Cellar Notes…from the Winemaker

 

I was fortunate enough to wiggle in some vacation time at the
end of the 2015 harvest, being as small as it was. Even more fortunate
to be on the “Enchanted Rhine” river cruise with a number of Wilson
Creek wine club members. We were cruising down river and drinking
wine. “What do you think of this one?” was commonly asked of
me by our California wine drinking friends as they struggled to
understand the wines.
Winemaking style in Europe is quite different then that of
California, being more acid based and food driven, and less fruity
than the California style. As a result of this revelation or in some
cases confusion, I began comparing wine to pizza.
We are all very familiar with pizza, there is the New York style
having thin crust and the Chicago style with thick crust as well as
the California style with all types of unusual toppings. Pizza truly
reflects on the region of its inception for example: Hawaiian pizza
with ham and pineapple. Pizza reflects on the regions temperament,
ethnicity and favorite ingredients. We may have a style that we
prefer but we can also appreciate the other styles. As Americans we
look at pizza as a whole meal and feel that we own it. Yet pizza is
Italian, and it’s made and viewed quite differently there.
Wine is very much the same as pizza in this respect. In Europe,
wine is viewed a an integral part of the meal. It reflects on the
temperament, growing conditions, and viewpoint of the region.
The soil minerals, sunshine and the flavors come through in its
wine. As a result, the wines have pronounced acidity followed by
fruit. They tend to be lower in alcohol and thinner in body. These
wines truly shine with a nice lunch or dinner as the French and
Germans think it should.
The world of wine is as vast as the wine growing regions
themselves. Styles, flavors and approach to winemaking is a true
reflection of that uniqueness. Similar in respect to pizza with thick
crust or thin, tomato sauce of white, and the vast amounts of
toppings that are offered.
I found myself anxiously awaiting the next stop along the
Rhine to try its wines and order pizza with anchovies!
Variant Series Cabernet Sauvignon and White Cabernet

Announcing the new Variant Series

Actually…it’s not “new.” Our popular White Cabernet and Duet have a fresh new look!

Variant Series Cabernet Sauvignon and White Cabernet

Variant Series Cabernet Sauvignon and White Cabernet

Variant: ‘verēant/noun:  1.  A form or version of something that differs in some respect from other forms of the same thing or from a standard.

Cabernet Sauvignon, the world’s best traveled red wine varietal, whose regional names span from Bidure to Vidure, attest to the adaptability and variability in wine making styles of this nobel grape. The Variant Series showcases the amazing array of possibilities when a craft winery can control all aspects of creating a wine from vine to bottle. The Variant Series Cabernet is similar in style to our Duet blend of lightly oaked, soft tannin and fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon with a little Zinfandel to support the fruit and give a zip of spice. This is the red wine for those who thought they did not like reds. All the complexity and layers of a rich Cabernet but softer on the palate and can be chilled.

The poster-child for variant behavior is our White Cabernet Sauvignon which is now appropriately in the Variant Series. The White Cabernet Sauvignon is an extreme example of the possibilities of vineyard and cellar influence on a wine, turning a traditionally rich, tannic, dark red wine into a white wine with aromas of fruit and melon, yet still retaining the rich mouthfeel of a classic Cabernet Sauvignon. The “White Cab” still resides in its classic cobalt blue bottle but now with a clean silk-screened label and shares this new look with its fellow rebel, the Variant Series Cabernet Sauvignon.

Variant Series White Cabernet bottling line

Winemaker, Gus Vizgirda and team member, Mikayla, bottling the Variant Series White Cabernet.

Variant Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Formerly known as Duet, the new Variant Series Cabernet Sauvignon is being bottled.

Explore With Us

We, as wine enthusiasts, have a certain passion for life.  A passion for having unique experiences, making discoveries and then introducing and sharing those discoveries with our friends and family.

We in the wine business are a lucky bunch. We have the delightful responsibility of keeping abreast of trends in the industry. This often requires us to travel to different regions visiting vineyards, meeting with fellow winegrowers and tasting wines. Small wineries like to help each other by sharing what we’ve learned.

