Bruliam in 2010 (Part 1)

As we announced a couple of weeks ago, there are many changes afoot for Bruliam Wines in 2010.  Over the course of a few posts, I’ll walk you through the different elements of our new business model and describe how we arrived at various decisions covering some of the major winemaking issues. The first thing we did was examine, identify, and segment the various services that we had received through CrushPad.  We broke down the process into four main categories:  grape sourcing, winemaking, licensing/compliance, and fulfillment. 

I’m going to examine each in some greater detail.  First up, winemaking.

Winemaking encompasses everything “wine” from harvest day when the grapes first arrive at the winery to the final bottling.  For pinot noir, this is usually a 10-12 month period.  For zinfandel, it is 18-24 months.   During that time, the majority of the work is done in two tranches:  i) harvest to press, when the winemaker is consumed with managing fermentation and controlling all of the variables that could quickly ruin the young wine, and ii) blending, which happens about two thirds of the way through the aging process.

The first segment is highly technical.  As you may remember from Kerith’s many posts on the matter, managing fermentation is all about chemistry, disciplined process, and absolute cleanliness.  Blending, on the other hand, is artistry.  This is where the winemaker’s palate, nose, and varietal experience are united.  Through tasting trials, one determines what different clones, vineyard locations, and other variables are best combined through minute permutations to make the very best wine.

Now, think about yourself and your circle of friends and family.  My guess is that you can segment most of the people you know into either the technical or artistic camp, but probably not both.  But when looking for a winemaker to work with us on the 2010 Bruliam wines, this is exactly what we wanted, not just someone who is proficient in both right and left brain talents, but a master of both. 

Fortunately, for us we didn’t have to look very far.

As many of you know, through a combination of wacky circumstances and baked-goods bribery, Clay Mauritson worked with us to craft a small batch of Rockpile zinfandel in the 2009 harvest.  We’re happy to announce that Clay has agreed to become our consulting winemaker for our pinots as well in 2010.  All of our wines will be made at his fantastic facility on Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg (only 5 miles from our place!).

In addition to the award-winning wines that Clay makes under his Mauritson Wines, Rockpile, and Loam brands, Clay and his team also provide consulting winemaking and custom crush services for a number of well-known wine brands in the Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander Valley areas.  Beyond his expertise with Zinfandel, Clay’s most well known foray into pinot noir is through his collaboration with restaurateur and hotelier Charlie Palmer.  Together, they craft the Charlie-Clay and Duelist brands of pinot with grapes sourced from Chef Palmer’s property and other vineyards in the Russian River AVA.

We’re thrilled to have Clay’s expertise behind us as we begin this next stage of Bruliam Wines.  Working with him and his team will provide Kerith and I more opportunity to build up our hands-on winemaking experience during the harvest, aging, and blending periods.

Next up:  we’ll discuss the arduous process of sourcing premium pinot noir grapes and we’ll find out whether Kerith can successfully bake her way up and down the coast of California.