Sunday
Aug092015

Harvest Is Coming

BY CLAY SELKIRK 

It is nearly that time of year again.  With harvest creeping inexorably closer day-by-day and hour-by-hour, there are always innumerable tasks yet to be completed in the winery.  It is the perpetual plight of the winemaker; juggling the desire to accomplish as much as possible with the need to properly prepare for the upcoming crush.  One does not want to leave too many tasks unfinished, for as a rule, those tasks will demand their due attention at a decidedly less convenient point in the future.  However, much worse than a few unaccomplished to-do items would be being caught unprepared for the arrival of the season’s first fruit.  Once harvest starts, grapes rule all.  They wait for no man.  When ready to be plucked from their sunlight-dappled slumber, they will not be ignored.  No ifs ands or buts about it, and woe be it to anyone who does not heed their call.

 

The 4 Hearts Vineyard

 

More to the point, Veraison, the physical change in color of the grape skins as they near ripeness, is well under way.  A mere couple of weeks remain until the first fruit demands to be picked.  At this point in the year I am spending more and more time in the vineyard monitoring the rate of fruit maturation.  Meaning, I am eating a lot of grapes.  Sensory perception of sugar, acid, and flavors in the skin, seeds, and pulp of the berries is my main tool for determining ripeness and optimal harvest dates.  Of course, I back up my decisions on when to pick with hard numbers in the lab.  These numbers (degrees brix sugar, pH, and TA) are derived from random samplings of whole cluster fruit taken from select blocks in the vineyard.  I use all lab-based numbers simply as a tool to make sure I am in the right ballpark.  As I taste berries in the vineyard, I am looking for grape variety character, expression, and—most importantly—balance.  These elements are not something that tests in the lab can capture on their own.  Thus, maybe my most important job as a winemaker is making decisions on when to pick based on what I am seeing in the vineyard.

 

Veraison in Loma Seca Vineyard

 

Where do we get our fruit?

 

The Kirk-Landry and Osgood Farms Vineyards, both dry-farmed, account for over 60% of the total fruit we harvest in a given year. Dave Osgood, Vineyard Manager, and his protégé Jimmy (my harvest intern from 2014) have been slaving away to provide us with the highest quality fruit possible.  Of course, Dave always encourages me to take an active role in the decision-making process in the vineyard.  Though I certainly defer to his vast wealth of grape-growing knowledge and wisdom, we work in concert to achieve our harvest goals.  Paramount to Dave’s growing philosophy is vine health.  Every step he takes in the vineyard looks to the future—considering both the development of young vines and how to produce the highest quality of fruit year-after-year. He always asks for my opinion and input, though I often wonder why he bothers.  As he has informed me many times, he will listen to all suggestions I give, but he may very well ignore them.

 

In addition to the two vineyards mentioned above, the St. Peter of Alcantara, 4 Hearts, Loma Seca, and Cain Vineyards allow us to produce ultra premium wine from over 95% dry-farmed fruit.  With the water problems facing not only our local Paso Robles area, but also California as a whole, we feel it is only prudent to promote and support low impact dry-farming methods (not to mention the increase in quality and character we have seen from the wines made from dry-farmed fruit). Rounding out our take, the Kruse and Alta Colina Vineyards provide us with amazing fruit for our Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Viognier programs.  You may be thinking, “How do you keep up with all these vineyards with each boasting multiple grape varieties grown?”  Well, I will tell you from experience that it is no easy task... 

 Dave at the Kirk-Landry Vineyards

 

Below is the complete list of our vineyards and varietals harvested in alphabetic order: 

Alta Colina – Viognier

Cain – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Kruse – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Kirk-Landry – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Malbec, Mourvédre, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot, Roussanne

Loma Seca – Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvédre, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel

Osgood Farms – Petite Sirah, Zinfandel

St. Pete of Alcantara – Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel

4 Hearts – Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel

On a final note before I go,  I am happy to announce that our July bottling went off without a hitch.  We bottled 1,254 cases in total of 2012 vintage Chardonnay, St. Peter of Alcantara Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.  These lovely wines will now slumber in and acclimate themselves to bottle for the next few months with a planned release date of February 1st, 2016.  

Sunday
Jul262015

Pairing New Wines with Food

BY JOHN MUNCH

Our new wines will be available for tasting with an entirely new array of food pairings on August 1st, which is just a couple of days away if I’m not mistaken. And if you are making plans to visit us in the near future, keep in mind that our Fall Elliptical Society Pick Up Party is scheduled for the weekend of August 22nd – 23rd. More on the Pick Up Party will follow later . . . anyway, for as long as I’ve been doing this winemaking thing—& I guess that’s more than a couple of years—a key factor for us at Le Cuvier lies in presenting each season’s new wines with a food pairing that has been specifically prepared for that wine. At first we simply sought out available off-the-shelf cheese, olives, nuts, pâtés, etc., to serve as our food pairings, but all of that quickly evolved into a desire to “constructing” specific tastes & textures of our own design (AKA, hors d’oeuvres) to better effect, & that ultimately meant the creation of our new winery kitchen back in 2011.

