February Happy Hour
on March 6, 2015
Warning: This blog contains shameless advertisement of the Laird wine club.
One of the perks of being a member of our wine club is the tri-annual “Happy Hour” party that we host. Once titled “Pick-Up party,” we changed the named to “Happy Hour” so as not to confuse our guests about what type of party they will be attending. “Happy Hour” is a complementary party, usually hosted on a Saturday in the early-evening, in which our wine club members are able to pick up their shipments while indulging in wine, cheese, fresh fruit, and some sort of decadent desert. This party also allows for the tasting room staff to mingle and catch-up with our dearest members.
Here are some photos from our February Happy Hour party:
A New Aerating Technique–But We Are Not So Sure About It
on February 10, 2015
Somewhere, I’m not sure where, but somewhere I heard about a bizarre trick to aerate a young wine—blend it. Now, I was taught that wine is delicate, so delicate that even transporting wine across the country could potentially disturb some of its fragile characteristics. So upon hearing the suggestion to blend wine in a blender, my first reaction was, “pff, that can’t be true…but if it is, how cool is that?!”
Of course, when you hear something like this, you have to test it out. Our 2011 Flat Rock Malbec is our “youngest” wine (as in it’s not quite ready to drink), making it a good candidate for the experiment. The tasting room and sales team had a meeting last Friday, which allowed for a great opportunity to conduct this experiment and discuss the results with one another. I will present our experiment via the scientific method:
Observation: The 2011 Flat Rock Malbec tastes too young to drink now.
Hypotheses: If we blend the 2011 Flat Rock Malbec, it will aerate the wine and speed up the ageing process; thus, making it drinkable now.
Experiment: (1) Open the bottle of wine and pour about 2 ounces into a wine glass. (2) Pour a fair amount of wine into a blender. In our case, we used the Ninja. (3) Blend the wine on a low speed for 3 seconds. (4) Pour the wine from the blender into a second wine glass. (5) Compare the results of the blended wine to the non-blended wine.
Results: The aroma of the blended wine was much more developed and softer than that of the un-blended wine. The palate of the blended wine, however, fell flat and had lost its individual nuances.
Conclusion: Do not blend wine, at least not in a Ninja. Stick to the decanter or good old fashioned bottle ageing.
Before we develop the conclusion into a theory, I think that it would be fair to discuss a few facts that could prove this experiment erroneous. First, perhaps even the lowest setting of the Ninja was too strong to do the trick. If we had used a blender with multiple settings, other than just “1, 2, 3,” the results may have been different. Second, we did not know how long to blend the wine for. Maybe a quick pulse would have been satisfactory and 3 seconds was too long. Third, maybe the Malbec did not need as much oxygen as it received in the blender. It’s possible that different wines could show different results.
Despite all of these factors that could lead to various results, I am going to stand by my conclusion. There was something very unromantic about pouring wine into a blender, cringing at the unpleasant grinding noise for several seconds, and then pouring the wine from the heavy-duty plastic pitcher into a sophisticated wine glass. Not that I don’t encourage you to try this experiment. In fact, I would love to hear your observations! But the truth is, I like the ritual of pouring a bottle of wine into a glass decanter, watching the walls of the decanter become coated with a pale shade of ruby red, and then waiting in anticipation for the wine to slowly aerate until it is ready to be enjoyed.
on February 2, 2015
Syrah is a wine that is not commonly thought of when we plan to store wine long-term. You often hear about aging Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Bordeaux blends, and other full-bodied reds that pack a punch, but poor Syrah gets overlooked and doesn’t receive the credibility that it deserves.
The first time that I noticed the promising aging potential that Syrah has was back in 2011. I was new to Laird and new to the wine industry all together. Terra pulled a full inventory report of Laird wines, past and present, to see what we had stored away in the depths of our wine library. She came across several cases of 2004 Dyer Ranch Syrah and thought to herself, “what the heck is Dyer Ranch Syrah? Why do we still have Syrah from 2004? Uh-oh. We need to sell this.” Nervous that this wine had turned, we were reluctant to sell it to the public, but after opening the first bottle to taste it we were surprised by our reactions. It was delicious! It coated our tongues with flavors that were reminiscent of rich juicy plum and just a hint of spice that lingered on the finish. Although this 7 year old Syrah went down easy, it still seemed fragile, so we decided to blast it out of the winery and give it a better home, into the mouths of those who promised to finish every last drop, for only $12. Literally, a steal of a deal.
