By Lowell and Becky Zelinski
Believe it or not, the wine you will be drinking two years from now (and beyond) is being made in the vineyard right now. But a lot has yet to happen before we’ll know whether we can call this a “vintage” year. (If you want to learn what it means to have a “vintage” year – attend our Art of Blending Wine seminar where we talk about this among many other things that influence wine quality.)
As a consumer, it’s important for you to arm yourself with some information about each vintage so that you can understand the grapes that went into the bottle and to help you make good wine buying decisions. During our classes, one of the questions we get all of the time is whether we will produce the same wine next year. If you’re asking whether we’ll put the same name on the bottle, the answer for many wineries is “yes.” But if you’re asking whether the wine of the same name will be the same as the previous vintage(s), that’s a completely different question, and most likely the answer is no.
For a premium-quality wine, each year is different, thus each year’s wine is different. Even if a winery uses the same grapes from the same vineyard that were managed the exact same way, the same type of barrel, yeast, winemaker, etc. – great wines will be different from year-to-year. The main reason being: the winemaker has not manipulated the wine beyond all recognition and has allowed it to become an expression of its terroir.
Among many other things – which you can learn about in our Paso Wine 101 class – terroir includes climate: wind, rain, degree days (sunlight hours) and much more. Obviously, these things change from year-to-year. Thus, each vintage of premium wine will be an expression of its terroir and its vintage and be different. It’s like children from the same parents: similar, yet with their own distinguishing characteristics.
So what does 2013 hold for us? At this point, the jury is still out but we have some preliminary indicators. It has started as a very dry year in Paso Robles. Little rain fall in the winter means less weeds which means less weed control (for the grower – a good thing), and less water being stolen from the vines by the weeds. One would cause more stress for the vines (some think is a good thing) and one lessens the stress. More stress potentially equals high quality grapes.
It’s also already been warmer than usual, which could mean an early harvest. According to Lowell, this is probably the earliest bloom in the last 20 years based upon degree-day information. An early bloom potentially means an earlier harvest and an earlier harvest may yield better results as there is less risk of frost and rain before all of the fruit comes in.
But early bloom can also cause problems because at this point in the season, we still have the potential for cool, wet weather conditions which could lead to poor berry development. Wine grape growing, though romanticized by many is still farming and as with any farming, Mother Nature plays a huge role. At this point, if we can avoid bad weather during bloom (meaning the weather is favorable for good grape berry seed development; we could be looking at a vintage year for Paso Robles fruit.
If you’d like to learn more about wine, harvest and crush – as well as be part of this year’s vintage – join us for our Harvest Crush Experience this fall, Oct. 4-6 to see and learn for yourself what winemaking is all about.
Harvest Crush Encounter 2013 Information
By Becky Zelinski
There's a difference between tasting and drinking wine. Both are fun and have their time and place, but usually the goals are different and the results are definitely not the same. When tasting wine to evaluate its nuances and qualities, there is – what many perceive to be – a lot of "pomp and circumstance." But most of the pomp has a purpose.
An often over-looked, if not underrated step is smelling the wine to find out what it truly tastes like. (READ MORE)...Believe it or not, it's your nose that really knows what a wine will taste like. Though tasting is usually the most prized part of the process, smelling the wine to discern its aroma and bouquet is the most important part of the wine "tasting" process. It's the step that holds the key to unlocking the delicious flavors that most think only come to life on the tongue.
Try this: hold your nose and taste a glass of wine (or a glass of anything for that matter). Without the nose engaged, you will find that your taste "buds" really only give you three clues about what he wine in the glass tastes like: sweet, sour and bitter. The rest of the information is literally...(wait for it)...right under your nose!
If you find this tidbit of wine tasting 101 the least bit tantalizing, you would enjoy a First Crush wine seminar. From Paso Wine 101 to our Art of Blending Wine seminar, all of our classes give you and your taste buds first-hand knowledge about tasting, learning and loving wine. Beginning, in May 2013, in addition to these two popular seminars, we'll be offering some new classes that will tickle your fancy from your nose to your toes.
A celebration to be remembered
The 2012 Harvest Crush Encounter was a blast! We switched things up this year and only offered one weekend, but we put our hearts and souls into it and it turned out great. We worked with many different growers and winemakers, as well as multiple chefs and experts who all came together to make this year’s Crush Encounter the experience of a lifetime.
