Month: May 2020
A great lunch treat today. Picked up some fresh sushi nigiri in Angel’s Camp and brought it home. It consisted of Maguro (tuna), Hamachi (yellow tail) and Sake (salmon). With fresh ginger and wasabi it was almost complete.
Paired with the 2018 Lavender Ridge Roussanne it was “perfect”! This Roussanne is powerful with floral aromatics, with hints of peaches, pears and provided a rich and silky smooth mouthful texture. The fullness of body, almost a creamy sense, is the key contributor making this a unique wine! This retails for $28. Roussanne brings more acidity, elegance and aromatic complexities to the wine. His 2016 Roussanne won Double Gold at the 2018 Sierra Foothills Wine Competition. His 2016 and 2018 releases are now a standard fixture in the wine cellar!
To read more about Lavender Ridge, see a previous article: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/04/08/traveling-to-wine-regions-while-staying-in-place-today-lavender-ridge-vineyard-in-murphys-california-in-the-sierra-foothills/
Went to the cellar to find a wine primarily to go with dessert! Found a gem from about 3 1/2 years ago! St Rose Vineyards and Winery is unique in many ways, from being the smallest bonded winery in Sonoma Valley to having two of the more talented & personable owners. Yet being as small as they are, they received 93 points from Wine Enthusiast for their 2014 Pinot Noir. Most of their grapes are sold to wineries with the designated Nunes Vineyard being noted. For a complete story on Fred & Wendy Nunes and their meandering journey into the wine business see a previously published story at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/03/17/st-rose-winery/
The wine on the eyes is a deep violet and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, violets, Rose petals red berries, strawberries and cherry. On the palate, vanilla, nutmeg, strawberry abound with baking spices and a tinge of French oak. The finish is excellent producing a smooth, textual and long lasting experience. Only 51 cases produced!
Tonight paired with Udon Teriyaki noodles with chicken, broccoli and mushrooms. Accompanied with a fresh artichoke. Dessert was perfectly aligned with chocolate dipped strawberries.
With only a couple of more bottles left, will be ordering more as this is an elegantly refined, complex and quintessential Pinot Noir.
The wine industry as a whole is under siege from demographics, economics and this insidious virus, Covid-19. Small and family owned wineries are at a critical stage in their life cycle. How will they survive? What are the challenges? How should they engage their customers? These and many more questions and hopefully a few answers will be suggested. The sales channels have been shifting like an earthquake fault with the same instantaneous timing. The marketing of Direct to Customers (DTC) and club memberships has increased in order to fill the void of selling to the restaurant end market. This is by no means an encyclopedia or a road map for success, but below are a few ideas to hopefully weather the approaching storms.
For some time now many discussions have taken place regarding the transition of Baby Boomers to retirement and the Millennials, Gen-X, Gen-Y, Gen-Z etc., not taking up the “slack”. The introduction of new marketing of seltzers, craft beers, whisky and less complex beverages than wine have added to burden. Also the over production and grape glut in California, including storage issues, is reaching critical levels. Add to this the devastation of marketing channels brought about by the pandemic to small wineries, how will they recoup loss revenue and market penetration? Tasting rooms may be opening soon, but the experience will be totally revamped from the “old normal”.
First is the lack of accountability of the wineries in understanding their customers. Take for example some of the latest information that fully 55% of wineries have no dedicated person collecting data and only 27% have an employee part time in this effort! Why is this important and how does one collect it? A winery provides samples of their wines without requiring anything from the consumer. Collecting simply their name, age, key dates (birthday, anniversary), email, varietal preferences, etc., opens up a plethora of ways to marketing or co-marketing with restaurants, florists, etc.
With the data in hand, special occasions either solely or jointly marketed with a partner can provide coupons, discounts, incentives on the wines to be had at home or dining out. This data can be used for communicating with the customers not just for “special deals” but to foster and build up a relationship with their customers. Filling this void and engaging “friends of the winery” will develop a new and deeper avenue of a customer/client relationships.
Analysis of the data may provide details which the winery can leverage to increase sales. This can be loyalty programs for years as a club member, special wines for those key occasions (birth of a child, retirement, new job, birthday, etc.). Right now many have missed some significant celebration in their life. But before any program can be ignited, you must have the data. It is quid pro quo and should be a prerequisite for tasting or being a club member at any winery.
Personalization with customers is also key. Understanding what “floats their boat” is paramount in the equation. For example if a large contingent is into music, art, baseball, golf, football, etc., then provide those social outlets (when allowed to) combining your wines with those events. With tasting room traffic decreasing for some period of time, go meet your customer. Perhaps even doing wine tasting at their home with whatever the prescribed number of friends is allowed and under “social distancing” guidelines at the time.
Reinvigorating and reinvention of the tasting room is needed urgently in order to capture the meandering customer lost in the dry desert! If the customer cannot come to the tasting room or will be limited via numbers and reservations, why can’t the winery simply supple samples? Do a bottling of 187ml samples, single serving (perhaps charge new folks, free to club members) of your current offering? Enclose an order sheet with the samples and presto, you have an engagement.
The wine industry and specifically small and family owned wineries are facing an unparalleled challenge to their survival. Discounting is a bandage approach which will only erode their brand long-term. It is also a steep slope to move pricing back up in the future. Some have had to do this out of necessity for cash flow to pay for equipment or rent, but this can only go on so long. The challenge is to come up with a sure fire customer data collection process, innovative marketing (SMS messaging, small samples), creative outreach (knowing your customer) and meeting the consumer on his/her turf (including in home tastings/presentations).
