Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bottles

We're doing a lot of bottling these days, so I'm thinking about bottles a lot.  It's all part of the packaging of our product.  Back when Kris was involved in our day-to-day decisions, she said she wanted to make our bottles look as good as the wine tasted.  She accomplished that.

We use a few different types of bottles.....and I've been trying to make it easier on our warehousing and storage of them by not using too many.  But, I also feel strongly traditional in this sense.  I can't imagine Chardonnay in anything else but a Burgundy bottle, and Merlot and Cabernet have to go in a Bordeaux.  Riesling is in a hoch (although we do it in blue....why?  Because it sells better that way.  Believe me.  Most package decisions are made purely on making the wine more saleable.  If you find a cool bottle at the state liquor store, you can pretty much be assured that the wine is just as uncool that's in it.  That's marketing.)

We get asked from time to time if we can re-use the bottles, and unfortunately we can't.  The bottles we purchase from our suppliers come to us sterilized.  (Sure, every once in a while a small piece of cardboard dust makes it into the bottle, but it's STERILE dust....)  There's no way on earth that I could take a used bottle and sterilize it so that it could be re-used.  It's just asking for trouble.  A few stray bacteria in the bottle and, poof, bad wine.  Or worse, refermenting wine that pops the cork on somebody's brand new white rug.  Not worth the risk.

Now, I have been reading that there's a company on the west coast that is going to start recycling bottles.  There have been companies like this around from time to time, but they have never been successful long-term.  I'm hoping this one will be--and that they find a way to open a branch on the east coast.  This is an idea whose time has come.  Most bottles are used once, and not all of them make it into recycling bins.  (In fact, at Allegro, we have to drive about 5 miles to our recycling station.  No curbside pickup in Brogue....)

In Europe, they have been re-using (re-sterilizing) bottles for years, and I read that the average bottle makes about 7 trips around before it's melted and remolded into something else.  Most of the carbon footprint for wine bottles comes in the making.  I sure would sleep better at night knowing we were being a bit more energy efficient with our bottles.  Once the re-sterilized bottles are available near Pennsylvania, you can bet I'll be using them.....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Personality

Brenda--the person who has the difficult task of trying to convince me that marketing works--once asked me if I thought there were similarities between a winemaker's personality and their wines.  I think this is an interesting question to play around with.  And, I'm not saying that bad wines are made by bad people and good wines by good people, but rather what style do you end up making the wines in, or what wines do you choose to make based on your personality.

I had the opportunity to taste Chaddsford's 2007 Pinot Noir last night (a blend from Phil Roth's old vineyard and the Eric's Miller Estate Vineyard.)  It was a really nice wine, and it almost made me re-consider my decision never to make Pinot Noir again.  And it reminded me of the personality question.  Pinot Noir is the "exception" grape.  You can do x and y in the cellar to most grapes, EXCEPT Pinot Noir.  Or it's the "especially" grape.  As in, you have to be gentle with all grapes, ESPECIALLY Pinot Noir. 

Pinot Noir is not a team player.  It's not easy to get along with.  It demands special attention in the cellar.  This is not to say that we ignore any of our wines.  It's just that Pinot Noir is like the prima donna of the grape world.  Don't play to its ego you're screwed .  And that's what it's been like for me.

Now, I like tannins.  Always have, probably always will.  Tannins are what protect the wines, make them robust and invigorating.  Tannins separate the wheat from the chaff in the wine-drinking world.  They also allow the wine to put up with an aggressive personality.  I am young and dumb in this wine-world, very much a kitchen-sink winemaker.  (If I think two different things will help a wine, I do them both, not just choose between one or the other.)  When I get a chance with a great vintage, I go for broke.  (Case in point, our 2007 Cadenza.)  No holds barred, throw it all on, and leave it all out on the field (or cellar, as the case may be.)

So, my personality really doesn't jive with Pinot Noir (or Sangiovese, for that matter) that looks to be coddled and caressed and massaged on its way to the bottle.  I like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with their richness and powerful finesse.  Chardonnay that takes to layers and layers of pushing to go to the place I want.  These are wines that fit my personality.  Even, play to it, like it, perhaps even need it.  These are Allegro wines!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Holiday Hangover

Now that the holidays are past, I know a lot of people just stick there heads down and try to grind out a few months.  I remember my first couple jobs out of school when I realized that my next day off was Memorial day in June.  It's a long stretch.  I was always sad to see the holidays come to a close.

Now, it's different, but still a but the same.  I enjoyed the holidays with Kris and my boys, and visiting family.  But in the Allegro side of things, it's time to finally focus on what we're good at: making wine.  Christmas is our vest sales time of the year, bar none.  (I always wonder what happens to all the Holiday Wine Drinkers in July--haven't they heard of Riesling?)  We sell boatloads of wine in November and December--even in this economy--but in January it's as if all the wine drinkers are suffering from a collective hangover. 

Not that it really matters.  I know things pick up again soon, especially with Tour de Tanks coming.  In the winery we're starting to bottle the 2009 wines.  First up is the 2009 Riesling.  We'll get the Vidal bottled soon as well as our new Dry Rose.  Still have the 2008 Claret and 2007 Aria to finish up as well.

Pruning will kick in again soon.  We haven't been that excited to be out pruning this year with the cold temperatures, and the wind and the snow.  We usually get pruning by about this time of year, but our vineyard is still of a manageable enough size that we can hold off a bit.  If we aren't into it in a few weeks, though, I'll start to worry.  Again. 

Winemaking never worries me.  We can always wait until we think things are right to move ahead.  But the vineyard--and Mother Nature herself--won't wat.  She tells us what to do and when to do it.  And, we enjoy it as well....