NAKED WINERY BLOG
You’ve got to applaud Patrick Field for his bravery.
Nope, he’s not a combat soldier. He grows grapes (Field Vineyards in the Alexander Valley, Sonoma Valley and Mendocino). He makes wine under the Katarina wines label, but his compatriots might say that involves more insanity than bravery.
The endeavor that shows Field’s courage is his contribution to the wine packaging wars.
In 2005, Field started EnVino Bottles, to move wine from glass bottles to plastic bottles.
If this sounds a bit like déjà vu all over again, we hear you.
Think “box wines.”
Think “screw caps.”
Think “kegs” and single-serve glasses and … think about an industry that is steeped in tradition, as if tradition tasted better in a glass than the wine itself.
On top of all that, as we approach the annual observance of Earth Day on Monday, April 22, it might be good also to think about the environmental benefits of recyclable plastic bottles.
At Naked Winery, we’ve been using EnVino bottles for 11 years to deliver our Outdoor Vino wines. It was a no-brainer to use plastic bottles to package a product that would be 1) durable enough to withstand rough outdoor activity, and 2) light enough to find a home in even the most overloaded backpack.
Field hit the market with 187 ml bottles, the first such bottle offered for wine packaging. Since then, EnVino has added 750 ml and liter sizes to the mix. The bottles are made out of recyclable PET resin, and identifiable by the logo to the left.
“We generate less greenhouse gas in production, and we contribute less greenhouse gas in transportation,” Field said.
His calculations show a 50-plus percent reduction of greenhouse gas and other pollutants. Using plastic also saves 77 percent of the water used in glass production, he says. In California these days (think “big-ass drought”), that’s saying something.
As with all things revolutionary, the world has been slow to beat a path to Field’s door.
“Customer acceptance of single-serve bottles has been great,” Field says. “The issue on the 750 ml is that wineries are not there yet. It has not penetrated the market as much as the single-serve.”
He says EnVino’s larger bottles have been a bigger hit so far with olive oil producers.
So whether you celebrate Earth Day by tipping a glass of Outdoor Vino, or olive oil, we at Naked Winery and EnVino salute you.
Helping harvest grapes in her family's Hood River valley vineyard, Alaina Waller at age 10 couldn't have dreamed that she herself would one day be turning grape juice into Naked wine.
But that's exactly how it happened, after a slight detour down the road of a ripe interest in the study of science.
“I always liked science and knew I wanted to do something sciencey,” she says. “When I started out, I wanted to make airplanes. But that changed when I discovered how much math was involved.”
Enrolled at Oregon State University, Waller found her way instead into the food science and technology program. She decided to focus on oenology and viticulture, in part because it involved a lot of science, chemistry and analysis.
Growing up on her family's farm, she helped harvest 4 acres of riesling and chardonnay grapes, then haul it to the former Flerchinger winery.
“I did my first harvest when I was 10 years old,” she says. “I got to see it pressed.”
Alaina Waller started picking grapes at 10, now helps make wine for Naked Winery.
After securing her degree, Waller helped produce the 2012 vintage at Hogue Cellars in Prosser, Wash., then moved to an internship in the research winery at E.&J. Gallo Winery in Modesto, Calif.
She joined Naked Winery in February, and says she most likes making white wines.
“One of my favorites is Symphony,” she says. (For the story behind the Symphony clone, click here.)
“I like that it can go as a dry or sweet wine, depending on how you ferment it. It's exotic – not as familiar as Pinot Gris or Chardonnay.”
Since joining Naked, Waller has continued her education, going through her first bottling experience and learning barrel maintenance.
“I like doing a new thing every day, and that's what I get to do at Naked,” she says.
Kimiko Atkins with mourvedre vines near Maryhill, Wash.
When you tip a glass of Naked Winery's Climax Red, Oh! Orgasmic Nebbiolo or Sangiovese, just remember to toast Kimiko Atkins.
Atkins, who spends most of her days out on the gently sloping banks of the Columbia River's north shore near Maryhill, Wash., descends from a long line of farmers who came to the Columbia Valley from Japan in the early 20th century.
Her ancestors on her mother's side of the family grew truck crops and orchards.
Crop trends change. Today, Kimiko manages vineyards.
Orchards, too, until they stop producing fruit. Then the trees come out and vines go in.
Kimiko is one of Naked's silent partners, quietly pruning and training the vines that will bud and leaf and develop those marvelous, curvy clusters full of juice that is just begging to squeeze inside a glass bottle.
She says Naked buys about five tons each of her sangiovese, nebbiolo and barbera harvest – maybe six acres worth of fruit from the 35 acres of vineyards that she manages with her brother, Takashi. The vineyards also supply juice for the Waving Tree label, made by her father, Terrence.
