What happened to the “off season”

By Kevin

As usual, a lot has been going on at kukkula since I last wrote. Most notably, we've installed another ten acres of vines. Our first whites (Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc), some Petite Sirah, and more Mourvedre.

Farming on the steep hillsides, as we do, is always a challenge. Additionally, I insist on not destroying the trunks of the walnut trees we remove because they are Claro (highly figured and beautiful wood). So I cut the limbs off, pushed over the trees, and loaded north of 150 trunks into a massive six-wheel truck to be deposited in a giant pile at a far corner of our property. I'm negotiating with some folks about buying the trunks. They will hopefully then turn the trees into some really cool furniture, flooring, etc.

In the Fall, I took a walk into the moonscape of what was an orchard, and realized that maybe a quarter of the cleared acreage was strewn with piles of rocks. After a few days of manual labor using a rock sled that we drag behind our crawler, it became obvious that this method would probably take several months. So, around the end of November, I called up my excavating contractor to figure out a better approach. The basic idea was that he would use a pretty big dozer with a rake attachment on the front end to rake and pile the rocks. He'd then load the rocks and carry them to the far corner of our property.

For the next month and a half we twiddled our thumbs because it seemed to be raining just about every week. Now, as a dry farmer, that's really good. One problem, though, at some point I needed the rocks out, the stakes pounded and the plants planted. By mid-January, we decided we couldn't really wait anymore, so they came in and did their thing. It was a bit messier than ideal, but the bulk of the work was completed. By January's end, I had the field staked and planted. Life was good. Now all we needed was a half dozen inches of rain on the new vines.

Unfortunately, the jet stream decided to shift north at about that time, and we've seen not much more than an inch of rain since we've planted. I'm sitting down to write this on March 28th, and I'm starting to bite my fingernails because we're just about out of runway. Oh well! No worries. Worst case scenario is that I collect maybe 50 five-gallon buckets with a nail hole at the bottom, place them at each of the 3700 stakes, one after the other, fill them with water, and maybe two weeks later, the new vines are sufficiently nourished. Any volunteers?

I digress. I guess I need to fill in some blanks. I suggested earlier that I was twiddling my thumbs for several weeks waiting for the blue skies to return. But, just before the Christmas and New Year holidays, I get deep into the logistics of bottling our wine. Things start to get a bit frenzied by the first of February, as we usually bottle around the middle of the month. I need to quantify exactly what we have of each blend, design and print the labels, order the foils, corks, and bottles, secure a time for the bottling line, and filtration of our white wine, and have a labor crew available for the two day event. It can get a bit stressful.

Concurrent with all of this, I'm on the road just about weekly for a few months visiting clients in my financial advisory capacity. None of my clients are local. So I’m usually gone two to three days each week.

By now you’re getting the idea that I don’t need to figure out how to fill my time. So, a couple of months ago, I was given an opportunity to put together my dream vacation, at a venue and time of my choosing, and act as a host for up to eight guests. The trip that I design was to be auctioned off at the annual Rhone Rangers dinner and auction, which took place at Fort Mason in the Bay Area on March 22nd.

It didn't take long for me to get excited about participating, so Paula and I started bantering about the possibilities. We realized quickly that the major issue wasn't venue, but rather time. We ticked through the calendar and realized that the best probability of free time was January and February, maybe early March. That, by extension, drove us to the Southern Hemisphere, and ultimately, Argentina. Neither of us have been there, and there's an amazing wine scene, especially in Mendoza.

The more or less finished product is a 10 day trip (not including travel) starting in Buenos Aires for a day, moving to Mendoza for four days. We'll visit some amazing wineries like Achaval-Ferrer, Catena Zapata, Monteviejo, Zorzal, Alta Vista, Fournier. We'll set up some special tastings, a couple of cooking classes, and some amazing culinary experiences. From there, we'll fly down to the Bariloche area in Northern Patagonia for some outdoor adventures like hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, and possibly fly fishing. The trip will close out with a return to Buenos Aires for a couple of days.

At the auction, four people committed to the trip, so we still have (at the time of writing) four spots left. If you’re interested in joining us, contact Lisa Baserga at Cardoza Bungey (see details to the left).

By the way, I'll be planting another ten acres of vines next winter, bottling my 2012 blends, and visiting clients all around the same time that this trip takes place. So, what happened to the “Off Season”?



all things not wine: kitchen, olive oil, and more

By Paula

We had a bumper olive harvest in December and much of it was caught on film. Kevin was interviewed for a Plum TV show called Special Spaces that aired in February in some markets (but none in California). You can view the video on the Plum TV website or on youtube (search kukkula, Plum TV).

Television aside, we netted over 200 gallons of oil. We still haven’t bottled, but plan to in the next few weeks. We are in the process of getting some new equipment for bottling (it’s all by hand now), and have been working on the paperwork and labeling requirements that will allow us to sell through Whole Foods (we’re through most of the hoops now)! A few of you may have tasted the few bottles we bottled on harvest day. It is delicious and off the charts in heart-healthy anti-oxidents.

Food in the tasting room is selling like hotcakes. We have had several weekends where we’ve had to cook again on Saturday and Sunday mornings and still had a hard time keeping up. Figuring out which weekends will be busy is still a challenge though!

Wine jelly has also been difficult to keep on the shelves, but I’ve been producing more almost weekly and am getting closer to keeping up with the demand. Although I stopped making spice rub to sell in the Tasting Room, we have had several requests, and I occasionally made some and hide it in the cupboard for our special requests. If you’re a fan, be sure to ask for it when you’re in and we’ll sell you some if we have it.

Finally, Anna’s origami earrings are back in the tasting room. She hand folds these from tiny pieces of origami paper and sells them for $15. Come in and help support her Whitman education!