February ’14 Winemaker Notes
Dear Frogtown Citizen:
It has been cold this winter. I do not remember a North Georgia winter that has been this cold for quite a while. Not only have we experienced cold temperatures, for the first time in many years, we experienced significant snow conditions at the winery. As I write these Winemaker Notes I am looking out on our vineyards covered with approximately 4 inches of snow. Pretty sight.
Are the vines adversely affected by cold weather? Generally, no. However, if single digit temperatures occur for extended days, bud necrosis and even vine death can occur. Yes, we have experienced single digit temperatures, so yes, bud necrosis is a possibility. We could cut through some buds on vines at the coldest areas of the vineyard to determine if bud necrosis is present, but the extent of any bud necrosis will not be readily apparent until bud break.
On the plus side, the cold weather is beneficial in the elimination of over-wintering insects, viruses, molds and mildews. Temperatures below 25 degrees are very beneficial in killing and knocking back Pierces Disease, a very deadly vine disease that is indigenous to the Southeast. Such cold weather kills the virus and kills and decreases the population of the sharpshooter insect, which is the vector for the disease.
Pouring of the 2009 Frogtown Petit Verdot at the Unified Wine Grape symposium in Sacramento, California on January 28.
After I barrel down the red wines from a harvest (usually by the middle of December), Cydney and I head to California to spend time with Jordan, our winemaker daughter, our two granddaughters and our son-in-law Emanuele. This year, California in January also included two wine specific events.
I again served as a Judge at the 2014 Winemaker’s Challenge in San Diego, California. I tasted many excellent wines, primarily from California, including two flights of Cabernet Sauvignon wines retailing for $75.00 to $100.00 and two flights of Cabernet Sauvignon wines retailing for $30.00 to $49.99.
In addition to getting to know other quality winemakers, I find judging at the Winemakers’ Challenge in January and the Atlantic Seaboard Competition in Washington, D.C. in July extremely beneficial. In a truncated period of time, these Competitions afford me a unique opportunity to taste a large number of wines. I record my tasting notes of the most memorable wines and often refer to them when blending Frogtown wines. Just think about it; I need to drink a lot of wine that is not made by me. Real tough job! By keeping my palate “open” to the taste of non-Frogtown wines, I am able to critically judge our wines better and prevent what is referred to as “cellar palate”. Of course, this only applies to the winemaker at Frogtown; it does not apply to Frogtown Citizens. Our Citizens must drink a lot of Frogtown wine, at the exclusion of other wines, for the well being of their favorite winery!
At the conclusion of the Winemaker’s Challenge Competition, Cydney and I flew to San Francisco and then to Sacramento for the 2014 Unified Grape Symposium. On the evening of January 28, 2014, we poured the 2009 Frogtown Petit Verdot to over 1,000 invited attendees by Wine Business Monthly, the major wine industry trade publication, who sponsored the Ten Hot Brands of 2013 event, which included Frogtown. The experience at the pouring was wonderful, but with so many attendees we did not get to spend a lot of time with any one individual. On the following day, we attended the Unified Trade Exposition. Many of the Exhibitors and those attending the trade show as winemakers, viticulturists, winery owners, managers and others in the wine trade went out of their way to engage Cydney and me and remark how much they enjoyed the 2009 Petit Verdot. Many favorably compared the Frogtown 2009 Petit Verdot to high quality Napa or Sonoma Petit Verdot and other wines made from Bordeaux grapes. This event was a very delightful and rewarding experience for Cydney and me. We just hate to hear wonderful comments about Frogtown wines.
Closing on Frogtown Adelaida in Paso Robles, California.
Cydney and I acquired on February 4, 2014 a magnificent 50-acre parcel in the new Paso Robles, California Adelaida AVA. With the acquisition and planting of this parcel, Frogtown’s winegrowing and winemaking activities expands to California. The new vineyard will be called Frogtown Adelaida.