Yes, the process of pairing a wine with a given food item is something we need to do several times each year, & this effort needs to be completed before we release new wines for tasting & sale. In preparation, the entire staff at Le Cuvier is involved, & everyone provides their comments or thoughts on modifying a given hors d’oeuvre to better effect. This is all a rather convoluted process, culminating with the writing of descriptions to accompany the new wines. Oh dear, it appears that August 1st is nigh, & we are still working on the pairings & new wine descriptions. Typical!

Anyway, what follows below is a short overview of our tasting process. The photos are from back in 2011, & you may recognize a couple of old Le Cuvier friends who have since moved on to greener pastures, but the process remains the same.

We have of course been tasting the wines as they evolve in barrel, & a part of the food pairing process is also one of attempting to develop a mental sense of the kind of taste each wine would work well with. Then we get together to taste & taste . . . this first photo is typical of a series of general taste items that have been put together by the kitchen based on earlier comments & thoughts:

 

 

Then with each of us with our own plates filled with specific items to taste with specific wines, & the process begins . . .

 

 

And then the discussion begins & grows & grows, & sometimes we need to have someone go fetch another bottle or two, or Cheryl (our chef) will rush back to the kitchen to modify a taste, or prepare something totally new, & on & on it goes:


 

Yep, the above photos may be from way back in 2011, but the process remains largely unchanged: to provide well wrought food pairings that serve to show off each wine while giving you ideas on menus to try at home, & not to mention, the pairings & wine descriptions are ultimately meant to add joy to your day. And now if we can only manage to finish writing those damned descriptions! The pinch of the dreaded Deadline happens every year, twice a year actually, & sort of feels like turning in semester papers back in college . . . always late, & oh well, one can never escape!

Wednesday
Jul152015

Cockroaches, July 4th and The Winemakers' Blog

BY JOHN MUNCH

As many of you already know, I’ve laid most of the unpleasant aspects of winemaking upon the shoulders of my codependent winemaking partner, Clay Selkirk. He’s young & in need of some of that character building that comes with daily doses of abuse, & surely the occasional arse-flopping in the odd fermenter will serve its purpose. And to ensure that his efforts remain up to Le Cuvier standards, I will of course make a point of tasting all wines repeatedly & frequently, & otherwise making a perfect nuisance of myself.

And now that I no longer spend all of my waking hours schlepping barrels filled with wine, or fixing every broken thing that chooses to appear around the winery—now that I have time, what am I to do with all of those seconds, minutes & hours? Write blogs of course, & what better way to re-invigorate a blog than with a 4th of July Celebration.

Yes, the 4th of July. What many of you don’t know is that I’ve taken a small place in Templeton, a town just south of Paso Robles. The purpose of the Templeton house is one of achieving small moments of refined isolation in little sanctuary that I can frequently escape to, & from which it is fervently hoped that I will finally & inevitably finish writing the Great American Porn Novel.

Actually, the novel’s not about porn, though a bit of salaciousness would certainly help potential sales; rather, the book is about cockroaches & beetles; it is a blindly scribbled oeuvre wherein is revealed in detail the specialized function that these delightful bugs play as intercessors between the confused spirits of the dead & a particularly perplexed Latin American bruja. Though my novel is not yet complete, you can rest assured that every word of it is fact, & every fact has been checked & double checked, all to ensure that the methods & the manner of chitinous communication are accurately revealed with absolute clarity, & all within the modestly priced pages of the soon-to-be-finished-and-published novel.

Yes, it is sadly true that I still face the blank stares from a few absent pages that are wanted in order to complete the wicked thing, but while awaiting inspiration (or just plain nerve) I’ve nonetheless managed to spend a great deal of time on the title & cover, all to my delight & satisfaction. Here’s a preview of the cover:

 

 

But more on the book later. Now it’s back to Templeton’s 4th of July, which was the catalyst driving these pages. In Templeton the august anniversary includes a parade that passes right in front of my stoop, & which otherwise provides a perfect excuse for excess of all types & sizes. Here are some scenes from the parade:

Wine Barrel Ponies


The Street from My Stoop

 

Just Because

 

Lots of Cars


...And Horses Too!

 

And there you have it: a re-boot of the Winemaker’s Blog, now become the Winemakers’ Blog: note how a subtle change reflecting joint ownership is achieved by simply moving the humble apostrophe one slot to the right. This has thus & therefore become a blog that is most assuredly destined for weekly publication…without fail.

