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Madroña Vineyards Blog

May 12, 2022

When Times Seem Dark...

How Do We All Make It Through The Day?
El Dorado Classico

Sometimes, it's hard to write about something as trivial as wine when the whole world seems to be going to pot. This last week's news seemed particularly hard to digest, from the war to the supreme court to natural disasters.

But with all this going on, how do we make it through the day? Sometimes it's by momentarily diverting our attention from the unimaginable and seeing that there are still good things going on out there. It doesn't change the fact that there is a lot of work we need to be doing on real issues (if we don't want to "progress" backwards), but it can give us energy for fighting the next fight to make the world a better place.

Thus I am focusing on a diversion here that not only helps me make it through the day, but also sparks my brain a bit.

Last week in the Shrub Report, we posed the idea of embracing older vines in the region by starting a new concept of 'El Dorado Classico' (or El Dorado Classic, or something like that). The thought was to give vineyards of a certain age (initially thinking 50 years) have an extra designation in the El Dorado appellation. We don't know if this is possible or even legal, but the first jury to ask would be the people who might really care about this. YOU!

The response was overwhelmingly supportive of this idea (actually is was unanimous!). Being an initial idea, though, meant that you all had a variety of questions (which I am slowly responding to). But the overall question was, which variety of grape would be used for this El Dorado Classico? (We had approached this like Chianti Classico, which is Sangiovese (at least 80%).)

So here's where it sparks my brain. The answer is, "I don't know." For most wine regions around the world, they can be identified with one or two varieties (and it's often codified into the labeling laws). Burgundy is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Cahors is Malbec. Even Napa is most notably associated with Cabernet Sauvignon.

But for better or worse, El Dorado does not identify with just one or two varieties. We don't even identify with 20 varieties. Instead, whether we're lucky or unlucky, a plethora of varieties grows well in our varied elevations, slopes, soils and micro-climates. As consumers, you are blessed with an incredible choice of different wines, all expressing this amazing region. (And we wineries have a marketing challenge!)

So, come back now to the idea of an El Dorado Classico. I think it would be a disservice to allocate this name to a single variety when all the wineries here identify with uniquely different wines. Even Zinfandel, a household variety of the Sierra Foothills, is not the first wine that comes to mind when we say "El Dorado".

Once again, I think this might be a time to embrace the diversity of the appellation and focus on the older vineyard idea. It could be across all varieties, highlighting instead on the years of the vineyard. This could provide an opportunity for intensity in the wines as well as some expectations by the drinker. It could bring thought to the style, kind of like 'Old Vine' does for consumers (although 'Old Vine' has no legal definition and could maybe just be 8-years-old or something!).

It's an early idea, we know, but what do you think now? Could you embrace simply older vines, or do you think it should be a variety of grape (or a red and a white)? Email us and let us know at . And if you think it should be just one variety, let us know which one!

Either way, the thought is to celebrate the older vineyards, opening up opportunities for farmers and consumers alike. You know, try to make the world a better place with a win-win!

And by the way, thank you for diverting my attention for a few minutes while writing this!


April 12, 2022

Winter is Back

Frost Loss in the Vineyards

Well, it was bound to happen. With unusually warm temperatures (87 degrees last Thursday!) coupled with an early bud break, we were destined to be challenged by frosts. So, last night the temperature in the vineyards dropped to 27 degrees, and we were below freezing for about 8 hours total.

At Madroña, I turned on the overhead irrigation system at about 11pm. The dewpoint was at 26 and the temperature hovering at 34 degrees, just in time. It takes about 30 minutes to get everything turned on, with extra time built in to clean any plugged rainbirds. (I turned on all the vineyard but the Cabernet Sauvignon to insure enough water pressure to provide for the rest of the system--Cab Sauv seems to be able to handle colder temperatures, although not so much this year--I just checked!).

After the ice melts, I'll turn off the irrigation and check on the damage. I've never had to frost protect with such long amounts of growth on the shoots in the past. My concern is that the weight of the ice forming will break the tender shoots off the vine. But, chalk that up to education for the future (as this may become more normal in the coming years). (For another first, we lost about 30% of our Chardonnay crop back in March this year due to a frost. Now I'm trying to protect the Chardonnay a month later, but many are second buds. And we still have another month of potential frost weather. Who knows, maybe I'll have to protect the tertiary buds too!!!)

As for our Rucksack Vineyards (no frost protection), the damage looks more extensive already showing wilted shoots in the Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc (like vegetables in your fridge that have frozen--kind of gray/green). It may not be 100%, but we'll know more in a couple of hours after the sun warms things up. (Update--Chenin ~50% loss, Upper Cab Franc ~20% loss, Lower Cab Franc ~90% loss)

As for our Enyé Vineyards in Pleasant Valley (no frost protection), I hold out a little less hope as there is a bowl in that vineyard where the cold air sinks. Although I prepared by mowing the vineyards last Sunday (which helps airflow and gives a little breathing room), varieties like Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir and Syrah don't show good resistance to freezing. On the top of the vineyards (Enyé/Sumu Kaw Vineyards), it hit 29 degrees, so definitely cold enough to burn. That's tomorrow's fieldtrip. 

What now? Well, first, we'll wait a few hours for the sun to do its job. We'll reassess the damage at that time. It's important to know if the entire shoot was damaged (lost), or just the tip, or up to the clusters, etc. Each scenario takes a different approach and different amounts of work. Regardless of the amount of crop, we will still need to farm the vines as if there was no damage. And that's because we're also thinking about next year (2023), by keeping the vines strong and clean of mildew and pests.

So here are the early takeaways. Last night was a tough night. We definitely lost some crop, but we won't lose the vines. We have a lot of work ahead of us as we now adjust for less fruit as well insuring the best growth for the 2023 vintage.

But truly, it's necessary to keep things in perspective. End the end, it's just grapes. And even on one of our toughest days, we still get to live in El Dorado county, a world away from most of the huge issues (war, famine, violence, lack of housing, non-potable water, etc.). Ah, then again, Climate Change will probably make this a recurring blog post...however that subject is for a day when I have more energy.

Oh, and by the way, it's supposed to freeze again tonight! Yee haw! (That's being sarcastic!)


March 29, 2022

First Bottling of the 2021 Vintage—The 2021 Hillside Riesling

Still just $18/bottle

Last year, as you all know, we had a terrible fire in the area. The impacts on the community were (and still are) great, with many losing homes and the forests being burned.

