Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Wine for Nurses

I do not have masks.
I do not have ventilators.
I do have wine - so this is what I give, in appreciation.

Dear Maria,

I feel your fear.
Do not be afraid, for the people are with you.
We pray for you.
We hold you in our hearts.
You are our savior, our comforter, our healer.
You fear the coming battle, yet you prepare, donning your mask, your armor, to confront the foe.
Fear not - the Lord is with you!

You saw Wine for Nurses - you said, "Here I am."
You asked, and you shall receive.
Blessed are the nurses, for they are God's healing hands on earth.

About that wine I sent you ....
Harvested in 2017, ten years after the vines were planted, all our trials and tribulations in the vineyard came together at the end of the drought to produce a wine to honor you and your colleagues. A wine worthy of your mission. Sunshine in a bottle, to warm you, fortify you, relax you, calm you. Grapes from heaven, to recharge your soul, recharge your spirit, to defend you from the unseen enemy. The Lord is with you. The people are with you. Even a humble, unshaven winemaker 3,000 miles away is with you. May the wine calm you, strengthen you, protect you, bless you, and fill you with love, inner peace, and the courage to do what needs to be done. Ava, Maria.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

And Now For a Something Completely Different: Author Reading at Happy Hour

At the end of the first full week of self-isolation, an author opens a bottle of Tempranillo and reads from the director's cut of his recently released novel.  Cheers!

Monday, March 2, 2020

A Taste of San Diego Wines After Opus One

     This is not a story about competition - it's about the coming of age of San Diego grapes and wines.
     RULE: I grew up with a rule that when serving red wine during a meal, the wines should become progressively better, if different ones are served. In other words, save the best for last.
     The first time I tasted Opus One was in 2002. I was hosting Japanese business partners at Mr. Stox restaurant in Anaheim, and one of the guests saw Opus One on the menu and ordered it. I had no idea what it was, nor how much it cost, and was pleasantly surprised by the wine's taste.
     The second time I tried Opus One was two years later, again at a business dinner, and this time I ordered it, and enjoyed it greatly. The bottle went fast between two of us, and I needed to order more. Alas, I didn't have the budget for another Opus One - and ordered a good wine instead. Coming right after the Mondavi-Rothschild masterpiece, the 2nd wine didn't stand a chance - and was clearly a violation of the rule to serve progressively better wines.
     To state my tasting preferences clearly: I like Opus One; I also love "big, juicy, cabs" from Napa - rarely drinking them, because of the cost, and thoroughly enjoying them when given the opportunity. I also like our good wines (many of them have not turned out so good over the years).
     In the intervening 16 years, I've been a winemaker and winegrower. Last night, I was invited to dinner, and as a hostess gift brought an assorted cheese plate and assorted wines made from our "estate" grapes - the wines not to be served, but as a gift.
     The first wine served was a 2016 Centered cab. It was enjoyable - well aged for being relatively young (although I thought the vanilla, carmel flavors a little strong). And then came the 2010 Opus One, living up to its reputation, reminding me of a 20-year-old Chateau Lafite Rothschild I drank two years before.  Both wines were decanted 90 minutes before serving. The meal featured tomahawk steaks cooked perfectly. With six drinkers, the Opus One was soon gone, and the host said, "Let's open one of Craig's wines." See RULE above - panic time.
2018 Merleatage Bottled Early January
    The next course was steamed bass, so I chose a lighter red - our 2017 Merleatage, a blend of estate Tempranillo, Grenache, and Petite Sirah. I decanted it quickly. The musky aroma - as I feared and expected - was totally different than the Opus One. As I took the first taste, however, I thought this isn't so bad, and on the second sip realized this will work. Indeed, the wine made from San Diego grapes was NOT a downgrade from the Mondavi-Rothschild Opus One, and held its own. This is a compliment to the quality of grapes growing in San Diego.
     For dessert, the host served fresh, sweet, blackberries paired with a splendid ice wine from Canada that disappeared quickly. I had brought the hostess a bottle of our 10 year old so-called tawny Port, aged for eight years in an old barrel on our back patio in full sun and two years in the bottle. Once again, the San Diego wine - although drastically different than the ice wine - held its own, the nutty flavors pleasing the hosts and guests.
     My neighbor Coyote Karen of Coyote Oaks Winery says she started making wine because Napa wines were getting expensive and she could save money making her own. I think we're on the way to doing that, without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Cheeers, and congratulations, San Diego.
10 Year Old Tawney "Port"