Sunday
Jul052015

Introducing Le Cuvier's "Strong Back"

Hello Elliptical Society members, friends, and fans of Le Cuvier!  Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Clay, and I am Co-Winemaker here at Le Cuvier. I work alongside my mentor, Mr. John Munch. If you an avid reader of our Winemaker Blog, you may already know me to some extent through John’s prior postings.

I like to refer to myself as ‘The Strong Back With The Weak Mind.” I run the day-to-day operations here at the winery, allowing John to pursue the finer points of his artistic inclinations; including—but not limited to—meditating on all wine-related philosophical topics, contemplating his navel, writing a novel about roach races, perfecting the grind for his morning espresso, recording guitar riffs, and embarking on culinary adventures. 

 "The Strong Back" At Work

 

John and I will be sharing blog-writing duties going forward, with the ambitious goal of posting weekly (if at all possible).  We will alternate our posts to bring you our own unique and individual musings on those topics we deem worthy of your attention.  In this first post, I will do my best to bore you with information about myself, my background in winemaking, and how I ended up here at Le Cuvier. 

In order to do that, I better start at the beginning.  I am a local yokel by birth, having been coerced into existence by Stuart and Laura Selkirk (hermits) in a hospital in SLO. I was subsequently rushed out into the hills beyond Cayucos for my upbringing on the family ranch.  My father, probably inspired by that wondrous day in March, decided to try his hand in winemaking.  Though I can’t claim to remember his initial vintages, he assures me the wines were quite wretched.  As he discovered techniques such as topping-up his barrels, racking, extended barrel-aging (procrastination), and the use of native yeast ferments (spurred by his miserly habits and inability to fork over the dough for commercial yeast), his wines slowly began to improve.  A number of years later, he met John, who was looking for a contractor to do some work on his home.  My father was a general contractor by trade for some thirty odd years, with winemaking remaining a hobby at that time.  Finding themselves kindred spirits, my father preyed upon John for any advice (whisky) as he continued to perfect his winemaking craft.  

Here is where I come in… My first memory of John takes place at Adelaida Cellars.  My brother and I were both in tow wherever my dad went, much like the short half-dog (Corgi) he ports about currently.  We all came to visit (harass) John and Neil Collins (his relatively new employee) at Adelaida. Finding wine-in-process, my brother and I were tasked with jumping about in an open top tank full of recently crushed grapes.  Tiny human stir sticks, we were.  Our just reward for our efforts happened to be our pick of lava lamps: a blue one for me, and a red one for my brother.

Let’s fast-forward a few years to avoid excessive doldrums.  With my father’s continued interest in winemaking prompting a volume production approaching illegality, my parents decided to legitimize their operation and go into business.  Thus, Cayucos Cellars was born.  The year was 1996 and wines were produced, hoarded, and some little sold, until our family winery tasting room was opened in downtown Cayucos in 2003.  At this point I was pursing my undergraduate degree in the Classics, from the University of the Pacific.  As I had had my fair share of compulsory labor in my young life, I believed the last thing I wanted to do was pursue an education in winemaking.  Though I still helped out throughout the years—especially over the summer months when my scholarly duties were on hiatus—I had no inkling that winemaking was in my future. 

I blame it all on my brother, Ross!  He was studying at California Polytechnic State University, in a major much more closely related to the wine world, and had the unfortunate luck to be readily accessible when my dad needed help in the winery.  While I as studying abroad in Greece, tromping around archeological ruins, drinking Ouzo, and communing with the Greek gods, my brother hugged a tree while snowboarding and broke his femur in half.  Though he will tell you otherwise, I almost think it was intentional.  Upon graduation in May 2005, my dream of exploring the world and digging through the trash and bones of those long dead was dashed.  My dad informed me that I would be working for the family business, as he needed help during the upcoming harvest, and that any pursuit of other educational fancies or worldwide gallivanting would have to be postponed.  I came kicking and screaming, certainly.  For the first few years I tried to escape, though my parents wouldn’t let me.  Soon I became too integral a part of the business to let go, and to my greater surprise I found that I had fallen in love with winemaking.

 Enjoying the spoils at Le Cuvier

 

Eight and a half years flew by.  Working up from Slave to eventual Assistant Winemaker and Tasting Room Manager, I was involved in all aspects of the business at Cayucos Cellars.  I worked in our small Estate Pinot Noir vineyard, helped to plant a couple more in the coastal mountains, managed the tasting room and wine club, supervised marketing and bookkeeping, maintained the website, picked and processed during harvest, managed winemaking duties throughout the year and much more.  In the winter of 2012 John approached my dad and inquired about my availability.  I’m still not sure entirely what went on behind my back, but seems to me some kind of trade was agreed to, hands shook, whisky was drunk, and there I was, shipped off from Cayucos and over the hill to Le Cuvier.  In all honesty and joking aside, I can’t say how grateful I am for the opportunity to work for and learn from John.  His influence on my father’s winemaking style was huge, and I fully subscribe to the same school of thought and winemaking philosophy.

