Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wanna Start a Winery? Get Ready to Sweat

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 at 5:35:29 PM
by Susan Kostrzewa

A friend sent me a YouTube link to a “Make Your Own Video” skit that hilariously tackles the myth and romance of starting one’s own winery and/or becoming a winemaker.

Once I stopped laughing, I started to really think about what it takes to be happy and successful in those endeavors (other than a ton of money in the case of starting a winery, incredible patience and a work ethic of steel). As the video spoofs, it’s not often about glam and glitter, but a serious, grass-roots devotion to creating an agricultural product that speaks of the place in which it’s grown and made. That’s no easy feat.

I turned to some sage voices in the wine business to ask them what kind of advice they would impart to a person seriously interested in pursuing a life as a winery owner or a winemaker. Here’s what they said:

“Winemakers and winery owners must have extreme passion and a huge connection to the wine. It’s a tête-à-tête relationship with a living organism, and like a human, it evolves over time. Through this personal, in-depth relationship, you’ll also get to know yourself better. Approach it artistically and do not cling too much to concrete objectives.” -Jean-Charles Boisset, owner, Boisset Family Estates

“Winery ownership is not easy. Pleasurable sometimes – but not always. Glamorous, maybe – but not as a rule. Winery owners are pretty hard. They like to go camping and sleep on the ground. They like spinach. They love young Cabernet Sauvignon. There is always a little pain to go with the pleasure. “ –Mike Ratcliffe, owner Warwick Wine Estate

“Vino is mother nature’s precious gift but to produce a beautiful wine is only one step in the process. The challenge is to get the fruit of your labor onto the tables of wine lovers across the globe. In a world full of great wine and thousands of labels, the focus is not on the wine you want to make but one that consumers will enjoy. Next, how to bring it to market with great value? Making and sharing wine is romantic but achieving distribution, brand building, marketing, and investing time, resources and finances is decidedly less so. Worth the ride? Yes, by the glassful!” –Cristina Mariani-May, owner, Banfi Vintners and Castello Banfi

“My advice to an aspiring winemaker? Know what you want. Are you interested in Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir or Verdelho? To make volumes of good wine; or small amounts of great wine? Do you want to incorporate both the vineyard and the winery? Go work at a winery doing what you aspire to do. And work overseas, too. To an aspiring winery owner: First, know how to sell the wines you want to make. Find the best site to make them. Focus on vineyards that can produce them. Use your capital carefully. Or, buy a winery that does what you want, and manage it carefully. For most, winery success requires persistance.” -Zelma Long, pioneering California winemaker and winemaker for Vilafonté Winery

“You must really love and be passionate about what you do, otherwise when the hours get long you will start to hate the job. It definitely is not a 9-5 job (more of a 5 -9 and that is on a good day in the harvest). Be prepared to put in many extra hours, not only during the vintage (6-8 weeks of the year) or when one needs to blend and bottle a wine, but when marketing and promoting your wines throughout the rest of the year. The upside of the job: all of the above if you love wine and live and breathe it, as well as the ability to travel for and with your wines. We have met wonderful people and made many friends through the common bond of wine. Wine is beautiful! –Cathy Jordan, Owner, Jordan (Jardin) Wines

What in your mind is the right approach for the aspiring winemaker or winery owner? Is it more grit than glamour, or a romantic ride? under: Connoisseurship, Industry Issues, Opinions and Commentary, Uncategorized, Winemaking

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A detailed 2010 Vilafonte Harvest Report by Zelma Long

The 2010 Cape Harvest was marked by three needs for success: (1) fine tuned wine growing; (2) fine tuned harvest and fermentation practices; (3) good luck - i.e. Mother Nature smiling…most of the time.
Vilafonte was fortunate in all regards. Contrary to many whose crop was devastated by bad weather in October and November; our site bloomed in a window of decent weather and yielded a normal crop; actually up slightly from 2009. Our normal crop fine tuning practices , culminating in veraison thinning, were more important than usual due to an extended bloom which yielded more variability in Cape vineyards in 2009.
Our grapes behaved distinctively this year. Of normal size (neither unusually large or small); our usual pre-harvest analysis showed excellent color and moderate tannin; ideal for the vintage. However, the grapes were reluctant to give up these characters to the wine…normally we see a quick color extraction, but in 2010 it was necessary to extend our extraction practices, carefully, so as to get out the available color without too much seed tannin. It was a delicate dance; of a type not seen in seen in the last several years. As a result our grapes had more time on the skins, although not post dryness extended maceration.
Cabernet Franc and Merlot were gorgeous - full of fruit; full of color; perfumed. Our young Malbec, now in its second year of yield, was predictably black/purple, with its floral/sage aromas and a racy body. The group came through fermentation higher in acid than normal (Vilafonte does not acidify its grapes or wine) and so in general are racy going into malo-lactic fermentation.
Cabernet Sauvignon was of a more sober style; quiet, inward turned, and in particular needing coaxing to release its goodies during fermentation.
Overall, our team leaned into the wind and produced the best vintage of many years, in terms of wine quality; vineyard performance, and logistics. Ours was a measured pace of attention to detail.

