Gleason Barn
Dirk Hampson

Dirk Hampson

Dirk is Director of Winemaking and a longtime blogger for the winery.

Archive of Dirk Hampson


Camping & Wine: The Basics

on June 18, 2013

Should you take wine camping? Maybe… but you better answer a few questions. It is not as simple as it may seem.

To bring, or not to bring: that is the question!

1)      Are you backpacking? Wine does not fit with the concept of light and portable. Therefore, it is best to leave the wine as a reward when you get home or use my brother’s method: stuff it in a friend’s backpack when he isn’t looking and then share it with him when you are cooking in the back country. Advice remains split as to whether you should reveal that he lugged the extra weight.

2)      Are you driving to your campsite? Easy answer: bring wine and be nice to the people in the camp sites near you. But, did you remember wine glasses? A corkscrew? Bear-Be-Gone?

Wine glasses give a certain “je ne sais quoi” to your camping but if you try to speak French in the campground, people may look at you funny. I prefer the waiter’s corkscrew but some of those nifty Leatherman tools can make you look pretty “handy” around the campsite.

Wine is better enjoyed out of wine glasses but they are a pain to clean. Go for standard Libbey glasses. Riedel are too fussy and so fragile that you won’t want to clean them—cleaning up all the shards of glass by the light of your headlamp after a bottle of wine is not a great vacation or team building activity!

Corks also are a sign of living BIG in the world of camping, where bag-in-a-box simplicity seems to trump tradition.

Bear-Be-Gone? What is that doing in a wine blog?

Turns out that bears like camping.

Turns out that bears like camp grounds.

Turns out that bears like WINE!!!!

You need a bear strategy.

You can’t use bear spray, as that will ruin your campground and your wine. What about using those bells that people use on their walking sticks? Nope, they’re proven to attract bears.

Bear and wine

We are still looking for the answer, but this picture, taken by our very own Jennifer, proves that this is a subject worth your consideration before heading out to our National Parks and National Forests this summer.

Suggestions include: a) shouting b) playing Fiddy Cent really loud on your iPod (there will be certain follow-up questions if you have that on your iPod), c) taking photos knowing that you were smart enough to bring another bottle to enjoy after the bear meanders over to the neighbor’s campsite, or d) all of the above. (This is just like the SAT without a math section.)

However, if the bear sniffs, swirls and then enjoys… It may be a pretty fancy campground and enjoy the Kodak moment.


Almost Valentine’s Day: Time to Think About Flowers

on February 8, 2012

It’s winter and the vines don’t know if it is raining or not. So, why do winemakers tend to obsess about weather at times like this? We like to plan ahead, there is only so much NPR we can discuss (to sound intellectual), and weather is a much safer topic than politics.

It has been mostly dry and warm this winter. (Remember, the vines are asleep and don’t know that skiing and the snow pack are more of a concept than a reality.) Winemakers are asking; What does it mean? What is going to happen? What kind of a year is it going to be? Those are easy questions. I don’t know the answers and neither does anyone else!

Daffodils in bloom by the Gleason Barn

However, it is the first week of February, and the daffodils have been blooming for some time, the mustard is attracting tourist photo stops (Rock Cairn, across from Brix should be charging fees it is so picturesque), and some fruit trees have started blooming. Those three things, not directly related to the vines, are the indicators I use when expecting an earlier or later spring. Sure, we may get some cold storms to change the timing, but for now, we think that the plant world of Napa Valley is waking up slightly ahead of normal.

An explosion of mustard in Rock Cairn Vineyard along Highway 29

Which brings me to Valentine’s Day. If you are a guy, pay attention: If you have already taken care of getting some Dolce for the occasion, get her flowers. Don’t forget. REALLY, DON’T FORGET. Maybe you remember the flower ad during the super bowl . . . Then again, maybe your brain stopped functioning and you didn’t notice what they were marketing. (I think some other ad had something to do with FIAT. . . )

But back to wine growing. I wouldn’t book your tickets for a harvest visit yet, but I am hoping that we will be picking in early September instead of waiting until October.


Tasting Vintage 2011

on November 2, 2011

We have been pressing off the Cabernets. It isn’t to make room for more as all of the grapes are safely in the barns.

Right now, the wines are finishing fermentation. Tasting them isn’t easy as our palates deal with “spritzyness” and the last of the residual sugar. However, while the vineyards had extremely low yields this year and it was a very cool season, the results are showing lovely structure, classic proportions, and tannins that are gentle and graceful.

Darice and I both see these as very pretty wines that are likely going to be prized for their elegance and length. This is a huge relief given the scare that we got from the storms during harvest.

The nice thing is cleaning up, putting away the crusher and catching up on some overdue sleep before the end of daylight savings time.