Wine making

Week 7 Crush 2015: Downhill slide from here

Pressing Sangiovese for Locati Cellars started this week off.  It was a nice day, not too cool, not too warm and the bees (including hornets and wasps) were quite interested in the wine.  We have both been stung and bitten lots this year; they want their share apparently.  This was our largest lot of fruit, so many barrels to fill.  They are settled into their racks to finish secondary fermentation now.  Jason barreled the Cabernet Franc the next day when his barrels were hydrated.

We brought the last of the fruit in this week; 3.7 tons of Patina Vineyard Syrah for Lagana Cellars.  It is Walla Walla AVA and beautiful fruit that tastes wonderful. Can you believe we have everything in before the middle of October?  I haven’t been at this for very long, but it is long before Halloween which is usually a gauge of harvest.

Bulk wine is prepared for a shipment.
Bulk wine is prepared for a shipment.

It was also time to rack some wine from barrels into portable totes and kegs as they will be shipped out to Aspen Lane Wine Company in Chicago next month, when it is cooler, but not too cold.

We spent one day on the road delivering wine for both Locati and Lagana Cellars to distributors in the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA region.  It was a long day of driving; thankfully, Jason did most of it. I am glad I went along to get an idea of where and with whom we distribute our wines. How to drop wine off when the Rep is in a meeting was my first lesson.  Meeting Pam at Evergreen Wine Cellar and Leah at Niche Wine Bar in Vancouver provided a couple of Rep-structured visits for me to observe the process in action.

Poster for Evergreen Wine Cellar.
Pam supplied me with a few of her posters to sell in the tasting room. Look closely, isn’t that wonderful!

While we were at Evergreen Wine Cellar the poster we have in the window of the tasting room was brought up; I love this poster!  Several people have offered to buy the one in the window because they like it too. Graciously, Pam provided me four posters to sell in the Locati Cellars tasting room – contact me if you are interested and can’t make it to the tasting room.  There are only four, so first-come-first-serve.

There was even time for me to spend a day with my usual partner in wine, AKA hubby, while he worked his harvest job this week.  It was the first time since we moved to Walla Walla that I had time to ride with him during harvest (still haven’t ridden with him during potato planting season).  It was fun to see the diggers in the field and the potatoes going into storage until the processors are ready for them.  I couldn’t help myself, I had to pull pieces of vine and weeds from the potatoes on the conveyor as they went passed because it bothered me that they were there.  Allergies aside, it is always great to get out in the field with him for a day.  I did a bit of harvesting in my garden too.  After the gorgeous pumpkin fields on my way to work last year I had the notion I needed to plant pumpkins this year myself.  There was a variety of ‘lil’ pumpkins that seemed appropriate for the space we had.  Then a friend gifted me a ‘yellow squash’ plant, so we had two plants that sprawled over a considerable amount of ground for the last three months.

I am looking forward to slower mornings and cooler days as we finish this harvest season out.  I believe I will have more time to harvest the remaining tomatoes and peppers for my love to make salsa for himself.  Cleaning up the yard and putting it to bed before the weather is down right cold will be a first at this house.  I was glad to be home when the yard service guys that take care of the neighbors’ lawns came knocking to be sure we really did want our lawn aerated as we missed them last year and it needs it!  Tasting room shifts and responsibilities will be more frequent now that cellar duties are waning.  It is strange knowing I am not going back to class again – a good strange though.


Wine with dinner to write tasting notes.
Hubby and Jason after dinner as we worked on the tasting notes last week.
Wine making

Week 6 Crush 2015: A juggling act

Nobody makes us, there is no coercion, but we feel compelled to say yes to something we realize will only cause us more stress than we want.  But, that said, we still say yes and take the consequences; know what I am talking about?  Grape harvest with one winery can be taxing enough, for two wineries at opposite sides of the Valley, it gets complicated.  This year Jason said he would crush, press and ferment the Rose’ for G. Cuneo at Lagana Cellars.  As I work with Jason, but don’t typically have a say in the Lagana decisions, I was thinking I was helping press Riesling, the last white grape to come in when I ended up helping crush Sangiovese instead.  Divide and conquer, make it work, do what needs to be done; all of those things went through my head as we balanced the workload of two different activities on a small crush pad.  It worked, we managed to accomplish both pressing and crushing before dark… clean up was more cumbersome than usual as you can imagine.


