Bruliam Wine Blog
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With harvest 2014 winding down, Kerith decided to have a little fun at the winery by challenging another winemaker to a grape shoveling contest.
Check out the short video below to see if her muscle could match her mouth in the Harvest Smackdown.
If you can’t see the video below, please click here:
What do you do with a B.A. in English? One option is to make wine!
Check out our second harvest video of 2014, pressing the Torrey Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir.
If you can’t see the video below, please click here.
And remember, today is our final day for the Fall Release. If you haven’t already placed your allocation orders, click here to login and purchase.
It’s been a busy week at Bruliam. Yesterday we kicked off Harvest 2014 by picking our home ranch Torrey Hill pinot noir vineyard and we rolled out the Fall Release by offering the 2012 Rockpile Zin and 2012 Soberanes Pinot Noir to mailing list members.
If you’re a member of our mailing list, you should have already received an email from us with login and purchasing decisions.
And if you want a glimpse at Harvest 2014, check out the video below (if you can’t see the video click here):
Nothing about bottling day is hard, but everything about bottling day is difficult. Glass bottles, metal foils, corks, and labels are handled separately, each procured from unique vendors. You can have your labels printed at any time, but they are illegal to use until approved by the government. If your approval paperwork is misfiled or delayed, you might end up ordering labels before they are actually approved. This is a potentially costly gamble. On the other hand, biting your nails and awaiting approval first may necessitate a “rush order” to the printer, with no guarantee you’ll have your completed labels in time. Bottling unlabeled glass, called “shiners,” can be equally costly.
At Bruliam, we use a spreadsheet to calculate our wine volumes. It’s really a guess. You have a wine barrel of fixed volume (228L), and you guestimate your losses. There’s evaporation from the top of the barrel, called headspace. There’s also a volume lost to lees. It’s a by-product of my winemaking style, known as “sur lies” aging. It means I keep the wine with the original yeast, holding onto the ghosts of harvest past until the very end. The skeletons of dead yeast settle to the bottom of the barrel, sponging up some volume of wine with them. You’ll also lose volume to filtration, although it’s far less now since we switched to cross flow from pads. The delta between the volume of wine we think we have versus what we actually bottle means we always order too much or too little product. I’m now the proud owner of giant trivet made of “2013” embossed corks, leftover from my rose. I forgot to have the corks rehydrated and resealed in time to reuse them for the 2013 pinots. It’s now a trivet of regret, since Brian miscalculated our current cork order, and we ended up 500 short.
As I write this on the night before bottling, I think I’ve got it under control – that is until there’s a new, unforeseen implosion tomorrow at the bottling line. Since last Friday, we have mitigated the cork shortage disaster and solved one glass problem with another. We’d originally anticipated a bottling line change, where we’d have to swap out the majority glass mold for a measly 26 cases of another. (Apparently the glass mold we’ve been using for years has been discontinued). On the bright side, we don’t have to stop the bottling line anymore. Everyone is relieved. On the flip side, the 26 cases of fallback glass, my “calculation-cushion” if you will, doesn’t exist. The warehouse forgot to delete that line item from inventory back in 2011. Whoops. If I’m lucky, I will sneak by with just enough glass, exactly on the money. But Brian has suggested I take an Excel class at community college this spring.
The best news is that our new Torrey Hill label was approved two weeks ago, some 10 days after we placed the order with the printer. And the wine is delightful. In fact all of the 2013’s are tasting great. I am very proud of the vintage. But I don’t want to get all sappy and quixotic about my wood-fermented 2013 Soberanes pinot when you’re all about to get the 2012. Get ready for the 2012 release and drink to bottling day 2013. Before we blink, we’ll be onto the 2014 harvest.
Update 8/20/2014 – so far so good. The 2013 Torrey Hill is in bottle. Now on to the next ones:
He looked around, bewildered. The artful place settings, the intimate adjoining tables, and the clever use of scientific beakers for water jugs looked both HGTV perfect and composed with ease. He picked at a bit of deer Bolognese, a textured nibble floating the gloriously hued heirloom gazpacho; it reflected the color of my summer rose. He chewed. He sipped appreciatively. Dazzled, he queried, “How did you get here?” “Here” meaning Sparrow Bar + Cookshop in Houston. “Here” meaning Bruliam Wines paired alongside a James Beard nominated Chef, a Top Chef Masters Chef, and a pro at the top of her game. “Here” meaning the utter impossibility of my presence, an honor more befitting a 100-point Wine Spectator darling. I was a flea freeloading on a Kennel Club champion.
“Oh, I stalked Chef,” I tossed out nonchalantly.
“Really, she did.” I hadn’t seen Chef come up behind me. She tossed an arm over my shoulder and smiled. At least she wasn’t mad anymore. Or freaked out.
Like a recovering alcoholic, I’d cycled through waves of emotion – naive exuberance, hopeful daydreaming, angst, shame, and finally grateful acceptance. The road from New York Times centerfold to summer in Houston had been unexpected and ultimately delightful.
Chef Monica Pope is a sprite, a small-framed woman with a hip, pixie haircut and soft, Southern drawl. Imagine Gordon Ramsey screaming “You stupid donkey!” in Hell’s Kitchen. Chef Monica is not that kind of celebrity chef. And I’m lucky for it, or I’d never have pulled off this coup of a wine dinner. But you all want to hear the about the centerfold bit, don’t you? It’s not as sexy as you think. It’s the New York Times.
Many, many months ago, Brian shared with me a NYT photo-op titled “Houston is Tasty.” It featured all kinds of Houston chefs, from Tex-Mex to barbeque to pastry. But Chef Monica caught my eye, and I started Googling. I checked out her menu (inventive and delicious) and her bio (amazing). Her food ethos exactly reflected the sort of joint where I’d envisioned my wines. Well, at least in my unbiased opinion. Next step: make contact. The contact us button on her public website links to “email@example.com.” By default, I guessed her personal e-mail must be “Chef@sparrowhouston.com” or “Chefmonica@sparrowhouston.com” or “Chefpope@sparrowhouston.com.” So I e-mailed every possible permutation. Sometimes being borderline OCD is an asset. When she responded, out of pity, or kindness, or both, I pleaded my case. I begged her to meet me at my distributor’s portfolio tasting. And when she agreed, I baked her cookies to bribe and woo her affections. In between, I’d sent 100′s of e-mails and personal notes. After swearing not to contact her family or come within 100 feet her of her personal residence, we were square. Now that we’re BFF’s, she can look back and feel flattered, not frightened.
I will spare you the bulk of the food porn. But truly, the menu was wild, unexpected, and absolutely scrumptious. She paired the Sangiacomo vineyard pinot with the most beautiful composed salad of avocado and sweet, yellow watermelon to lift the wine’s red fruit character and acidity. Wow! Surprise!
Next came the Torrey Hill alongside lamb lollipops with a berry reduction and a surreptitious hit of heat. Wow!
She completed the meal by pairing the Gaps Crown with gulf shrimp floating in coconut, Asian 5 spice curry. To my palate, the 2012 Gaps has more grip than the 2011, and her creamy broth rounded out any edges. Wow! Every pairing showcased unexpected nuances and flavors, making my wines sing. My heart was swelling, and I beamed with pride. Even better, we raised money to support Recipe 4 Success Foundation, a local, Houston charity.
If you are having food envy, don’t despair just yet. I am honored to host another wine dinner in Houston this fall. Please consider joining me at Brennan’s in November. It will be a joyful and delicious way to celebrate the end of another successful harvest.