Category Archives: california winemaking

Winemaker B and Armida Rock the 90s

No, this is not an article about rock ’n’ roll in the
90s.  This is about
Winemaker B (aka
Brandon Lapides), of
, nailing a few 90+ scores from Wine Spectator.  So let’s just lay it out here: 


2011 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Zinfandel     91

2011 Maple Vineyard Zinfandel           90

2010 Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Zinfandel     90


Armida:  Looking
past 2013’s empty grape bins toward the Dry Creek Valley. 


Now the bad news – good news story.  The bad news is that you can’t buy
these wines, unless you luck out somehow. 
Both 2010 and 2011 harvests were lower than normal, and these vineyards
were no different. Not that much wine was made either year, especially the
vineyard designated wines, and it’s tough to find now.  The good news is that both 2012 and
2013 had excellent harvests, from a quantity perspective.  And the better news is that both 2012
and 2013 seem better right now than 2010 and 2011, from a quality


One interesting note is that these vineyards, Maple and
Parmelee-Hill, produce completely different grapes.  Not surprising, since they’re in completely different
locations.  Maple Vineyards is the
classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel vineyard, with head-trained vines, including
some blocks that were planted nearly 100 years ago.  It’s all about the fruit as it enters your mouth, and it’s wonderful.  Parmelee-Hill is a Sonoma Coast
vineyard, actually closer to the Carneros region.  Armida gets some Pinot Noir grapes from that vineyard also, so
you know it has to be in a cooler microclimate.  Parmelee_Hill Zinfandels, at least as made by Winemaker B,
have more complexity than usually seen in Zinfandels, and more subtle fruit
flavors.  In my experience it’s
relatively unusual for a winery and winemaker to excel at both styles of



Harvest is drawing to a close for Armida, leaves are turning
colors.  All the grapes were in
about 10 days ago.  There’s still
wine fermenting, and Winemaker B likes to call the end of harvest when they’re
through with primary fermentations and those tanks get emptied.  I think a more practical definition of
end of harvest is when he gets his first day completely off:  not one trip to the winery.  Once again this year, he’s worked every
day from the Tuesday after Labor Day to probably the weekend after
Halloween.  (That’s 9 weeks straight
without a day off, but who’s counting? 
Besides his wife and kids, that is.) 



We went to Armida a week ago to help with grandkids, and
check on the 2013 harvest. 
Beautiful day, and we spent a few hours there tasting, picnicing and trying
to tire out the grandkids.  (They
won that battle.)  Above, future
winemaker Elli was helping behind the tasting room bar, while below, future
winemaker Eden gets to relax with his father. 





Larry Lapides


The upside and downside of being the mom of a winemaker!

This is the last weekend of August and in most families that means, kids are back in school, summer is almost over, or that it’s a great time to travel.  Not in my family.  Our oldest son, Brandon, is a winemaker so the last weekend of August usually means, see you in 10-14 weeks.  

With this in mind we had Brandon over this weekend to the house to share in some last family fun for some time.  Brandon’s wife Kim couldn’t make it here this weekend as she works for Lynmar Winery and they were having a big wine club event.  Jacob, our other son, and his girlfriend Brittany came here with their dog Opal.  Around 3:00 we had all gathered at home together.  Brandon came with presents of wine, fresh pears from his tree and tomatoes from his garden.  Of course the first thing on the agenda was to pop open a beer or two.  Brandon had brought some Lagunitas Red, one of his of his favorites, and we had just bought a sampler case of Sam Adams.  After the first beer went down Brandon, Jacob and I went on an outing here in Dublin.  The ultimate goal was to go to the Ranch 99 market and get some good seafood that Larry could use for his ceviche starter for dinner.  I also had Sunday on my mind – harvesting our grapes that are growing on our arbor.  So our first stop was the local beer making shop looking for yeast.  They were closed.  Then we went to Orchard Supply Hardware and purchased a bin to squish the grapes into.  We were pretty pleased with our purchase so then we went to the Ranch 99 market.  Both boys had never been there.  I love going to that store, you never know what produce is on special and the fish is so fresh.  Being a foodie, I love to watch what other people are buying and I try to imagine what they are going to make with it.  We ended up buying ½ pound of bay scallops and ½ pound of raw shrimp that had already been cleaned and peeled.  Afterwards for a treat we went to our local Chinese tapioca drink shop.  We all ordered different fruit drinks with tapioca for an afternoon snack.