As I mentioned in the previous blog, the Laird staff shared a bottle of 2001 Dyer Ranch Syrah by Nickel & Nickel. (As a side note, just in case you are curious about the connection that Dyer Ranch has with Laird and Nickel & Nickel, Ken Laird managed Dyer Ranch, sold the fruit to Nickel & Nickel and also used it for our own wine). A 2001 Syrah, and it was still drinkable! It was a little tired, but we didn’t pause for a second before polishing off the bottle. Just a few days ago, we convinced Rebecca Laird to let us open one of the three remaining bottles of 2005 Jillian’s Blend, which was a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, and again, we were smiling ear to ear with each sip until the bottle was empty. Then, of course, our smiles faded.
So the next time you go on a mission to find wines to add to your cellar, think about introducing a little variety by picking up a few bottles of Syrah. You’ll be setting your future self up for a real treat—in 10 years.
Fresh off the Line
on January 16, 2015
The first finished products from the 2014 harvest were bottled this past week…Cold Creek Ranch Pinot Grigio, Big Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, and Suscol Ranch Rosé of Syrah! According to Ken Laird, 2014 was the best harvest that he has seen in his 40+ years of experience. Therefore, we can predict that the 2014 vintage of Laird wine will change your life in the best way possible.
Here are a few “behind the scene” photos of the bottling line in action, as well as, George, the man who is responsible, among many other things, for transferring wine from the bottling line to the warehouse.
Tasting Room Tee-Off
on January 5, 2015
Here at Laird, we’ve been happily busy during what is normally the slower season. Still, when we get a day off for the holidays, what do we do? Play golf and have some…beer! Happy New Year from the golfing side of the tasting room!
The Mrs. Claus
on December 19, 2014
Andrew’s fiancé, Shante, created a cocktail with Laird Rosé that will knock your socks off. It knocked mine off—clear across the room! She calls it, “Mrs Claus”.
½ glass of Laird Rosé of Syrah
½ glass of sparkling apple cider
A dash of cinnamon
Garnish with a cinnamon stick
As a low-alcohol beverage, it makes for a nice aperitif. However, the way that this cocktail tantalizes your palate, I guarantee that you won’t stop at one.
Staff Moves Meeting to Jeanty
on December 6, 2014
Every now and then we like to have a change of scenery when hosting tasting room meetings. We usually choose to go to a nearby restaurant that carries Laird wine, which is a way for us to say “thank you” to the restaurants that support us. We most recently had a meeting at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, which turned out to be quite a treat! Between the 6 of us, we ordered over half of the items on the menu, including 4 desserts. I can honestly say that we enjoyed every dish that we ordered, however, the veal special and Jeanty’s famous tomato soup in a puff pastry were especially mouthwatering. I should also mention that every time we eat out at a restaurant, we order a Brussels sprout dish and fight over the last bite. This time Scott stole the last bite Brussels sprouts with bacon before anyone had a chance to claim dibs on it.
An added bonus to having a dinner meeting is the wine that we get to share with each other. When we have “industry” guests from other wineries visit Laird, they sometimes bring wine from their winery to trade with us and that allows us to try other wines from the valley. Of course that poses a slight problem for us…we all want to try the wine, but we like each other too much to argue over it. Our solution, which requires great patience, is to bring a few bottles to the occasional meetings that we have at restaurants that way we can try the wines together. This time, we brought a bottle of 2010 Pope Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and 2001 Nickle and Nickle Dyer Ranch Syrah, and both wines paired perfectly with the meat based dishes that were ordered. We toyed with the idea of purchasing a $16,000 bottle of Champagne, but quickly came to our senses and decided that we all really like our jobs. Unfortunately, poor pregnant Terra was not able to imbibe in the wine that the rest of us got to enjoy. But what she missed in the consumption of wine she made up for in the indulgence of dessert. We let her have her fill on the desserts before rationing off the remainders. 11 dishes, 4 desserts, and 3 bottles of wine later, we had officially outstayed our welcome and slowly rolled ourselves out of Bistro Jeanty.
Halloween at Laird
on November 7, 2014
Halloween is a favorite holiday for many people because it’s one of the few times in our adult lives that we are able to express our creativity by dressing up as a character, object, idea, or theme.
