Crazy Times: Notes on Blogging, Vintage 2011, Winemaking, and the MW exam…

To my returning readers, my apologies that I have been unable to get a post up for the last two weeks but my life has been insane between full-time winemaking, an on-going house renovation project, a 50 mile bike ride for Diabetes research and my MW studies.  To my new readers…Welcome to the Personalities of Wine!

I have never considered myself a blogger but a winemaker who happens to blog.  I began this blog to inform and educate people further about wine and viticulture.  So far it seems to be accomplishing that goal and now I have signed up for my first Blogger Conference, BlogHer in Atlanta.  I’m not sure what to expect.  It is a food blogging conference but since wine and food are so closely related I should fit in just fine.  It’s interesting though as this is the first time I’ve really done anything like this.  I read all the other wine blogs about different writer’s conferences and strategies to turn blogging into a paying profession.  I have no intention of ever going “pro” at blogging.  The goal is to have my blogging support and complement my winemaking as well as keep consumers and other interested parties involved with the winegrowing season year round.

Speaking of the growing season, I just returned from my first visit, this season, to the Central Coast vineyards where I source Chardonnay and Merlot for Emma Pearl.  The vineyards are coming along beautifully down there and thanks to our outstanding vineyard crew I am happy to report that we missed the frost damage that impacted so many others.  The vineyard is currently a spectacular rolling sea of bright green leaves slowly reaching towards the sky with tiny flower buds preparing to open in the next week for bloom. Vineyard crews are busy spraying and thinning shoots so that the ones that remain will be stronger for it.  The smell of sulfur leaves an ever-present, slightly metallic tang in the air, which is comforting to me because it means the vines are protected from mildews and fungus.  This is the time of year of soft breezes and mild weather and we are all waiting with baited breath to see what weather the next few weeks will bring, warm and sunny being the ideal for fruit set. My nose is tuned for the first lightly floral smells of grapevines in bloom. 

In the winery we are in full blown blending season.  There are several blends including 2010 Emma Pearl Chardonnay as well as 2009 Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon that are being prepared for bottling.  There are few times outside of harvest that is as critical for me as blending.  It is the last opportunity to drastically affect the style and quality of the final blends and I do turn into a bit of a perfectionist at this time of year.  We line the wines up, taste through the components, assemble a blend, taste the blend, tweak the oak style, change the percentages, and taste the blend again…all in a continuing cycle until the wine is as we feel it should be. My mind, during this process, is on my consumers.  Will they be happy with this blend?  Do I feel it is close enough in style to the previous blend while remaining true to the vintage variations of the year?  In the new world we, as winemakers, make wines more to a house style with a nod to vintage than the old world method of making wine to a vintage with a nod to the house style. We have much in common with Champagne in that regard.  The final question for me is “Am I happy to say I blended this wine and is it consistent with my winemaking philosophy?”   If the blend answers yes to all of those questions then we assemble it and move on to the next one.  As I said, it’s one of the most critical moments outside of harvest.

The other major event that is coming down the line for me is the MW exam.  It’s now almost exactly one month away.  I’ve been mentally and physically training for this since the summer of 2007.  With the “high fail” from last year’s exam I am determined not to have history repeat itself.  Many more essays and outlines have been written.  I can now see the bottom of my question basket through the remaining balled up slivers of paper that is all that remains of my original goal of writing an outline or essay for every MW question for the past 10 years.  The MW Exam Mix is playing frequently on my iPod ® including an eclectic collection of music that for some reason I find very motivational.  This year does feel different from last year.  Last year I was excited beyond belief for the exam, so sure that I had a pass in my hands.  Looking back on my mentality last year I feel like a person at the middle of their life looking back on a young, hopeful and energetic child.  This year, it’s more a steely determination that has replaced the hopeful excitement. The mental state to get through the exam is not about the vast knowledge it requires or the extreme time and financial commitment, although these things are daunting. It is a mental marathon meant to test not only your knowledge but your determination in achieving the goal. This program is not for the faint of heart or mind, however I am resolute in my focus and in my resolve to prevail.  We’ll see how it goes.  Only the results in September will tell if all the preparations have been enough.

 In the meantime I’ll be in the Atlanta area on an Emma Pearl Sales trip in a week or so! Keep your eyes out for the Blue Label!

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