Verasion is in full swing… or … Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

I still don’t know what I was waiting for
And my time was running wild
A million dead-end streets
And every time I thought I’d got it made
It seemed the taste was not so sweet
So I turned myself to face me
But I’ve never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I’m much too fast to take that test

(Turn and face the strange)
Don’t want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strange)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time

“Changes” –David Bowie

I’m Changing! Today began the most visibly dramatic change in my life to date. Yes, pollination was fun, but this is huge…this is bigger than John Boehner changing color after he gets a spray tan touch up…this is a change inside and out. So what’s happening? Well, I’ve pretty much hit my full size…cell division has slowed to a crawl…now it’s the physiological changes.

Over the next several weeks, chlorophyll inside me is going to break down as anthocyanins start to form in my skin, giving me that red to purple to almost black appearance. Meanwhile, on the inside, malic acid is going to start to degrade and tartaric acid will take over as the primary acid present. Finally…and most importantly, the vine is going to start pumping sugar into me…I mean a LOT of sugar. By the time I’m picked, I’ll probably contain 25% sugar. As I start getting VERY ripe, pyrazines will begin to break down…these chemicals are responsible for herbaceous aromas (think of the green bell pepper aromas predominant in the the Napa Cabernets made in the 70s and 80s). With these pyrazines gone, my fruity aromas will be much more noticeable.

Portugal Journeys Part Six: A fun visit to Porto

After our adventurous day of watching the harvest and checking out the resting and first processing, it was time for our crew to pile into the bus for the long trip North to Porto. What is probably a two and a half our ride by car or a three hour ride by bus; scratch that! It was a bus full of winemakers. With beer stops, four hours later, we pulled into Porto.

We got to appreciate several different aspects of Porto. First off was our welcome dinner in a beautiful restaurant overlooking the ocean. This was a fun treat for me as I realized it was my first time to look west into the Atlantic Ocean. The evening was a bit overcast, but the ocean promenade was beautiful and the after dinner cigars didn’t hurt.

The next day was occupied with more M.A. Silva tours (more on the ne

xt post) and one of the most fantastic lunches of the trip. I’ve usually been a bit squeamish when it came to chicken “innards”, but prepared in an amazing broth; I went for seconds. By this meal, stews of shellfish were becoming very common, but this one stood out above the rest. The remainder of the afternoon was spent at the home of Manuel Silva relaxing, sharing stories, sharing wine, and of course, sharing more food. My jaw dropped when late in the afternoon, very much in the style of pizza delivery, a man showed up with two suckling pigs!

A few days later, we returned to Porto, this time, to tour Graham’s aging facility for a visit and tasting. Having produced a Cabernet Sauvignon “Port-style wine” for fifteen years, this was truly a highlight for me. Many of our group paid a bit extra to taste various vintages of older port wines. This region does quite a bit to regulate and control quality year to year. For example, “Vintage Ports” can only come from years where the majority of producers agree that it was a standout year. If so, Portugal’s Port Wine Institute “declares the vintage”. While both my fathers’ (1942) and my (1970) birth years are classified vintages, they were unavailable to purchase or taste. However, I was successful in walking out with birth year wines for both of my children, Jerry (2000) and Megan (2003). The other big education for me was concerning tawny ports. I had always (wrongly) assumed that a twenty-year port was Port from a single vintage which had aged in barrel for twenty years. It turns out that it is an average of multiple vintages; a blend of freshly made port wines to forty year plus. It becomes a blending game of creating a consistent house style for their twenty, forty, and older tawny ports. With that education under my belt, I’m still pursuing my Schweiger “20 year” Port made from the 2009 vintage. If I haven’t previously invited you, it will be released July 11, 2030. Yes, that’s my sixtieth birthday; how’s that for planning ahead?

After our tour of Graham’s, we had some free time to explore the “other side” of Porto. The vast majority of businesses, churches, and government buildings are all located on one bank of the river (this is where our hotel was earlier in the week).

This side of the river today has historically been reserved for Wineries, Aging Cellars, Tasting Rooms, and of course Restaurants. Wines made in the Douro Valley age just under a year at the winery in the Douro. Before the next harvest comes in, they are transported down to Porto for aging. In days gone by, they were shipped on the deck of large barges. Today, this is done by tanker truck, but remnants of those days gone by remain. Each Port house has a historic barge still on the water today, displaying the flag of that producer.

As this beautiful sunny day came to a close, it was time for a short train ride back to Lisbon for (what we thought at the time) was to be the last night of our trip. More on that later when I discuss Lisbon.

It’s Easy Being Green!

It’s not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold-
or something much more colorful like that.

It’s not easy being green.
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water-
or stars in the sky.

But green’s the color of Spring.
And green can be cool and friendly-like.
And green can be big like the ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder? Why Wonder, I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful!
And I think it’s what I want to be.

–“It’s Not Easy Being Green”, Kermit the Frog

Shortly after the completion of the 2015 Harvest, we received a long awaited piece of mail…our official declaration as a “Napa Green Business”. Now, we have been practicing Sustainable Farming since Day One (back in the 70’s!) but this distinction came after many years of evaluating EVERYTHING we do here at Schweiger Vineyards. Justin Schuchardt and I looked at every facet of daily operations and thought, “how can we be more while using less…” …some of the changes we have made in the past few years came in surprising forms…these include:

  • Looking at every light bulb in the facility…where can we switch to compact flourescent or LED? Installing motion detectors so lights get turned off in unoccupied rooms. Schweiger Vineyards is already 110% solar powered, but how can we cut consumption further and send more green electricity to the grid for others to use.
  • Installing water meters to different operations points. We now monitor how much water is being used for production, the office, the tasting room, landscaping, and farm operations. If a number is out of norms, we know where specifically to check for leaks or reevaluate what we’re doing.
  • Reduce water and chemical use in the winery: We had recently purchased a steamer for the sanitization of our barrels. Justin and I developed a procedure for cleaning and sanitizing our tanks with steam. Previously we were following the industry norm of using about 140 gallons of water per tank plus the use of caustic chemicals to clean and sanitize. Today we use about 2 gallons of water per tank. Now we are saving significant water and the bacteria in our leach field is happier too!
  • Received certification from the State Water Board. Any stormwater runoff from our property is certified free of polutants and we monitor several rainfalls throughout the year.
  • many many, more nitty gritty details far too boring to elaborate on.

Personally, I think the most exciting thing about this is that it continues to set all of us here at Schweiger Vineyards apart as pioneers. As of today, less than 15% of Napa Wineries have received this certification and we are presently the only one in the Spring Mountain District. Furthermore, we did it all in house. Larger, corporate wineries hire consultants to list the changes to make and hire contractors to make the changes. This was a quest that Justin and I took on personally an learned as we did it. As a result, the changes are perosnal and heartfelt…not changes for the sake of change but change for the purpose of being more responsible stewards of this land that God has blessed us with.

We encourage you to take a moment on your next visit here to take a moment to just relax, turn off your cell phone and look at the natural beauty surrounding you. Take in a deep breath of that fresh mountain air, watch the bluebirds flying in and out of the birdhouses (keeping our vineyard insect and insecticide free), play with our winery dogs, and take a sip of our truly exceptional wines that are uniquely root to glass products.