Tuesday, January 26, 2010

There's No Place Like Home!

I love my job. I really do. And I know just how lucky I am in it. I happen to have a job where I get to talk about wine all day. I recently returned from my second trip down to Sonoma Valley/Napa Valley in less than a year. This time around I was sent down with a co-worker so that we could attend the Direct to Consumer Symposium that was being held in Santa Rosa. It was a great symposium that covered the topics of social media and mobile marketing; issues that we, here at Woodward Canyon Winery, are trying to stay ahead of the curve. We have both a Facebook and Twitter account and we are obviously a member of the blogging community. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day that will help us take our social media presence to the next level.

The one draw back about being down in California this past week was the torrential downpour the entire three days! I should have been expecting a bit of rain since it is winter, but I wasn’t and certainly not the amount that we saw. I thought I was getting out of the cold, foggy, wet Pacific Northwest for some warmer weather and sunshine. I’m not sure the last time I was that mixed up about a situation. And if that wasn’t bad enough it was sunny, 60 degrees and gorgeous when the plane landed back in Seattle! Now how’s that for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Santa Rosa is a cute city that reminded me of Walla Walla. The area we were in had a couple of streets filled with restaurants, wine bars and shops that reminded me of Walla Walla's Main Street. It was easy to see where Walla Walla could potentially end up down the road. To me, one of the most interesting facts about Santa Rosa is that the population sits around 161,500 residents which is close to 4 times the size of Walla Walla's population! When I first read that I couldn't believe it. It definitely did not feel that big while we were down there.

The one thing I really appreciated about our little valley is the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance and the Walla Walla Valley maps they put out each year. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong places but in all the tasting rooms I visited in both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley I never once saw a map of either AVA. It made me realize how lucky we are and how hard our Wine Alliance works for us.

For me, one of the nicest things about visiting California was a renewal of my passion for the tasting room and the customer relations part of my job. I had forgotten how much fun I have talking to people and trying to educated them a bit on Woodward Canyon, the Walla Walla Valley and wine in general. The past couple of days back behind the bar have been fun, refreshing and a nice change of pace. And really visiting other areas always reminds me just how much I love living in the Walla Walla Valley

And now I'm off to enjoy some of this nice winter fog! I'm crossing my fingers for some sunshine this weekend. Hope to see everyone soon!



Monday, January 4, 2010

2009 Vintage Overview

We’re off to a new year and technically a new decade as well and I thought the best way to start 2010 would be to wrap up 2009. Not sure if everyone will agree with me but 2009 seemed to go by in a blur. We ended the year the same way we started it – cold in the valley with snow and ice covering the ground, though not as much as last winter. For a vintage that seemed to take forever to get going (I was still wondering where the sunshine and warm weather was in April and May) it ended up being a rather compressed vintage and warmer overall.

The first bud break in our Estate Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley was towards the end of March which starts the process to try to assure that the best possible grapes are harvested. Shoot positioning, leaf stripping, lateral removal and finally cluster thinning are all part of that process. Because of the cooler, wetter spring veraison did not begin until mid July. However, a couple of really hot weeks towards the end of July and into August quickly made up for lost time.

We brought in our first fruit of the vintage, the sauvignon blanc and the chardonnay from the Estate Vineyard, at the end of August. Harvest was a bit compressed as well. Everything seemed to ripen at once which had vineyard crews scrambling to bring everything in at the same time. We have a good crew that finished in our vineyard early and then went with Rick to the Champoux Vineyard to pick our grapes from the Circle Block.

We brought in the last of the fruit the first part of October, which was just in time before the first freeze of the year swept through the valley. It was on the earlier side, the middle of October, and caught some wineries off guard. I hope those that still had fruit hanging were able to pick it shortly afterwards. Now everything is safely tucked in barrel and the wait is on.

Rick is already (or constantly, depending on how you view it) thinking about the vineyard and our next vintage. He is hoping to plant a new cover crop on the terraces next time there is snow on the ground. While he is not overly worried about damage in the vineyard due to the freeze, he won’t know for sure until he checks buds later this month.

Here’s a quick peek on what we’re looking at for the 2009 vintage.

  • The cabernet franc from the Woody Vineyard (our Estate Vineyard) is coming along really nicely. It was cropped back to single cluster per shoot this year and should be a great backbone to the Estate Reserve (formally the Estate Red) program.
  • The cabernet sauvignon from the old hillside out of the Estate Vineyard is also very promising. Almost 20 years old and planted in shallow soil this cabernet will most likely be used to enhance the Estate Reserve and Walla Walla Valley Cabernet programs.
  • Kevin and Rick are considering a separate bottling of around 100 cases of the Woodward Canyon Estate Chardonnay. As they have tasted through the wines both are pleased with all our chardonnay and feel that a few special barrels can stand alone as an Estate bottling.

  • The cabernet from Champoux Vineyard Circle Block and Sagemoor Vineyard Block 3 is looking great. The fruit from those two blocks is what we normally used as the anchor for the “Old Vines” Cabernet program.

  • Rick and Kevin are also excited about what we have in barrel from Champoux Vineyard Block 2.

There’s still a lot of time before the 2009 vintage is in the bottle but it looks like it’s shaping up to be another fine vintage for us. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime I’m enjoying the current releases we have available at the winery. Check out our website for a list of the wines and order online. Also, last week while doing inventory we came across a number of cases of the 2006 “Artist Series” Cabernet in magnum form. If you missed out on purchasing some of the 750s now is your chance to get some of this vintage before we completely sell out of it. We do have plenty of the 2007 "Artist Series" Cabernet available and it's pouring beautifully! And if you have older vintages of the "Artist Series" Cabernet and "Old Vines" Cabernet and aren't sure about opening them, don't forget to check out our drink/hold page on the website. It will give you an idea on when the best time to open them would be.

Sounds like we just had some people come into the tasting room. I’m going to stick my head out and say hello. If you come through the valley this year, stop in and say hi and I’ll pour you some wine. Happy New Year everyone! Hope your new year’s resolution somehow include drinking some amazing wine this year.