Kukkula Wines

Monday April 1, 2013

What happened to the “off season”

By Kevin

As usu­al, a lot has been going on at kukku­la since I last wrote. Most notably, we’ve installed anoth­er ten acres of vines. Our first whites (Viog­nier, Rous­sanne, and Grenache Blanc), some Petite Sir­ah, and more Mourvedre.

Farm­ing on the steep hill­sides, as we do, is always a chal­lenge. Addi­tion­al­ly, I insist on not destroy­ing the trunks of the wal­nut trees we remove because they are Claro (high­ly fig­ured and beau­ti­ful wood). So I cut the limbs off, pushed over the trees, and loaded north of 150 trunks into a mas­sive six-wheel truck to be deposit­ed in a giant pile at a far cor­ner of our prop­er­ty. I’m nego­ti­at­ing with some folks about buy­ing the trunks. They will hope­ful­ly then turn the trees into some real­ly cool fur­ni­ture, floor­ing, etc.

In the Fall, I took a walk into the moon­scape of what was an orchard, and real­ized that maybe a quar­ter of the cleared acreage was strewn with piles of rocks. After a few days of man­u­al labor using a rock sled that we drag behind our crawler, it became obvi­ous that this method would prob­a­bly take sev­er­al months. So, around the end of Novem­ber, I called up my exca­vat­ing con­trac­tor to fig­ure out a bet­ter approach. The basic idea was that he would use a pret­ty big doz­er with a rake attach­ment on the front end to rake and pile the rocks. He’d then load the rocks and car­ry them to the far cor­ner of our property.

For the next month and a half we twid­dled our thumbs because it seemed to be rain­ing just about every week. Now, as a dry farmer, that’s real­ly good. One prob­lem, though, at some point I need­ed the rocks out, the stakes pound­ed and the plants plant­ed. By mid-Jan­u­ary, we decid­ed we could­n’t real­ly wait any­more, so they came in and did their thing. It was a bit messier than ide­al, but the bulk of the work was com­plet­ed. By Jan­u­ary’s end, I had the field staked and plant­ed. Life was good. Now all we need­ed was a half dozen inch­es of rain on the new vines.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the jet stream decid­ed to shift north at about that time, and we’ve seen not much more than an inch of rain since we’ve plant­ed. I’m sit­ting down to write this on March 28th, and I’m start­ing to bite my fin­ger­nails because we’re just about out of run­way. Oh well! No wor­ries. Worst case sce­nario is that I col­lect maybe 50 five-gal­lon buck­ets with a nail hole at the bot­tom, place them at each of the 3700 stakes, one after the oth­er, fill them with water, and maybe two weeks lat­er, the new vines are suf­fi­cient­ly nour­ished. Any volunteers?

I digress. I guess I need to fill in some blanks. I sug­gest­ed ear­li­er that I was twid­dling my thumbs for sev­er­al weeks wait­ing for the blue skies to return. But, just before the Christ­mas and New Year hol­i­days, I get deep into the logis­tics of bot­tling our wine. Things start to get a bit fren­zied by the first of Feb­ru­ary, as we usu­al­ly bot­tle around the mid­dle of the month. I need to quan­ti­fy exact­ly what we have of each blend, design and print the labels, order the foils, corks, and bot­tles, secure a time for the bot­tling line, and fil­tra­tion of our white wine, and have a labor crew avail­able for the two day event. It can get a bit stressful.

Con­cur­rent with all of this, I’m on the road just about week­ly for a few months vis­it­ing clients in my finan­cial advi­so­ry capac­i­ty. None of my clients are local. So I’m usu­al­ly gone two to three days each week.

By now you’re get­ting the idea that I don’t need to fig­ure out how to fill my time. So, a cou­ple of months ago, I was giv­en an oppor­tu­ni­ty to put togeth­er my dream vaca­tion, at a venue and time of my choos­ing, and act as a host for up to eight guests. The trip that I design was to be auc­tioned off at the annu­al Rhone Rangers din­ner and auc­tion, which took place at Fort Mason in the Bay Area on March 22nd.

It did­n’t take long for me to get excit­ed about par­tic­i­pat­ing, so Paula and I start­ed ban­ter­ing about the pos­si­bil­i­ties. We real­ized quick­ly that the major issue was­n’t venue, but rather time. We ticked through the cal­en­dar and real­ized that the best prob­a­bil­i­ty of free time was Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary, maybe ear­ly March. That, by exten­sion, drove us to the South­ern Hemi­sphere, and ulti­mate­ly, Argenti­na. Nei­ther of us have been there, and there’s an amaz­ing wine scene, espe­cial­ly in Mendoza.

The more or less fin­ished prod­uct is a 10 day trip (not includ­ing trav­el) start­ing in Buenos Aires for a day, mov­ing to Men­doza for four days. We’ll vis­it some amaz­ing winer­ies like Achaval-Fer­rer, Cate­na Zap­a­ta, Mon­te­viejo, Zorzal, Alta Vista, Fournier. We’ll set up some spe­cial tast­ings, a cou­ple of cook­ing class­es, and some amaz­ing culi­nary expe­ri­ences. From there, we’ll fly down to the Bar­iloche area in North­ern Patag­o­nia for some out­door adven­tures like hik­ing, horse­back rid­ing, kayak­ing, and pos­si­bly fly fish­ing. The trip will close out with a return to Buenos Aires for a cou­ple of days.

At the auc­tion, four peo­ple com­mit­ted to the trip, so we still have (at the time of writ­ing) four spots left. If you’re inter­est­ed in join­ing us, con­tact Lisa Baser­ga at Car­doza Bungey (see details to the left).

By the way, I’ll be plant­i­ng anoth­er ten acres of vines next win­ter, bot­tling my 2012 blends, and vis­it­ing clients all around the same time that this trip takes place. So, what hap­pened to the Off Season”?



all things not wine: kitchen, olive oil, and more

By Paula

We had a bumper olive har­vest in Decem­ber and much of it was caught on film. Kevin was inter­viewed for a Plum TV show called Spe­cial Spaces that aired in Feb­ru­ary in some mar­kets (but none in Cal­i­for­nia). You can view the video on the Plum TV web­site or on youtube (search kukku­la, Plum TV).

Tele­vi­sion aside, we net­ted over 200 gal­lons of oil. We still haven’t bot­tled, but plan to in the next few weeks. We are in the process of get­ting some new equip­ment for bot­tling (it’s all by hand now), and have been work­ing on the paper­work and label­ing require­ments that will allow us to sell through Whole Foods (we’re through most of the hoops now)! A few of you may have tast­ed the few bot­tles we bot­tled on har­vest day. It is deli­cious and off the charts in heart-healthy anti-oxidents.

Food in the tast­ing room is sell­ing like hot­cakes. We have had sev­er­al week­ends where we’ve had to cook again on Sat­ur­day and Sun­day morn­ings and still had a hard time keep­ing up. Fig­ur­ing out which week­ends will be busy is still a chal­lenge though!

Wine jel­ly has also been dif­fi­cult to keep on the shelves, but I’ve been pro­duc­ing more almost week­ly and am get­ting clos­er to keep­ing up with the demand. Although I stopped mak­ing spice rub to sell in the Tast­ing Room, we have had sev­er­al requests, and I occa­sion­al­ly made some and hide it in the cup­board for our spe­cial requests. If you’re a fan, be sure to ask for it when you’re in and we’ll sell you some if we have it.

Final­ly, Anna’s origa­mi ear­rings are back in the tast­ing room. She hand folds these from tiny pieces of origa­mi paper and sells them for $15. Come in and help sup­port her Whit­man education!

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