Conversations with Evelyn – Episode No. 2

This is the second in a series of wine related conversations between Taft Street Winemaker Evelyn White and Mike Tierney.

This conversation focuses on Taft Street’s go-to wine – Russian River Valley Chardonnay.

Mike Tierney: Everybody loves our Chardonnay. We won our second BEST OF CLASS award and the wine has just been released. So what’s the secret?

Evelyn White: Our goal is to make fruit forward Chardonnay with enough oak background to add spice and complexity. No 100% malolactic fermentation; no heavy handed use of new French oak: slow sur lees ageing; no over-the-top Chardonnay.

MT: How do you “use” oak?

EW: We want to produce a balanced wine and I feel a selection of good French oak helps bring out the flavors and delicacy we want.

MT: French?

EW: Yes. French oak seems to work particularly well with Chardonnay fruit grown in the Russian River Valley. It works with Pinot Noir as well.

MT: We hear a lot about great wine originating from the vineyard. In many circles it seems the conventional wisdom is the winemaker’s job is simply to not screw up the vinification process. Your reaction?

EW: Let me put it this way. Great wine starts in the vineyard. We are fortunate that our growers are skilled and experienced. The fruit they bring us is hand picked; with high quality components the job of creating the best possible blend is made easier.

MT: We’ve had great success in each of our last three vintages, yet growing conditions varied considerably. Let’s compare 2007, 2008 and 2009.

EW: Away we go.

In 2007 we had an early spring and warm summer. The light harvest was early and the wines were delicate.

In 2008 we had it all: frost, heat waves, high winds and fire. Another early harvest, which was fortunate because heavy rains fell in mid October. A challenging year, but good wines were made.

The 2009 wines that are now in barrel reflect a virtually perfect growing season. Both the Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir arrived in pristine condition and are shaping up to be memorable wines.

MT: Can’t wait.

EW: Me either. Let’s try a barrel sample while we check on my daffodils.

MT: Splendid idea.

Musings – February 15, 2010

Valentine’s Day is past, Mardi Gras is future, and spring has sprung in Sonoma County. I celebrated by buying the first case of 2009 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir.


I took half of it with me and the wife on a weekend trip to Santa Barbara to hang out with Kathy’s sister and her boyfriend. We had the good fortune of being there while the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was in full swing. Saw four films in two days, including a couple of fine films on architect I. M. Pei and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. However, my favorite was a film called OUT OF PLACE, about the subculture of a group of slackers in Cleveland, Ohio, whose collective passion is surfing Lake Erie – in winter! The director, photographer, and several surfers were at the screening, and had a discussion after the film. They seemed normal.

So it’s back home for a few days to catch up with goings on at the winery, keep up with the Winter Olympics, and get the garden ready for serious planting. Then it’s off to Hawaii to spend some time with our pal Joe the coffee grower in Kona. We’ve been going there every February for the past few years; a great way to spend a late winter week. While we’re gone, winemaker Evelyn and Laurie will pour our BEST OF CLASS 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay at the San Francisco Chronicle’s American Wine Competition Awards Tasting at Fort Mason this Saturday, February 20th. If you haven’t been to one of these affairs, do so; they are a true spectacle.

Upon our return from the Big Island we will be blessed by a visit from our son Matt, his wife Anne and his lordship Otto – grandson extraordinaire. They’ll be here for two weeks before returning to Shanghai. Can’t wait.

It’s off to the winery now for our weekly management meeting, and then another conversation with Evelyn. I think we’ll talk about how she manages to continually create scrumptious Chardonnay.

Until next time.

Cheers,

Mike Tierney

President, Taft Street

Musings February 15, 2010

Valentine’s Day is past, Mardi Gras is future, and spring has sprung in Sonoma County. I celebrated by buying the first case of 2009 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir.

I took half of it with me and the wife on a weekend trip to Santa Barbara to hang out with Kathy’s sister and her boyfriend. We had the good fortune of being there while the Santa Barbara International Film Festival was in full swing.

Saw four films in two days, including a couple of fine films on architect I. M. Pei and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard. However, my favorite was a film called OUT OF PLACE, about the subculture of a group of slackers in Cleveland, Ohio, whose collective passion is surfing Lake Erie – in winter! The director, photographer, and several surfers were at the screening, and had a discussion after the film. They seemed normal.





So it’s back home for a few days to catch up with goings on at the winery, keep up with the Winter Olympics, and get the garden ready for serious planting. Then it’s off to Hawaii to spend some time with our pal Joe the coffee grower in Kona. We’ve been going there every February for the past few years; a great way to spend a late winter week. While we’re gone, winemaker Evelyn and Laurie will pour our BEST OF CLASS 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay at the San Francisco Chronicle’s American Wine Competition Awards Tasting at Fort Mason this Saturday, February 20th. If you haven’t been to one of these affairs, do so; they are a true spectacle.