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Mount of Olives

     ..."Speaking of olive oil,” said Paul pointing to a grove of Picoline and Arbequina trees, “I call this our Mount of Olives. Bishop, you’ll appreciate we created a theological garden.”
     Paul pointed up to Golgotha and the Cross of Calvary at the summit, and beneath it, a cave symbolizing the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. The president pulled a ripe olive from a tree and popped it into his mouth before Paul could stop him. ​“Damn, that’s the bitterest thing I’ve ever tasted,” Obama said, spitting the remains to the ground.
     ​“I was about to warn you not to eat it,” said Paul. “It needs to be cured before eating. Don’t worry, we have estate grown and cured olives on today’s menu.”

Excerpt from "About That Wine I Gave You" during the presidential Wine Summit.

Monday, February 24, 2020

First Pop of Popcorn

      "Birth, childhood, adulthood, death – the annual circle of life commences as winter’s water, nutrients, and life-force surge from the earth through the trunk to the dead-ends of cordon arms, against the dead-ends of cul-de-sac buds, and probe for an escape; and like a volcano with rising lava, pressure builds, soft lava pressing, pushing, and after pruning, there are no long canes, no branches for that flow to go and buds start to swell, imitating a pussy willow’s furry catkins, the rising dome of a sleep-walking volcano – Marine helicopters from Camp Pendleton circle above reconnoitering the growing dome – will Mount St. Helens explode again? – until the inevitable happens: one pops – the first pop of popcorn – pop, pop-pop – second and third rounds of popping as corn warms over the fire – and soon there is machine-gun popping, chainsaw weed-whacker-sputtering-engine of popping – pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.
       Welcome to budbreak in the vineyard. The first shoot emerges – a lonely shoot – a pioneer – sparking a celebration among the vintners at the first sign of spring. (Beware the grasshoppers – they’re celebrating too.) The first shoots of spring– the first pops of popcorn– will give way to summer when small shoots grow into a forest.
       A new spring. A new year. A new vintage. Opening day. April Fools! This could become the best wine ever. All contained within a tiny bud of a dormant vine."

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Business Pruning

"On the either side of the hill, as Joe the Wino cut canes, he thought of pruning his company. Too much dead wood. Weed out the lower-performing 10% to make the company more vigorous. Off with their heads! If only cutting staff was as easy as vines – thank goodness I’ve got HR for that. Snip. Cut. Prune. Bend. Shape the vine. Strengthen the organization. Joe was a builder of businesses, a job creator. But the goddamned President has been a job killer bad for the country. Thank goodness his time is up next year."

Excerpt from About That Wine I Gave You

Monday, February 17, 2020

Of Oranges and Tangelos

"Each morning, Bluey walks with me up the hill where I pick an orange and peel it, his mouth salivating. He takes a slice from my hand. He loves oranges. He eats everything I hand him. Paul says you’re not supposed to have citrus trees in a vineyard, because sharpshooters roost there in winter and kill the vines. When I saw him walking up the hill with a chainsaw I shouted, “What are you doing?”  He was going to cut down our orange trees! I told him to leave the orange trees alone. They’re here for a reason. They’re tangelos, actually – a hybrid of grapefruit and tangerine – and the fruit is delicious. In winter, young tangelos taste tart, sour as lemons. But the fruit that hangs until summer is very sweet. I’ll squeeze fresh juice for breakfast and after a day in the vineyard, I’ll squeeze one into a glass then pour in a shot of our home-made tequila – it’s grape moonshine – and walk to the gazebo with Bluey and watch the sun set. The juice is so sweet, there’s no need to add triple sec and it’s a perfect home-grown Blueyrita."

