Post Crush Blues and the Vertical Horizontal

October 27, 2009

Today we finished pressing and barreling our 2009 reds, the Block 5 syrah and the Grenache. I am so happy that the grapes are through primary fermentation and are safely into barrels! No more daily punch downs, daily floor washing, no more purple hands. But once again I find myself feeling that today was bittersweet. I am already waxing poetic about the season which is now over. Are we already done with harvest and crush? Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were lamenting the spring frost? That we were analyzing budbreak, weather, and irrigation data? Perhaps it was the rainy fall skies that made me pause today.

Tonight we are hosting a vertical, horizontal tasting. With Bill’s brother Mark, we will be sampling the 2006 Syrah and the 2007 Syrah – vertical. As well, we will be comparing our 2009 acorn squash to the 2009 delicata – horizontal. Food or wine, it’s all about the mouthfeel, taste, finish… Yes, fall is my favorite time of year – a rich season in many ways.

– Barbara Steele

2009 Harvest Update

October 20, 2009

Harvest is over and the 2009 grapes are all in tank! Of all the fun career experiences I have had, none is quite as satisfying as looking into a full tank of berries. “Black Pearls” is a great description of what the grapes look like in the beginning! We brought in about 30 tons of grapes, all in beautiful condition. Our vines performed wonderfully! In weary reflection after hours of harvesting, I realized that Cowhorn crossed a milestone with this harvest: at this moment in time we have the entire life cycle of a red wine in the winery. This is a first for Cowhorn, since it means that we have a vintage of red wine in each of the stages of development.

– Barbara Steele

2008 Syrah just bottled

The 2008 Syrah was just bottled a month or so ago. Ahhh…before it went into the bottle, it was full and deep and clearly a more mature vintage than any we have produced so far. Now it is awkward and disconnected – it’s our own personal experience of the movie Bottle Shock! Last, the 2009 Syrah is just an expectation at this point. The berries are in tank and they smell like grape juice, but the beginnings of fermentation are in the air! Being around them is a dream waiting to unfold.

– Barbara Steele

2006 Syrah drinking beautifully

The 2006 Syrah is drinking beautifully now. Our first vintage, it now has 18 months in the bottle. This wine has youthful fruitiness, nuances of earthy Syrah-like tones, and the soft, lush richness that only time can produce. The 2007 Syrah has now been in bottle for 6 months and was just recently released in our tasting room. It has structure and firmness, bright cherry and dark earth. It is evolving weekly as the effects of bottle age become evident; it is becoming graceful and powerful, while still structured and soft. Each week, we anticipate experiencing a different, more beautiful wine.

– Barbara Steele

Soiree´du Vin

October 11, 2009

Okay, this was wild! After harvesting all day on Saturday, I jumped in the car on Sunday to drive to Silicon Valley for a school fundraiser. It’s a pretty swanky event, lots of very nice wines being poured all for a great cause. As usual, I suffered the intimidations of the event (read previous events to refresh yourself with my cases of nerves) this time due to the caliber of wines on the neighboring tables, being poured with dinner, and being offered for auction. Thankfully it was fleeting, the event was great fun and Cowhorn’s contribution was appreciated by all. But this wasn’t just another trip out with the Cowhorn wines. While driving home, I experienced an important realization: the next twelve months at Cowhorn will be like no other. That evening I had been pouring the 2008 Spiral 36. During conversation, I was explained that it is our third vintage for the whites, and that the red I was pouring, the 2006 Syrah, was from our first vintage. I guess I have almost gotten used to the comings and goings of the white wines. They come and they go with no overlap – one has only a memory of the changes from year to year. Then it hit me: it will be so different with the reds! During these next twelve months, Cowhorn will go from pouring our 2006 Syrah to pouring the 2006, 2007 and 2008 Syrahs. In a blink of time, we will be able to experience in the bottle the birth and development of our vineyard! Probably any experienced vintner who reads this will laugh and say that I really have been bitten with the wine-bug, but it did hit me as something new and important. This will only happen once and it is starting now! I’m sure future vintages will hold surprises and things I can’t even yet imagine. But like many of the “firsts” in our lives, they are often the most special. For those who drink Cowhorn with us during the coming months, I look forward to sharing this “first” with you.