Mike Ratcliffe
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Randall Grahm, Zelma Long inducted into Vintners Hall of Fame

March 15, 2010, By Rhian Morris
Five members of the wine world, including Randall Grahm  and Zelma Long , have been inducted into the 2010 Vintners Hall of Fame by the Culinary Institute of America  (CIA).
Long, described in a 2007 Decanter interview as 'a beacon of the industry', makes wine both at her California base, Long Vineyards, her other California consultancies, in the Pacific Northwest, the Rhône Valley, Israel at Golan Heights  Winery, Washington's Columbia Valley, or at Vilafonte in South Africa, where she is co-owner.
Grahm was one of the other five vintners honoured at the ceremony the CIA's Greystone, Napa base on Saturday. The iconoclastic vintner established Bonny Doon Vineyard, in the northern California town of Bonny Doon, in 1983. Grahm produced his first wine, Le Cigare Volant , in 1984. He is best known for his Rhône blends and indeed was one of the founders of the so-called Rhône Ranger movement in America. Grahm published his first book, Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology, in 2009.
Zelma Long
Grahm said he was 'immensely gratified by the recognition of this serious body. I feel incredibly fortunate that my work has never really struck me as real work. It has largely been about play, uncontrolled vinous id, if you will.' He went on to draw a distinction between 'wines of effort' and 'wines of terroir', and said the 'real work' of finding the latter was about to begin.
Also honoured was Beckstoffer Vineyards owner Andy Beckstoffer.
The late Al Brounstein  of Diamond Creek and The Wines of America author Leon Adams were both posthumously honoured.
The CIA hall of fame was established in 2007 to recognise significant contributions to the Californian wine industry.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Star-struck in the Winelands

Published by at 8:28 am under News

Mike Ratcliffe as Robert Downey.
AMERICAN magazine Wine Spectator has been having a bit of late by comparing wines to actors. All this with coming Sunday’s Oscar awards in mind. The magazine’s tasting panel has selected ten wines, across five categories, each of which suitably ‘personifies’ the nominee, and, by implication, the role he or she plays in the movie.
 Stellenbosch’s Warwick Wine Estate was in the limelight on the red carpet this week after receiving an impressive 90 points by Wine Spectator, says a media release. “In addition to this affirmation, Wine Spectator has nominated Warwick’s Sauvignon Blanc, Professor Black 2009, for Best Supporting Actor.  
 “Spotlighted for his supporting role as François Pienaar in the apartheid-rugby-allegory film, Invictus, is the handsome, charismatic and refined Matt Damon. Wine Spectator decided that a bright South African star – Pienaar, immortalized by Damon – commanded a bright wine with the same stellar constitution. The crisp, tropicality and liveliness – coupled with a long floral finish – of Professor Black, made this luscious wine the obvious choice for the Best Supporting Actor role.”
 No mention is being made however on rumours of another Hollywood production heading for South African shores, this time to film a script by Michael van Niekerk depicting the rise of the country’s wine industry post 1990. Using the Stellenbosch winelands as a backdrop, the story tells of five wineries’ vision and energy in using South Africa’s liberated status to launch the nations wines internationally. Strong personalities and a few dramatic events make, according to Van Niekerk’s publicist, for a terrific storyline. “No title has been finalise, but we might as well ride on Clint Eastwood’s recent success and call the movie InVino,” the publicist said.

WOSA, Shirely??
WOSA, Shirley?
 Although casting has to be finalized, movie insiders reckon that Mike Ratcliffe, Warwick’s marketing dynamo and industry young-gun who is a character in InVino, is set to be played by either Robert Downey Jr or Ralph Fiennes. Steve Martin is a shoe-in to play colourful restaurateur turned winemaker Ken Forrester, while Shirley MacLaine is keen to take-on the role of Wosa whizz Su Birch.
 So who knows….perhaps the SA wine industry will make it all the way to the red carpet next year.