Monday, August 31, 2009

Behind the Cellar Doors: #1 My Garage

Behind the Cellar Doors...

With my trusty flip video in hand, my plan is to chronicle what it's like to be the winemaker and a Working Girl at Olympic Cellars over the next few months.

To start it off, I took a video of my garage, the portal to my home office. For me this is where each day begins before I go to the winery or travel to promote our wines.

Why the garage... well it's better looking than my office with a lot of history of the winery. But I will suck it up and let you see my office on the next video (Yikes... an office tells you so much about a person!)

Then I will take you behind the scenes of one of the oldest wineries in Washington.

Together we'll orchestrate the delivery of grapes, hold our aching backs as we shovel each ton of grapes during crush, sweat with us during punchdown, hear the music of the cellar during fermentation, get purple finger nails and hands during press, blend wine for bottling, be part of the bottling crew...

And if that's not enough...

Benoit, our winemaker, will take us through the winemaking process from grape to bottle.

And, during the busy harvest, the tasting room keeps rocking...

You'll experience a day behind our bar and visit with our guests, throw a harvest party and grape stomp, attend a winemaker dinner and finally enjoy some wine with the Olympic Cellars team at the end of a long busy day... Benoit, Molly, Lisa and me.

So stay tuned for this documentary of a artisan, full production winery in Washington on the Olympic Peninsula.


Senate Band at Olympic Cellars - YouTube

Friends of Olympic Cellars,

Another “Hot August Nights Concert Series” is over and what a year! Over 850 tickets were sold and the partnership with our non-profits was a resounding success. In total we were able to donate over $5,300.

Thank you to all the volunteers from the organizations listed below. They worked extremely hard to help us at the winery each Saturday night. It’s not an easy task to work a “party” of between 100-350 folks. Set-up, bar duty and clean-up was part of the Win-Win Partnership with our donation of all the ticket sales. Best of all, I got to dance!

Check out YouTube.

I posted two short videos of the Senate Band. We had our own mini-Woodstock Anniversary on August 15 with over 350 in attendance. It was a spectacular night and this is just an example of the talent that performs at the winery each year. (End of Song Jam) (Song Pied Piper)

Partnering non-profit organizations and how they will use their portion of the ticket donations: Family Planning Clinic of Clallam County (women’s health care), Homeward Bound (affordable housing education), Port Angeles Farmers' Market (tables/chairs to promote community gathering at the market), YMCA (child care program) and Built Green (promote & educate… sustainable local resources and culture).


Ps. We’re planning 3 intimate winery concerts this winter. Of course, they will be indoors. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yum, YUM... Julie and Julia

Just got back from the movies... Julie and Julia. Spur of the moment, ate some French Brie to get in the mood (actually that was all that I had in the fridge).

Still laughing out loud. Ate a whole box of popcorn with double butter and I know in the morning I will have Feet Spread from the salt! Oh well, it was worth it.

I did come away with an idea to replace The Wine Advocate Rating System developed by Robert Parker. Instead of rating wines on a 50 to 100 point scale...

Wines will be rated on my new "Yum" scale. It's a whole lot simpler and transcends all geographical and language barriers...

Yummiest (I want what she's having!)

I'm just about to open a bottle of Amarone. I'm already anticipating the Yummiest, best ever, end to a perfect day.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Wine Journey

(The second in my 3-part series, "Wine... Doing It YOUR Way").

I've told the story before about how I came about owning a winery but never talked much about my wine experience or knowledge prior to getting into the business.

So, I guess you can call this, "true confession time..."

Truth be known, when I started drinking wine in the 70's, I liked my reds served 'cold.' I was even known to use an ice cube or two to get the wine to the proper temperature.

As I think about it now, the wait staff at the restaurants back then never even flinched or rolled their eyes when I asked for a 'cold' Merlot. I was never made to feel dumb about wine.

The only problem was... by the time they got my wine cold, it usually ended up being served with my dessert!

Then I went through a phase where I dipped bread into my red wine throughout the meal (you could always tell where I sat at the table... drips and crumbs.)

Not sure how that phase came about (maybe I watched too many Italian movies) but thank goodness I got over it fairly fast.

On To REAL Wines?

Guess you could say my first real wine breakthrough was in the late 80's when I started buying 750 ml bottles instead of 1.5 liter 'jug' bottles.

I was living in Dallas back then. I remember I'd had a particularly tough day at work and decided to stop by the liquor store for some wine. There was a new display of wine stuff that featured a t-shirt with the all too familiar saying... "Life Is Too Short To Buy Cheap Wine."

Whatever, I ended up switching aisles -- from jug wines to racks of wine with lots of shelf talkers (you know those 2x3 cards that describe why you should pick that wine).

I was soon overwhelmed with wine descriptions that were way over my head and in some cases sounded almost like passages from a romance novel (voluptuous, full mouth feel, lay this one down for a few years!). Yeah, right!

But the shelf talkers worked... because it seemed I only bought wines with flapping tags and catchy phrases.

Business dinners, travel and a few more dollars added to my wine budget helped expand my wine education further.

At this point in my journey, I was not overly curious or particularly knowledgeable. I found a wine I liked and basically stuck to it unless something was on sale and I got adventurous.

This is about when I knew enough to 'think' I knew something about wine. Got snobbish about corks vs. screw caps, swirled and sniffed before I tasted and started spouting wine speak (those shelf talkers gave me enough information to talk intelligently -- for about 10 seconds).

To this day I can still remember the first Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon I ever tasted. I was at a business dinner and our host ordered Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet. I think this is when I first really "tasted a wine," concentrating on the flavors, the aroma, the experience...

Off To Wine Country...

I didn't stop there. Shortly, I was off to my first wine tasting vacation in Napa. I came home with a very expensive case of... you guessed it... Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet.

I proudly displayed that wine in my new wine rack, both placed in my Dallas kitchen just under the west wall window (aka, the hottest spot in the house).

It wasn't long before I noticed wine seeping from the capsules of the bottles. Of course, I had cooked the wine and most of it went bad; an expensive way to learn about the proper storage of wine.

Years passed and I continued tasting and enjoying wines from around the world. It was during this time, while still at Texas Instruments, that I bought Olympic Cellars in 1999.

I was traveling extensively with TI then and remember coming back from India once. I dragged onto the plane, tired and not looking forward to the 36 hour trip. All I wanted was a good glass of wine. I was in business class (none of those little bottles for me) and kept rejecting the wines the flight attendant served. Unfortunately, I was seated by my boss who by now was embarrassed and told me to "just pick one!"

Had I become a wine snob?

Nope, I just knew the style of wine I liked... BB&B (Big, Bold and Beautiful)!

Obviously, my wine journey hadn't prepared me for running a winery.

But it did mold my thinking and later my decisions on the wines we would eventually make here at Olympic Cellars.

My wine journey had been just that... a journey.

I could have stopped it at "Merlot over Ice" and that would have been okay because that was the style of wine I enjoyed.

Remember, it's all about "Wine... Doing It YOUR Way!"


. Next time, it's the third and final installment in this series. And it's my favorite story, "My Mer-Lot Couple." Don't miss it.