September ’13 Winemaker Notes
Dear Frogtown Citizen:
National and International Recognition
As difficult a year as this has been for farming grapes on Georgia’s Dahlonega Plateau (see topic immediately below), the national and international recognition Frogtown received has made 2013 a most extraordinary and rewarding year. At the beginning of this year, I had no idea that:
(i) Frogtown would be designated a Super Star in the new publication American Wines by Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy released in January 2013; and
(ii) I would be included as one of the 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers by Michael Cervin in his INTOWINE.COM Article (http://www.intowine.com/top-100-most-influential-us-winemakers)
Yes, even more extraordinary and rewarding by a wide margin than the 2 Silver Medals (2002 Frogtown Propaganda and 2002 Frogtown Touché) and one Bronze Medal (2002 Frogtown Tannat) Frogtown received in the 2004 San Francisco International Wine Competition (Frogtown’s second year of winemaking) and achieving the distinction, since 2010, as one of the most, if not the most, awarded winery, not located in the State of California, in Major U. S. Commercial Wine Competitions (mostly California competitions).
2013 Weather and Vineyard Conditions.
From January 1, 2013 through August 22, 2013, Frogtown’s vineyard received over 72 inches of rain, a good portion of which was received after bud break. This amount of rainfall results in over twice the amount for this period ever received by Frogtown since the inception of grape growing in 1999. It rained almost every day in May, June, July, and the beginning of August. Challenging is an understatement. Every day our vineyard mission was simply to focus our efforts in keeping Frogtown’s vine canopies open and as free of disease as possible until weather conditions improved in order to ripen Frogtown’s 2013 fruit. As the saying goes, hope springs internal. But just hoping was not the recipe for success in 2013. It took a herculean effort by our vineyard staff and an expenditure of twice the amount Frogtown usually experiences in the cost of spray materials to keep the vineyard in good condition and benefit from the change in the weather pattern which commenced on August 23, 2013, the day the constant barrage of daily rain stopped. From August 23, through the date of these Winemaker Notes, Frogtown vineyard received only 3.05 inches of rain. From August 23 to September 20, Frogtown received just 0.24 inches of rain!!!! These 28 days of virtually no rain, coupled with a very good fruit set, has virtually made (saved) the 2013 vintage. On September 21 and September 24 Frogtown received 1.08 and 0.19 inches of rain without much affect, but on September 25, 1.54 inches of rain fell on Frogtown as a moderate setback. If my friends in California received 2.81 inches of rain immediately before or during harvest their cries of anguish would be heard all the way to Georgia from California.
Completing this weather report, no rain has been received since September 25 and the weather going into the first week of October looks very favorable.
In addition to all the rain, 2013 spring and summer in North Georgia has been one of the coolest periods ever recorded.
So what is the bottom line on this 2013 vintage?
2013 is a year that will mature fruit at lower Brix than normal, but other quality parameters, including fruit flavor (lack of vegetal character), acid and skin and seed development are in fine balance. I think we have a very good vintage in progress, with the distinct possibility of a number of excellent gold medal wines.
Commencement of Harvest 2013
Harvest commenced on September 16; nearly two weeks later than normal.
The 2013 Vintage will be the “poster child” for what I have said for years: I can make Frogtown quality terroir wines from hydrated, relatively low Brix grapes; but I cannot make Frogtown quality terroir wines from grapes that lack ripeness and possess vegetal flavors. Georgia’s Dahlonega Plateau, being the southern most viticultural area on the East Coast, has again delivered us ripe succulent fruit in a most difficult vintage. It will now be up to me to apply the winemaking protocols Frogtown developed over the last 12 years to complete the journey to award-winning wines.
In my December 2013 Winemakers Notes I will review the 2013 harvest in more detail.
Tidbit of Interest About our Federal Government
The TTB, the Federal Agency that is part of Home Land Security (the old federal alcohol and tobacco agency became part of the Department of Home Land Security), requires all wine labels to be approved prior to sale. During the last year, as a result of the design modifications to our labels, Cydney has been submitting and obtaining label approval for what is now 28 Frogtown labeled wines. While this process has been progressing well, I mentioned to Cydney to include on the back of one of the new labels “absolutely no sugar is added to our finished wines.” The TTB rejected our application and refused to approve this label. Since the design and wording of this label was the same for labels previously approved other than the above wording, Cydney asked the TTB why the label was not approved. The explanation from the TTB was that the wording: “absolutely no sugar is added to our finished wines” is disparaging to other wineries that do add sugar to their finished wines. Wow! My almost 30 years of practicing law says: jump all over that. My 14 years of grape growing and wine makings says: most interesting.