“They seem to like our grapes,” Terrence says of Naked's appetite for the family's fruit. “From a quality standpoint, their wines are really nice.
“Peter is doing a great job,” Atkins says of Naked's winemaker Peter Steinfeld.
Growing up in a farm family, Kimiko at first thought she might try something different. She went to Central Washington University, extracting a degree in fine art and graphic design.
But her path to a degree took a bit of a detour, when her dad's growing interest in winemaking created a powerful pull on her talents.
The property had hosted wine grapes since the late 1800s. The sandy loam began a return to those roots after Kimiko's mother died in 1998, and she and her brother, Tahashi, inherited the property.
Terrence decided to make some wine from the old vines. Not bad, he thought. That led him to take his home winemaking hobby to the next level.
Reading books from the University of California at Davis.
Poking into the winemaking process at neighboring wineries.
And, ultimately, enlisting Kimiko to help produce grape.
“This is what you can do with a BFA in sculpture,” Kimiko says, laughing at the turn of events that put her hand to the fine art of growing grapes.
At first, she recalls, she knew only how much she didn't know. Lucky for her, she found her way to a viticulture certificate program from Washington State University in Prosser. It was there that she met the vineyard managers from such well-known labels as Kestrel and Columbia Crest.
“Those people were very generous with their help and knowledge,” Kimiko says. “I had one year of experience – enough to know I was in trouble.”
Not any more. As she walks through her vineyards, she talks about the different pruning styles for each grape, how she trims the leaves to let in sunlight and air, how she limits the amount of irrigation water to force the growth of smaller berries to boost the ratio of skin (and flavor and color) to juice.
The family vineyard has been supplying grape to Naked for three years, she says. Kimiko works closely with Jody Barringer, an owner and director of operations at Naked Winery, to cultivate the grapes that Naked wants. She says it's a symbiotic relationship.
“We have a great working relationship,” Barringer says. “Kimiko has a passion about grapes and continuing to learn vineyard management. I have learned a lot from her about the growing process and things to look for in a vineyard. I enjoy walking the vineyards with her and discussing the upcoming harvest.”
And, a few months down the road, tasting the fruit of their shared labors.
Evelyn Atkins, Terrence Atkins, Kimiko Atkins and Takashi Atkins.
Why the Punt? It is the dimple, kick-up or indentation in the bottom of some wine bottles. While there is no definitive answer, there are some historical explanations, traditions and maybe even some real practical reasons for its origination and continued use today. Way back when, wine bottles were hand made using a blow pipe and pontil. The punt is the little scar that is left when the glass is broken off. The story goes that to avoid scratching tables and get a bottle that stood up well the punt was indented. Makes perfect sense, but modern glass is made in an injection molding process with no punt required.
Is there a practical use for the punt? The answers range from reasonable to conspiracy theories. A Common thought is that evil marketers keep using the punt as it fools consumers into thinking they are getting more wine with each purchase. However, those same marketing folks also care about costs, and bottles with punts cost more. This idea doesn’t really hold wine in today’s world. Then there is the champagne industry which made practical use of the punt to avoid having the bottoms of bottles break due to pressure build up from the bubbles. The shape of the punt offers improved tensile strength by changing the way forces are directed at the bottom of the bottle. There are those who also believe it was done to make the cellar workers job easier when they are riddling the wine. The punt is also thought to make wine server jobs easier by providing an easy spot to grip the bottle while pouring. Both of these theories are hard to believe as in the 1800’s folks didn’t really care too much about making jobs easy. There are also some crazy ideas suggest it makes it easier to stack bottles into cargo holds of ships. Just image cases and cases of glass stacked directly on top of each bouncing along during and ocean voyage. Yep, that idea is shattered!
In today’s wine world, punts are only applicable in the champagne industry. So why are so many non-sparkling wines using bottles with punts in them? The most dominant factor for us at Naked Winery is tradition. Our customers, mainly restaurant owners, chefs and sommeliers, expect fine wines to be sold in bottles with punts. All this being said, as we evolve and continue to reduce our energy consumption by employing modern glass that is stronger and lighter, the punts future is becoming uncertain.
Ok, you didn’t finish all the wine and you want to save the bottle for another day. What should you do? In an ideal world, you would move the wine to a container that was the “right size” for the amount of wine that you have remaining, cork it and store it in a cool place (like the refrigerator) until you wanted to imbibe. This will have the effect of slowing down the oxidation process via the cool temps and minimizing the wine’s exposure to oxygen. Oxygen is generally not going to be a friend to your wine and will reduce is fruitiness and character with time. It really is that simple. Remember that wine is alive and time is not your friend. Don’t wait too long before consuming as oxidation and other microbial actions may be taking place that will affect the taste of your wine.
