Chambourcin: Our favorite woody perennial

This photo says it all. Harvest has nearly come to an end. We’re wrapping up the 2012 growing season with a popular grape that has really earned its keep this year. Chambourcin. You know her in two forms: a dry red and a beautiful rosé.

Some notes about Chambourcin from Ross, our assistant vineyard manager. It’s a lovely read, so you should pour yourself a glass of something beforehand.

 I think this year has been a testament to the persistence and adaptability of our favorite woody perennial. The year awakened early with mild temperatures in the spring. Pruning in the warmth was bitter sweet; we enjoyed a break from the biting cold but the warmth woke the vines up early. As the buds began emerging, the promise and beauty of the new growth was mingled with dark foreboding; an early frost would almost certainly kill the new shoots. The frost happened and, although not as bad as it could have been, the damage was disheartening. Would the vines come back and bear fruit? As the year progressed, the vines began to give subtle hints that their sweet berries would grace the vineyard in abundance!

Once clear of the perils of spring, another challenge loomed for the vines and their young fruit. Day after day and week after week passed without rain. The ground dried out and cracked. Grass lost all trace of green and stopped growing (less mowing!). This type of weather being quite unusual for this region, many were watching with great consternation. Tales of failures in other crops prompted a wary eye to be cast across the rows of vines, so recently in danger from the frost. But at the end of the year looking back, we can all be thankful for the persistence of the grape! Not only did the vines make it through, but in response to the hardships the canopies of leaves and graceful tendrils were open to the nourishing sunlight, the salubrious breezes, and the eager harvesters more than ever before. What an amazing year; this will be a vintage to enjoy with thankfulness. Thankfulness that good things come from life’s many pressures.

Ross. Possibly writing poetic things about Chambourcin.
Vineyard staff, loading the lugs

A new way to prune at Creekbend Vineyard

Post by Bernie Parker, Vineyard Manager

It has been a while since my last blog.  We have been busy in the vineyard pruning as well as helping out in production on those really nasty days.  In the vineyard we are happy to have a new piece of equipment that has been a real time saver and reduced the strain on everyone’s shoulders.  As you can see in this video it is a trailer on which the staff rides to prune the vines at about waist high instead of shoulder high.

It also gives everyone a steady pace to work at.  The crew is happy to be out of the mud and snow and we haven’t had any problems with our shoulders.  What a great addition to the vineyard!

Library Wines-A Tasty Trip Down Memory Lane

Post by Jessika Hane, HR Director

On Wednesday, a few of us gathered in the lab to commence what has become an annual pre-holiday tradition: tasting wines for our “library release.”

Every year, we pull a few (okay, a bunch) of wines from our library and evaluate them to determine which ones are ready for a re-release. We are looking for wines that have aged gracefully and taste great. Wines that you can share with loved ones at your holiday table or tuck into your cellar for next year.

And, it’s a lot of fun! Take a look at some pictures from this year’s tasting.

Our winemaking team (Bill, John and Dennis) begin the tasting.
Lots of bottles of wine to taste!
Amber, Drew, Pam, Melanie, Bill and John carefully consider our choices.
Kathleen Oliver enjoys her taste of 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. (I'm busy in the background taking my job a little too seriously)
This is towards the end of the tasting. We were having a really good time!

We picked some excellent library wines this year and they go on sale today!

Here is just a peak, more info about the wines can be found on our website.
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon: $40
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon: $40
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: $60
Creekbend Pinot Grigio 2007: $30
Creekbend Chambourcin 2008: $30
Shiraz Reserve 2003: $35

Starting this weekend, we will also be offering a tasting flight of three of these wines (Shiraz Reserve, Chambourcin and the ’02 Cabernet) for a small fee.

I hope you can stop by soon to stock up on these special wines!

Meet Steve Borra- grower of great grapes!

Post by Bill Oliver, Director of Winemaking

Our winemaking philosophy is to create wines that reflect the flavor of perfectly ripe wine grapes. The goal is to make soft, rich, and inviting wines that cry out for another sip and another glass. Fundamentally these flavors are born in the vineyard. We believe that wine is more about the grape grower and less about the winemaker.

