What an amazing year it has been for grapes in 2021. The perfect terroir to start harvest a bit sooner than anticipated! Last week, we were able to do the blessing of the grapes ceremony here at Clos LaChance as the first of the grapes were plucked from their vines to make their journey from vine to wine!
During the ceremony, our winemaker, Jason Robideaux, gave a speech about how the climate has been for the past year, his 15th year harvesting the grapes from the Estate vineyards at Clos LaChance! Here's a little bit of what Jason had to say:
"A little bit about the year, the growing temperatures, everything has been absolutely perfect. Surprisingly we've only had one day over 100 degrees. Melinda thinks we have a little over 500 tons out there. I'm a little skeptical, but fingers crossed! It's actually really encouraging. The perfect weather, really high yields, everything's lining up. As long as we have our normal idea of summer, it stays warm through September/October, no rain—knock on wood—everything should be good. We're excited about this year!"
Melinda, who Jason mentioned, who was also in attendance at the ceremony, is our new Estate Vineyard Manager for Clos LaChance. She has been an amazing addition to the team here at Clos, and we couldn't be happier to have her!
After saying a few words, Jason did the ceremonial sabering of a bottle of Amber's Cuvee and poured the juice atop the grapes.
Everyone toasted to the success of the harvest, and then got back to work!
There is never a moment to rest during harvest time. We most certainly have our work cut out for us. But we'll be back later to share more about the process after the grapes have been harvested and are ready to be transformed into the delicate, nuanced flavors of a Clos LaChance Estate wine. Cheers!
As summer comes to its final weeks and autumn waits just around the corner, we would like to share a delightful pairing of fresh, garden-picked veggies alongside a chilled bottle of our Colibri Rosé.
The artichokes had been at full height and yet to bloom in the garden—which of course you do not want if you’re planning to eat them—the perfect time to harvest. We cut back their stems to about an inch above the base of the artichoke. We clipped the sharp edges of each leaf and then placed a pot of water on the stove. While the artichokes boiled away happily softening in the pot, back into the garden we went to get a plethora of greens for a nice summer salad.
The romaine was happily plucked, thoroughly washed, and spun dry before being chopped up and added to our bowls. The lovely thing about growing greens in your garden is that they just keep replenishing! Which will mean many of salads in the days to come.
Salads can be made in a number of ways, with a number of ingredients, but the toppings we always like to keep on hand include nut and dried fruit mixes, tortilla strips/croutons, beets, apple, cucumbers, canned black beans, canned corn, and avocado.
The fruit added gives this summer salad a sweetness that pairs perfectly with a glass of our Colibri Dry Rosé. Topped with a nice balsamic or apple vinaigrette and you have a lovely salad to eat for lunch.
Once your salad is prepared, it's time to check on your artichoke. They do take some time to boil, generally about 20-40 minutes or so, or until the base is fork tender. When they are done, you will want to make something scrumptious to dip them in. Our recommendation, a dollop of mayonnaise sprinkled with Garlic and Herb Mrs. Dash seasoning to take that artichoke to the next level!
Our Colibri Dry Rosé, with its aromas of honeydew melon and rose petal, is filled with flavors of watermelon and strawberries. Its light body and medium acidity, make this very low sugar wine, produced from primarily old-world style head-trained Grenache vines, truly an elegant choice to accompany this delightful meal.
Remember when wine used to be made by stomping on the grapes with your bare feet? I am certainly glad those days are over, but what you might not realize is that winemaking does not start with the grapes being pressed. It starts way before that. Let us take a walk through the vines themselves where the delicious grapes are grown…
Jason Robideaux, our expert winemaker here at Clos LaChance, let me in on a few special gems of information about the grapes on the vines. Here is what he had to say:
Winemaking starts in the vineyard. If as a winemaker, you are not in tune with what is happening in the vineyard then you are already behind. A lot of early decisions can be made by just walking through the vineyard and popping a couple of grapes in your mouth.
Processing decisions, like whole cluster pressing or destemming a white grape first can be determined by the look of the stems, the thickness of the skins and the health of the overall cluster.