We really don’t see each other as competition, but rather brothers in arms trying to battle against Mother Nature in the vineyards and tame the mysteries of biology in the cellar. We know that there’s plenty of space in the world for great wines from different places. We all share the common bond of trying to emphasize the uniqueness of a particular varietal, grown in a particular place.

It’s this last idea, a particular varietal, grown in a particular place that is the cornerstone of a new series of wines we’re bringing exclusively to our Wine Club members. As part of our education we’ll blind taste five wines from five regions. For example we’ll taste Chardonnay from our estate, from wineries in Santa Barbara, Monterey, Napa and Sonoma.

What we’ve learned over the years is that there is no single best Chardonnay. There can be many best Chardonnays, just from different regions. Each is a unique expression of Chardonnay because of the terroir from the place it’s grown and the way that the winemaker chooses to emphasize that terroir.

A vineyard view of the Santa Rita Hills.

A vineyard view of the Santa Rita Hills.

Our new Explorer Series of wines will give our Wine Club members the same chance we at the winery have had to examine wines that are grown in other regions. Behind the scenes we’ve been partnering with growers and a custom crush winery up North to grow grapes and produce wines to our specifications. We’ve been making these wines at the highest quality level to deliver to you archetypal examples of a particular varietal, grown in a particular place. Each wine will be only be available for a limited time in limited quantities and then we’ll move on to another varietal from another place.

Greg sifting sediment during a coastal county trip.

Vineyard Manager Greg sifts sediment with his hands during a coastal wine country trip.

Gus sampling wine on coastal trip.

Wilson Creek’s Winemaker, Gus, sampling wine during a recent trip to the coastal wine country.

You will have fun comparing and contrasting the wine with a wine we already make here from our estate, like Chardonnay. In your special release July shipment you’ll get our 2014 Russian River Valley Chardonnay which is an archetypal cool climate Chardonnay. This wine will be exciting to compare to our brand new barrel fermented 2014 Family Reserve Chardonnay from our estate. We bottled both of these wines this past May and we think they’re both going to blow you away!
In other cases we’ll share with you a wine we don’t, or can’t, grow here at Wilson Creek – like Pinot Noir. Our Mediterranean climate isn’t well suited to growing Pinot fruit, so we’ve sourced some of the best stuff out there from Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara. The cult wines from this region are some of the most highly rated and you’re going to love our 2012 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.

It’s taken us some time to get these wines together and you’ll see more of them in the fall. Without giving away all our secrets, get excited to taste things like intense and powerful Petite Sirah from the Sierra Foothills, crisp and fruity Sauvignon Blanc from Santa Barbara, Sparkling Shiraz just in time for the holidays, and even an Oakville Cabernet around a year from now.  We hope you join us on this journey of exploring great wines from great places!

How to survive Valentine’s Day

With only a couple days left til February 14th, I hope you’re not fretting about what to do. If you do happen to find yourself in that situation just remember one thing, KISS.
That’s right, KISS – keep it stupid simple!
Don’t know what I mean? Ok, let’s try this…

Beautiful day? CHECK! (if you happen to live in sunny SoCal you’re in luck, otherwise this one can be modified)

Large blanket? CHECK!

Mood music? – CHECK! Whatever floats your boat, or hers for that matter. (Long gone are the days of carrying around a boombox. Now we flip out our phones or tablets and VOILA!)

Basket? – CHECK! Filled with goodies of course. (baguette, crackers, cheese, grapes, strawberries, chocolate truffles)

2 stemmed glasses? CHECK!

Bottle of wine? CHECK! (or two)

Not sure what wine to get? No problem! These suggestions will help…
For white wine fans try,
a chilled bottle of Wilson Creek 2013 “Yes Dear” Chardonnay – afterall it is Valentine’s Day, “Yes Dear!!…”

For those who enjoy the sweeter side of life try,
a beautiful, chilled blue bottle of Wilson Creek 2014 White Cabernet Sauvignon

For those who are red hot at heart try,
a bottle of Wilson Creek Family Reserve 2012 Syrah

Fans of bubbles should try,
a chilled bottle of Wilson Creek’s new Sparkling Rose – she’ll be tickled pink!

and finally, if you enjoy the rich, luxe life try this extravagance in a bottle,
NV Late Harvest Chardonnay – a sipping delight!

