Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Escaping Home

A two day trip to Taiwan from San Francisco should not seem like an everyday thing. It should be planned, scheduled out, worried over, even debated as to why make the trip. however I do this once a month, and two days is just a lot of plane time. Aside from the inevitable jet lag that kicks in at 5pm Taiwan time (and will kick in again at 10am California time when I get to work tomorrow), and of course the time I have to spend away from home and my wife, there isn't much difference with this trip versus, say, a trip to Austin.

That is, except for the food, the wine, the people, the culture, the weather, the driving, the meetings, and the language.

Taiwan, like many countries throughout Asia, is said to be improving its wine appreciation as its global interdependence progresses. Not that I really find much of it in Hsin Chu. A university town that is home to its famous Science Based Industrial Park, the city also houses the country's oldest (and largest) temple, and regional Taiwanese fare of noodles, steamed meatballs, and soups fill the stalls surrounding the central shopping area. The hotels cater mostly to engineers and high tech executives who shuttle in and out of Science Park or up and back to Taipei to the North. I travel to HsinChu pretty much every month, and have adopted the habit of bringing a decent bottle of wine with me, so that I am not suffering too much on my trip. The hotels where I stay have a mediocre selection of medocs and bourdeaux superior, some chilean and aussie selections, but not much in the way of variety or quality. Eating out and seeking for fine wines I did find a Montrachet in a restaurant for $60 US, but was deeply disappointed to find that it was cooked by being stored in the open air (probably next to a window or near the stove). My one find was a teppanyaki restaurant called the Red Door which had a better selection, and we enjoyed a very decent bourdeaux blend from an argentinian joint venture of ch. lafite.

But these are, unfortunately, the great exceptions. I heard that Taiwan has something like a 100% markup due to import duties, taxes, and shipping costs, and that (coupled with the still minority status of premium wine lovers) means that most places will, frankly, just get something red and white on their list, preferably with a french (or french sounding) name, and keep it listed for as long as they can, 'just in cases.'

There are many wine lovers in Taiwan -- I have many friends at my company who collect fine wines and love to explore the world of wine, both in varietals as well as style. Their bias still tends toward the Opus one or chateau lafites (not a bad place to start), with occasional appreciation for the great burgundies. Italians outside of chianti and barolo would be fairly obscure for them, and the world of Spain, Bandol, Alsace etc. are new and uncharted territories.

I recently heard that americans are now drinking more wine per capita than beer -- a significant milestone that has occurred just over the past decade. The people in their 20s and 30s are driving this change, as greater exploration and appreciation become part of the emerging national culture. the impact of venues like winelibrary.tv to energize people to explore different wines and different things is having an impact and getting people to branch out, try new things. We have met so many people in their 20s and 30s who are, not just enthusiasts, but people who are incredibly passionate about wine that they will travel to Seattle or Rome or Paris, just to attend a tasting dinner. these people make wine exciting, an exploration that is endlessly surprising and educational. No matter how much these people taste and learn (and there are so many of these in their 30s who have an incredibly broad knowledge base of wines -- far more than I can ever recall!) and for them, the universe is constantly expanding, as each new vintage and each new winery expands from the 'big bang' of their discovery of wine!

And we all benefit: more wine appreciation means more great wines which will get noticed, be sought after, get established. More choice means even the 'standards' will have to keep working hard to keep making the best wines they can, as more and more people get more comfortable with wandering off of the well-worn cabernet aisles at your local beltramo's. God bless 'em all.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Veraison's Started, wow!

That's color turning. Its a sure sign of ripening coming along very nicely and due to the dry, hot weather we've been having up and down the coast. Furthest along up north, Santa Cruz, south maybe about 1-2 weeks away from first red grapes showing.

Focus now is on timing for ripening, harvest. There's a fine balance between keeping the grapes from ripening too fast, providing much less water (water deficit) with full canopies will let the fruit ripen slower. We're praying for no major rains, no major winds.

Looking like an early harvest this year.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

2007 Harvest Update ... .its been hot

sustained temps in the 80's - 90's has moved growth along fast. some shatter with grenache grapes up in Eaglepoint Vineyard has occurred but for the most part bloom and set is done and fruit clusters are coming out heavy and strong. Pruning is word of the week. We want to cut back growth to ensure concentrated fruits, flavors to what's remaining.

We're predicting EARLY HARVEST this year. Okay, you can never predict mother nature but that's my current bet. Let's see.
Q's, comments - pls. let me know.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Our 2005 White Hawk Syrah has been winning Gold Medals and getting reviewed with great notes by some fun ebobbers & wineblog reviewers, lately, thought I'd share some harvest, winemaking, vineyard notes.

