May ’13 Winemaker Notes
Dear Frogtown Citizen
Significant Development in Recognition of the High Quality of Frogtown Wines.
Cydney and I are very proud to inform you, our Citizens, Frogtown has been designated a Superstar by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy in their new publication “American Wine” first published this year, 2013!!! Jancis Robinson is THE most respected internationally recognized wine writer in the world. She has authored The World Atlas of Wine, The Oxford Companion to Wine and Wine Grapes. She holds a Master of Wines designation. I have all of these books in my library. I looked to Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes, as an important aid to selecting the various grape varieties planted at Frogtown. Paraphrasing Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy, on pages 244 and 245 of American Wines, the following is said about Frogtown, after declaring Frogtown a Superstar: “Craig and Cydney Kritzer opened Frogtown in 1999 and now grow twenty-five different varieties [of wine grapes]. Their Propaganda wine, a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, has wowed West Coast critics and sommeliers; Audacity, a Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon Blend, …. is a dead ringer for a Super Tuscan from Italy?”! By sure coincidence, I am sending to our All Red and Mixed Red and White Citizens a bottle of Frogtown’s 2008 and 2009 vintages of Propaganda with this shipment. In February, these Citizens received a bottle of the 2009 Frogtown Audacity.
There is only one-way to describe our spring 2013 – cool (sometimes downright cold) and rainy! I will take cool/cold/ rainy any spring over frost, particularly the three frosts we experienced in spring 2012. Our grape vines never totally recovered from these 2012 frosts, resulting in the lowest yields we ever experienced at Frogtown. We had the coolest March Frogtown has ever experienced in 2013 and the most rain in the period January 1 through May 25. The following are rain amounts and number of days for each of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 vintage years:
While most years we can expect rain in the mid-20 inches for this period of January 1 through May 25, this year we received 40 inches, more than a 150% increase over normal. But most significantly look at the number of days of rain and the percentage of rain per day. 2013’s number of rain days was not “out of line” with the past, but the amount of rain Frogtown received per rain day was significantly higher. The winter and spring of 2013 is like what was historically experienced in Georgia many years ago. In 2013 a rainy day was usually rain for the whole day. This constant all-day rain is not typical what we experienced since the vineyard was started in 1999.
The cool/cold March and April has been good for setting the fruitfulness of our primary buds. This was evident in a really good even bud break this year. Bud break was at least a week later than “normal”. As I write these Notes, our Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Chambourcin, and D Field Seyval are commencing flowering. After flowering fruit set occurs.
The weather professionals (can you believe them) tell us the weather for the next 10 days will be ideal for flowing and fruit set. It is projected that the rainy cool temperatures will cease and some relatively warm and dry days are forecasted. Such weather is exactly what is required for excellent fruit set (i.e. yields and vine balance). Will we get this weather? And if we get this weather in the next 10 days, what about the weather after the next 10 days when most of our red wine grapes set their fruit?
I have been spending a considerable amount of my time mowing and spraying herbicide. The cool temperatures and rain is just what the grass and weeds want in spring. The rest of our “vineyard” crew have been eliminating 40 to 50 percent of the vine shoots, which represents approximately 35 to 40 percent of the fruit clusters developed at bud break; cleaning the trunks and arms of shoots, positioning the shoots in our trellises and completing our new plantings, including placing grow tubes on our new vines. So, by default, it was up to me to do the lion’s share of mowing and weed killing in the vine rows. If we do not stay on top of the mowing and spraying during the spring, the weeds will take hold in the vine rows and our vineyard will not be as picturesque as I want. So far the vineyard looks great, probably the best since the early days.
We have completed construction of the new Wedding Ceremony Pavilion between vineyard rows in our lower B Block vineyard next to the lake. We will meet at this new Pavilion for our June 2nd Soiree. For those of you planning on attending the June 2nd Soiree, be prepared! We will discuss these Notes as they relate to the discussions on mouthfeel and Propaganda below. I plan on putting y’all to work in a lively discussion, but no testing or grading. Wow, being a Frogtown Citizen not only means no taxation but also no test taking!
We have commenced construction of our Hahira tasting room at Exit 29 at Interstate 75.
Upcoming Calendar Items
In reviewing the 2013 Frogtown Events Calendar, you will notice there is a Georgia Fine Wine Alliance scheduled at Frogtown on August 17, 2013. I think the summer Georgia Fine Wine Alliance dinner at Wolf Mountain will occur either on the 31st of August or the 7th of September. The first Georgia Fine Wine Alliance Dinners were exceptional wine and food pairings. Make reservations early for the August 17th dinner. We were oversubscribed for the spring Georgia Fine Wine Alliance dinner at Frogtown.
Select Discussion of Mouthfeel in Red Wine
To me, mouthfeel is the most significant characteristic separating good from not so good wine and great wine from very good wine.