As the chance to learn directly from the maestro himself was something I couldn’t consciously pass up, it was with great anticipation that I began my journey here at Le Cuvier in February 2013.  For the past two and a half years, John has been mentoring and grooming me (beating me into submission).  Somehow, he seems to be happy with my efforts. In January, I was promoted to from Assistant Winemaker to Winemaker.  John and I continue to work closely all year long, from harvest to bottling, to bring you the absolute best wine Le Cuvier, and Paso Robles for that matter, has to offer. 

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings.  Please tune in next week for John’s rebuttal.

Cheers!

Clay

Tuesday
Sep092014

What Happens When Equipment Breaks?

The auger system that feeds grapes to the de-stemmer decided to quit working this morning. On the ground & ready to de-stem were 6 bins of Chardonnay grapes. Thus we witnessed the following sequence of events:

Clay standing on the bin dumper on the ready with his trusty shovel. The goal is to dig into the grapes:

Here is the dig:

 

And now a lovely shovel full:

 

And finally a perfectly pitched load into the waiting maw of the de-stemmer:

 

Six bins? Why that’s a bit shy of three tons worth of shoveling. Not a bad morning’s work, & then just as Clay finished the last shovel load, the auger came back to life. The fervent hope is that the auger will choose to continue working throughout the remainder of harvest.

Thursday
Sep042014

And More Grapes!

Today it’s Pinot Noir from the Jack Creek Vineyard, & a bit of Petite Sirah from the Kirk-Landry Vineyard.

Clay with a cluster of Pinot Noir grapes -

Dumping Pinot to the hopper to feed the de-stemmer -

 

 Jimmy with the end result -

 

Wednesday
Aug202014

The First Grapes Of The 2014 Season

I’m back after a lengthy sabbatical away from this blog, but with grapes arriving momentarily, it seems both meet & fitting that I once again enter the word fray, & otherwise resuscitate this business.

So where are we with the 2014 harvest? As noted above, today it starts, August 20, 2014. Clay Selkirk (he-who-actually-does-the-wine-work-while-I-watch) & I have been commenting on how unusually early the harvest will be this year. Yet looking back at 2013, I see that last year we actually received our first grapes on August 19th, or one day earlier than this year.

Looking back some more, I also note that we were essentially done with the 2013 harvest on September 25th, while in earlier years we typically saw a major part of our grapes arriving right on through October & into early November. In 2011, for example, we received our first grapes (Petite Sirah) on September 26th, with the last of the crop (some Cabernet Sauvignon) coming in on November 11th.

Today’s first pick of the year is Malbec from the Kirk-Landry vineyard . . . lovely dry-farmed grapes.  How does this harvest date compare for Kirk-Landry Malbec over the past several years?

In 2011 the Malbec was picked on October 3rd, October 28th, & October 31st.

In 2012 the Malbec was picked on September 9, 11, & 13, or about a month earlier than 2011.

In 2013 the Malbec was picked on August 23rd, 26th, & 27th

In the words of that squeaky folksinger, “the times they are a-changing,” or so it seems, but then weather is cynical, while climate is cyclical, or so they say.

In any event, the vines look great & the fruit tastes grand despite the very early harvest. All the more remarkable since the vines are “dry-farmed” (i.e., not irrigated), as compounded by the undeniable fact that we are in our third year of drought . . . or is it the fifth year. Can’t remember.

And here come the grapes! I must pause this writing for the taking of photos so that I can chronicle the day’s effort in film . . . bits & bites, actually.

First you have Clay, Jimmy & the grapes. Jimmy is working with us for the season:

Clay dumping Malbec into a screw-hopper that feeds the clusters into our destemmer:

 

The destemmer is aptly named because it coincidentally separates the berries from the stems. Here naked stems are seen being ejected from the machine:

 

And here you have an almost full bin of berries sans stems, with an empty bin lined up & ready to be dragged under the destemmer:

 

Six bins of whole clusters become one bin of stems:

 

Dumping to tank:

 

And that’s that, so where’s the beer?

 

Monday
Jan272014

I'M BACK!

There have been rants & complaints from the Le Cuvier Winery Staff about a distinct lack of blog postings on this site. Well, I'm back.

Where have I been? Mostly lost in that sublunary zone known as "The Ether," & otherwise on trips of different kinds & sorts, with thoughts & plans of living in a yurt along the lower reaches of the Patagonian coast. But the yeasty-beasties have been calling my name: "Johnny, Johnny, please come play." So I'm back.