2005 Syrah
White Hawk Vineyard
Santa Barbara

Appellation: .......................Santa Barbara County - 100%
Harvest Dates:...................October 13, 2005
Brix at Harvest:.................26.9
Cooperage:..........................Francois Freres, Cadus
Aged:...................................16 months in 100% French oak
Release Date:......................February, 2007
Retail Price:........................$52.00

Tasting Notes

Presents a complex mix of dark cherries, moist earth, spicy peppers, and a hint of vanilla. Aging 16 months in neutral oak gave the wine a slight toastiness that does not overpower the fragrant Syrah fruit. The dark fruits will hit your nose at first sip, but the layers of flavor slowly unfold in a truly enjoyable finish. This wine should drink well for the next 5-8 years.

Vineyard Notes

White Hawk Vineyard is another favorite located in the Los Alamos Hills of Santa Barbara County. It is a small vineyard perched on 900 foot elevation on pure sand that immediately drains off water and nutrients to force the vines to work extra-hard. We custom farm acreage we contract, using sustainable and primarily organic viticulture to ensure the right mix of sugars, tannins and acidity. Being one of the top wine producing vineyards in the area, its Syrah clones both clone 6 and clone 1 has become extremely well-known throughout California. We are excited to bring you a wine of such impact from this vineyard

Hope you like it, q's - please leave a comment or email me at bettina@sansakana.com

Monday, May 21, 2007

A dreary day in Boston can be made great by little things that mean a lot. The Red Sox beat the crap out of Atlanta (we don't talk about the night game), the Provost and his wife opened up their house and pantry to us and made us a part of their family, the cab driver got turned on to sfogliatella which he has never had hot or cold (you must eat it hot!) and we had a terrific (fantastic) meal at Troquet and tasted some terrific wines. The food was superb, I had veal cheeks in a wine reduction sauce that was more tender than spring buds, a cavatelli with mushroom and truffle appetizer that surrounded the sinuses with aroma, and my wife had the roasted suckling pig plate that knocked her socks off! Good food with new friends, a selection of both pinots and syrahs that complemented the foods in a big way, and late night walks back to the hotel to NOT worry about work the next day. Good happens, doesn't it?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

I'm traveling thru upstate New York right now, enroute from Toronto to Rochester and points beyond. It is mid May and in California the days are warm and the evenings still chilly, not yet the idle days of summers when boys play with their puppies in streambeds and bring home salamanders to their moms, but warm enough that the heat of the midafternoon soaks deep into the chest and thaws the last splinter of ice packed deep into your breathing through the cold, wet winter days. In California, budbreak has already set and the vineyard managers are starting their first pruning and watching closely for flower set and the first indication of the strength of the harvest. The head cordon grenache pictured above was from May's beginning, two weeks ago and a bit. So far so good so far, is all a farmer will admit to the fates.

In New York it looks as if the frayed threads of winter's corpse have just blown off and the trees are shaking out their leaves, finally! A stiff and steady wind blows past my window, remnants of a passing storm, a steady thumping that encourages the trees and bushes to grip their toes harder, rasping more dirt and rocks just to hang on. The vineyards I passed on my way look tentative, not as willing to put out its tender knobby green tufts and trust that the ice and snow are fully gone. More sun, more rays, more comeraderie from the trees and bushes, more new grass brushing at its ankles, more blue luminescent skies, more kilocalories, more coaxing, more life!

I wonder do the boys and puppies wait just as patiently?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Gold, Silver and Bronze in 2 Recent Wine Competitions!

San Sakana took in a total of 7 medals in recent competitions, including a UNANIMOUS GOLD MEDAL for our 2005 White Hawk Vineyard Syrah!

Pacific Rim International Wine Competition

As one of the largest and most respected wine competitions in the west, the Pacific Rim International received entries from over 2200 entries this year from wineries spanning the globe from the U.S., to Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. We are THRILLED to have been recognized by this very prestigious event. Our medals this year as follows -

  • GOLD MEDAL for 2005 White Hawk Syrah
  • SILVER MEDAL for 2005 Las Madres Syrah

  • SILVER MEDAL for 2005 Broken Leg Viognier

  • BRONZE MEDAL for 2005 Catie's Corner Viognier
West Coast Wine Competition

The 25th West Coast Wine Competition was held on April 20th in Santa Rosa, CA with a field of over 1700 entries spanning wineries from California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Baja California, British Columbia, Australia and New Zealand.

Our medals
  • GOLD MEDAL for 2005 White Hawk Syrah
  • SILVER MEDAL for 2005 Las Madres Syrah

If you'd like to try some of these award winning wines, please order soon. Demand is STRONG due to the competition buzz!

Thanks again - Bettina