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Work Hard – Drink Strong!

My First Week in Tassie

Me taking baume, or checking the process of fermentation.

Me taking baume, or checking the process of fermentation.

So the first week of work is basically finished. So far we have harvested and processed all of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling production. It’s been enoculated and is currently going through fermentation, or already finished. However, certain lots of the Chardonnay are also going through native (spontaneous) fermentation in new oak barrels in the downstairs cave. Here is a picture of me taking baume or checking the process of fermentation (drop in sugar) every morning. The native ferments are going really well and tasting incredible which is a positive testament to using native yeasts.



At the beginning of the week we also brought in Pinot Gris.  We processed about 8 ton in one day, but allowed that juice a two day skin contact in the press before we pressed off. After the two days, we separated the free run, pressings, and hard press. Eventually it will all be barreled down together, but for now it is easier to see the differences and treat the harder presses with whatever they may need to maintain quality.

Alessio and I sorting fruit

Alessio and I sorting fruit

This week we also brought in some Pinot Noir from another vineyard across the way. Steve buys fruit from only two vineyards, which aren’t biodynamic, but he uses that fruit in a cheaper Pinot. Besides that everything is grown on site. Here’s a picture of Alessio and I sorting fruit.

In addition to all this we have been making small additions to the sparkling ferments, checking baume’ each day, and prepping for next week. Next week I am told we will be bringing in about 150 ton or so, which represents about 75% of the entire harvest!! It should be really long days, but that’s the life of a farmer and winemaker. When the fruit is ready, it’s ready, and we must do what we can to make the best wine possible.

The team eating dinner together.

The team eating dinner together.

Aside from winemaking, also living on the property are a group of woofers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) who work for free but get to live on the property and eat for free in exchange. It is basically a way to travel for free. They may stay as long as they please, no contracts. We had dinner at the house with them the other night. There is a Frenchman, Thomas, a German, Irinna, a Californian, Marissa, and and two Italians, Alice and Marta, all twenty something’s. It is so cool to be at a table with people from all over the world. My last experience with this was when I lived/worked in South Africa and would frequent the backpackers hostel there. It is refreshing to meet and discuss the world and all that it has to offer with people from different backgrounds. Everyone has something different to say, and I have always known it to be culturally enriching. In the end you may even have a friend to stay with in another country!!  This is a picture of all of us eating dinner together.

Oxtail gnocci and charcuterie plate... Yes, please!

Oxtail gnocci and charcuterie plate… Yes, please!


The food at lunch is equally delicious. They have a restaurant (Osteria) on site, and so Thursday through Monday we get lunch cooked for us! It is so delicious. Here’s a picture of some oxtail gnocchi we had alongside a charcuterie plate at lunch the other day. Tough life I know!

December Rascal Of The Month – Mike Hale

65665_10201113869230061_1517965999_nOccupation:  Television Editor

Hometown:  Santa Monica, CA

How Far back do you and Carhartt go?
I met the Carhartts during my very first visit to Los Olivos, it was either Sat May 19th or the 26th of 2007.

Favorite Carhartt wine?
Can never choose just 1 so I’ll pick 3.  2008 Cab Franc (Rock Hollow Vineyard), 2012 Grenache Noir, and Pinot Noir from any year.

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Mike & Mike in 2007

Which Carhartt did you meet first?
When I first stepped foot into “the smallest tasting room” in Los Olivos it was during “PARTY TIME” aka….after 5pm on a Saturday night. Back in 2007, it was Mike working the front room and Brooke running around the back patio (pre pass-thru window) so there was just a lot of awesome chaos. The music was bumping loud and the wine was flowing. Chase was still in diapers back then sipping on a baby cup filled with 2006 merlot. I remember the place being so much fun and friendly and when Brooke found out I didn’t have dinner reservations that night she was instantly on the phone calling restaurants for me, been hooked on the family ever since.

Tell us how you got the gig helping the Carhartts:
Well, based on the current employees, in order to work for the Carhartt family you have to be ridiculously good looking, so… I was happy to pass that test. That said, I just remember one day I got a text from Mike asking if I would like to help out and pour at a pickup party. That ended up being a great experience and later turned into helping out in the tasting room from time to time. The Carhartt family is just one of those families that you love being around and anytime I can join their party I’m very happy to do so.