But there have indeed been changes, lots of changes. Regrettably, & as many of you already know, my assistant Robin Graham left our employ in the spring of last year. Oh yes, there had been steady pressure upon him for quite some time to return to his rightful place within the family business, so Robin & his wife Susan finally gave in & moved back to Washington State from where Robin will be overseeing a rather large acreage of apple & cherry orchards running from Washington down through to Chile. The final & irresistible inducement for returning to Washington was an unsubtle aside dropped within his hearing to the effect that the family would need to provide him with his own helicopter & airplane, both essential for conducting his duties on behalf of the cherries & apples. Our counter offer, which included an old ratty pickup & a gift certificate to Marv's Pizza, did not, in the end, sway the argument in our favor.

For a guy not quite 30, the choice was obviously a torment for Robin. However, before disappeared into the sunset, he helped me grandly by spending a couple of extra months working with his replacement, Clay Selkirk. Consequently, not a beat has been missed, nor a barrel lost during the transition, & Clay's degree in the Classics, plus a total lack of education in "science," makes him a perfect fit where it comes to Le Cuvier winemaking.

To be sure, Clay, with his Biblical name going all the way back to The Book Of Genesis, is no stranger to me, & he represents a grand catch to the distinct advantage of Le Cuvier. It appears that I've known him for quite a few years, & watched him grow into the fine specimen that he is under the questionable guidance of his father, Stewart. In fact, this particular father & I occasionally meet to discuss philosophy & neuroscience at Schooner's Saloon in Cayucos, & it was during one such session that I negotiated Clay away from employment within his own family's winery, Cayucos Cellars. Schooner's, by the way, is a lovely place with windows overlooking the soothing break of ocean waves, & most worthy of a special pilgrimage.

Thus, it is that I've kept in touch with Clay's progress as the years have past into shadow, etc., & thus it is that Clay Selkirk came to be employed as Assistant Winemaker at Le Cuvier. But there's more: the Selkirk's own winery, Cayucos Cellars, has the distinction of having a tasting room on the main street in Cayucos, just a couple of doors south of Schooner's. And here's yet another bit of important information: "Selkirk" was the actual family name of that historical gentleman who was marooned on that famous desert isle, & who ultimately became the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. A brief visit with Clay's papa, Stewart, will support the vision of someone most definitely lost, so if you happen to be in Cayucos make it a point to visit Cayucos Cellars & ask for "Stewie." The amusement value alone is certainly worth the trip, & besides that, the wines are very good indeed.

However, the real reason for my absence from the pages of this blog is that I decided to finally grab the focused time needed to complete the writing of any number of stories that have been tickling my fingertips for these past many years. Word was leaked out that I was writing The Great American Porn Novel, & yet the truth is even better than that because I am, in fact, writing a novel called The Great Roach Race, which, coincidentally, is a story about a cockroach race.

 

Please understand that this is not a novel about a species of roaches, a task better suited to some Neo-Darwinist, but rather a story about a sporting event akin in style & excitement to a horse race, the only difference being that the race in my novel is being run by cockroaches rather than by thoroughbred horses.

A hundred & fifty or so pages of the novel have been written & re-written & re-written over the past several months, so the task at hand simply remains one of perseverance while maintaining a strong personal conviction that there is be a BIG undiscovered market out there for a book about roaches. I can barely stand the tension, the lying awake night-after-night tossing & turning with anticipation, waiting for that magical moment when The Great Roach Race is finally finished & ready to be submitted to a select few publishers for their honored consideration. Of course, once my opus has gone to print I will need to take time off from winery affairs for a book signing tour, not to mention additional focused time off in order to hone that inevitable acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in literature.

I've considered posting the first chapter or two of the novel in this blog, but so far I've not received any encouragement from the gang at Le Cuvier. Perhaps they just don't understand highbrow literature. Do you, dear reader, feel differently? Would you care to read a few engrossing words about my roaches? Let me know, & your wish will be my command.

Monday
Jun032013

Lone Madrone Blockage? June 20th Is The New Date For Their Movement

Disregard yesterday's post. Or at least some of it, because it now appears that Lone Madrone Winery is suffering from some ill-defined blockage with the result that they won’t enjoy their long anticipated movement until Thursday June 20th.  However, the new address for their new tasting room remains 5800 Adelaida Road as reported in yesterday’s blog. Said new address is directly across from the entry to Adelaida Cellars, or put differently, Lone Madrone will be more or less, or give or take, 5 miles from Le Cuvier.

Sunday
Jun022013

Lone Madrone Winery Is Having A Movement!

ON THIS COMING THURSDAY, June 6th, Neil Collins is moving his Lone Madrone winery from its current location to a lovely spot on Adelaida Road, just a few miles further west & up the road from Le Cuvier. This move will be a grand thing  because it means that Neil & I will be able to return to active collaboration on very important winemaking unknowns. 

Here below is a photo of Neil & me from a couple of years back, perhaps a few more years than a couple. As I recall, we were in the process of trying to entice wild yeast to join with us, & I do seem to remember that we were successful in that endeavor . . . 

 

And here is the Loan Madrone announcement of their move, containing within the text all of the why’s & wherefores . . . . . .

