May ’11 Winemaker Notes

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Dear Frogtown Citizen:

From February 27, 2011, the date of my Winemaker Notes accompanying the February shipment until May 4, 2011, Frogtown vineyard experienced somewhat cooler temperatures and more rain than is customary for spring. Bud break was uncharacteristically even (which is good). I was very pleased we did not experience an early frost after bud break.

Mother Nature gave us a very late unwanted surprise. Early in the morning on Thursday, May 5, 2011 we incurred a radiation frost with a low temperature of 29.5 Degrees Fahrenheit and the dew point at 30.5% Fahrenheit. A radiation frost occurs when the winds are less than 5 mph and the sky is clear. With no cloud cover to keep the temperature from radiating upward, the temperature at or near the ground is cooler than the temperature 50 to 100 feet above the ground. Frost occurs when the dew point is equal to or lower than the ambient temperature at or near the ground.

To fight this frost, we built over 50 fires, ran our Wind Machine and operated our Frost Dragon from approximately 4:00am until 7:30am. With all grape varieties having broken bud three to four weeks prior to this frost every grape vine (23,000) in the entire vineyard was exposed to losing new growth leaves and fruit clusters.

As I write these Notes, it appears Frogtown did suffer frost damage to our vines planted on the lowest elevations but not severely. Our frost fighting was much more successful than I envisioned in the early hours of Thursday.

Competition Results Through the Date of These Winemaker Notes.

The 2011 San Diego International Wine Competition results are exceptional. When you consider that all of our SDIWC awarded wines were bottled within four months of the date of this competition, the results are surprisingly exceptional. Robert Whitley, one of America’s premier wine writers and critics (and the Director of the SDIWC) has written a blog on Frogtown dated May 6, 2011. To review this blog please go to winereviewonline.com and see Georgia on My Mind.

The results at the 2011 Finger Lakes Competition reflect the fact the submitted wines, other than the gold medal winning 2008 Frogtown Sangiovese, were generally “in the bottle” for only 6 to 8 weeks prior to this competition. At Frogtown, white wines require 3 to 4 months to “get over” bottle shock and red wines require 4 to 9 months to fully “recover” from the bottling process. We did not want to miss this competition in 2011 so the wines were sent knowing the submitted wines were not at their best for this competition.

Since we did not enter the Dallas Morning Star Competition in 2010 (entry date just got away from us), we submitted a few 2010 competition wines, along with Compulsion. If you go on line and look at the gold medals awarded Chardonnay wines, it will be evident that winning a Gold Medal at Dallas for Chardonnay is a substantial accomplishment. Frogtown 2008 Chardonnay is at its best. Really enjoyed winning this Gold Medal at Dallas.

We just received the results of the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition (a new competition this year). We won 17 medals, 2 Gold, 6 Silver, and 9 Bronze Medals
We have already sent wines to the Critics Challenge (a new competition this year), the Los Angles International Wines & Spirits Competition, the Long Beach Grand Cru Wine Competition, and the San Francisco International Wine Competition. These competitions take place from the middle of May through the end of July.

In additional to these 4 competitions Frogtown wines will be sent to the Atlantic Seaboard Competition (wines only from states that border the Atlantic Ocean are tasted at this competition) held in late July, the Sommelier Competition (a new competition this year) held in early September, and the last competition will be the invited Jefferson Cup Competition (Frogtown is one of approximately 300 wineries who are invited to this annual competition) held in November.

Frogtown is off to a wonderful start to the 2011 Competition with 38 medals. We believe we could achieve over 60 Medals from competitions this year!

Discussion on the Grapes and Wines in This Shipment.

Propaganda

It really has not been that long (13 years) since I was sitting in my law office preparing trademark registrations for the first three names selected for our intended wine growing and wine making venture. “Frogtown” was to be the brand name; “Inclination” was to be a premium white wine blend of the three French Rhone Valley white grapes (Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne), and “Propaganda” was to be the premium red wine label. Our winery is Frogtown; we make a very successful wonderful white wine label called Inclination but this wine is not made from the three white Rhone grapes (it is a Chardonnay blend with Vidal and Viognier); and well Propaganda is Propaganda.

No wine intimidates me more than making Propaganda. Why? Propaganda must possess the wine characteristics and quality which all of us expect from a Propaganda wine regardless of the vintage. Being a wonderful red Bordeaux Blend is not sufficient. It must be Propaganda.

Anatomy of Propaganda.

As many of you know, while practicing law I collected over 3,000 bottles of wine. 90% of the wine bottles collected were red Bordeaux. I became quite knowledgeable about the Bordeaux communes and the different wines made in Bordeaux. Only about 5% of the wines I collected were California Cabernets, Merlots, or “Meritage” wines. My palate was definitely French Bordeaux. I was most attracted to the wines from the Medoc commune of St. Julien, located on the left bank of the River Gironde, and the Pomerol Region, located on the right bank of the River Gironde.