Best part about pouring for the Carhartts:
Meeting people in the tasting room, talking about wine, hanging out with the workers there, and of course tasting the wine from time to time throughout the day.  Also the giant rush of people during “party time” and the bar-like atmosphere it brings, it can be an awesome hot mess of a time.

Best tasting room or pickup party memory:
So many great memories in the tasting room and at events. A few that stand out is once I sat a couple down in the back patio and the gentleman asked me for a lunch menu, I came back with a bag of crackers. Another great memory is the weekend the “replacements” were running the tasting room. Mike and Brooke were on vacation in Spain and Chase had gone to a concert in San Francisco with Evan. This particular Saturday it was Chris Rickman, Nick Marchi, myself and another wine club member Emily working the tasting room and we got crushed. We were so busy we almost broke the record for a single days sales, it was so much fun.  Also, the summer dinner parties are always the best, filled with great people, magic and musical entertainment, fantastic food, and well…the annual Mike Carhartt intoxicated on the drums reliving his glory days of a rock star during the raffle is an experience I look forward to every year.

Mike&Mike2013- edit

Mike & Mike in 2013

Who’s the best behind the counter?
The best person behind the counter is Mike. He’s very blunt and I could talk with him for hours about anything.

When I’m allowed to play DJ what song do I play:
Anytime I am able to get a hold of the ipod during “party time” I almost always try to put on some rage against the machine, maybe some metallica, I’m definitely not a “country boy.” For the record whenever this does happen the song is never on that long before Mike changes it.

Final thoughts: 
Carhartt was the first wine club I joined and I signed up the first night I met them, very proud of that. I knew nothing about wine, all I knew was that I loved the family. The small, personal, family atmosphere with the actual winemakers themselves is unlike anything I’ve experienced then, or since.  They treat you the same way whether it’s your first time walking through those doors….or the 100th time….and they make pretty awesome wine as well.

A “Ground To Glass” Experience

Employee for the Day, Jim Youngson, Shares His Day as a Winemaker

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Jim’s winemaker shot of the day

Become a Winemaker for the Day… Yes!

Carola and I jumped at the chance to be Carhartt Employees for the Day.  While we’ve been to private barrel tastings and toured amazing wineries from the Central Coast to Tuscany, we’ve never had the opportunity to actually work directly with the grapes in the vineyard or been involved in the actual winemaking process.  Work schedules be damned, we submitted our letter immediately.  Perhaps what got us in the door as their first hires was a personal connection (my grandfather and Brooke’s mother Betsy were friends down in Pasadena many years ago), but we are told we also won points by my wife’s direct comment that “we like wine but we don’t whine.”  Whatever the reason, we were thrilled to be asked to help out for a day.

It only took a little water, a lot of mud and a sudden (but short) drop in the temperature for our scheduled work day to be postponed.  That proved problematic for Carola; and as she had to catch a flight to the east coast, I found myself driving over San Marcos Pass and into the early morning fog to go to work in a vineyard.

The physical work was what I expected – heavy lifting, time consuming, repetitive and seemingly endless.  What I didn’t appreciate is just how much mental work is required throughout the process of making wine.  To start, as farmer of the family operation, Mike must decide how best to manage the grapes from spring until fall, optimal time to pick the grapes, and how to arrange for labor. There are all sizes of machinery and equipment to master and maintain – tractors, destemmers, presses, forklifts, and barrels, to name a few.  On the winemaking side, there are nutrient, enzyme and yeast  options that Brooke is always considering. And let’s not forget financial, labor and retail decisions…even the types of barrels and corks are carefully selected.  Like I said, the physical and mental work is ongoing and year round.

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Keeping up with the crew… for the moment

By the time I arrived and was warmly greeted by Joe at the gate, the team of about a dozen had been in the vineyard since pre-sunrise (we day employees are on union hours).  The expert pickers move quickly and efficiently as they cut healthy grape clusters. With gloves and sharp cutters I tried my hand at the task, finding it enjoyable to work with the living rather than the computers and smart phones of my world.  That said, I wasn’t very fast, and silently these guys would swarm past me, even if I’d started well ahead and down a row.

By the way, a great upside to working the harvest is eating the harvest!  The grapes are absolutely amazing.  I’ll never eat store bought, tasteless grapes again.  (Don’t tell the Carhartts but my tongue was purple by the time we finished harvesting for the day.)