We came home I had to finish up all my prep work for dinner.  My goal for dinner was a nice cold fish tostada.  It being a hot day I didn’t want anything too heavy and I wanted something cold.  I had already pan seared the cod with thinly sliced onion, olive oil, tequila and lime juice.  My in-laws had caught this cod a couple months ago while deep-sea fishing in the Pacific near the Channel Islands.  For snacks we had my homemade hummus with pita bread and a caprese salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes we had bought that morning from the farmers market and basil from my new basil plant.  Just a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a splash of lemon balsamic vinegar and a light drizzle of garlic olive oil.  Done and delicious!

Brandon opened up a bottle of chardonnay that he had brought.  It was very nice, light acid, more on the dry side, without too much oak.  It went down very smoothly.  Brandon, Jacob and Brittany sat outside and got caught up with life while Larry and I were putting the final touches on the meal.  We ate outside where it had cooled off to the low 90’s.  First Larry served the ceviche, which was one of his best yet.  We enjoyed that with two different pinot noirs that Brandon had brought.  They were from two different years and two different vineyards but both from the Russian River Valley.  I really liked them both.  Sorry, but I can’t tell you what wineries these wines came from as I was sworn to secrecy.  As I brought out the killer fish tostadas, Larry brought out another bottle, this time a zinfandel.  I didn’t drink any of that as I was enjoying the pinot too much.  The fish tostadas had lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, fresh corn, black beans, green chilies, avocado and the fish.  I served it with fresh store bought salsa.  For dessert we had ice cream sundaes with fresh strawberries from the farmers market.  By this time I had switched over to just drinking bubbly water.  A good time was had by all.

While I was cooking our Sunday breakfast, egg scramble with spicy turkey sausage and hash browns, Larry and Brandon were all over the arbor picking away at the grapes to make our wine.  That is a whole story for another day. 

     Brandon and Larry picking grapes                                                                  The grapes we harvested 8/30/09

This day ended up being a very full day as we picked the grapes, we crushed the grapes with our feet, we filtered it, and we poured the juice into three 64 oz. growler bottles and put them into the fridge.  Brandon and Jacob played tennis for a couple of hours, Brittany did a couple massages to go toward her therapy hours and Larry and I took the dogs for a walk to the dog park to play.  Brandon distributed a lot of wine that he had accumulated and shared it between Jacob and us.  He is so thoughtful and giving, this is one of the upsides of being the Mom of a winemaker.

We sat down with Brandon and did a 5-minute video interview about what is going on now and this upcoming week as the he and the winery are getting ready for harvest.  Of course throughout the afternoon we watched the Giants vs. the Rockies to tie it up in the wild card standings.  The bottom of the 8th inning and everyone left.  Brandon, headed north up to Santa Rosa and Jacob headed south to Santa Cruz.  The boys most likely wont see each other until Thanksgiving.
The house is quiet except for Kruk and Kuip on the T.V.  Three outs and the game is over.  In the silence of the boys leaving we were able to root for the Giants and they ended up winning 9-5!  

I won’t see Brandon and hardly talk to him for the next 2 months, one of the downsides of being the mother of a winemaker.  I will have to make, what I call, an “emergency hug” trip.  I usually do that around the end of September and again the end of October.  I just need to see his smile, feel his harvest adrenalin, get a kiss and a hug and I’m satisfied for a few more weeks.  We keep in close touch with Brandon’s wife Kim, as she becomes a wine widow for 8-10 weeks.  I will try and have her down for a weekend or two and do some fun things with her during this time period.  Brandon will work every day for those 8-10 weeks putting in between 12-16 hours each day.  Toward the end of October the hours start to lessen.  The great thing about all of this is that he absolutely loves what he does!  He is so excited for the harvest to start, to see how it goes, to make good wine for you all to enjoy.  While he is sweating away in the cellar the tasting room at Dutton Goldfield is open welcoming customers who want to sample and purchase the wines he made in previous years.  It’s a vicious cycle, it changes every year depending on the weather, the setting of the fruit, and all of the other conditions a winemaker needs to contend with year after year.

I am a very proud mother of a very good winemaker.