The attention Frogtown gives to mouthfeel is very significant and primarily a function of:
(i)Harvesting ripe succulent fruit.
(ii) The selection of yeasts, application of certain fermentation protocols adopted by Frogtown, and utilization of certain fermentation aids during the relatively short period of time alcohol fermentation occurs.
[In addition to the above, with regard to WHITE wines made by Frogtown, a third function is applied]:
(iii) Decisions during and immediate after white wine fermentation; whether or not to (i) put white wines through malolactic fermentation (all red wines go through this conversion of malolactic acid to lactic acid, a much more gentle form of acid) and/or (ii) subject white wines to lees stirring (red wines are never lees stirred and most white wine lees stirring is relegated to barrel fermented Chardonnay wines.
No discussion of this third function of white winemaking will be discussed in these Notes. I plan of discussing the topics of lees stirring and malolactic fermentation in the future. The elimination of this third topic results in the remainder of these Notes focusing on the discussion of mouthfeel as it relates to RED wines.
OK so what is “mouthfeel” in RED wine?
There is no reason why wine should have a harsh tactile sensation or texture. If wines exhibit these characteristics, such wines are just mediocre or bad wines. The mouthfeel descriptors for such wine are astringent, harsh, lip puckering, sour, acidic. It is the description of the “dark side” of wine. Such wines are also unbalanced and do not possess pleasing aroma and flavors. We would never think of bottling and selling such a wine at Frogtown; so there is no need to discuss these negative tactile sensations.
So in its most rudimentary form, good mouthfeel is equivalent to wines that are not harsh, overly acidic, astringent, or sour in the mouth. Simply put “good” mouthfeel is the major ingredient of good wine and usually the precursor to a balanced wine.
In my preparation of wine-tasting notes for the wines I make, the following descriptors have been used in the description of Frogtown wines: big, bold, full, supple, round, rich, lush, sweet, tannic, and chewy. These tactile, textural descriptors of wine all relate to the general sensation of the wine in the mouth (i.e. mouthfeel). Notice that the descriptors above are not normally used in connection with flavors or aromas which are a separate and distinct component of wine tasting.
Other than the decisions made at Frogtown concerning oak aging, I pay no attention to the flavors and aromas of Frogtown wines. Such flavors and aromas develop naturally in due course during the period after fermentation is completed and prior to bottling (usually 2 to 3 years for reds).
Now let’s put the above two primarily functions of mouthfeel in Frogtown red wine together.
Harvest – there is simply no substitute for fully ripe grapes in winemaking. Growing wine grapes on the southerly side of the Dahlonega Plateau is the most significant ingredient in Frogtown’s success in making premium and ultra premium wines in Georgia. We ripen our fruit, including Cabernet Sauvignon, the most difficult of the premium red wine grapes to ripen. Our vineyard location gives our vines the longest growing period on the East Coast. Our long growing season is similar to many of the premiere wine growing regions of the world.
If red wine tannins are harsh and angular at the fermentation tank resulting from what is delivered to the winery during harvest, there is very little a winemaker can do to deliver good mouthfeel without stripping the wine by employing protocols of fining, racking, filtering or havens, should we say the word – adding sugar to a finished “dry” wine in very small amounts that only assist in mouthfeel. So to achieve big supple tannins RIPE fruit is needed. Tannin maturation is the last element in red grape ripening. Tannins can be big and supple, as is the case in Frogtown’s Bordeaux varietals and Tannat and Touriga based wines.
Yeast and Fermentation Protocols – Frogtown has experimented making red wine (i) with over twenty-five different yeasts, (ii) employing many different protocols at various intensities, and (ii) used fermentation aids in various proportions. This is an arduous task since only very small wine batches are made with different yeasts, protocols, and fermentation aids. Glad these experiments are behind me. Only rarely, if new yeast becomes available or I want to “tinker” with one or more of our fermentation protocols or fermentation aids, do I experiment with such yeast or modified protocols or fermentation aids. Are fermentation protocols, fermentation aids, and yeast important in fermentation for mouthfeel development? Yes, yes, and yes.
What are fermentation aids? Over the last 10 plus years fermentation aids have been developed by the relatively few (mostly European) manufactures of fermentation products (yeasts, fining agents, and the new fermentation aids) though years of significant experimentation. These fermentation aids are in the nature of natural by-products of yeasts and refined natural tannin additions. Frogtown has utilized these new products to a limited extent. Do these fermentation aids affect mouthfeel? I believe there is only an upside to these fermentations aids; they are natural products and our own trails demonstrate the positive effect on mouthfeel.
Please focus on this: there is a tremendous difference between adding an aid at fermentation and adding an aid (fining element) to finished wine. When “wine” is only grape juice, skins, and seeds or new wine (immediately after fermentation ceases), additions and protocols like long pump overs, extended, extend macerations, natural tannin and yeast product additions, as fermentation aids, are significantly less invasive than additions to finished wine during the wine aging process or before bottling.
