Bruliam Wine Blog
- You are here: Bruliam Wines
This weekend marks our annual pinot noir release party, and the public inauguration of our home ranch, Torrey Hill Vineyard. It goes without saying that I’m all nerves. Our 2012 rose of pinot noir is a mix of juice from Gap’s Crown (Sonoma Coast) and our own Torrey Hill (Russian River Valley). It’s roughly a 65%/45% mix of that high-pedigree, well-known, name dropping vineyard site with scrappy Torrey Hill. The fruit we harvested last year wasn’t grown under my jurisdiction. Those viticulture choices (pruning, irrigation, pest control, shoot thinning) predated our ownership. But since then, we’ve been working diligently to return Torrey Hill to its former peak physique (back when RoPa* scored it in the 90’s). We’ve replanted dead vines and pruned judiciously. We are dedicated to preserving the gloriously twisted old vines at the north end of the block. But what’s most critical for the 2013 harvest is what’s happening in the vineyard right now.
T. S. Eliot wrote “April is the cruellest month” because he doesn’t own a vineyard. May is much worse. Around here, May means bloom. If you drive past a vineyard, you won’t notice much of anything. But if you walk the rows and examine the developing inflorescenses, there’s a lot of sexy going on. Stamens unfurl to reveal their pollen-bearing anther tips. These are boy parts. The calyptra, a cap of fused petals, peels open and dehiscences from the ovary base. The ballooning cap is shed like gossamer layers in a sultry, strip tease burlesque. The swollen stigma (girl parts) is ready to receive pollen. Liberated pollen trickles from stamen tips to the stigma. And the miracle of fertilization begins. If you get an embryo, a grape berry soon follows.
My grapevines are perfect. I’m not just biased because I’m the owner. They really are. Most cultivated varietals are bred to have functional male and female parts. Grape vines are pretty self-reliant that way. Grapevines self-pollinate, usually with great success. There is such a thick concentration of flowers across such a small area, that pollen needn’t travel far to get lucky. Parents: it’s OK to let the kids read this post. Birds and bees are not involved. In fact, insect pollination is of minimal importance in my backyard. What I do care about is heat. According to Dr. Andy Walker at UC Davis, nutrition, disease and competition are important factors too. Luckily this season has been mild, warm, and sunny. We should have an estimate for fruit set and yield in a few weeks. I don’t expect 2013 to repeat the heavy-weight records of the 2012 season, but I’ve got my fingers crossed we’ll yield over a ton.
|Yield||0.775 tons||1.017 tons||1.14 tons||Wowza!|
To recap (or re-cal-yptra), vineyard bloom happens on the micro-scale. Luckily grapevines self-pollinate; their pathetic blooms barely attract a passing flea. During bloom, the “male” anthers mature, open, and release pollen (anthesis), while “lady part” flower caps loosen and fall off. The shedding and transfer of pollen from stamen to stigma lead to fertilization. Pollen germination is followed almost immediately by fruit set.
Petals loosen at their proximal bases until the cap is discarded, releasing the stamens.
Full bloom- Look closely and observe individual flowers about to lose their caps. Others show flowers after stamens have unfurled (anthesis). Each flower has 5 stamens, each topped by a pollen-laden anther.
*RoPa being a one-person moniker like Madonna or J.Lo, not to be confused with couple monikers like KFed, TomKat, or Brangelina
J. E. HEAZLEWOOD and S. WILSON, Anthesis, pollination and fruitset in Pinot Noir, School of Agricultural Science, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Vitis 43 (2), 65–68 (2004)
Please join us on Saturday May 18th from 2pm to 3:30pm at Cucina Urbana for our Spring Release Party. We’ll be pouring 5 new wines and the restaurant will be serving up delicious snacks.
Tickets are $30/person. For more information and to register, please click here.
“Where you are is as important as where you aren’t.” A friend from a very high profile winery was offering me marketing advice. Explaining why her winery doesn’t participate in those ubiquitous, cattle call consumer tastings, she said, “It’s the company you keep.” In other words, she cautioned me against pouring Bruliam at consumer events populated by mass-market, supermarket brands. She urged me to seek out events showcasing the wineries I most admire and want to emulate. It’s good advice. Look at Katie Holmes. She transformed from a mousey TV kid dating Chris Klein into paparazzi cat nip when she started dating Tom Cruise. Maybe that’s not the best example.
Brian and I recently revisited a longtime favorite sushi joint in SoCal. Their sushi is outstanding, and their wine list is what you’d expect from a sushi house. It’s salient only because they’d carried our friend’s chardonnay for many years. I’d usually order a glass before diving into requisite sake. But recently, their wine list had changed, which piqued my interest. The wine list was still only about 5 whites and 5 reds but new selections. Each wine was listed by winery, grape varietal and location. It was pretty standard- XXXX Winery, Cabernet, Chile, and so forth. Most curious was the final entry, XXX Winery, blend, Central Coast. I’d already downed a mini cup of sake.
“Hey Brian, what kind of blend do you think it is?” I pondered aloud. I never actually intended to drink it. “Should I ask the waiter?”
“Don’t be an a^%hole,” Brian snapped. But I couldn’t resist. I had a compulsion to know. I flagged down the waiter and asked him. Of course he had no idea. But his spunk took me by surprise.
