Where you will find ocassional clever rantings and lunatic ravings from the NHVino characters responsible for bringing you great wines, killer foods and some of the coolest events in Murphys. Check in often for both the musings and the pathos.
Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about vineyards. I'm sure you think that sounds silly from a guy that's been making wine for two decades, but it's true. Obviously vineyards are important and no, I'm not suddenly realizing this for the first time. However I am starting to view them in a completely different way than I have ever before. See, a vineyard isn't just a source of fruit…it isn't even JUST a vineyard. What it is is an amalgamation of otherwise completely unrelated things. A vineyard is a piece of land. It is a slope or a flat. It is a deep narrow valley or a wide open and exposed gently rolling hill. It is water. It is heat or wind or cold nights. But it doesn't stop there. It is a soil profile. It is a farmer. It is a sum of many different decisions a farmer makes. It is a farming philosophy as much as it is a farming practicality.
I've always known this deep down I guess. I've always felt that long term relationships with vineyards (the amalgamation, not the land) were imperative. But that feeling has never before been so close to the surface. If I spend a few years with a vineyard that I like, the more of a desperation I feel to make sure I never lose that vineyard. The longer I am with it, the more important it becomes. Take Big John's vineyard for example. The reason that wine has become the flagship wine for us is not only because we've made it for 12 years now. It's not even because it is good, although that helps. It is because we have spent those years learning about that vineyard. Experimenting with different techniques. Finding out how the vineyard (as a whole) works best. Shake Ridge Ranch in Amador is another good example.
These are the same reasons The Dalton Ranch is such an important partner as well. It sits in a breathtakingly serene valley (If you are a spiritualist you understand how much 'better' you are in that type of environment). It has a consistent soil profile. It was established by a man of vision and high standards. He hired a very talented vineyard manager. He committed the resources to do the job right. The vineyard manager has employed organics and an extremely gentle and sustainable approach. It truly is in my opinion one of the most special vineyards in our area. But it is like that because of the amalgamation.
We receive several different lots from The Dalton Ranch. The Donner Party Zin comes from there. A sizable amount of Petite Sirah comes from there, as does Carignane (for The Deviant) and Sauvignon Blanc. It also is the source for this very special 2010 Dalton Ranch Syrah that is in the March 2013 wine club order. It pleases me to no end that this special vineyard is our partner and I hope that as the years go by we keep our greedy little hands on it (and develop a few more sources just like it).
Fast and furious! It is true that each and every Crush has its own unique personality. After the last few long drawn out harvest seasons we were certainly about due for a barnburner. And a barnburner it is. As I take a brief time out to sit here and write this, we have received almost 100 tons out an expected 130. In fact, we have almost nailed down the schedule for the remaining few picks (with a couple very small exceptions).
At this point last year we had barely scratched the surface of picking and here we are, approximately 75 - 80% through the whole thing. Blame it on the weather! We've had a fantastic growing season and the final stretch of it has been near perfect. Is it a good vintage? Normally I say things like, "it's a little early to tell just yet," or, "time will tell." However this year it is clear from the get-go that we are experiencing the best vintage we've had in several years. Everything from the SB and Muscat all the way through the Syrahs, Petites and Zins are all showing great promise. It is always said that the job is hardest in bad vintages and this is true. That being the case, this vintage is shaping up to be a walk in the park.
Pictured: Scott Klann(Newsome) with former partner and dear dear friend Mark Skenfield(Harlow) bringing in the 2012 Big John they planted many moons ago.
I’ve been eyeing this date on the calendar for the better part of the summer. It has finally arrived and I find myself in awe of life’s poignant cycles. In June of 1992 I left my beloved friends and second home in Long Beach, CA. These were/are people that I love dearly. They had helped me to see the world in new ways and to see that I was perfectly worthy of all that it had to offer. There was no plan, no grand scheme, other than a much needed inward look at what my life was going to be about. The only place to do that was under my father’s roof...the safest haven I had ever known.
My return there was at the same time both calming and foreboding. I was 23 years old and was seriously beginning to feel the need to find a calling. Music had always been a central focal point in my life but by this time I was aware that it was probably not going to be something that I would be successful at.