Jim 5

Ready to sort with Brooke & the Boys

Like I said, it’s physical work.  Once the pickers cut the grapes into buckets, they are hand carried and dumped into large bins pulled by Mike’s tractor.  There, Brooke sorts out leaves, making the sorting process later in the day much easier.  Another thing I did not appreciate beforehand is that harvesting usually stops by mid-late morning, as once the sun warms the earth, it’s time to get these pretty things down to the winery for the next part of their journey.

On the crush pad, the grapes are sorted, destemmed and sometimes crushed, then put in the cooler where they cold soak for 2-5 days, depending upon the varietal. I enjoyed working the sorting machine as it reminds everybody (over 45) of the famous ‘I Love Lucy’ episode where Lucy and Ethel get a little behind at the chocolate conveyor belt.  You get the picture… but thanks to Brooke’s pre-screening process in the vineyard the work becomes much, much easier. I should add that their operation is meticulously clean, from Mike’s tractor to the winery floor.

Jim 1

Punch Downs with Chase

Chase generously showed me around the old barns on the property that are used for their winemaking operation.  A recent viticulture and enology grad, part of his role in the family business is working with Brooke to manage the harvested grapes as they ferment from fruit into wine.  It’s a simple premise whereby yeast consumes the sugar and produces alcohol, but that doesn’t guarantee it’s going to taste good!  I was able to help Chase with part of this process by “punching down” the fermenting grapes to moisten the skins and help keep the yeast active.

Chase also manages the barrel purchase and storage program.  Since oxygen is the enemy of wine, I learned, over the next 18-22 months the barrels will be topped off on a weekly basis to ensure no oxygen interacts with the wine. Also, instead of filtering or fining the wine, they will “rack and return” the wine quarterly to gain the clarity and color we see in the finished product.

I’ll tell you one thing with certainty after my experience:  it’s a great way to spend a lot of money so you better know what you’re doing.  There are so many moving parts and forks where it can all go wrong.  Winemaking is farming, chemistry, biology, art and marketing, and unlike a painting, it’s consumable and to be enjoyed.  So, you won’t see this guy grumble about the price tag of small batch wine production ever again.

The Carhartt’s have a truly family-run operation that extends beyond their bloodlines to those they work with.  Winemaking strikes me as a somewhat solitary business so it’s essential that the team like each other.  With constant light-hearted bantering throughout the day it was a pleasure to feel quickly a part of the Carhartt extended family.

Jim 2

Enjoying the fruits of his labor with Joe

The day concluded with my payment – in wine bottles – and a relaxing stop at the tasting room with Joe (where I’m still struck with how much I love that extra batch of mourvedre…in fact, I bought a couple bottles).

Brooke, Mike, Chase, Joe and the crew:  thank you, thank you for granting me a peak into your special world.  I hereby volunteer Carola and myself for next year right now.  Your land is amazing (and its views), your people too, and the first class operation underscores why the wine you produce is so wonderful.  You’ve managed to keep it personal, meaningful and fulfilling to yourselves…and to those of us fortunate enough to have discovered all you’ve created.

Jim Youngson was born and raised in Pasadena and has lived in Santa Barbara for 30 years with his wife Carola and son Max.  Jim owns a public affairs business, Terrain Consulting, located in downtown Santa Barbara and is a Carhartt wine club member.








November Rascals Of The Month – Robert & Marisa Sanders

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Robert and Marisa enjoying the Carhartt patio

Robert is a Grounds Keeper for the city of Burbank
Marisa is a food server at the TallyRand Restaurant in Burbank

Who’s the Bigger Wine Enthusiast?
By far Robert is the bigger wine enthusiast between the two of us. The joke between our friends and family is that Robert is a wine snob.  Marisa was slowly groomed into appreciating a good bottle of wine.

Favorite Carhartt Wines?
We really enjoy them all, but if we had to choose only one, we really enjoy Four Play! Rebel Roan would be pretty high on the list of likes!!!

Best Carhartt Moment?
One of the best and worst moments was being on a hillside at an outdoor concert at the Star Light Bowl, when Robert was tapped on the shoulder and was told “Sir, you spilled your bottle of wine!”, “Robert replied back no worries, I have another bottle of Sangiovese!”.  Even at an outdoor concert Robert still has to let his wine breathe
at any cost!!