For wineries, smoke impact on the wines is a lingering reminder of the fires, as we learn how to work with each of these wines. For us, it's not just about making the best wine from the vintage, but more importantly being proud the wine we're putting out. (You can imagine that in some cases, making the best wine possible may still not be a wine you wish to put your label on!)

So we thought we would give you a quick glimpse of the life of one wine from 2021, and how we are approaching it. Here goes the story of the 2021 Hillside Riesling!

We picked two distinct lots of Riesling in 2021. By the timing and ripeness, one lot was clean and one lot had a small smoke impact on the finish and the nose. This smoke character manifested itself as a slight ashy character akin to cigarette ash, and only on the second pick of Riesling.

When it comes to smoke characters, one can either try to remove it or mask it. Or a combination of both. For us, it was a no-brainer to blend the first pick of Riesling (with no smoke characters) into the second pick of Riesling. However, having done trials before blending, we knew this wasn't enough to take out the smoky character entirely.

So first we trialed out fining the Riesling with different fining agents. Unfortunately, these attempts would strip too much fruit and flavor out of the second pick of Riesling. Thus that was not possible. Instead we found that by pumping the Riesling through a resin filter housing from one of the companies (don't ask me how it works), it would take the edge off the finish and remove some ashy characters with only a slight amount of stripping.

Now blend in the first Riesling pick, and the ashiness is all but gone.

But always weighing risk (and with bottles and corks costing so much), we felt several small bottlings over time were a better approach than bottling everything at once. You know, what if the smoky characters re-form in the bottle maybe a month down the road? We'd hate to have 500 cases of that wine that we had already sunk all the cost into.

So we filtered and bottled 81 cases of the 2021 Hillside Riesling, leaving about 890 gallons of the wine in tank. If the wine continues to hold up nicely, then we'll bottle another 100 cases and then another 100 cases....as we need it until we feel comfortable with the wine.

For you, the takeaway is this. We won't put our label on the wine (or even invest in the bottling) unless we like the wine. Secondly, the 2021 Hillside Riesling is amazing. Still in bottle shock, it has an incredibly racy pH level (2.72) and moderate acid level (7.8g/l) with about 14g/l (1.4%) residual sugar. It's an off-dry Riesling that drinks like a dry Riesling with apple, peach, melon and more going on in it. At about 18 seconds after drinking it, I can pick up an ever-so-slight hint of ash, but I think the fruit will mask it in the near future.

However, unlike all our other Rieslings which age impeccably well (due to the acidity), we would drink this one on the young side (not having had the experience of aging wines having shown smoke impact).

We hope this fully transparent approach to what we're doing is interesting and helpful, and we look forward to your thoughts on our 2021 Hillside Riesling!


March 15, 2022

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend!

Are They Really?

So, I decided that we needed to write something fun and geeky to get our minds off of the 0.62 inches of rain we got last night! Woo HOO! That's our first really measurable rain (other that a blip of 0.27 inches earlier this month) since early January. We'll take whatever we can get at this point, with another small storm coming Saturday!

But I wanted to talk instead about diamonds. Or more specifically, Wine Diamonds! "Wine Diamonds" is the fluffy, fun yet pretentious name given to tartrates. Tartrates are the small crystals that form on the cork of a bottle of some bottles of wine. So, what are they, why do they form, why don't all wines have them, and lastly what does it mean for the quality of the wine?

I'll take each of these questions one at a time, providing a paragraph each for explanation.

What are they? Tartrates are the tartaric acid natural to the grapes salting out of solution (the wine) over time. Although the uninitiated sometimes think it's sugar or sand or whatever, it's just crystalized tartaric acid. If you want, you can scrape it off the cork, collect it, crush it up, and make cookies with it. It's cream of tartar!

Why do they form? It all depends on how stable the wine is at given temperatures and situations. Fluctuations in temperatures and time (older wines often show tartrates after many years of aging) allow the natural tartaric acid to bind with potassium (also in the wine) to form potassium bitartrate (tartrates). Colder cellaring temperatures and chilling wines will speed up this process if there is an instability, until the wine "finds" its equilibrium for the given temperature. (Freeze a wine, and it happens really quickly!)

Why don't all wines have tartrates? Some varieties are inherently higher in tartaric acid to begin with. Also, blending wines can bring in a short-term instability (until the tartrates form). For white wines, we chill the tanks down to 38 degrees for two weeks, and the tartrates form on the side of the tank (not in the bottle later on). This "two weeks" simulates a person putting their bottle of white wine into a refrigerator for two weeks, and not have it throw crystals. (But maybe it would if you left the bottle in for 6 months.) Our red varieties are "chilled" in the wintertime in the barrel room, which runs about 48 degrees. The crystals generally form inside the barrels, and not in the finished wine. And most people don't put their red wines into the refrigerator for long periods (so no need to stabilize a wine to the 38 degrees of a refrigerator).

What do tartrates mean for the quality of the wine? Tartrate crystals or wine diamonds mean nothing for the quality of the wine.

And why do I bring this up? We have a fairly hands-off approach to winemaking here at Madroña. So tartrates (especially on red wines) are something we see from time to time. The 2019 Hillside Zinfandel is just one of those wines where the tartrates have formed over the past year in our cool cellar. But always trying to be honest and transparent, I can give you one more bit of information on the '19 Zinfandel that will make some sense.

To make the best Zinfandel, I blended in 5% 2020 Zinfandel into my 2019 Zinfandel, close to the bottling date in early March. This added some fresh fruit characters while softening the tannins a hint as well. But it also added in an instability since the 2020 vintage had not yet spent the whole winter in barrel at its colder temperatures. So once the blend was in the bottle, the tartrates showed up some six months later as the wine found its equilibrium. When you open the 2019 Hillside Zinfandel, the first and last glasses will have just a bit of the tartrates. Drink it like a baleen whale, knowing it's just cream of tartar. But also know that the blend made for better Zin!

So are Wine Diamonds a girl's best friend? Maybe not, but great Zinfandel certainly is!


March 8, 2022

International Women's Day

A Glimpse of Madroña, by Paul Bush

With all that's going on right now in Ukraine, it's sometimes (or almost always) hard to think positively about anything, let alone write about it. But a celebration of International Women's Day is something that can lift my spirit. (And I wonder if we'd be having this war in Europe right now if a woman were in charge of Russia! But I digress.)

Most of you already know that Madroña Vineyards is a well-integrated business. This is not some mandated aspect from the state but instead a reflection of who we feel are the best people to do the best job. So with Maggie and Nicole running the office, Nancy running the tasting room, and an incredible staff (of almost all women) working in the tasting room, their skills in marketing, numbers and hospitality work well with a level of patience that perhaps neither Tim, Pablo nor I possess.

