December 14th, 2010
What were you hoping for?
In this season of wish lists, wishing others good tidings, and making wishful resolutions for the coming year, I am reminded that hope is much more powerful than wishful dreams. Wishes, with their bows and pretty wrapping, can bring an infectious joy, a light-hearted smile. But hope, hope is more powerful. Hope is the metaphoric pilot light that will keep you going when life’s journey presents challenges or causes self-doubt. Hope for more happy days can put a twinkle in your eye, a skip in your step.
As my mother will recall, I have never been a dreamer, never had a long Christmas wish list. Rather a belief that by giving life my best shot every day through hard work, pushing forward, recalibrating, I hoped, believed, it would all work out. Not every day is perfect, but I can usually look in the mirror at the end of the day and honestly say ”I tried my best”. So as I push forward, I hope to be content and settled enough to sit and really enjoy the view and peacefulness at my new home and to have a few close bunker friends with whom to share stories.
I “wish” you a Joyous Holiday Season. For the new year, may your hopes inspire you.
Santa, I still would kind of like to drive a race car or ride in a fighter plane.
November 27th, 2010
It is official. The 2010 crush season is now history and will go down in the books as the year everything came at once. The usual two and a half month grape receiving period was condensed into one, leaving the crush team to a one-month human vs. grape slugfest. A lot of long days and cold nights—luckily for us, however, this was also the year of the heated crush pad.
As many of you know, we have moved into our new winemaking facility—equipped with floor drains, humidified barrel rooms and even a flat screen TV to watch the Pats on during our Sunday lunch break. We couldn’t have asked for a better facility to help meet the challenges that this year brought us.
While the west had an unusually cool growing season, the east had a particularly warm and sunny one. The Cayuga we sourced from New York is going to make a very pleasant off-dry “Perfect Stranger.”
While some of the red grapes we received from California and Washington may not have had their characteristic ripeness (some may even say over-ripeness), the cool 2010 vintage brought a more balanced acidity that I have not seen in the past, generally lower alcohol levels, and, perhaps most prominently, darker and more vibrant pigmentation. Some of the early standouts this year include Malbec, Petite Sirah and a Merlot that is destined to be part of a 2012 Bordeaux blend. We have also made a dry, fruity Syrah/Grenache rose’ this year that should be a nice compliment to the tasting lineup.
In many ways, it was the ideal conditions for many of the white varieties that we brought in. The grape chemistry (brix, TA and pH) was more in line with old world regions like Mosel, Alsace and the Loire Valley. I’m looking forward to helping these fresh, fruity wines like Chenin Blanc find their way into bottle. We are, however, making a “New World” style Chardonnay that is going to be 100% neutral and re-coopered barrel fermented, which allows for oak flavor, but not overbearingly so—a trend many Napa wineries are switching to.
As the holidays approach, we are thankful to take some time to relax and reconnect as the reds go through malo-lactic fermentation and the whites settle out in tank. It is definitely gratifying to see full barrels and tanks again, and the promise that each wine holds for the future. I think we are in line for another great year.
November 14th, 2010
Sorting through piles of paperwork recently, I came across a writing which has always inspired me. Unfortunately, its author is unknown. Enjoy.
When you love the work you do and the people you do it with, you matter.
When you are so gracious and generous and aware that you think of other people before yourself, you matter.
When you leave the world a better place than you found it, you matter.
When you continue to raise the bar on what you do and how you do it, you matter.
When you teach and forgive and teach more before you rush to judge and demean, you matter.
When you touch the people in your life through your actions (and your words), you matter.
When kids grow up wanting to be you, you matter.
When you see the world as it is, but insist on making it more like it could be, you matter.
When you inspire a Nobel prize winner or a slum dweller, you matter.
When the room brightens when you walk in, you matter.
And when the legacy you leave behind lasts for hours, days, or a lifetime, you matter.
Thank you to the people in my life who have mattered to me – you have inspired me to be a better person, to try news things, to live. I promise I try to do the same for the people I care about.
October 14th, 2010
As I began my cancer treatment, a dear friend gave me a special gift, a necklace etched with the sanskritt “Abhaya”, or Fearlessness. As she put the necklace on me, she simply told me to go beat this thing. In that moment of connectedness, she reminded me to be strong and, more importantly, that she believed in me.
