Notes from Iridesse Wines

The Buzz from Patrick & Genevieve

Archive for September, 2007

Goodbye and Hello – News of Death and New Life

Posted by oenophilus on September 26, 2007

It is with a very heavy heart that I share the news that our friend, Henry Lubke, has died.

While on a sales trip to the Baltimore market, I mentioned to Chip Lubke – Chateau Felice’s Maryland distributor – that we often took interns to help us with the Harvest. A few months later, Chip’s son Henry came to work with us at Chateau Felice to assist Genevieve and Tom van Camp with the 2006 Harvest. His competence, strength, eagerness, and gentleness quickly endeared him to all. Henry stayed on as a valuable member of the Chateau Felice team as Tom’s right hand in the cellar and recently enjoying the other side of the biz by working for our sister, Samantha in the Tasting Room. He was very excited to be a part of the wine industry, learning more and more under Tom’s wing and in his viticulture and enology studies; he had all the makings of a great winemaker. Even though Genevieve and I left Chateau Felice in November of last year, we enjoyed seeing Henry as part of the extended family. This loss has hit us all very hard. Our hearts go out to Henry’s parents, Chip & Jean, and to his sister, Laura and brother, Chase.

It seems very cliché to mention, but I must. It is so hard when you lose a friend who is 21 years old and, so very fundamentally, good. As we stumble around in shock, we all keep bringing up his qualities: kind, nice, gentle, funny, caring, supportive, responsible, hardworking…just good. I take solace in hoping that knowing Henry and having seen these qualities will help me become a better person. Goodbye, my friend.

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I also speak of Hello. Just two hours after I received the call from Samantha about Henry, I got a call from Genevieve’s mom, Úna, telling us that Gen’s sister Erin had finally given birth to a gorgeous little girl named Susanna Marie. We had been waiting for a few weeks now. Genevieve was in D.C. to be with Erin and her husband Jim for the birth…but Susanna was feeling all nice and comfy in mama’s belly. Genevieve came home after visiting for 10 days and still no baby. I am excited because I am an Uncle – a beautiful concept for an only child. I am happy because I love Jim and Erin very much and know how their hearts have swollen with love. I am thankful for the gift of family.

I look forward to the day, far in the future, when I will tell Susanna about our friend Henry and his example of goodness. Hello, little one.


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Harvest Memories

Posted by oenophilus on September 23, 2007

Genevieve’s post from last week got me thinking about my favorite harvest memories and this golden nugget kept popping up!

When I first saw this, I knew nothing of wine and had no inkling that it would one day be at the center of my life. I also never imagined that I would find myself, each year, up to my knees in Old-Vine-Zin, stomping away at what will someday be very yummy “Port”!

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Is It Time to Pick Yet?

Posted by Genevieve Rodgers-Llerena on September 17, 2007

Ah, September! Wineries are running at full steam. Winemakers and their crews are wondering when they’ll get some sleep. And growers? They are biting their nails – praying to the gods of good weather. It’s Harvest Time in the Wine Country! This is the time when a lot of the good stuff happens. Water gets turned into wine. So the pressing (wine pun) question is: how do you know when to pick?

Really, picking is one of the biggest decisions a winemaker will make…and it’s a complicated one. As a winemaker, my job is to get the absolutely best grapes possible, but it’s not the only consideration. Upcoming weather can be a huge factor: a hard rain or a week of heat above 100 degrees can destroy otherwise perfect grapes. Then there’s making sure I can get a picking crew and an empty tank – easier in the beginning of the harvest than at the end. Let’s pretend for a moment that the weather is perfect, crews are plentiful and empty fermentation tanks abound….

Judging when to pick starts with a walk in the vineyard. A healthy vineyard will allow for better and more even ripening. I can pick out trouble spots that may need more care. Uneven ripening may throw off the ever important sample. It seems that every winemaker has a different method for sampling a vineyard – but, I think mine’s best. I like to get a repeatable sample. It’s not truly a random representation like they taught in winemaker school. But this way I can use yearly data to correlate readings from year to year and so better manage the vineyard to get what I want from it. I pick four rows in each block and test the same rows every year. Each sample takes 5 berries from 5 vines from each four rows, taking berries from all sides of the cluster.

Once I have my 100 grapes (check my math: 5x5x4), I do a combination of qualitative and quantitative tests on the sample. I test three sets of three berries. I put each set in my mouth and feel the texture and taste of the pulp and the skins. I’m looking for the pulp texture to get really liquidy and separate easily from the skins. The taste goes from: vegetal to herbaceous to unripe to red fruit or green fruit to black fruit or tropical fruit and finally to jam. I’m looking for red or black fruit in a Cabernet, green or tropical fruit in a Chard. Sometimes I like a bit of jammy flavor in a Zin, but only a bit, as those flavors can lead to high alcohol wines which are not my style. The skins should start to fall apart when I chew them and should lose their bitterness while gaining the nice fruit flavors. The seeds should turn brown and get crunchy. I crush the rest of the sample in a nice ziplock bag and test the juice for sugar (Brix as % of sugar solids), pH (acid to alkaline scale) and TA (titratable acidity) if possible.