But for many, you believe that the winemaking team at Madroña is simply a boy's club with Tim, Pablo and Paul. Well, let me introduce you to our newest winemaker, one Maggie Bush!

Maggie has an interest in making a selection of lower-alcohol expressions of wines more commonly associated with European styles. She has a very focused and exceptional palate that is not afraid of critiquing wines I've made (and boy do I know that!). But she always has proof behind the pudding, being able to explain exactly what she's tasting and what she would want changed.

So when Maggie decided she wanted to make the "M-Series" of wines, it was a no-brainer. But it was a 'no-brainer' for reasons that you may not realize. With her degrees in Micro-Economics, Business, Estate-Planning and Tax along with her two decades of traveling the world auditing corporations, one might question her ability to make wine.

But here's where a smart woman comes in. Her approach combined the experiences of tasting wines in Europe with the potential salability and profitability of the product. There was no real argument against making the 'M-Series' (other than my, "What if they all like your wines more than mine?"). Then she researched what we had, absorbed information I could give her, and then delegated different aspects of what needed to be done.

In the end, she made a 2019 M-Series Riesling and a 2019 M-Series Cabernet Franc. Both wines are a different expression than we usually have at Madroña, embracing an earlier pick, pure fruit and a lower alcohol wine, destined for great dinners.

Does it take a woman to make these kind of decisions? No. But a woman has every ability (and then some) to do a job as well as a man. So, find the right person, woman or man, and they will perform beyond your expectations! And for the 'M-Series' (and running the business), it is Maggie!

Cheers to International Women's Day, and may we all celebrate the amazing women around us!

(And if you need any of the 'M-Series' wines, call the winery at 530/644-5948. We only have 3 cases of the 'M-Series' Riesling left, and maybe 15 cases of the Cabernet Franc!)


March 1, 2022

Troubling Times in the World Right Now
But Some Good Too!

It's been a really tough week on this earth. With Russia's invasion of the Ukraine and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report's dire warning, it sometimes feels like the weight is too much. And that feeling is coming from our cozy bed in the heart of El Dorado county. We're not even fighting for our lives like others are forced to do, yet it seems overwhelming.

But there are always aspects of such negative times that bring out positive results. Russia's war seems to be uniting Europe as well as other countries around the world in spite of our differences. Climate Change, whether one believes in it or not, is promoting innovation and change at unprecedented levels to make for a more sustainable world. Put these two things together, innovation and a united world, and change can happen!

As for a small business, we tend to get fiscally conservative when wars break out. Never knowing when the other shoe may drop, we work a little harder and longer each day, and spend a little less. Having said that, we still want to make change for us and our children. So we are putting down the reservation fee for the electric tractor (Wish List Item!!!). Although it won't be available until at least October this year, we have to be thinking of the future and what we can do to help. The purchase supports a local (made in California) tractor company while making things a bit cleaner up here.

And for those of you who have followed our kids growing up over the last 20+ years, there's a bit of news there too. Hanna, who is graduating from UCSD this year with a degree in Marine Biology has been accepted into the Climate Science and Policy graduate program at Scripps Institute (UCSD). And if anyone can save the oceans, it'll be her (said from her very proud parents!).

The fact is that life goes on and humans are amazing (and scary). We can all make a difference for good if we dig in and choose to. Maybe that's the takeaway that allows this winemaker (who only ever wanted to grow grapes on his own private island) to sleep at night.

And our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people as their struggles seemed to have just started!


February 22, 2022

Really, 24 Degrees Tonight?
And to Think We Were in the 70's Just a Bit Ago!

Shall we talk about the joys of farming? We haven't seen any moisture here since the beginning of the year, and the last two weeks have been relatively warm, with some highs in the 70's.

Understandably, some of the vines are a bit confused. We start pruning in early January to make sure we can prune all the vineyards by the time they bud out. We prune the older vines at Madroña first since we have overhead irrigation to do frost protection. Pruning early can lead to slightly earlier budding (as compared to leaving all the canes on until budding). However having done this for almost 50 years, we've never seen any vines bud out in February.

But never say never as our Chardonnay started pushing at the ends of the canes around Valentine's Day, just a mere month and a half early.

Now generally, spring is filled with sleepless nights as we determine if and when to turn on the irrigation system to protect the vines from frost. Many years, it might be once or twice, but more often than not, we don't have to turn on the system at all. But then again, we're not budding out in February.

Well, decisions now. So not all the buds in the Chardonnay are vulnerable right now. And it takes a lot of water to run an overhead irrigation system for coverage (although with this dry season, they could use an irrigation!). But alas, we have the next three days with lows of 24, 26 and 29 degrees, well below freezing. And chances are, we'd have to run the irrigation for hours (like 12-16 or 24 hours a day) as temperatures remain cold (and the ice on the vines doesn't thaw). During a drought year, this just doesn't seem sustainable especially when we can have freezes all the way until late May.

So with snow on the ground right now and a freeze in the forecast, we're going to sleep like babies (after a prayer) with no intentions of getting up in the middle of the night. And most of the vineyards should make it through ok, helping them back to sleep for a bit more winter.

We'll keep you updated on the impact. But if these weather swings are the new normal, maybe a glass of Chardonnay in front of the fireplace will be appropriate tonight!


February 15, 2022

A Steam Machine
Number 3 on the Wish List for this Year

Continuing on our saga of wishful thinking for new equipment in the vineyards and the winery, No. 3 on the list is a Electric Steam Boiler from Aaquatools ($11,000). This isn't for making tea or coffee; this 208V, 70A steam machine basically does one thing. It makes steam.

Now here's the reasoning behind this machine; steam sterilizes faster than hot water! That's it in 5 words! But it's actually a little more complicated than that. Steam can be used to sterilize barrels, sterilize tanks, sterilize bottling lines and sterilize the floor (if you want). The cool thing (no pun intended) is that it can sterilize things faster, better and with less water.

And now we get to the crux of things. WATER!!!

Water is precious commodity here in California, and with climate change, drought and increasing population, we need to be more conscious of the water we're using. At home we can cut minutes off our showers, save water in pails for watering plants, and be more judicious with watering our yards. In the winery, water is mostly used for cleaning.

The most water-intensive operation in our winery is sterilizing our bottling line. I run 176 degree water through my inline filter and bottling line for 60 minutes. In all, this process takes about 700 gallons of water. If I bottle 12 times a year, that's 8,400 gallons of water or more.