 

LONE MADRONE WILL  BE MOVING TO A NEW HOME JUNE 6, 2013

In 2003, Lone Madrone was producing just a few hundred cases of wine, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon from the YorkMountain appellation, just as we had done since our beginnings in 1996.  We were then joined in our small business by the larger than life Mr. Tom Vaughn.  Tom was keen to push us forward as a business, to grow, and grow we did!  It was at this point that we began the search for a tasting room on the west side of Paso Robles, amongst the sources of our grapes.  Out of the blue we were offered the newly rebuilt barn at Sycamore Farms.  We jumped in with both feet into this historic and beautiful property.

2013….Now I swear that if one blinks, all of a sudden you find yourself greyer, rounder, and you look more like the chap you used to work for than yourself!  It can be a touch disturbing at times.  However, during this period, Lone Madrone and Bristols Cider flourished.  We added many new wines sourced from a variety of new vineyards and from these vineyards developed many new friendships. We have been blessed with the support of these varied and entertaining fellow lovers of the grape and the plate, and together are immersed in the vineyards and culture of our homes.  To share the wines that are produced from these partnerships with all of you is the pinnacle of what we do.  We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support of Lone Madrone and we promise to keep it interesting!

In addition to our new wines and the creation of the Lone Madrone Wine Club, this property has made it possible for a plethora of memorable events.  We have had many “Burger Sundays” with great music, corn hole and lots of wine and cold cider.  We had several Basil Festivals complete with multiple days of food, music, and a fair old dose of merriment. Of course Jackie’s Christmas dinner was again sold out before the Stilton was eaten!  In a nutshell, it’s been more fun than a barrel of monkeys!

Well now the time has come for us to move on.  Oh yes, of course we have mixed feelings, but it “tis what it tis”.  One door closes and another opens.  Recently, we were offered the opportunity to move to a newly remodeled horse barn in the Adelaide.  Now the Adelaide is my hood!  I started working at Adelaida Cellars back in January of 1992 when it was owned by John and Andre Munch (of course I was only six years old at the time but Mr. Munch could not bring himself to pay an adult wage so there you have it).  Also, Marci and I have lived on Adelaida Road since 1998 on the Tablas Creek property, where to my constant surprise and gratitude they also allow me to make their wine. 

So it fits.  The new tasting room is on Adelaida Road directly opposite Adelaida Cellars.  In fact, when I worked at Adelaida, Morgan horses lived in the barn.  Not anymore!  Gary and Wendy Schmidt are the owners of the barn and the property it sits on is called Cocavin.  Gary and Wendy have done a spectacular job of converting the barn into a rustic, yet elegant winery/tasting room.  Done with style and character that is a perfect fit for us (ok maybe a bit stylish for Neil).  WOW!  It would be quite the understatement to say that Jackie, Marci, and I are excited about the whole situation. We are jumpin for joy, giddy with anticipation and pretty damn grateful for the opportunity that has been put before us.

The work that Wendy and Gary have done and the work that Jackie and Marci will surely do will need to be seen in person with a glass in hand.  So get in the car or on the bike and get up here to see us!  The fun is about to fire up once more with renewed vigor and you may rest assured that when you come we will join in and EAT, DRINK AND BE MERRY!!!               Bring it on!

Our new address is 5800 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446

All other contact information will remain the same

Saturday
May182013

This Is It!!!!

In the immortal words of the mortal pop star, this is it:

Friday
May172013

An Edwardian Flair For Hearst Castel?

This morning I finally found an exemplar of men’s formal wear that I am convinced suits my body type & disposition perfectly, at least from the photos found on line. Edwardian in style, but alas when I clicked through to the originating site it was that of the Cutler Family Funeral Directors in Lichfield, England. Though they do claim to be “full service,” the distance & water between us produces a distinct impediment. And yet, they do offer rentals for a formal occasion, but one must presume that the rental option is only available to the guests, not the principal.

A further consideration in favor of the Cutler Family establishment is that, for a reasonable fee, they will include a brace of Scottish bagpipers for the event, which in my case would ensure a grand entrance at Hearst Castel.

To be practical, however, I suppose that the search needs to continue closer to home . . . .

Thursday
May162013

Tux Redux

And still we search for an appropriate tuxedo to wear to the Hearst Castle soiree on July 11th. From readers’ comments to previous blogs about this dilemma, the votes are currently running in favor of the Pink Tux, though there was a strongly worded suggestion that I move outside of the box & procure a reproduction of the purple sequined velvet bell bottom suit Van Morrison wore in The Last Waltz. This last item, unfortunately, has sequins running up the crotch, which does not sound particularly comfortable.

There’s still time, I suppose, so here are a few more choices, though I begin to despair of ever finding an appropriate rental at the local shop that caters to those in need of a one night’s supply of formal wear.

