While things are still booming at the winery, the pace of daily life at the vineyard has slowed dramatically and we are taking advantage of this brief respite to release our new wines to Frostwatch customers and friends just in time for the holidays. Now through the end of November you can take advantage of special discounts on our new release wines. We are offering 20% off of purchases of one or more cases. As if that weren’t enough, we are providing free shipping within California and a $20 credit toward the cost of shipping elsewhere in the United States. Like to try before you buy? Call and set up an appointment to taste any time this month. We look forward to seeing you!
It's summer time and we are out and about pouring Frostwatch Wines. So Cal friends can join us for a Winemaker Dinner Wednesday, July 27th at Chase’s in Old Town, La Verne. The next night we’ll be in Ventura for a memorable pairing of food and wine at Café Zack. On August 21st we are scheduled to participate in the Family Winemaker’s San Francisco Tasting. (We can’t wait to check out the new venue – the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal at Pier 27!) Just before we head into Crush, we’ll be participating in the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. Since its inception, this Labor Day weekend event has raised over $20 Million for organizations that benefit our local communities. We hope to see you at Taste of Sonoma at the Mac Murray Ranch in the Russian River Valley on Sunday, September 3rd.
We enjoyed a new experience this past weekend. We had a visit from Sonoma County radio personality Jeff Davis. Jeff is the creative genius behind “On The Wine Road” which airs Saturday’s on 1350 AM KSRO and KSRO.com. Owing to our listing in Sonoma Magazines Top 100 List, Jeff decided Brett would make a worthy subject for his weekly feature. We expect his interview to air on December 12th. A few days later, we were notified that Frostwatch had been included in a nice article for San Francisco Magazine. As part of his four part series titled “Best Wineries You’ve Never Heard of in Sonoma County”, writer Ian White called Frostwatch “one of the County’s best wineries that have yet to be discovered by the masses” and singled out our Kismet as “Must Try Wine”. Check out the article for more on Frostwatch and other must try wineries that fly below the radar.
During the month of June, Frostwatch Customers are treated to special discounts on our new release wines. We are offering 20% off of purchases of one or more cases plus free shipping in California. If you need to ship outside of California, we offer a $20 credit against our cost to ship to your destination. We are thrilled with the character and quality of this year’s lineup. While we always strive to over deliver on quality relative to price, these “Newsletter Discounts” result in an unbeatable buying opportunity. Like to try before you buy? Call and set up an appointment to taste any time this month.
This year our vines got off to an early start owing to mild March weather. This month, the weather is more typical. Fearing spring frosts, we are once again glued to the weather forecast, (several of them actually) and our own weather stations. The weather station pictured is set up in a low spot and alerts us to falling temperatures before the bulk of the vineyard is at risk for frost damage. In response to California's desperate water situation, like us, most growers are now protecting their crop with "Cold Air Drains," a modern spin on the giant propeller fans that used to be seen throughout wine country. We maintain our overhead sprinkler system but will use it only for more extreme weather events. Fingers crossed, we should be out of the woods by the end of the month!
First stop, Chicago! The Vintners will take over the Drake Hotel on Tuesday, March 3rd with a lively program largely focused on Pinot Noir for industry professionals and consumers. From there, the group will travel to Milwaukee. Trade and media are invited to join in a Sonoma County "Master Class" on March 5th at Bacchus Restaurant on the shore of Lake Michigan . We are thrilled to have the 2012 Frostwatch Ophira Chardonnay selected for a special tasting presided over by Master Sommelier, Evan Goldstein which will showcase wines from Sonoma's diverse AVAs. Big thanks to Kari Flores (Crazy Flower Wines) who will be travelling to the Midwest next month to represent Bennett Valley!
North Bay Biz Special Wine Issue features Sonoma County Pinot Pioneer, Davis Bynum whose Westside Road Winery was a frequent stop for us when touring with out of town visitors back in the day. Also included under “Vineyard Vignettes” is a nice little read on Frostwatch. Great to get a nod when you are otherwise knee deep in Crush work!
We originally planted 9 acres of Merlot but soon decided that our Frostwatch Vineyard is a little too cool to reliably ripen fruit that would produce the rich, stylish wines that we enjoy. We have since replanted or topped over all but one small block to other varieties better suited to our site. 2010 was a cool vintage and we never even picked our Merlot opting instead to feed the hungry starlings that swarm across Sonoma County after harvest to pick the vines clean. 2011 was another cool vintage but this time early, aggressive crop thinning allowed us to get the fruit ripe. Originally, a little bit lean and tight, we hung on to this vintage allowing it to age for an additional year in bottle. We are delighted with the result. This wine affirms our belief that Bennett Valley Merlot can be exceptional!