If I use the steam machine, I should be able to sterilize the line in 20 minutes, using less than 1 gallon/minute. That means using steam would save almost 8,4000 gallons in a year just in sterilizing the bottling line. Then add one more aspect to all this. We track how much wastewater (from cleaning tanks, sterilizing equipment etc.) we produce for the State of California. Right now, we're a Tier 1 winery producing fewer than 30,000 gallons of wastewater. But there are large incentives to stay under that 30,000 gallon mark, and this steam machine would simply save a lot of water.

Better sterilizing, efficiency of time and using less water all make this No. 3 choice on the wish list an important choice for the future!


February 8, 2022

Trellising--The New Valentine's Day Gift?
Number 2 on the Wish List for this Year

Our trip down to Sacramento for the Wine and Grape Symposium was a great opportunity to check out trellising systems. No, no, no, don't worry; I'm not planning to give Maggie some vineyard trellising for Valentine's. But trellising is definitely on the list this year.

So you're thinking, what's trellising and why is it number 2 on the wish list? Good questions. Trellising is the set of stakes, cross-arms, end posts and wiring that does a lot of the heavy work in the vineyard but never gets the credit. It's the systems that holds up the fruiting canes, helps guide the vine upwards, keeps things looking pristine (along with a lot of work), and helps keep the vine growing in the way we want. It's not romantic, but it's necessary. (Yes, I understand you can do a head-pruned goblet style of vine without wires, but not this time!)

But why are we looking at a trellising system this year? Well, last year we pulled out 2 acres of our Cabernet Sauvignon due to weakness and some virus. When you pull out an old vineyard, you pull out all the stakes, wires and everything in preparation for the new planting.

This year in May, we will plant a new clone of Cabernet Sauvignon into those two acres. However, we'll need most of the trellising system installed before we plant. One, it's a lot easier to put in when the vines aren't in, and two, the vines will need posts to grow up along even in this first year.

That is why we need a new trellising system. I'm still thinking 9' T-posts every three vines with two or three cross-arms per T-post, rebar at the vines in between, 9' rolled end-posts with a drip-tube wire, a fruiting wire (heavier), and 4 movable wires for the cross-arms.

The cost? Well, that's the harder part. To some degree, it doesn't matter as we have to have it. But I can spread the installation over two years (as the vines grow).

Maybe we should do a trellising sale where people get to name their post or wire. It worked for SoFi stadium (at least the naming part)! Ultimately, though, a good trellising system pays off! Thus number 2!


February 1, 2022

A Digital Printer...That's Your Number 1 Wish?
The Crew's Adventure in Winery Toyland

If you remember from last week's Shrub Report, the number one item of interest on our wish list is a digital printer. Ok, ok, settle down. Maybe this isn't what most people might think is imperative to quality winemaking. But hear me out, because I think we're going to change some opinions here.

As you all know, the logistics behind making wine is a gargantuan monster that lurks everywhere and follows us relentlessly. As for the wine consumer, you are interested in what's in the bottle. But remember that that bottle needs to have wine, a cork, and a label at the least.

So let's talk about this label. Everything on the label is government approved, meaning we send in forms with the labels to get the approval before we can put the label on the bottle. The words have to be in the right areas, the right fonts and the right verbiage. We've been doing this long enough that we seldom have any label rejected. But I digress.

Now, after getting label approval, it's time to produce labels. For our labels, we use a multi-plated flexographic system with our local label producer, Placerville Press. Some of our labels can take up to 8 individual printing stations in order to produce them. Everything has to be in perfect sequence and orientation, or else the colors don't build properly or the embossing plate is off. These labels (as the machine is being set up) are thrown away at the printer because they are unusable.

OK, bear with me as this part counts. If you consider the amount of unusable labels as the printing stations are being adjusted, you can see how small runs (production) of labels are far more expensive than large runs ($/label). In other words, the label printer has to throw away the same amount of labels whether we are printing 600 labels or 20,000 labels. And that cost is added into our label production bill.

Now here is where it starts to impact you. Since all the pennies matter in keeping a small business going, we try to have label runs be as large as possible. Small runs are just too expensive to produce (it could be double the price since they had to throw away so many labels to make the alignment perfect). And then we have to add it into the price of the bottle for you (or at least we should).

So what could a new technology digital printer do for you and us? Well, we could print the basic Madroña label on a large spool, maybe a run of 10,000, with out any of the wine information. In other words, just the Madroña, the tree, some lines, etc. Then, as we needed the labels, we could run the "pre-printed" label through a digital printer and add in the vintage and variety.

Large label runs would still be more economical for our printer, Placerville Press, to do. But small runs would be much cheaper to do with the digital printer. See the logic?

As the end consumer, you get more small lot productions of super fun and unique wines. For us, we get an economical way to produce labels. And for the environment, there are fewer labels just thrown in the trash. That's a win-win-win, making a digital printer the number 1 item on our wish list!


January 28, 2022

Prices, Bottles and Being a Community Winery
The Stretching of a Small Winery

I don't know if you happen to have seen the wine article in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding wine pricing, but the gist of it was that consumers may see a $5 a bottle increase in wine prices this year. It is based on the increasing cost of goods, especially bottles. Starting with tariffs from the Trump administration on Chinese goods back in 2019, the availability of bottles has become a progressively bigger problem.

Ironically, the President of the Glass Packaging Industry says there is no glass shortage. Instead, it's more of a problem of getting glass to wineries.

Either way, I know that I used to be able to order whatever glass I wanted a week before bottling and get it here to the winery in time. Now, it can take months, I have to adjust bottle styles (and color), and some bottles I can't even get. And the kicker is that our bottle costs (if we can get them at all) have gone up as much as over 100%!

Now do I see pricing going up $5 a bottle across the board? No, not for us. I'll admit that we aren't the smartest winery, at least from the point of view of profit. I mean, the fact that you can get still get some of our wines for under $15 is positively crazy. These wines come from all our same older vineyards, all estate-grown and naturally (organically) farmed. But raising the price on our El Tinto or Lake Tahoe Zinfandel and Chardonnay to $19 would mean that a great number of the locals, who have kept us in business for almost 50 years, wouldn't be able to afford the wines anymore. And as a community member, that just isn't sustainable for anyone.

So will you see pricing going up on wine around California? I'm sure you will as troubles with getting glass, the increasing costs of raw materials (and labor), and the impacts of the fires (and screwy weather) are all mounting up. But just remember that there is value up here in El Dorado where most wineries price wines to be affordable for the locals. We believe in that Community Winery idea where everyone wins (and wines!).