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World’s smallest tasting room here we come!

Tell us about your need for Carhartt Applewood?
As a hobby Robert enjoys cooking. He is now experimenting with making his own Bacon! And enjoys making Pastrami, pulled pork, grilling chicken over wood, and soon pizzas in his soon to be finished outdoor oven!  So when Mike said he had Apple Trees that needed to be removed, Robert said just tell me when… I’ll take it!

What does your ideal wine tasting day involve?
An ideal day of wine tasting for us is bringing friends or family up to our favorite little town, having lunch, and always stopping by the tiniest tasting room in Los Olivos and sipping good wine and saying hi to the always inviting and friendly crew there. Of course we always stop by Poul’s Garlic stand to check out his garlic and what pizza he’s
cooking up or what meat he’s smoking. That’s always a fun time!!

Tell us about the Harley:
When we ride up on the bike we like to take the 154 from Santa Barbara past the lake through the country side.  That is how we discovered Los Olivos and the first place we tasted at was the smallest tasting room in Los Olivos. That was our first meeting with Mike.  Since that day we’ve been hooked!!!

October Rascal Of The Month- Alisa Michaels

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Alisa and her husband Paul enjoying the World’s Smallest Tasting Room

Rascal:  Alisa Michael

Became a Rascal:  August, 2012

Hometown:  Roswell, GA

Occupation:  Client Manager

Hobbies and/or interesting facts people may not know about you:
I enjoy cooking gourmet meals.  An interesting fact that most people do not know about me is that I used to sing semi-professionally.

How did you originally find out about Carhartt and/or what was your first experience with Carhartt?
My husband, Paul, and I stumbled upon Carhartt on our first trip to Santa Ynez in August 2012.  We absolutely fell in love with the wine and the family; we joined the club immediately.  It was our great fortune that the Winemaker Dinner was that weekend. So we were able to attend our first dinner – met Mike, Brooke, Chase, Uncle Pete, made amazing friends, had a fabulous time and could never think of missing one in the future!

What’s your favorite Carhartt wine and what occasion, setting or food do you enjoy it with?
Tough question.  My all-time favorite is Chase the Blues Away Rose.  We drink this out on our boathouse on Lake Burton.  But…close second has now become the Sangiovese – Amazing! Being Italian I make my own pastas, so we always pair it with a new creation.

If there’s something that sets Carhartt apart what is it?
Carhartt is all about family.  We love the fact that you treat us as part of your family. 

Alisa Michael 1

Alisa and her Gang of Rascals from Georgia at this year’s Winemaker Dinner

Tell us a little about your Tuesday night events?  Is this a weekly, monthly event and who participates.  Have you coined a name for your group and/or this regular event?
My Tuesday night event is with four of my closest friends who happen to be neighbors.  One of our husbands dubbed us “The Booze Girls”, but thanks to you we are renaming ourselves “The Rascal Girls”.  I have gotten into trouble sharing our last bottle of FourPlay in the past.  Given our tendency to over order, Joe now knows to confirm all orders we make on Tuesday nights the next morning.  We love Carhartt!

You traveled the furthest of any of our Rascals for our Annual Winemaker Dinner.  Why come so far and was it worth the trip?  Will we see you next year?
After attending the first Winemaker Dinner by chance, we decided this was event we can never miss.  It is absolutely worth the trip!  Great wine, food and fun every year.   You will see us next year, possibly with some of the Georgia Rascal Girls in tow!

Become a Carhartt Employee For A Day

Join the Team & Help us with the 2013 Harvest

photoWe need your help!  Become a Carhartt Employee for the Day during our 2013 Harvest.  Help us pick, process and craft 2013′s vintages.  This is a rare opportunity to get your hands dirty and learn the winemaking process in a hands-on, behind-the-scenes, do-it-yourself experience.

We have already had a ton of interest!  To be considered for our “Employee for the Day” position we ask that you submit a very short (100 words or less) “Cover Letter” letting us know why you should be chosen to join the team.  We encourage you to post your cover letters on  Facebook, but you can also email us at joe@carharttvineyard.com.

We will pick a date that works with your schedule.  Compensation will be paid in WINE!!!

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