We had 3.7 tons of Carmenere’ and Cabernet Sauvignon from Seven Hills Vineyard come in too.  I am fairly sensitive to the pyrazines (bell and chile pepper flavors) in Bordeaux varietals.  From the first taste of the Carmenere’ it was apparent that despite the hot summer ripening of the fruit was different than other years.


Did I mention that it is Fall wine club time?  And we need tasting notes for those wines, that means a pleasant evening of a relaxed nature instead of a physical workout.  We bottled at the beginning of September, but a problem with the labeler left us with unlabeled bottles.  Hand labeling and then preparing the boxes to ship… until we ran out of packing inserts.  Yup, we don’t have enough to do, but wine club ships now because the weather is good most places.

My hubby took me for a joy ride over the Walla Walla Valley one evening.  It was my first time up in a small plane since I first went to college in the eighties; this was a much better flight!

We also had the iPad software update go off the rails and had to spend a couple of hours clearing and reloading the machine that allows our tasting room to function.  This one wasn’t a choice, but it was necessary to address ASAP.  Ah, but we are so very close to the end of Harvest.  Cheers!

Wine making

Week 5 Crush 2015: Locati Cellars is 100% in-house

Last weekend I had the pleasure of working in the tasting room, our new tasting room, for the first time since we began harvest.  It was great to open the doors in this space during the day and pour for customers rather than just run in to accomplish momentary tasks like deposits and change needs, or bringing cases of wine to replenish what has sold.  No actual decorating has been done, but this is twice the space we had in the suite next door.  By the way, that space no longer exists, it has been joined to Tero Estate’s tasting room on the corner so they have more room also.

Monday night we all made time to go to the Carbon Leaf  Concert at Main Street Studios here in Walla Walla.  My wonderful husband and partner in wine humored me through yet another crazy scheme: we worked the Merchandise table for the band before and after their show.  Thanks for coming to Walla Walla guys, yet another fantastic performance; we appreciate you brining your music to us. Do you know Carbon Leaf? If you haven’t look them up on iTunes.

Locati Cellars has had all of the white grapes in for a while, during the last couple of weeks we fermented three of the four red grapes (Dolcetto, Barbera and Cabernet Sauvignon).  While I was down with the flu Jason pressed them all to tank.  I felt well enough to work the next day and got them all barreled before we began crushing fruit:

The rest of the day we crushed Seven Hills Vineyard Cabernet Franc for Lagana Cellars and the very last Locati Cellars we anticipate this year, Mission Hills Estate Vineyard Sangiovese.  I was very thankful for the extra help that day as my still-not-well body wasn’t ready to work hard from sun-up to sun-down.  Philip, you rock, thanks for pinch-hitting.

Tension wire wrapped around a crusher bar.
Sometimes you find the craziest things, this is tension wire from the vineyard that made it into the bin of grapes and then the crusher.

Cleaning up we took apart the crusher/destemmer to discover a piece of tension wire from the vineyard wrapped up inside.  This is hand-picked fruit, no machines until it hits the crush pad.  We heard something, but thought we would discover a rock in one of the bins when we pressed the fruit off.  Alas, no one was hurt, the machine is fine and the wire is now in the trash, where it should have gone originally.

We will miss making our Locati Cellars Primitivo due to Les Colline’s loss of the vines during last November’s freeze. Having all of our Locati fruit in-house by the first day of Autumn is surreal. Lagana Cellars is just over half in; the next few weeks might bring it all in.  We still have warm days and nice weather, but I will keep you informed, thanks for following along. Cheers!

Wine making

Week 4 Crush 2015: just over 50% of our fruit is in-house

It is really strange to say that in the middle of September we have more than half of our fruit picked and processed. We have had great weather and a super team to make it all happen.

Pressing our Dolcetto on Friday was flawless:

In anticipation of picking Rousanne at Sagemoor we grabbed a friend’s trailer, picked up the eight bins we thought we needed and brought them to the vineyard on Saturday. Jason figured 4.5 tons as per his contract, they estimated 5 tons when we dropped the bins:

Jason and I said we would help bottle for Mustard Seed Cellars and Adamant Cellars on Monday.  Knowing the week ahead I confirmed there were enough people for the afternoon and only bottled through the Mustard Seed Cellars wines:

Apparently the night before bottling Adamant Cellars lost a few people who said they would help.  Jason had to work super hard that afternoon, poor guy was pretty sore afterward.