Borra Vineyards in Lodi California is one of those growers.  We met Steve Borra years ago.  Wearing cowboy boots and driving an old pickup he gave us a tour of the “ranch.”  Not a steer to be seen on this ranch – just acres of beautifully tended vines. Steve’s passion for grapes is obvious and tasting the wines from his own small winery confirmed his commitment to quality.  We have been buying his grapes ever since.

Steve on the "ranch".

Borra specializes in Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz.  These grapes thrive in Lodi’s very warm summers and reach perfect ripeness even in unusually cool summers – 2011 being one of those.  When we talk about wines exhibiting true varietal character, about exhibiting fresh off the vine flavor, few growers deliver better fruit than Steve Borra.

Our vineyard manager, Bernie Parker, runs Steve's zinfandel grapes through the destemmer/crusher.

Don’t those grapes look delicious? If this photo has your craving Zinfandel, stop by our Tasting Room this weekend. We are pouring tastes and selling the 2009 Zinfandel. Yum!

Oak Ovals-The King of Wine Barrels

Post by John Metzcar, Assistant Winemaker

We just finished putting the last of our 2010 dry reds into barrels for aging and maturation.  This year, in addition to our typical barrel aging program, we began an experiment with large barrels…very large barrels.  We will be aging our 2010 Zinfandel and 2010 Merlot in beautiful, handmade, 1585 gallon French oak barrels (or ovals as we like to call them).

We have two of these oak ovals. They live in our cellar and can be seen on our weekend tours.


Now, why would you want to deal with these behemoth barrels/ovals?  Well, there are  a couple of reasons.

First, wines age differently in different sized containers – merlot in a 60 gallon barrel will age differently than in a 70 gallon barrel, which will age differently than in a 1585 gallon oak oval.  Our hope is that these large format barrels will develop tannins more slowly and give us something slightly different than maturation in a 70 gallon barrel.  Thus, the oak ovals will provide a new tool for our red wine program.

Second, it really changes our barrel management strategy for the Zin and Merlot.  Our oak ovals are the equivalent volume to almost 23 of our more typical 70 gallon oak barrels.  Instead of tracking, tasting, and topping 23 barrels, we can keep our focus on one tank of wine for the whole aging process.

A regular 70 gallon barrel looks tiny compared to the oak oval.


Finally, they are just great to look at!

So beautiful!

New Year’s Resolutions


Post by Bill Oliver, Director of Winemaking

Three Resolutions for Winemakers in 2011

  1. Spend more time in the vineyard. In fact, winemakers should resolve to actually CAMP in the vineyard, preferably without a tent on a moonless night. This would be an excellent way to bond with the vines and to better understand terroir. Repeated camp-outs could be necessary if one overnight fails to deliver the desired harmony with the vines.
  2. Relax. Stop stressing about grape parameters, fermentation harmonics and label deliveries. Developing wine is sensitive and cannot reach its full potnetial in a cellar full of worry.
  3. Cook. While this may not go over well with Oliver Winery’s capable financial controller, we should immediately install a full professional kitchen in the offices shared by the winemaking staff. How can we be expected to fully appreciate our wines without thoughtfully prepared foods to accompany them? We may need a chef as well.

Three Resolutions for Wine Drinkers in 2011

  1. Free yourself from the bonds of Vitis Vinifera tyranny: European varieties make wonderful wines, but so does Vitis Rotundifolia, Vitis Deliciosis and Interspecific varities. Go ahead, blind taste test Creekbend Chardonel against a French or California Chardonnay. Just a friendly challenge. Please email us with your findings.
  2. Drink WUP: Wine from Unique Places. Great wine is made in lots of places- Idaho, Colorado, Missouri and yes, Indiana. Have a WUP party at your home. Please invite me.
  3. Entertain more. My parents had dinner parties seemingly every week when I was a kid! Has this gone out of style? Spending too much time hauling your kinds to sports practices? Less soccer, more barbeques!

Happy New Year!