Seufert Winery

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

McMinnville AVA Tasting Event

On July 18, 2009 McMinnville AVA vineyards and wineries hosted an AVA-centric event to shine the spotlight on the AVA and what makes it unique.

Over 150 people attended – starting with an informative discussion about regional geology and climate. Then all the wineries that produce wine from McMinnville AVA grapes poured samples.

Attending producers were:
  • Amity Vineyards
  • Brittan Vineyards
  • Coeur de Terre Vineyard
  • Coleman Vineyard
  • Maysara Vineyard
  • Raptor Ridge Winery
  • Seufert Winery
  • Yamhill Valley Vineyards (event host)
  • Youngberg Hills Vineyard

If you weren’t there, you missed a great event. Everyone had an incredible time – they may have even learned a thing or two in the process.... The modest $25 admission included an Oregon Pinot Noir glass, all tastings, and incredible food prepared by Kristen Coleman. A real bargain. Check the AVA’s website for information on the 2010 event.

Monday, March 23, 2009

96 pts - Seufert Pinot Noir Vine Idyl

Ken at recently reviewed our 2007 Vine Idyl Pinot Noir:

AlaWine Notes:
2007 Seufert Vine Idyl Pinot Noir pours as a medium maroon-ruby color in the glass. Light floral aromas and a hint of spice waft to the nose. Red berry flavors, raspberry, and cherry light up the palate in a silky smooth mouth. Modest tannins hold the red fruit through a long, light-spice, modest-mineral finish.

Bottom Line:
2007 Seufert Vine Idyl Pinot Noir is a graceful wine from its fragrantly floral opening, refined taste, and complementary finish - well balanced and elegant. Suggested retail price is $30. Overall composite score: 96 points.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Wine Spectator 90 points: Seufert 2006 Momtazi Pinot Noir
"This is lithe, brightly focused and lively, with refined acidity, pointing its red cherry and raspberry flavors through the long, expressive finish. Drink now through 2014. 150 cases made. –HS"

I submitted a couple of our 2006 wines to Wine Spectator last fall. Once submitted they disappear into the machine, with no response from the publication. The only way you discover if they reviewed the wine, let alone what they had to say, is to watch for it. Most small production wines don't make it into the actual magazine. However, they do have a robust online database.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

2008 Oregon Pinot Noir Vintage
Growers were nervous about 2008 from early in the season. Our cool wet spring meant that the grape vines started growing 2-3 weeks later than normal. Grape ripening is on a fixed schedule – they need a certain number of days (and corresponding heat) to ripen. Given our relatively normal summer heat, the late start translated to a late finish.

After a stressfully cool and wet 2007 harvest season, everyone was incredibly nervous how 2008 would shape up. The late start set the stage for disaster. To help offset the late start, many growers reduced crop loads by cutting green grapes off the vines – more than they would normally. Fewer grapes per plants gives the remaining grapes a better chance of ripening. But it also means there are fewer grapes for making wine. Tough choice.

If you were in Oregon last October, you may recall what a pleasant month we had. We had little rain and mild temperatures – the opposite of 2007. The weather held, and with a few minor frost exceptions, vineyards harvested a less than normal amount of very high quality fruit. If you’re a cook, our growing season was like a slow simmer… mild heat for a long period of time to coax out subtle, complex, and nuanced flavors.

For the vineyards that we source Pinot Noir from, yields ranged between 1-2 tons per acre. Some were right on target, while others were considerably below their target. Regardless, flavors are great from all of our vineyards. As usual, each vineyard has its own signature. Come to our April barrel tasting event to taste them side by side.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Barrel taste 2008 Pinot Noirs and purchase futures at 30% off

Our popular annual Pinot Noir Barrel Tasting open house is April 18-19 in our Dayton winery.

Taste 6 different single vineyard Pinot Noirs from top Willamette Valley growers. Taste how the much-anticipated 2008 vintage is shaping up and see what makes Pinot Noir so special. Compare how vineyard location and Pinot Noir clones contribute to unique wines. Identify specific aromas and flavors with our diverse aroma sampling station – including everything from berries to tobacco.

Plus, purchase Pinot Noir futures at 30% below release prices. Don't miss out – this happens just once a year. Join us in our wine country urban warehouse winery in historic Dayton – located just off highway 18 between Dundee and McMinnville.

$10 per person, refunded with futures purchase. Free for wine club members. April 18-19, Saturday and Sunday, 11am – 6pm.

More info can be found on our website.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Video: Bottling Seufert Winery Dolcetto

Lori Cain and Diane Stevenson from Salem's Statesman Journal recently visited us. The day they dropped in we were kicking off our bottling season by bottling our Dolcetto. It was a bit hectic, but they didn't hesitate to pull out their cameras and capture the action. They have a great website with all sorts of valuable info, photos, and videos। Check them out at

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wine Cellar Tip: Use ‘traffic lights’ to guide which bottles to open

Let’s face it; all wine drinkers are not created equal. They range from those that enjoy it, to those that love it, to those that are downright fanatical about wine.

If that fanatical someone in your house has some special bottles stashed away, here’s a simple idea to keep everyone in the house happy. Get colored stickers and mark the bottles based on the degree of special-ness.

I like the stoplight system: a green sticker means drink to your hearts’ content. Bottles with yellow stickers can be opened on special occasions, and red stickers should only be opened when the decider says so.

Peace and happiness that is simple, cheap, and effective.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pinot Noir as a sex pheromone?

Wine aromas, especially those in Pinot Noir, are very similar to human sex pheromones. An article published by Wine X Magazine details the connection.

They state: “All those smells you get in the pinot noir grape - spices, earth, musk and the slightly feral, barnyard notes - are very similar smells to those associated with the principal male smell, androstenone. Truffles and the sort of oaky smells in so much wine fermented or matured in new oak barrels are similarly androstenone-like.”

Combine these strong subconscious messages with the effect of wine’s alcohol, and all bets are off.

Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 Portland Indie Wine Festival

The 2008 Portland Indie Wine Fest is just around the corner. This year, 3 of our single vineyard Pinot Noir’s were selected by a national panel of 12 judges. Our selected wines include:
- 2006 Pinot Noir – Hawks View Vineyard
- 2006 Pinot Noir – Bishop Creek Vineyard
- 2006 Pinot Noir – Coleman Vineyard

64 wineries submitted 173 wines for this year’s festival. The top 57 wines from 40 wineries made the cut. We’re excited to be selected and to participate again, and we look forward to seeing you there. Details and tickets can be found here.

The 2008 judging panel:
- Rebecca Murphy, Founder, Dallas Morning News Wine Competition
- John Paul, Winemaker, Cameron Winery
- Toby Cecchini, Journalist and Bar Owner, NY Times, GQ
- Luisa Ponzi, Winemaker, Ponzi Winery
- Randall Grahm, Winemaker, Bonny Doon Vineyard
- Tina Caputo, Journalist, Harpers UK
- Erica Landon, Sommelier, Ten 01
- Lynn Grundmeier, Wine Buyer, Whole Foods
- Dan Beekley, Retailer, Square Deal Wine
- Randy Goodman, Restaurateur, Avignon
- Kevin Ludwig, Restaurateur, Beaker and Flask
- Andrew Turner, Chef and Journalist, Northwest Bounty

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wine Barrels Breathe…

It may seem obvious, but wood is porous. New barrels absorb wine, and all barrels loose wine to evaporation through pores in the barrel’s wooden staves.

This explains why we’re spending time topping barrels this time of year. Depending on the relative humidity, the wine level can drop and inch or two a week.

This in turn creates head space in the top of the barrel and exposes the wine to air. Air oxidizes wine and allows Acetobacter to start transforming wine to vinegar (in addition to other possible aerobic processes that harm wine). All of these things are undesirable, so air exposure must be minimized.

Five months into barrel aging our 2007 vintage, we’ve used about 4% of our red wine to top the remaining barrels. This usually involves racking wine out of a barrel into our special topping tank.

