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AaronSC

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Hi all,
My spouse and I have been making wine from grapes since 1995 and have (naturally) always wanted to go commercial. We finally achieved that goal a few weeks ago and got our license to make wine and have a winery. Last year was the first year we made wine in California and got to know our neighborhood vineyards in Amador County and some from farther away in El Dorado. We had made wine in the Finger Lakes before that (definitely different challenges...) and wanted to see how much of our experience would transfer. Happily, after getting used to having to add tartaric (a pretty rare event where we had lived), we realized it was very much the same type of experience. Last year we got a smattering of varietals (barbera, zinfandel, Malbec, Mourvèdre, cabernet franc, Roussanne, Muscat and Viognier) and learned how each of these tastes from the vineyards they were harvest from. That's when we decided to take the next step and get a license.

Our goal is to stay small and treat this as a hobby for now that may develop into something bigger. Less than 500 cases. We also don't want to be like everyone else so we are planning to really experiment -especially interested in uncommon grapes, interesting blends, non-mainstream techniques (co-fermentation, no-malo reds). We're also going to try a different business model too -where we try to get highly motivated wine drinkers involved in the process of making the wine -choosing the grapes, techniques, blends, etc. Each year we'd like to have a "focus" or two, decided on my the club members -things like Rhone varietals, heritage vineyards, southern Italy, high elevation vineyards, etc.

To do this kind of thing we need to understand what's available out there, who grows which grapes, well, etc. This year our goal was to get as many small batches as we could handle from a wide range of sub-regions and respected growers, with a focus on Rhone and Italian grapes, with a few others thrown in. we weren't sure we'd have our license in time, but in the past six months we lined up a lot of interesting options to try this fall.

The grapes we on order are (reds) Syrah (three different vineyards), Grenache (also three different vineyards), Mourvedre (natch), Tannat, Aglianico, Sangiovese, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Tinta Cao, Tinta Amarela, Touriga Nacional, Barbera and (whites) Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Muscat, Fiano and Falanghina. This covers eight different vineyards, six in Amador and two in El Dorado.

This is going to be challenging, to say the least, but who said life is supposed to be easy? Any advice will be much appreciated :)

-Aaron
 

NorCal

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Awesome! Congratulations on taking the big step. I’m an hour drive from you in Placer County. I’ve sourced grapes from
Amador and really is a great little area for excellent fruit.
How are you going to keep your overhead down to be able to not bleed too much on 500 cases (17 bottles/day)?
 

Cynewulf

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Congratulations, I’m rooting for you! I’m also interested in the answer to NorCal’s question. Any time I’m daydreaming about starting a small winery, I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it in a way that would allow me to give up my day job. Definitely can’t wait to hear about it!
 

Boatboy24

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Very cool! I'm jealous of your proximity to Amador - any time I've gotten grapes from there, they've made great wine.
 

AaronSC

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Congratulations, I’m rooting for you! I’m also interested in the answer to NorCal’s question. Any time I’m daydreaming about starting a small winery, I haven’t been able to figure out how to do it in a way that would allow me to give up my day job. Definitely can’t wait to hear about it!
Well, we're still keeping our day jobs and overhead at this stage is minimal -we're using the garage. Our plan is to make some distinct and interesting wines and talk to restaurants and other retail location about carrying them, and offer retail on the web and potentially through Amador 360. In talking with Amador 360 I got the strong impression that less common varietals are what they were looking for, since they have so many Barberas and Zinfandel/Primitivos. When I mentioned Tannat and Aglianico they really perked up.

Once things get rolling (assuming they do) we'd need to scale up production and get a bigger space. After that a tasting room somewhere that's not on top of a mountain...

-Aaron
 

AaronSC

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Very cool! I'm jealous of your proximity to Amador - any time I've gotten grapes from there, they've made great wine.
Amador grapes are fantastic, I especially love the Fiddletown area. It has the most convoluted geography of any wine region I've seen. El Dorado is the place where I've found the most interesting varietals -the Tannat, Falaghina, etc. The guy I'm getting Falaghina from (picking it up in an hour) thought he might have been the first person in the US growing this. He also grows Nero D'Avola, and his neighbor has the Fiano. I'm hoping they make good wine and so far the grapes have looked and tasted great, with good stats.

One question -anyone had experience with low pH, lower acid grapes? For example, the Fiano had a pH of 3.23, which I would have guessed would have a TA of at least .85%. I did the test three times and I got .60% each time. The grapes are at 25 brix and "taste" like they have high acid, but I don't know what low pH/lower TA really tastes like. I didn't add acid since the pH was so low and it didn't seem to need it from taste (and you can't take it back). I'm used to Barbera having low pH and crazy high acid (the one I picked up the other day had 3.22 pH, 1.2% TA and 28 brix!!) and hybrid grapes having high acid and high pH (that's a pain), but this case is new to me.

-Aaron
 
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