Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wine is a Buzz

I have never been one to be influenced by wine scores. I like to just drink wine and explore as much as I can with local wineries and shops. I do try recommendations from friends, family, and the occasional wine blogger or local wine writers. However, this damn 2006 Royal City Syrah from Charles Smith is getting all of this buzz. Perfect! some say...alright..almost everyone. OK, just like a stock tip from Jim Cramer, I am late to the game. Where the hell do you get this wine?

Our, Cedar River Cellars, beloved owner Heather (Freeland) Nasarow is from Sandpoint, Idaho and we venture out there quite a bit for holidays, parties, and special occasions..and to see the in-laws.

Where am I going with this? This week on a "date night" we went to a Sandpoint restaurant to have some cocktails and appz. As I looked over the wine list, I saw the 2006 Royal City Syrah. After some chit-chat with the bar-keep, I asked if there were any bottles left? She looked and said "Four". I said, "I will take two of them, please."

Why not all four? I have not had this wine..I may not like I still have Christmas presents to buy. Seriously..from what I can I not like this wine. Also, for those of you reading this man this dude got raked over the coals with the restaurant mark-up. Well No. I got a very good price. And there are two left for someone else to enjoy.

So, did I open one of the wines? No...not yet. That is for another posting. :-) But I do plan on drinking this wine real soon.

Who knows, maybe in the future I may be sipping Cedar River Cellars Syrah along with Charles Smith comparing flavor and aroma profiles and say "Yo dude..I have a 2006 Royal City Syrah in my cellar..hold on let me go get it."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Getting High On Your Own Supply

This week has been the wine pressing week in our operations. I like to press when there is a couple of degrees Brix or bit over 1.000 Specific Gravity of fermentable sugars in the must. So far, Cabernet Sauvigon and Merlot are completed and in the barrels. This weekend the Syrah will be pressed off into the barrels and then I can stowe away all of the fermentation tanks and transfer buckets and regain some of my winery space.

So, I wanted to share that I think that the wine pressing process is my favorite of the entire wine making process. Why? Because the product is at a point where the true flavors start to shine and is not masked by so much of the sweetness of the grape sugars. And the fact that we are pressing, transferring, and sipping..ooohhhh..12-13 percent ethanol wine.

I love sipping the first runnings, with a bit of particulates and getting an idea of the flavor profile. Then once the must is transferred to the press and the bladder starts to push out liquid, I take another sample that is a bit clearer from the natural filtering of the skins. Mmmmmm...thats-a-niice.

Finally there is the final press runnings that shows me it's time to slower 'er down and not let too many harsh flavors make it through, but enough to give the wine some balls.

By this time, I probably have had my equivalent of a bottle of wine in sampling through out the pressing process and I just love every bit of it. It is very, very hard to resist putting your sample glass under the stream of red liquid flowing like a fountain from the press.

Hell, it is the results of my damn hard work..why shouldn't I get high on my own supply.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Joys of Food Processing

Well we got off to a bit of a rocky start, and for anyone who has worked in agricultural food processing (cannery, fishery, brewery, winery, etc.) knows that when the green light is lit, something goes wrong or breaks. I remember back in my days as a QA Tech for Norpac Foods, I would ask the line mechanic why my line wasn't running.

"The sealers too hot and is melting the packaging", he would say. "We just got started", I would say.

Well, all of those memories came rushing back last night.

Our first hiccup was on I-90 East just about 8 miles before Cle Elum, where two lanes converged to one...parking lot. We lost about an hour of time, but no big deal, we have time. We get to the winery at 6pm and I start setting up shop. Buckets, crusher, bins, hose, personnel..check. I direct a bit of traffic, tell everyone their duties and lets start tossing grapes in the crusher.

I hit the green button and immediately something is not right, but I did not see it at first. Three people are tossing grapes in the hopper, but nothing is coming out. Hold it! Hold it! Hold it! WTF? Yup, the crusher broke..sort of. It appears that one of the gears slipped out of position. After a bit of inspection and cursing, I start to wrench on it and take the machine apart.