For this fun holiday Laird always hosts an Annual Halloween Costume Contest for the staff to show off their creativity. We always have a handful of employees that dress up and as in the years past the competition was stiff!
Among the judges was our very own Jillian, of which Jillian’s Blend is named after and just because she was a judge didn’t mean just didn’t join us in the festivities. She dressed up as Paul Stanley from Kiss. Everyone anxiously stood in a line for what felt like 10 minutes, but was most likely only 2, while the judges held their clipboards above their mouths and whispered to one another. We felt like Miss America contestants standing in front of a crowd of 100 staring eyes, our cheeks sore from holding smiles for so long, nervously waiting for the judges to make their decisions. Finally, after several minutes of hemming and hawing, the judges announced the three winners of the 2014 Halloween Costume Contest. Dan, the soldier, won 3rd place. This is Dan’s first year at Laird, and it’s no doubt that he plans to compete again next year! 2nd place went to Mel, the cereal killer. We love puns around here, so it’s without question that the cereal killer was one of the finalists. And the 1st place winner was the adorable Madeleine as “Madeline.” Many people associate Madeleine with Madeline from the storybook, therefore, it was both satisfying and amusing to see her dressed up as the character she is most often associated with.
After the awards were handed out we all sat down for a yummy lunch catered by Smoakville of Napa. We all enjoyed a nice spread of ribs, coleslaw, roasted potatoes, cornbread and brownies.
Summertime Weather in January is Causing Vintners to Sweat
on January 21, 2014
The few harvests leading up to 2012 were challenging by both the farming and business perspective. Despite the poor circumstances, we were able to produce lovely wines that are tasting nice and showing great potential after a few years of aging!
Per contra, weather conditions from 2012 and 2013 brought Laird Family Estate great fortune in the vineyards and the vinification process. We produced more wine than any other vintage and with some of the best quality fruit that we’ve seen in years!
So what made 2013 so prosperous? The same thing that could possibly put 2014 at a disadvantage. Drought. 2013 was the driest year in California’s history. Vineyards don’t need a lot of water to survive, so with the little rain that we got early last year the vineyards were still able to flourish. The difference now is that as we are approaching the end of January, we still have not seen a drop of rain. Normally, we receive the most rainfall in January and February, but without any rain, the reservoirs that the vineyards depend on are all dried up and that poses a big problem. What’s more, in a dry year, bud break usually comes early, but the early morning frost that we’ve been having creates a risk of stunting the crop. Although Vintners are not panicking yet, they certainly are nervous. So, if you are a wine lover, grab your friends and do a little rain dance because we need it!
– Madeleine Rose
Do You Actually Put Cherry Flavoring in the Wine?
on April 30, 2013
When reading wine descriptions, a number of thoughts may run through your head. “How do you get blackberry and cherry flavors?”, “Do you actually put those flavorings in the wine?”, “Pfff…”, “Graphite? Is that supposed to be a good thing?”, “Chocolate…I don’t get chocolate.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, those are all fair responses after reading how some wines are described, but when I host tastings, this is the point that I like to get across—wine is personal. Everybody has different ways of sensing and experiencing their surroundings and what they put up to their noses or mouths, and people are going to make unique connections, if any at all. Just because our 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon smells like liquorice to me, doesn’t mean that it’s going to smell like that to you. That’s just the connection that I made with the wine, so that’s what I wrote in the tasting notes. If you don’t pick up hints of liquorice, it doesn’t make you any less experienced at tasting wine. It simply means that we taste and perceive things differently, and that’s ok.
I, personally, like to have fun describing wines. Let me give you an example. I grew up in a small house in Mill Valley, California surrounded by fruit trees. We had a couple of plum trees that produced extremely ripe plums in the summertime. Sometimes we could not eat as many plums as our trees produced, so the plums would eventually fall to the ground and begin to decompose into the dusty earth beneath our feet. Laird’s 2008 Suscol Ranch Merlot smells, to me, like an overly ripe plum, covered in dirt, that has been sun-scorched during its decomposition phase, and I love it! That smell brings forth fond memories of my childhood. It puts a smile on my face and gives me warm, cozy feelings inside. That’s what I mean when I say wine is personal. Smelling our Merlot triggers happy memories that I have stored in my brain, and it is due to these connections that I am sometimes able to make between memories and the wines that I am tasting, that I have such an enormous passion for wine. For me, wine tasting is not just merrymaking, it’s an experience.