Fearlessness isn’t being without fear – it’s getting your mind ready to face challenges, be them cancer or fork in the road decisions about life, and then proceeding resolutely. Encountering fear, hurts, challenges is part of life’s journey – getting through them makes you who you are and certainly more appreciative of the joyous highs. – And as my mother wisely reminded me just yesterday “if you have gone down the wrong fork in the road, you can usually go back and try again”.
Believing in yourself, the hoped for calming self confidence that comes with it and owning who you are, is an aspiration for many of us. My friend, Janice, wears it well and is a daily reminder of what it looks like. – While I am admittedly a work in progress on this front, I have been incredibly fortunate in times of challenges to have people there who believed in me and encouraged me to be fearless. Thank you to them all.
Since I was given my necklace a few years ago, I have since done the same for three treasured people in my life. I believe in them and will stand with them through it all as they face their challenges fearlessly. – I put my own Fearlessness necklace back on yesterday, as I face some fork in the road decisions and as a bond with one of my treasured friends.
Be fearless! It’s part of living your life.
August 22nd, 2010
How is it that when finding the perfect words to capture your meaning, passion, and intent is paramount, it seems impossible? Yes I am hugely guilty of using “I’m fine” thousands of times, but I am not referring to those times. I am thinking of those defining moments when you need to really thank a friend for being there, to redirect a relationship so it’s better for the long term, or sincerely apologize for hurting someone. And while not as critical as getting it right in these situations, I have also struggled since buying the winery in 2007 to capture in a few words why this endeavor matters so much to me and why I am passionate about sharing this special place with friends and guests. The marketing world would say I am searching for a tagline, Cellardoor’s Just Do It, but surprise, surprise, I don’t like the word tagline.
The search for the right words has finally ended. Thankfully my friends, Kevin and Chris, captured it all with “Live your life. Be who you are. Drink good wine along the way.” Behind that phrasing there is the post-cancer belief that living life, having a highlight every day is important. Fine just isn’t good enough. Everyday is precious. There’s the hope that walking in your own skin will bring pride and contentment. And the reminder to smell the roses, value friendships, and to share times, over a glass of wine possibly, with the people who matter.
And in the understatement of the day, week, month, and year, I am “happy” that the call finally came on Friday that my cancer isn’t back. So I can keep honestly saying, cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me. Cancer inspired me to change my life completely, get comfortable with who I really am, and slow down enough to enjoy a glass of wine with friends. I also got to buy the winery.
June 14th, 2010
I have a pretty good memory, not as good as it used to be but still good enough. What I have lost in sheer capability I think I have offset with a little maturity, better use of the capabilities still available. For others it would be called wisdom but no one is ever going to describe me as wise and keep a straight face. All said, I was asked a simple question recently and it stopped me in my tracks. Not only did I reflect to come up with the answer but I spent a moment to commit the interaction to memory.
As I told a group stories of changing my life, buying the winery, and learning sometimes very awkwardly to run a small business in Maine, a woman asked “Would you do it all again?” Brilliant in its simplicitiy. With six simple words, she cut through the noise of my self-deprecating stories and forced me to take a step out of the trees to remember to look at the forest. And the forest looks great. I love working with Lani and my team, welcoming guests into our tasting rooms, and managing the self-created chaos. “Yes, I would do it all again!”. Thank you to Deb for the reminder how rich in living this chapter in my journey has been.
Don’t be surprised if I ask you the same question at some point, now that I have decided it is important and have committed it to memory. It will get reused much as an old friend Bob’s “You have to have hope” and Jack’s “You (the capital markets) get to use the cheap money until we (industrial America) have a good use for it”.
Much as I aspire to provide our guests a highlight for their days, I encourage you to have hope and wish that you can answer the question as I did, “Yes, I would do it all again”. We can discuss Jack’s insight another time.
