Sunday, July 29, 2012

From Wine Dog To Bird Dog

A mystery: Sparrow caught in net to protect grapes from birds. Sparrow's head missing. How could that have happened? A coyote? But a coyote would just rip the whole bird out, no? Besides, I noticed no bird there 10 minutes earlier. Inspect the scene: fresh blood on the ground underneath the sparrow dripping from the headless carcass. And where is the head? Missing? Could this be the work of Bluey the wine dog? Where is that Aussie? I see him in the row below following the flapping noise of a bird caught in the nets frantically searching for an escape.

"Leave it!" I command, which he understands to mean leave it alone. I walk down to the row and he's in an attentive sit, staring at the bird, no longer moving. This one has its head, but the body is wet with dog slather. The mystery is solved as I hear Bluey sing a new song:

"Love to catch those birdies,
Love to chomp their feet.
Love to bite their heads off,
Love a delicious treat."

The bird wars have begun and despite the two causalities the birds are winning. They have damaged 3% of the Tempranillo crop so far and we are behind the curve, but hope to get caught up today. We are the first vineyard in the neighborhood with purple grapes and the birds know it and are throwing a party and inviting all their friends and family. I was able to save two birds (one last night and one earlier this morning) and I'll keep a closer eye on Bird Dog. Enough writing and back to netting.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Hidden Valley Enoteca - Featuring Blue-Merle and Several San Diego County Wineries - To Open September 1st at Escondido Wine and Culinary Campus

The tasting room of Escondido's Hidden
Valley Enoteca is located inside this
castle adjacent to I-15. It is home to the
tasting room of Blue-Merle Winery
and 5 other wineries.

(Editor's Note: On February 1, 2014, the Hidden Valley Enoteca closed its doors. To reach Blue-Merle Winery, please contact ) Blue-Merle Winery is one of the Escondido wineries and San Diego wineries featured at the Hidden Valley Enoteca wine tasting venue.

The Hidden Valley Enoteca, showcasing several San Diego County wineries under one roof, is scheduled to open September 1, 2012, in Escondido, CA. The Enoteca aims to become the destination for San Diego County residents, visitors and tourists who want to taste a variety of San Diego boutique wines in one, convenient location.

The Escondido "Hidden Valley Enoteca" is the brainchild of Dr. Mick Dragoo, proprietor of Escondido's Belle Marie Winery, which has been involved in educating local winemakers and offering custom crush to local grape growers for years. The location of Escondido Enoteca is in the "chateau" on the Belle Marie Campus, conveniently located on the I-15 corridor, about 6 miles north of downtown Escondido. This facility is being transformed into the "Escondido Wine & Culinary Campus."

Escondido (located in San Diego County 35 miles north of downtown San Diego)  has a long history as a grape growing region in the U.S., whose prominence diminished during Prohibition (which reduced the need for grapes) and then disease, which decimated the vines. Escondido has perfect weather and climate for growing grapes, with warm days (today's high temperature at the end of July is 85 F) and cool evenings (59 degrees). The climate is generally frost free in the Spring and dry around harvest time, providing a certain degree of predictability, consistency and high quality for the area's increasing number of winegrowers.

The Escondido City Council, as part of its economic development efforts and to promote the Escondido region, has been very supportive of the Escondido Wine Enoteca concept, according to Dr. Dragoo. City officials aim to see Escondido become a premier wine producing region.

The Hidden Valley Enoteca is part of the Escondido Wine and Culinary Campus (EWCC), which will feature cooking demonstrations and food-wine pairings, according to Dr. Dragoo. There will also be entertainment during the grand opening on Labor Day Weekend, he said, including the local Escondido band "Scaring The Wives" on Saturday, Sept. 1st.

"There's a taste for everyone," said Dr. Dragoo, commenting on having more than 20 different wines represented from almost a dozen wineries. "This is a complete destination campus featuring wine tasting, cooking demonstrations, tours and entertainment."

Founding wineries participating in the Escondido Enoteca include Coyote Oaks and Blue-Merle Winery, both located just 4 miles in the hills behind the Enoteca in a community of San Diego County known as Hidden Meadows.

"Participating in the Enoteca is the easiest and most affordable way for us to open a tasting room," said Craig Justice, proprietor of Blue-Merle Winery. "Up to now, our license has only allowed us to sell wine online, in restaurants and in wine shops, so we're excited to participate in the Enoteca which will provide customers a chance to taste our wines before buying," Justice said.

Tempranillo vines supervised by Bluey of Blue-Merle Winery
a participating winery of Escondido Wine Enoteca
"We have a network of over 1,000 fans around the country," Justice said, "But when you think about carbon footprint, selling wine locally makes so much sense," Justice said. "In my travels around the world, from Japan to England, from Seattle to New York, I always try to bring bottles of our wine with me and people are always surprised how good the San Diego wine is. We're excited to participate in the Enoteca opening and to offer our wines locally," Justice said.

"The micro vineyard owner knows every vine by name, and inspects every grape bunch before harvest and before it goes into the wine," Justice said. "Boutique winemaking is a craft, and the wines can be surprisingly good. This is what the Enoteca hopes to bring to San Diego -- a fantastic wine tasting experience."

"We owe a big thank you to Mick and Mary Dragoo -- and to their winemaking consultant Lum Eisenman and winery manager Jeff Lazenby -- for all the winemaking knowledge they have shared with us over the years and for their tremendous support," Justice said.
Blue-Merle Winery is one of Escondido
wineries. Blue-Merle Winery is a San Diego
Winery located in San Diego County
in Escondido, CA.

The Hidden Valley Enoteca is located at 26312 Mesa Rock Road, Escondido, CA 92026 and is open Saturday and Sunday from 11 am - 5 pm. Tel: (760) 796-7557 Escondido in Spanish means "hidden". The schedule of events for Sept. 1 and 2nd will be free campus tours at 1pm and 3pm, free BBQ demonstrations at 2 & 4pm, free live music in the amphitheater from 2pm - 5pm each day and a BBQ food wagon with food for purchase. Culinary events at the Escondido Wine and Culinary Campus are scheduled to begin in early 2013.

(Editor's Note: On February 1, 2014, the Hidden Valley Enoteca closed its doors. To reach Blue-Merle Winery, please contact )