Margins Release Party

Margins is officially released! This party was a reward for Kickstarter donors who gave $100 or more. It was so wonderful to have my family, coworkers, and friends from all different parts of life together in one place to celebrate such an important event in my life.

I am lucky to have been able to host this party at my own home. My talented family and friends did most of the work, coming together to play live music, help prep and serve food, decorate and set the tables, and pour and sell wine while I was busy saying thanks to everyone. I am so grateful for all the support. The incredible meal was prepared by Empire Grade Purveyors, my friends and neighbors in Bonny Doon who have cultivated a community around the art of their food. Enjoy a few pictures below. Hats off to Margins!

Chef Daniel Gallegos

Chef Daniel Gallegos

William the Mushroom Man rewards donor Joe Gracyk with his long-awaited inoculated mushroom log, another Kickstarter prize!

William the Mushroom Man rewards donor Joe Gracyk with his long-awaited inoculated mushroom log, another Kickstarter prize!

Some of my lovely helpers/best friends

Some of my lovely helpers/best friends

Thanks everyone!

Spring Coming

Hello everyone,

Spring is nearly here, which means exciting changes are afoot in both the winery and the vineyards. In the winery during the winter there is not a whole lot to do as a hands-off producer. The wine sits quietly in barrels doing its thing, and that leaves time to get out of the winery and explore other projects. Vineyard manager David was kind enough to leave a couple rows of the Chenin unpruned by his efficient crew so that I could come up and play in the vineyards. If you love physical work, pruning is play, but if not... 

 

Jordy pruning

Jordy pruning

These vines are about 20 years old, and Chenin blanc is notoriously vigorous. This makes for very difficult work, as the canes are much thicker and harder to cut through with shears. The canes are also quite tangled up in the trellis, which makes them harder to pull out. Luckily I had my friend Jordy with me to help, because it took us 10 hours to complete two very long rows!

 

Smiling 'cause it's the last vine--almost done!

Smiling 'cause it's the last vine--almost done!

I'm so grateful to be working with a vineyard manager who lets winemakers come and get dirty in the vines. There is an all too common disconnect between vineyards and winemaking and it is up to us winemakers to change that by getting involved any way we can in the vineyards we source from.

Spring also means the Chenin will be bottled soon. I racked (moved) all the wine from barrel to tank, and it is now sitting in tank where the remaining solids will settle out before bottling. Carlos helped me clean the tank for the Chenin while I racked and cleaned barrels.

 

That's two thumbs up, although it may look otherwise...

That's two thumbs up, although it may look otherwise...

Until next time!

Megan

The Changing of the Seasons

Autumn is so sweet up here in the mountains. The smell of smoke is beginning to waft through the air from the woodstoves of people heating their homes, and the wind is beginning to stir even the tippy-tops of the redwoods. Meanwhile harvest is coming to an end and we are entering the season of waiting. I'm under the impression that many people do not understand how wine is made. The most simple answer is that it makes itself. We put cloudy, semi-effervescent must into barrels in the fall, and when we check on the barrels in the early spring, there's wine in there! Of course there is maintenance to be done in between, but the not-so-secret secret to winemaking really is time itself. 

 

Filling barrels

Filling barrels

I moved the Chenin from tank to barrels around six weeks ago. It had only just barely started to ferment while in tank, but once the wine was moved to barrel the fermentation took off. Now the primary (sugar to alcohol) fermentation is complete, and the wine will be left to do its thing until the late winter. Before saying goodbye to the wine for a while though, I topped up all the barrels so that there was no space for oxygen. At the beginning of the winemaking process when we press the wine, we always set a bit of it aside in kegs for this very purpose. It is imperative that the barrel not have headspace (depending on the intended style of wine) so we must "top" up the part of the wine that has evaporated through the barrel.

 

Topping up barrels with the "topping wand"

Topping up barrels with the "topping wand"

Now all eight barrels are full and ready to mature into the wine they are destined to become (I feel like a mother). And as promised, soon some of you lucky donors will see your names written on the barrels before they make their way to their winter resting place.

All the best,
Megan

Chenin blanc Harvest 2016!

I received a message from vineyard manager David that my grapes had hit my desired Brix (sugar) level on Monday morning. The long-awaited time was finally upon me! I booked a box truck for transportation of the 3 tons of grapes from Clarksburg to Santa Cruz and cancelled all my plans for the evening (getting in bed at 7pm and reading). I arrived in Clarksburg at 9:30pm Monday night and was greeted by David. Here he is below looking "legit" in a vineyard safety vest.

IMG_0985.JPG

David and his wife Ana were kind enough to host me in their home for the night, as we would be waking up early to prepare the bins at the vineyard for the pickers at 6am. Just before sunrise the crew began the tornado of picking. I was on the back of the tractor sorting out leaves and other non-grape matter as the crew quickly dumped crate after crate of beautiful, cool Chenin clusters into the bins.

 

All three tons were picked in a mere 45 minutes! Loading the truck actually took longer than the pick, as David wanted to ensure that I had a balanced load (very appreciated!). I had an uneventful drive back to Santa Cruz, save for a nerve-racking ascent of highway 17 in which the truck would not go over 20 mph. Grapes were poured into the press around 1pm, and the beginnings of wine existed by 3pm. I did not eat that day because of adrenaline and nerves, and by the time the press was all clean and pressed skins were ready to hit the compost pile, I was ravenous.

 

Bins about to be loaded into the truck

Bins about to be loaded into the truck

Loading the grapes in the press

Loading the grapes in the press

Press all full o' grapes!

Press all full o' grapes!

Juicy! Juice falls from press as grapes are squeezed.

Juicy! Juice falls from press as grapes are squeezed.

My first wine: 2016 Clarksburg Chenin blanc

My first wine: 2016 Clarksburg Chenin blanc

The day ended with me wolfing down a pulled pork sandwich, so it was a pretty great day. Thanks to everyone who made this possible. I am in such awe of the generosity all around me. Stay tuned for the journey from grape juice to wine!

All the best,
Megan Bell