Bam! The Chardonnay harvest is a wrap. We started at 1:00 am and finished up at 6:00. Approximately 17 tons, (Old Wente and Clone #4). Four tons to our neighbors at Argot and the balance for Frostwatch. That puts us on track to produce 780 cases of 2014 Chardonnay, up from 640 cases in 2013. We are pleased because we have struggled to keep up with growing demand from thirsty friends in our largest market - Southern California. More fruit means that we will also be able to make more Ophira, our reserve Chardonnay. Ophira is a blend of our best barrels and usually consists of mostly of Old Wente fruit. Old Wente is an heirloom clone which is characterized by small clusters, small berries, bright acid and big flavors. Unfortunately, this clone is also known for lighter yields. Our two youngest children were enlisted to help with last night’s pick. Picking the two clones back-to-back made it easy for them to recognize and appreciate the difference in taste, cluster morphology and vine yield. We will make aggies out of them yet!
This year’s harvest is early and compressed. With warmer weather it seems that all the fruit is getting ripe at once. Warm daytime temps also mean night picks. The crews are more comfortable, the fruit gets to the winery in good shape and we are almost always at the front of the line on the Crush Pad. Our first pick of 2014 began Saturday at 1:00 am. At 2:30 in the morning we lost one worker to a rolled ankle. The rest of the guys finished up just as it began to get light. We picked five tons of Pinot for Frostwatch and six tons of Sauvignon Blanc - three each Frostwatch and a Ryan Zepaltas project. Our son Alec assisted on this pick before heading off to Cal Poly- San Luis Obispo on Sunday. Looking forward now to getting the Chardonnay off by the end of this week.
Family Winemakers Tasting Sunday afternoon, August 17th at the San Mateo Event Center!
Family Winemaker’s was founded in 1991 to give voice and presence to small family wineries in the public policy arena. With more than 500 member wineries, the organization is equally well known for its annual tastings that put wine lovers and professionals face to face with winemakers. After being held at Fort Mason in San Francisco for as long as we can remember, this year’s Nor Cal event will take place at the San Mateo County Event Center. We’ll be pouring our current lineup (2012 Kismet, 2012 Ophira – Reserve Chardonnay, 2012 Pinot Noir and 2011 Merlot) and a special new wine – Vice Versa, a proprietary blend which mirrors our Kismet blend. Kismet is predominantly Sauvignon Blanc and quite dry while the Vice Versa is mostly Semillon with a hint of sweetness.
Connoisseurs Guide To California Wine has always been one of our favorite wine magazines for reviews and insights into our local world of wine. The folks a Connoisseurs taste wines in peer to peer blind tastings which are limited to two flights of eight to ten wines each. Tasting panels are made up of industry professionals including sommeliers, retailers and wine writers. We feel this puts all wines on an even playing field and eliminates any advantage that might inure to Rock Star brands or winemakers. Frostwatch wines reviewed in the last six months include the 2011 Merlot (88pts), the 2011 Pinot Noir (90 pts), the 2012 Kismet (92 pts) and our 2012 Chardonnay (93pts). In addition, the 2012 Kismet was declared one of the “Best Buys in the Market”. Thank you Connoisseurs!
Greetings and News from Frostwatch Vineyard & Winery! May 15, 2014
Hello everyone. Sorry for the delay in the transmission of this Newsletter. We have received a number of inquiries from our mailing list customers as to whether we had either lost their address or, alternatively, fallen into a wine vat. Neither is true! It has been a hectic year and in this annual mailer, we will be offering three new wines and giving our mailing list customers an opportunity to get special pricing on a previously released wine that we still have in inventory.
Two of the three new wines were bottled on April 24th and should be quite approachable by July 1st (we don’t filter at bottling which tends to lessen “bottle shock” of recently bottled wines). These wines, as more fully discussed below, are all available for ordering now and we will be giving special introductory pricing to our mailing list customers that return their order before July 1st. The wines can be picked up at our production facility or the vineyard by prior arrangement. However, if pick-ups do not work for you, we offer free shipping within California on one case or larger orders. Out of state orders will be shipped, and charged, at our cost.