Bringing in the Barbera on time and done promptly made for a nice day:

We had a hasty change of plans when the first block of Cabernet Sauvignon was shifted to a morning pick time from a mid afternoon and we still planned to press the Rousanne in the same day. Time being at a premium, I didn’t take any pictures while we crushed the Cab, but I made up for it in the afternoon with the Rousanne. On Wednesday morning they texted about 6 tons were coming in and when the bins were loaded, including many of their bins, the total came to 7.33 tons! No way we could process all of those grapes in one day and we didn’t have the tank space.  Sagemoor agreed to donate the ‘extra’ grapes to Walla Walla Community College for student use; win-win! It was still a very long day of pressing:

So, it is purple-hand, punch down time again! Cheers!

Lots of temperature and Brix readings with all of the red grapes coming in.
Lots of temperature and Brix readings with all of the red grapes coming in.
Wine making

Week 3 Crush 2015: the calm before the storm

Rain barrel filling a watering can with mint behind.
We got 8/10′ rain and my rain barrels are full!

We had rain! Friday evening it began rather quietly; Saturday morning we had no power for several hours.  My dry rain barrels are full, my potted plants are happy to have the rain water again and we haven’t had to use water the yard all week.  After the intense fires this summer it was with joy that we experienced rain during harvest; one reason trumps another.  What have you been up to this week?

Friday we pressed the Breezy Slope Pinot Gris for our Walla Walla Pinot Gris and pressed the Cockburn Ranch Dolcetto (‘CODO’).  Saturday, with no fruit coming in, Hubby and I met friends at the Ellensburg Rodeo; no rain there, but it was very windy and cold.  Sunday we rode the bike out to the Farm to do Dolcetto punch downs and it began to rain.  We took the time to shop for some necessities, an indoor activity, before returning to stir up trouble in the Dolcetto bin again.  The best part of the weekend was having my Hubby home an extra day – although, he might have wanted to be back at his own work rather than helping me scrub fermentation bins at the Farm before taking a much desired motorcycle ride through the hills.  The tasting room needed wine stocked, so we discovered the outside sign had been moved and the window decals had been applied – we are now official, but still not decorated.

The Orange Muscat came in on Tuesday, lots of time pressing as it is a fairly slippery grape.  It is worth every minute though as the dry fermented Orange Muscat (DOM) pairs beautifully with herb rubbed, grilled lamb and cheeses.  It has aromas of honey and orange blossom that evolve into a lovely herbal palate.

TC studying the FAR AIM.
My hubby passed his flight physical!

The best highlight of this week was the love of my life passing his flight physical on Wednesday morning!  It is his turn to study hard and pass tests, albeit not for the length of time I needed to be certified in viticulture and enology.  Exciting times in our lives, no telling how this might turn out, maybe he will blog about his experience…

I played in my garden Thursday, harvesting and weeding.  It was mostly a restful day so I can be ready for our pressing of the Dolcetto on Friday morning.  Then we prepare for the onslaught of Barbera and Rousanne grapes, possibly one of the two Cabernet Sauvignon’s we anticipate as well.  Want to help process grapes?  We don’t do much foot-stomping, but we do take a hands-on approach.  Where your grubbies, wash your hands and come on out.

Cheers, until next week!

Wine making

Week 2 of Crush 2015

Locati Wine production space before red grapes arrive.
So open and empty, shortly we will have fermentation bins filling this space!

Friday of last week we filtered the 2013 red wines for bottling on Monday emptying a few barrels so the incoming fruit will have a place to go when it is ready to go into MLF.  We had a new filtering unit arrive at the farm, unexpected, and then the new bottling truck, ‘Infinite Wave’, expected.  Walla Walla is big enough to warrant the filtering rig in the local area all the time.  (Although, the guy that runs it parks it and does crush for a local winery for the next couple of months.)

We processed Sangiovese from our estate vineyard on Wednesday, crushing 4.5 tons of fruit to be pressed on Thursday morning.  Later on Thursday we crushed Dolcetto; punch down season has officially begun with our lone fermenter!  Friday we press the Breezy Slope Pinot Gris – our local Pinot Gris from the higher elevations.

We also moved our tasting room from one suite in the Marcus Whitman to a larger space next to it early this week.  It is exciting to have more room, a larger bar and the ability to accommodate larger groups.  The wines, cigars, openers and cash drawer were set up on Monday night, after bottling all day.  Our fantastic tasting room assistants did a terrific job of completing the move-in of all of the other ‘stuff’.  There will be time made next week to decorate the space, pictures will come of that – because then you will recognize the tasting room when you come into Walla Walla.