After the conclusion of fermentation, the aging of red wine in oak barrels is the only significant winemaking protocol that affects the mouthfeel of our wines. Frogtown style of non-invasive winemaking means NO wine is racked during oak aging and NO wine, is fined with milk or animal by products in aid of creating (modifying) the mouthfeel of our wines. Only white wines are filtered.
During many tastings of red (or white) wines that I conduct here at Frogtown a wine taster will comment that [blank] Frogtown wine taste sweeter than [blank] Frogtown wine. Since all Frogtown wines are dry, generally registering the lowest levels of residual sugar (most are less than .005% residual sugar), why do these tasters use a descriptor of “sweet” when describing a wine that has no sugar? There is an association between tactile, textural mouthfeel elements and the perception of sweetness. Since Frogtown does not add even a minute amount of sugar to a Frogtown labeled finished wine and none of the fermentation aids contain sugar, where does the perceived “sweetness” come from? Balance and Mouthfeel. A balanced dry wine is very difficult to achieve since the easiest way to balance the sensation of acid is to add sugar. Ask the German winemakers. What aids the sensation of balance in a completely dry wine is Mouthfeel. Good mouthfeel helps “balance” the tactile experience of wine touching the inside of the wine drinker’s mouth and aids in giving a sweet effect to the wine which beneficially aids in the perception of acid and tannin. Sweet without sugar. This perception (appearance) of sweetness varies between different wines. Alcohol, which is derived from sugar, also has a sweet taste. The right yeasts and fermentation aids “help” enhance the sweetness of alcohol, particularly in relatively “high alcohol wines” (at 13.0% and higher) and therefore the overall perception of sweet. Most Frogtown wines contain this higher range of alcohol.
Discussion of Propaganda Wines.
The most significant development in Frogtown’s Propaganda wines appears under the first heading of these Notes. Bordeaux styles wines are made all over the world. It is very special if an American Bordeaux style red wine achieves recognition from someone of the stature of Jancis Robinson.
I have written a number of times about our Propaganda wines in past Winemaker Notes. I was an active purchaser of Bordeaux wines during the period of my life when I practiced law. I studied the different Bordeaux Regions and Châteaux’s. I became most impressed with the Merlot grape. I was enamored with the red wines made in the Pomerol Region of Bordeaux. These full-bodied wines were particularly seductive. Interesting, of all the Bordeaux grapes grown at Frogtown, our Merlot based wines are the most compelling and yes, seductive in my opinion. We have been blessed with not only premium Merlot, but also premium Cabernet Sauvignon grapes which, when blended with Merlot, render a significantly “Bordeaux like” wine. Merlot, the most significant grape variety in Propaganda is Frogtown’s equivalent to a Pomerol wine from Bordeaux France.
In 2008 we blended a relatively small amount (5%) of Petit Verdot into our 2008 Propaganda. In 2009, in addition to 5% Petit Verdot we blended 5% Malbec into our Propaganda.
The 2008 and 2009 vintages of Propaganda definitely are recognizable as Frogtown Propaganda wines. The 2008 vintage is much more developed at this time than the 2009 vintage of Propaganda. Both of these two Propaganda wines are “babies” in the world of Propaganda wine. Courtesy of one of our Citizens, Cydney and I recently enjoyed a bottle of the fantastic and memorable 2002 Frogtown Propaganda. It is aging very gracefully since this wine was harvested and made into wine 11 years ago.
It will be interesting to drink these two vintages of Propaganda side by side as these wines develop in the bottle.
Wines Included in the Shipment.
All Red Citizens – will receive a bottle of the 2008 Frogtown Propaganda, a bottle of the 2009 Propaganda, and a bottle of Applause, FSO. The regular retail cost of these wines, without sales tax is $89.97. After applying your Citizens discount, the cost of these wines plus sales tax is $77.01 for pick-up and $89.01 with the $12.00shipping cost added.
Mixed Red and White Citizens – will receive a bottle the 2008 Frogtown Propaganda, a bottle of the 2009 Propaganda, and a bottle of the Frogtown 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. The regular retail cost of these wines, without sales tax is$87.97. After applying your Citizens discount, the cost of these wines plus sales tax is $75.30 for pick-up and $87.30 with the $12.00 shipping cost added.
All White Citizens – will receive a bottle of the 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, a bottle of the 2011 Vineaux Blanc, and a bottle of the 2011 Vineaux Rose. The regular retail cost of these wines, without sales tax is $53.97. After applying your Citizens discount, the cost of these wines plus sales tax is $46.19 for pick-up and $58.19 with the $12.00 shipping cost added.
Hope to see all of our Citizens soon at the Winery.
Best to All of our Citizens, Craig