What about all those neat products that vacuum the air out of the bottle? Well in fact we use them in all of our Oregon tasting rooms as they provide a nice closure for the bottle, but they don’t prevent the wine from being exposed to oxygen and nitrogen. They do reduce the amount of pressure the air has on the wine and hence will likely reduce absorption of gases, but I’m not sure if we could taste the difference versus a good cork or screw top.
You may then ask about the myriad of products that will put either Nitrogen or Argon gases in the ullage (space between liquid and top of container) thereby preserving the wine. The key here, in our opinion, is time is crucial for this make sense. You’ll want to get wine preserved within an hour or so of opening otherwise the top layer of the wine will be “saturated” with oxygen and the damage is done. Once, again we use this type of preservation method at Naked Winery when we are transporting or preparing wine for bottling and the amount of wine doesn’t completely fill our containers. We prefer Argon as the name "argon" is derived from the Greek word αργον meaning "lazy" or "the inactive one" (thank you Wikipedia), a reference to the fact that the element undergoes almost no chemical reactions. No chemical reaction is a good thing as we don’t want the wine to go bad. Also, Argon is much heavier than Nitrogen so we have a better chance of creating an Argon blanket on top of the wine when we’re gassing a container. The last bonus is Argon is about 1000 times less soluble than Nitrogen meaning is it less likely to be absorbed by the wine. Namely, that Nitrogen sparging pulls out Carbon Dioxide which means that your wine will not taste “fresh”.
Your best options are to either drink the wine or save it in a right sized container with a good closure at a cool temperature. Gassing is totally up to you and the amount of show you need to put on.
Its bottling time so I have been thinking about wine filtration the last few weeks. There are several ways to get your wine clean and clear of all those bugs, skins and other bits and pieces. First, when I talk about filtering I’m not thinking about “racking” and/or “fining”. Generally, I believe most wine should be made clear by racking. This is a timed based method of letting the particles settle out and moving the clear wine into a new vessel. Fining, or the process of adding some agent (egg whites, clay etc) to the wine to bind up with offending particles and then settle out quickly, is a on ok method for home winemaking and speed. But, heck if we’re interested in speed we could use a centrifuge and it would get most everything, including some flavor, out of the wine instantaneously. So, when I speak of filtering I’m really talking about “polishing” and “sterile cleaning” of the wine.
So, should we polish and sterile clean all Naked Wines? Generally, the answer is yes, as we want you to see beautiful wine that can age for long periods of time with no little bugs. These bugs can come back to life to eat perhaps a tiny bit of residual sugar and produce some funky sulfur compound that makes the wine taste bad. So, when you pick up a bottle of Naked Winery wines you can almost always assume it’s been polished up and sterile filtered just before it goes into the bottle.
So, when is this not the case? Oh, I’m glad you asked. The answer is that for many of the Oh! Orgasmic wines we’ve left them just the way nature intended them to be i.e. we didn’t filter out any of the flavor. Is it risky? A bit perhaps, but we don’t think so. The Oh! Orgasmic wines have exceptionally clean fruit to start with, are racked many times, with very clean equipment and are generally pretty high in Alcohol. These factors mean there is little risk that some bad bug is still around. What it leaves us with is the Oh! Orgasmic wines do have more flavor as we didn’t filter any good stuff out. As they age over time they will need to be decanted as particulate matter is going to continue to drop to the bottom as you age the wines.
Filtering is just another one of the slew of decisions while making wine one must consider. Like most things, it depends on the situation and the grape involved. We strive to make sure that we pick the best filtering for the every wine so that you can enjoy getting Naked with every bottle.
Number one quote in the tasting room, “You must have the best job, I wish I was you”. The normal response is a smile and a short laugh accompanied by the thought in the back of the head of, “if you only knew.” I think it is time to dispel the rumor of the glamorous life of “Naked” girls and show our faithful Naked Nation what it really takes to Get Naked.
One 24-hour section for Emily and Kelly
Step One: Wake up early after throwing a ski movie premier party and hand bottle 100 cases of wine. Not as easy as it sounds. Plan A, B and C failed and the last barrier was our “standard fitting” did not match the other “standard fitting” and improvisation resulted in Dave B hanging off a fork lift to get the bottling line to start.
Several hours later and only a few child labor laws broken (8 year old kids make great bottle cappers) 100 cases were bottled. The ten hour bottling process was broken up by punch down on our 2011 Tempernillo.