As many of you know, Cydney and I have been investigating and searching for California vineyard land to purchase and develop. Knowing me, Cydney agreed that having a California vineyard would facilitate us visiting, on a more consistent basis, the most beautiful and absolutely the most talented Winemaker in California and to continue our efforts to thoroughly spoil this Winemaker’s two beautiful and enchanting young daughters.
Along the way, my aforesaid Winemaking daughter, Jordan, introduced me to Daniel Daou a winemaker and winery owner in Paso Robles. Daniel and I have become very good friends. Knowing of my interest, Daniel offered to sell me a parcel he and his wife Robin purchased for their home and the development of a 25-acre vineyard. This parcel was purchase by Daniel and Robin after Daniel began the development of Daou Vineyards and Winery in the Adelaida section of Paso Robles (possibly, soon to be a separate Paso Robles AVA). This 50-acre parcel, also located in the Adelaida section of Paso Robles, is now under contract to Cydney and me. More about this expansion of Frogtown and Adelaida grape growing in future Winemaker Notes.
The world of winemaking is really small. Daniel Daou and a number of the winemakers I judge with at the Winemakers Challenge Competition in San Diego are also included in Michael Cervin’s list of the 100 Most Influential U.S. Winemakers.
What Wines to Expect in the Coming Months
All of the Frogtown Red wines we are going to produce in 2010 and the remaining 2011 and 2012 Frogtown White wines have been bottled during this calendar year and will be ready for release. The December 2013, February 2014, and May 2014 Wine Club shipments will be fulfilled from these wines. Such wines include:
2010 Frogtown Touché
2010 Frogtown Intensity
Frogtown NV Applause, Second SO
2010 Frogtown Bravado
Frogtown Shotgun NV, Third Reload
2010 Frogtown Norton
2010 Frogtown Disclosure Merlot
2010 Frogtown Touriga
2010 Frogtown Reserve Tannat
2010 Frogtown Sangiovese
2012 Frogtown Vineaux Blanc
2012 Frogtown Petit Manseng
2012 Frogtown Sauvignon Blanc
2012 Frogtown Disclosure Steel Chardonnay
2011 Frogtown Family Reserve Chardonnay
2011 Frogtown Viognier
The 2010 Frogtown Sangiovese has been previously released and included as one of the wines in this Shipment. The 2011 Frogtown Reserve Chardonnay is the first time Frogtown has bottled a white wine under a Reserve designation. This Chardonnay was fermented and aged in 5+ year-old neutral oak barrels for 18 months. This is my style of Chardonnay, very Burgundian, with slight nuances of oak and 100% malolactic fermentation. Our 2002 Frogtown Chardonnay was also made in a Burgundian style. From 2003 though 2010, our Barrel fermented Chardonnay’s have been made in a California style in 100% new French oak. It will be interesting to hear your comments on this Reserve Chardonnay.
The 2010 Frogtown Reserve Tannat is the first bottling of a Tannat varietal as a Reserve designation.
The 2010 Frogtown Intensity is a new label containing the Bordeaux varietals Cabernet Sauvignon (49%), Petit Verdot (22%), and Malbec (29%). This is a Medoc, Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, Bordeaux style wine in contrast to our Frogtown Propaganda, a Pomerol, Merlot dominant, Bordeaux style wine. Petit Verdot and Malbec were later plantings at Frogtown. I am very pleased with this our first Frogtown Intensity.
Being a “Bordeaux Guy”, if you think of our recent 2009 Reserve Cabernet Franc as a Cabernet Franc dominant, Saint Émilion, Bordeaux style wine, we now have made red wines in the style of the Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Medoc, the Merlot dominant Pomerol, and the Cabernet Franc dominant Saint Émilion.
2013 Harvest Day with Craig. What happened on the 21st of September? IT RAINED! Our Citizens picked Marsanne and Roussanne grapes IN THE RAIN. Actually, SINGING IN THE RAIN. It was fun and no one seemed concerned about the rain. Saturday was a full day of picking grapes, processing grapes, and lots of wonderful food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and, of course, wine. Knowing rain was coming, I picked 9 tons of Sangiovese the day before Harvest Day. So the 1.8 tons of Marsanne and Roussanne plus the 9 tons of Sangiovese kept us busy. On Sunday we had another Harvest Day with Craig, harvesting .7 tons of Moscato grapes. We kept these grapes in cold storage until Monday when we harvested the rest of the Moscato and processed all the Moscato grapes. Since Harvest Day 2013 was a relatively small harvest of 2.5 tons in total, I decided to contribute $500.00 to the Wounded Warriors Project instead of the smaller amount resulting from the normal contribution of two dollars for each harvested bucket of grapes. Through your efforts, Harvest Day with Craig has resulted in over $2,000.00 to date being contributed to the Wounded Warriors Project.