“I should know more about this wine if I’m gonna sell it. Let me ask the bartender. I’ll be right back.”
Kudos to Surfer Sam for his gumption. I don’t actually expect a 20-something Southern California stereotype to know much about wines. I didn’t know much about wines at his age either, and I certainly lacked the energy and customer service finesse to make it through college by waiting tables. He soon circled back as he’d promised.
“It’s a blend of dark fruit,” he pronounced. He paused and added, “It’s probably cured in some kind of clay cask or mud since it’s called XXXX. Or maybe it’s just stored in there.”
In that moment, it sounded hilarious. I burst out laughing. And I couldn’t stop. Seriously, a blend of dark fruit? Like blueberry wine from Paso Robles? I know. I’m an a^%hole. And I risk sounding like even more of a pompous jerk by confessing my abhorrent manners. Bless his heart, Surfer Sam was only trying to do his job well and upsell us on the fried banana dessert.
The point is, at Bruliam we are extremely lucky. Each of our restaurant partners share in common a wine-loving, well educated, front of the house staff who convey our story with conviction and pride. After all, Bruliam is a hand sell. It takes a waiter/waitress five times as much work to sell a bottle of our wine compared to a Williams Selyem or Paul Hobbs. The average consumer with average wine knowledge has no idea we exist. They may hear “Rockpile zinfandel” and conjure pink stuff in a box. They might confuse pinot noir with pinot gris or pinot grigio or pinotage. But our secret weapon is a wait staff with the patience and presence to share our story and mission. They sell my wine when I can’t. Plus they remind consumers that even wines that smell or taste like blackberries come from grapes.
For the first time ever, I’ve taken Bruliam on the road. After 18 months of waffling over whether or not to join the Sonoma County Vintners Association, we broke down and committed to marketing in earnest. This week, I traveled to Dallas to pour my wines alongside 47 other Sonoma County wineries. The event was quite an extravaganza – a three hour trade tasting followed by a three hour consumer tasting. I vowed to wear sensible shoes.
All of my past consumer events have been casual. Folks wear flip flops and shorts to Pinot on the River. Last year we even poured cold, craft beer to rehydrate overheated tasters with pinot weary palates. Since these are marketing events, I try to wear my logo T-shirt. It’s a conversation starter, and inevitably some sloppy lush staggers over to tell me how I ripped off the TV program Breaking Bad. If he goes on to scrawl some illegible hieroglyphics on my signup sheet, I know it’s a day well spent.
I approached the Dallas tasting like Pinot Days and WOPN – in jeans and my “Bu” logo t shirt. Minutes later, a fellow vintner approached me to say hello. He looked me up and down and pronounced, “Kerith, you look like a farmer.” I don’t think it was a compliment. He was wearing chinos, a crisp, white button down and a sport coat. I looked around the room. Only a handful of vintners were wearing jeans, and nobody was in a t-shirt. It was too late to change outfits; the trade tasting was about to begin. I shared a table with the sales rep from Paul Hobbs Crossbarn. She was in a smart, printed wrap dress and low heels. As the trade trickled in, she leaned over and confided that she never wears makeup, expect for Dallas. I frantically groped around in my handbag for some Blistex. All I got was an old Trader Joe’s granola bar and a Band-Aid. I was doomed.
During the consumer tasting, women floated from table to table like exotic flowers. In spectacular, printed silk blouses topped with coral or bright blue coats, their clothes shouted “welcome spring!” Younger consumers in cocktail dresses and stilettos teetered over the spit buckets. Even the young men sported a prep school aesthetic. The room looked more like a fraternity formal than wine tasting – especially compared to ZAP. I felt shamefully underdressed. And I still had 2 ½ hours to go.
New braces compounded my humiliation. I’m still navigating my 12 months of orthodontic purgatory, and my articulation is awful. I shouted above the din, trying to share our story. “Bruliam – it’s named after our kids, Bruno, Lily, and Amelia.” Only my garbled verbiage sounded like “Bungo, Lisa, and Meena.” A guy asked me, “Who names their kid Bungo?” Another consumer named Lisa vowed to buy my wine since she shares her name with my daughter. I wonder how long I can sustain the lie. A third gent said, “At least I’m really good at reading lips.” I wanted to pull out my hair, expect it was pushed up under a giant foam cowboy hat (just kidding). The harder I tried to enunciate, the worse I sounded. My inner cheek kept getting hung up on the spikes decorating my punk rock molars. At least I’d worn sensible shoes. Nobody noticed my sneakers under the table.
It’s exciting and exhilarating to expand our winery into new markets. Both the trade and consumer tasters in Dallas were gracious, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about my wines. In fact, I was surprised to meet so many pinot lovers in a city known for steakhouses (and by default, cabernet). They forgave my wardrobe malfunction, and I learned a lesson about pouring wine in big cities. Last night I poured at a trendy hotel for an event sponsored by the Wall Street Journal. I wore a dress.
As a first step towards the 2013 harvest, Kerith and the crew recently pruned our estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley – Torrey Hill.
Check out the video below. We’re even offering a donation to the charity of your choice for the first person to correctly identify the source of the background music.
If you can’t see the video below, please click here.