– Barbara Steele

2009 Grape Harvest

October 10, 2009

The grapes are in! The grapes are in! We are all happy about this, but no one as much as Martin! Not that Bill and I don’t worry, but I think Martin worries row by row, block by block, month after month. He and his crew finished picking last Saturday around 6 pm. He had a BIG smile!

They picked tons and I am sure all slept well that night. In the winery, we processed until 2 am. Bill did an amazing job coordinating the moves, calibrating the process, tending to the grapes, and gently guiding them into their new surroundings. We want a gentle start to the fermentation. Our grapes get great attention when they are in the vineyard, so it only seems right that they get the same great accommodations once they come inside! And Bill gave it to them – they looked gorgeous! “Black pearls” is the best description of what a tank of Cowhorn grapes looks like.

Keep tuned for more on the smells and tastes of the 2009 harvest!

– Barbara Steele

Burying the Horns

October 9, 2009

This year, burying the fall horns had a special twist. It was the first time for Jim. So, like all good friends do, we tried to play a trick on him. You can probably guess what we did. We told him that the first year each of us had buried the horns, we tasted the manure. We explained that it was very fresh, from a beautiful organically raised cow in Williams, and that it was just necessary. How would he know the goodness of the process if he didn’t try it for himself? Pedro and Noe were VERY convincing in their sincerity. We all know that Jim has a sense of humor, so we were hopeful that he might think for a minute we were serious. Well, he didn’t! He let us know in about a nano-second that he wasn’t buying any of it! Lots of laughs were had.

By now the whole crew believes in the power of the horns and the preparations. We don’t have to discuss it. We honor and acknowledge the cow and her gifts in our own Cowhorn way, with lots of laughs and lots of care in the process.

– Barbara Steele

2009 Fall Garden Harvest

October 6, 2009

As much as I love this time of year, it is always bittersweet when the garden harvest is over. It seems like just weeks ago we started eating crisp peppers, soft tomatoes, string beans and peas. (Actually, we didn’t eat any peas but the birds were really happy about them.) Now it is fall and this week we brought in the last of the squash and pumpkins.

I still have some basil tucked under some tomatoes, but the rest is turning dark from the frost. All the squash and tomatoes are being canned or frozen to enjoy during the winter, but the plants are dropping down back into the Earth to rest and replenish for next year. For me, this is the miracle time of year: as the Earth pulls its physical forces inward, plants drop leaves and sink into the ground. The physical world becomes restful, growth stops, and the eye turns inward. At the same time, the Earth lets out her etheric energy and space is created. It is often peaceful. We have times of silence and times of spiritual celebration.

In Fall, I remind myself to stop and witness the balance that the Earth models for us. As the season progresses, we listen carefully for the faint sound and feel of the stirrings of rebirth. That is when you will find farmers laying on the couch with seed catalogs dreaming of the next garden, the next crop, or the next new fancy we want to try! It really is a miracle time.

For those who come out to the winery during the next weeks, be sure to pick up a squash or pumpkin to take home with you!

– Barbara Steele

Explore Hidden Oregon

October 1, 2009

Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden

The climate and well-draining soil of this new vineyard (the first grapes were planted in 2005) bear a likeness to France’s famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. Translation: expect to sample some really excellent vino here, especially Rhone varietals like the 2007 syrah, which swirls with hints of black cherry and cassis. The Spiral 36, a white table wine with rich oak and apple flavors, could be Southern Oregon’s answer to the Willamette Valley’s pinot noir, but for less than $20.

– Brian Barker, Bart Blasengame, Kasey Cordell, and Rachel Ritchie