I picked up some work painting houses that summer...something I was DEFINITELY not interested in doing for very long. A friend had told me that a local winery was always looking for help this time of year for something called ‘Crush’. As I have often said, I knew nothing about wine at this point...I thought Chardonnay was the name of some guy who had his wine EVERYWHERE. So something called Crush was completely foreign to me.
The winemaker, Chuck Hovey (now a dear friend) and I hit it off well in my interview. He mentioned that I was welcome to come down and help out and he would call me when harvest was nearing. This was mid-July. Growing up in an rural area like Calaveras County, one would think I would be aware of the unknowns of farming. Nope. Weeks went by and I was beginning to think I had been blown off. No worries though...at this point I was not aware of what I would be missing. In mid August I finally got ahold of Chuck and asked if there was still a place for me.
Meanwhile a few days before that, our hot and dry foothill county began fighting a small but fierce fire right in its geographical center. It was dubbed the Old Gulch fire and within just a few days it had burned an astonishing 25,000 acres...right here in my home. However the hubris of youth combined with a total ignorance of my surroundings left me unaware that this fire was burning perilously close to the small winery that I was to be working at. Unbeknownst to me, several of my soon-to-be co-workers were on their feet 18 - 20 hours a day that week helping to save the winery and ultimately, the town of Murphys, from being consumed by the tasmanian devil-ish fire. In fact, the California Department of Forestry had decided that the winery and vineyards were the last line of defense before Murphys and that they would backfire from there into the main fire in order to burn the fuel behind the winery in order to save it.
One week later, CDF announced that they had a handle on the fire. I had reached Chuck a day earlier (himself having been up for days on end keeping the winery safe and as moist as possible). He mentioned that everyone had gone home to rest for a day before coming back in to work and that he could use some help getting set up for Crush.
And so it was, on this very day twenty years ago, August 22nd, 1992, I walked into Stevenot winery and into the wine business forever (to give you an idea of how much my life would be changed by this unique period of time, it would be only six more weeks before I met Melanie, my wife now of 18 and a half years).
I remember clearly my very first day in the winery. It was the day that my eyes had been opened. The idea that you could work under the hot sun, producing something that was grown in the ground(!) and turn it into this incredible and historical nectar that people freak out about...my goodness, sign me up! From my first moments in this business I found something that had been missing. I became a student of the industry, a wide-eyed neophyte and lifelong fanatic. And though some days are more challenging than others, I wake with that same enthusiasm every single day of my life. And I am grateful.
Those early days were incredibly formative times for me. And I hold the people that I worked with very dear. As my career has grown I have had the opportunity to work with many other people that have also had a profound effect on me. Finally, there is a vast amount of people in this industry that I have met along the journey. They are friends, mentors, counselors and confidants. And again, I am grateful.
Stockton Record TimeOut Dining Food Critic Robin Nichols loved her recent visit to The Kitchen.
"Newsome-Harlow Wines is one of the venues where this evolution [pairing local organic gourmet foods with wines] is playing out. Owners Scott and Melanie Klann could even be poster children for the trend."
Spent the last couple of days in the winery working on the 2010 Big John Zinfandel. Typical zesty zingy Big John flavors however the plummy character is a bit more muted in this one. Could be a phase. We'll watch it for a few weeks before we bottle it. Also curious is an atypical slightly nutty character on the finish of the mouthfeel...not quite sure what it is yet but again, we'll watch it closely. Hoping it's not an overdose of oak.
In other news, Big John (the guy, not the wine) took a spill the other day and had to have some work done on his hip. He'll definitely be spending a little less time on a tractor this year so our old friend Mark Skenfield will have to step in a bit more for the 2012 vintage. If John gets too much worse Nancy has given us permission to take him out back and just shoot him. Just kidding, John...see you soon!
That's the game. Period. We could wax-philosophic all day long about the cool events, the eclectic food pairings, our hip and contemporary Tasting Lounge and Courtyard on Main Street in Downtown Murphys, but for us it comes down to one unwavering mission... steward the greatest wines we possibly can into existence and bring you some of the most sought-after wines (Zinfandel or otherwise) in this great Sierra Foothills mountainous wine region. 'Nuff said? Great, so jump in and explore...