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And Then There Were Two

June 17, 2018 Leave a comment

I have to admit, my job seems to be a little more stressful than normal.  Could it be that RJ hurt himself again?  Could it be that I have likely done more damage to my shoulder?  Could it be that we have lost another employee and have not filled the last vacated slot?  Could it be that we have created more events and have also booked more private events than normal?  Could it be that I have taken on additional responsibilities to ensure our business grows in the right direction?  Perhaps all of the above!

But yesterday was particularly an exacerbation of what I’m talking about.  Every year since 2011, we have had a pig roast on Father’s Day and for the last 5 years or so Cousin Kenny has prepared the pig for us and done a fabulous job!  At the end of the event, we always confirm with Kenny and his wife that they will be back again next year and last year as every year they are exuberant to be invited back.  That does not excuse us from confirming as the event gets closer because as we know sh*# happens.  So several weeks ago, our Tasting Room Manager tried calling Kenny and got no answer.  She tried several times during those weeks, so this week RJ also tried.  We have not reached panic mode yet, because we are sure we would have heard from them if there was a problem.

So starting Thursday (3 days before the event), I buy some of the other food and it begins to occur to me that we may not have a pig.  RJ calls again Thursday night to no avail.  My Mom jokingly suggests we may have to have Brats.  Funny Mom.  Panic is rising.  We have 50 or more paid reservations for the event and I have spent $250 so far.  On Friday, I go out to pick up the rest of the food that goes with the aforementioned pig while RJ researches Cousin Kenny on social media.  He finds a happy farmer’s market post.  Whew!  He’s alive.  But wait, that post is from 2015.  RJ’s looking for an address and when he can’t find that, he finds a reference on another site that Cousin Kenny is out of business.  I find an address and RJ runs over to their house.  They still live there but there is no sign of the pig roaster and trailer.  But he leaves a note just in case.

I lost it.  I just spent another $150.  I call in the staff to brainstorm.  Maybe I buy brats and buns (thanks, Mom for the idea) and we offer money back or the brats.  It’s an idea…not a great one, but an idea.  What?  One of our staff (JT; now known as our hero) is storing a pig roaster in his back yard and has experience roasting a pig and has a Food Handler’s permit.  What are the odds?  A small recovery is taking place.  Now, we just have to find a pig.  That can’t be easy at the last minute.  Just so happens, Carlton Farms, Gourmet Meats is 20 miles from here and still open.   They have a 67.5 pound pig but they don’t know how we’ll get it thawed in time.  We’ll figure it out.  After all, we’ve got ourselves this far.  We throw our huge cooler in the back of the SUV (barely fits) and head to Carlton Farms.  There’s our pig.  I pick up two different kinds of sauces while I’m there so we don’t have to come up with recipes for those.  JT has the marinating recipe already.  The pig is too pig for the cooler but rests nicely on top.  We’re still pondering on how to thaw it safely.  Google it!

Back to winery with pig in tow.  We pull up to our parking spot and RJ notices he has a message.  Kenny’s wife called and said, “Of course, we’re coming.  We look forward to it every year.  We just picked up our pig.”  Holy sh*#.  Now what to we do with our extra pig.  Fortunately, he fits in our side-by-side freezer vertically.  As to how we’re going to use it, that’s another chapter.

 

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Categories: Uncategorized

Diversified Job Responsibilities

This has been a weird last couple of weeks.  I can’t say I did new things that I haven’t done before since building and owning the winery but I just haven’t typically done them all in the space of two weeks.  My last blog ended with our search for ghosts; okay that was something new.  But that took me into working with a number of medium-sized groups at the winery (hospitality) and onto fulfilling a custom sewing order for napkins (that takes me back to my crafting days).  Over the weekend, I noticed how shabby, the backyard of the tasting room was getting.  The thyme ground cover, I so diligently hand-planted nine years ago could hardly be spotted.  RJ informed me that would be my job.  Great, the hottest day of the year so far (Tuesday), I would be sprawled on the ground, bad knee and all digging sans gloves to remove weeds and leave my precious ground cover (yard maintenance).  Next day, Wednesday, I took a break to meet my sewing lady friends to show off the quilt that I had finally finished after 15 years (another blog about that later), but back to yard work later that afternoon.  Two of my staff helped me this time and we made much better progress so I see a light at the end of the tunnel.  At the end of the afternoon, still in shorts and sleeveless, I attempted to sneak into the tasting room, but alas the new Tasting Room Associate had to introduce me as the owner.  I graciously and redly (embarrassed or sunburn, your call), apologized for my appearance.  They didn’t care and were happy to meet the owner.  I ended up staying for a half hour telling our story, etc.  They bought wine and promised to be back.  So some staff training and guest experience done.