- Excerpt from "Soliloquy of the Queen" in About That Wine I Gave You

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Strange Fruit

“... he speedily cut down an entire row with loppers, without pausing to pull down canes dangling from the wires, left blowing in the wind, swinging like chimes, sounding dull thuds when colliding. He looked down the row, reflecting on Billie Holiday’s melancholy:

California vines bear strange fruit
Sap on the wood and sap at the root
Gophers swinging in the ocean breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the vineyard trees.”

 — About That Wine I Gave You

Available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083QYNGZK

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Our Wines as of December 2018

Dear Friends,

Here's a list of our wines available as of the Winter Solstice, 2018, with tasting notes by yours truly, the wine maker.  The list is organized by varietal, and with each varietal the year. My palette doesn't appreciate higher acid wines, preferring fruit forward wines with lower acidity. You, however, may favor higher acid and or earthy wines - and there are several of those to choose from. Underlined wines suit the winemaker's personal tastes (note, your taste may be different!)  A general note about pricing - the wines are generally priced at $25 per bottle with the purchase of a case or more. Prices are subject to change, as quality improves and supply dwindles.  Exceptions are made for our "rare" wines - those that we love of which there are just a few bottles left.  All wines are made with "Estate" grapes unless noted, usually in lots of one barrel (about 23 cases) unless noted.  The 2017 wines all came out good.  If you wish to discuss the wines in further detail, please email us at bluemerlewinery@gmail.com  I'd love to chat with you about the wines. Cheers!

Aglianico 2009 (Guadeloupe Valley) - $25 very earthy, minerality. It has aged very well. If you like earthy wines, this is for you.

Aglianico 2011 - A 1/4 blend of 2009 Guadeloupe Aglianico, 1/4 estate 2010 Aglianico, 1/2 2011 Aglianico - this is a very interesting, complex wine, combining some earthiness with fruit. When Lum Eisenman tasted it a few years ago, he kept coming back for more, because he liked it, and was trying to figure it out. $25

Aglianico 2013 (Estate) - Bold dark fruit and high acidity. If you like high acid wines with rich meals, this is for you. It should age well, with a low pH.

Blush - 2018 - Made from Tempranillo. No added sulfites. Fermented to dryness. Crisp acidity - very characteristic of a French rose, blush wine. Only 6 cases produced.

Grenache 2010 blend (Grenache 50%, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah) - this wine came out well and has aged well. Shows signs of an "aged" mature wine. For sale only locally, in case its corked (so we can provide spare bottles).

Grenache 2011 blend (Grenache 60%, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah) - one of our best wines ever. Just a few bottles left. $49 each limit one per customer while supplies last.

Grenache 2012 blend (Grenache 60%, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah) - very high acid and very dry mouth feel. Very old style French.

Grenache 2013 blend - high acid and dry - a bit more fruit than the 2012.

Grenache 2014 blend - combines strong, bold fruit with crisp acidity aged 18 months in a new oak barrel. I would recommend this one of the Grenache blends (but only if you like high acidity).

Grenache 2016 blend - good balance of fruit and acidity, it drinks like a European, old world wine if you like that style.

Grenache 2017 blend (25% Grenache, 35% Petit Sirah, 40% Tempranillo) - this wine was bottled in November, 2018 and it's very promising - good fruit (cherries, currants)  moderate acidity. New oak barrel. Very promising indeed! (Be sure to check out the 2017 Tempranillo, and also the 2017 Petit Sirah - those are all good.)

Montepulciano 2009 (Guadeloupe) - Cherry flavors, minerality -It has aged well. Some people love this wine.

Nebbiolo 2006 (Guadeloupe) $99 per bottle limit one per customer if we can find one.

Petit Verdot - 2007  $99 (just a few bottles left). Grapes from Bonsall, CA. Fragrance in a bottle.

Petit Verdot 80% - Nebbiolo 20% blend 2007 $49 if we can find any bottles. Very good. PV from Bonsall, CA.  Nebbiolo from Guadeloupe.