Picture a tall cylinder of nitrogen with a hose feeding the gas into a retrofitted 15 gallon stainless steel beer keg. Coming out of the keg is another hose carrying the wine. A nozzle lets us carefully fill each barrel. Nitrogen is used to prevent the wine from contacting air/oxygen, and we regulate its’ pressure to push the wine out of the keg.

We top our barrels every two weeks or so.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Seufert Momtazi Pinot Noir wins Gold Medal…

At the 2008 Oregon Seafood and Wine Festival.

We were honored to be the only Pinot Noir to win a gold medal at this recent Portland festival. As a result, it seemed like everyone at the festival wanted to sample (and purchase) this wine. It was busy, but fun.

If we had known the results before showing up, we would have brought enough wine to last through the festival. Unfortunately, we ran out part way through Saturday. Apologies go out to those that missed sampling this popular wine.

See all of the festival medal winners here.

This wine is made from Certified Biodynamic grapes, and partly due to that fact, it has been selected for the February 2008 shipment in Portland’s own Pure Vine Wines Biodynamic and Organic Wine of the Month Club.

Here’s their review:

“This is a big style pinot….. rich, with dark cherry fruit, a dash of spice, and soft, lush tannins. The finish is long and lingering, showing a respectable alcohol level at 14.5%, yet elegantly balanced. Great with a big carnivorous meal, but it would also stand well on its own.”

Additional information on this and other wines can be found on our website.
Photo by pure vine wines.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cool Tool: Automated wine and food matching, with recipes

I was recently visiting the Splendid Table website, trying to convince host Lynne Rossetto Kasper to bring her Willamette Valley tour to our winery. Her producer, Sally Swift, politely declined stating that their tour stops have already been finalized.

But, I followed a couple of links and found this cool tool called Wine Matcher. The first part works like an automated wine and food pairing list. You select a wine, and it returns food matches for every meal course – from appetizers right through to dessert.

It also allows you to start with a food, and it returns several wine matches. For example, I selected risotto with mushrooms and it returned Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir, and Pinto Gris. That part is useful, but it goes a step further and offers a comprehensive set of recipes that include similar ingredients. The recipes come from a variety of sources and chef’s.

Thanks go to Natalie MacLean for creating this tool.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Seufert "Bella of Yamhill Vineyard" wins GOLD MEDAL

Our late harvest ice-style dessert wine took the gold medal at the January 2008 Oregon Wine and Food Festival.

In 2005 we made a very small batch of dessert wine and got hooked on it. As crush 2006 drew near we came across some excellent fruit that had the potential to make a dessert wine. The 2006 growing season was warm and dry, and we didn't get a repeat of the '05 botrytis.

However, the dry weather let us hang the fruit until Halloween, allowing it to develop rich peach, apricot, and pineapple flavors.

The Chardonnay (78%) and Gewurztraiminer (2%) were taken to a commercial freezer immediately after hand picking. They were pressed while frozen which extracts concentrated grape juice and leaves water behind. These elevated sugars were partially fermented, leaving behind residual sugar. The Chardonnay provides Bella's full body and ripe peach flavors. The Gewurz adds a subtle spice note.

Meanwhile, Riesling (10%) and Pinot Gris (10%) were processed and fermented conventionally. The Riesling was fermented dry and adds crisp acidity and a floral bouquet. The Pinot Gris was fermented to 1.5% residual sugar and contributes minerality.

All of the Bella ingredient wines were fermented in stainless steel tanks, and did not go through malo-lactic (secondary) fermentation. The final blend has 12.7% residual sugar and 11.9% alcohol.

More info can be found here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Seufert Momtazi Pinot Noir rated 90 points

Our second vintage is barely in the bottle, and the critics like it! Our single vineyard Pinot Noir from Momtazi Vineyard was rated 90 points/Excellent by

“a powerhouse wine with an intense garnet color and ripe aromas of cherry and rose petal; flavors consist of raspberry and cherry with undertones of subtle spice. Medium-bodied with good balance; 175 cases produced. 90 points.”

Momtazi is the estate vineyard for Maysara wines. The Momtazi family farms a 200 acre certified Biodynamic vineyard just west of McMinnville, Oregon.

Our 2006 Momtazi Pinot Noir has been a customer favorite since we started barrel sampling and selling futures early this year. Learn more on our website.

Monday, June 04, 2007

“Jim Seufert is a future star winemaker” what Oregon vineyard owner Tim Ramey posted on Robert Parker’s website after barrel tasting our 2006 Pinot Noir’s. Steve O’Neill of Kason Vineyard recommended Seufert Pinot Noir - describing it as some of the best in Oregon. Many others shared similar reactions, and they demonstrated their enthusiasm by purchasing our wine. Thank you all!

Needless to say, our Memorial Day Weekend open house was a huge success. 300 people visited us in downtown Dayton – among them were family and long time friends – plus new friends. Many of our Dayton neighbors stopped in to welcome us and express their excitement at having a winery in the “old worm farm.”

Joel Palmer House owners Jack and Heidi Czarnecki, along with the rest of their family and staff, warmly welcomed us – bringing a beautiful floral arrangement and precious fresh truffles. Yum!

I would like to send out a big thanks to everyone – from our volunteer staff to our loyal customers/friends. Thanks so much.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

photo by Tom Ballard/News-Register
Seufert Winery to open in downtwon Dayton for Memorial Day Weekend

It’s happening… we’re hosting our first open house in our new Dayton winery this weekend!

Lot’s of hard work from friends and family combined with a fair dose of good fortune – and everything is in place for a great weekend.

First – the new building. Actually, it’s only new to us. It’s an old warehouse known locally as the worm farm due to the prior use. Since we took possession early this year we have completely gutted the interior – taking out a complex web of partition walls. Think long pry bars, big hammers, and an active sawzall. My brother Jerry, his wife Malea, my sister Jan, Delaney, my neighbor Tom and others all helped with demolition. The neighbors must love us.

I recycled a good portion of these building materials to construct a large concert stage. Thanks to Craigslist, all of the insulation bats were recycled as well. I pressure washed and Delaney sanitized the entire interior. We rehabbed the bathroom. While far from ideal, at least it’s usable now. Some areas around the building needed painting while others got a good detailed scrub. Then we began moving in and setting up for the open house.

Thelma (my mom) led the charge building large acoustic panels to dampen the lively sound. The panels make a huge difference. Between her and my sister Jan, they did an incredible job finding/making necessary items like stage carpeting, tablecloths, and upholstery fabric.

We stacked wine barrels to make it look official. Area rugs make it more comfortable. Carmie and Peter brought some of her paintings to show – and then helped us get ready.

While all of this was going on, I was working behind the scenes to make it all legal. Like getting city approval to make wine in Dayton, this took a bit of trailblazing. The bottom line is that the city staff is very supportive and helpful, and we got it all worked out. Even the OLCC approves.

When Peter and Carmie visited Pacific City a couple months ago, we conducted our version of “Dayton Idol” where we narrowed down the band choices. Portland has some great musicians and it was a tough choice. But we decided on Miriam’s Well for their deep talent and broad appeal.

A stroke of good luck came our way last Saturday when the local McMinnville and Yamhill County Newspaper – The News-Register ran a nice article about the new Dayton winery and our upcoming open house.

Many details are escaping me right now, but the bottom line is that we’re ready to have a great time this weekend. Come join us!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Seufert Winery selected as one of Oregon’s top indie winemakers

“Think Sundance meets wine tasting.”

The annual Portland Indie Wine Festival recently announced the 2007 wineries and wines which have been invited to the festival. Seufert Winery’s first release, the 2005 Pinot Noir Coleman Vineyard (McMinnville AVA), was chosen as one of the best in the state.

A national panel of 12 wine experts tasted and selected the best wines. The judge panel included Lisa Shara Hall of Wine Business Monthly magazine, Harry Peterson-Nedry winemaker at Chehalem, and Alice Feiring wine writer at The New York Times, Forbes, and Fortune Magazines.

Seufert pours their 2005 Pinot Noir on Sunday, May 6th at the event in Portland’s Pearl District. Tickets are available online on the festival’s website.

We'll see you there.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wine Futures Prove Popular

We recently participated in the McMinnville Wine and Food Classic, and Portland’s Spring Beer and Wine Festival.

