WineSmith Cellars Mix (3)

WineSmith Cellars Mix 3-Pack
$59.99 $137.00 56% off List Price
2005 WineSmith “2nd Fiddle” Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir
2004 WineSmith Napa Valley Faux Chablis, Student Vineyard, Napa Valley College
2008 WineSmith Cabernet Franc, Lake County
CT links above

Winery website

Well, here we go round once again. Although we’re in the middle of crush, it’s great to do a back to back with the most hip consumer community I know of. I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to interact with you guys and to feel so understood and appreciated. This mix and its amazing price is my version of payback.

This time we’re looking at my own WineSmith wines. I wear a lot of hats, so for those of you who aren’t as familiar with my winemaking as you’d like to be, we just launched a new website It contains a sort of treasure hunt of concepts I’ve been exploring for the past couple decades that I gathered into a book called Postmodern Winemaking which managed to get named Wine and Spirits Magazine’s 2013 Book of the Year.

WineSmith is a kind of laboratory for postmodern winemaking, and the wines I’m offering tonight illustrate many of its concepts. Although there are many postmodern winemaking paths, I choose to explore the possibility of using California grapes to make Eurocentric wines that honor aesthetics such as harmony, balance, refinement and graceful longevity.

I started making Faux Chablis in 2001, and today I’m offering wine from my fourth year in that project, the 2004 Faux Chablis, just released. Amazingly, it takes a decade for these wines to come around. In fact, its aromatics will be fully bloomed in another couple years. It’s fairly steely now, just right for oysters or sushi. Over the next four years, it will become softer and rounder. So it depends on the function you have in mind. Check out the whole story in my brief video.

This wine demonstrates several aspects covered in my book, including ripeness, structure, minerality and graceful longevity. More about these later.

My 2005 “Second Fiddle” Pinot Noir comes from Fiddlestix vineyard, grown by my old friend Kathy Joseph or Fiddlehead Cellars. After the movie Sideways, which got a lot of ignorant people into the Pinot game, I started seeing a lot of other wineries trying to make muscle wine from this wonderful but delicate fruit, and I decided to show what a Burgundian would do with it, and produced a Cotes de Beaune style: ethereal, graceful, very light in color and deep in flavor. It’s just now coming into its own, and demonstrates Pinot’s mysterious anti-oxidative power.

Finally, most of you know I’m a Cab Franc head (I make five), and also are well aware of my passion for Diamond Ridge Vineyards. My 2008 is 100% from this fabulous Lake County vineyard we talked about yesterday. It’s been in very neutral barrels for 66 months and is quite silky, full of bright cherry aromas and a hint of sage. I would say it’s more of a Graves than a Chinon, racy without being acidity, loaded with minerality and developing some interesting tertiary bouquet. It likes wild mushrooms, grilled things and elderly cheeses. It also tastes amazing when drunk in the dark with Bruce Springsteen’s Jungleland blaring from the Bose set and something on fire.

It seems there may be some wine.woot glitches regarding first buyer, but I ordered 2. I have had each and all are so well made. See my notes in CT (with scores or narrative) as “BlackIce”. The wines are well made and one can’t pay enough for wines so delicious for the education that Clark provides in this forus and via his book. Outstanding as always. Bought yesterday’s offering and did not post any note…

guess no glitches. I somehow was first buyer after 15 minutes. not sure how that happened…

Yes, that was truly weird. I’ve never gotten more than a couple minutes into it before first woot. I reckon folks are just checking out the Faux Chablis video, the new website and all those references in my first rather wordy post, and it’s true that there is a vast trove of juicy stuff to check out. Still, that was weird.

Thanks so very much for testifying on my behalf, and for putting up some bucks for the cause.

I’m good on Fiddlestix and Cab Franc with 4 of each sleeping peacefully in the cellar. If anybody in SoCal wants the reds but not the white then I’m happy to take it off your hands.

Prior tasting note (Feb 16) from the Fiddlestix: A bit of a different wine right on opening. The earth really shows through here, in a nice way. Some dark fruit hiding underneath, but the wine is spicy, no noticeable alcohol, and full of the sous bois character I was hoping it would have. Bright acidity as well.

Didn’t change much with air, except that the fruit came out more. Definitely a bright cherry, maybe some strawberry also. Hint of sweetness from the fruit as well.

There’s a new technology from Nomacorc, the leading plastic closure company, called Nomasense. Set me back ten grand, but it’s the funnest toy I’ve seen in a long time (and I’ve seen a LOT of very fun toys, as you can imagine). It’s designed to read the dissolved oxygen inside a bottle while it’s sealed. This enables me to do all kinds of audits of wineries for O2 pickup, including pumps, filters and bottling line filler spouts.

Better still, I can open any wine, saturate it with air, seal it back up and read how fast the wine reacts up the oxygen. Turns out this measure, which we call O2 Appetite, varies by a factor of about 10,000! Some wines take half a year to consume a saturation; others do it in 12 hours.

The point is, I was blown away by the remaining appetite of Second Fiddle. After nine years, it still consumes oxygen at the same rate as a young Cabernet, indicating its age-worthiness for easily another decade, probably more. As you noticed, it really benefits from breathing at this stage, and is just starting to bloom aromatically.

It’s great to be around wine lovers who are interested in education. Some of you may be ready for one of my courses. If you want a thorough grounding the basics, check out Fundamentals of Modern WineChemistry, essentially an enology degree in a weekend (yes, people do take it twice).

