So Long, Farewell, Alvederzane, Good Night…

Today is the day. I can't deny it anymore, I simply can't. It's time to throw a retirement party for Wilma.  Just days after my 51st birthday, I'm ready to throw in the towel. Not on life, just on blogging! Let me explain.

Six years ago, and 229 posts ago, I started this blog using my pseudonym Wilma. It was over lunch with Jim Laube from Wine Spectator that the idea started percolating. I remember it vividly. We met so he could taste new releases while I shared my vision for Dry Creek Vineyard. With my father in retirement, and the second generation firmly in charge, we had a whole new vision plan - driven by a passionate desire to make wines that would command respect and be recognized among the finest in the region. And I wanted Jim to know! Mass marketed brands were my nemesis and I was hell-bent set on doing everything possible to avoid the homogenous vacuum that seemed to be sucking up so many of my family-owned winery counterparts. As I shared my story, I was able to describe firsthand the trials and tribulations of a lifetime in the wine industry since I had literally grown up in it. With each passing sip, Jim became more and more engrossed. His words of encouragement to share my story via a blog did not go unnoticed. Thank you Jim. 

I chose the name Wilma's Wine World because I wanted a separate identity from the winery. I needed a voice to share "an insider's look at the wine country life," a site where I could openly and honestly communicate to readers. I had survived countless family squabbles, distributor consolidations, economic crisis, weather challenges, personnel issues, and just about everything else one will encounter if they stay in this industry long enough. My main source of material was day to day life. Things were a bit crazy then. The Husband was President, I was Vice President, my father was on the retirement sidelines watching with a skeptical eye, and we had a newly established Board of Directors. My son Spencer was a rambunctious pre-teen and daughter Taylor a precocious teenager. I was the poster child for much of the female population: a stressed-out working mom with the Great Recession looming ahead. A decade of hard work had gone into making many qualitative improvements that would re-define the winery including: new vineyards, new wines, new barrels, new equipment, new people, new business practices, new packaging, and new software. Things were more or less in place and it was time to reintroduce the world to the undeniably delicious, exceptionally high quality wines of the NEXT GENERATION! A blog seemed like a good place to begin.  

Today, I'm proud that Dry Creek Vineyard is one of the few iconic, truly authentic brands left in the wine business. I'm proud of the unsurpassed quality of our wines and the dedication of our team. I'm proud of all this and much, much more. Our winery is a recognized leader in the industry with a legion of loyal followers. We are a destination spot for tourists and wine lovers alike. And yet, our job is not done. We are constantly raising the bar, striving for the next brass ring. And, we can never stop or rest on our laurels... not even for a split second. That is why Wilma must retire.  I just can't "do it all" like I used to think I could.

Two years ago I took over as President. The Husband is at my side offering support and encouragement. Grandpa is happily retired with time for his interests in music, art, travel and philanthropy. My wonderful staff is made up of a group of dynamic, loyal, hard working folks who embrace the family business concept, making important and lasting contributions each and every day. It's a system that works as evidenced by the many great press reviews, endorsements, and customers we have around the world. For all of that, I am grateful.

So with the launch of our new website (a project that's been a year in the making!) it seems timely for Wilma to retire from blogging. Stay tuned... a new "winery blog" will emerge in the coming months. In the meantime, THANK YOU TO ANYONE WHO HAS EVER READ THIS BLOG!

Sincerely Yours,
Kim Stare Wallace (aka Wilma)

Holiday Recipes

This is one of my favorite times of year.  Sara and daughter Mila Iris - click photo to enlarge!There's a chill in the air and everyone seems to be in a festive mood... even if they might feel a bit stressed about the holidays.  Another reason I love this time of year is all the goodies that we get to eat! Family recipes, especially, are important as they carry on the tradition and legacy from generation to generation.  I definitely have my own which I've shared in the past.  This time, I thought it would be fun to share a family recipe from one of our employees - Sara Rathbun.  Sara has a new little one at home so I wonder whether she even has time to make these delicious bars, but the recipe just sounded too good not to share!

Sara:  This is my grandmother Iris' Pumpkin Chiffon Bars recipe. In my family, you are either a pumpkin pie person or a pumpkin chiffon person and there are definite arguments over which side you are on, and who gets the last piece.  It's something that not a lot of people have heard of before, and usually I get asked for the recipe after they taste it. I make this every year in memory of my grandmother, and this year is especially meaningful as my daughter, Mila Iris, shares her name.  