We only have one wine in the bottle right now, and that makes for a shallow product offering at festivals. So I took barrel samples of our 2006 Pinot Noir’s to these festivals. We have 5 different single vineyard designated Pinot’s in 2006. Each one of these is distinctly different. The source vineyards are located in different appellations (AVA’s), and each one has a unique story.

I put the wine in unlabeled bottles, and placed them on our festival booth table in front of descriptive placards. We offered a tasting sized flight of all five wines accompanied by our descriptions. The guests loved this. Some would work through the wines relatively quickly, while others lingered and learned. Every now and then someone would spend an hour with us –getting into detailed discussions about each wine.

We had a corner booth at the Portland event which was great because during the busiest times Delaney and I had up to 8 groups tasting barrel samples at the same time. Our voices were shot, but it was fun. Plus, we sold a fair number of wine futures. One aspect of this that works really well for festivals is that people don’t have to carry their purchase around the event.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Seufert Winery Approved for Winemaking in Dayton Oregon

Earlier this year we purchased a modest older warehouse in Dayton Oregon. We planned to use it for wine storage and as a space for wine tasting and special events. And, in the best case scenario, we would like to make our wine there.

Dayton Oregon is a charming historic town located between the wine centers of Dundee and McMinnville. However, they have no wineries inside the city because their land use codes don’t permit wine production. We went out on a limb and purchased the building anyway. After the deal was done, we petitioned the city to grant us winemaking permission. That permission was granted during a recent planning commission meeting.

We’re in the process of retrofitting the building to meet our needs. The renovations won’t be complete until crush season approaches. However, we’re going to open for the Memorial Day Weekend open house. Join us for free wine tasting all weekend, and a free “Miriam’s Well” concert Saturday evening.

We’ll be open May 26-28th from 11am to 6pm, and the concert is Saturday evening, May 26th, from 6-8pm. See our website for complete details and for our new address. Also visit Miriam’s Well to preview their music.

We'll see you there.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Unified Wine and Grape Symposium

Strange name – great event. This is THE wine industry trade show of the year in the USA. Every major wine related vendor shows up in Sacramento in January to pitch their wares. We went to meet the people that will help us fill our shopping list.

Our list included packaging supplies like cork, capsules, labels, bottles and boxes. These things cost anywhere from a few pennies to a few dollars each – but we go through thousands of them.

I can’t begin to tell you how many closure vendors were there (cork and cork substitutes). Every time we turned around there was another. Their competing pitches revolve around threats like TCA and Oxygen permeability, and molded versus extruded. Then the natural cork guy pulls out his sample board and starts explaining that all of his corks will seal a bottle of wine, but they grade the cork based on visual attributes. The most attractive sell for roughly ten times more than the less attractive. Now it’s about marketing and product positioning.

There were just as many capsule vendors. Capsules are the plastic or tin covers on the neck of wine bottles. Here, there are 3 different materials to consider – PVC, Polylam, and tin. To learn more than you ever wanted to know about capsules, check out this article and survey from Wine Business Monthly.

And our list included big ticket items like pumps, presses, sorting lines, destemmers, and bottling lines. Picture large, imported, stainless steel devices – and you’ll understand why these items cost many thousands of dollars each. Even for a small winery like ours, we need several pieces of equipment that top $10,000 each.

If there is a silver lining to this, it is the fact that most of this equipment holds its value. Used versions readily sell for 85% - 100% of the original purchase price. That’s some consolation.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lawrence Gallery and The Private Reserve Tasting Room

The Private Reserve tasting room inside the Lawrence Gallery hosted us for a tasting this last Saturday. We poured our 2005 Pinot Noir to guests out tasting Oregon wines on the Thanksgiving weekend.

There weren't that many tasters, but it didn't matter. It was completely worthwhile to make the connections.

We met the gallery owners and had a nice conversation with them. We talked about art and wine (go figure), and the combination of the two... specifically we discussed the possibility of using art from their gallery on my wine labels. There are a couple of specific paintings which could work nicely. The trick would be determining which wine and how it fits into the overall brand image. But it's something to contemplate.

Also, The Private Reserve purchased some of my 2005 Pinot Noir to add to their selective shelf of Oregon Pinot. This is our first retail placement.

In the grand scheme of things, I think this was a very valuable way to spend the Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chocolate - infused with Oregon Pinot Noir ...

Our truffle-making open house is this Sunday. We'll demonstrate how to make rich truffles containing Seufert Pinot Noir, and there will be ample samples. They're easy to make and incredibly delicious (I've been testing recipes lately...). Wine and chocolate tastings are $5 per person and include truffle samples, truffle recipe, tasting our 2005 wines and barrel tastes from our 2006 Pinot Noirs.

We have a special offer for our guests this weekend. Each purchase of a 2005 Pinot Noir 6-pack includes a truffle gift tin containing a variety of light and dark truffles each made with Seufert Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, or our Late Harvest dessert style wine.

If that wasn't enough, Simply Irrisistable Sweets joins us with their line up of hand made caramels, peanut brittle, and divinity. Sample your favorite, and stock up for the holidays. These are packaged in various sizes perfect for gift giving.

Details can be found here.

Please join us.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Shades of the Grape

My neighbor and friend, Karen Gelbard is joining us at Seufert Winery for a special open house on November 11 and 12th called “Shades of the Grape”. Karen weaves incredibly beautiful fabric and transforms it into wearable art. This trunk show celebrates the seasons and colors in the vineyard.

From her website:

Karen Gelbard, "The Oregon Weaver," specializes in designing and producing
handwoven coats, jackets and scarves. In her studio on the Oregon Coast, Karen creates unique and elegant fabrics that are shaped into classically styled garments. Her scarves, with themes such as "Driftwood" or "Grasses of Summer," are well known as color landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

Karen is one of the artists who help with the on-going restoration of historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon ( Since 1979, she has woven over 260 yards of upholstery fabric for the lodge in the style of the original artisans.

In 1984, Karen was commissioned by Larry Kirkland to assist in the design and fabrication of 44 rugs hanging in the main lodge at the Sunriver Lodge in Bend, Oregon.

Karen's fabrics were used in the original costumes designed by Susan Lily for a production of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," performed in Portland, Oregon in

Each year, Karen's work can be seen at juried art fairs in Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Ohio, Utah, Missouri and California.

Join us at Seufert Winery – and welcome Karen at the special event.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pinot Noir Pressing

Winery crunch mode is slowing down. Most of the Pinot has completed fermentation with just 3 out of 14 bins finishing up. That means that I’ve been busy pressing wine.

The steps grapes go through to become wine are pretty straightforward:

  1. Pick the grapes
  2. Using a conveyor belt, sort all grapes, inspecting each cluster and removing things other
  3. than grapes (leaves, etc.) and sub-standard clusters.
  4. De-stem the grapes. At this point, there are whole berries in fermentation tanks.
  5. Cold soak the berries for 3-7 days to extract color and flavor
  6. Ferment the berries for 7-14 days, until all sugar is consumed
  7. Pump the free run wine from the fermentation tank into barrels
  8. Shovel the berry skins into a small press and lightly press them to extract additional wine
  9. Age the wine in barrel

This is oversimplified, but it captures the basic steps.

When I say that I’ve been pressing wine, this translates to a fair bit of prep work and a lot of manual labor. For prep work, I’ve been deciding what wine goes in which barrel. Different coopers, forests, toast levels and barrel age all play a role in final style of the wine.

I bought some used neutral barrels this year, and several are dried out and not holding liquid. I’ve been trying to soak them so they’ll be tight. I have just enough barrels, so I need them to work.

With my spreadsheet in hand, I tackle the task of shoveling and pressing. Its mindless manual work, but I still like it. It feels good to get the wine safely into the barrels. Once the skins have been pressed and you remove the wooden press shell, you end up with a cake of dry grape skins. That’s the pic included with this post. The Pinot Noir skins are a rich burgundy color not adequately captured with my little camera.

Right now I have 26 barrels filled with wine. Four contain Syrah, and 22 contain Pinot. I have 12-14 more to fill with Pinot. It’s a good year.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Oregon Pinot Noir Crush…

is underway. And it’s going well.