182120195

There you have it. Valentine’s Day done right. Just remember, KISS!
1 happy lady? CHECK!
1 lucky man? CHECK! (Well, maybe, the rest is up to you)

Life’s Little Instructions: Mind Your “Manors”

It seems that when we get busy we tend to forget about what’s most important to us. We forget to smile, to appreciate and enjoy the world around us. So here are some simple “instructions” to help you get that little kick back in your step. And always, always Mind Your Manors!

Sing in the shower. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated. Watch a sunrise at least once a year. Leave the toilet seat in the down position. Never refuse homemade brownies. Strive for excellence not perfection. Plant a tree on your birthday. Learn three clean jokes. Return borrowed vehicles with a full tank of gas. Compliment three people every day. Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them. Leave everything a little better than you found it. Keep it simple. Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know. Floss your teeth. Ask for a raise when you feel you’ve earned it. Be forgiving of yourself and others. Over-tip breakfast waitresses. Say “Thank you” a lot. Say “please” a lot. Avoid negative people. Buy whatever kids are selling on card tables in their front yards. Wear polished shoes. Remember other people’s birthdays. Commit yourself to constant improvement. Carry jumper cables in your trunk. Have a firm handshake. Send lots of valentine cards and sign them, “someone who thinks you’re terrific.” Look people in the eye. Be the first to say “hello.” Use the good silver. Return all things you borrow. Make new friends but cherish the old ones. Keep secrets. Sing in a choir. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life. Wave to kids on a school bus as they pass by. Be there when people need you. Plant flowers every Spring. Have a dog. Always accept an outstretched hand. Feed a stranger’s expired parking meter. Don’t expect life to be fair. Never underestimate the power of love.  Drink champagne for no reason at all. Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation. Don’t be afraid to say, “I made a mistake.” Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” Compliment even small improvements. Keep your promises (no matter what). Marry only for love. Rekindle old friendships. Count your blessings. Call the Manor to make a reservation…951.699.9463

Wilson Creek Manor

A stay at the Manor makes a great gift!

Craftsmanship & Craft Wines

“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.” -Johannes Brahms

For those of you who have been able to join us for a tour of the winery and vineyards, you know that we describe ourselves as a “Craft Winery.” For those of you who have not yet gone on a tour, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??  The tours are about an hour in length, with numerous tastings for the same price as a normal tasting. A great deal and a great deal of fun!
Craftsmanship in winemaking is the artistic approach to making wine that achieves a unique expression in not only sensory qualities of  taste, smell and texture, but recognizes that the process encompasses and influences many aspects of community and ecology. Craft wines tell a story about where they came from and the people who made them. It may be impossible to define exactly what a craft wine is, but here are some aspects of people and place:

Authenticity: Family wineries are all the rage with marketing folks who want to put a personal touch on a business. This is an aspect that I don’t have to explain to anyone who has been to the winery. Gerry and Rosie Wilson, the elder statespersons of hospitality, infuse this place with such warmth and caring that it is not only a defining characteristic of the winery experience, but they make working here like having your coolest grandparents at work every day. The entire family works and plays here all the way down to Sarah Wilson, daughter of Mick and Deanna, who is our summer wine and soils lab assistant (at 9 years old and is a darn good assistant).

Passion: We are passionate about what we make because we know that you are passionate about what you drink.  We also know that you share our passion when the wine education classes, pairing events, and dinners sell out. Like us, you can’t learn enough about wine.

Character: Our wines have character because they are made by a collection of colorful characters. Come by and say “hi” to the winemaking or vineyard team and you will see what I mean.

Place: We are not making lowest common denominator wines to please the middle of the bell curve of the mass market. We make the most beautiful expression of Temecula Valley wines that we can and, in the process, expand the definition of what is possible from Temecula vineyards and cellars.

Community: Our definition of community is encompassing to include not only all of the people in our region but the ecosystems that support us all. Our commitment to biologically sustainable vineyard practices are specifically targeted at the improvement of wine quality, but are also part of our long-term commitment to being valuable contributors to the sustainability and improvement of quality of life for all of our fellow community members.