Blue Creek Fire area east of Walla Walla.
Blue Creek Fire area east of Walla Walla.
Wine making

We stumbled into our 2015 harvest this week

A single cluster of Pinot Gris grapes mutating
A single cluster of Pinot Gris grapes mutating from our WW vineyard source. Interesting…
Locati Cellars crush pad is prepped and ready for fruit to arrive... but the forklift won't start. Hmmm...
Locati Cellars crush pad is prepped and ready for fruit to arrive… but the forklift won’t start. Hmmm…

The excitement of GOTR Walla Walla Stopover (8/13-14/2015) still reverberating throughout the valley we received two white grapes early this week, Tuesday to be precise. Insane to think that grape harvest is well underway in mid-August; we are far from the first to bring in fruit.  So, what do you do when the fruit arrives and the forklift you need to dump the grapes into the press doesn’t work? You leave that to the owner and you go into the vineyards to pull samples because you know there are a few more varietals needing to be scheduled for picking.

Securing a bin of grapes to a forklift.
We are up and running: commence with Crush 2015 at Locati Cellars!
The owner helping the repair completion to get us up and crushing.
The owner helping the repair completion to get us up and crushing.
Forklift repairman putting a forklift back together.
The forklift repairman thankful that he is wrapping up this call.

The next morning we still had no forklift, so we started to press our seven tons of fruit in the early afternoon. Not ideal, but we didn’t have a choice. It was still dark for another two hours after I fell into bed exhausted, but we did it!

Cleaning the press I was stung by a honey bee; they are very fond of grape juice!
Cleaning the press I was stung by a honey bee; they are very fond of grape juice!

I returned to clean the press within the same 24 hour period.  Bottling of the 2013 reds is scheduled to take place on Monday, so all of the preparation for bottling (i.e. racking and filtering) will round out our first week of 2015 Crush.  Oh, already two of the three grapes we anticipated coming in are scheduled right after bottling.  Stay tuned, this looks like it will be a crazy harvest year!


Beer, Wine

An exchange of domestic cultures: wine and beer

One of my closest friends is from Wisconsin, a true cheese head,Green Bay Packers fan and fisher-person.  Her years in Washington State have provided her with a great palate for bold, red Washington wine, so when she visits we break out some Walla Walla wine.  We visited with wine and ate dinner with wine; all good.

This visit she came hard on the heals of a vacation in her home state, bearing gifts of beer from New Glarus Brewing Company. Three bottles of wine for three of us through the afternoon and evening, with dinner, was enough.  We will open the beers over the course of the week and report back.

I look forward to telling you all about the beers, cheers!

Beer, Traveling

Terminal Gravity Brewing in Enterprise, Oregon

Terminal Gravity brewpub and brewing facility
Built in 1990 the front house was a sausage kitchen, with a bakery added later before Terminal Gravity added the brewery.

On our way back from Joseph, Oregon we stopped in the tiny town of Enterprise at Terminal Gravity Brew Pub, where Mutiny Brewing’s owner, Kari, interned before opening her brewery. Naturally, for us this was the only reason needed to justify a stop at a second brewery on the way back to Walla Walla.  We saw the sign to it on our way to Joseph, so it wasn’t too difficult to find the turnoff and then the brewery.  Looking like a craftsman style farmhouse built way back when with wide, dark stained wood trim and retro looking hardware and fixtures at the front and then built onto, it is really a 1990 built-to-look old building that housed first a sausage kitchen, then added a bakery, then the brewery minus the sausage kitchen and bakery to become what is now Terminal Gravity’s brew pub.  With picnic tables outside and a small bar inside where the still hot air seemed like a heavy winter coat we knew we were on a mission to taste what was on tap with the intent of taking something special home with us.

A retro icebox style fridge inside Terminal Gravity's brewpub in Enterprise, OR.
A retro icebox style fridge inside Terminal Gravity’s brew pub in Enterprise, OR.

Stirling, our bartender, and a part-time brewer, has worked there for the last five of the 18 years Terminal Gravity has been in business.  They produce a lot of beers, the pub seems to fill to capacity during the nice weather, they have quite a bit of swag for sale and we have seen their 22 ounce bottles for sale in a couple of places as we traveled Washington and Oregon; apparently they also distribute to Idaho.

