Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cedar River Cellars Excellent Adventure

In the movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, the "Wyld Stallyns" bring peace and harmony to our society with the power of their rocking.

During a wonderfull bottle..of our 2009 Bella Bella Syrah, I slipped into a daydream where the shear awesomeness of our product did the same. As my eye's got blurry, and I slumped in my easy chair, I envisioned the story of our wine being slowly disseminated into the community.

As impatient, over-worked, don't-know-how-to-drive-in-the-pacific-northwest citizens worked their way into an old dusty alleyway wine merchant, they stumble upon a bottle of wine that stands out, they are drawn to it, it vibrates with harmony. Upon purchase and opened, the effervescent nose calms their nerves, the flavor changes their perception of time and space, and brings them to inner-peace. While enjoying the wine, nothing else in the world matters and they become vino-zombies...[record scratch] become vino-tranquils.

These vino-tranquils tell a friend, and they tell a friend, and so on...resulting in...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cedar River Cellars 2010 Vintage Is On!

Well it has been quite a while since my last post, but geez, there is nothing going on during the summer and I did not have much to talk about. I have done some bottling of the 2009, but that is about it.

Today we kicked off the 2010 vintage. Myself and a friend crushed about 3000 lbs of Cabernet Sauvignon from Portteus Vineyards. Good shit baby! The tech specs came is similar to last year. Here are my notes thus far...

My numbers at the tank are
22 degrees Brix (I thought it would be closer to 23) so that is about 12.3 alc (last year I was at 23-23.5). I may recheck this a couple of times..although..I have already..I will recheck with a hydrometer as well and get a S.G. It is no big deal, the flavor and acid is the grapes are ripe.

Ph 3.65 (last year 3.56)
TA 0.66 g/L (last year 0.75 g/L)

The flavors are good, the seeds are really spicy compared to last year and not as tannic in the mouth as a whole berry. However, with all of this must in one 48S bin, I will extract the shit out of it and get lots of skin contact. There are NO pyrazines (bell-pepper or green flavors) that I taste and the stems look ripe and mature. These grapes looked better and taste better than last year all around. A little less black currant this year, more spice and fruit. However, I can taste Portteus house flavor and once I start to press, I get a better picture of the flavor profile. Last years grapes seemed a bit smaller and much more tannic and concentrated in cherry and currant flavors.

I will process Syrah and Merlot next Thursday. The vineyard numbers on those grapes are looking similar to last year from my Pasco grower, Burgess Vineyards.

Things are a bit crowded in the cellar, but looking good.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wine is a Buzz Pt. 2

In an earlier post,, I wrote about the hype about Charles Smith's 2006 Royal City Syrah and how I acquired a couple of bottles. Well, I have not opened them yet, but I was able to enjoy a bottle with some new friends. I suppose anyone who shares a nice bottle of wine would be your new friend.

Anyway, after some banter over at Sean Sullivan's blog about the 2006 R.C.S, an invite for wine and dinner was broached and the plans started to take shape. Originally, I pitched dinner at our house and will supply the 2006 R.C.S, but Sean re-raised and said that he would supply the bottle of wine. Wow!

I prepared Pacific caught sockeye salmon on a cedar plank, artichokes, pasta tossed in olive oil, garlic, and sun dried tomatoes. I made a sauteed mushroom appetizer and creme brulee for dessert. We bought a Charles Smith Riesling (2007 I think), as well as barrel sampled Cedar River Cellars Bella Bella Syrah 2009, Cedar River Cellars Ava's Crush Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, and Cedar River Cellars Kennydale Viognier 2009.

Sean and his friend Lindy arrived and after introductions, he poured the 2006 R.C.S into a decanter. Sean had opened the bottle up earlier in the day, so the wine had already been exposed to some air.

I did not take notes, so here we go from memory...
We all thought the nose was a bit closed, however, the strong ethanol presence helped volatilize what was there. My first whiff was of French oak barrel spice. I said it smell like a barrel room, and then further referenced the smell of the Taransaud barrels in our cellar. There was another aroma that everyone was having trouble identifying. After a couple of more sniffs, I said is smelled like milk which is most likely coming from lactic acid. Heather said it smelled like Guinness Stout, which is a very lactic beer.

The flavor had the typical Syrah notes, blue fruit and dark fruit, however, I got this awesome orange peel note when breathing back through my palate. It was just one of those chocolate orange candies. Speaking of which, I thought there was a bit of bitter-sweet chocolate notes as well as the barrel flavors. I felt that the body was a bit thin..not light..but thin. I would call the body a solid medium, but I was expecting a bit more glycerol and fuller.

Overall, a great wine, but maybe all of the hype of the scores and reviews may have biased my perception of the product to be more than it was. I have been drinking a lot of Syrahs lately and the 2006 Royal City Syrah beats them hands-down. However, I like ours better :-)

Saturday, February 20, 2010


"Made by hand or using the hands, as opposed to by mass production or using machinery." - some internet dictionary site.

I was reading consumer responses on a wine blog the other day and the word "Handcrafted" got kind of bashed a bit. It is a term that is used a lot in wine marketing materials, websites, and labels. I got the impression that most of those consumers seemed to shrug off the word as an "air quotes" term that the marketing department uses to give the illusion of being small or intimate with their product. And I think that these folks are also thinking of very large wineries and not the small craft wineries.

I saw a 5000 case a year wineries use the word handcrafted on their website. Five thousand cases a year is small compared to a lot of wineries, however, I doubt that they hand fill, cork, label, and capsule, their bottles, or use a bucket to scoop out must. I think that as a winery gets a bit larger, you have to use some automation to keep costs in check and speed up production. Is it sill handcrafted? Sure, but the word loses a bit of cache.

A winery that uses machine grape picking, belt-driven sorting, hydraulic bin dumpers to fill the crusher/de-stemmer, pump must to fermentation tanks that are then pumped over as fermentation happens (if red), pumped to aging barrels, pumped through a plate filter on to the bottling line and bottled to the tune of 50,000+ cases a year. Is it still Handcrafted? I would not use the word in their marketing material or back label. However, the vines are farmed, the yeast are cared for, and the product still has some kind of a human touch.

Cedar River Cellars uses the word handcrafted in our mission statement and we believe that the word is a synonym for small, intimate, variable, and unique. In other words, we are so damn small that we have to do things by hand and that our product may have a bit of variance from bottle to bottle as each fill comes from a different barrel instead of a larger blending tank.

Our grapes are hand-picked. The grapes are hand dumped, bucket-by-bucket, into the crusher/de-stemmer, and then hand dumped bucket-by-bucket into the fermentation bins. We kept our red fermentations agitated by hand (yeah..yeah.. I hate that word punch-down), we moved thousands of pounds of grapes and must around with a manual pallet-jack (on a slightly graded crush pad I might add). And we will hand bottle and cork when our product is ready.

As Cedar River Cellars gets a little bit bigger, we will introduce automation to save our backs and to speed up production. But we will still be handcrafted because we care about our operation, we have fun doing the work, and love getting our hands dirty. Our product will be more consistent, and maybe a little less intimate, but it sure as hell will be unique and small.

It is up to the consumer to take a look at some of the marketing terms wineries use and follow-up on their websites and get to know the wine they are drinking. Then at that point is when the consumer can determine the weight of the word handcrafted.