Ok, problem fixed and machine back together..we lost about 20 min no big deal, it is only 6:45pm. "OK..everyone ready?" Green button..go! The crusher whirred and juice and skins started to flow...for about 5 seconds. Hold it! (more cursing).. take it apart again.

We noticed that there was some other loose bolts that were sliding the rollers our of position during the force and weight of the grape clusters, I cranked them down, and put everything back together.

Now, it is getting dark and a bit after 7pm. I get some cheer leading from the group and we press on. Guess what? held.

We finished 3000 lbs of grapes in about an hour and a half. We cleaned up a bit, moved the fermentation bins from the crush pad to the winery, and I checked the must and added enzymes and 50ppm SO2, took a shower, and hit bed by 11:30 pm.


5000 lbs more to go next week.

Thanx for the help Ben, Tara and Heather..oh and little Ava who helped with her plastic wrench and hammer.

Dude, Miners.. Union Gap

My buddy Ben from Walla Walla, who lives here in Seattle, came with me to Zilah to pick up 1.5T of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. He suggested that we stop for lunch at Miners in Union Gap. I am like "ok"..and he is like.."you have not been to Miners"?!?

I ordered a double Miner burger with everything on it plus bacon, strawberry shake and seasoned curlys..16 bux. umm... I am still full 24 hours later and after working my ass-off loading grapes, crushing, moving 1000 lbs bins around, get the point.

If you are on your way to WA wine country via MUST stop in and eat at Miners. Here is a link to a review site

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fermentation Bins Arrive

For those who are following my Oregon State bro brought up our Macrobin brand harvest/fermentation bins from McMinnville, OR. It just happened to be good luck that he wanted to come up to Washington and play golf with some of his co-workers and myself (his employer is headquartered in Puyallup). And I told him that I was planning on going down south to pick up the bins and he offered to bring them up here. Excellent timing!

Here is a pix...
Cedar River Cellars Fermentation bins

So these plastic bins are an inexpensive piece of equipment to harvest and transport our grapes. They are also a great way to open-top ferment small batches of red wine grapes...hell you could do white wine as well in these bins and sure shit I probably will. But the benefit is that you can easily manage the skins cap and work in small batches. Temperature control is tricky, but with our Northwest cool climate in the fall, it really is not that big of a problem.

Once fermentation is in play, I will cover the top of the bins lightly with some cheesecloth to let the CO2 gas to escape, but keep large air born debris form falling in.

That's it!!! We are on our way to harvest and crush next. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cedar River Cellars Crush Pad

I am totally stoked that Cedar River Cellars crush pad equipment arrived today. Our Crusher-Destemmer and Bladder Press arrived from Italy and Germany respectively. Even though we tried like hell to find local used equipment in good condition, and in the form factor that we need as a nano-winery, we just had to buy new and from over-seas. Making wine is a global adventure, and we know that sometimes you have to buy from the old world, but we do continue to strive to use local PNW vendors.

Here are a couple of pix...

Cedar River Cellars Press And Destemmer

Cedar River Cellars Crusher-Destemmer

Cedar River Cellars Bladder Press

As you can see, these are not 10 Ton an hour pieces of equipment, and we are only planning to do about 4 Ton of grapes this year. I am happy with the small size and having to do a little more work to get this crush off successfully.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

CRC Label Mocks

Below are two label designs that I have been tweaking and adjusting and I thought I would put them up to get some feedback. Now, here is the disclaimer...I am NOT a graphic be kind if you make comments.

Red Wine Label:

White Wine Label:

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cedar River Cellars to participate in the 22nd annual Auction of Washington Wines

Mark your calendars for the 22nd annual Auction of Washington Wines taking place Thursday, August 13th – Saturday, August 15th.

Seeing that Cedar River Cellars is currently a small operation, we have chosen to donate an experience to be part of the very first crush of our Northwest winery. Possibilities could include driving out to Eastern Washington to pick up grapes for the 2009 crush, sorting grapes, putting them in to the crusher or help in making adjustments to the must (if needed). Either way, you will be able to experience all of the ‘behind the scene’ action that is putting this show together. Once fermentation starts, we invite you to come back to take sugar measurements, stir up the must, and a few days later press our 2009 red wine.