(P.S. We may raise the price of the Crystal Range wines from $1137/bottle to $1142/bottle, but that's a different story entirely!)


January 19, 2022

Glorious Weather Brings Glorious Tasting!
How to Get to Madroña with the Construction on Hwy 50

As the weather does its wintertime swing, we've switched from snow and freezing temps to sun and highs in the low-60's. What this does mean for us is that outdoor tasting is possible in the middle of winter, and it's wonderfully pleasant! (For those of you who cherish the fireplace inside, we're still doing indoor tastings (albeit socially distanced) either in the tasting room or the cellar.)

Now, if you've traveled through our area during the past two years, you have probably noticed that there is a large amount of road construction going on around here. And with all of us being creatures of habit, we tend to get frustrated with Caltrans playing with our ingrained, memorized routines.

So here's the scoop if you're trying to visit Madroña or Rucksack in the next year (the amount of time they think it will take to finish the underpass here at Carson Road).

Coming From Sacramento (heading east)--Take the Point View Drive exit. Turn left, go under the freeway onto Jacquier (pronounced Jakeway) Rd, and it will butt into Carson Road. Turn right onto Carson Road and enjoy the scenery up to Madroña!

Coming From Carson City/Lake Tahoe (heading west)--Take the Cedar Grove exit and turn right onto Carson Road. Enjoy the scenery as you drive through the town of Camino all the way to Madroña.

Why is this important? Well first off, the weather is beautiful for tasting wine right now. Secondly, Apple Hill is quiet during the winter, and you can have the place to yourselves. Thirdly, it's good to try a different route to Madroña during the road construction. It keeps your brain young and your blood pressure down.

And remember. We're open 7-days-a-week! See you soon!


January 11, 2022

Happy New Years!

Sure, we understand that with it being January 11th, we may be the getting into a tardiness that even Martha Stewart would question. But alas, Happy New Years! Although an arbitrary date (sorry to take the romance our of it), it really is nice to feel like you have a clean slate ahead of you where everything is possible! (Reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes last comic which we have hanging in our house (Maggie cut it out of the paper some 30 years ago). Click here to see it. It's snow appropriate, but I digress.).

So with the new year, it's a time to reflect and look forward. I must admit that I am not a person to make new year's resolutions simply because resolutions can be made any and every day. But some of the news this morning has us thinking about the future.

The main story of note this morning going through the news was the increase in ocean temperatures just this last year. The increase was 14,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules, or the equivalent in energy of 7 atomic bombs detonating ever second, 24 hours a day, for 365 days of the year. To some degree, the increased volatility of our local weather in the last year is a no-brainer with these major changes.

So I think I need to explain something here that will tie in this dark rambling into a new year's projection. First and foremost, I am an optimist. Not only that, but I am glass 7/8ths full type of optimist. I also believe that it's better to try to work with a problem before it's too big of problem (with the exception of maintenance on our old Kubota tractor...which I prefer to just not do and it keeps running).

From a business point of view, or rather a farming point of view, how do we move forward with increasingly difficult growing conditions due to a climate changing. What changes in our business can we do immediately to lessen our impact on warming the planet, not only for ourselves but for those living close to the oceans? What long-term choices can we make as well? Finally, how much should we rely on others throughout the world to make changes, or should we focus more on coping rather than solving?

Now remember, I'm an optimist. And I believe in the ingenuity, smarts and creativity of people when it's clear things have to change. Thus I think a focus on solving is much more in our business (and planet's) interest than merely coping and hoping. In other words, take the reigns and do our part.

Over the next several months, the idea is to give you insight into the thought process of a couple small business owners trying to make a difference on what we believe is the community's greatest challenge (bigger than Covid, taxes, politics, etc.)...climate change. We may ask for your input on parts, and we may just throw out some ideas. But we'll try to give you some background on costs and thoughts as to why changes could or would help.

So, as with Calvin and Hobbes, 2022 has given us "a new year, a fresh clean start." So..."Let's go exploring!"

March 16, 2022

A Retraction and Correction

Our Apology

So yesterday, I incorrectly referenced that the acclaimed wine writer Norm Roby had reviewed and given our 2019 Signature Syrah a score of 93 points. This was not true as he has not had the wine. It was Wine and Spirits Magazine that had given the 2019 Signature Syrah a score of 93 points and "Best Buy".

Instead for the Norm Roby article, I should have put down that he reviewed our 2019 Hillside Grenache (93 points). Here is his review.

Madrona Vineyards, El Dorado (California) Grenache “Hillside Collection” 2019 ($26):  In 2005 Madrona grafted a vineyard over to the Château Rayas clone in its high (2870 feet) elevation site, and this 2019 shows beautiful, refined Grenache character. It was aged 15 months in neutral oak, and was blended with 6% Syrah for color and depth. Medium garnet in color, it displays a classic nose of cranberry, cherry and pomegranate. Some spice and light tannin come through in the flavors that remain cherry focused. Well-structured with good acidity and not overly ripe or juicy, it is the most together, food-friendly Grenache to come my way in a long time.     

93 Norm Roby Feb 1, 2022

We understand that all the great news outlets of the world accept responsibility when they have made an error. Sorry for the confusion, and please accept our apologies.


March 15, 2022

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend!

Are They Really?

So, I decided that we needed to write something fun and geeky to get our minds off of the 0.62 inches of rain we got last night! Woo HOO! That's our first really measurable rain (other that a blip of 0.27 inches earlier this month) since early January. We'll take whatever we can get at this point, with another small storm coming Saturday!

But I wanted to talk instead about diamonds. Or more specifically, Wine Diamonds! "Wine Diamonds" is the fluffy, fun yet pretentious name given to tartrates. Tartrates are the small crystals that form on the cork of a bottle of some bottles of wine. So, what are they, why do they form, why don't all wines have them, and lastly what does it mean for the quality of the wine?

I'll take each of these questions one at a time, providing a paragraph each for explanation.

What are they? Tartrates are the tartaric acid natural to the grapes salting out of solution (the wine) over time. Although the uninitiated sometimes think it's sugar or sand or whatever, it's just crystalized tartaric acid. If you want, you can scrape it off the cork, collect it, crush it up, and make cookies with it. It's cream of tartar!

Why do they form? It all depends on how stable the wine is at given temperatures and situations. Fluctuations in temperatures and time (older wines often show tartrates after many years of aging) allow the natural tartaric acid to bind with potassium (also in the wine) to form potassium bitartrate (tartrates). Colder cellaring temperatures and chilling wines will speed up this process if there is an instability, until the wine "finds" its equilibrium for the given temperature. (Freeze a wine, and it happens really quickly!)