Next day was met with a combination of plant buying (thank you Starkeys) and politics. Again nothing new. But Friday I spent visiting a new customer, hopefully potential partner.  If you’ve never been to A Kitchen at Middleground Farms in Wilsonville for either an event, a cooking class or their AirBnB, you have missed a real treat.  And, they are now serving our wines; even better!

This week has been pretty much more of the same so far with the special treat of sharing our wines with OutAza Blue who will be featuring our wines at their Wine Maker’s Dinner on May 20th.  More on that later.  For now, there are weeds to pull and wines to sell.  #Middlegroundfarms #Starkeys #Outazablue

Bitter Sweet

October 26, 2017 Leave a comment

And I’m not referring to the wine RJ and Shannon are producing.  We have completed the actual harvest and that is what is bitter sweet.  Sweet, because we got all the grapes in and there are plenty of them.  Three times the grapes we have ever had.  Yes, I said three times.  We ran out of every vessel, picking bins, fermentation bins, tanks, barrels…  Bitter, because we left fruit of every varietal except schonberger on the vine.  We just have no where to put it.  Also, bitter because there was quite a bit of mildew (refer back to Part I, the gamble of spraying) especially in the Riesling.  But that’s okay; I’m not a big fan of Riesling anyway.  Wait, you mean all this wine wasn’t intended for me?  Then why did we venture into this project anyway.  You’ll have to go back to an older blog post to find out that one.

Categories: Uncategorized

Love, Hate, Part II

October 24, 2017 Leave a comment

So I left off with lots of grapes and nowhere to put them.  On Saturday, a very wet, cold and concerned crew processed all the Pinot noir they could until they ran out of  fermentation bins.  Later, that evening, RJ and I went to a charity event and I asked every farming or farming-related contact I knew if they had anything that resembled a fermentation bin.  I got a couple ideas but Sunday morning RJ contacted a nearby winery and they had 3 “old”, and I mean “old” fermentation 1-1/2 ton bins.  Between the sunny weather and the solution to his fermenting grape storage issue, RJ was a new man.  He was smiling, cracking jokes and several feet off the ground.  Alas, this wouldn’t last.  On Monday, he and Shannon were able to finish processing all the Pinot noir, rearrange all the bins and start making wine.  RJ was still flying high.  On Tuesday, they found out one of the old fermentation bins was leaking, so back to the winery where RJ bought them to see if them had more and then to pump the grapes and juice into the “new” old bin.  The stress is back.  Did I mention one of our harvest crew ended up spending two nights in the hospital starting Saturday with an undetermined GI issue.  Wednesday, we pick the whites.  More on that.

Love, Hate Relationship with Harvest

October 21, 2017 Leave a comment

So harvest is supposed to be the blessed time of year when your hardwork comes to fruition and you “reap” your rewards.  And for the most part, that is true.  But with the blessings comes a great deal of stress, more than stress; even torture.  Let’s start with determining when to pick.  With grapes you want the longest hang time possible, but you gamble against rain and birds.  You want the sugars to be in the range of 21-23 brix and acid high.  If you lose the gamble to rain, the grapes get diluted and the sugars drop.  If you lose the gamble to birds, you lose your fruit.  The best prevention against birds is netting which is expensive and labor intensive and makes it difficult to get in to the vineyard for spraying.

In our case, we also gamble with finding a picking crew.  Since we don’t have a dedicated crew managing the vineyard all year, we are at the bottom of the totem pole for getting a borrowed crew from another vineyard.  We also gamble with when to stop spraying.  If harvest is around the corner and you have netted, you stop spraying and risk mildew if you don’t pick soon.