It’s been a crazy last couple of months – getting ready for crush and then processing the fruit.

As the dust begins to settle and I take stock of what is going on, it turns out that I’m making Pinot Noir from seven different vineyards, and sourcing fruit from a total of 10 vineyards. I’ve processed nearly 20 tons of grapes for vintage 2006. That’s a tenfold increase from last year.

I prepared a comprehensive harvest plan prior to crush, but it turned into a dynamic exercise. At times it felt like a miniature version of a commodities exchange floor with deals happening on the fly.

For example, one producer ran short of fermentation bins and the suppliers were sold out. The fruit was being harvested and they had no place for it. I just happened to be at their winery picking up grapes from a different vineyard. I had extra fermentation bins, and we made a deal for me to buy some of their fruit in exchange for selling them bins. Meanwhile, some “maybe” deals fell through and others came up.

The net of it is that I got Pinot noir from some of the state’s best vineyards, including:
- Coleman Vineyard (McMinnville AVA)
- Momtazi Estates, home of Maysara wines (McMinnville AVA)
- Hawk’s View Vineyard (Chehalem Mountains AVA)
- Bishop Creek Vineyard (Yamhill-Carlton AVA)

Our excellent fall weather allowed the grapes to readily ripen – resulting in nearly perfect fruit. Regardless, there is considerable diversity across the vineyards. A couple of vineyards produced clusters looking more like Cabernet than Pinot – they were huge. A different site produced tiny clusters with very small berries… probably ¼ the size of the other sites.

These variances yield different concentrations and nuances in flavors, color, and tannins. It’s exciting to process the fruit side by side and watch each vineyard go down its own path. I can hardly wait until the wine is finished. 2006 is going to be a year of stellar Oregon Pinot Noir.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bottled and ready to go…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the winery. I’ve been pushing to get all of my wine ready for the Oregon Vintage Festival in McMinnville this weekend. Through a series of minor miracles, it’s all coming together.

Less than a month ago, I had 5 barrels of pinot and 4 jugs of white wine sitting there. I had no labels, no bottles, no corks, no capsules, no boxes, nothing. Since then, all of the wine has been finished, blended, bottled, and is pretty much ready to go. The only remaining tasks are to label the Pinot noir, put the capsules on, and then box it. That’s tonight’s task.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been trying to come up with the perfect final blend for my Pinot noir. We got it last week. It’s nice. The phrase that comes up most often from people that try it is “silky smooth”. To achieve that silkiness, it has to be in balance with no one attribute dominating. The most recent adjustments enhanced the finish to round out that balance. A 5% change makes a noticeable difference.

Kim Coleman gave it a nice compliment. She said it’s the best Pinot that another winemaker has made from their fruit. And they’ve been selling their fruit to many well-known producers over the last 10 years.

It’s already 15% sold out and it has yet to be released.

A stellar crew of volunteers came out to the winery this week to bottle it (read, “will work for wine…”). With some prodding, the bottles were finally delivered a week late – 6:30 pm the night before bottling. Regardless, all went well and the wine is now ready for labeling. Thank you volunteers!

The labels were finally approved by the TTB (federal government), and the printer got them done in lightening fast time. They didn’t require any modifications, but we went through several cycles of confusion-clarifying application edits.

Come visit us at the Oregon Vintage Festival

Monday, August 14, 2006

Blending, testing, racking, and other fun times in the winery

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the winery over the last few weeks. I’m getting to bottle my wine, and there’s a flurry of associated activity.

For the last 9 months, my 2005 Pinot noir has been resting in oak barrels. The basic approach starts checking sulfite levels to ensure that it is safe to expose to oxygen when moving it out of the barrel. Then you need to determine which barrels to blend together. This is done through a series of blend tasting trials. Then rack the wine – that is move it out of the barrel into a large stainless steel tank.

I have one half-sized barrel that is more distinctive than the others. It has higher acidity and stronger oak flavors than the rest, and it makes a strong statement. I chose to use this barrel as my variable blending component, so I blended together all of my barrels except this one batch of 30 gallons. Right now I have ~225 gallons of wine in one large tank, plus the 30 gallons in this small barrel.

Last week I did a blend trial with 4 samples. Each sample started with equal portions from the 225 gallon blend. To that, I added increasing amounts from the 30 gallon barrel. The first blend contained nothing from the half barrel. Number 2 had the equivalent of 10 gallons. Number 3 had 20 gallons, and number 4 had the equivalent of all 30 gallons from the half barrel.

Several people tasted through these samples, and everyone made roughly similar comments. First, they were all good. But the differences were quite surprising. The wine with no extra wine – number 1, was a nice, easy drinking, softer wine. It would be ready to drink soon, and had nice berry flavors. As the blend ratio increased, the wine got bigger, with more mouth feel, a more complex flavor arc, and a longer finish. The favorite ratio was split between number 3 and 4 – the equivalent of 20 – 30 gallons of the separate wine.

Considering that the wine has been recently moved, exposed to oxygen, and had a small amount of protective SO2 added, it’s changing daily. To make sure I get it right, I’ll run one more blend trial to finalize the ratio.

The current plan is to bottle the wine on August 29th, just in time for official release at the Oregon Vintage Festival on September 1.

In addition to all of the winery activity, I’ve been working to get my label design finalized, choose a printer, get government approval, and get the labels printed. To that end, I picked up the label proof today. It looks great. TTB approval should come in the next day or two.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Biodynamic farming:

Seufert Winery adds a biodynamic farmed vineyard to our line up in 2006. We’re excited to support sustainable agriculture and to make wine from these special grapes.

At its core, biodynamic farming seeks to increase farm self-sufficiency by reducing non-farm inputs. These non-farm inputs include such things as fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc. In this way, biodynamic farming resembles organic farming. However, biodynamic farming adds a dose of mysticism. Visit Wikipedia’s Biodynamic agriculture description to learn about the history and methods of biodynamic farming.

The Oregon Biodynamic Group describes the biodynamic farm as an organism:

“Using a systems ecological approach, biodynamics sees each farm as an organism, a self-contained entity with its own individuality. Thinking about the farm as an ecosystem leads to holistic management practices. These include integrating crops with livestock, recycling nutrients, maintaining soil, enhancing the health and wellbeing of crops and animals and even the farmer too. In this sense biodynamics shares concepts with permaculture -- humans have a role as the designer of the ecosystem. “

Source: Oregon Biodynamic Group, What is Biodynamics?

Wikipedia helps make the case for wine from biodynamic vineyards:

“Many grape growers claim to have tried biodynamic methods and found immediate improvements in the health of their vineyards, specifically speaking in the areas of biodiversity, soil fertility, crop nutrition, and pest, weed, and disease management. Winemakers claim to have noted stronger, clearer, more vibrant tastes, as well as wines that remain drinkable longer. Critics say that many of these improvements would have happened if organic farming was used, without the mysticism involved in biodynamics. Nonetheless, there is an upsurge of interest among grape growers worldwide and in the media, with a number of very high-end, high-profile commercial growers also converting to biodynamic practices.”

Source: Wikipedia, biodynamic wine

We look forward to working with these grapes and offering this wine to our customers.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Wine Tasting Events

Our calender is filling with fun events, including a truffle making class and a show of hand woven jackets, scarves and shawls by The Oregon Weaver. Check out our new Upcoming Events page for dates and details.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Oregon Vintage Festival at the Evergreen Aviation Museum, home of the Spruce Goose

We’re going to be at the inaugural Oregon Vintage Festival – where you can enjoy great art, food, music, and of course our wine!

The festival runs September 1-3, 2006, at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. It’s about an hour’s drive southwest of Portland.

See the Evergreen Aviation Musuem website for more details on this event, and for more information about the aviation museum and their aircraft collection. In addition to Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, their collection includes: 1903 Wright flyer replica, Mustang, Spitfire, Corsair, B-17 Flying Fortress, SR-71 Blackbird, Ford Tri-Motor, Piper J-3 Cub, and a host of other planes.

Check out the Seufert Winery website for our upcoming events (coming soon).