California’s first Methode Champenoise Barbera! This was a vision of Steven Mirassou, Nancy Castro, and Steven’s two daughters, Katherine and Sara. The four of them sampled three bottles of an Italian version and decided to make this to drink for all occasions. Steven is the owner and winemaker of Steven Kent Winery, Lineage, Ragbag and Mia Nipote wines. Steven envisioned making a “modern version of a traditional style sparkling wine”.
Thanks goes to Barry Jackson of Equinox who helped bring the bubbles (secondary fermentation) and the Lineage Collection for getting this to production. The grapes come from the Home Ranch vineyard on property in Livermore.
So to help give a perspective on sugar levels for Champagne here are the basic categories, going from sweet to dry based on dosage of sugar added:
• Doux: 50 or more grams of sugar added per liter. Outrageously sweet.
• Demi-Sec: 32 to 50 grams of sugar. Still sweet but showing some traction in the market.
• Sec: “Sec” in French means dry. But dry here indicates a medium sweet sparking of 17 to 32 grams of sugar per liter.
• Extra Sec: Meaning “Extra Dry” which is less sweet than Sec wine with 12 to 17 grams of sugar per liter.
• Brut: Up to 12 grams of sugar added. This leads to a balance of flavor and acidity. A bit more rounded than Extra Brut. This is one of the more popular levels of Champagne for consumers.
• Extra Brut: With fewer than 6 grams of sugar, this will produce higher acid and accentuate the carbonation.
• Brut Nature: With no sugar added (less than 3 grams), not common but a way for the winemaker to allow the quintessential nature of the Sparkling wine. This will provide strong minerality and high acidity.
This Sparkling Barbera is unique, not only for its bubbles but for the low alcohol and extremely low residual sugar level. Picked at 20 bricks and having a sugar dosage of only .175, this is an extremely dry, crisp and bright wine with a cutting acidity. This high acidic wine is a perfect complement to seafood (Salmon, Halibut) and fatty salami’s. As an aperitif, caviar, fruits and hard cheese’s come to mind.
The color on the eyes is unique and draws attention to its copper/golden hue. The bladder press used in making this wine, allowed a soft extracting and no additional skin contact. The color is a function of the whole cluster (no de-stemming) and the yeast taking some of the color out of wine.
On the nose, minerality and soft earth aromas are present with faint flora characteristics. On the palate, the acidity is extremely strong, especially at colder temperatures and hard to discern the fruit. Once it has warmed up a bit, trace amounts of red fruits like cherry, raspberry and dried strawberries can be found. Floral notes of violet, vanilla and nutmeg arise. The finish is lip puckering dry. As we tasted the wine, we notice the dried apricots went especially well with it. So we did an experiment to add a few drops of an apricot liquor to the sparkling. This seemed to be a wonderful addition. Unfortunately we ran out of the delicious strawberries the evening before as this also would have been a great addition especially for an aperitif.
Only 225 cases were made and will be initially available for Mia Nipote Club Members and then the general public. Price is listed at $48.
Brian and Lori Nuss are the owners of Vinoce. The meaning of Vinoce (vin-o-chay) is a play on his name and German-Italian background. In German “nuss” translates as “nut”. In Italian “noce” means nut and thus Vinoce means “wine nut”. But there is nothing nutty about this wine, specifically the 2016 Vinoce Cabernet Franc from Mt Veeder!
Their Cabernet Franc from Mt Veeder is exceptional, partly due to the geology of this designated sub-AVA of Napa Valley. The area is about 25 square miles with approximately 1,000 acres planted. The area is known for its thin volcanic soil and steep mountain face, some as much as 30 degrees. The steepness of the vineyards provide more sunlight and better drainage. Berries are generally smaller than the valley floor as they have to work harder in the volcanic soil with less water. Wines from this region possess strong structure, briarwood flavors and are typically bold. No exception for this Vinoce Cabernet Franc. Mt Veeder accounts for only a little over 1% of total Napa Valley production.
This 2016 Cabernet Franc was entered last December in the California Wines & Wineries Cabernet Franc Competition. In the Category C ($61 to $99) this wine was voted by the Professional Judges as Best of Show and awarded Double Gold. See the complete story at:https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2019/12/05/results-of-cabernet-franc-day-wine-competition-by-california-wines-and-wineries-held-december-4th/
I was so delighted with this wine the other night! First on the eyes, a dark ruby red with a slight purple hue. On the nose, aromas of dark cherry, blackberry and cocoa. On the palate, floral notes, cedar, briarwood, blackberries, cherry, blueberries, along with black pepper/peppercorns engulf ones mouth with a robust explosion. The finish is long with soft leather, a hint of sweet vanilla pipe tobacco, dried herbs and earthiness from Mt Veeder. The tannins were present but not obtrusive.
This is a great example of the premier Cabernet Franc’s coming out of Napa Valley. This is a must have to keep in your cellar. Current list price is $85 at the winery.
2016 Perry Creek Winery, The Baron. A blend of El Dorado Cabernet Sauvignon (78%), Cabernet Franc (15%) and Merlot (7%). A great nose of cocoa and berries. On the palate, blackberries, soft leather, pipe tobacco and cocoa. Extremely drinkable with velvety tannins, producing a soft drinkable wine with a soft landing finish. 20% new French barrels used. A wine to drink now. Not on website but contact winery for pricing.
2017 Tate Chardonnay. It is both an old world Chardonnay with finesse and slight citrus hints, combined with a new world Chardonnay style, with just the right amount of oak and a controlled secondary malolactic fermentation, to create a slight butter taste to this intoxicating white gem. On the eye a light golden color and medium viscosity. Aromatics are slightly floral. Lemon and grapefruit abound with a slight fresh peach. Bright, crisp and very clean made by extraordinary winemaker David Tate. Paired with onion topped chicken, Yukon Gold potato and fresh garden salad.