Petit Verdot 2008 (Bonsall, CA) - $99 (Magnum Size Bottle - Local Only). There are a few 750 ml bottles available. $49. Limit 1 per customer. More fragrance, with structure, in a bottle.

Petit Verdot 2008 "Merleatage" Blend (Petit Verdot over 50%, Malbec, Petit Sirah) this was one of our best wines. New french oak barrel.  Just a few bottles left. $99 per bottle.  Petit Verdot and Malbec from Bonsall.

Petit Verdot 2009 (Paso Robles Grapes) - this is a "lighter" Petit Verdot - it is a characteristically aged wine.

Petit Verdot 2009 Merleatage Blend was made by combining a barrel of Petit Verdot (Bonsall), a barrel of Cab Franc (Paso Robles), a barrel of Petit Sirah (Valley Center, San Diego), with 1/4 barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon (Bonsall)  and 1/4 barrel of Estate Tempranillo - this wine has come together as it has aged, sometimes showing hints of tobacco. I tasted this recently after having a $400 Chateau Lafite, and the local wine reminded me of the $400 wine. This wine is for someone who likes aged, old world wines.

Petite Sirah 2013 - New oak barrel, aged almost 2 years in the barrel. One of our best Petite Sirahs ever. This is a very good wine, in its prime.

Petite Sirah 2017 - Bottled December 23, 2018.  As promising as the 2013 mentioned above! Really excited about this wine!

Petit Sirah/Tempranillo Blend 2014 - Bold fruit, aged about 20 months in a new oak barrel. Good balance of fruit and acidity.

Pinotage 2010 (Bonsall) - light fruit with minerality ....some people LOVE this wine.

"Port" Style Dessert Late Harvest Fortified Wines - 2010 "Tawney" Nebbiolo grapes with low sugar. 2012 Tawney also with relatively low sugar aged outside pretty much until earlier this year when we bottled some of it.   There's also a rich, more ruby style made from Estate Zinfandel, combining production over several years, still in a barrel, and by special request a bottle may be pulled from it. (This is really, really, really good and sweet and rich - it's going to cost more.)  There's also a 2014 Zinfandel/Aglianico late harvest wine still in its barrel.

Syrah 2010 (San Marcos, San Diego, CA) - this wine has aged well ... the grapes were a little on the higher acid side when they arrived, but it's aged pretty well.

Tempranillo 2010 - a few bottles left ... an example of aged Tempranillo in a neutral barrel (not much oak flavors). Prefer to sell it locally in case it is "corked".

Tempranillo 2017 - good fruit (cherries, currants, berries) , well balanced, fun. Love this wine! New oak barrel. Bottled early to preserve freshness. Made to drink young. Enjoy it! (Compare to the 2017 Grenache, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah blend - also fun and good.)

Tempranillo 2018 Blush - fermented to dryness, crisp acidity, in style of a French blush wine.

Zinfandel 2013 - This is a very good expression of our estate Zin. Rich wine, yet not over the top. Good balanced acids. This wine is at its prime.

Zinfandel, Carignan, Nebbiolo Blend -Called Bluey's Cuvee -  this was a blend of 2010 high acid Zin with low acidity Carignan (from San Diego) spiced with some Nebbiolo - it all blended together pretty well. A fun red wine.

Zinfandel / Tempranillo Blend 2011 - the "Stephanie Stomp" - earthy ... it seems to have come together with age.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Psalm of Bootlegger

The Psalm of Dog

Dog is my shepherd; I shall not want.
            He lies down in shade under the trees; He leads me down rows of vines.
            He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
            Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death,
            I fear no evil; for Dog is with me; He comforts me.
            I prepare a feast for him; I brush him, and he anoints my head with licks;
            My cup overflows with wine;
            Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
            And I shall dwell with the Dog forever.

The Psalm of Bootlegger

Dog is my shepherd; I shall not want.
            He lies down in shade under the trees; He leads me down rows of vines.
            He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
            Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death,
            I fear no evil; for Dog is with me; He comforts me.
            I prepare a feast for him; I brush him, and he anoints my head with licks;
            My tanks overflow with wine;
            Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
            And I shall dwell in the doghouse forever.