Wines Included in this Shipment.
All Red Citizens will receive a bottle of the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($33.99), a bottle of the 2008 Frogtown Touriga Nacional ($35.99), and a bottle of the 2010 Frogtown Sangiovese ($20.99). The following is information on the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2008 Touriga:
2009 Frogtown Cabernet Sauvignon. 2009 was an unusual vintage at Frogtown. The year was very rainy at bud break and fruit set. Because of the early rain the decision was made to drop over one-half of the set fruit in May and June. The weather then cleared for July, August and the first 15 days in September. As a result of the lighter fruit load on our vines, all our fruit was harvested by September 15th with the exception of the Cabernet Sauvignon. We then experienced over 20 inches of rain from the 16th till the 25th of September. The Cabernet Sauvignon was harvested over the last 5 days in September. It really was somewhat of a surprise (perhaps “miracle”) that the Cabernet Sauvignon developed so well in barrel. Our 2009 Cabernet wine became a major blending partner in the 2009 Frogtown Propaganda, the 2009 Frogtown Audacity, Applause, First Standing Ovation, and the wonderful 2009 Frogtown Petit Verdot. The remaining Cabernet Sauvignon became this varietal bottling which is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Bottled after 36 months in oak, we have waited over a year since bottling to release this 2009 Frogtown Cabernet. Not yet submitted to any competition.
2008 Frogtown Touriga Nacional. The last of the varietals bottled from the 2008 vintage. This Touriga spent 30 months in oak and almost 2 years in the bottle before this release. In June of this year, our 2008 Frogtown Touriga received a Gold Medal at the 2013 Critics Challenge International, San Diego California. This is a great bottle of wine. On the nose you will experience complex aromas of violets and flowers. In your mouth, from the front palate through the long lingering velvet finish, you will then experience complex powerful deep full-bodied dark berry flavors on the palate.
The regular retail cost of these wines, without sales tax is $90.97. All red Citizens will receive a discount of 20% to reduce the Citizen cost of these wines to $72.77 before sales tax. The addition of sales tax results in a cost for pick-up of $77.86 and the addition of $12.00 shipping results in a cost for these wines shipped of $89.86.
Mixed Red and White Citizens are receiving a bottle of our 2009 Frogtown Cabernet Sauvignon ($33.99), a bottle of our 2008 Frogtown Touriga ($35.99), referred to above, and a bottle of the 2011 Frogtown Sauvignon Gris ($19.99). As compared to other Frogtown Sauvignon Gris bottled in the past, the 2011 Frogtown Sauvignon Gris contains 15% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The addition of the Sauvignon Blanc grapes to this Sauvignon Gris labeled wine results in a more elegant, complex white wine but with the intensity of the Sauvignon Gris grape. This 2011 Frogtown Sauvignon Gris received a Silver Medal at the 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
The regular retail cost of these wines, without sales tax is $89.97. Mixed Citizens will receive a discount of 20% to reduce the Citizen cost of these wines to $71.97 before sales tax. The addition of sales tax results in a cost for pick-up of $77.01 and the addition of $12.00 shipping results in a cost for these wines shipped of $89.01.
All White Citizens are receiving a bottle of our 2011 Frogtown MRV ($24.99), a bottle of the 2009 Frogtown Viognier ($24.99), and a bottle of the 2009 Frogtown Roussanne ($20.99).
This All White shipment is an all-Rhone Valley white wine shipment. Would have loved to have included the three-time Gold Medal winning 2009 Marsanne, but our Citizens have purchased the last bottle of this Marsanne long ago. I recently tasted the 2009 Roussanne and 2009 Viognier and believe these bottles have never tasted better. The MRV is a deep colored white wine due to its 18-month aging in neutral oak. Although deep in color, this wine is without any oxidized aromas or flavors.
The regular retail cost of these wines, without sales tax is $70.97. All White Citizens will receive a discount of 20% to reduce the Citizen cost of these wines to $56.77 before sales tax. The addition of sales tax results in a cost for pick-up of $60.74 and the addition of $12.00 shipping results in a cost of these wines shipped of $72.74
With Best Wishes to all our Citizens, Craig