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Winemaker & Vineyard Blog 

Enjoy our blog posts as we chronicle with Derek Irwin the making of our fine Sierra Foothill wines and the development of our vineyard at the Seminary and Novitiate of the Oblates of St. Joseph in Loomis.


Peter Story
May 18, 2017 | Peter Story

Vineyard Work Begins in Earnest - Vine End Post Locations Mapped and Staked

Jamie Rojas, owner of 2nd Generation Development out of Napa, is seen here on site with his crew.  They are mapping out the placement of 278 ten foot vine end posts for the vine rows in the vineyard.  These vine end posts will be driven some 4 1/2 feet into the earth!  Think of them as the "foundation" for the vineyard.

In the second photo - Jaime marks out where the Boardman Canal (aka "ditch water") conduit runs underground so that we don't hit during construction and flood the vineyard and our neighbors!

Time Posted: May 18, 2017 at 9:33 AM Permalink to Vineyard Work Begins in Earnest - Vine End Post Locations Mapped and Staked Permalink Comments for Vineyard Work Begins in Earnest - Vine End Post Locations Mapped and Staked Comments (180)
Peter Story
May 17, 2017 | Peter Story

Sierra Foothill (red label) Zinfandel is Yucky?

Recently Joe relayed some feedback from a few of you that was disturbing.  After opening and tasting the 2015 Sierra Foothills Zinfadel, a few of you said it was "Yucky".

I told Joe..."Yucky - what do you mean, yucky????".  This wine was great when we bottled it back in February!

So Derek and I decided to taste it last Thursday.....and, sure enough, it was yucky.  Perplexed at the difference in taste between bottling in February and the present, we decanted the wine and let it alone for 20 minutes and tasted it again.  This time the middle pallet was coming back with the fruit that we had remembered from bottling time.  We then tasted four hours, that was more like it!  Finally, later that night at dinner I had a glass with the short ribs Paulette had made - "yucky" wine had become great wine.

We have pulled the 2015 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel off the market for now and we will release it again in September.  The additional four months of bottle aging will allow the complex elements in the wine that have become disjointed to recombine.  For those of you who have a bottle from your February wine club shipment, here are your options:

  1. If you haven't opened the wine, lay it down until October/November and then open and decant and enjoy!
  2. If you have opened the wine and it tasted "yucky", let me or Joe know and we'll get you a new bottle and you can follow #1 above

While I won't go into detail about the business reasons for releasing this wine sooner than we ordinarily would, we have learned from the experience and will now follow the words of Orson Welles (Paul Masson ad circa 1979):

"We will sell no wine before its time"


Time Posted: May 17, 2017 at 9:34 AM Permalink to Sierra Foothill (red label) Zinfandel is Yucky? Permalink Comments for Sierra Foothill (red label) Zinfandel is Yucky? Comments (89)
Peter Story
February 13, 2017 | Peter Story

Proud Father of Our 2015 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel

It is February 2017 - time to begin the bottling the very first our 2015 harvest grapes.

Last week we bottled the first of our new "Sierra Foothills" wines, specifically our 2015 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel.  We have created a Zinfandel blend that is truly unique.  It is deep in tannin structure with an extensive middle pallet and a long finish that will beg the question - "how did they make that from Foothills grapes???".

While we won't release this incredible Zin until early April, Joe convinced me to include it in our wine club orders later this month.  In fact, I might just bring a few bottles for sampling to our "Fat Tuesday" wine club dinner at La Fornaretta later this month.  So, if you want to try it now, join one of our wine clubs!

The balance of our 2015 harvest wines will be bottled in the May.  The photo below shows our 2015 wines spending their last few months aging in French oak barrels.  Get ready for the summer and fall release of these outstanding wines...I know you are going to love them.  Trust me, they will be worth the wait.

If you think I sound like a very proud father.....well, yes – I am!

