Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Silly anti-wine laws

I really think it is just ridiculous how wine (beer & spirits too) is regulated in this country. Prohibition ended 75 years ago, can't we move on at this point?  It is a mess of regulation to get the proper permits to sell wine for each state and that's not enough!  Each county then can decide how to restrict wine being shipped and sold.  Hard to believe we still have counties that are "dry" in the USA.  The fact that Napa County will not allow wineries to serve food is also a stupid thing to do if you want to promote responsible wine consumption.  The latest news that got me started is a stupid New York state law that prohibits a wine shop (illegal to buy wine in a grocery store, of course) from selling wine gift bags.  This poor shop owner gets a $10000 fine for having a bag available to put your wine in.  Just so odd it is hard to believe...

Top 10 stupid wine laws:
10. Required state owned wine stores (good luck finding a good selection) 
9. Utah
8. Dry Counties
7. Bans on buying wine at a food stores (just too convenient)
6. No wine on Sundays
5. No food in Napa wineries (except two grandfathered in)
4. The three tier racket (greedy distributor arm twisting, leagal mobsters)
3. Franchise states (ties into number 4, means you cannot fire your under performing distributor)
2. The stupid argument that these laws exist to protect children

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Its cold outside...

Snow in Napa yesterday. This picture however is not Napa. The snow melted as it hit the ground but it was still rather exciting. The bad news I want our Cabernet to finish up ML fermentation and the colder the wine, the slower the fermentation. Go, bacteria, go! (Technical note: the reason that one would want their red wine to complete ML quickly is so one could then add sulfur dioxide which protects the wine from nasty microbes and smelly oxidation.) The wines will hit the lab in a few days for a check-up. Fingers are crossed.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our First Review!

Our first review that we know of anyway. Joe Roberts of 1winedude.com gave our wine a spin and here is a clip of what he had to say.

"The nose is dominated by black plum, with a hint of dried black fruits and elegant spice (rather than hefty oak). After several minutes in the glass, pepper and dried herbs start to creep out, and once in a while you sniff some wet dirt (but in a good way).

Take a sip, and and the fruits get a little more red (cherries and currants), but still "feel" dried. The tannins are smooth but almost coffee-thick, and the coffee notes stick around on a finish that is almost half a minute long."

see whole review here

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wax or no?

I read Steve Heimoff's blog about "wax" seals on wine bottles with much interest.  I use this method for some of the wines at Jarvis and really like the look.  Today I opened thirty or so "wax" sealed bottles myself and I must agree it is not that easy to do.  The quotes around wax are there because the "wax" contains no wax and is really plastic.  It is fairly easy to apply by hand and looks really good but is it worth it?  

I think it is.  First, it has to be applied by hand by someone that takes a lot of care to make it look good.  This hand crafted feature is important to a luxury product.  Second, it stands out visually as different and special.  

To make it actually possible to open one of these bottles I am working on a device that will score a ring in the "wax" while it is still soft.  The ring should break off easily when the cork is removed.  At least that's the plan...I will have to get a bottle to Steve when the design is complete.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Grapes

A classic close up of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. If you look close you can see the individual grapes are a bit shriveled from the heat. The sugars here are not that high but the heat has sucked out some of the water. You can also see the stems are a nice bright green which tells you the vine is still healthy. I brought these grapes in before they dried out, some brave souls wait till they look like raisins. Way in the background is my sweet new truck.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Harvest 2008

Now that the crazy blur that is harvest is over I had a minute to look at some pics I took. Here is our Midoriya Cabernet being crushed as Jeff Fontanella and Amy Aiken of Meander look over the process. All that shiny equipment is brand new for 2008. Oh, and the dog just happens to be named Payton.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ratings: Love to hate them

Alder at Vinography got me thinking today, do I really want to get my wine rated?  As a new, super small production winery why do I need great scores to sell my wine?  No, probably not.  Screw the ratings.  I am proud of my wine and I want people to taste it and make their own judgements.  