Notice I said expands not transfers to. We have heard some silly, meaningless rumors that Cydney and I are selling Frogtown and moving to California. Heck, if we desired to exclusively make California wine and provide hospitality primarily to Californians, there would never have been a Frogtown in Georgia. No, our hearts and souls are here in Georgia where we have spent two-thirds of our lives working, raising our three wonderful children, and enjoying immensely our relationship with y’all, our Citizens.
Discussion on Frogtown Adelaida
The content of the soils at Frogtown Adelaida are highly calcareous and very hilly. The subsoil base is primarily limestone. Much has been written about the benefits of grape growing on limestone. Paso Robles is unique in the fact a significant portion of this geologic area is the only viticultural area in the United States containing such concentrated calcareous soils. Twelve soil pits were dug at Frogtown Adelaida to examine the characteristics of the soils across the entire planting area. One pit showed the calcareous content of the soil (as distinguished from the underlying limestone), being 65% calcareous. Special rootstocks are required to enable vines to flourish on these highly elevated calcareous soils.
It has been 15 years since I planted the first 10,000 vines on the Dahlonega Plateau. Over this 15-year period, dense vine plantings have become more in vogue. France has been at the forefront of dense vineyard plantings. Paso Robles, a relatively very young AVA and grape-growing region has enjoyed great success with dense vineyard plantings.
On this parcel, we will be planting over 47,600 vines, including, 20,000 Cabernet Sauvignon, 10,050 Petit Verdot, 5,000 Petite Sirah, 2,500 Merlot, 6,850 Cabernet Franc, 2,700 Malbec and 500 Carménère vines. These grape varieties should be readily recognizable by you, our Citizens, as Frogtown Adelaida, like Frogtown Dahlonega, will be substantially planted to Bordeaux varietals. There will be no white grape plantings at Frogtown Adelaida.
By comparison, Frogtown Dahlonega has 23,000 vines planted on approximately 40 acres (an average of 575 vines per acre) while Frogtown Adelaida will be planted to over 46,000 vines (an average of approximately 2,100 vines per acre).
Would we plant Dahlonega Frogtown differently if we were planting today on the Dahlonega Plateau? Not significantly different. Our macro climatic conditions and the micro conditions which we created at Frogtown with the highly successful use of an Open Lyre trellis system and vine row aspects which transverse a hill rather than running down the direction of the hill, would result, even in hindsight, with approximately the same number of vines per planted acre.
My present thoughts are to make very high quality 100% estate grown wines under a Frogtown Adelaida, Paso Robles, AVA Label from this vineyard and, additionally, use the fruit from Frogtown Adelaida as the California component for our American labeled Bordeaux blends, Compulsion, an East Coast West Coast Wine, and Convergence, a West Coast East Coast Wine. I also plan to use Frogtown Adelaida wines as a blending partner with Frogtown Dahlonega wines in the making of Frogtown’s Disclosure Label wines; the label we use to bottle varietals wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, etc.) under an American label. While I intend to make you excited about Frogtown Adelaida, it will be at least 4 years before grapes from this vineyard will find their way into a Frogtown bottle. I may decide to purchase some fruit in the interim from some Frogtown Adelaida neighbors and make wine while waiting for Frogtown Adelaida vineyards to mature.
With the advent of Frogtown Adelaida, an honest question arises: Is there any other winery in the U.S. offering more interesting and diverse wines than Frogtown?
There are wineries in California making California wines from different California AVA’s. V. Sattui Winery (1111 White Lane, St Helena, CA 94574 – 707.963.7774 – www.vsatturi.com), being a wonderful example of such a winery. Frogtown should be quite unique by offering terroir labeled wines from estate grown grapes farmed from two separate vineyard estates, one on the East Coast, and the second on the West Coast, and ethically labeled American Wine wines by blending wines grown from these two separate and very distinct terroir regions.
100% Terroir Estate wines from vines farmed on Georgia’s Dahlonega Plateau (hopefully soon to be an AVA)
100% Terroir Estate wines from vines farmed on the Adelaida AVA of the Paso Robles.
Ethically labeled American wines blended from 100% estate grown fruit from Frogtown’s separate and very distinct vineyard estates on both coasts of the U.S.