Upon our return from the Big Island we will be blessed by a visit from our son Matt, his wife Anne and his lordship Otto – grandson extraordinaire. They’ll be here for two weeks before returning to Shanghai. Can’t wait.

It’s off to the winery now for our weekly management meeting, and then another conversation with Evelyn. I think we’ll talk about how she manages to continually create scrumptious Chardonnay.

Until next time.

Cheers,

Mike Tierney

President, Taft Street

CONVERSATIONS WITH EVELYN, No 1

This is the first in a series of conversations between President Mike Tierney and winemaker Evelyn White on wine related topics and enjoying the fruits of our labors.

Since we have just released our 2009 Sonoma County Rose of Pinot Noir, the making of rose seems an appropriate place to start.

Mike Tierney: There are a couple of methods of making rose′; “saignee” being the process of bleeding off juice from grapes that have been left soaking in tanks for several hours.

Evelyn White: Right. That’s been the rage recently in certain wine circles. The juice is bled off, and the remaining wine becomes more concentrated as the result of more skin contact. That wine is then used in the preparation of the red wine blend.

MT: But we don’t do that.

EW: No. We treat the grapes solely for rose′ wine production. We let the grapes sit in bins for 12 hours, and then put whole clusters through a gentle press cycle. The wine undergoes a slow cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks in order to preserve the freshness of the fruit. No oak is used.

MT: Other differences?

EW: Yes. We choose a vineyard (or block) with only rose′ in mind. The grapes are picked a bit earlier than our regular Pinot Noir, so they have higher acidity and lower alcohol. The result is a fresh and crisp wine.

MT: You hit this one out of the park. Great color, fruit and balance.

EW: Thanks. Looking forward to enjoying this wine during Spring Training.

Chocolate Torte and Zin = Valentine Treat

This one has LOVE all over it.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup flour
  • Powdered sugar
  • 2 cups berries (raspberries, blackberries, strawberries)
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter a 10 inch springform pan; dust with sugar.
  2. Melt sugar and butter in saucepan over low heat stirring often. Cool, stir in sugar. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla, salt and flour. Pour into pan.
  3. Bake about 35 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool.
  4. Dust with sugar, add berries for garnish. Dust with sugar again.

This and a bottle or two of 2007 Taft Street Russian River Zinfandel Cobblestone Vineyard will delight eight people.

Winter in the Wine Country

The skies opened up in January, helping ease a three year drought by filling local reservoirs and bringing significant snowfall in the Sierras. More rain is in sight and it is welcomed. As the vines are dormant this time of year there has been virtually no harm to the vineyards.

Our bottling schedule is ramping up. The 2009 Sonoma County Rose′ of Pinot Noir is now in bottle and will be released later this month. We will soon bottle our 2009 Russian River Valley Riesling for a spring release. After that we will bottle our 2008 Pinot Noirs: the 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir; and the 2008 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Garagistes.

Had the usual crazy time at this year’s ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco. Thousands of people attended and we poured nonstop from 10 am until the final buzzer at 5pm. Evelyn, Rick, Heather and I met lots of old friends and made dozens of new ones. We’ll do it again later this month (February 20th) at the San Francisco Chronicle’s Wine Competition public tasting, also held at Fort Mason. We’ll pour our 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a BEST OF CLASS award winner.

Positive critical reviews continue, this month from the highly regarded CONNOISSEURS’ GUIDE TO CALIFORNIA WINE. Our 2007 Russian River Valley Zinfandel Cobblestone Vineyard was awarded ONE STAR (Fine example of a type or style of wine): “This well made Zinfandel is another nice reminder that ripeness and defined fruit need not be mutually exclusive, for while a fleshy and full-bodied wine that shows a glimmer of heat here and there, it is fixed on sweet berries from front to back and gets a good boost in richness from its carefully placed oak. Its juicy leanings make it easy to like now, but it has the virtues of structure and depth and will evolve positively over the next several years.”

The 2008 Russian River Valley Chardonnay also received ONE STAR: “Here is a nicely focused, pleasantly fruit, mid-sized Chardonnay that will be a perfect mate to a wide variety of dishes. Its fruit is keyed on the sweet apple part of the varietal spectrum, and its balance of acid and medium-full body is enhanced by its fairly smooth and inviting texture. It is precise, pristine and priceworthy. GOOD VALUE

Check out our online specials, our CONVERSATION WITH EVELYN series, the SF Chronicle Tasting, and the upcoming Russian River Wine Road Barrel Tasting. Or just stop on by for some West County hospitality. There’s a lot going on at Taft Street.

Cheers,

Mike Tierney
President, Taft Street Winery