Monday, August 24, 2009

Numbers are a bugaboo!

Numbers are my BUGABOO! To be quite sure I was using the correct word, I found the definition of bugaboo to be: some imaginary thing that causes fear and worry. Yep, I had the correct word!

Numbers are used everywhere and in every facet of life. We read about the Dow being up or down and how these numbers effect our world. We read or hear on the news about the recession or about Cash for Clunkers or the banking problems. If you think about it, we hear about numbers a lot. They get woven into our minds and influence our lives.

I got an early start to my worry of numbers when I started school. It was a struggle and my fingers got a workout as I learned addition and subtraction. My mind would go numb as I fought my way through algebra. To this day, it throws me into a tizzy if someone interrupts my thoughts as I'm doing a calculation of some sort.

Even in cooking and eating I deal with numbers. When a recipe is reduced or increased; or when counting carbs or calories; or adding points for Weight Watchers. In my work as a Family Nurse Practitioner, the 'clinic numbers' ruled my life as I tried to see enough people in a day to support my salary.

And now in retirement, I find that numbers are hovering over my head and determining my day-to-day activities once again.

This time of year vineyard owners start thinking NUMBERS! As we prepare for harvest, we test the BRIX to measure the sweetness level of the grapes. The alcohol content of the wine is dependent on the sugar content of the grape - so this is an important number for the winemaker.

pH is tested to measure the strength of the acid in the grape. If the number is too low (and no corrections are made in the winery), the wine could have an astringent taste. If the number is too high, the wine will taste flat or flabby, and have a high potential for spoilage.

The third component that is tested is TOTAL ACID. These numbers measure the acids in the grape. The higher the total acid the more astringent the wine tastes. This makes the wine drinker 'pucker' when she consumes it. If the total acid is low, the wine will taste flat with no distinctive mouth feel.

This numbers game has already started in our vineyard for our Vignoles grapes, and will continue every two or three days until we harvest. Then it's on to Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Cynthiana.

Ye gads! See why the numbers are running my life and consequently driving me nuts?!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

New member of the BBV team

If you've been to the winery, you probably are familiar with a few faces. Depending on whether you come during the week, you may know Ann or Ronna. If you're a weekend frequent flyer, Cindy, Sherry or Pam may be serving you. And of course, one or more of us owners - Kathleen, Richard, Sarah or Scott - is usually hanging around too.

One member of the team you may not have met, and our newest BBV team member, is Forky.
Formally known as The Green Machine, Forky comes to us by way of Albuquerque, N.M. He can be touchy and a little testy at times, but always gets the job done. He has no trouble lifting heavy loads, can move forwards or backwards without much effort - depending on what the job calls for. And is proficient at the side to side motion too. Have you guessed our new team member is a forklift?

I would never have thought what a huge difference a forklift can make in a winery business. As we've grown, we have found out what a vital piece of equipment Forky is to us. From moving full tanks of wine, to racks of barrels to stacked pallets of cased wine, our business (and our backs) would be in worse shape without the help of Forky.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The 40-Year-Old Rookie

So, I was invited by my family (and business partners) to attend the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference at Tan-Tar-A Resort on Osage Beach this past February. Confidently, even boldly, I said “Heck yes, I’d love to go” and I mean, why not? I’m no big shot, but I am the Director of Operations for National Distributing Company – New Mexico. For those of you who don't know, National is a wine and spirits distributor. I’m responsible for an annual budget of $150 million dollars. I have 80 managers and associates that report to me. Midwest Grape & Wine Conference? Heck, this is what I do for a living already. Chest puffed out, I thought “I speak-ah the lingo. No prob-lemo."

Strolling into the first session, Introduction to Viticulture, with a smile and full of confidence I took my seat and prepared my pen and paper, took a drink of water, and got ready to shine. I think it was probably 10 minutes into the session when I began to feel a gastronomic sensation -- a knot in my gut. Tiny beads of perspiration gathered on my forehead as I looked at those around me nodding in comprehension. I felt the blood in my checks drain toward my toes as I realized what was happening … I didn’t understand a word of what was being said. Could I really not know what the speaker was communicating? How could this be? I sell wine and liquor for a living!

I found myself feverishly scribbling every single word spoken hoping to be able to translate later. At certain times I looked around the room for my family hoping to catch a friendly eye, a supportive wink or a crooked smile from them if only to boost my ego for a moment. By the end of the session, realizing there were many more sessions to attend over the weekend, I felt drained and defeated. Disheveled, I rose from my seat and staggered out of the room. My sister and mother approached and asked how it had gone. “Great!" I lied, “I’ll be right back."

Five minutes later I emerged, somewhat composed and ready to go to the next session. I had needed to ground myself. You see, for these people wine and grapes are not only their jobs, but their life and passion as well. And, they know their stuff.
They know much more than I do about the whole process, which, as I’ve learned, isn’t saying much. For the first time in nearly 15 years I felt like a rookie -- a 40-year-old rookie -- and I can’t wait to learn even more next year at the Grape & Wine Conference.

Perhaps I’ll have graduated to novice by then.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Reminiscing about music

So, what’s the fuse about Mama Mia? Is it the story line that attracts so many viewers? The setting? The Greek isles inviting us all to jump into the blue waters. Or is it the music by ABBA? My vote is for the latter.

I can remember back to my pre-teen days when a family friend gave me a cassette tape of ABBA music. I’d put the cassette into my old-style player and sing at the top of my lungs. My favorite song of all? Mamma Mia. The rhythm. The lyrics. The beat. It was all golden to my ears.

Later in my high school years, I have strong memories of my parents cleaning house in tandem to Take a Chance on Me, Waterloo and The Dancing Queen. Music turned up loud, they dusted and vacuumed while moving’ and groovin’ to ABBA.