Time Posted: Feb 13, 2017 at 8:21 AM Permalink to Proud Father of Our 2015 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel Permalink Comments for Proud Father of Our 2015 Sierra Foothills Zinfandel Comments (1866)
Peter Story
November 18, 2016 | Peter Story

Vineyard Development Continues

While we had planned for irrigation trenching and PVC piping to be completed by now, the early fall rains have changed our schedule a bit.  This is not a problem - we have plenty of time between now and next Spring. 

The engineers from Toma Associates spent Thursday laying out the rows and plant spacing so our irrigation contractor can bring in the back-hoe and lay the main PVC irrigation lines as well as the risers to feed the black drip tubes.  While the drip tubes will be installed next year, if the rains can hold off until after Thanksgiving, we'll trench for the main PVC irrigation lines early next week.

Off for now...........Joe and I wish all of you a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Time Posted: Nov 18, 2016 at 12:01 PM Permalink to Vineyard Development Continues Permalink
Peter Story
September 21, 2016 | Peter Story

Que Syrah, Syrah!

Forgive the corny Doris Day inspired title to this blog - that was Joe's idea.

Our 2016 Syrah is now fermenting away.  The brix level started at 24.8 and is now at 6.3 brix.   We have about four days to go before we let it macerate in the fermentation bins to extract even more tannins and classic syrah flavors.  This will be a very jammy Syrah.

I look forward to this wine be a key part of the 2016 Marello blend.  It will also be a stand-alone varietal offering as well - maybe an early release next year.

Stay tuned as I continue to keep you updated on our 2016 harvest and for now!

Time Posted: Sep 21, 2016 at 4:36 PM Permalink to Que Syrah, Syrah! Permalink
Peter Story
July 28, 2016 | Peter Story

Preview - Our 2009 Syrah Dessert Wine Will Be Released Soon

Peaches and Dessert Syrah - Delicious!

OK - the cat is out of the bag....many of you have asked if we will ever offer a dessert wine.... the answer is an emphatic "Yes!".  With the addition of a wonderful 2009 Syrah Dessert Wine to our Mount Saint Joseph portfolio of wines - you will now be able to finish your meal or your evening with this delightful wine.  The photo below is of me enjoying a nice bowl of fresh white peaches with our new dessert wine drizzled on the, the taste is delicious.  I must admit though, the combination was Paulette's idea, not mine.

I heartily invite all of you to follow suit and try your own summer dessert with this great Syrah Dessert wine.

Stay tuned - we'll let you know as soon as it is available!


Time Posted: Jul 28, 2016 at 7:40 AM Permalink to Preview - Our 2009 Syrah Dessert Wine Will Be Released Soon Permalink
Peter Story
July 26, 2016 | Peter Story

Update from the Vineyard - Countering Powdery Mildew

Attention to Detail Means Optimal Fruit at Harvest

Our vineyards up in Grass Valley have been hit with an unusual degree of "Powdery Mildew” this season….Powdery Mildew is a common condition in vineyards throughout the world but.... In speaking with Derek Irwin, our consulting winemaker from Napa, it seems that this problem is rampant in Napa, Sonoma, Placer and El Dorado counties… The best we can do is stay on an every 2 –to- 3 week regiment in spraying with systemic sulfur and drop the damaged clusters so as to limit the infestation. By the way.....the application of sulfur is an organically acceptable and sustainable method of treatment.

The photo below shows me at the vineyard (like my stylish boots?), lending a hand in dropping fruit. This attention to detail will insure that the fruit we get at harvest will be of the highest quality.


Time Posted: Jul 26, 2016 at 8:26 AM Permalink to Update from the Vineyard - Countering Powdery Mildew Permalink
Peter Story
July 1, 2016 | Peter Story

MSJ Wines Debut at Source Global Tapas Restaurant in Granite Bay

Former Spago and Roy's chef, Irie Gengler, is impressed with Mount Saint Joseph wines........

