Friday, February 19, 2016


With February work begins in the vineyard getting the vines ready for a successful upcoming growing season. The great weather this week sure makes this a much more enjoyable task as there are years when it is 20 degrees out, you are wrapped up and still cold! But the work has to get done. We are removing any parts of the vines that didn't survive the winter, pruning back the previous years growth to a certain number of new buds. There is a balance on each vine between leaving too many buds and not enough. You want just the right amount of fruit so the growing energy goes towards producing the best grapes possible.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Aspire Reserve Marquette

On January 12th we bottled our 2014 Aspire Reserve Marquette. A beautiful wine rich in tannins and flavors of black cherry, currant, and blackberry. It is a long process from vine to bottle for the Reserve Marquette.

The grapes, which come from our estate vineyard were picked on September 13, 2014. They immediately get crushed and destemmed and are readied for fermentation. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and once it is close to complete the grapes are pressed and the juice immediately goes into barrels along with the lees. Once in the barrels the wine is stirred every week to ten days and the barrels are topped off. This is known as sur lie aging. It allows for better extraction of flavors. While in the barrel we will work on developing better mouth feel and making a nice complex wine. The wine spends nearly 14 months in the barrel where it develops the beautiful oak overtones and tannins you will find in the wine.

All in all from it took this wine 486 days from harvest to bottling. Quite the journey!
Grapes ready for pressing 
Barrels ready for wine

Bottling Day

Finished wine ready for bottling

Friday, December 19, 2014


A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit the "factory" where our newest barrels were made - Hoffmeister Barrel Works. It is a small facility that really focuses on handcrafting the barrels with a lot of attention paid to the quality of the barrels.

The barrels take the wine to another level offering a complexity of flavors and smells and bringing an unmatched depth to the wine. During the wine-making process it is a delicate balance to determining how much oak you want to introduce into the wine. Too much can be disastrous and not enough oak may produce a good wine that could have been an incredible wine if held in the casks a bit longer.

Barrels are used in wine making for several reasons. The obvious one is imparting the wood character into the wine. Barrels are made with different oaks, most notably French, American, or Hungarian. The origin of the oak provides a different character to the barrel and the wine and add different aroma compounds like vanilla, spice, and more. Barrels also slowly impart some oxygen into the wine. This subtle bit of oxygen enhances and stabilizes red wine color and will produce wine with a lower astringency and suppleness.

Our first barrel aged wine, our Aspire Reserve Marquette was just recently removed from the barrels after a little over a year of aging. The results are amazing. We entered the wine in the Jefferson Cup Wine Competition in Missouri and it was awarded a Double Gold Medal! We are excited to release this wine in the next couple of weeks. It is truly a meticulously handcrafted wine.

The latest barrels we received  from Hoffmeister will be used for a dry wine made from Seyval Grapes. It is currently residing in the barrels and will do so until mid to late 2015. We will continue to monitor the wine for taste to determine the right time to remove the wine from the barrels. So far it is looking like a wonderful dry wine with some subtle oak hints. It will be a great addition to our lineup.

Here are some photos of our tour of the facility:

The wood that goes into the barrels

The hoops are bent and riveted - 6 per barrel

Working on a barrel end. 

Barrel Ends before they are added to the barrels and finely sanded.
Toasting a barrel.

Fire beneath the barrel during toasting.
The fire rages, toasting the barrel to perfection.

Adding bands to the barrel

Barrel nearly complete - needs 2 more bands and some finish sanding.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Harvest Comes To An End!

Harvest 2014 is finally over! Today we pressed the final grapes - St. Vincent. Which will be used as part of our Rocky's Red. This year was quite the challenging harvest. Mother Nature had reeked havoc on ours and our growers vineyards so we had to look long and far for grapes to make our award winning wine.

The details on the harvest include:

24 tons of grapes
18 press runs
8 trips to pick up grapes (normally the grapes come to us!)
2,725 miles of travel/transport
3,832 gallons of wine made
19,160 bottles to fill
and way too many hours to think about!

All the traveling made it an extra long harvest. Long days picking up grapes and then arriving back at the winery and having to process them. But well worth it as the wines are looking awesome. We have several new wines in the works plus we still have an amazing dry red still in the barrels from 2013. That should be out around the holidays.

Richard with the final press run of 2014 - St. Vincent.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Harvest is Here

It is that busy time of year here at the winery....Harvest Time. Long days and little sleep all in the name of producing some award winning wines. Our first grapes are in the tank (Brianna and Edelweiss). The yeast and nutrients were prepared and added last night to the Brianna so soon it will be fermenting away. Fermentation always fills the winery with some great aromas!  The Edelweiss will be ready to start fermentation in the coming days. Fermentation is the process that turns the sugar built up in the grapes during the summer in the vineyard into alcohol, wine in this case. It takes a week or so to turn all the sugars into alcohol. Each day we are monitoring the progress of the wine. We'll run tests to determine how much of the sugar is still remaining (thus telling us how far along we are in fermentation), the pH of the wine to keep an eye on acidity, and several other tests.

In the coming weeks the rest of our grapes will come rolling in. When the white grapes arrive they go thru the crusher/destemmer which takes off any stems and leaves us with whole berries. The grapes are then sent to the press to squeeze the beautiful juice out of them and put into a tank. The red grapes go through the crusher/destemmer, but they get fermented on the skins so they aren't pressed until after fermentation. This give them the great color and tannins we enjoy in our dry red wines. Harvest days start at 6 am and if we are in from the press by midnight, it was a short day!

Grapes just in from Harvest (circa 2013)

Erich runs the grapes thru the crusher destemmer to remove stems, leaves, etc. (circa 2013)

The yeast and nutrients being prepared to add to the juice

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pruning...Fun with Vines!

We are well into pruning mode at Cellar 426. Pruning is typically done in the late winter months to get the vines ready to go for spring bud break, which usually occurs in mid April. Of course this is all dependent on everybody's good friend mother nature.

During pruning we will take off any dead cane, any branches that are touching or crossing each other, and any suckers growing off the main trunk. Depending on the grape varietal and the trellis system it is on you will look to keep the canes that are growing in proper direction. It is then important to tidy up the vine so when it grows and leafs out the sun will best catch the growing grapes. Finally we will reduce the canes length to a certain number of buds per cane, depending on the grape varietal. While natural tendency would be to leave all buds and get the most grapes possible, there is a delicate balance on a grape vine between leaving too many buds and over cropping the vine and cutting too many buds away and not having enough grapes. Over cropping leads to lower quality grapes as the energy and nutrients from the vine are disbursed to more grapes which reduces the good wine characteristics of each cluster. Obviously cutting too many buds away will yield great quality grapes, but less wine - a major problem!

Enjoy our photos as we get ready for Spring!

Grape Vine Before Pruning
Grape Vine After Pruning

Close Up Of Grape Vine

Cut Canes From Several Grape Vines

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Our 2013 wines are heading near completion. In fact we have already bottled two our customers favorites: Treno and Linoma Lighthouse. Right now bottling is a labor intensive task as the following video illustrates. Enjoy!