Ideally, I’m looking for white grapes to fit these parameters:Brix 22.5 – 24.5, pH 3.2 -3.6, TA 0.65 – 0.75.  I like Red grapes closer to: Brix 24.5 – 25.5, pH 3.4 – 3.8, TA 0.58 – 0.7.

The big question: Which is more important, the taste or the numbers? A loaded question gets a loaded answer. The taste and texture of the grapes are my first priority. You can’t make great wine from grapes that are bitter and taste like veggies. You also can’t make great wine from grapes that are way beyond the ideal numbers. In the end, I want the best tasting grapes that fall within my parameters. At that point I pray for good weather, a picking crew and space for the wine. Really? Making wine involves a lot of prayer, and even more beer. But that’s another blog altogether…

Posted in Answers to Your Technical Questions, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Mission So Possible!

Posted by oenophilus on September 13, 2007

Agent Red at the wine spies brought our 2001 Anam Cara Napa Valley in for a round of tasting and guess what? The Wine Spies gave us 90 points! Woo-Hoo! Not only do they have some extraordinary tastebuds – clearly – but they do have a really good thing going!

Visit their site at to check out the covert scene!

btw – they are offering a fantastic price for today only with free shipping on orders over six bottles. Yowza!

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Hot Hints from My Latest Trip

Posted by oenophilus on September 10, 2007

Hey. I almost forgot. I want to give a couple of “Shout-Outs” to some unexpected yummy treats I discovered on this trip to Portland.

St. Honore Bakery in Lake Oswego is fantastic. This is the closest thing I have come to French bakery paradise! It is a little “Epcot-ish” I’ll grant. However the breads, pastries, Croques, etc. all looked and smelled amazing. My Cafe-au-lait and Normandie Apple Tart (Oh Yeah!) put me in just the right frame of mind to get to the airport with an adjusted attitude!

Airport food? Tasty? Ya, Shure. Y’Betcha. SEA is the code for the airport shared by Seattle and Tacoma, also known as Sea-Tac. In the frenzy that is the change of planes on the way home, I needed to gulp down some sustinance for the remainder of the journey. Anthony’s Fish Bar has a great fish taco – either Mahi Mahi or Alaskan Rock Fish! It’s grilled flavors and slightly piquant cabbage slaw would have paired beautifully with the Iridesse Zinfandel Rose, but alas…

Last note: Horizon served us thirsty wine folk – and the other passengers too – COMPLIMENTARY Red Hook Brewery Sunrye Summer Ale! Wow. Delish. Thirst-Slacking. Did I mention FREE???? Kudos to our very cute cabin crew of Kippy and Scott who together with a mischievous pilot, kept us in giggles from Seattle to Santa Rosa.

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Rapid Insertion Strike Team

Posted by oenophilus on September 10, 2007

I just flew in from Portland, and boy are my arms….No really. I did just get back from a tasting in Lake Oswego (just outside of Portland). Usually we try to schedule our VIP and Wine Club tastings when I can spend a few days in the area promoting Iridesse Wines. This time, because of scheduling conflicts, I was to dash in, pour our wines for a group of potential customers, and dash out the next morning.

What a great opportunity to use the new Horizon Airlines service out of Charles Schultz Sonoma County Airport. Located at the northernmost extremes of Santa Rosa, the airport is less than 15 minutes from our house. Compare that to the heinous drive through the Bay Area mazes and bridge traffic and back-ups to get to Oakland or San Francisco airports in 2-3 hours. No contest. Horizon will get the lion’s share of my business!

Even though we got off to a rough start with a major delay (who wants to get on a plane that has mechanical troubles, anyway?), my flight to Seattle was quick and comfortable with a snappy connection for the hop to Portland. I made it with time to spare – my wine that I checked as baggage didn’t. Eeeek! The very kind baggage services allayed my fears and it did come on the next flight. Whew!

Genevieve’s Stepdad, who lives in the area, graciously picked me up and we rushed into the tasting just a wee bit late. I poured our Albarino, Zin Rose, and Anam Cara blend for a lovely gathering of my new friends that loved them and are sure to become valued customers! I rested my weariness at Genevieve’s mom’s house in the neighboring town before catching the 10:30 am flight the next day. The return flight was easy and actually got in more than 15 minutes early!

The actual time in Portland? 6:45 pm on Saturday – 9:45 am on Sunday. All for love of the wine. Interested in hosting me for a VIP party at your house? Let me know!

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