A Fishy Wine Tale

There's been a slow transformation taking place behind the winery and my house these last couple of months. If you've driven over Lambert Bridge you might have even seen it. In a way it looks like a moonscape...or something otherworldly. Tall trees stick out of the earth with their roots reaching to the sky. Large pieces of equipment are scattered here and there. Boulders are bolted together in piles.

click photo to enlarge   click photo to enlarge

The Dry Creek Habitat Enhancement Demonstration Restoration Project is a partnership between the Sonoma County Water Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, and landowners along the Dry Creek click photo to enlargedesigned to build a fish friendly habitat. It includes bank stabilization and erosion control along with the development of environmentally friendly spawning pools for endangered species such as Steelhead Trout and Coho Salmon. So far, they've completed one mile--not a small feat when you consider 1000s of cubic yards of dirt were removed from a once abandoned channel. That's a lot of truckloads. Eventually, the county plans to complete a six mile corridor spanning the Dry Creek.  

This federally funded project is a perfect example of the government and the privateclick photo to enlarge sector working hand in hand for a positive outcome. The project commenced some years ago when the county first approached The Husband to flesh out their ideas which included access to our property. Many meetings and negotiations later, access was granted along with an overwhelming endorsement from dear old hubby. At first I was skeptical, but why not? What's good for the environment is surely good for us and there's no doubt this will have a positive impact over time.

As a child growing up on West Dry Creek Road, I remember the fears of flooding and erosion that we had about the Dry Creek. Bank reinforcement was illegal yet farmers who owned land along the creek often placed old car bodies, tires and other material along the edges to click photo to enlargeavoid erosion. It was not a pretty sight let me tell you!  

Today, we are fortunate that in addition to creating an environmentally friendly fish habitat, we also benefit from the anchored log jams and bank stabilization that will prevent our land from washing away.

The project came to fruition today with the release of 2000 juvenile salmon into the creek. What a sight to behold! By 2020 when the total project is complete, Dry Creek Valley may be known for its wine - and its fish.

 

Finishing Touches on Harvest 2013

I'll remember this year's harvest in one word: fast.  After our first load of Chenin Blanc grapes arrived, so did every other varietal.  Seemingly in the blink of an eye we were discussing our last lot of Cabernet Sauvignon still hanging on the vine.  The initial report from our winemaking team is that quality will be high across all varietals.  Comparison wise, we had very similar growing Havesting the last of the grapes - click photo to enlargeconditions as last year.  The summer season was dry, with moderate temperatures and during harvest we had almost perfect weather for extended hang time. 

This past week, we had a unique opportunity to come together to harvest the very last of the fruit still hanging on the vine.  Each year we keep our fingers crossed that we will be able to produce a late harvest wine.  For the past several vintages, that has not been the case.  In 2013, however, Winemaker Tim was able to find a small block of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon grapes in our DCV2 vineyard, just behind the winery and bordering Dry Creek.  Having "noble rot", the fancy viticulture term for Botrytis, these grapes achieved remarkable concentration and honeyed characters.  Attaining natural Botrytis is a tricky proposition.  Growing conditions have to be perfect with rain being an important factor at just the right time. In addition, extended hang time is key - the more hang time, the happier the grapes become!

In the early morning hours, our cellar crew headed click photo to enlargeto the vineyard for some "bonding time" to harvest these beautiful bunches.  Noble rot may not look sexy but the wine that is produced certainly is.  For those that have tried our Soleil Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend, I'm sure you'll agree that this sultry wine is intense and concentrated with wonderful honeysuckle and lavender nuances.  I absolutely adore this wine as a finishing course during Thanksgiving when I always make my signature Parmesan Apple Pie.

With harvest now in our rear view mirror, we're all looking forward to some much needed R&R and the warmth of the upcoming holiday season.

Life After Sailing

I feel like my life has been on hold these past few days. This is a busy time of year in the wine business, and there are so many things I should be worried about right now... harvest, grape tonnage, sales projections during October/November/December, planning for 2014, the list goes on and on.  But oh no...this past week it's been all about the America's Cup!

If someone had told me two years ago that I would be sipping DCV wines overlooking the finish line of the 34th America's Cup, from the privacy of the Artemis Racing VIP lounge no less, I never would have believed it.  But there I've been, sharing this rare experience with as many people as I could.

Not yesterday though.  Yesterday I hit the streets with thousands of other fans for the unprecedented win by Oracle Team USA.  I've never seen anything quite like it.  Two weeks ago, it seemed inevitable that Emirates Team New Zealand would take the Cup.  In fact, many Americans and even San Franciscans, were generally more favorable toward the Kiwi team than the American.  But something shifted and a winning streak ensued.  To have been witness to this historic event, a first in sailing history, is quite something.