Why don't all wines have tartrates? Some varieties are inherently higher in tartaric acid to begin with. Also, blending wines can bring in a short-term instability (until the tartrates form). For white wines, we chill the tanks down to 38 degrees for two weeks, and the tartrates form on the side of the tank (not in the bottle later on). This "two weeks" simulates a person putting their bottle of white wine into a refrigerator for two weeks, and not have it throw crystals. (But maybe it would if you left the bottle in for 6 months.) Our red varieties are "chilled" in the wintertime in the barrel room, which runs about 48 degrees. The crystals generally form inside the barrels, and not in the finished wine. And most people don't put their red wines into the refrigerator for long periods (so no need to stabilize a wine to the 38 degrees of a refrigerator).

What do tartrates mean for the quality of the wine? Tartrate crystals or wine diamonds mean nothing for the quality of the wine.

And why do I bring this up? We have a fairly hands-off approach to winemaking here at Madroña. So tartrates (especially on red wines) are something we see from time to time. The 2019 Hillside Zinfandel is just one of those wines where the tartrates have formed over the past year in our cool cellar. But always trying to be honest and transparent, I can give you one more bit of information on the '19 Zinfandel that will make some sense.

To make the best Zinfandel, I blended in 5% 2020 Zinfandel into my 2019 Zinfandel, close to the bottling date in early March. This added some fresh fruit characters while softening the tannins a hint as well. But it also added in an instability since the 2020 vintage had not yet spent the whole winter in barrel at its colder temperatures. So once the blend was in the bottle, the tartrates showed up some six months later as the wine found its equilibrium. When you open the 2019 Hillside Zinfandel, the first and last glasses will have just a bit of the tartrates. Drink it like a baleen whale, knowing it's just cream of tartar. But also know that the blend made for better Zin!

So are Wine Diamonds a girl's best friend? Maybe not, but great Zinfandel certainly is!


March 8, 2022

International Women's Day

A Glimpse of Madroña, by Paul Bush

With all that's going on right now in Ukraine, it's sometimes (or almost always) hard to think positively about anything, let alone write about it. But a celebration of International Women's Day is something that can lift my spirit. (And I wonder if we'd be having this war in Europe right now if a woman were in charge of Russia! But I digress.)

Most of you already know that Madroña Vineyards is a well-integrated business. This is not some mandated aspect from the state but instead a reflection of who we feel are the best people to do the best job. So with Maggie and Nicole running the office, Nancy running the tasting room, and an incredible staff (of almost all women) working in the tasting room, their skills in marketing, numbers and hospitality work well with a level of patience that perhaps neither Tim, Pablo nor I possess.

But for many, you believe that the winemaking team at Madroña is simply a boy's club with Tim, Pablo and Paul. Well, let me introduce you to our newest winemaker, one Maggie Bush!

Maggie has an interest in making a selection of lower-alcohol expressions of wines more commonly associated with European styles. She has a very focused and exceptional palate that is not afraid of critiquing wines I've made (and boy do I know that!). But she always has proof behind the pudding, being able to explain exactly what she's tasting and what she would want changed.

So when Maggie decided she wanted to make the "M-Series" of wines, it was a no-brainer. But it was a 'no-brainer' for reasons that you may not realize. With her degrees in Micro-Economics, Business, Estate-Planning and Tax along with her two decades of traveling the world auditing corporations, one might question her ability to make wine.

But here's where a smart woman comes in. Her approach combined the experiences of tasting wines in Europe with the potential salability and profitability of the product. There was no real argument against making the 'M-Series' (other than my, "What if they all like your wines more than mine?"). Then she researched what we had, absorbed information I could give her, and then delegated different aspects of what needed to be done.

In the end, she made a 2019 M-Series Riesling and a 2019 M-Series Cabernet Franc. Both wines are a different expression than we usually have at Madroña, embracing an earlier pick, pure fruit and a lower alcohol wine, destined for great dinners.

Does it take a woman to make these kind of decisions? No. But a woman has every ability (and then some) to do a job as well as a man. So, find the right person, woman or man, and they will perform beyond your expectations! And for the 'M-Series' (and running the business), it is Maggie!

Cheers to International Women's Day, and may we all celebrate the amazing women around us!

(And if you need any of the 'M-Series' wines, call the winery at 530/644-5948. We only have 3 cases of the 'M-Series' Riesling left, and maybe 15 cases of the Cabernet Franc!)


March 1, 2022

Troubling Times in the World Right Now
But Some Good Too!

It's been a really tough week on this earth. With Russia's invasion of the Ukraine and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report's dire warning, it sometimes feels like the weight is too much. And that feeling is coming from our cozy bed in the heart of El Dorado county. We're not even fighting for our lives like others are forced to do, yet it seems overwhelming.

But there are always aspects of such negative times that bring out positive results. Russia's war seems to be uniting Europe as well as other countries around the world in spite of our differences. Climate Change, whether one believes in it or not, is promoting innovation and change at unprecedented levels to make for a more sustainable world. Put these two things together, innovation and a united world, and change can happen!

As for a small business, we tend to get fiscally conservative when wars break out. Never knowing when the other shoe may drop, we work a little harder and longer each day, and spend a little less. Having said that, we still want to make change for us and our children. So we are putting down the reservation fee for the electric tractor (Wish List Item!!!). Although it won't be available until at least October this year, we have to be thinking of the future and what we can do to help. The purchase supports a local (made in California) tractor company while making things a bit cleaner up here.

And for those of you who have followed our kids growing up over the last 20+ years, there's a bit of news there too. Hanna, who is graduating from UCSD this year with a degree in Marine Biology has been accepted into the Climate Science and Policy graduate program at Scripps Institute (UCSD). And if anyone can save the oceans, it'll be her (said from her very proud parents!).

The fact is that life goes on and humans are amazing (and scary). We can all make a difference for good if we dig in and choose to. Maybe that's the takeaway that allows this winemaker (who only ever wanted to grow grapes on his own private island) to sleep at night.

And our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people as their struggles seemed to have just started!


February 22, 2022

Really, 24 Degrees Tonight?
And to Think We Were in the 70's Just a Bit Ago!

Shall we talk about the joys of farming? We haven't seen any moisture here since the beginning of the year, and the last two weeks have been relatively warm, with some highs in the 70's.

Understandably, some of the vines are a bit confused. We start pruning in early January to make sure we can prune all the vineyards by the time they bud out. We prune the older vines at Madroña first since we have overhead irrigation to do frost protection. Pruning early can lead to slightly earlier budding (as compared to leaving all the canes on until budding). However having done this for almost 50 years, we've never seen any vines bud out in February.