In an ideal world sure, people would seek out unknown treasures on their own and not pay attention to what the media tells them.  But this is not how the consumer works in a market saturated in wine.  So while my business partner says no, I think yes, lets submit the wine, get the name out there.  And what can happen?  

1. A good review and it helps sell the wine. (here comes the fame and fortune)
2. A bad review and nobody ever will read it.(what review?)
3 No review at all (a la Alder in today's post

Monday, October 27, 2008

LISTED Rose by Prime Cellars

We have your wine for Turkey Day. We were actually testing out a stuffing recipe and discovered that our LISTED Rose was the perfect compliment. The stuffing received a thumbs up too (recipe link)! What is LISTED Rose you may ask? Well there are some of you that have had the opportunity to try this surprise late addition to our line up, but we will let the rest of you in on the secret. Opportunity knocked and winemaker Ted was able to create this beautiful ripe but dry wine from some juice that came available in late 2007. Full of fresh fruit and fermented till it was dry, those of you who think of Rose as a sweet dessert wine will have to rethink Rose. Not only will this wine taste lovely with dinner it will also bring a splash of color to the table!

At $13/bottle there is still money left over for poker after dinner (or is that just our family?).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In Wine Country

While at Taylor's Automatic Refresher (Napa version)  today I spied television personality Mary Babbit setting up to profile Taylors for her show "In Wine Country".  She seems like a genuine nice person who loves what she does.  Check out the show- she interviews a lot of interesting wine personalities at places.  Its on NBC and thanks to Tivo I have no idea when it airs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Breakdown art

I happened across the website of bobointriguingobjects.com and has Bobo been busy.  They are making art-furniture out of my mystery Italian carboy basket thing (minus the basket).  Never seen one of these before and now I want to make a lamp out of mine when its empty.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Breakdown...such a pain

Funny how some things can just be so annoying.  

In the game of winemaking one of the most important rules is keeping the wine away from air.  This is usually done by keeping the wine in a vessel (such as a: tank, barrel, jug, bottle, keg, carboy, demijohn, puncheon, pipe, hogshead, cask etc.) topped up to the very top so there is no space for air to occupy.  This means "breaking down" larger vessels into smaller topped ones.

So here I am with several full, topped up barrels and one barrel of Cabernet Franc that is about 10 gallons low and one barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon that has only about 25 gallons in it.  I have a great plan to use a nice half barrel (30gal) from Jarvis to fill with Cab Sauv and then just top it with Cab Franc.  Then I realize- what am I going to do with 45gal of Cab Franc?  Great, now I have to take back the barrel and try plan B.  

Plan B is to use the Cab Sauv to top the Cab Franc barrel and then breakdown the balance (~15 gal) into a keg.  Of course I seemed to have misplaced my keg so I take a trip to the store to find out that the world is out of kegs right now because of some dispute in China.  OK , what else is available? This thing pictured above (except mine has clear glass):  some sort of Italian basket, glass jug thing that holds 34 Liters.  "I'll take it" I say before seeing the hay and what could be feathers between the basket and the glass.  This must be how they make Chianti I think to myself.  

Well the very odd 34 Liter container (I'm sure it has a cool name) leaves be something like 6 gallons short so I can use one of my trusty carboys (5 gal) and a standard one gallon jug (think Carlo Rossi).  Of course this never works out as planned and I am a half gallon short.  Oh well, lucky for my I have a bunch of half gallon jugs on hand.  The headache is over, till next month when I top all the barrels again and use up some jugs and go looking for the next odd, yet to be named container to breakdown into.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Green light for Nevada!

Tell all your friends in Nevada that Prime Cellars is able to ship to them. We have to send them a report each month whether we ship wine there or not so lets make it worth our 42 cents people!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chardonnay- halfway there?

Ok, the first ever Prime Chardonnay is done with primary fermentation.  This is good news, the threat of the dreaded stuck fermentation is over (the Cabernet however is still plugging along- but that's another story).  