The 2008 Auction of Washington Wines raised $2,250,000 for uncompensated care at Seattle Children's and the Washington Wine Education Foundation. As our winery grows, we hope that we can offer greater and greater experiences for our Northwest friends and these worthy causes.

For more information please visit

Also, here is the link for the online auction of our donation; we believe you can create an account and bid for items online if you’re unable to attend event.
PS 645 - Experience Cedar River Cellars 2009 Inaugural Crush.

Thank you for your support – cheers!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Walla Walla or BUST

You probably know that the name Walla Walla is of Indian origin but what you might not know is its meaning of ‘many waters’.

In the 1800’s, fur traders established settlements, trading posts and a fort in the area. Lewis & Clark wondered the Walla Walla Valley boundaries and on their return trip took them through present day Walla Walla County.

This early history set up the foundation for Walla Walla to experience their own ‘gold rush’ with commercial banking and manufacturing activities, making it the largest city in Washington Territory. What I didn’t know before this trip was Walla Walla was home to the first commercial bank in the Northwest, the first college in the region and has the oldest symphony west of the Mississippi River. Following this boom, farming became the driving force behind this community and continues as one today.

Now that the history lesson is done for the day I thought I would tell you about our wonderful weekend in Eastern Washington. First I should say this was Micah’s and my first trip without our two little ones. While we would have loved sharing this experience with both of them we needed some time by ourselves. We celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary on July 24th and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for a weekend get-a-way. So with our bags packed we headed across the mountains.
Our first stop was to visit Portteus Vineyards in Zillah Washington. Our plan is to purchase 1.5 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon for the 2009 crush from this vineyard – according to our research this is one of the best vineyards in the state. We truly enjoyed this stop & the people we had an opportunity to meet. We chatted with Paul, the owner and winemaker, his sons who are slowly taking over the business & Matt the Fed-ex driver, tasting room manager and all around knowledgeable guy regarding the winery & surrounding area.

After this visit we got back on the road and headed to Burgess Vineyards in Pasco, Washington. Our plan is to purchase 1.5 tons of Syrah, 0.5 ton of Merlot and for the first time 500 lbs of Viognier. We spent well over an hour visiting his two 50 acre vineyards, chatting about how he manages these locations & what goes into making a good vineyard (in his option: getting your hands dirty, a crew you can trust and time in the field). We truly appreciated the time Paul spent with us (strange that both our grape growers are named Paul) – he is very passionate about his work and loves sharing his knowledge. This meeting alone was worth the trip.

We still had places to go and people to see so we got back into the car and finished the last leg of the trip ending in Walla Walla. Unfortunately our trip over put us into town after all the tasting rooms closed so we simply headed to our bed & breakfast, The Inn at Woodhaven Farm, for some quiet time before dinner that night. If you’re looking for a place to stay during your trip this B&B comes highly recommended. The two ladies who run it, Jill and Laurie, are sisters and have remolded the entire house with great detail. We really had no complaints staying here and would quickly recommend to our friends & family.

To celebrate our 5 year anniversary we headed downtown to have dinner at T. Maccarone's. We brought a 2003 Torciano Chianti which we purchased on our honeymoon in Italy. Throughout dinner this wine really opened up and was amazing. We started with an Antipasto & Caesar Salad which Micah and I shared. For dinner I enjoyed house made spaghetti pasta with Grandma Maccarone’s original meatballs, while Micah enjoyed the Beef Tenderloin with horseradish whipped potatoes and seasonal vegetables. We ended the dinner with a lovely Crème Brule – needless to say everything was delicious!!!