We spent the first night at a Welcome Reception held at Vivant Fine Cheese Shop in downtown Paso Robles. Danika Bowler, owner and cheese expert, introduced our eager guests to the art of pairing wine and cheese. We tried five different Paso Robles’ wines paired with a wide array of cheeses.When done nibbling, it was off to Caliza Vineyards for a tour and tasting with Carl Bowker, owner and winemaker.
We learned all about pest management during harvest, how vineyard management practices affect your crop, and we even tried wine grapes straight from the vine. Friday night, though, was just the tip of the grapevine.
Saturday morning began at the beautiful Oak Shadow Vineyard on the East Side of Paso Robles where we harvested two tons of Cabernet Sauvignon. We got down and dirty and experienced a real-live grape harvest. When we were all done, it was time for lunch in the vineyard with Chef Alex Martin -- one of Paso’s new phenoms made everyone hungry for more. Pinot Noir Braised Bork Belly and Shrimp Paella paired with Tassajara Cellars Chardonnay/Grenache Blanc and 2006 Pinot Noir, topped off with a Puppy Love Cabernet Sauvignon Baked Mousse.
After lunch, we were chauffered to Pacific Wine Services where owner/winemaker, Craig Reed, showed us how to de-stem and sort the grapes so they could begin their transformation into wine. We held onto some of the grapes, though, because the stomping competition was next. It was a really close competition but in the end Team 4 won, and it was time for a break.
After the siesta, guests were transported to Croad Vineyards and Winery to dine al fresco under the stars overlooking the beautiful Paso Robles westside wth the mellow sounds of Acoustify in the background. Before dinner, guests enjoyed a winery tour and barrel tasting with owner/winemaker Martin Croad. Chef Jeff Scott blew everyone away with an amazing meal paired perfectly with four of Croad’s award-winning wines.
The next morning was focused on blending and bottling wines. Guests started with our famous First Crush Art of Blending Wine Seminar, that lets Crush-tomers play winemaker for the day and create their own blend of First Crush red varietals. But we still weren’t done eating.
Next it was off to Cass Vineyard & Winery for a delightful Champagne Sunday brunch! We enjoyed a waffle bar with candied bacon made by Cass Executive Chef, Jacob Lovejoy. It was a perfect day for a brunch in their picnic area entertained by the ever-talented local duo, The Belmores.
Last, onto the bottling. The Crush-tomers learned about bottling decisions, created labels for their bottles to commeorate their experience, then hand bottle some wine.
Our Crush-tomers graduated with their heads held high and smiles on their faces. It was a great, action-packed weekend that exceeded everyone’s expectations. It was truly the experience of a lifetime!
“Our Crush Encounter experience was over the top! We weren’t quite sure what to expect – but the weekend was beyond our greatest imaginings! We will never look at a bottle of wine the same again.”-Bill & Cathy Reuter
In the big, wide, world of wine there are many questions with answers unbeknownst to the average consumer. Sometimes, even if there is an answer, there are 57 versions that are all technically correct. causing more confusion. This rings true for the term “library wine”. Many people have many opinions, but one thing seems to be a constant: a library wine is meant to be kept around for a while.
At First Crush we have a few wines in our “library” and we are very happy to announce we have just added another: our 2008 Soul Mate! Soul Mate will be joining 2009 Innuendo and 2009 Puppy Love in our collection of prized wines possessions and, from here on out, can only be purchased in limited quantities.
When a wine is added to the “library,” it can mean many things. It could mean that the winery is no longer selling that wine to ensure they have enough for future events and parties, or it could mean that the winery holds the wine in such a high regard that they want you to age it in your cellar because it will only get better from here. It can also mean that the winery has decided they just don’t have a lot left and it’s time to hold it back for a while. First Crush sees our library wines as a mix of all three.
We are beyond excited that Soul Mate won a Silver media for Bordeax at the Central Coast Wine Competition, but this win boosted the sales of the wine and our stock is getting low. This also brings to our attention just how delicious Soul Mate actually is. The tannin structure of the wine has only made the wine better with age, and we are confident it will continue to improve for 5-10 more years.
Soul Mate has 57% of our 2008 Puppy Love Cabernet Sauvignon -- the first wine we ever made. It holds a dear place in our hearts and it’s both a sad and happy day to see the supply dwindling. As a Crush Club member, we’re sure it means a lot to you too so we wanted you to be the first to know that limited quantities are available.