Monday, July 17, 2006

Oregon Pinot noir fruit set

Most Oregon vineyards have an excellent fruit set this year. This reverses a light fruit set in 2004 and 2005, and is great news for Oregon wine lovers.

Many Oregon wine grape growers target harvesting 2 tons of Pinot noir from each planted acre. This is the quantity of grapes that most sites can fully ripen before the fall weather gets too cool and wet.

The previous 2 harvests saw many vineyards yield 1-1.5 tons per acre, with some vineyards below the 1 ton per acre mark. Since most vineyard expenses are the same regardless of the fruit volume harvested, low yields directly impact the cost per bottle of wine.

This, in turn, limits the amount of wine on the market and places upward pressure on retail prices. Therefore, low yields are a bad thing for everyone.

The generous fruit set this year means that growers can have more input into the final yield levels. Vineyard crews will be thinning grape clusters in the coming weeks, leaving around 125% - 150% of the desired final cluster count. These extra clusters are insurance against Mother Nature’s whim. Once we’re confident that the fruit is safe, we’ll go through and drop additional fruit to get each vine in balance.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Developing a new white wine – Woven White:

Oregon Pinot noir wins new fans everyday, partly due to how well the wine pairs with food.

Following a few steps behind is Oregon Pinot gris. It’s the popular white counterpart to Pinot noir, with most Oregon gris produced in a food-friendly style.

I believe, along with other Oregon winemakers, that the next wave of interest and popularity in Oregon wines will be in other white varieties. Chardonnay has stalwart supporters, and the current variety of production styles regularly converts customers. Pinot blanc is quietly emerging from the shadows, and dry Riesling is about to take off. Additionally, white blends like Sokol Blosser’s Evolution have proven very popular.

Given that context, Seufert Winery enters as a startup winery – trying to establish a brand identity and develop successful products. Pinot noir is a done deal… we’re committed to making stellar Pinot’s that exemplify the Willamette Valley AVA’s (unique wine growing regions).

The big question revolves around whites – do we make them, and if so, which varieties?

Personally, I enjoy white wines and I’m inclined to make them. At a minimum, I would like to make at least one white wine – a wine that is designed to go well with a wide variety of food. But which variety should we commit to?

To help answer that question, we recently conducted an informal tasting. We opened several bottles of finished wine, including Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Riesling, and a couple of very different Chardonnays (one light and crisp; the other barrel fermented, full-bodied with oak).

The direct comparison was interesting. Each of these wines had unique and distinguishable characteristics, including tropical fruit flavors, floral aromas, minerals, acids, mouth feel, and length of finish.

Interestingly, the two Chardonnays formed bookends for the other wines… the barrel fermented version was the most complex and fullest-bodied wine, while the other chardonnay was the leanest and least complex of the entire group.

Next, we blended trials of these wines. Each blend contained anywhere from 0% to 50% of each of the individual wines. The purpose of this blending exercise was to get an overall sense of compatibility, and to determine which varieties added unique attributes. It will also help me determine how to make my wine; for example, do I want to include Chardonnay, and if so, in which style?

The exercise proved very useful. The discussion around the blends helped me set guidelines – which wines to include, and what approximate ratios. Obviously, this is a rough estimate. But it’s a starting point. Now I know what my fall winemaking program will look like. Once my wine is made, I can do real blending trials to determine the final ratios.

This was step one in the birth of a new wine – Seufert Winery “Woven White” wine.

This is an easy and informative exercise that you can replicate at home. Get a group of friends together and ask each person to bring a bottle from a pre-determined theme of your choice. Taste each wine individually, and talk about each wine. You don’t need to use scientific terms, just use plain English to describe what you perceive. Then use measuring cups to blend the wines in varying ratios. Pour the blends in extra glasses and label them according to their contents. Keep some of the original wine in each bottle so you can taste it again if desired. Then taste through each blend. Talk about how the wine is different once blended. Take notes to help keep it all straight. This is a great way to help you identify what you do and don’t like in wine.

If you’d rather not do this at home, Urban Wine Works in Portland offers a wine blending class where you take home a bottle of red wine based on your favorite blend.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Grape Berry Development

Jordan Koutroumanidis of Wintitles managed to portray the entire lifecycle of a grape berry in one chart. It conveys a wealth of information, but will take a couple of minutes to fully comprehend. It is an illustration accompanying an article titled: “Understanding Grape Berry Development” by James Kennedy, Department of Food Science & Technology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon. It was published in Practical Winery in 2002.

The full article can be found here.

Here is my synopsis and legend for the chart:
  • The vertical axis shows the increase in grape berry size.
  • The horizontal axis shows the number of elapsed days starting with grape flowering.
  • The small green circles, changing to medium green circles and then larger purple circles portray relative berry size and color development.
  • The blue band labeled Xylem shows the primary growth mechanism during the first period of growth – where water and nutrients are transported into the berry from the root system.
  • The salmon colored band labeled Phloem regulates growth and maturity once the xylem phase is reduced. After veraison, the plant shifts from transporting root system nutrients into the berries (Xylem), to transporting sucrose from the canopy into the berries (Phloem).
  • The green text bubbles indicate major developmental events, like engustment.
  • The grey bar with black text lists periods when compounds accumulate that influence wine quality (tartrate, malic acid, anthocyanins, etc.).
  • Lastly, a second horizontal scale shows approximate sugar content as measured by degrees Brix.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

What a difference 3 months makes…

A layer of snow covered Oregon vineyards in mid March. Now, a little over 3 months later, the weather has soared to over 100 degrees. Monday broke all time record high temperatures for the entire month of June.

This is relatively “safe” weather during the critical flowering stage that the vines are going through at the moment. In fact, the heat will help them speed through flower more quickly than they would in cooler weather. This is good news for fruit set and therefore harvest yields this fall.

The picture below is a close up of a Pinot noir fruit cluster during flower stage. This was taken on Monday, June 26, late in the afternoon (at temps above 100 degrees), at the Oak Springs Vineyard.

Oregon Pinot noir cluster during flower stage

Friday, June 02, 2006

2006 Barrel Decisions

I’m finalizing my barrel strategy for this year. My 2005 wine is in a variety of barrels from Francois Frere, Rousseau, and Remond.

At my recent open house, the majority of people preferred the Rousseau. This particular barrel is from the Chatillon forest, and is a “heavy toast, toasted head” style. The toast level refers to how much the barrel insides are heated during manufacturing. Heavier toasting imparts more flavors on the wine, and is suitable for bigger wines.

The Coleman Vineyard fruit produces a big, bold Pinot that matches well with this barrel. In fact, more than one person said that they would like to buy a case of wine from just that one barrel. Instead, the wine in this barrel will be blended with the other barrels, contributing to a well-rounded finished wine.

The wine in this barrel is delicious, and consumers love it. It’s a wine that the reviewers will probably like as well. But, it’s not a purists Pinot.

Here’s my dilemma: do I create a more traditional Burgundian style Pinot, or do I respond to the marketplace and produce a big, bold, new-world style Pinot?

Please share your thoughts.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day Open House: Thank You!

Thank you to everyone that stopped by on Memorial Day. The turnout was incredible; my winery space was packed all day long and my voice was shot by the end of the day. But it was well worth it. I enjoyed talking with each of you – sharing my story and getting your feedback.

For those that didn’t make it out, we tasted through my barrels of 2005 Pinot Noir. This provides a rare opportunity to glimpse behind the scenes of a winery and understand wine making decisions and how they affect the wine.

Each barrel of wine develops a unique personality/flavor profile, and individual preferences lead people to favor a particular barrel or two.

Then we discussed the blending process where the unique barrels are combined to create a complex and balanced finished wine. One barrel might have a great front palate presence, another might provide tannins and structure for a long finish, while a third adds fruit flavors. Blending at the right ratios yields a balanced wine.

One of the most popular questions was, "When will it be bottled?" I'm going to keep my eye on it, and if it's ready I'll aim for a September bottling.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Friday night fun in the wine business

Grape vines are taking off across Oregon. At Sunnyridge Vineyard, the new shoots are 6-12” long. Along with this desirable growth, comes unwanted growth.