2012 Frostwatch Ophira Bennett Valley Chardonnay – We bottled our regular 2012 Bennett Valley Chardonnay in September of 2013. The wine rocked and our distribution partners snatched up the 350 cases we produced. While you might still be able to find some on shelves or on wine lists it might be easier to satisfy your desire for Frostwatch Chardonnay with our delicious Ophira. Prior to bottling last September, we tasted through all the barrels and selected several that showed special promise. Those barrels (all new and once used) were stirred and topped for an additional seven months and bottled on April 24th of this year. While the regular bottling was great (93 points and 2 puffs in Connoisseurs Guide), the Ophira Reserve bottling is really something special. The 18 months of barrel aging coupled with the beautiful fruit from the 2012 vintage give this wine incredible complexity along with an unctuous and silky mouth feel. As with the regular bottling, and prior Frostwatch Chardonnays, Clone 4 contributes a full mouth feel with loads of red apple fruit, while fruit from our Platt-Wente Block contributes vibrant citrus notes with a touch of minerality. The wine is drinking beautifully now and will continue to excel for several years at a minimum.
100 Cases Produced TA: 6.1 g/l PH: 3.35 Alc.:14.8%
Normal Retail $40/bottle; Introductory Mailing List Price: $32/bottle
2012 Frostwatch Bennett Valley Pinot Noir
The 2012 Pinot Noir, like all of our 2012’s, is a powerful yet balanced wine with the fruit and structure to age gracefully for years. However, the innate power of the wine does not overwhelm the more subtle aspects of the Pinot Noir varietal that we love. As with our previous Pinots, the Frostwatch Vineyard, planted to the Swan Clone, contributes excellent fruit with small clusters and berries leading to razor-like intensity and concentration. The sole downside of these tiny berries and petite clusters is an extremely low case production per acre. While this vintage was larger than the miniscule 2011 vintage, we still produced only 155 cases from two and one-half acres of Pinot Noir. We continue to hope, as the blocks mature, the availability of this wine will increase. In the meantime, if you are a fan of our Pinot and would like to secure an allotment for your cellar, it might be a good idea to act quickly.
155 Cases Produced TA: 5.4 g/l PH: 3.8 Alc.:14.8%
Normal Retail $40/bottle; Introductory Mailing List Price: $32/bottle
2011 Frostwatch Bennett Valley Merlot
Fans of our Merlot may recall that we did not release a wine from the 2010 vintage. 2010 was a very cool year and we never even picked the fruit. The 2011 vintage was also very cool, but we were able to achieve the desired ripeness by carefully managing crop levels. By cropping at only 1.25 tons per acre (about 1/3 the Sonoma county average), we were able to harvest fully mature fruit. We bottled this wine in September of last year, but we made the decision to hold it back because we believed it to be a little bit lean and tight. Our patience has been amply rewarded. While the alcohol levels are moderate (14.2%), the fruit profiles are ripe and generous. As an added bonus, the wine is ready to drink immediately. It exhibits ripe plum and cherry flavors, with subtle notes of cedar and tobacco.
80 Cases Produced TA: 5.85 g/l PH: 3.67 Alc.:14.4%
Normal Retail $30/bottle; Introductory Mailing List Price: $24/bottle
Previously Released Wines:
2012 Frostwatch Kismet
The 2012 Kismet is aging beautifully. It just received 92 points and 2 puffs in the last issue of Connoisseurs Guide to California Wines wherein they described it as “a wine of extraordinary richness and range that will not only serve brilliantly today, but has the stuffing and impeccable balance to hold up and improve in the bottle for many years to come.” Lastly, they designated the Kismet a “Good Value” further distinguishing this unique blend from the wide array of Sauvignon Blanc available on the market today. For people new to our wines, but as our previous customers know, Kismet was originally made in our garage from vines identified as “mis-plants” in our Chardonnay block. Later identified as Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, our mystery clones of these two varietals consistently mesh perfectly with Bennett Valley climatology and soils. The wines have vibrant bright fruit yet also exhibit opulence and complexity. The Semillon component lends richness to the wine’s mid-palate which differentiates this wine from most Sauvignon Blancs. This refreshing but complex blend is a perfect addition to any Spring or Summer outing.
485 Cases Produced TA: 7.05 g/l PH: 3.28 Alc.:14.4%
Normal Retail $24/ bottle; Special Mailing List Newsletter Price: $18/bottle
Please be advised that Vinoteca, our communal tasting room at Vinify has closed its doors. Of course, we are still available for tasting at the winery (and sometimes at the vineyard) with advance notice.
As always, we would love to meet you and taste thru our wines next time you make a trip to wine country.
All the best,
Brett Raven and Diane Kleinecke
Vinoteca, the communal tasting room at our winemaking facility Vinify has closed its doors. We are still available for tasting by appointment at the winery in Santa Rosa or at our vineyard in Bennett Valley. Call ahead next time you plan a trip to wine country. We'd love to meet you and share our wines.