Red sleeves & rather snappy:

 

Keeping within the red vein, something with a little more flair:

Still red, but with a distinct style likely to turn the occasional eye:

 

Moving towards that golden look, this first example would offer an air of dignity & courage due to the military vibe, though the trousers do seem a bit short:

 

And finally, something more formal in gold:

 

Please, your thoughts (& sympathies) would be greatly appreciated. Time runs short, as they say.

Friday
May032013

More Monkey Suits

In terms of what formal clothing I might wear to the Hearst Castel dinner in July (see my blog from April 30th), here below are a couple of possibilities that follow more traditional lines.

Orange is slimming, I’m told:

But I’m partial to pink:

 

What do you think, or should I continue the search?

Tuesday
Apr302013

Monkey Suit

As some followers of Le Cuvier’s doings will have already heard, we have been announced as one of two honorees for this year’s Central Coast Wine Classic, the other winery being Opus One, that little place up in Napa founded as a joint venture between Robert Mondavi & Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Good company indeed!

Unfortunately, with honor comes responsibility (I suppose), & since my partner Mary & I will be carrying the Le Cuvier “flag” (as it were) during the four days of the charity event, one of us has been told to “do the necessary to make oneself presentable,” specifically for the big poo-bah dinner at Hearst Castel on July 11th. Given that my idea of dressing up is limited to newer flip-flops & a more or less clean T-shirt, that must mean me.

Formal wear: a quick glance into my little closet shows what it showed the last time I looked a couple of years back for something formal to wear. Nothing has changed. There is still just that one suit, rather dated, & certainly tailored for my person before ongoing excess & pleasure larded me up to my present girth. If the back of the jacket & arms were to be slit open, with similar treatment to the trousers, that particular suit might just be acceptable dress for a casket, but not for Hearst Castel.

So my goal over the next couple of weeks is to post possible evening costume on this site, with the request that readers help me choose: your comments will represent your votes, & your recommendations will be duly considered by the staff at Le Cuvier who, to my great trepidation, will have final say.

A couple of photos . . . this first one represents how I feel:

This next one represents the early range of chronological possibility:

 

And this final photo carries me into the future, but would require a level of nerve I may lack.

 

As for the Central Coast Wine Classic itself, if you are unfamiliar with this charity auction event, it has repeatedly been one of the top ten charity wine auctions in the country. Quite grand. This year’s events are scheduled to run from Thursday July 11th through Sunday July 14th. And here is a link:

 http://www.centralcoastwineclassic.org/events.php

Monday
Feb182013

Elliptical Pickup Party

Yesterday, February 17th, was the day for our Elliptical Society Pickup Party, & we were (of course) only open to our Elliptical Members & their guests. Given that we are still wrapped about in the chill of winter, there was some blasphemous talk about the possibility of cold, rainy weather, but as I anticipated with fullest confidence, the day dawned sunny & warm with grandeur. All to the good, & here you have a shot of the day with cars beginning to fill the parking lot at opening time:

Some folks took immediate advantage of the sun with a glass & a view:

 

While others first chose to ranged through the wines with their paired hors d’oeuvre inside the tasting room:

 

Cheryl, who started out as an Elliptical Society member, & who is now our chef, is seen here calmly preparing one of her amuse-gueule treats:

 

And just to give you a sense of the range of treats she has created for this season's wines, here is Cheryl's menu. These are our daily pairings by the way:

 

And next you have a photo of two of the items on the menu, with a plated array of Sundried Tomato & Walnut Pesto which pairs with the Mighty Murcielago (AKA, Red Bat Cuvee) in the foreground, & then Crushed Cashews with Mushroom Pate in the beyond. The delightfully appropriate little balls go perfectly with the Enfant du Pape:

 

Next is a shot of the Open Face Roast Beef & Cheddar Sandwich being drizzled for a guest with a very special warm sauce to the pronounced benefit of the Cabernet Sauvignon, & vise versa:

 

I had planned on taking a photo of each item, but the Elliptical Society crowd grew, & grew, & grew, & I was quickly converted from photographer to dishwasher. It was a truly wonderful day . . . we had anticipated 150 or so guests, but the end count was something like 330 lovely people. Were we busy? Moderately so. Here is a shot taken through the kitchen window of yours truly drying glass number 322 for the day. In the right background you can also see Chef Cheryl groaning up at the ceiling:

 

And then there was the patio for sitting:

 

With J. Street Slim making music in the sweet, soft air:

 

And the day ends with the end, & with the sun starting to set upon a scene where the seats with a view remained fully booked: 

 

Saturday
Feb162013

Undulating Ungulates

This morning is Saturn’s day, with lowing black on black ungulates dotting the undulating green hills, a perfect cliché for sure, especially with sun bursting on the scene, & two delightful demitasses of espresso, which combined make one single cup, milk frothed to creaminess on top, & the coyotes are howling joyfully to the dawn about something most likely recently rendered. Oh, such a wonderful start to the day, especially in light of asteroid DA14’s safe passage!