The plants are so eager to grow that they push out new shoots from every possible place along the plant.

The desirable growth comes as new shoots originating along the cane tied horizontally to the lowest trellis wire. These shoots will bear fruit and form the vine canopy.

Unwanted growth are shoots that sprout anywhere else on the plant. These come out of the vertical plant trunk, or from shallow roots near the plant base.

I spent a couple hours last Friday night crawling around Sunnyridge Vineyard removing unwanted shoots. This is a hands-on process, with every plant inspected and the shoots removed. At least it didn’t rain.

And they say the wine business is romantic…

Monday, May 01, 2006

You’re invited!

Seufert Winery invites you to a pre-release tasting of our first vintage. Join us at our McMinnville, Oregon winery on Monday, May 29th from 11:00am to 4:00pm to see what we’ve crafted.

Send us an email to get your personal invitation which entitles you to taste for free during this exclusive sneak peak. Complete details and directions are included in the invitation.

We’ll be pouring our Pinot blanc table wine, our dessert wine, and we’ll be tasting Pinot noir from the barrels. This is a chance to meet the winemaker and learn about our exciting growth plans. Also, you can vote for your favorite label design.

Come join us!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Seufert Clan

Hello to all of the Seufert families out there!

We’ve been getting some very nice emails (and wine orders) from people that share our name. It’s good to hear from you; keep the letters coming. Send emails here.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Seufert Winery federal license approved

One more hurdle has been crossed. The feds have approved my “basic permit” to establish Seufert Winery as a licensed wine producer. Last week the helpful and patient Angie in the TTB licensing office called to tell me that my license was approved. And then the official paperwork arrived over the weekend. This calls for a celebration!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Oregon Viticulture

This is my daily companion lately. This fine book details how to grow grapes in Oregon. It covers everything from site selection to determining when to harvest. Currently, I'm focusing on the pruning and disease/pest management sections.

Why? Well, I'm part way through pruning Sunnyridge Vineyard. This vineyard is cane pruned with vertical shoots. Read the book or search on these terms to better understand what they mean.

I'm a plant person by nature. I love being outside - working with living things. However, I have yet to find a rhythm with the pruning. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy it. I'm just slow.

I plan on finishing pruning Saturday. Let's hope the rain stops by then and that I pick up the pace.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

March snow at Coleman Vineyard

Oregon weather has been a bit strange this winter. The most recent chapter included a dusting of snow - on March 10. This is late for the Willamette Valley. The same storm dumped over 2' in the mountains.

Most vineyards have been pruned by now... but obviously the Coleman's has not been pruned.

Friday, March 10, 2006

I’m almost licensed.

Months after completing the arduous federal and state winery licensing paperwork, it’s nearing approval.

I spent a portion of today with a local TTB field investigator (federal government). We met at the winery, reviewed my application, and clarified a few minor points (for example: what is the name of the local power company? Or: I need a copy of your bank statements.).

Technically, my winery shares an ‘alternating’ premise with Coleman Vineyard. The TTB is very concerned about clear delineation between the winery spaces. They do not want my wine to intermingle with the Coleman’s.

My area was roped off, and we proposed going a step further by using portable office division panels to provide a distinct boundary. The investigator was reluctant to accept this solution, but after discussing the legal requirements we agreed that this was entirely adequate.

He said approval is imminent. Good.

I’ve also been working with the State of Oregon Liquor Control Comission (OLCC). They wanted bank statements too. I also had to disclose a 10 year old traffic ticket. Luckily, I don’t have any additional criminal events to report. I had to get a second bond - ensuring that I'll pay the state alcohol taxes (you guessed it, the first one ensures I'll pay the federal taxes).

Every person that serves alcohol in the state of Oregon must hold an alcohol Service Permit. To get said permit, you must attend a 4.5 hour training course and score at least 70% on a 50 question exam.

As a potential licensed premise owner, I am required to get a service permit prior to the liquor license being issued. I attended a course a couple weeks ago. It was me and five 20-something women – including a first grade teacher that is moon-lighting at a national chain restaurant. The instructor did a great job getting us through the dry material. The highlight had to be the beer goggles used to simulate intoxication. The second-best highlight was the presence of the OLCC evaluator performing his annual assessment of the independent instructor.

I scored 98% on my exam.

One more hurdle crossed.

Malo Lactic (ML) fermentation is complete.

I ran the test, and my Pinot noir malolactic fermentation has finished. This is good because wine is at microbial risk during ML fermentation.

The ML Test:
It’s pretty simple.
1) You take a piece of special chromatography paper and write numbers across the bottom – one for each barrel
2) Place a small drop of wine just above each number – one drop from each barrel
3) Staple the paper into a round tube with the numbers/wine at the bottom
4) Set the paper in a jar, in a small amount of a reactive liquid
5) Over the course of a day, different wine acid types bleed up the paper
6) High tartaric acid concentrations show in the lower 1/3rd of the paper
7) Malic acid travels up to the middle region
8) Lactic acid travels to the top of the paper – showing as a light yellow against a slightly darker background.

Here’s a good detailed explanation of ML fermentation.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Randy Coleman and I tasted through my Pinot noir yesterday.

In short – it’s delicious! OK, I admit that I might be a bit biased.

Here’s the rundown:

I have 5 barrels of Pinot noir, and each one is noticeably different.

First, a brief recap: all of my 2005 fruit came from Coleman Vineyard – half from mature Pommard vines and the other half from younger Dijon clones. I processed these batches separately, and slightly differently. The Dijon batch got a scaled-back version of “Gary’s recipe” while the Pommard saw more traditional treatment.

The Dijon batch is aging in a new Francois Freres ½ barrel from the Allier forest (barrel #1) and a once-used Remond barrel from the Trancois forest (#2). Both are medium toast.

The Pommard is aging in a new Francois Freres ½ barrel from the Allier forest (#3) and a once-used Heavy toast + toasted head Rousseau barrel (#4). The last barrel (neutral) is a combination of both batches (#5).

#1: Bright acidity up front, fruit and oak tannins starting to translate into long finish. Randy: “this barrel would be ready to bottle in 6 months.”
#2: Strong mid-palate. Excellent color (as in all barrels).
#3: Fruit flavors are coming through, can pick up the new oak.
#4: The heavy toast barrel is showing through on this one, resulting in nice “Burgundian” flavors.
#5: Randy: “Great stuff – I could drink this right now.”

The subtle differences are difficult to convey through words, but the diversity is obvious and surprising. When these barrels are blended back together, they will yield a wonderfully intense, complex, yet balanced Pinot noir. I can’t wait.

Want to judge them for yourself? Send me an email to arrange a tasting.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

President’s day = Winery day.

Monday is a public holiday in the US, so I’m going to take advantage of the extra time and spend a chunk of the day at the winery.

My whites need a little attention, but I’ll primarily work on the Pinot Noir. There’s nothing major to do, just the regular maintenance items:

  1. Topping off the barrels as needed. Wine evaporates through the wood barrels, leaving the top surface exposed to harmful air. Regular topping minimizes the chances of spoilage.
  2. Stirring the wine during the Sur Lies aging period. This increases the overall flavor profile complexity, especially the toasty-ness of the wine.
  3. Run tests to determine if malo-lactic fermentation has completed. The wine is somewhat vulnerable to spoilage as M-L fermentation concludes. Therefore, it’s important to determine when M-L has finished so the wine can be stabilized for aging.

Once I’m done at the winery, I’ll resume my hunt for grapes. I’ve locked in about 3 tons of tons of good Pinot Noir for this year, but I’d like to find a couple tons more. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

This time of year is quiet in both the vineyard and the winery.

So we had our own little private wine and food festival. The Coleman’s (Randy, Kim, daughter Kristen, and birthday boy son Ryan) along with the Ramey’s (Tim, Karie, and daughter Miranda) came out to my place on the Oregon coast.