Although St. Julien wines have the reputation of requiring longer-term aging than other Medoc communes, I always experience a rather elegant, rich and gentle characteristic from the wines of this appellation even when fairly young. But of all the Bordeaux appellations, the wines of Pomerol were seductive. These wines were very full-bodied, fruity, opulent and rich with a very supple, smooth mouth feel.

Yes, I was aware that the St. Julien appellation was principally planted to the Cabernet Sauvignon grape and the Pomerol appellation was principally planted to the Merlot grape, but these were just words until I started growing and making wine.

Frogtown’s vineyards soils range from a sandy clay loam to a clay sandy loam. At the time I was selecting the grape varieties and the locations for planting the grapes I selected, I revisited the information published about the vineyards and wines of Pomerol. It was very interesting to find this region’s soils being principally clay for the higher elevation Chateaus; including the vineyards of Petrus, the most famous and highest priced of all Pomerol wines.

The most compelling of the Bordeaux varieties planted at Frogtown is Merlot. In many vintages, our Merlot grapes produce the most full-bodied red wines made at Frogtown, exhibiting very ripe flavors and ripe round and plentiful tannins. It is the ripening of these tannins in our Merlot that results in what I believe to be the most compelling attribute of these wines. While full-bodied and intense, our Merlot delivers a lush supple mouth feel on the palate. It is just yummy.

So with Pomerol and clay soils in mind, Propaganda evolved into a primarily Merlot (more than 50%) based wine with varying percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon to give the wine more structure and finish. Our 2002 Propaganda and 2004 Family Reserve Cabernet are the best wines we ever produced. Not far behind is our 2005 Propaganda, the most recent vintage of Propaganda before our 2008 Propaganda, and our 2006 Family Reserve Merlot.

In 2004 we blended about 12% Cabernet Franc into our Propaganda. While making a wonderful Bordeaux styled wine, I did not feel the Cabernet Franc added anything to Propaganda. In 2005 I went back to the 2002 vintage of Propaganda and used only Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in this vintage of Propaganda. No Propaganda was made from the 2006 or 2007 vintages.

For the 2008 vintage of Propaganda, in my blending trials I did “tinker” with the various blends by not only varying the different percentages of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and the selection of barrels but, with most care and attention, putting a small amount of Petit Verdot into some of the blends. In 2002 and 2005 we did not have any Frogtown Petit Verdot to blend into a Propaganda wine. In 2008 we had our first harvest of Petit Verdot, enabling the referenced blending trials. Unlike Cabernet Franc, I was pleased to discover that Petit Verdot did in fact add to each of the Propaganda blending trials containing Petit Verdot. The 2008 Propaganda contains 5% Petit Verdot and 25 % Cabernet Sauvignon supporting the remaining 70% Merlot.

My impression after making four vintages of Propaganda and five vintages of a varietal labeled Merlot wine, including the 2006 Family Reserve Merlot, the upper limit of Merlot in Propaganda appears to be in the lower 70% range. Propaganda needs the structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot in the 30% range to be Propaganda.

I find the 2008 Propaganda to be very similar to the 2005 Propaganda when left open for a few hours. While the wine is lovely presently, I would suggest drinking the wine after an additional 3 months in the bottle. It would be preferable to leave the wine at room temperature (72 Degrees Fahrenheit) to assist in its recovery from the bottling process. We will not send 2008 Propaganda to competition until 2012.

All Red and Mixed Red and White Citizens are receiving a bottle of the 2008 Propaganda in this shipment.

Touriga

Mixed Red and White Citizens are receiving a bottle of 2007 Touriga in this shipment. This club wine was sent to our all Red Citizens in the February shipment. In my February 27, 2011 Notes, I said the following about the Touriga grape and our 2007 Frogtown Touriga:

“I am excited to enclose to our all red Citizens our first offering of a varietal Frogtown Touriga Nacional. From our “lost” vintage of 2007 (frost contributing to a loss of 90% of our grapes in 2007), this is an interesting wine.

The Touriga Nacional grapes are some of the smallest grapes we grow. The “tiny” berries of Touriga Nacional have a relatively high skin to pulp ratio. This characteristic makes Touriga Nacional wines very intense in all respects. Intensity of aroma and flavor can be a good way to describe Touriga Nacional wines. Like many of the red grapes grown at Frogtown, Touriga Nacional is somewhat spicy with dark fruit flavors of blueberries and blackberries. But Touriga is distinctly and uniquely different in its offering of these blueberry and blackberry flavors. This uniqueness makes Touriga an ideal blending partner with Tannat (another dark blueberry/blackberry wine with hints of spice grown in our Estate vineyards). The blending of Touriga Nacional and Tannat, along with Cabernet Franc, results in our Shotgun gold medal winning wines.

This 2007 offering of Frogtown Touriga is a very dark full-bodied wine. There are many reasons to grow and blend Touriga into wine. For me the most compelling reasons for growing and producing Touriga wine is the purple violet nose of these wines and the deep, deep color and bright berry flavors. The violet nose on our Shotgun wines gives no hint of the flavor of this wine when drunk. It is almost a complete disconnect between the aroma on the nose to the aroma and taste once the wine is in your mouth. This violet aroma on the nose is present in this 2007 Touriga Nacional. This is an intensely aromatic wine with supple tannins and a long lingering finish. You will not find the earthy characteristics of Shotgun in this wine. It exhibits more bright intense fruit than our Shotgun wine.”