March 1st, 2010
With the enthusiastic good intentions and attention to detail we bring to everything we try, we hosted our first Winterfest last Saturday. Ok, in hindsight, we should have Googled “winterfest” to learn that it wasn’t the most unique name for an event as it yields some12 million results, and we should have much sooner understood that El Nino means the typical blanket of snow which covers Maine in February could be elsewhere. In the grand scheme, minor details which none of our guests or friends seemed to mind. In fact, the energy around the winery was great. While everyone adored Lawrence’s fabulous brunch buffet and the Chris Humphrey Band’s tunes, guests seemed to find favorites, be it sledding, skating, horse-drawn wagon rides, snow-shoeing, food & wine pairings, barrel samples, or Lani’s treats and hot cocoa. One family went on the horse-drawn wagon ride three times because their son loved it. One gentleman so enjoyed the food and wine pairings’ foods, he gobbled through the food before we could pour his wine pairings. (We gave him more.) One family snow-shoed up to the trail to the blueberry barren and were thrilled with the reward of the fabulous view. Jeff was entertained by RayRay’s greeter style. Jasie’s grandparents enjoyed the music for hours. Kids loved the sledding and crashing into the hay bales.
My highlights: the generosity of our guests who brought clothes and food for us to donate to people in need; being behind the tasting bar with Lani and Jasie; the fabulous barber shop quartet; and having the happy woman tell Lani and me that she had a wonderful time. She had gone skating for the first time in 40 years because this seemed like a friendly place to try it again.
All said, it may not have been unique according to Google, but it was special for us.
Our friend Joe Corrado captured a few of the highlights of the day in photographs. Enjoy them at http://lincolnvillemaine.com/images/stories/Cellardoor_Winterfest_2010/index.html
January 5th, 2010
The perfect combination of the changing of the calendar and a two day long snow storm have given me the incentive and time to reflect on the past year and day dream about the coming year. Simply, it was a terrific year. Sure there were challenges and dramas that TNT and Lifetime could make shows about, but there were a lot more happy, joyful, silly “nothing” moments that Seinfeld would cherish. I am thankful for a year full of highlights:
- Shopping with the ladies for Pop the Cork outfits. Janice quickly settling on chic and elegant; Abby thoughtfully choosing a long sleeved royal purple gown which complemented her sparkling eyes perfectly; CC girlishly wearing a dress and accessories and fussing with her hair; Jasie getting the lady at Four Twelve to surrender a striped sensation that had been set aside for a fashion show; Megan accessorizing everyone…
- Matt sharing his stories with our guests of his travels cross-country with Blue Lobster Blue
- Sinter Klaas and Piet coming to visit the Christmas cooking class; Dorothea singing Dutch songs; and Lawrence, the Texas born, French trained chef preparing Dutch treats in the shapes of lobsters, lighthouses, and moose (put it on your calendar for next year – most fun ever)
- The Mid Coast Community Chorus filling the Villa with joyful Christmas notes
- Our “squirrels”, Tim & Daryl, promoting themselves to “The Cleaners”
- Janice being Janice every day
- Raymond becoming RayRay and still hiring the talented chef who started the whole thing
- Abby increasingly wanting to be with our guests in the tasting rooms and at events and involved in the craziness of event planning
- Aaron being A-Ron, and a few other characters, including talented workaholic winemaker
- Brian saying “so that’s my job here”
- The caricature artist capturing my friend Jeff’s personality just right
- CC literally bouncing around the Villa during Jingle Bell Rockport, hugging guests, and absolutely gushing on about our upcoming cooking classes and 2010 wines.
- The thank you notes from our guests piling up on my desk. I treasure each one.
- Hosting the Juice investor reception – there was a special energy in the barn that night
- Frequently hearing guests say “the wines are better”
- Enjoying an evening by the ocean in Kennebunkport
- Tim and our friend Brian discussing satin underwear, seriously
- Denise and I together hosting the tasting bar during VinFest
- Daryl saying how much he just loves working with us
- Enjoying a few stolen minutes in the Adirondack chairs with CC and Janice
- Lani driving by just at the right moment to capture me driving the forklift in a cute summery dress
- Our Blueberry Hike Rake and Bake Cooking class students proudly hiking to the blueberry barren
- Mom fluffing and folding table cloths with me in the tent for Pop the Cork (and having no proof of how horrid we looked in the rain storm the next day)
- Winning huge brownie points from my nephew for rescuing Flat Stanley from the freezing cold waters around the Rockland Breakwater
- Not burning my hair off, not burning down the farmhouse (funny in hind sight)
- Linden Frederick, the acclaimed painter, offering us his painting “Halloween” for our first Artist Series wine. And actually having a wine that deserved such an honor.