This brings up the question: Now What?  Typically in Napa we try and force the poor Chard through malolactic fermentation to get a rounder mouthfeel and tame the acids.  At a recent wedding (congrats Sara&Mike!) I brought this topic up with a fellow guest over a glass of wine.  She actually told me she would "kick my ass" if I put the Chard through malo.  Wow, I guess people have strong opinions about this.  

I was leaning the non-ML direction anyway but the threats of bodily harm have sealed the deal. After all, its all about the fruit, why let the lowly bacteria get the spotlight?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coombsville is HOT!

Well, actually it's cool (temperature wise) and that is why it is turning into one of the most desirable spots for Cabernet in the Napa Valley.  Check out this article by Appelation America.  It does a great job pointing out why Coombsville is special as well as all the winemakers that have now realized that fact.  I like how Mr. Pott describes Coombsville as a series of ranchettes.  This is very true, our Midoriya vineyard is only about three acres (at 700' elevation by the way).  Compare this to Oakville and Rutherford where you have corporate mega vineyards that are hundreds of acres each.  I have been focusing on Coombsville for Prime Cellars since right after the 2006 harvest, now it looks like we have a lot of company.   

Sunday, October 5, 2008

That's it for '08!

The 2008 vintage will mostly be described by one word; small. Everything was either devastated by early season frost or unbelievable heatwaves (I believe Al Gore would have a comment to explain this). Anyway, our harvest at Prime Cellars has ended with 1.8 tons of Chardonnay, 4.45 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon and 1.04 tons of Cabernet Franc (a new addition!). The usual rule of thumb that the more the vine suffers the better the quality should apply here. Initial tastings are looking very promising. Here is a photo of the crushing of our 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Midoriya Vineyard in Coombsville...Next step-to barrels!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Getting close!

Our first ever Prime Chardonnay is sitting at 23.1 Brix (fancy way of saying % sugar) with a pH of 3.13.  This means the grapes still have a bit of acid to convert to sugar before they are going to be ready to pick.  I am excited about Chardonnay this year, I have a very good source of Coombsville fruit that also goes to some of Napa's big name wineries as well.  (Will spill said names when properly bribed with enough wine).  The Cabernet up at Midoriya is ahead of the Chardonnay right now at 24.3 Brix but a very low pH of 3.05.  I am going to try to keep that Cab on the vine as long as possible but this years weather is not helping.  I'm hoping for a couple of weeks of nice cool temperatures but we will see what we get...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Wine Spectator busted?

It looks like the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator is not such a tough thing to achieve. The award that recognizes a restaurant for having excellent wine selections and service was given to a restaurant that does not exist. The fake restaurant was made up to prove that the awards are not really awards but paid advertising ($250 "entry fee"X4000 entries=a million bucks). Even better the fake restaurant's fake reserve wine list was made up of some of the lowest rated WS wines. We are talking a list of 50 point wines, not quite an excellent list. Dr Vino blogs about it here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Veraison is the French term for the softening and coloration of the grape berries. It is happening right now in Napa on most varieties. The green grapes turn purple in random order leaving funky tie-dyed looking clusters. Soon the clusters will be uniform for the most part. In a week or two we will go out and cut off any clusters that have failed to fully turn purple. This is called a "green harvest" and it is done to avoid getting any underripe fruit in the wine. The green clusters that we drop would eventually turn purple but they will never catch up to the ripeness of the rest of the crop.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Grape Sourcing

Ted's been working hard on lining up grapes for this years harvest. We noticed these voluntary grape vines growing in the trees near our house. They were probably planted courtesy of some birds snacking on nearby vineyards. Based on the shape of the leaves, Ted thinks there is a chardonnay vine and a cabernet vine intermingling in the tree. Don't worry, you won't see any mystery wild blend table wine from Prime, we just thought it would be fun to share nature in action.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Yes, its time to buy up all the barrels needed to house the 2008 vintage wine. The fact that I have to pay in Euros makes this process very painful. With the exchange around 1.6 right now that 750euro barrel is costing $1200. Just 5 years ago that 750euro barrel was about $825.