To provide more information about the new Paso Robles Adelaida AVA, I have provided below portions of a very well written blog by Tables Creek Vineyards, a fabulous vineyard and winery in the new proposed Adelaida AVA (9339 Adelaida Road Paso Robles CA 93446 – 805.237.1231 – www.tablascreek.com). Tables Creek Vineyards is located less than 3 miles from Frogtown Adelaida.
At the conclusion of reading this blog you will have a better understanding why an American Viticultural Area (AVA) is synonymous with the French word terroir!
“Celebrating 11 New AVA’s in Paso Robles
At long last, nearly seven years after it was submitted to the TTB (the Tax and Trade Bureau — the office of the federal government that oversees wine regulation) we received news this week that the petition from the Paso Robles wine community to establish eleven American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) within the current Paso Robles AVA has been published for comments. This is the critical step called a “notice of proposed rulemaking” at which the TTB has reviewed all the geological, climatological and historical information presented in the petitions and determined that they pass muster. It doesn’t mean that the region can start using them on wine labels this week, but it’s an important validation of the proposed AVA’s and boundaries, and the last step before final approval.
For the Paso Robles region, the publication for review of our AVA petition is an important and necessary milestone. Paso Robles is currently the largest un-subdivided AVA within California at approximately 614,000 acres. By contrast, the Napa Valley appellation (which includes sixteen AVA’s delineated within its bounds) is roughly one-third the area at 225,000 acres. When the Paso Robles AVA was first proposed and approved back in 1983 it contained only five bonded wineries and less than 5000 planted acres of vineyard. Big swaths of the AVA, including the area out near us, were largely untouched by grapevines. In the last thirty years, Paso Robles has grown to encompass some 280 wineries and 32,000 vineyard acres. This vineyard acreage is spread over a sprawling district roughly 42 miles east to west and 32 miles north to south. Average rainfall varies from more than 30 inches a year in extreme western sections (like where Tablas Creek is) to less than 10 inches in areas farther east. Elevations range from 700 feet to more than 2400 feet. Soils differ dramatically in different parts of the AVA, from the highly calcareous hills out near us to sand, loam and alluvial soils in the Estrella River basin. The warmest parts of the AVA accumulate roughly 20% more heat (measured by growing degree days) than the coolest; the average year-to-date degree-days in the Templeton Gap since 1997 is 2498, while in Shandon far out east it’s 2956. This difference in temperatures is enough to make the cooler parts of the AVA a Winkler Region II in the commonly used scale of heat summation developed at UC Davis, while the warmest sections are a Winkler Region IV.
Our region’s diversity was well noted in the TTB’s ruling. In addition to the longhand descriptions of each region’s soils, climate and topography, the TTB included side-by-side comparative charts — unique, in my experience of AVA approvals — that detailed why each new AVA was worthy of being distinguished from its neighbors. I can’t imagine anyone reading these petitions and concluding that there weren’t grounds for subdivision.
All this is not to say that Paso Robles doesn’t share some important factors, and one important hurdle that the petitions had to clear was demonstrating that the region enjoyed sufficient macro-level similarity to remain an AVA. The TTB’s ruling recognized several characteristics that the entire region shares, including the 40-50 degree diurnal temperature variation, the relatively warm climate with limited incursion of marine air, and the moderate rainfall, less than the slopes of the coastal mountains but more than the arid Central Valley to our east.
The AVA system is so powerful exactly because it has the flexibility to recognize macro-level similarities as well as important micro-level distinctiveness.
One risk in the creation of new AVA’s within an existing one is that the existing AVA — into the marketing of which the local wineries have invested enormous amounts of time and money — will lose much of its significance as many wineries abandon that appellation name to make a name for their new, smaller one. Happily, Paso Robles won’t lose its identity — or the accumulated marketing capital we’ve all built over the last three decades — thanks to a conjunctive labeling law passed by the California assembly with the encouragement of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance in 2007. Conjunctive labeling means that wineries who choose to use one of the new AVA’s will also be required to use “Paso Robles” as significantly. This law was modeled on one passed for the Napa Valley in 1990 that has been widely credited with helping maintain Napa as the most powerful brand in American wine.