The Coleman’s own Coleman Vineyard and Winery, and the Ramey’s own Belle Provenance Vineyard. By all counts, everyone had a great time. The almost balmy weather allowed us to head outside. Some went for the beach – taking long walks and climbing the giant sand dune, while others took the kayaks out on the bay. Rumor has is that Miranda was practicing her gymnastics on the way down the dune, and Ryan was mastering his solo kayak skills.

Saturday evening started with Karie’s to-die-for appetizer tray. My favorite was the fresh goat cheese log hand rolled is herbs from her garden. Yummm. Randy opened their Coleman Vineyard 2004 Estate Pinot Gris to accompany this round.

Chef Kim and her able assistants prepared an awe-inspiring dinner. Kim brought a tenderloin from Carlton Meats, and ALL of the trimmings. She flew around kitchen creating a masterpiece of a meal. Too bad I didn’t have my camera.

Tim brought two wonderful wines for the meal – a 1998 St. Innocent Pinot Noir, and a 1998 Beaux Freres Pinot Noir. For contrast, we included a 1997 Rosemount GSM. Tim carefully decanted each bottle and returned the contents back to the original bottle (after it was cleaned out). Each wine was stellar in its own way, and was a good match for the food. The Pinot’s go well most foods; the GSM had peppery notes that matched nicely with Kim’s pepper sauce on the tenderloin.

If all that wasn’t enough, we topped the meal off with birthday cake for Ryan and a tawny port.

Miraculously, by morning the kitchen was clean and ready for action. I have a sneaking suspicion that Kristen did most of the clean up. Thank you.

Karie stepped into the kitchen Sunday morning. In no time, she whipped up an incredible breakfast/brunch. She made her secret-recipe scones topped with home-made preserves, plus bacon, sausage, potatoes, fresh fruit, and some additional items that escape me now. Meanwhile, Tim brewed non-stop batches of French-press coffee to greet each person as they emerged.

Tim disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a re-supply of half and half – and a Dungeness crab! He quickly cleaned the crab and then manned the stove. His specialty is omelets, and in no time everyone had a custom-made version on their plate.


We talked business, food, taxes, trellising, and a myriad of other topics. The Ramey’s are about to build a wedding and event facility on their property. It sounds wonderful, and I’m sure it will be a great success.

This weekend reinforces my interest and commitment to winemaking. We’re all suppliers, customers and even competitors with each other, yet there is a real and tangible camaraderie in the Oregon wine business. Perhaps it’s a bit odd, but I like it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Vineyard Management

It’s time to shift gears; I have a vineyard to tend.

Some friends own Sunny Ridge Vineyard, and they invited me to tend it for them. I’m a hands-on person, and a reasonably accomplished plant grower. Plus, I’ve taken the viticulture class through Chemeketa Community College. With my background and a little coaching from Randy Coleman, I think I can learn a tremendous amount about growing grapes, and perhaps even produce some good fruit from this vineyard.

Sunny Ridge Vineyard is a small vineyard located near my winery. It’s an established site, but recently it’s seen tremendous change. It was originally planted to Pinot gris, and it produced good fruit. However, last year, the vines were grafted over to Pinot noir (Pommard clone).

This entails cutting off the vine completely at the top of the trunk. This retains the established rootstock and trunk, and provides an excellent grafting point. Last winter, two canes were grafted onto each trunk. A walk through the vineyard late last summer revealed that roughly 80% of these grafts took.

Amazingly, these newly grafted vines should produce a usable crop the second year (2006).

Friday, January 06, 2006

The hunt begins…

Although 2006 has just begun, I’m planning for next crush. I’ve estimated the quantities of grapes that I want for each variety, and now the search begins.

Quality is paramount. I want to make the best wines possible, and therefore I need the best grapes. I’m starting to contact grape growers, and a couple have contacted me already… But I can tell that it’s going to be difficult to decide which vineyards to sign on with.

Like so many aspects of winemaking, it’s going to be a balance of science and art/intuition. I’ll analyze the numbers from recent vintages (tartaric acid, malic acid, titratable acidity, sugar content, pH levels, potassium content, etc.), try to taste wines made from their grapes, and then talk to the grape grower to determine if we’re on the same page.

Where will they come from?

The large Willamette Valley AVA recently was parsed into smaller and more meaningful regions. As I increase my volume, I would love to secure Pinot Noir grapes from each of the 6 new AVAs. See the map below.

My 2005 fruit is grown by Coleman Vineyard, which is located in the McMinnville AVA. This is the western-most of the 6 AVAs, and benefits from cooling evening breezes coming in from the Pacific.

In 2006, I’m going to be managing a small ½ acre vineyard that is near the Coleman’s in the McMinnville AVA. If all goes well it will yield a couple of barrels of wine (around 50 cases). This vineyard is called Sunnyridge.

I would like to pick up one to two additional vineyards in 2006, and I’d like them to come from AVA’s other than McMinnville. I have several contacts with vineyards in the Eola Hills AVA, so that is looking promising.

My overarching goal is to let the grapes speak for themselves – to let them reveal their place of origin and the growing conditions that they experienced. Variance across each vineyard-designated wine is to be expected – even cherished.

So, the hunt begins.

North Willamette Valley (Oregon) AVA's

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Malolactic (ML) fermentation nears completion.

I inoculated my Pinot Noir for secondary (ML) fermentation on December 4th. Some wineries allow ML to commence naturally, which can take 6 months to complete in our cool winter winery conditions. However, the wine is vulnerable to harmful organisms during this time, so an expedited ML reduces risk to the wine.

Active ML fermentation gives off CO2, which in turn protects the wine from spoilage. Now that ML is completing, air exposure must be eliminated.

After primary fermentation I ended up with a partially full barrel of wine. I went ahead and put it in a barrel, knowing that I had to deal with it later. Prior to starting ML, I kept a protective layer of inert Nitrogen gas on the wine. Then, the CO2 from ML fermentation protected it. That protection diminished and the wine was at risk of spoilage.

I guessed that there were between 25-30 gallons of wine in the 60 gallon barrel. There are several options for storing odd quantities of wine – most of them involving expensive stainless steel contraptions of various sorts. I opted for the low tech solution and I purchased six 5-gallon glass carboys.

Over the weekend I stopped by the winery to move this wine from the barrel into the carboys. This is accomplished with another old-fashioned and low tech solution – a simple siphon hose stuck into the barrel. It’s slow, but it works just fine.

Transferring 2005 Pinot Noir from an oak barrel in carboys.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pinot Blanc:

I stopped by the winery yesterday to check on my wine. The Pinot Blanc that I'm making as a dry table wine is done fermenting. I left a small amount of residual sugar in one of the 3 carboys (1 degree Brix). The other 2 are completely dry (-2 degrees Brix).

The wine has potential to be good, but it's a bit rough right now. It's much like an awkward adolescent. It will certainly improve as the yeast settles out and then again once it is filtered.

I moved the wine outside so it can cold stabilize naturally on the cold nights. I moved one batch out a few days ago, and it has already clarified considerably.

Meanwhile, the ice wine version from the same grapes keeps chugging along. It's fermenting, but slowly. It has a luscious mouthfeel - I'm looking forward to seeing it complete. Yummm.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I ran across a great wine related website/blog:

He has links to winery blogs, as well as evaluations of winery websites. Interesting stuff, and worth a visit. The current post lists the top 10 winery websites.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I just posted lots of crush pictures on my main website.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Making ice wine:

The pictures capture it best. I used a small bladder press. You fill the wood basket with the grapes and then apply air pressure to the internal bladder. The expanding baldder presses the grapes against the wood shell, extracting the juice. The juice falls to the bottom tray where it drains into a bucket.

The increasing pressure effectively re-froze my grapes, making it impossible to extract additional juice. Halfway through I removed the wooden shell to allow the grapes to thaw more before completing the process. One shot captures the free-standing frozen mass of grapes.

Wine grape press - loaded and ready for action

Close up of frozen grapes before pressing

Frozen grapes with the press shell removed

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pinot Blanc

I brought my Pinot Blanc grapes out of the freezer and processed them recently.

There were enough grapes to fill the small basket press one time. It took the better part of a day from start to finish, largely due to the fact that the grapes were pretty solid.