That barrel holds about 23 cases of wine. Quick math tells us that that tacks on $52 a case. I guess this could be proof that Two Buck Chuck never sees a barrel.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Prime Cellars has officially been launched! We had a nice little celebration and now are officially in the wine business. Picture link to come. Thank you to everyone for all your support, we couldn't have done it without you!

Reminder: Release Today!

Our Release party is today (June 29th), so come on out to Sonoma and try some of our wine. We are tasting the 2005 Prime Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon District 4. Here are the details:

Sunday, June 29, 2008
A wine tasting reception from 3pm - 6pm

at Ramekins
450 West Spain Street - Sonoma, California

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mommy, where do corks come from?

I had the pleasure to travel to Portugal last week to visit the cork forests and manufacturing operations. What a fantastic trip, the weather was perfect and I learned a ton about cork production. It is amazing the work that goes into making that little stopper.

In the evenings I sampled the typical foods and drink of the region. Most menus had at least two versions of the famous salted Cod known as bacalhau . All preparations, in my opinion, are disgusting. Otherwise the food was fresh, tasty and usually spicy. The drink of the region is the Super Bock, a beer that seems to be the mandatory beverage of anyone older than 12. A great country indeed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tulocay vs. Coombsville

The purpose of an AVA (American Viticulture Area) is to help inform the consumer where the grapes came from that are in a bottle of wine.

The Coombsville area in East Napa is where I source most of my fruit (excellent volcanic soils for Cab)and therefore I support the area becoming an offical Coombsville AVA. The fact that a couple of people almost got the area designated as Tulocay AVA is amazing. This area has always been known as Coombsville. If you ask a local where they live they might say, Browns Valley, Alta Heights or Coombsville but I'm positive nobody would answer "Tulocay". The comments of Aaron Pott who supports the Tulocay name are amusing (and disturbing) see them here. (keep reading till you get to the Redneck part)

Friday, June 13, 2008


1. I see "District 4" on the label. What does that mean?
Good Question! The state of California has 17 separate districts set up to track average grape prices. Grape growers use these averages to set their prices every year. District 4 is Napa Valley where 2007's average price for Cabernet Sauvignon was $ 4143.14 per ton. Compare Napa Valley to District 13's (Fresno) average of $260.81 and you can see that quality doesn't come cheap. Cabernet in Napa costs 16 times more than Fresno. (Ouch)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Store is Up and Running but...

Well shop away! That is of course if you live in California. We are looking into registering in other states but it takes a little while. If you are interested in us registering in your state let us know!

Friday, June 6, 2008

You can be Trade and Media in one easy step!

Usually the trade and media section of the website is off limits to the regular consumer. All of us sneaky sales guys don't want you to know what's in the wine :). But since we are really only selling this directly to you, you can now qualify as a trade. If you want to go one step further, you can also become a member of the media by telling your friends about our wine, writing about us on your blog, and tattooing 3-5-7 on your forehead. Once you have completed those tasks and the swelling has subsided, feel free to click away on that special part of the site. Lisa put together some nice pictures and a fact sheet for everyone to print out and frame on their walls right next to their participation certificate for the 7th grade geography bee.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Finding Good Help

As a small operation we have really had to be creative in finding help where we can get it. This was taken back in November 2006 when we needed a barrel sample. This courier service does excellent work 50% of the time, as long as there isn't anything larger than a bottle cap in their path to trip them up.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We are up and running...

Our website came online today and I am very excited about the future of our little winery here in Napa. On the winemaking side I plan on keeping the site updated with the latest trials and tribulations that make this such an interesting job. You will also have the pleasure of hearing from our sales guru, Mr. Curtis Mann and the incredibly creative (and my wife) marketing genius Lisa Henry. Back to working on bringing PRIME wine to you----