We knew the next day was going to be full of tastings so we got an early start. We got to Basel Cellars right as the tasting room opened. They were preparing for the winemakers wedding later that afternoon but we still enjoyed the wine and great views from this winery. Next on our list was Glen Fiona where we chatted with Jack, the tasting room manager, regarding some of their practices. Seeing that their winemaker is fairly young and has some very hip ideas when it comes to winemaking we really wanted to pick his brain. After making our purchase we headed down the road to Trust & Chateau Rollat where we chatted with both Steve and Mike. This concept of two wineries being in one building was new to me but a great model. We had both winemakers onsite to chat with & overall we were very impressed with both products. We didn’t walk away empty handed. We then headed into town for a late lunch at the Creek Town Café where Micah had a Bloody Mary that could have been a meal in itself. After lunch it was on to the next group of wineries – for us that was near the airport. We started with Five Star Cellars and Elegante Cellars, neither of which we had tasted before this trip, and hope to try again seeing that some local wine bars have started carrying their product. Then it was on to our last stop of the day & honestly we couldn’t have picked a better end than Kontos Cellars and Adamant Cellars. These two wineries are located in what is called ‘incubator’ buildings specifically designed for making wine. These buildings are perfect for wineries that are producing 1000 cases or less – we were really interested in this concept and weren’t disappointed. We learned that after a 6 year lease period they are required to pack up and move in hopes that they have built up a name for themselves and can continue being successful. Both Devin with Adamant & Cameron with Kontos were great. Their presentation was amazing and the wine was the best we tasted all weekend. What really inspired both Micah and I were these were two wineries that were just starting up and building a name for themselves. Adamant started in his basement while living in Portland Oregon & just like us took that leap of faith to turn a hobby into a business. All day we had ‘tasted’ in true form by spitting all we tasted – only till we experienced both these wineries product did we start drinking which ended our day perfectly. We are telling all our friends about these two smaller wineries and we can’t wait till we head back to experience their wines first hand once again.

By the time we wrapped up with the incubator wineries it was closing time so we headed back to the B&B to reflect on all the wine we tasted & wonderful people we had met. That night we ended back at T. Maccarone's for a light dinner & some delightful conversation at the bar with Tom, the owner, and Chip, the bartender and winemaker himself. The next morning we had to pack up and head back home. We had planned on stopping at some wineries on the way out of town but the thought of seeing our little girls a couple hours earlier won out. It was a magnificent weekend, one that we will never forget, not just for sentimental reasons but also both Micah’s and my first trip of many to the Walla Walla wine country.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Panning For Gold

When I was a young boy I used to love panning for gold. Growing up I spent a lot of summers in California with my grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles; I would dig up handfuls of dirt and sand in the Tuolumne River and pan it down. I remember digging up bagfuls of dirt on my aunts property, and panning it down or breaking up quartz rocks looking for a nugget. I even had one of those metal detectors thinking I would be able to hit the motherload if I searched long enough. Even where I grew up in Willamette Valley, in the Santiam River and the famed Opal Creek, I panned for gold.

While it was a fun hobby and while I had dreams of striking it was hard work for zero return.

As with the gold rush in the mid 1800’s you staked claim in a belief that your hard work would result in some-kind of payoff or squeak by a living. Similar to these pioneers, we are working for the love of our product and the hope of earning a living. You read a lot of stories of how the wine industry is just plain hard work…well I guess I just love to get my hands dirty.

When my confidence starts to get rattled or I am up nights doing the “what-if’s”, I reach in my wallet for some words of inspiration I keep with me.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Cedar River Cellars has staked a claim in Washington, and we will slowly be sifting through the black sand to find our little nugget of gold.

Friday, July 3, 2009

beauty behind the scenes

Micah has been asking me to post to this blog for some time now and honestly with two little ones it’s hard to find the time to catch up on emails let alone come up with a unique blog for this site. Although this might not be the most unique or witty post I assure you I am a very unique and witty person. :-)

If you’ve been to our website,, you know that I’m the beauty behind the scenes. I do not have the scientific experience/training my husband, Micah, has but I think I know what people want. And what might that be you ask? In my experience people want good food, good friends, and to share a good bottle of wine. That is just what Micah and I have set out to do.