Fermentation and aging decisions start in the vineyard as well, whether the grapes are very small and will have low juice to skin ratios, or things like sunburn or mold that may affect the health of the fermentation. Grapes with thicker skins than usual may be too tannic or astringent, so managing the fermentation and aging regimen can start right there in the vineyard.
Sometimes winemakers will have clusters of grapes removed during the ripening process so that the vine can re-focus its energy on helping the remaining clusters produce the best, most fruitful, juice there can be. Jason has more to say on this subject too. I’ll let him take it away:
Yes, there are certain times where we have to drop some grapes on the ground. There are a variety of reasons we would do this, the crop load is too heavy to guarantee ripeness, sometimes we do this in better blocks to really increase the quality and have the vines focus on a smaller load and sometimes we do what’s called a “color drop”, where we go through right at the end of Veraison and drop all of the clusters that are still majority green when most of the clusters are already purple. This gives us an even ripening of the whole crop.
We do not anticipate dropping any clusters this year unless we see a drastic uneven ripening at Veraison. Mainly the reason for the excellent crop is the great weather last spring giving us very fruitful renewal buds that gave us a lot of clusters this year. We also had perfect weather at bloom, so the set was great with little to no shatter.
You see shelves of wine stacked in stores, and the supplies seem unending. When one bottle or three get put into a cart, others come to take their place. It seems like a pretty easy Science, doesn’t it? But I wonder what actually goes into making each bottle. How does it go from vine to wine?
I sat down with winemaker, Jason Robideaux, to pick his brain a bit about the bottling process. New to the winery business, but not to loving wine, I was curious, and when I’m curious, I ask lots of questions to solve the mysteries that have me wandering the aisles in wonder.
For this particular post, I want to focus on the bottling line itself, after the grapes have already been picked. Let’s save learning more about harvesting the grapes for closer to harvest time, usually by the end of the summer between August and October for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere of the world.
According to Jason, our Clos LaChance expert in wine bottling and winemaking, our bottling line here at the winery came all the way to us from the leading bottling line manufacturer in the wine industry, GAI. Not only that, the line itself came to us all the way from Italy!
The line we use is known as a low DO, which stands for dissolved oxygen, and has three separate points of nitrogen sparging and deaeration. What in the world does that mean? It means that it helps to create a wine in bottle that is preserved in the most ideal way, promoting the shelf life and age ability of the wine by ensuring no added oxygen is picked up during the bottling process.
How many people does it take to operate the DO line and get all the bottles packaged and ready to ship?
Jason explained that the line is typically a 2-man operation inside, with a 5-man crew and forklift driver, dumping empty glass, packing cases, and stacking pallets.
It sounds like a well-oiled machine if you ask me! But, how many bottles can one machine fill and package per day?
Well, the answer is 2,000 cases per day, and with 12 bottles in every case, you are looking at 24,000 bottles filled in a single day! That’s a lot of wine for any machine to produce, but with Jason and his team, it is done with flawless precision. They manage to get 3,300 bottles/275 cases done in each hour that the line is running full steam ahead.
The bottles go through a nitrogen gas bottle rinse prior to filling.
After the bottles’ quick nitrogen gas bath, here is a quick line up going from empty bottle to fully corked.
Here the wine bottles are being run through and filled with wine using the “low DO (dissolved oxygen) line with 3 separate points of nitrogen sparging and deaeration,” as winemaker, Jason, mentioned before. It is so important to keep as little air from hitting the wine as possible before it gets put through the next step in the bottling process.
Once the wine is put in and the bottles are ready to cork, there’s a machine for that too! This machine can handle screw tops and corks, as well as any size bottle between 375mL to 1.5L. To give you an idea, your standard wine bottle holds 750mL.
The labels are on a roll that looks oddly like a film roll, where they will be glued onto the bottles as they take their trip down the line.
Here are the bottles, newly clothed in their finest Hayes Valley 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon labels, sailing their way down to the packaging line.
The wine is packaged into cases. The standard is to have 12, 750mL bottles of wine per case and 56 cases per pallet. Pallets are stored at a temperature-controlled warehouse before they make their way into stores and onto shelves where you will in turn, grab one from off the shelf and place it in your basket for a nice drink to have with dinner.
And there you have it. We have come full circle, and now I’d say it’s high time to pop a cork and pour a glass of vino, with all the knowledge that we’ve gained of how that delicious juice got there in the first place.
Bill Murphy is the CEO and co-founder of Clos LaChance Winery. He runs day-to day management operations in all aspects of the business. He retired in 2000 after 30 years in the high-tech business as Director of Internet Marketing at Hewlett-Packard. His passion for wine was invoked in his formative years after working part-time jobs at the local white-tablecloth restaurant in Lawrence, MA. A move to Northern California created the opportunity to make wine on a hobby level. Clos LaChance was born from this hobby “run amok,” and Bill’s true passion in life has been “unearthed”—to develop a successful family wine business. Throughout both his careers in technology and the wine industry, Bill has been very active in industry and non-profit advisory boards. He currently resides as Chairman of the Board of Visitors and Fellows at U.C. Davis’ Department of Viticulture & Enology.
Brenda Murphy’s maiden name (LaChance) was the inspiration for naming the family winery. Brenda graduated from Rivier College with a degree in education. After teaching for nearly 7 years, Brenda raised her two children, Cheryl and Kristin. She is now directing Clos LaChance’s daily operations, including managing the staff, Human Resources, Compliance, Accounts Payable and Insurance. Brenda is also a gourmet cook, and contributes to the e-mail newsletter with recipes; each one paired carefully with Clos LaChance’s wines. Brenda loves to showcase her namesake wines at local gourmet stores, talking food and wine with other enthusiasts.
Kristin Murphy, Bill and Brenda’s youngest daughter, built the highly successful Events business from scratch, hosting over 50 weddings annually since 2002. She also manages Clos LaChance’s corporate events and the Direct Sales Channel, which includes the Wine Club, Internet and Tasting Room. Her customer service skills and attention to detail have been a considerable asset in managing these high-touch pieces of the Clos LaChance “empire.” Kristin also enjoys spending time in the market calling on accounts and pouring wine at tastings. Kristin lives in Santa Cruz with her husband Steve (Clos LaChance’s Assistant Winemaker) and her two children.
Cheryl Murphy Durzy is the founder and CEO of Liberation Distribution. Before her latest enterprise, Cheryl served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Clos LaChance Winery. She had worked alongside her family for 15 years, having spent the early part of her career in high-tech public relations. She sits on several industry boards, including the California Sustainable Wine Association and Free the Grapes. She received certificates from the OIV Wine Marketing Program and the Court of Master Sommeliers. Cheryl lives in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose with her husband and two children.
Jason Robideaux is Clos LaChance’s VP of Winery and Vineyard Operations, overseeing all activities that take place on the production floor. These include all wine movements, treatments and adjustments that may take place in the crush pit, tank cellar and/or the barrel cellar as well. Jason also helps manage bottling schedules and supply inventory for CLC products. He joined the Clos LaChance team just prior to the 2007 crush, after recently returning from the Hunter Valley in Australia’s beautiful Wine Country, where he worked the 2007 Harvest Season as a Vintage Winemaker for Rosemount Estate. Prior to working the 2007 crush in Australia, Jason has worked all over the state including Valley of the Moon Winery in Sonoma and TAZ Vineyards in Templeton, where he focused most of his duties on Lab and Cellar work. Jason attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo where he received his degree in Wine and Viticulture emphasizing in Enology. When Jason is not running in between barrels and climbing in and out of tanks, he enjoys playing and watching sports like Football, Baseball and Golf. Go 49ers! Go Giants!
Steve Driscoll is the Winemaker at Clos LaChance. Steve joined the team prior to the 2009 Harvest Season. Steve Graduated with a degree in Wine and Viticulture from the University of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Shortly after graduation Steve spent 2 years roaming the cellar of Edna Valley Vineyards in SLO, in which he helped produce fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnays. After his time at Edna, Steve headed back to his home town of Livermore where he took the position of Cellar Master for Ruby Hill Winery. Ruby Hill is one of the oldest wineries in the Livermore Valley, producing great California Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs. In the winter of 2009 Steve set off for New Zealand to expand his knowledge of winemaking and new world wines. He worked for a large custom crush facility producing well known staples of the industry, like Kim Crawford and Little Penguin. After traveling the world, Steve came back to the Central Coast to find himself here at Clos LaChance. In his short time here Steve has grown within the company and moved up at a rapid pace. His knowledge of the cellar and his passion for producing fine wines is unrivaled, and possibly only matched, by his passion for Metallica and Def Leppard.
Ulises Barron is the Barrel Master for Clos LaChance. Ulises Joined the Clos LaChance team in the summer of 2005. New to the wine industry, he quickly took a liking to the hard work and rewarding aspect the production of fine wines gives. Ulises has become a staple around the winery and has grown his knowledge of the cellar as well as fine wines themselves. He first came to Clos LaChance not knowing the difference from a red wine and a white, yet now he is well versed in not only the subtle nuances of wines, but an in-depth knowledge of how each wine is produced. In his spare time Ulises loves spending time with his beautiful daughter Nelly and playing soccer with his friends.
Michaelangelo Kallman is the California Sales Manager. Michaelangelo (yes, he really does go by the whole first name) graduated from the University of Pacific with the hopes of a career in the business of sports. But he fell in love with wine while working for a local family restaurant for almost 10 years. He then spent the first 9 years in the industry working on the distributor side in the local market of the South Bay in California. Working for the California distributor, Wine Warehouse, Michaelangelo brings immeasurable experience to Clos LaChance Vineyards. Michaelangelo will now be responsible for promoting and selling Clos LaChance wines in all channels of the California market.
Jennifer Hildebrand is Clos LaChance‘s Senior Sales and Marketing Manager. She joined the winery in June of 2010. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from San Jose State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and a minor in Graphic Design. She enjoys navigating the ever-evolving wine industry and the constant culmination of old world wine techniques with the new age technology. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, exploring the outdoors and of course, savoring a glass of Clos LaChance wine.
Julianne Winter is Clos LaChance's Sales and Marketing Assistant. She joined the Clos LaChance team back in early 2020, and although she had some time away during the chaos of that year, she has been back and working for the winery yet again since March 2021. Julianne's pallet has grown more diverse with age, and in the warmer months, she enjoys the lightly oaked flavors of the Monterrey Chardonnay and in the wintertime prefers the robust flavors of our Cabernet Sauvignon. Little known fact, her expertise in sales and marketing came from her other career as an author and illustrator of children's books. She is also a crochet designer teaching others to crochet on Ink & Stitches YouTube. Any spare time she has is spent with her family, out and about, or unwinding at home.
I absolutely love Chardonnay, especially in the warm Spring and Summer months. It is refreshing, yet, heavier than the Sauvignon Blanc. That is why we decided our Clos LaChance Reserve Chardonnay would be the perfect pairing with our Chicken Marsala dish, and boy were we right!
But, before we got to the main course, we enjoyed a nice spring salad to celebrate these final days of Spring. Spring salads are wonderful topped with ripe avocados, colorful diced bell peppers, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, crumbled feta, diced apple, beets, and topped with a balsamic vinaigrette.
We suggest getting the greens from your garden if you've grown them, for the freshest ingredients! Once the salad is rinsed and the excess water drained, place all your toppings in separate bowls so that your guests can decide precisely what they'd like to put on their own salads. Have several dressing options available too, as vinaigrettes are not for everyone. I know that was a flavor I too acquired a liking for with age.
Sip your wine, enjoy your salad, and save room for the chicken marsala! You'll be glad you did, as it is such a blast of flavors with the thinly sliced mushrooms, the cooked prosciutto, and the breaded chicken (pounded thin to about 1/4") all sautéed with a dry marsala wine.
After dinner, when the bottle has had its last drop of Chardonnay enjoyed by the guests, we move to the much-anticipated course, dessert. For those that like a little something sweet, perhaps consider something buttery like lemon bars or shortbread biscuits that could either be paired with another bottle of the Clos LaChance Reserve Chardonnay, or a lovely coffee served black or sweet and blonde.
So many options to end a wonderful evening. Comment below if you get a chance to make your own chicken marsala and salad dish, and which Clos wine you paired it with! Or let us know if you found a completely different recipe that paired equally as well with the Reserve Chardonnay. We all need inspiration when it comes to meal planning.