- Lani’s gleeful screams echoing through the vineyard as she zipped down the snowy hill behind the barn on her sled
- Maine Pro Musica playing Summerwind at VinFest. (That one was for Dad)
- Rejoicing with my Cellardoor family and friends on my birthday when the call finally came that my cancer wasn’t back
- Enjoying a deliciously messy burger at a picnic table in the sunshine
- Welcoming guests to the barn and Villa every day. We so enjoy hearing your stories
- Mending a friendship
- Having Kevin, Susan, Bob, Steve, Dan, Eric, and Jim take time out of their days to come to the MaineBiz event. You have no idea how much it meant to me.
- Having wonderful times with Gilbert, Lani, Ray Ray, Marcy, Mom, Katherine, Shelly, Henry, Max, Netty, Pat and the Cellardoor family
And now for 2010! Lots more opportunities for highlights. More cooking classes, samplings, events and most importantly, more new wines from our cellar. While there is planning and hopes for how the coming year goes, I am sure of only one thing. That we really don’t know what the coming year holds for all of us. But one thing is for sure, I definitely resolve to write more of the highlights down as we go along. I don’t want to forget a thing.
Happy New Year. I wish you a year full of highlights.
December 5th, 2009
First Day of Harvest: September, 31st 2009
Excitement was in the air. Our first grape shipment of the season had finally arrived. You always wish you can time the truck deliveries, but truckers seem to work on their own schedules.
The grapes looked great, but there was a slight hitch with the delivery. The pallets were facing the wrong way so we were unable to move them with our pallet jack. We dragged them out with a chain connected to the forklift instead. After they were unloaded, we felt like we had achieved something.
All systems go. Unloading grapes into the crusher de-stemmer hopper–additions were made. The winemaking season had begun!
5 Tons Grenache Received (.25 tons crushed)
Three men were standing around a crusher de-stemmer.
“Yup, that’s definitely burning.” You cannot mistake the smell of burnt electrics.
“What’s that?” A finger was pointed.
“I don’t know?” A shoulder was shrugged.
“Do you know?” More shrugging.
“No.” Someone frowned a real life frown.
“Well, it’s definitely part of the motor.” Sighs.
“Yes, definitely.” It is good to be confident.
We pulled out the manual, but it was written in a hybrid language created by an underpaid Italian to English translator. It was clear we would need to call the supplier, but was there time?
4:45 PM (Supplier closes at 5PM)
“So, we have a slight problem with our crusher.”
“What seems to be the issue?”
“The motor is burning.”
“Oh. That’s not good.”
The conversation continued for another ten minutes. We were informed that our capacitor had indeed blown and we would need another one to replace it.
“Just call one of the major parts suppliers. They should have it.”
We heard the clicking of heels on concrete. It must be Bettina. She had heard about our distress and appeared ready to address and remedy the situation. We relayed the information as quickly as possible.
“I’m getting in my car let me know when you find a place that has the part.” We handed her the half burnt, slightly mangled tube. It still smelled.
A Mercedes Benz peeled out of the parking lot. We frantically flipped through the yellow pages and called every parts dealer we could find. There were a couple options, but nobody seemed to have European capacitors. Most wine industry equipment is imported from either France or Italy. The same is true for our crusher de-stemmer. I am convinced that world peace will only be achieved when all nations convert to the same system of measurement.
“This one might work though,” said a supplier rep. But there was little confidence in his voice. I have learned a lot by making wine in Maine. Maine is pretty much the furthest you can be from anyone who knows anything about fixing or maintaining winery equipment. In many Western wine regions there are round-the-clock technicians and suppliers who can save you at the last minute. Not here. In Maine, we are truly on the frontier.
We gave Bettina her coordinates, but there was little hope of finding a European capacitor before nightfall.
Five tons of grapes were sitting awkwardly in the parking lot, saying “crush me.”
“Try harder.” The grapes demanded.
“How about the old crusher de-stemmer?”
“We could, but it would take us all night.”