I recently gave notice at the corporate headquarters for Starbucks Coffee, after nearly 5 years of employment, Micah and I have decided at this point I will stay home with our two young daughters. For anyone that has worked for Starbucks, been inside a Starbucks, or listened to Howard Schultz talk about Starbucks, it is very clear what his vision for the company is…the experience of the ‘3rd place’; in other words you’re home away from home. By no means do I feel, or encourage for that matter, our wine to be your home away from home, but I hope the experience will be memorable. And that you’ll enjoy our wine with friends, family, and loved ones. Of course the salesman in me is also hoping that you’ll share your experience with others.
This is a big step for Micah and I, not just financially, but physically and emotionally. However since we started making wine for our personal consumption in 2003, we’ve both talked about opening this winery – how nice it would be to be our own bosses – to have a family business our girls can work and learn in as they grow up – to experience a bottle of Cedar River Cellars during the holidays or time stamped moments. This is our dream, we want to share this dream with others and we hope you enjoy the experience.

As Howard would say “Risk more than others think safe. Dream more than others think practical. Expect more than others think possible. Care more than others think wise.” Howard Schultz

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hats off to the TTB!

So I got a call from the TTB today and they were conducting a satisfaction survey..I am assuming for users whom recently completed the bonded winery application process. I got a handful of questions that were set up on a 5 point ranking scale. The questions ranged from TTB Forms access and TTB Forms Instructions to helpfulness of the TTB officers and general expedience of the officers in correspondence....they even had a question about the ranking of acceptance of web based form submittal and addendums to TTB forms....uh hell yeah!

In the end of the survey, I asked if I can make some comments and the surveyor entertained my comments.

So here are my thoughts on the whole TTB bonded winery experience...

Issue 1: What is the deal with the TTB Website and the crazy links to the wine forms?

-One of the things that I suggested was that the TTB audit their website and point all links to TTB Forms to one page with one uber list of required forms. I mean c'mon, you can click on Wine Forms in the "Quick Links" section and be taken to ->forms.shtml list of forms. OOOORRRR.. you can click on the How do I..? Become a member of the wine industry... and be super deep linked to the following... What TTB application forms.. -> wine packet -> which takes you to wine_packets.shtml page which is a different list of required forms...OOOOORRR on the same page as Federal Application Process there is a link "What documents are submitted by a company wishing to qualify as a producing winery?"..that takes you to yet a different set of required Forms.

Please!!! TTB... let's get this all summed up in one place with multiple examples and clear instructions.

My takeaway... I think the forms submission process is confusing on purpose to weed out the bad grapes :-).

Issue 2: The TTB is adding example forms filled out as a visual aid to help future wineries with the process.

- My suggestion..give multiple examples for all of the possible permutations allowed for each form. Not every start up winery is a Corporation, has a board of directors and plans to make 10,000 cases in the first year.

Issue 3: TTB, let's talk about the 60 days.

- The TTB likes to have it's applicants be ready for business and apply 60 days before operating business. Why would I invest in space and equipment before I am approved to make wine? Well, this is one of those regulations to keep business honest and I get it.. but lets make it 6 months...since that is how long it takes to get approved...if you do get approved. As we did here at Cedar River Cellars, I would assume most new wineries would apply at the beginning of the year and be ready for the fall crush...if approved. So, TTB, I say come up with a really good application deadline schedule that marrys well with the grape harvest schedule.

Issue 4: It's 2009! Embrace Rich Internet Applications and the possibilities it beholds!

- This ones easy, TTB... create an online forms submission, addendum, compliance and review web application that let's applicants log in and review their forms status, history of transactions, taxes paid ( yes..integrate ), change logs, etc. I forsee a rich dashboard type UI that pulls in bulk and bottled wine volumes, sales, taxes, alerts to changes in federal code, label approvals, etc., all in one accessible place.

I'll tell ya what TTB.. you can hire me to write me and I will submit a RFP and BRD.