The continued presence of Paso Robles on wine labels does not diminish the impact of having the different AVA’s approved. These new AVA’s will be a powerful tool for wineries to explain why certain grapes are particularly well suited to certain parts of the appellation, and why some wines show the characteristics they do while other wines, from the same or similar grapes, show differently. Ultimately, the new AVA’s will allow these newly created sub-regions to develop identities for themselves with a clarity impossible in a single large AVA.
It’s worth pointing out that no one needs to use the new AVA’s. Wineries who wish to continue to use only the Paso Robles AVA are welcome to. And many will likely choose to do so as the new AVA’s build their reputation in the market. Not all the AVA’s have a critical mass of established wineries, and it seems likely that a handful of the new AVA’s will receive market recognition first, while the reputation of others will take time to build. But I believe that it will be several of the currently less-developed areas that will benefit most in the long term, through the ability to identify successful winemaking models and build an identity of their own. We shall see; having a newly recognized AVA is not a guarantee of market success, just a chance to make a name for yourself. The cream will rise to the top, and consumers will benefit.
Discussion of the 2010 Frogtown Intensity – First Bottling
I have wanted to make a Medoc based Bordeaux wine for some time that will be a Bordeaux blend mate to our Pomerol based Propaganda. The Intensity, being a Medoc-like wine is composed of principally Cabernet Sauvignon, with Malbec and Peitit Verdot playing a blending role. Note there is NO Merlot in our Intensity Bordeaux Blend. This is in contrast to the Merlot dominant Propaganda, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot playing a blending role.
Unlike the 2010 Frogtown Touché, released to our Citizens in the December 2013 shipment and the 2010 Bravado, and the Shotgun Third Reload, released with this shipment, the 2010 Frogtown Intensity is somewhat of an enigma. It continues to exhibit bottle shock, after approximately 8 months of bottling. This does not detract from the enjoyment of this wine now; however six months of further bottle aging should be sufficient time for this wine to “get over” bottle shock.
One interesting feature of the 2010 Intensity is the substantial berry flavors at the beginning of the palate. In this manner the 2010 Intensity and the 2008 Audacity are very similar in their “early life” in the bottle. For those Citizens who enjoy this extra kick of fruit at the beginning, drinking Intensity now delivers this fruit sensation. As the 2010 Intensity ages, as was the case with the 2008 Audacity, this “extra” upfront fruit will gradually diminish. The “extra” upfront fruit should additionally aid the 2010 Intensity as it ages in the bottle. This wine should be long lived with more gradual loss of fruit as the wine enters the 5-6 year period after bottling (not vintage date).
The one common threat between the 2010 Intensity and the 2008 Audacity is a substantial amount of Cabernet Sauvignon (49% for the Intensity and 45% for the Audacity) contained in these blends. It could be that Frogtown wines with blends of a substantial amount of Cabernet Sauvignon have a wine quality character of a fruitier beginning palate than other Frogtown premium red wines. Interesting, this upfront fruit character does not appear in Frogtown Cabernet Sauvignon labeled varietal wines. Such wines contained 90% to 100% of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wines Included in this Shipment
All Red Citizens
All Red Citizens will receive a bottle of the 2009 Frogtown Intensity ($33.99), described above, a bottle of the 2010 Frogtown Bravado ($27.99), and a bottle of Frogtown Shotgun, Third Reload ($26.99)
Very similar in mouthfeel to the 2010 Frogtown Touché that was sent as part of the December, 2013 shipment, the 2010 Bravado also exhibits a very supple beginning palate, that develops weight as the wine moves to the back of the palate and finishes with complex flavors of cherry and cassis from this Sangiovese, Tannat, and Cabernet Sauvignon blend. I also see a lot of similarities in the 2010 Bravado with the wonderful 2008 Bravado, with the 2010 being a little “fruitier”.