But never say never as our Chardonnay started pushing at the ends of the canes around Valentine's Day, just a mere month and a half early.

Now generally, spring is filled with sleepless nights as we determine if and when to turn on the irrigation system to protect the vines from frost. Many years, it might be once or twice, but more often than not, we don't have to turn on the system at all. But then again, we're not budding out in February.

Well, decisions now. So not all the buds in the Chardonnay are vulnerable right now. And it takes a lot of water to run an overhead irrigation system for coverage (although with this dry season, they could use an irrigation!). But alas, we have the next three days with lows of 24, 26 and 29 degrees, well below freezing. And chances are, we'd have to run the irrigation for hours (like 12-16 or 24 hours a day) as temperatures remain cold (and the ice on the vines doesn't thaw). During a drought year, this just doesn't seem sustainable especially when we can have freezes all the way until late May.

So with snow on the ground right now and a freeze in the forecast, we're going to sleep like babies (after a prayer) with no intentions of getting up in the middle of the night. And most of the vineyards should make it through ok, helping them back to sleep for a bit more winter.

We'll keep you updated on the impact. But if these weather swings are the new normal, maybe a glass of Chardonnay in front of the fireplace will be appropriate tonight!


February 15, 2022

A Steam Machine
Number 3 on the Wish List for this Year

Continuing on our saga of wishful thinking for new equipment in the vineyards and the winery, No. 3 on the list is a Electric Steam Boiler from Aaquatools ($11,000). This isn't for making tea or coffee; this 208V, 70A steam machine basically does one thing. It makes steam.

Now here's the reasoning behind this machine; steam sterilizes faster than hot water! That's it in 5 words! But it's actually a little more complicated than that. Steam can be used to sterilize barrels, sterilize tanks, sterilize bottling lines and sterilize the floor (if you want). The cool thing (no pun intended) is that it can sterilize things faster, better and with less water.

And now we get to the crux of things. WATER!!!

Water is precious commodity here in California, and with climate change, drought and increasing population, we need to be more conscious of the water we're using. At home we can cut minutes off our showers, save water in pails for watering plants, and be more judicious with watering our yards. In the winery, water is mostly used for cleaning.

The most water-intensive operation in our winery is sterilizing our bottling line. I run 176 degree water through my inline filter and bottling line for 60 minutes. In all, this process takes about 700 gallons of water. If I bottle 12 times a year, that's 8,400 gallons of water or more.

If I use the steam machine, I should be able to sterilize the line in 20 minutes, using less than 1 gallon/minute. That means using steam would save almost 8,4000 gallons in a year just in sterilizing the bottling line. Then add one more aspect to all this. We track how much wastewater (from cleaning tanks, sterilizing equipment etc.) we produce for the State of California. Right now, we're a Tier 1 winery producing fewer than 30,000 gallons of wastewater. But there are large incentives to stay under that 30,000 gallon mark, and this steam machine would simply save a lot of water.

Better sterilizing, efficiency of time and using less water all make this No. 3 choice on the wish list an important choice for the future!


February 8, 2022

Trellising--The New Valentine's Day Gift?
Number 2 on the Wish List for this Year

Our trip down to Sacramento for the Wine and Grape Symposium was a great opportunity to check out trellising systems. No, no, no, don't worry; I'm not planning to give Maggie some vineyard trellising for Valentine's. But trellising is definitely on the list this year.

So you're thinking, what's trellising and why is it number 2 on the wish list? Good questions. Trellising is the set of stakes, cross-arms, end posts and wiring that does a lot of the heavy work in the vineyard but never gets the credit. It's the systems that holds up the fruiting canes, helps guide the vine upwards, keeps things looking pristine (along with a lot of work), and helps keep the vine growing in the way we want. It's not romantic, but it's necessary. (Yes, I understand you can do a head-pruned goblet style of vine without wires, but not this time!)

But why are we looking at a trellising system this year? Well, last year we pulled out 2 acres of our Cabernet Sauvignon due to weakness and some virus. When you pull out an old vineyard, you pull out all the stakes, wires and everything in preparation for the new planting.

This year in May, we will plant a new clone of Cabernet Sauvignon into those two acres. However, we'll need most of the trellising system installed before we plant. One, it's a lot easier to put in when the vines aren't in, and two, the vines will need posts to grow up along even in this first year.

That is why we need a new trellising system. I'm still thinking 9' T-posts every three vines with two or three cross-arms per T-post, rebar at the vines in between, 9' rolled end-posts with a drip-tube wire, a fruiting wire (heavier), and 4 movable wires for the cross-arms.

The cost? Well, that's the harder part. To some degree, it doesn't matter as we have to have it. But I can spread the installation over two years (as the vines grow).

Maybe we should do a trellising sale where people get to name their post or wire. It worked for SoFi stadium (at least the naming part)! Ultimately, though, a good trellising system pays off! Thus number 2!


February 1, 2022

A Digital Printer...That's Your Number 1 Wish?
The Crew's Adventure in Winery Toyland

If you remember from last week's Shrub Report, the number one item of interest on our wish list is a digital printer. Ok, ok, settle down. Maybe this isn't what most people might think is imperative to quality winemaking. But hear me out, because I think we're going to change some opinions here.

As you all know, the logistics behind making wine is a gargantuan monster that lurks everywhere and follows us relentlessly. As for the wine consumer, you are interested in what's in the bottle. But remember that that bottle needs to have wine, a cork, and a label at the least.

So let's talk about this label. Everything on the label is government approved, meaning we send in forms with the labels to get the approval before we can put the label on the bottle. The words have to be in the right areas, the right fonts and the right verbiage. We've been doing this long enough that we seldom have any label rejected. But I digress.

Now, after getting label approval, it's time to produce labels. For our labels, we use a multi-plated flexographic system with our local label producer, Placerville Press. Some of our labels can take up to 8 individual printing stations in order to produce them. Everything has to be in perfect sequence and orientation, or else the colors don't build properly or the embossing plate is off. These labels (as the machine is being set up) are thrown away at the printer because they are unusable.

OK, bear with me as this part counts. If you consider the amount of unusable labels as the printing stations are being adjusted, you can see how small runs (production) of labels are far more expensive than large runs ($/label). In other words, the label printer has to throw away the same amount of labels whether we are printing 600 labels or 20,000 labels. And that cost is added into our label production bill.