Presenting our wines to a world class restaurateur is always exciting (with a note of anxiety)… what will he/ or she think???   Since food and wine is their world – what will they think of the wines we have crafted (and are so proud of)??   Will they buy them???

Well, Joe Smock and I had our first entrée into this important part of our company’s business plan.  A few weeks ago we shared our wines with ‘Source Tapas’ chef/ owner – Irie Gengler.  Source Tapas is an incredible gathering place for the Granite Bay. Loomis and Roseville customers who want to sample ‘small plates’ and have many taste sensations to play with the wines they select.,

After the tasting Irie elected to carry our wines.  Source Tapas will be the first (of many we hope) local restaurants who will proudly serve Mount Saint Joseph Wines.  You will be able to pair our ‘Marello’,,, Zinfandel,,, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines with Source Tapas extensive menu.

Check them out.  Source is in Quarry Ponds – 5540 Douglas Blvd., Suite 110, Granite Bay.  Telephone Number:  916-772-3900 .


Time Posted: Jul 1, 2016 at 3:53 PM Permalink to MSJ Wines Debut at Source Global Tapas Restaurant in Granite Bay Permalink Comments for MSJ Wines Debut at Source Global Tapas Restaurant in Granite Bay Comments (501)
Peter Story
May 23, 2016 | Peter Story

Barrel Tasting - Our 2015 Harvest Wines

Barrel tasting has never been so much fun for me in my 25 years of winemaking.

Every month... Derek Irwin ( our Consulting Winemaker ) and I spend a few hours smelling,,, sipping,,, spitting,,, and yes,,, tasting all of our 2015 harvest wines that are aging down at Napa Barrel Care in Napa, California.  The advancement and transformation of a few of our wines is dramatic... I have fallen in love with our Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  I am thinking of bottling ‘Varietal Level Wines’,,, as well as using them to blend with other offerings next year… We’ll see!

Joe and I have also decided to offer this experience to one of our wine club members who have signed up for one of our wine clubs (Owners Club, Marello Club or California Club).  That winner (selected by the name-in-the-hat manner ) will taste our barreled wines with Derek and I and then join Paulette & me in the fantastic French Bistro – Angels. The selected owner can also bring a guest of their choosing.  The selection will be made at the Blessing of the Vineyard event on June 12th.  Make sure you attend so everyone can congratulate you and your guest.

An opportunity to barrel taste our 2015 harvest wines in Napa.....just one more reason to join one of our Wine Clubs!

Off for now… will talk to you in a few weeks.


Time Posted: May 23, 2016 at 12:20 PM Permalink to Barrel Tasting - Our 2015 Harvest Wines Permalink Comments for Barrel Tasting - Our 2015 Harvest Wines Comments (3620)
Peter Story
April 8, 2016 | Peter Story

Final Bottling for 2016

Our final bottling for calendar year 2016............

On Tuesday we completed the last of our California series  Zinfandel blend finished out with 58 cases of what turned out to be a really tantalizing red wine.  Yes -  it is still a Zinfandel in every respect - but the addition of the Petit Syrah made this wine ever so lively.   I'm now a fan of Zinfandel.....unlike days gone by, like so many of us Napa brats who turn up our noses at anything but Cabernet Sauvignon, I have come to open myself to the great potential of Zinfandel blends and expand my winemaking capabilities and tastes for more than just Cabernet Sauvignon.

The crew at Napa Barrel Care (where we bottle our wines) is focused with a sharp eye for quality control throughout the entire bottling process.  Nothing gets by them in bringing my blend-in-the tank to life in the bottle.  I feel like a proud Papa as life is given to yet another offspring of Mount Saint Joseph Wines - our 2014 Califonria Zinfandel is born!

Time Posted: Apr 8, 2016 at 7:43 AM Permalink to Final Bottling for 2016 Permalink Comments for Final Bottling for 2016 Comments (112)