Tomorrow is Sunday & the Elliptical Pickup Party. Please visit; please come, & remember that every dime you deposit at Le Cuvier goes to support this owner’s excess.

Friday
Feb082013

The Great American Porn Novel

I’ve been told by the Le Cuvier staff, repeatedly, that I am failing in my obligations to maintain a certain freshness to this blog, to ensure that it is timely, informative &co., & otherwise that I have been failing in my commitment to write a posting from time to time. Surely they are wrong, I thought to myself, but given that the last posting was from back in September of last year, perhaps they are right.

Why haven’t I updated this blog? Frankly, I’ve been very busy attempting to write the Great American Porn novel. The efforts involved are profound, & the focus required borders on intimidation as I search for & chew over each & every delicate word. Alas, I discovered that all attempts at creating my intended oeuvre by writing at home were doomed to failure for a multitude of reasons. First & foremost, every time I stick my head out the door at home, the winery grabs me, demands my attention, requires that I fix something, & the house being a mere 6 feet away from the winery means there is no escape, even out the back door. Second, my partner Mary kept looking over my shoulder as I worked on the masterpiece, & would say provocative things such as “that’s disgusting!” which only served to break my concentration.

So just about the time of my last blog posting I found & rented a charming getaway, my writer’s keep which sits atop a hill a mere three miles from the ocean. My goal has been to spend a couple of days per week writing at the rental, & this I have been doing with varying degrees of success. So the purpose of this particular posting, this renewed invigoration of the blog, is to provide you with a sense of the scope & grandeur of what has become known as “my manse up in the clouds,” & therefore I offer the following few photos for your enlightenment.

First is a shot of my writer’s residence all dappled in September’s light taken on the day I signed the lease:

Out front on my lovely deck is a wine barrel planter with a fine growth of onions & two lovely flamingos. The green of the onions are a perfect foil for the pink of the flamingos, don’t you think? In this photo you will also see club member & friend Keith (last name withheld by request) contemplating the birds:

 

Inside, you have a shot of the great hall with writer’s desk at he far end, along with a view of places to sit while contemplating the deeper meanings of life. I think that you will agree that, in the infamous words of the Dude in the Big Lebowski, the Persian carpet ties the room together:

 

Then you have a photo of the house shrine. Every house should have a shrine:

Penultimately, a shot of the inside of my larder:

 

And finally, my partner Mary on the day she first visited the manse. I can tell you, she was wildly impressed. By the way, I’ve since picked up the rake & taken down the clothesline, which refinements significantly improve the aspect of the front yard:

As time moves on I will endeavor to do a better job of refreshing this blog with newsworthy news, & perhaps with an occasional excerpt from my novel in progress.

Thursday
Sep272012

Pink Flamingos

Two lovely pink flamingos showed up a couple of days ago, & now grace our grape hopper like two guardian garden angels. Since having the lithesome birds affixed to the machine, grapes exiting the de-stemmer are markedly improved & free of MOG (“material other than grapes”).

Monday
Sep242012

Harvest Grape Bins

I thought it might prove curious to some of you if I gave you a general overview of the cycle of grape bins, that is, the typical cycle of hauling picking bins out to the vineyards & back to the winery during harvest. So here it is . . . .

Our grapes are all hand picked into what are aptly called “½ ton bins.” Not a bad name since the bins actually do hold more or less a thousand pounds of whole cluster grapes. During the course of a normal harvest, we will need to deliver & receive in the neighborhood of 160 or so bins to accommodate the 80 or so tons of grapes that it takes to produce our small yearly total of around 3,500 cases of wine.

First, we load our bins onto our own trailer:

If lucky, there is a forklift at the vineyard. In the following photo, we are dropping off bins at Jack Creek Cellars where we buy some of our Pinot Noir grapes. Jack Creek should be a definite stop for you if you have not yet been to the winery. Lovely grapes, wonderful people, & hence very lovely wines. Check them out at www.jackcreekcellars.com :

Sometimes there is no forklift. We buy a good percentage of our grapes from Osgood Farms & the Kirk Vineyard, neighboring vineyards that are both farmed by Dave Osgood. These are steep, dry-farmed & head pruned hillside vineyards that don’t lend themselves to rational use of a forklift:

Here you have a couple shots of Dave Osgood off-loading bins:

And then hand humping the bins onto a picking trailer:

Sometimes we pick up the full bins with our trailer, & sometimes they are delivered to us. Following is a lovely series of shots of Dave Osgood delivering grapes. Dave’s old yellow(ish) truck is remarkable to behold. When he drives it he describes himself as "trolling for the CHP":

And finally, here you have a still life of Dave taking his repose with a beer on our crush pad at the end of a hot harvest day: