duration, and type…we decide as we taste together and discuss each morning).Other winery work:We anticipate pressing out the Malbec on Tuesday; today Bernard is organizing the barrels to be filled. I select the barrels for use based on my past experience with our Malbec. I have tried several types of new barrels and someolder barrels, and prefer the older barrels with this wine. It has so much fruit that we want the fruit to be forward, and it is so lush it doesn't need, or benefit from, the new oak.
Baby grape sitting: To the parents out there, it often feels like we are watching over our "babies" …some of them fermenting; some still "hanging out" in the field; and some being separated from their skins (pressing); but all needing daily and usually multidaily attention.