Now here is where it starts to impact you. Since all the pennies matter in keeping a small business going, we try to have label runs be as large as possible. Small runs are just too expensive to produce (it could be double the price since they had to throw away so many labels to make the alignment perfect). And then we have to add it into the price of the bottle for you (or at least we should).

So what could a new technology digital printer do for you and us? Well, we could print the basic Madroña label on a large spool, maybe a run of 10,000, with out any of the wine information. In other words, just the Madroña, the tree, some lines, etc. Then, as we needed the labels, we could run the "pre-printed" label through a digital printer and add in the vintage and variety.

Large label runs would still be more economical for our printer, Placerville Press, to do. But small runs would be much cheaper to do with the digital printer. See the logic?

As the end consumer, you get more small lot productions of super fun and unique wines. For us, we get an economical way to produce labels. And for the environment, there are fewer labels just thrown in the trash. That's a win-win-win, making a digital printer the number 1 item on our wish list!


January 28, 2022

Prices, Bottles and Being a Community Winery
The Stretching of a Small Winery

I don't know if you happen to have seen the wine article in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding wine pricing, but the gist of it was that consumers may see a $5 a bottle increase in wine prices this year. It is based on the increasing cost of goods, especially bottles. Starting with tariffs from the Trump administration on Chinese goods back in 2019, the availability of bottles has become a progressively bigger problem.

Ironically, the President of the Glass Packaging Industry says there is no glass shortage. Instead, it's more of a problem of getting glass to wineries.

Either way, I know that I used to be able to order whatever glass I wanted a week before bottling and get it here to the winery in time. Now, it can take months, I have to adjust bottle styles (and color), and some bottles I can't even get. And the kicker is that our bottle costs (if we can get them at all) have gone up as much as over 100%!

Now do I see pricing going up $5 a bottle across the board? No, not for us. I'll admit that we aren't the smartest winery, at least from the point of view of profit. I mean, the fact that you can get still get some of our wines for under $15 is positively crazy. These wines come from all our same older vineyards, all estate-grown and naturally (organically) farmed. But raising the price on our El Tinto or Lake Tahoe Zinfandel and Chardonnay to $19 would mean that a great number of the locals, who have kept us in business for almost 50 years, wouldn't be able to afford the wines anymore. And as a community member, that just isn't sustainable for anyone.

So will you see pricing going up on wine around California? I'm sure you will as troubles with getting glass, the increasing costs of raw materials (and labor), and the impacts of the fires (and screwy weather) are all mounting up. But just remember that there is value up here in El Dorado where most wineries price wines to be affordable for the locals. We believe in that Community Winery idea where everyone wins (and wines!).

(P.S. We may raise the price of the Crystal Range wines from $1137/bottle to $1142/bottle, but that's a different story entirely!)


January 19, 2022

Glorious Weather Brings Glorious Tasting!
How to Get to Madroña with the Construction on Hwy 50

As the weather does its wintertime swing, we've switched from snow and freezing temps to sun and highs in the low-60's. What this does mean for us is that outdoor tasting is possible in the middle of winter, and it's wonderfully pleasant! (For those of you who cherish the fireplace inside, we're still doing indoor tastings (albeit socially distanced) either in the tasting room or the cellar.)

Now, if you've traveled through our area during the past two years, you have probably noticed that there is a large amount of road construction going on around here. And with all of us being creatures of habit, we tend to get frustrated with Caltrans playing with our ingrained, memorized routines.

So here's the scoop if you're trying to visit Madroña or Rucksack in the next year (the amount of time they think it will take to finish the underpass here at Carson Road).

Coming From Sacramento (heading east)--Take the Point View Drive exit. Turn left, go under the freeway onto Jacquier (pronounced Jakeway) Rd, and it will butt into Carson Road. Turn right onto Carson Road and enjoy the scenery up to Madroña!

Coming From Carson City/Lake Tahoe (heading west)--Take the Cedar Grove exit and turn right onto Carson Road. Enjoy the scenery as you drive through the town of Camino all the way to Madroña.

Why is this important? Well first off, the weather is beautiful for tasting wine right now. Secondly, Apple Hill is quiet during the winter, and you can have the place to yourselves. Thirdly, it's good to try a different route to Madroña during the road construction. It keeps your brain young and your blood pressure down.

And remember. We're open 7-days-a-week! See you soon!


January 11, 2022

Happy New Years!

Sure, we understand that with it being January 11th, we may be the getting into a tardiness that even Martha Stewart would question. But alas, Happy New Years! Although an arbitrary date (sorry to take the romance our of it), it really is nice to feel like you have a clean slate ahead of you where everything is possible! (Reminds me of Calvin and Hobbes last comic which we have hanging in our house (Maggie cut it out of the paper some 30 years ago). Click here to see it. It's snow appropriate, but I digress.).

So with the new year, it's a time to reflect and look forward. I must admit that I am not a person to make new year's resolutions simply because resolutions can be made any and every day. But some of the news this morning has us thinking about the future.

The main story of note this morning going through the news was the increase in ocean temperatures just this last year. The increase was 14,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules, or the equivalent in energy of 7 atomic bombs detonating ever second, 24 hours a day, for 365 days of the year. To some degree, the increased volatility of our local weather in the last year is a no-brainer with these major changes.

So I think I need to explain something here that will tie in this dark rambling into a new year's projection. First and foremost, I am an optimist. Not only that, but I am glass 7/8ths full type of optimist. I also believe that it's better to try to work with a problem before it's too big of problem (with the exception of maintenance on our old Kubota tractor...which I prefer to just not do and it keeps running).

From a business point of view, or rather a farming point of view, how do we move forward with increasingly difficult growing conditions due to a climate changing. What changes in our business can we do immediately to lessen our impact on warming the planet, not only for ourselves but for those living close to the oceans? What long-term choices can we make as well? Finally, how much should we rely on others throughout the world to make changes, or should we focus more on coping rather than solving?

Now remember, I'm an optimist. And I believe in the ingenuity, smarts and creativity of people when it's clear things have to change. Thus I think a focus on solving is much more in our business (and planet's) interest than merely coping and hoping. In other words, take the reigns and do our part.

Over the next several months, the idea is to give you insight into the thought process of a couple small business owners trying to make a difference on what we believe is the community's greatest challenge (bigger than Covid, taxes, politics, etc.)...climate change. We may ask for your input on parts, and we may just throw out some ideas. But we'll try to give you some background on costs and thoughts as to why changes could or would help.

So, as with Calvin and Hobbes, 2022 has given us "a new year, a fresh clean start." So..."Let's go exploring!"