Monday, April 26, 2010

Windy Walla Walla!

The 2010 Vintage is officially under way - we finally started pruning the Estate Vineyard the first part of this month. Rick decided to delay pruning just a bit due to the unusual weather we've had the past couple of months. It's been getting up the low 60's during the day but then dropping back down to right around or below freezing at night. Warm days and freezing nights are always a concern in spring and this year it seemed to have started a bit earlier. Once you begin pruning and the buds get warm, they start opening and become susceptible to damage which can mean no grapes. By delaying pruning, we have hopefully bought us some time in case we do get that early spring freeze.

Because we've held off on pruning longer than most in the valley our bud break has been a bit delayed. We saw the first bud break on our sauvignon blanc (pictured to the left) and our cabernet franc earlier this week. Last year we were at least two to three weeks behind schedule and this year we are almost two weeks ahead. It just goes to show you how different each vintage can be. A couple more weeks of warm weather and we could be further along that that. This should be an interesting vintage!

We have also been busy here at the winery. Our cellar crew has spent the past couple of weeks racking all of the 2009 wines. I'm hearing good things about the '09 vintage from Rafa and Kevin so far. Looks like we'll bottle the '09 whites in May along with some of the '08 reds. I can't wait for the wines to be released yet. The only bad thing about wine is waiting around for it to be released.

Don't forget that Spring Release Weekend is coming up this weekend in the Walla Walla Valley. We will be releasing our 2007 "Old Vines" Cabernet. Our 26th release of this wine is made up of 100% cabernet sourced from the Champoux and Sagemoor Vineyards. We will be doing a special pour of the "Old Vines" Cabernet in our "Reserve House" while all other wines will be poured in Production. We will have our usual $5 tasting fee, refundable with wine purchase, for our flight of wines with an additional $5 tasting fee for the "Old Vines," refundable with "Old Vines" purchase only.

"This “Old Vines” Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and complex yet shows elegance, restraint and sophistication. It expresses the purity of fully mature cabernet sauvignon that one only can get from 35 year old vines. The color is dark red to purple and has complex aromas of earth, cherry, leather and smoke. Flavors of ripe black cherries and cassis married with spicy new oak and vanilla coat the mouth. The texture is soft and silky yet there are mature integrated tannins in the rich, long finish. I love the proportion this red wine displays and with proper storage, it should age for ten years easily."                -Rick Small, winemaker.

We are excited to kick off 2010's busy season with the annual Spring Release.We hope to see everyone at the winery!



Monday, April 5, 2010

Baking Bread with Rick Small

If you’ve ever been to Woodward Canyon over Holiday Barrel Weekend or have had the chance to meet Rick in person, you would know how passionate he is about his bread. He has become somewhat of an artisan, spending years perfecting his recipe to get the perfect flavor and consistency for each loaf. Walking into the production building during Holiday Barrel Weekend is always a treat. Opening the door, one is met with the powerful smell of freshly baked bread along with the dips and spreads that Chef Paul has cooked up for us. During these busy weekends you can almost always find Rick with his hat on backward, wearing his white wine apron, timer around his neck, flour on his hands and standing in front of the stove. Rick takes great pride in his bread and always enjoys baking loaves for our events or even just one or two for the Woody crew to munch on or to use for pizza dough when we do our pizza lunches. And now that it's beginning to warm up a bit in the valley I'm ready for Rick's pizza lunch! 

2 ¼ cups hot water (no chlorinated water)
1 tablespoon wine yeast or 1 packet yeast
6 cups high protein flour – Wheat Montana’s Natural White (
1 teaspoon sea salt
Olive oil

Baking items:
5 or 6 quart mixer
Wood peel. Do not buy an aluminum peel because the dough sticks to it.
Corn meal
Dough knife for cutting dough into smaller pieces
Rectangular baking stone
Bread knife for scoring the top of the loaves and cutting bread
Large mixing bowl

1st Day:

Take 2 ¼ cups hot water and mix in wine yeast or 1 packet yeast and wait until frothy. Add 4 cups of flour and start mixer. Add 1 tsp sea salt and the remaining 2 cups of flour to the mixer. Mix until the gluten develops – the dough should be dry but moist. Lightly coat mixing bowl with olive oil and transfer bread to bowl; I never ferment the dough in stainless steel bowls.
Cover with plastic wrap and leave it to ferment in a warm place overnight. 
2nd Day:

3 hours before you want to bake the bread, cut and shape the dough into 4 long loaves. Use plenty of flour underneath and on the loaves. Cover with plastic wrap and let the loaves grow for 2 hours or longer.

At the end of the 2nd hour, put your baking stone into the oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. It will take an hour for the stone to come up to temperature. I recommend using a heavy stone and also recommend an electric oven over a gas oven if you have a choice.

At the end of the 3rd hours, transfer two of the loaves with the wooden peel (flour/corn meal can help here) onto the stone and score the top of the loaves with the bread knife. Bake for about 20 minutes but check from time to time since every oven bakes differently. Repeat with the remaining two loaves. Watch, smell, touch….and enjoy!