By the end of the day, I ended up with 20 gallons of juice. I put it in 4 five gallon carboys. The first 5 gallons pressed off at an incredible 41 degrees Brix (percent sugar). The next 15 gallons average around 25 degrees Brix. Armed with this info, I decided to head 2 different directions with this wine.

The 5 gallons first will make a late harvest dessert wine. At 5 gallons, it’s a tiny batch. But, it could turn out to be wonderful. Potentially, I can match the profile of the best Canadian ice wines with 10% alcohol and residual sugar in the ~23% range. Yummm.

The second batch of 15 gallons will be made into a dry Pinot Blanc (no residual sugar). Again, a tiny batch (less than 6 cases of wine).

At a minimum these are fun experiments. And who knows, they might just come out as delicious wines. Either way, the effort going into these wines is crazy… It’s a lot of hands on work to produce very small batches.

I’ll post some pics of the pressing process soon – some of the shots came out quite nice.

So it’s official – Seufert Winery will have 3 releases from the 2005 vintage (I hope!):
  • Pinot Noir, Coleman Vineyard
  • Pinot Blanc, Bellevue Vineyard
  • Late Harvest Pinot Blanc (botrytis), Bellevue Vineyard

Sunday, November 06, 2005


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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Moving into oak barrels…

I spent yesterday at the winery moving my wine from the fermentation tanks into oak barrels.

The basic process is divided into a couple of steps – press wine and free-run wine.

For the press wine:
- Skim off the floating cap of grapes skins
- Place these into the small wine press – filling the press
- Inflate the internal bladder, lightly pressing the skins
- Catch the run-off in a bucket and pump this into a segregated barrel

For free-run wine:
- Place the “torpedo” into the wine – this is a long stainless steel filter/screen that reaches the bottom of the fermentation tank. It prevents stray skins from being pumped into the barrels.
- Insert the pump feed hose inside this filter
- Insert the filling valve into the selected barrel
- Pump the wine from the tank and into the barrel, being careful to not overfill.
- Move to the next barrel and continue until the wine has been transferred.

Based on expected juice yield rates, I expected to get around 3.5 barrels of wine. However, I have good news. Even though we didn’t press the skins very hard, I got 4.5 barrels of wine. This is excellent news. This means there will be more wine available for you and your friends; this is a difference of 25 cases!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fermentation is almost complete.

I made a trip to the winery tonight to check my numbers. The temps are coming down - recording a drop of 10 degrees over two days. And, fermentation is drawing to a close. Specific Gravity readings came in at 1003 and 1001 for tanks 1 and 2 respectively. These translate to less than 1% sugar remaining.

Fermentation will complete tomorrow, and we'll transfer the young wine from the plastic fermentation bins into the oak barrels. The wine will spend the next year or more in these barrels, slowly transforming into a polished fine wine.


I got a call from Kim Coleman today, to discuss acid levels.

We’ve been puzzled by mysteriously low acid levels during cold soak and primary fermentation. Her fermentations have finished, and she had the lab run acid numbers on all of her lots. Surprise – the acid levels bumped up to the expected range.

So now we’re speculating why.

Her thoughts are that due to our low cold soak temps, that the natural acids bound to the potassium – changing the chemical composition. This change in chemical state “masked” the acids. Fermentation released these acids so they are now measurable. Well, that’s the theory. If you have better ideas, please share them.

Regardless, this is good news since the acid levels are now in the expected range.

My wine is a couple of days behind hers in the fermentation process. Once my fermentation is complete, I’ll test my acid levels to confirm that I got a bump as well. Keep your fingers crossed.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Clean bill of health

An experienced winemaker friend offered to check out the health of my grape juice. I took some samples over and he put them under the microscope. Basically, they are in good health. They contain some resident commercial yeast, as well as some wild strains.

The wild types are ok - they will add unique flavor dimensions before their effectiveness diminishes and the commercial yeasts take over. So all is good.

Watching the yeast and other components under the microscope was very interesting - and informative. I'll need practice to properly identify each component, but the potential is huge. You can evaluate each wine and determine the exact microbial contents. I'm hooked.


Today I inoculated my juice with the chosen yeast.

The temps are slowly coming up, and fermentation began with resident yeast. I want some fermentation from the resident yeast to get the enhanced “mouthfeel” they provide. However, I also want to ensure a complete and clean fermentation, so I gave my juice a low dose of commercial yeast.

The logic is that the resident yeast have already produced a sizable population and will continue to ferment even with the chosen yeast present. As the chosen yeast grow and multiply, they should overwhelm the resident yeast and complete the fermentation process.

Tank 1 – a mix of Pinot noir clones 114, 115, and Pommard from young-ish vines. It got the BRG yeast. This yeast was isolated by growers in Burgundy because it ferments Pinot very well and provides good structure.

Tank 2 – exclusively Pommard from mature vines; it got BM45 yeast. This is an Italian yeast (from Brunello di Montalcino wines) that produces a different flavor profile from the BRG yeast. One company describes the flavors as: “fruit jams, rose and cherry liquors, with evident and clean notes of sweet spices, licorice and cedar.”

So there you have it. Now we just need to wait many months to see the results of this decision.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fermentation has started!

I just got back from the winery, and the tanks have started bubbling.

I put small heaters into each of my tanks. The overall temps are rising through59 degrees tonight, but the must (juice) is warmer around the heater. And, surprise, surprise, the native yeasts are taking off. This is all good; life is progressing as planned.

Now the focus is on monitoring fermentation progress. This involves watching the temp, aroma, and elapsed time, and making a judgment call on when to inoculate with the chosen yeast. Right now, I’m guessing this will happen some time on Friday.

The next step is here, and it’s exciting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Product diversification… as result of good fortune I got a few special grapes.

Therefore, Seufert Winery is now making an additional wine – a “sticky” as they say… or perhaps you know the style as a “late harvest” or an “ice wine.”

This will be a white dessert wine made from botrytis infected Pinot Blanc grapes (this is a VERY good thing). As the harvest came in, we carefully hand-sorted the “chosen” clusters and set them aside. While the main grapes were being pressed, I took about 200 pounds of these special clusters to a neighbors’ freezer.

The grapes will be pressed while frozen, separating the concentrated juice from the frozen water crystals. From this point onwards, this intense juice will be processed similarly to other wines.

This is a tiny batch of wine. It will probably yield 50 – 100 half-size bottles. If you like this style of wine, and want to put your name on the pre-order list, send me an email. I’ll send you all of the particulars when the wine is ready and you can tell me if you’re still interested.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

How much to extract?

That’s today’s question.

One very experienced winemaker advocates maximum extraction. He has an established routine to get everything the grape has to offer. His track record is excellent with his wines garnering glowing reviews and top prices. Obviously some people, notably many reviewers, like this style of Pinot.

However, I don’t believe that he’s made wine using grapes from the McMinnville AVA. These grapes tend to produce bigger, fuller bodied wines without extreme extraction.

If this year was normal, I would limit the extraction and stick to the proven approach for this region. However, as previously mentioned, this years’ crop was diluted by pre-harvest rain. The consensus is that I need to increase extraction; the question is by how much?

Here’s my current thinking… of the roughly half dozen techniques that I can use to influence extraction, I’ll fully utilize one or two, and partially utilize another one or two.

For example, different attributes are extracted during pre-fermentation cold soak than are extracted during alcoholic fermentation. One of the extraction tools involves influencing this fermentation. One particular yeast strain prolongs fermentation, and the recommendation was to use this yeast at one-half strength to extend fermentation even longer. This experienced winemaker believes in this approach so strongly that he gave me the specific yeast to use.

I’ll probably try this technique on one of my two batches. My second batch comes from mature Pommard vines. Because the vines are older, with deeper roots, it appears to be less diluted. Therefore, I don’t think it needs as much extraction. For this batch, I’ll stick to my original intent and ferment with the yeast I purchased based on tasting Coleman Vineyard samples.

Given the track record of the grapes I’m using – that they don’t need extraction in normal years – I’m going to play it safe. On the batch from young vines, I’ll target moderate extraction. On the batch from mature vines, I’ll go for some extraction, but something less than the first batch.

What do you think?

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