So how did our gambles pay off this year.  First, we did not start picking several weeks ago when other vineyards did because rain was coming in.  We didn’t lose that one.  The sugars dropped slightly but we got a small warming spell that raised them back up.  The birds did start to come in but we got most of the Pinot noir vineyard netted in time so we were okay with that one.  But our third-leaf Syrah vineyard which had enough grapes for at least our wine club lost that gamble.  Over night, the birds devoured every Syrah grape.  I cried.  My belief is that because the Syrah vines are so young, they didn’t have much leaf canopy and the grapes were very exposed; prime pickings for the birds.

The Schonberger grapes were ready, so we went and picked those and the fruit was good and plentiful; thus the love part of harvest.  Now, we’re ready to get moving on the rest.  Tried to get a crew for Sunday via our full-time vineyard staff member.  No luck.  So we went to our most reliable borrowed crew and scheduled picking for Wednesday.  One of our lead processing staff caught a Man cold and we all know there is nothing worse than a Man cold, so I had to help move the stainless steel trough preparing for processing of the reds.  Nevermind the two bad shoulders.  Punching crew was all set Wednesday morning at 7.  Crew chief calls and says they won’t be there until 10.  RJ takes the punch crew out to breakfast, “a staff meeting”.  More love/hate.  Picking crew never shows; promises for Thursday.   At this point, RJ says to me that he gambled wrong with waiting and trying to get more hang time.  He is really hurting.  More hate.

Picking crew shows up at 7 on Thursday.  Still short one helper because of the “Man Cold,” but made due.  The fruit comes in off the Gaston vineyard and there is 2-3 times the fruit expected.  Love?   RJ realizes he will not have enough fermintation bins (or barrels for that matter, but will deal with that later).  He contacts the local winery supply business.  They have 2 and he snaps them up knowing that still will not be enough.

Picking crew shows up at 7 on Friday.  It is not even daylight.  I have to fill-in due to the Man Cold.  After even a half hour, my hands are frozen, my lower pant legs are soaked, my boots are caked with mud, my coat is soaked and my hair is sticky from taking my hood on and off.  The punches get sticky and the cards get wet making it difficult to make a clean punch especially with frozen hands.  Hate.  But the fruit looks fantastic and there is lots of it.  Love.  There is a little mildew because of the gamble on stopping spray but not enough to hurt the end result.

We finish the Pinot noir in Gaston and move to the Forest Grove vineyard.  I immediately call RJ for more picking bins even though we brought two more with us.  He brings 3 more just in time and hurries to get 2-3 more.  There are only 2 left.  In this densely planted vineyard, the most grapes we have ever gotten was 2-1/2 tons.  We left fruit on the vine when we ran out of picking bins and still got nearly 7 tons.  Love!

By this time, RJ is already exhausted and we still have all the whites to process.  More on that when it’s been done.

 

Categories: Uncategorized

But What About The Wines

May 15, 2014 Leave a comment

So today I met with whom I call my “business coach,” who is actually a Small Business Development center (SBDC) Advisor.  And as he most always does at the end of each session, he said, “I hoped I helped you today.”  Today, we covered alot of ground and he asked some good questions.  We concluded the obvious, we need to sell more wine to keep up with the inventory…duh!  And as the head of marketing, that is my responsibility, another…duh!  So I’m laying awake thinking about that when I came to an aha moment.  As much as I talk about our winery and how much fun it is, I don’t talk about our wines.  And we make great wine!!!  We have a variety of white wines, at least one for every pallet, two rose’ wines, a big red (syrah), a red dessert wine and oh yeah, several pinot noirs that would hold up to most.  But I must warn you about out pinots, they are traditional, aka, subtle and delicate,  If you’re looking for a big red, that’s why we make a syrah.  So yes. coach, you helped me.

Categories: Uncategorized

Miss Me?

November 5, 2013 Leave a comment

It will be impossible to catch up on everything over the last year, but I will try in reverse order.  Let me just summarize that it is the year of the surgeries and I’m not done yet.  But as one of our colleagues said as I was runnng cross the winery parking lot with my post-surgery boot on, “don’t let it slow you down.”  And we haven’t.  Business has taken alittle of a hit because of our medical issues but we are back in the saddle now.  For giggles, what are RJ and I for Halloween?

What are we?

What are we?