Finally, I am stoked that the TTB is doing a survey and I hope they listen to the participants and I hope they do make some major changes to the web site (winery section..speaking here) and collate the applications and instructions in an easy to read and use web application.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Baby's Got Racks!!

This week I received some recycled barrel racks that were in pretty good shape. I figured why pay $100 for new racks, when I can pay $10 for used ones, put some sweat equity into them, and shine them up.

So this weekend we had great weather, so of course I am out on the crush pad scrubbing these racks, and getting sunburned at the same time. It took a good 15-20 minutes for each rack to get the grime, stains, and dried wine off of them. But in the end I am very happy. I also decided it was just not worth anymore time, expense, and energy to prep the rusty spots and repaint, when those worn areas are just going to get scuffed up again.

Cedar River Cellars Racks Before

Cedar River Cellars Racks After

Up next on the list.. purchase 3 T-bins. It is very hard to find these used here in Washington, I most likely will buy new..but I am holding out as long as I can in case used ones come up in the trades.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wine Is Only Two Ingredients

Wine is simply two ingredients, fruit and yeast. And if you really want to get picky, then it is just one ingredient...fruit..that contains its own yeast. However, if you read the Code of Federal Regulations section 24.246 , then you can clearly see that wine is not simply two ingredients..if a winemaker so chooses so.

Well this winemaker chooses to only use the bare, bare minimum of the approved food additives that our government has so deemed as safe.

There are times when you need to make an adjustment to your must or wine. Maybe the grapes did not have the right acidity; either too much or too little. Thus an adjustment needs to be made with natural tartaric acid, found in grapes and cucumbers for example, to bring acid up. Or acid can be brought down by means of a decarboxylation acid conversion of Malic acid to Lactic acid via Oneococcus oeni, a bacteria naturally found in our environment. Or maybe I want to make sure that I combat oxidation and/or keep O. oeni from propagating in the bottle. So I would add about 50 ppm of Potassium Metabisulfite as a form of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2..aka.. sulfites). These are all acceptible ways to manage the wine, so that we have a stable and sensorially pleasing product.

One thing that turns me off about wine is going to a big tasting or just trying a bottle of some vintner and tasting this nasty-ass egg flavor in the wine. Maybe I just have a lower threshold for identifying egg-white as a clarifying agent in wine, but I hate it and it makes me want to throw up.

At Cedar River Cellars, you will not find excessive finning with egg-white, fish bladder, sea-shells, Polyvinylpolypyrrolidone, gelatin, clay, or any other clarifying agent in our wines. I just feel it is not needed, and with gravity, cool temperatures, racking, and time.. small particulates, like yeast, will settle out, and tannins and phenols will mellow out. Now I am being a little dramatic here, these additives all have nice friendly names like Polyclar, isinglass, chitosan and bentonite..and of course they have benefits. Some of these clarifying and smoothing additives have been used in beer and wine making for centuries. If the need comes to get some of that haze out of a white wine, then bentonite would be my primary choice.

I just want to make easy drinking flavorful wines that you enjoy glass-by-glass unadulterated by any foodstuffs or foreign aromas. What I mean by this is, enjoy Cedar River Cellars with friends and family in a social atmosphere, and respect the sensory attributes of the wine. Don't just assume that the wine MUST be paired with some kind of food dish.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Birth of a Washington Winery

Welcome to Cedar River Cellars, one of Washington's newest wineries. Information, news, and updates can be viewed here at and as well on

2009 will be our first crush, so it will be some time before our product is to market. However, we invite you to follow our adventures so that you may be better prepared to enjoy our Northwest style wine when it is released.

About Cedar River Cellars and our mission statement:

Cedar River Cellars is a nano-winery dedicated to producing Northwest style wine, using Washington vinifera, local Northwest vendors, and supporting our local economy.

Our mission is to produce high quality, hand-crafted, sensorially pleasing wines from Washington state vinifera. Using quality winemaking techniques and good manufacturing practices, our philosophy is for the wine to naturally settle, thus reducing the need of excessive clarifying additives, filtering, and keeping sulphite levels low.