Bravado

Bravado is a Super Tuscan wine containing 60% Sangiovese, 25 % Tannat and 15 % Cabernet Franc. In my December 2009 Wine Maker Notes, I discuss the Sangiovese Grape and the relatively new Super Tuscan wines in connection with the club shipment of our 2008 Frogtown Audacity.

The 2008 Bravado won a major Gold Medal at the San Diego International Wine Competition. Winning Gold at SDIWC for the 2008 Bravado is very welcome for our first vintage and unexpected.

The concept of a Super Tuscan wine is a challenging concept; as there is no single agreed upon definition for this wine bend. These wines, made in a non-regulated traditional Bordeaux manner, were a response to consumer preference for more bold red wine which in many respects is the opposite to Chianti wines made under strict requirements and techniques, including the requirement to blend some white grape wine into the Chianti blend. Vintners in Tuscany, Italy were experimenting with blending Bordeaux varietals with Sangiovese in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s in order to deliver a more powerful full-bodied wine.

Today, I am aware of wines from Tuscany containing no Sangiovese and called Super Tuscan wine. At least these wines have a Tuscany connection in the growing and production of such a wine. However, could a “New World” wine made without Sangiovese be called a “Super Tuscan?” I think not, what would be the purpose? There must be some connection to Tuscany in a New World Super Tuscan. That connection is the Sangiovese grape. My vote on defining this type of wine would require some significant contribution of the Sangiovese grape. Say 25%.

I would venture to say there are not many Super Tuscan wines containing the Tannat grape. I have wanted to make a principally Sangiovese and Tannat Super Tuscan for some time. In the 2008 Bravado we also added some Cabernet Franc. In subsequent years we could also bend Cabernet Sauvignon into our Bravado wines. Bravado is a welcome addition to our wine labels.

All white wine Citizens are receiving a wonderful wine in the form of our 2009 Marsanne. This is truly a Gold Medal wine, having won this distinction at the 2011 San Diego International Wine Competition. I believe this is not the only gold medal for this wine. All white wine Citizens are also receiving two pre-release wines: the 2009 Chardonnay andthe 2009 Vineaux Rosé. The 2009 Chardonnay has a tremendous task in hand to follow the gold medal winning 2008 Chardonnay. It is a little too soon to judge the 2009 Chardonnay. The 2009 Vineaux Rosé is very recognizable as a Frogtown Rosé. I think this is one of the better Vineaux Rosés we have ever made.

The final two May, 2011 club shipment wines are the 2009 Vineaux Blanc and the 2009 Frogtown Touché. The 2009 Vineaux Blanc is included in the shipment to our mixed White and Red wine Club Members and the 2008 Touché is included in the shipment to our all Red wine Club Members.
The 2009 Vineaux Blanc won a Gold Medal at the San Diego International Wine Competition and the Touché won a Silver Medal. I have often said these two wines deliver the best wine to price value Frogtown has to offer. The 2009 Vineaux Blanc follows the Gold Medal winning 2008 Vineaux Blanc; so Gold and Vineaux Blanc are getting to be synonymous. I think better news for the 2009 Touché will come in one of the remaining 2011 competitions.

Distribution of Frogtown Wines.

Commencing this May, Empire Distributors and Frogtown have launched a significant effort to place Frogtown wines in more restaurants and package stores in Georgia. Please ask your favorite restaurants and package stores in Georgia to carry Frogtown wines. Restaurants and package stores will find special sales initiatives to place Frogtown on their wine menus and in their package stores.

What’s happening with Helen, Georgia Tasting Room?

Probably, opening early July.

Summary of Shipment wines

For those Citizens who are receiving all red wines, you will find enclosed in your shipment the 2008 Frogtown Propaganda, the 2008 Frogtown Touché, and the 2008 Frogtown Bravado, priced as follows:

2008 Frogtown Propaganda: Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $33.99.

2008 Frogtown Touché: Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $21.99.

2008 Frogtown Bravado: Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $19.99.

For those Citizens who are receiving red and white wines, you will find enclosed in your shipment the 2008 Frogtown Propaganda, the 2007 Frogtown Touriga, and the 2009 Frogtown Vineaux Blanc, priced as follows:

2008 Frogtown Propaganda: Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $33.99.

2007 Frogtown Touriga: Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $27.99.

2009 Frogtown Vineaux Blanc: Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $14.99.

For those Citizens who are receiving all white wines, you will find enclosed in your shipment the 2009 Frogtown Chardonnay, the 2009 Frogtown Marsanne, and the 2009 Frogtown Vineaux Rose, priced as follows:
2009 Frogtown Chardonnay: Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $24.99.

2009 Frogtown Marsanne: Wine Club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $19.99.

2009 Frogtown Vineaux Rosé: Wine Club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $16.99.

Best to all,

Craig


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