We tasted 8 beers from Pilsner style lagers to Quad style Belgians were on tap that day.  We came home with two bottles of the Good Gravity, a collaboration of Goodlife Brewing in Bend (where the beer was made) and Terminal Brewing, we will evaluate that beer in another blog as we haven’t opened it yet.  Our favorite beers:

  • Dortmunder Export – 5.3% ABV 25 IBU, this is a German Recipe that works well with hard water, which is what Terminal Gravity has to work with.  Clear gold with a white head this lager is herbal and clove on the nose with a nice malt body and citrus finish of Crystal and Ultra hops
  • IPA – 6.7% ABV 70 IBU this is the original beer that put Terminal Gravity on the map of Northwest Breweries.  Copper colored with a light head, this beer is full-bodied with nutty, toasted malt mid palate with apricot and grapefruit toward the finish
  • Tap Out 9.7% ABV ~40 IBU is a clear, copper-colored Belgian Trippel with a creamy head, white flower/floral nose and sweet treat and spice body
Early art for Terminal Gravity that hangs on the wall of the brewpub.
Early art for Terminal Gravity that hangs on the wall of the brewpub.

We talked motorcycles with a couple of locals, Deep Sea fishing out of Alaska with Stirling and, of course, beer with those that waited for their order beside us.  Lots of t-shirts and caps (baseball and beanies) left during our visit.  We had come across the bottles in a couple of places, but we hadn’t purchased many.  As we travel we will look for the four or five that are bottled and distributed.  (Apparently Hawaii is a fortunate recipient of Terminal Gravity beers!)  Watch for our review of the Good Gravity bottles – 2015 grape harvest is underway in Washington, so good beer will be a necessary part of the wine making process!  Have you seen Terminal Gravity’s bottles by you?  Have you tried them? What did you think, bottled is certainly different than draft.


Celebrations, Wine

GOTR, stopover Walla Walla: aftermath

Fantastic music by international and local artists saturated our little town Thursday through Saturday; it was both exciting and exhausting.

Concert goers I spoke with in the tasting room and each evening when we ventured out lamented the distance of the camp ground from the downtown with no shuttles to quicken the pace and the delays in getting the campsites set up, hotel goers were less bothered by these things, of course, but parking and road closures made for interesting delays in getting to the festival the first time around. But everyone enjoyed the music. Sunday, gas stations had lines of vehicles of all descriptions preparing for the drive ahead. Alaska Airlines increased the number of flights in and out of our fair valley, that meant the airline and TSA workers were on overtime before all returned to ‘normal’ today.

Many locals emerged from self-imposed seclusion on Sunday, enjoying the cooler sunny day to explore the remains of this major event. Most had peaked in at the stage and various open-ground-turned-camp-ground earlier in the week. By nightfall Sunday, with the evidence gone, this music weekend will be relegated to social media posts and memories.

There is vocal discontent from some down town businesses as the rose-colored glasses distributed last winter were clouded with reality: the music and fans were great, business not so hot. The benefits to the majority fell short if my conversations are accurate. The City of Walla Walla and the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce might have to offer olive branches before continuing on as usual.  Promises of leaving things better than before the concert are yet to be evaluated.

That said, GOTR shook up our status-quo, brought a whole new demographic of people to our beautiful valley and suggested the possibility that we didn’t have to be a wine tourism only community.  Fabulous wine, excellent food, a couple of breweries, theatre, symphony, and a smattering of boutique shops are our infrastructure, maybe some more breweries and a distillery or two would be good to round out visitor options.  I have enjoyed participating in music festivals in previous towns I have lived in.  Might it be time to host a music festival here each year, building upon the great foundation already in place?  We pride ourselves on being bike-friendly, would a bike event or marathon be worth pursuing?  There are visual artists here, maybe we need to encourage a major art event?

Transitions can be tough, but without change there is little or nothing to encourage growth and continued pleasant living.  As a transplant to Walla Walla I am happy with the joyful, low-keyed attitude that is here. It isn’t about stirring the pot, but about recognizing what is valuable in the pot and celebrating it. Last year Walla Walla was named as one of the top ten wine destinations in the world at a youthful thirty years, we are recognized for our warm, welcoming attitude and excellent colleges, but that doesn’t have to be all we excel at.

It was very fun to visit with people from South Africa, by way of Portland and Manhattan, and various other locations I would enjoy visiting some time. I hope the few that I exchanged contact information with will become better acquaintances before their next Walla Walla visit. I personally am quite happy with the GOTR stopover. That said, late nights (dancing with my hubby was a delightful part of a couple of them) and working each day, I am ready for a couple of days off to sleep in, try not to catch a cold that seems to have infiltrated my lowered defenses and wrap up some projects.  What do you enjoy most about your community? If you could add something to it, what would it be?

A few social media photo sourced photos to help you visualize our terrific weekend: