One of our favorite harvest meals

veg-chili-sweetDurring harvest we are often leave the house at sunrise and return home just in time for dinner. At the end of the day no one has the energy to cook so we like to put something in the slow-cooker before heading out the door in the morning. One of our favorites is vegetarian chili with sweet potatoes. It is a flavorful, filling and nourishing recipe. This is the perfect meal for the Fall/Winter and pairs well with Holus Bolus Syrah!

1 medium red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
sour cream, sliced scallions, chopped jalapeño, and tortilla chips, for serving (essential!)

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potato, and 1 cup water.
Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).
Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips.

The Wrong Side of the Rhône – PALATE PRESS

The winemakers of Seyssuel gear up for the long and bumpy road from IGP to cru.

Source: The Wrong Side of the Rhône – PALATE PRESS

Some of the most interesting new wines coming out of the Rhone Valley are made from Syrah plantings on the “wrong side” of the river adjacent to Cote Rotie. The article linked above gives a great update on what Stephan Ogier is doing across the river from his family’s Cote Rotie vineyards. It is great to hear about young winemakers planting sites that have lay fallow for years and making something special from them.

Over the past few years we have come to love the wines coming from the Collines Rhodaniennes area produced by both Stephan Ogier and Domaine Faury. It is not always easy to find (or afford!) the Cote Rotie produced by Ogier and the St. Joseph by Faury, these wines are great alternatives. These syrah bottlings always give us great inspiration for what we are trying to do at Holus Bolus.

Amy and I had a great visit with Stephan Ogier back in 2010. He took us through all of his various Syrah cuvées from Cote Rotie and Collines Rhodaniennes and his wines will always be some of our favorites.

End of the year.

“Choose to be an optimist, it feels better.”
-Dalai Lama XIV

I secretly relish last day of the calendar year. It forces you, whether you like it or not, to realize the impermanent aspect of your life and your time here. Like the annual birthday celebration in which you are reminded that another year has passed, you are not getting any younger and time is essentially running out. That can be a terrifying realization for many of us. I find it momentarily frightening but I mostly shrug it off with a dash of good old-fashioned optimism. Even after a year in which the winery lost money (due to increasing our production) and I was still not able to pay myself a real salary, I look forward. I continue to believe that this year is the year. Perhaps that is the optimist in me speaking (you have to be an optimist to run a winery, or a sadist).

Optimism alone is a lot like exercising while maintaining a diet based on junk food. While it might make you feel good to run 5 miles, that cheeseburger you ate for dinner is a net negative. Optimism may keep the dismissive voices in my head somewhere between mute and 2, but at the end of the day (or the year) I still have to be willing to do the heavy lifting. I have to figure out and then implement the improvements I need to make whether it is in regards to winemaking, vineyards, sales or telling tales.

Harvest time again!

It is October and I have once again fully re-installed myself at the winery in Lompoc. The past two months has seen a remarkable warm and clear end to the summer. After three of the coldest years on recent memory in California (2009-2011) this year has been a welcome to return a normal or warmer than normal vintage.
Many winemakers began picking Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the warmer parts of Sta. Rita Hills in the second week of September. Up through September it had really been an ideal growing season: a cool spring, but no frost, a warm summer with no massive heat spikes and ideal conditions for harvest. The last day of September and first day of October did finally see 100˚temperatures inland and 90˚’s near the coast.
So far we have brought in about half of our harvest for 2012. All of our Pinot Noir from Radian vineyard in Sta. Rita Hills is in the winery. There were only 4 tons of Pinot Noir from our 3.5 acres at Radian. It is chilly spot and cool, windy weather during April flowering affected the fruit set. We have also harvested 2 of our 5 Syrah sites: Harrison-Clarke in Santa Ynez Valley and Watch Hill in the cooler Los Alamos Valley. Both the Syrahs have less overall acidity than the past few vintages and flesh and body due to the warm summer.
If the next few weeks hold up with no rain and lots of sunshine it should continue to be a very good vintage here in Santa Barbara County!

Bottling: this is how we do it.

We recently bottled the 2010 Hocus Pocus Syrah at the winery in Lompoc. The wine tastes very good, sadly there are only about 485 cases of it. It is always a great relief to get wine into the bottle. The winemaking part of my job is over, though the selling part now begins. We have freed up a little bit of room in the cellar which is a relief as space is at a premium. In the old days, meaning a generation or two ago, wine was bottled by hand over a period of months, barrel by barrel. This led to great variability from case to case: imagine, was your case from the lot bottled in January or June..? Hand bottling also exposed the wine to unwanted oxygen in the process, another strike.
Fortunately for todays consumers hand bottling is virtually non-existent (I’m sure I’ll get some message from someone saying Jean-Paul-so-and-so STILL hand bottles, it’s so great!).
In California, even small little 2,000 case wineries like us can use state-of-the-art equipment bottle their wines. It’s quite an amazing process to witness if you have never seen it. At about 7AM a truck loaded with close to $1,000,000 worth of bottling equipment and shiny stainless steel pulls up to our winery. Once the line has received a careful cleaning with ozone-water, and all the parts and pieces have been adjusted to get the label on straight and the corks at the right height, it all starts running. In the following video here is what you will see: empty bottles get sparged with nitrogen (nitrogen good, oxygen bad!), then they are filled with delicious Syrah and perfectly leveled, then in goes the cork under pressure to pull a vacuum, then the foils are put on by hand and mechanically wrapped tight, and finally the labels are pressed on.
Here is a link to a video of our bottling:Bottling Line In Action