“But the grapes need to be crushed. Listen, they’re talking.” I pointed my finger towards the 5 tons.
“It will be an hour before we can get it here, but it is possible.” It was in storage, 20 minutes away in one direction.
There was no more discussion. Brian and I hopped in a truck and hit the road.
6:15 PM (at storage)
We loaded the old crusher de-stemmer into the back of the pickup truck. It seemed so small next to the newer one sitting on the crush pad.
“You do know this is going to take all night, right?”
“Yeah, but can’t you feel the excitement?”
“Oh yeah. Yeehaw.”
We were back in the road.
6:25 PM (Bettina calling)
I answered my phone.
“So, the place you mentioned didn’t think they had anything that would work, but while I was in line there was another person who works on boats who said he might be able to pull one off one of his old boat motors.”
“Oh. Where are you now?”
“I’m following him to his house, no garage, or something. I’ll let you know what I find out.”
6:40 PM (back at winery)
We hauled the old crusher de-stemmer out of the back of the pickup trick and began the sanitizing process. We worked fast and efficiently (it was the first day of harvest, we were still fresh). There were four of us now. After a quick bite to eat (potato chips), we started the old machine up and began loading grapes. The night was just beginning.
“I got it!” Bettina was holding a small metal tube like it was the Holy Grail.
“Was that from the boat motor?”
“Yes. He said it would work. Try it.”
We had to apply a little electrical tape, but it appeared to connect O.K. We plugged it in, crossed our fingers and flipped the switch…
It ran. There were high-fives. Bettina put her hands on her hips, “Just add winery electrician to my job title.”
Although it was a long evening, the grapes got their wish to be crushed and we all left feeling ready to tackle whatever this year’s harvest had to throw at us.
And we did. The grapes looked and tasted excellent, and I am very excited about the wines coming up for next year. For the whites, we are working on new vintages of Viognier and Serendipity, along with a dry Pinot Gris (Grigio), an off-dry Gewurztraminer and a semi-sweet Riesling. We have many different options for reds as we made a big push this year in our red wine program, but I am anticipating a Spanish-style Tempranillo/Mataro blend, a new Trilogy (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre), a new Capo di Monte (Super-Tuscan inspired), a new Prince Valiant and varietal bottlings of Syrah, Malbec and Petite Sirah. I am also very happy with how our 100% Wild Maine Blueberry wine is progressing. I have heard many comments that it is indistinguishable from a grape red wine, but you will be able to taste for yourself next season (unless CC talks me into slipping it into a cooking class or two).
August 24th, 2009
For all of you who are hopeless romantics like me, enjoy the following. Best wishes to Will & Navanjali, Bettina
Dear Cellardoor Family,
We thought you might get a kick out of this story….
Last summer, my fiancé and I came up to visit your winery, on vacation from Delaware. We rented bicycles and made the trip out from Camden. We absolutely loved your wines, and not having time to go get the car, ended up carrying eight bottles back on our (my) back! We drank several of the bottles over time, but not being able to order more from Delaware, had been hoarding the last few for a special occasion. Fast forward to this summer, when we were planning a trip to Italy. Unbeknownst to her, I also planned on proposing towards the end of the trip. To make it as special as possible, I decided to bring one of the bottles of Cellardoor along for the occasion. Perhaps it’s unusual to bring wine with you TO Italy, but I wanted to have something that I knew was good that also had some sentimental value. I was able to keep the wine hidden the whole trip (no easy task!), and on the second to last day I proposed to her in Fiesole, in a park overlooking Florence. The wine was my segue…after a nice picnic lunch, I pulled out the bottle and told her that I had brought it with me all the way from the states to help us celebrate. When she asked what we were celebrating, I asked her to marry me. She was very surprised (pleasantly I think) and of course said yes. The wine was excellent, even better than we remembered…I had chilled it the night before and brought it up in an insulated bag. My one faux pas was that I thought (mistakenly) that I had brought a cork screw with me, so we ended up having to push the cork into the bottle! In the end I think it added to the experience, and we brought the bottle (with the cork inside) back with us as a souvenir. I’ve attached a few pictures that you may find interesting…
Thank you for helping make the day memorable!
Navanjali and Will