I hope you can come join us for a glass of the 2013 “Yes Dear” Chardonnay which is developing a beautiful smooth texture, our 2013 Muscat which may surprise you by its amazing bouquet but is drier than most Muscats, the new Duet which has been getting rave reviews from our cellar tastings, or our rich blend of fruit and soft tannins from the 2011 Malbec. The vineyard is setting fruit nicely this year, the cellar is flowing with great wines, and the winemaking team is overflowing with our enthusiasm for the opportunity to share our passion of the people and place we express by sharing a glass of wine with you.

Wishing you warm days and cool nights, Greg, aka, Bioman

GF and Happy

Wine & Dine Gluten-Free at Wilson Creek Winery’s Creekside Grille.

Whether you are celiac, gluten intolerant, or gluten-free (GF) by choice, we understand your need for a strict gluten-free diet as well as your desire to eat tasty and healthy GF food. My wife, Deanna, and I have celiac disease. In our own attempts to dine out and eat GF, we have been mistakenly “glutened”, like many of you, I’m sure. We understrand, and we want to provide a place for you to experience SAFE and DELICIOUS GF options (usually it’s one or the other).

It all started in 2008 when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I had symptoms for over 15 years, but like many others, I was misdiagnosed during that time. So when I learned I had to eat GF the rest of my life, I started to research and read as much as I could on the subject. During this research process my wife decided to get tested and she found out she also had celiac disease. What are the chances of that? We are now referred to as the “celiac poster couple”.

We quickly became frustrated in our search for good GF food and healthy/tasty dining options. We dined at restaurants that had claimed to offer GF dishes, but more often than not we would eventually get sick. As our dining-out options shrunk, we resigned to cooking all of our meals at home. At that time, we started brainstorming with our Creekside Grille Executive Chef on how we could serve good GF selections. Together, we researched cross contamination, GF storage, wait staff protocol, places where gluten can hide (sauces, rubs, dressings, certain cheeses, etc.) purchasing separate GF utensils (pans, knives, colanders, toasters, cutting boards, squeeze bottles for condiments, and GF staff training). We wanted to do it well or not at all.

In 2009 we decided to go for it and we launched our first GF menu. We came up with the idea to have black plates for all GF dishes to help all the wait staff (and guests) know that those items are GF. We also got rid of all soy sauce and replaced it with GF tamari sauce. We trained the staff in GF preparation and the needs of the GF guest. The word traveled fast (the GF community is pretty network and tech savvy), and many visitors now come to enjoy the expanded menu with a variety of delicious options.

Weather and Wine

March 2014 Vines

“Whether the weather be fine, Whether the weather be not,

Whether the weather be cold, Whether the weather be hot,

We’ll weather the weather, Whatever the whether, 

Whether we like it or not.” -author unknown

 

We will weather even this lack of weather. As much of the rest of the nation digs out under feet of snow with arctic temperatures, those of us in Southern California are happy with unseasonably warm temperatures, and sunny days. That is unless you are a viticulturist who, like Gene Kelly, love singing in the rain.

We are classified as a Mediterranean climate, as are many of the worlds’ premier wine regions, with hot summer days, cool evenings and the majority of rainfall in the winter months. Average rainfall for Temecula is 14.4 inches with 84% falling November to March. To date, we have only received 2.43 inches when the historical average is 10 inches and almost all of it came in a single event from February 27th to March 1st. However, we have drip irrigation so “Why the long face, Plowboy?” I am asked. The winter rains play a vital role in the ecology of the semi-arid soils especially irrigated soils. Over the dry months salts tend to build in the upper areas around the root zones. The winter rains dilute and flush out excess salts and move nutrients into the root zone. Fortunately, we have added thousands of tons of mulch and organic matter to our soils over the last year. This, in conjunction with microbial treatments and natural additives, like humic acids, are compensating and making what could have been a poor year into a challenging year with prospects of a modest decreased yield but continuing improvements in the grapes and wine. For those of you who joined us for the Wilson Creek Wine Academy class on pruning, you got a hands-on demonstration of how we are managing our canopy to keep quality in the forefront.