We are happy to have been able to share this wine with you over the last 2 years. If you like it as much as we do, we suggest that you buy some SOON before it’s all GONE!
Our First 100 members now get 30% discounts on wine - FOR LIFE!
Building a business is tough. Building a wine club is even tougher!
Fortunately, building our Crush Club is going well. Thanks to you, we almost have 100 wine club members. Coming up on this momentous occasion, we decided that we wanted to do something special for those of you who have helped us build our business. Therefore, we are introducing the “Bud Club!”As one of our first 100 wine club members, you are now officially one of our “Buds.” This is a special distinction for you, which you will maintain for the continuous life of your Crush Club membership.
One of the beauties of it, is that you don’t have to do a thing! No upgrades are necessary and you don’t even have to contact us to get on the list. To the contrary, we’re going to do something special for you!
Here’s how it works:
-As one of our first 100 members, you ARE one of our “Buds.” You will enjoy 30% discounts on wine purchases for the life of your continuous membership. You will be the only wine club members to have this privilege and it is not transferrabl. If you cancel your membership, this terminates your “Bud” status, which won’t be reinstated if you rejoin.-You will also be privvy to a special annual winemaker dinner to be held each spring -- JUST FOR YOU! The date for 2013 is already on the calendar.-Your new discount status is ready and waiting online. So go ahead and start using your it right away! The online code is BUD12. Get rid of your old online purchases code, it will only provide you with the old discount of 20% off.
Special Offer for Your Buds:
We haven’t quite reached 100 yet, and to help us get there, we have a special promotion going so TELL YOUR FRIENDS!
To help us reach 100, if you refer a friend to us who joins the Crush Club, we will give you 40% off one case of wine (excluding our reserve and library wines). AND there’s something for your friend too: if they are our 100th member, they will receive a $100 gift certificate that they can use on wine, merchandise or classes.So what are you waiting for? Tell your friends. We’ve included a wine club application in your shipment for you to share. Just ask them to write your name on it if they mail it in or mention your name if they call, stop in or join online.
First Crush Harvest Crush Encounters are full of fun and exciting activities throughout the weekend, but the meals are no doubt one of my top choices. We pick, crush, sip, stomp, play, and harvest, and by the end of it there is no better reward than a divine meal served in the vineyard.
This year, as you know, we are doing things a little differently and packing the weekend full of fun—this means more meals to enjoy. There will be a wine and cheese pairing, lunch in the vineyard, a winemaker’s dinner, and a champagne brunch. There are so many opportunities to experience the cuisine that Paso Robles has to offer, and we have reined up some great chefs to tackle every taste and desire of our “crush-tomers”.
Friday night kicks off with a wine and cheese pairing let by Danika Bowler of Vivant Fine Cheeses in downtown Paso Robles. We will first walk through the beautiful vineyards at Caliza Winery with owner and winemaker Carl Bowker, then have a wine and cheese pairing lesson on their gorgeous patio. Vivant Fine Cheese provides cheese to all of the wineries in Paso Robles, plus all around America. Their Fine Cheese Club is growing exponentially and the shop is always packed. We are excited for our “crush-tomers” to get to know Danika and the delectable cheeses that she has to offer.
Saturday is an all day adventure. We start off in the vineyard picking wine grapes by hand, learning all about harvest and Crushing and de-stemming our bounties. This leads into another great meal: catered lunch in the vineyard. Chef Alex Martin started Crush Catering in October 2011, but has worked at almost every restaurant in Paso Robles. He started as Sous Chef in the implementation of opening Matthew’s at the Airport alongside C.E.C. Matthew Riley. After 2 years at Matthew’s, Alex was presented with the opportunity to open Panolivo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo as Executive Chef. Alex always had an eye for baking and pastries, but never dived deep into it, but when working at Artisan Restaurant with Chef Chris Kobayashi, the challenge arose. Alex wanted to be a well rounded chef; and becoming Pastry Chef at Artisan was an amazing opportunity. Alex later went on to perfect his skills at Justin Vineyards & Winery as Sous Chef. Alex is also a two-time Pinot and Paella Cook-off winner and recently competed in the 2009 Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs Regional Juenes Commis Competition where he placed second. Alex won the 2011 Olive Festival Head to Head Cook-off in an iron chef style competition. Inspiration is brought to him every day by local farmers, winemakers, and guest chefs from around the world. He will be bringing out his famous paella as the main dish for lunch, but I don’t want to give too much away, so you’ll have to come to Harvest to find out the rest of the menu.
