April 27, 1999
The trivia is over. I've let Pat be creative while I have been laying around tending to taxes and preparing for the blending. Pat has done a great job and I think she should decide on an award for the winner.
We had a small run on orders for the Aca Modot last week so for the Passport event, we ended up pouring officially only the dry Sauv Blanc, Neighbors' Zin, Neighbors' Cuvee and our Estate Cuvee. We do have a few bottles of 98 Carignan, Zin and Aca Modot available, but are definitely out of the Estate Cuvee. That wine continues to be our best seller at the winery and is my favorite.
I got a call from my distributor yesterday and would like to talk about our 1999 offer in detail tomorrow.
April 28, 1999
Rand, our distributor from Estate Wines, called the other day and we discussed the future plans for the distribution of my wines in California. Many of you have seen my wines in restaurants and retailers throughout California. That has been achieved from the great effort by Estate Wines. I am extremely fortunate that my Estate Cuvee and Zinfandel have been served at some of the finest establishments in the state. I have truly been amazed at the reception that the Estate Cuvee has received. With its unique name, it obviously is a wine that is harder to sell and even though it has done well, Rand and I have decided that the Petite Sirah would probably be the best wine for him to distribute along with the Zinfandel. The 1998 Estate Cuvee has sold better than any other wine at both the Barrel Tasting and Passport events this year. It thus appears that I would be able to sell all the production of this wine through the winery. In order to produce more Petite Sirah for the next two years, I will have to "steal" some Petite Sirah grapes from the Estate Cuvee. Since it has been around 10-12 percent of the blend in the past, it is not the predominant grape in the Estate Cuvee. But because I do want to keep it around 10 percent, I will have to lower the production of my Estate Cuvee in order to increase the production of the Petite Sirah.
As I often do throughout the year, I am re-evaluating the wines that will be produced from the tons of grapes that will be harvested later this year. I will adjust the number of cases and percentages all the way up through harvest depending upon how the crop develops. My latest figures that I will be posting in the "buy" section for the 1999 futures will reflect a reduction of the Estate Cuvee from 750 cases to 600 and an increase of the Petite Sirah from 320 to 430. I plan at this time to potentially drop the small amount of Petite Sirah that is included in the Zinfandel for this year and replace that with the Zinfandel that I will not need in the Estate Cuvee. We are replanting some Petite Sirah at this time and will have the option to add it back to the Zinfandel next year.
The Carignan is another matter. Some of you have noticed that I am contemplating the addition of Syrah in the Carignan. This can be achieved in the next two years from my own production of Syrah which has been planted, but for this year if I do include Syrah in the Carignan, it will have to be from the Simpson ranch. Thus, I would have to drop my estate classification for this year. The Zinfandel that is included could be from the Lane ranch.
These are only my current thoughts and I encourage my many expert customers to be outspoken with their suggestions after harvest. :-) As I hope everyone knows, I am trying to make the best wine I can and even though the Carignan is one of my favorite wines, I feel it can be improved. I feel the addition of the *right* Zinfandel and Syrah and possibly Barbera and Cabernet could improve the wine. Since I do harvest in one-ton fermenters which produce over two barrels of the same wine, I will have more than 70 different fermentations to taste and "play" with.
April 29, 1999
Weíve had many questions regarding how the percentages of grapes in my wines are determined before and after harvest and thus on the label at bottling. We have purchased grapes from a few neighboring vineyards and I usually have a good idea of what that tonnage will be. My own estate vineyard is approximately 20 acres. There is over an acre that is not producing because of Pierceís disease and another 3 acres that are being replanted at this time. We plan on replanting another couple acres in the next few years but since I have a record of all the grapes that have been harvested on the other 13 or 14 acres over the last 20 years, I determine the percentages on the pre-harvest offer from this record. It is obviously only an estimate and therefore I donít plan on selling all of the potential cases through futures before the actual harvest. That is why the form says ďlimited quantities available.Ē At this time, we do plan on selling about one-third of what we may produce during this initial offering and since there are only so many people who will buy wine before it is even produced ?, we donít put restrictions on the number of cases anyone can buy.
After harvest is another matter. As Iíve mentioned earlier, we will have approximately 70 different types of wine in 150 barrels. I then start tasting with hundreds of my customers that come through between October and when I blend in January. It is amazing at how different each barrel can be, and I try to concentrate on where these different wines affect my palate. As many of you have noticed while tasting a wine, there can be a sensation of being up front in your mouth, or in the middle, or the wine can hopefully also have a long, lingering finish. What I am trying to achieve is a wine that is in balance by blending these three sensations. I have said many times that I am trying to produce a wine that has a beginning, a middle and an end. I feel the wine that achieves that objective is my Estate Cuvee. And therefore I really donít even have to taste the blend mixed in a glass. I know what the Estate Cuvee will be each year by tasting the components individually that will go into the blend.
Oak is another matter. I use about 20% new oak barrels each year. Many
wineries use more. I feel French oak can actually add tannins to a wine(especially
to the finnish). I have never been a fan of French oak and may drop it
in favor of Czech and Hungarian. I want to add enough oak to add complexity,
but I hope no one will accuse me of using too much.