The cellar, however, is having a great year. Our new winemaker, Gus Vizgirda, jumped in with both fee and bugle a-blazing. I am not kidding! Gus calls the crew to lunch, back to work and ends the day with bugle calls, so please stop calling Dept. of Wildlife with displaced moose sightings.

So while I am still praying for a late rain and Gus is practicing his bugle calls, the wines this year are better than ever and the future looks so bright that we are walking on sunshine (am I mixing my pop music metaphors?)

We look forward to seeing you at the winery.

– Greg “Bioman” Pennyroyal

 

Corky Beginnings

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, as an employee of Wilson Creek winery is that you will not find a surplus of corks floating around the Creek; Wilson Creek that is. Have you ever wondered what we do with all that popped cork?

On any given day bottles of wine and champagne are opened and shared among visiting guests looking for the ultimate tasting experience. Many of the wine corks are taken by the next future Mrs., to be transformed into a creative centerpiece for their wine country themed wedding reception.  Wondering what else do we do with leftover corks, just ask Event Manager, Jeff Littrell. Every year in the spring, the wineries in Temecula Valley compete in a cork sculpture contest, during the “World of Wine” tasting event. And every year Jeff wows us with his cork masterpieces! This year he created a giant, cork wine glass that continuously pours red wine. Last year Jeff created the winning cork sculpture, a fierce lion coming out of the top of a wine barrel with paws and claws ready to pounce. The year before that he constructed the leaning Tower of Pisa. It’s amazing what you can do with a little cork, glue and imagination.

We’ve had our fair share of fun with the used corks but by far the most authentic idea was fashioned by the matriarch of the winery herself, Rosie Wilson.  The story as Rosie tells it was in the summer of 2000 at the Balloon and Wine Festival, at Lake Skinner, in Temecula CA. It was the first year the Wilson family was able to share their newly vintage wine.  The popped corks from these bottles had not yet served a purpose until the Wilson kids came across some yarn, had decided to make cork necklaces to give to anyone who tasted their wine that day. This gesture sparked conversation about their life changing decision to quit their day jobs, move to Temecula, make wine and the opening of their new winery. The guests were told that if they stopped by the winery wearing their cork necklaces they would get a free wine tasting.

To this day Rosie Wilson makes hundreds of cork necklaces for guests who are celebrating a special occasion. The next time you find yourself at the winery and are celebrating your birthday or anniversary, let the Wilson Creek staff and family help you celebrate. After all, Rosie Wilson thinks everyone deserves to get corked on their special day! -by Barb Hilde, Wine Club Mgr

The creator of our cork necklaces wearing a few on her birthday. Rosie still makes all of our cork necklaces by hand.

The creator of our cork necklaces wearing a few on her birthday. Rosie still makes all of our cork necklaces by hand.

A NOAT FRUM MOLLY MERLOT

Molly in tutu and hi-tops.

2day az I wuz grayzing on the grass in the frunt yard uv the winery, I thot abowt whut a lucky pig I am. 

Todae wuz a beeyootifull sunny day, end ther wur lawts of kids ther 2 play with me. The panzees wur in blume, so I got 2 hav a tayst or so when my mom wuzn’t wautching me.  I had on my noo Easter hat that my frend Judy mayd 4 me, so I wuz reely stylish, end I lookd and smelld reel pretty, becuz I had a bath this moarning.  Judy mayks awl kinds uv owtfits 4 me – wedding, patryotic, awtum, Hal-o-ween, Valintyns, end uthers.  I lyk the hats, but I giv my mom a bad tym when she trys to put a tootoo on me.  I lyk 2 go 2 wurk at the winery, but thay woant let me go in2 the resturaunt, becuz thay say pigs Rnt aloud….but it awl smels sooooo gud!  (Dawgs Rnt aloud eether, so that seems fayr 2 me.)

Mi dawg frends Cabby and Chianti wur ther 2 hav the kids pet them, 2.  Chianti lyz on his bak end grins, end sumtyms he also duz a danss with hiz bak legs.  Cabby looks  at U with hiz big broun I’s end evry1 thincks he iz so cyoot.  I hoap that evry1 nos that pigs R smartr end cleenr than dawgs!