Saturday then turns into the stomping competition and an afternoon break for our “crush-tomers” where they can look forward to a winemaker dinner prepared by local chef Jeff Scott. Chef Jeff has worked in the area for a long while and has had the chance to cater many events along the Central Coast. He does an array of menus and can cater for parties of anywhere from 4 to 2000 people. He is very talented and will be pairing his menu with the wines of Croad Vineyards.
Sunday morning will kick off at Cass Vineyards and Winery where we will barrel taste with owner Steve Cass and winemaker Lood Kuntz. Then we will have a Champagne Brunch prepared by their in-house chef Jacob Lovejoy. Chef Jacob developed an appreciation for food and skills involved in preparing it at an early age. He grew up on a family farm and learned to use local produce and meats to prepare fresh seasonal dishes with ease. This passion led him to the Cordon Blue Culinary Program in Fresno, California. After graduating, Chef Jacob’s love for working with fresh and local ingredients brought him to the central coast of California. Working his way up and down the coast, Jacob ultimately because the permanent chef at Cass Winery, where his ideas and passion have grown exponentially to provide a unique experience for every new customer. Chef Jacob’s creations can be sampled daily at the Cass Café or at one of the winery’s many events held throughout the year, including the First Crush Harvest Crush Encounter!
Along with a taste of winemaking, our Harvest Crush Encounters, also give you a taste of some of the best things the Paso Robles wine country has to offer. You'll visit multiple wineries to taste and dine, meet winemakers, growers and experts and truly gain a new appreciation for wine. The weekend is packed full of fun, fabulous and fascinating wine adventures at different wineries and vineyards allowing our "crush-tomers" to get a hands-on experience all over the region.
Friday’s activities are kicked off at Vivant Cheese Shop with local cheese expert, Danika Bowler. Learn the tips and tricks of wine and cheese pairings while gaining a new understanding of different cheeses and their characteristics.
Friday night's Welcome Reception will be held at Caliza Winery on the west side of Paso Robles. Enjoy a private tour of the Caliza Vineyard with grower/winemaker Carl Bowker. Then enjoy tasting Caliza's Rhone varietals and blends in their beautiful west side vineyard.
Saturday morning, we'll be in the beautiful Oak Shadow Vineyard with grower Treanna Smoot and vineyard manager, Lowell Zelinski. At lunch, we'll enjoy the wines of Tassajara Cellars paired with a scrumptious lunch prepared by local chef Alex Martin of Crush Catering.
Saturday night will take to the beautiful Croad Vineyards & Winery for an elegant dinner under the stars. You'll enjoy a tour of the winery with owner/winemaker Martin Croad, and a gorgeous view of Paso Robles from its hilltop location. Martin is a New Zealander with a passion for the down under winemaking style.
Sunday, we'll visit Cass Vineyard &Winery for a beautiful and relaxing Sunday Champagne brunch prepared by local chef extraordinaire, Jacob Lovejoy. You'll enjoy tasting the new Cass Sparkling Wine along with Steve Cass and the gang.
Fall is in the air and Crush is finally here!! Ripe, juicy grapes are hanging from the vines just waiting to be turned into world-class wine. The air is crisp and there's an excitement in the air that you can only truly appreciate once you've experienced it. It's truly a special time in wine country, and there's only one way you can truly experience it -- by joining us for our Harvest Crush Encounter, October 5-7, 2012.
And in honor of the California Wine Institute's 8th annual California Wine Month, you can experience it for half the price for a limited time.* From now until September 15, we are offering ourBring a Friend discount. If you register now, you can experience harvest with your best friend at your side while saving 50%. Space is limited so register today. This is your chance to feel the grapes between your toes and get a luxurious taste of what winemaking is really like.
*The Deal: Register for one Harvest Crush Encounter and get your second registration of equal or lesser value for 50% off! See the coupon on the bottom of this page for details. Offer expires Sept. 15. Space is limited.
Don't miss this great opportunity to experience your First Crush in Paso Robles with your best friend this fall!
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Winery/Office: 2975 Limestone WayPaso Robles, CA 93446
(805) 434-2772 Fax (805) 434-3337