Tin Barn Vineyards | Amy Tsaykel

Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Punchdown: Mixing It Up

In Uncategorized on 10/20/2009 at 4:22 pm

Now in the throes of harvest season, winemaker Mike Lancaster is constantly in the cellar. Lately I’ve noticed he’ll leave in the morning and return a couple of times throughout the course of a day. Gracious, I thought. Is he making wine or nursing a newborn in the ICU? What could require such constant attention?

“Punchdown,” he explained. 

Oh. I had no idea what that meant.

I’d witnessed a bit of the winemaking process firsthand.  For starters, I knew that it was nothing like this:

I’d first observed the Pinot Noir crush. Then, when the Syrah grapes came in from Coryelle Fields in northern Sonoma County, I’d stood with Mike and his business partner, Gray Fowler, as several tons of ripe fruit were squeezed to a beautiful, smoky-sweet pulp. But that was just the beginning.

Syrah crush: view from up above

Syrah crush: view from up above

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Happy Accidents

In Uncategorized on 09/29/2009 at 8:10 pm

Lately I have been thinking about imperfection–in people, in art, in life, and (of course) in wine. When is it a detriment, and when is it actually an asset?

This all arose  when, the other day at the winery, I opened and (eek!) served a bottle of corked wine. Cork taint occurs when  2,4,6 trichloroanisole–a chemical found in many pesticides and wood preservatives–infects a cork and causes wine to taste and smell of damp newspaper.

Cork tree (Quercus suber)

Cork tree (Quercus suber)

I’d discerned cork taint before, but this time missed it. Was my head cold to blame, or did I just make a rookie mistake? Either way, by the time a customer–who happened to be a veteran winemaker–sniffed it out, I’d sold 18 bottles of the stuff to eager buyers, none of whom noticed any problem.

This begs the question: In this instance, was cork taint such a bad thing? Tin Barn winemaker Mike Lancaster doesn’t cut himself much slack.  “In the end,” he says, “a flaw is still a flaw.”

Reassuring. And certainly this modus operandi rules the Tin Barn cellar–a spotless and well-kept workplace. But I wonder if a flaw can also simultaneously be a benefit?

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Location, Location, Location….

In Uncategorized on 08/21/2009 at 2:49 pm

To find us, you'll definitely need to look for the signs...

Your GPS won't cut it: to find us, look for the signs.

“Where Am I?”

It’s one of the first questions new visitors ask. Tucked in the back lot of an unromantic industrial park, Tin Barn is no grand vintner’s castle. In this way, it defies the stereotypical notion of what a Northern California winery should be. But that’s often why people seek the place out. Last week, a guest described Tin Barn as a “harem tent in the middle of a desert”—a place of indulgence where you’d least expect it.

This “harem tent” is where my experiential, sensory, seat-of my-pants wine education is taking place. During my initial month, I’ve had a good chance to scope it out … and Toto, this former cubicle-dweller is (happily) not in the Financial District anymore. Here’s the lowdown on Tin Barn’s unique location:

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