Where is all of this going you may ask? Well, I’ve been reminiscing about the music of ABBA because we’re throwing a Mama Mia party Feb. 28. We’ll have a big screen TV and play the sing-along version of the movie. While February includes Valentine’s Day and is proposed by card manufacturers that the month is about couples and relationships, we like to celebrate Her in February – thus the chick-flick movie themed party at the end of the month.

But really, ABBA’s music holds special memories for many of us Gen Xers (and Boomers!) in one way or another. And the bottom line is, ABBA’s music makes us feel good and happy! Hope you can make it to our Mama Mia party and sing your hearts out with us!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

For the love of food and wine

Food and wine are the spice of life. During our Holiday Open House, Willie and Pam Humphreys came by for a visit. They brought with them their cohorts John and Doris McCafferty, and Jeff and Lynn Niemann. What a fun crew! From their tales, we know they visit MANY Missouri wineries, and we love them for their support of our industry!

We also learned this group of fun loving people are small wine producers AND meat smokers. Their official BBQ name is Lil’ Fiddler’s Smokin’ – but everyone at the KC BBQ Society-sanctioned ( contests know them as Smokin’ Swino’s. What a fabulous name! Pam and Willie began the team and joined up with John, Doris, Jeff and Lynn to complete the team.

Any BBQer knows that contests include a lot of eating and more than a little drinking. The story goes that at competition around 11 pm when the loud talking turns to quieter conversations, the other BBQers come calling on Smokin’ Swino’s. Why? Because they have their own stash of wine they’re more than happy to share!

I think it’s more than just sharing a home-brew with neighboring BBQers. Wine at a BBQ contest – or any other meal occasion – is perfect because it helps enhance the flavors and aromas of any food. In a recent newspaper column, Doug Frost (, master of wine and master sommelier, says wine is a great companion to food for lots of reason including digestibility, flavor, sociability and conviviality.

For our holiday meal, Richard grilled a beef tenderloin. Yum! As we sat down to dinner, we discussed which wine to pair with the dinner. Our choice? The 2005 Cynthiana. And what a pairing it was! While I must admit, the Cynthiana is my favorite and I believe it goes with EVERYTHING, the wine brought out the richness of the beef and rounded out the overall taste for me.

The fun part of wine and food pairings is you can do anything you want. Don't be limited to the white wine with white meat and fish. Go crazy. Try a medium bodied Chambourcin with orange roughy and see what happens. You may find something you love!

Happy Holidays and Happy Wine Pairing!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Walla Walla - a town so nice, they named it twice!

As Christmas approaches and as our trip to Walla Walla ends, I'm reminded of Pogo's famous song: "Deck us all with Boston Charlie, Walla Walla Wash and a Kalamazoo!"
We have family living in Walla Walla, Wa. and we just returned from a week's visit. Some of you may have seen my sister Sharon and brother-in-law Charlie when they've been back for harvest. They were unable to come this year so we went to see them and visit the Washington wineries.

Twenty years ago there were two wineries in Walla Walla County. Today, the winery population of this county nears 100. The Walla Walla Valley AVA is a subset of the Columbia Valley which crosses into Oregon. The AVA is bordered on the east with Blue Mountains and then the valley broadens and spreads west into Oregon. The area grows Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovesse and Cabernet Franc. It was the Cabernet Franc that I especially wanted to taste and compare with Baltimore Bend's version. As always, I am reminded that you can't taste wine in the grocery store so I found tasting and buying at the winery helpful and enjoyable.

Our days were busy and passed quickly -- We walked up Mill Creek for a beautiful view of "The Blues" and the Walla Walla Valley. We played and threw to Sadie, the family's golden retriever.

We visited and tasted L'Ecole No. 41, Three Rivers Winery, Walla Walla Vintners and Dunham Cellars.We ate dinner and had a Sunday brunch with Mike and Joann Dunham, owners of Dunham Cellars. They are gracious and fun people to know - and offer as Syrah to die for!

We leisurely walked the vibrant downtown area and drove the countryside to see how quickly the area is developing. We visited Harris Park in Oregon, a favorite camping area of Sharon and Charlie's. We saw Walla Walla Community College where they have an Enology and Viticulture program. Each day as we returned to home base we sat in front of a crackling fire. We talked, read, watched the flames lick at the locust wood and shared a bottle of Walla Walla wine and Baltimore Bend wine that was carried with us.

These happy memories will help us survive the absence of our family this inter. We will also remember the explosive growth of the Walla Walla region and see a glimmer of possibility for Lafayette County's future!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Community Networking

On Monday afternoon, we were invited to a meeting of the Old Trails Regional Cuisines Project. This project is 2 years in the making for the western Missouri area with several key motivating individuals behind it.

The Missouri Regional Cuisines Project (MRCP) launched in 2003 and began with the Mississippi River Hills area ( The project seeks to market Missouri wine and food products using distinct labels of origin based on ecological regions of the state. This approach is similar to that used in European countries to identify food and wine products based on the region in which they are produced. This allows consumer to distinguish among the unique tastes and attributes of products from different areas.

While Baltimore Bend Vineyard has been involved with meetings and wine tastings for the project in the past, this meeting was especially exciting because of the level of participation.

In the conference room at the Martin Commuity Center in Marshall, Mo. (, there were 10 tables of 8 to 10 people each. All from different businesses, counties across the Old Trails region, with separate areas of interest in this project but with one common purpose: to create economic development and tourism opportunities in rural areas through the promotion of a network of regional businesses. (

We are excited to see the enthusiasm of so many community leaders about the Old Trails region, and hope to continue to promote and develop it!