Step Two: Pack for a show in Bend Oregon. Imagine combining hide and go seek, Mario brothers and heavy manual labor all into one task. Naked Winery West is precisely packed like my mothers pantry and it’s a full-blown quest to find the cases you need. Once I find the cases I need, I utilize my extensive parkour skills to leap frog from pallet to pallet until all cases are safely in Emily’s car. Luckily I don’t have to worry about toadstools stealing my mushrooms.
Step Three: Drive to Bend Oregon. Driving with 30 some odd cases of wine in your car is like to trying to corner with two midgets wrestling in your back seat. Needless to say even a 10-degree pitch feels like ascending Mt. Hood and the drive takes a bit longer then you would think to get from point A to point B.
Step Four: Set up wine show and crash. Repeat step two, but with less parkour and more lifting. If someone breaks a case of Penetration Cabernet, then uh oh.
Step Five: Run wine show. Running a wine show is part managing a circus, part coyote ugly bar status and part fighting off the giggles and back pain from standing for 10 hours. Lucky for us, Emily found some time to catch up on some sleep before the rush.
This was a busy 24 hours at Naked Winery, but not an unusual one. What to take away from this? My job is awesome. I get something new and different every day. I get to sample my product while bottling. I get to go on crazy adventures with a best friend. My creative freedom is allowed to flourish in an environment supported by a close group of family. The answer is yes, we do have the best job, but you have to work for it.
Hello from beautiful Switzerland, the land of cheese, chocolate and really big mountains! In spite of the frigid temperatures the Alps are an endless winter playground, home to great skiing, snow kiting, bobsledding, competitive tobogganing, horse races and winter golf tournaments on the frozen lakes. If it’s a game you can play on snow and ice the Swiss do it!
Another thing the Swiss do really well is drink, outside! Ski resorts here are primarily about the eating and drinking experience and your skis are basically just your mode of transportation to the next bar. Outdoor tiki bars that look like they have been teleported from the Caribbean are mobbed with people drinking in helmets, ski boots and spandex tight ski pants. The après ski scene starts right on the slopes and doesn’t end till the disco. I first thought these people were insane to party in ski boots, but soon discovered the benefit of dancing in ski boots is that after one too many drinks they hold you up on the dance floor and work as support system to minimize swaying!
So take a lesson from the Swiss and don’t let any weak excuses about the weather prevent you from winter adventuring, with red wine of course. Oh one more tip…heat it up! The winter beverage of choice over here is Glühwein, it’s warm, boozy and goes down like water after a day on the slopes. So if you feel the need to get the party started with something hot and spicy and break it down in your ski boots, here’s the recipe.
1 cup water
1 cup Orange Juice
1 cup brown sugar – white works too
3-4 Cinnamon sticks
Bunch of whole cloves (20 or so)
2 Lemons (sliced)
2 Oranges (sliced)
2 Bottles of Red Wine (Outdoor Vino Rambling Red works best!)
Bring the first 5 ingredients to a boil. Add the lemons and oranges and wine. Let simmer for as long as you can wait. (But don’t wait for more than an hour! Oh and if it’s not strong enough, just dump in some rum or vodka!) Ok now pop it in a thermos and Take it outside!
When I think back to my best glasses of wine, I find more then just taste plays factor to my decision. From tailgates to snowboarding to camping on the coast drinking out of a tin cup,one of my favorite wine glasses was after a kiteboarding session on the Columbia River. I posed this question to several people recently and I have seen an overwhelming response with one thing in common. Wine is naturally enhanced by the romance of a person or the romance of the great outdoors and that great taste and great memories are linked.
If you look at the human senses there are only 5 different flavors. Pretty weak if you are wanting the most out of your wine glass. Lets move to smell then. Smell can greatly enhance the tasting experience. Your sniffer can pick up thousands of different nuances and when you exhale all those little smells become contributed to the flavor in your mouth. Boost in the right direction. What about taste and memories? According to the NY times "taste, like smell, bypasses the part of the mind that is logical and educable and travels directly to the primitive brain, seat of instinct and memory." A recent study has shown the memory created with the first taste of something is the strongest and determines most of ones reaction to the taste in the future. If your first bite of broccoli was in a stressful environment with grandma scolding you and you didn't like the taste, you likeliness to eat that again and feel good is diminished. However, that first glass of wine in a romantic environment with a loved one or in the great outdoors links those good feelings with the taste and you subconsciously seek out that taste again to revisit the memory.
I am a true believer that the experience of wine is often greater then the taste of wine. Linking a great experience with the taste of wine makes each glass tenfold more enjoyable. Next time you have a new wine to try, I challenge you to create the "best taste" environment possible. Leave the tasting room, go out side, have a BBQ with good friends and then give it a first try. I think you will like the flavor.