After reading that, you probably picture me with a big cheesy grin on my face, every time I take a sip of wine, gazing into nothing as I fanaticize about sunshine and fruit, while twirling in my backyard as a child, but that’s not the case. I’m not a walking Yoplait commercial, I’m just someone who gets really excited about wine and the experiences that come with it.
So, that’s my long, drawn-out, whimsical version about how I like to describe wine. Here’s a simpler explanation: describing wine by using terms like strawberry, tobacco, leather, and earth are meant to convey what the wine is reminiscent of and how each is different from one another, other than just saying “it tastes like white wine,” or “it tastes like red wine.” Perhaps the Pinot Grigio you are tasting has high acidity like citrus fruit, then one might describe the wine tasting like lemonade or tangerine. Maybe the young Cabernet Sauvignon you are tasting has grippy tannins and it feels as though you are chewing on leather boot straps or a mouthful of walnuts (whatever floats your boat). The components in the wine that you are sensing on your palate might remind you of something else that you’ve experienced that left you with the same impression; or, maybe not. Nonetheless, that’s essentially why wine descriptions are written the way they are.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you picked up on the cherry or strawberry notes, if it reminded you of a wonderful childhood experience or not, what matter is, do you like it? Or is it not your style?
– Madeleine Rose
Bringing People Together
on April 11, 2013
This romance story begins with a bottle of Laird wine. Kristin became acquainted with Laird wines while living in the Bay Area and in Carmel, California. Being primarily a red wine drinker, she was especially fond of the Mast Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.
Business eventually took Kristin to Houston, Texas. One evening, Kristin was out with a girlfriend and when she walked into one of her favorite restaurants in Houston she saw a man sitting at the bar eating his dinner and enjoying a bottle of Laird Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, as some of you may know, Laird wine is not widely distributed. More often than not, when I tell people where I work, they look at me blankly and nod their head in acknowledgment to what I said, but have no idea what the heck I’m talking about. Therefore, seeing another soul in a whole new state drinking a bottle of Laird Cabernet was just as exciting for Kristin as it is for me when I meet people who actually have heard of Laird Family Estate. (Actually, it was probably more exciting for Kristin, but you get the point).
Kristin approached this dashing man at the bar and shared with him her mutual love for Laird wine. Shortly after sitting down, a bottle of Laird was sent to her table by “the guy at the bar.” Their eyes met, and with a twinkle and a smile, well folks, the rest is history.
When Kristin and Charles came into the tasting room and shared this story with us, it filled me with joy. Of course, our intentions are to make wine for people to enjoy and create memorable experiences with, but I never thought about our wine as being a matchmaker. Laird wine was the catalyst that sparked a new romance among two happy people. How cool is that!
– Madeleine Rose
on March 19, 2013
After a few disappointing harvests with low yields and small case productions, boy, did we need a harvest like 2012! The Lairds have been farming grapes since 1970, and Ken Laird admitted that 2012 was the best harvest he’s seen in the 40 years that he’s been here. Of course, this may not apply to all grape growers in the valley. With so many different microclimates and varietals that are grown in Napa, grape growers are going to have different experiences depending on their location; but for the Lairds, 2012 was a very exciting year.
This past harvest brought enormously high yields with outstanding quality. And while many of us are still enjoying our current release wines, such as 2008, 2009, 2010, or what have you, I’m sure that there are many out there who are just like me, waiting ever so impatiently to try the nectar that the Wine Gods brought us in 2012!
Well…the wait is over, sort of. We recently bottled our first wines from the 2012 harvest, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and Rosé of Syrah. (Sorry, red wine lovers, you’re going to have to wait another 2 to 4 years to really enjoy this harvest…but it’ll be worth it!)
I remember tasting the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc immediately after being bottled last year, and it was extremely light. You really had to search for the fruit. Even though white wines don’t necessarily need ageing, the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc was one that did benefit from sitting in the bottle for a couple of months. However, after some brief bottle ageing, the 2011 finally released those pronounced aromas of citrus and tropical fruit that our SB typically offers.
That wasn’t the case for 2012. As soon as we cracked open that bottle of 2012 Big Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, the aromas wafted through the air and into our sinuses, sending signals to our brain that cried out, “drink me, drink me.” So we did. Brilliant flavors of tropical fruit, citrus, honeydew melon, and pear danced on our palates, inviting us to dance along with them.
Ah, yes, 2012 was indeed a great harvest.