Not much that I can say about Frogtown Shotgun that hasn’t previously been said. I am sure that a number of our Citizens will tell me they like Second Reload better than Third Reload, in the same manner as many Citizens told be they liked First Reload better than Second Reload. To me the First and Second Reload were practically identical at bottling; the difference between tasting a fully resolved First Shotgun with bottle age as compared with a then newly bottled Second Reload was why some of you had the impression that First was better than Second.
There is a reason why we cannot more closely duplicate Shotgun year after year. It is a non-vintage wine. That is the reason for the first Shotgun being called “First Load”, then First Reload, the Second Reload, and now Third Reload. A non-vintage wine cannot be labeled with a vintage date. Make sense? Vintage dated wines, are more limited in blending options; the winemaker basically only has the wines from that vintage to blend into whatever blend the winemaker is putting together (there is a little bit of leeway, as vintage wines can contain up to 15% of another vintage).
All Red Citizens will receive a discount of 20% to reduce the Citizen cost of these wines. With the addition of sales tax results in a cost for pick-up of this All Red Shipment being $76.15 and the addition of $12.00 shipping results in a cost for these wines shipped of $88.15.
Red and White
All Mixed Red and White Citizens are receiving a bottle of our 2010 Frogtown Intensity ($33.99), a bottle of our Frogtown Shotgun, Third Reload ($27.99), both referred to above, and a bottle of the 2011 Frogtown Reserve Chardonnay ($27.99).
The Frogtown Reserve Chardonnay was made in ½ neutral oak and ½ two year old barrels rather than new French oak. The wine was in barrel for 18 months. Notwithstanding the absence of new oak, the wine has lovely oak and malolactic fermentation aromas. On the palate, flavors of green apple and citrus are present with a long and rewarding finish. This is the first-ever white wine bottled under a Reserve Label!
Mixed Citizens will receive a discount of 20% to reduce the Citizen cost of these wines. With the addition of sales tax results in a cost for pick-up of this Mixed Shipment being $76.99 and the addition of $12.00 shipping results in a cost for these wines shipped of $88.99.
All White Citizens
All White Citizens are receiving a bottle of our 2011 Frogtown Reserve Chardonnay ($27.99) referred to above, a bottle of the 2012 Frogtown Disclosure Steel Chardonnay ($24.99), and a bottle of the 2011 Frogtown Viognier ($24.99)
The 2011 Frogtown Disclosure Steel Chardonnay is made from 100% fruit from the Dry Creek AVA. As I have mentioned in the past, all of Frogtown 2012 and 2013 (and possibly 2014) Chardonnay has been or will be sold to Wolf Mountain for their Georgia sparkling wine production. It was important to me that Wolf Mountain’s sparkling wine program remain 100% Georgia. While we love our own Chardonnay, I decided to replace a portion of what I sold to Wolf Mountain and make a Disclosure Steel Chardonnay and a Disclosure Barrel Fermented Chardonnay in 2012. The enclosed bottle of Disclosure Steel Chardonnay was fermented and aged in 100% steel. The wine never experienced the inside of an oak barrel. This is just a lovely, powerful Steel Chardonnay. In comparison to the steel Chardonnay made in the past with Frogtown Chardonnay grapes, this is a bigger more alcoholic wine. This Chardonnay has lovely apple, pear and grapefruit nose and palate that will stand up to the most hearty fish, even the oily non-flaky type of fish.
Enjoy, because purchasing Dry Creek Chardonnay grapes will only be a once in a while event.
The Viognier harvested in 2011 that found its way into the enclosed varietal bottling is very typical of the Viognier grapes grown at Frogtown. Relatively high in Brix, almost 24.5 Brix, this wine has a lovely glycerin quality that coats your mouth with lovely flavors of melon, honey, kiwi fruit, peach, with an overlaying citrus character. Yum! Try this Viognier with spicy Asian foods or Sushi.
All White Citizens will receive a discount of 20% to reduce the Citizen cost of these wines. With the addition of sales tax results in a cost for pick-up of this All White shipment of $69.58 and the addition of $12.00 shipping results in a cost of these wines shipped of $79.58.
Cydney and I wish the very best to all our wonderful Citizens!!!!