I am extremely proud to have had our winery play a small part in all of this.  It took a lot of work, but it was worth it.  But mostly I'm grateful for the contacts made, the friendships forged and the opportunity to share the excitement with customers, friends and family.  Wow.  It's times like this that I pinch myself as a reminder of how much I love my job, our wines, our brand and all that we stand for here at Dry Creek Vineyard.  Now, I can truly say we are indeed the "Official Wine of Sailors!"

Click photos to enlarge... enjoy!

Life After Sailing

I feel like my life has been on hold these past few days. This is a busy time of year in the wine business, and there are so many things I should be worried about right now... harvest, grape tonnage, sales projections during October/November/December, planning for 2014, the list goes on and on.  But oh no...this past week it's been all about the America's Cup!

If someone had told me two years ago that I would be sipping DCV wines overlooking the finish line of the 34th America's Cup, from the privacy of the Artemis Racing VIP lounge no less, I never would have believed it.  But there I've been, sharing this rare experience with as many people as I could.

Not yesterday though.  Yesterday I hit the streets with thousands of other fans for the unprecedented win by Oracle Team USA.  I've never seen anything quite like it.  Two weeks ago, it seemed inevitable that Emirates Team New Zealand would take the Cup.  In fact, many Americans and even San Franciscans, were generally more favorable toward the Kiwi team than the American.  But something shifted and a winning streak ensued.  To have been witness to this historic event, a first in sailing history, is quite something.

I am extremely proud to have had our winery play a small part in all of this.  It took a lot of work, but it was worth it.  But mostly I'm grateful for the contacts made, the friendships forged and the opportunity to share the excitement with customers, friends and family.  Wow.  It's times like this that I pinch myself as a reminder of how much I love my job, our wines, our brand and all that we stand for here at Dry Creek Vineyard.  Now, I can truly say we are indeed the "Official Wine of Sailors!"

Click photos to enlarge... enjoy!

Sipping and Sailing

Lately, I feel like I've been a part of a Christopher Cross music video.  You know the song - "Sailing, takes me away to a place....."  I Beach Party - click photo to enlarge!suppose that's not such a bad thing!  With the America's Cup on the San Francisco Bay, we've been doing a lot of entertaining.

This past week, we kicked off the first of a series of sailing adventures aboard the 70 foot scow schooner, the Gaslight. Based out of Sausalito, CA, this incredible boat was lovingly built by hand by Captain Billy Martinelli.  Our event began with a beach party right on the water near the dock.  Guests arrived and were outfitted with Wine for Sailors wind shirts and a souvenir wine glass.  Wine and appetizers were served and the Steel Jam band provided the tunes as we all warmed up for our big day on the Bay.

After shoving off, Artemis Racing AC72 - click photo to enlarge!we motored out of the harbor and then hoisted sails and made our way to the starting line for the Louis Vuitton semi-final match between Artemis Racing and Luna Rossa Prada.  Let me tell you, it was an adrenaline pumping experience to see these boats in action!  They are truly technological marvels.  The Artemis Racing AC72 measures 72 feet and has a fixed wing sail that stands 134 feet tall.  The sail itself is a work of art - it is longer than the wing of a Boeing 747 and employs similar airplane wing technology in its design.  The sailors themselves are outfitted with 40 pounds of gear wearing Kevlar jackets, breathing apparatuses, GPS locators and carrying 50 feet of climbing rope.  During racing action, these The Race - click photo to enlarge!guys are in a virtual sprint, operating at their max heart rate of 190 beats per minute.  The sailing world has never seen anything like this.

At the starting line, each of the boats jockeyed for position trying to beat the other to the gun and be in a good position for the first mark.  That's when it really got exciting.  As the boats headed down wind, they picked up speed like high performance sports cars.  Each of them went up on their foil which essentially causes the entire catamaran to come out of the water and "fly" across the top of the Bay.  Within seconds, they were traveling at speeds Relaxing aboard the Gaslight - click photo to enlarge!topping 45 mph!  For the next 50 minutes, we worked to position ourselves so we could see the live racing action.  It was quite thrilling for all of us on board to see these high performance boats being sailed by world class, Olympic caliber sailors.

As our day wound down, we all relaxed aboard the Gaslight swapping stories and sipping delicious Dry Creek Vineyard wines.  Everyone left having a new appreciation for the sport of sailing and with memories to last a lifetime.  Personally, I can hardly wait for our next sail!