If you’re interested in advanced hot topics, you might like to be a fly on the wall for our roundtable of fifty top winemakers,The 2nd Annual Postmodern Winemaking Symposium including 60 wines demonstrating fourteen principles under discussion.

One of the things I really like about the wooter community is that those of you who know me are just great about sharing with new wooters. I know I’ve loaded up a lot of you from prior offers, so it’s very generous of you to take the time to share your impressions with others who are new to the community or just to my wines in particular. You deserve a lot of credit for making that effort.

Here is the postmodern winemaking lowdown on Faux Chablis. I’m assuming you already checked out the video.

First is the matter of alcohol adjustment. In 1992, a project I was working on with Pascal Ribereau-Gayon, the Director of the Enology faculty of the University of Bordeaux, caused him to remark to me that California grapes may have lots of sugar, but they aren’t really ripe.

In Chablis, it’s so cold and rainy that the grapes get ripe at very low sugar, so they commonly add beet sugar to correct the balance. This is called “chaptalization” after Napoleon’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Jean-Antoine Chaptal, who first introduced it two centuries ago. It is utilized in about 45% of classified AOC wines in France and is not reported on labels. This is no big deal.

In California, it’s hot and dry, so we have the opposite problem. I went to work and developed a way to use a water purification filter to remove alcohol so we could ripen our grapes better without losing balance. These grapes got fully golden at about 24.5 brix, resulting in a 14.8% alcohol that made the wine hot and bitter, and I used the technology top correct it to a “sweet spot” at 12.9% alcohol. Coincidentally, about 45% of California’s wines are now alcohol adjusted. This is also no big deal.

Faux Chablis is not a modern style white wine. It has macromolecular structure, and so is more like a red wine, and people love it who think they don’t like white wine. It is not fruity, simple, or pretty. It is a textured wine of many layers which possesses the same profundity we hope for in reds. Much white wine used to be like this. The modern style many dislike is a product of nuclear power, and did not exist before World War II.

To enhance the structure of this wine, I fermented it on well-cured untoasted oak chips from the French forest of Alliers. I intentionally extracted oak tannin to supplement the deficient native tannin of Chardonnay (with Chenin Blanc or Viognier, I would not have had this problem) resulting in a new wine of unpleasant astringency. I then stirred the wine’s fine yeast lees twice a week for eight months until the proteins released as the yeast broke down coated the tannins like the milk protein in milk chocolate, resulting in a plump, round mouthfeel. Both the tannins and the lees also possess anti-oxidative properties which enhance aromatic integration and longevity.

But for me, the most interesting aspect of Faux Chablis is its minerality. By this I do not mean an aroma or taste of stone. I use this term to refer to an energetic buzz in the finish similar to acidity, but further back on the palate. Nobody knows what causes this, and its elucidation is currently the Holy Grail of postmodern enological inquiry.

Minerality is observed on soils such as limestone, schist, slate and granite. When I was teaching at Napa Valley College and working with their Chardonnay in southern Napa (the coldest part), we were dealing with a simple sandy loam, not a particularly interesting soil. But we learned from Claude Bourgignon, a renowned French vineyard specialist, that we could get minerality on ANY soil if we encouraged the growth of mychorhizal (subterranean) fungi by eliminating pesticides and herbicides and generally promoting a complex soil ecology full of bacteria, eukaryotes, fungi and earthworms.

This turned out to work very well. Napa is an especially good place to do this because the ground does not freeze in the winter and the fragile fungi population has a chance to build year after year. As a result, in the six years of the Faux Chablis project, the wines have been more and more developed in their minerality and longevity trajectory.

I’m from the Midwest and grabbed the previous woot of your Crucible bottle. I’m fairly new to wines though, I wondered what the best conditions would be to store that bottle for the best longevity?

There is a bomb shelter below my house and the temp there seems to stay generally a cool mid sixties, but it can get humid.

I will likely grab this current great deal too, thank you!

That’s a great question. I’m so glad you are interested in aging wine. Wines are like people - they may lose energy but they get a lot more interesting as they get older. People who only buy wines for current consumption miss out on wine as a phenomenon rooted in time.

The lower the temperature,the more the wine sleeps. This is not necessarily good. Wine needs to take care of itself, and its protective chemistry is only activated in the high 50s Fahrenheit. It is important that a cellar is not too cold. Many bottles are ruined in cellars lower than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Your cool, even, mid-sixties cellar seems a reasonable situation. My wines would like it there. The problem is that in wines which have been protected via SO2, cool temperatures and so forth from developing a microbial equilibrium, you will occasionally see something going off in the bottle which should have been resolved at the winery.

When this happens, it often pays to wait for the wine to resolve its issues, decant off the lees, aerate and enjoy years down the road. Never try to drink up a case because it appears t be circling the bowl. Wines have cycles of maturity that aren’t very linear.

What’s critical for wine storage is EVEN temperature. Particularly, a wine intended for age must never be overheated, even for an hour. This causes the wine to expand and push past the cork, breaking the seal.

Once this happens, minor variations in temperature will cause minor expansions and contractions on a daily basis which will pump oxygen into the bottle and kill the wine over time.

I just wanted to voice some more support for Clark and his delicious wines. He and Mike are great to work with, and all the wines I’ve gotten by him are some of my favorites. The Fiddlestix Pinot is by far the best Pinots I’ve ever had. I’ve been in on one for the past three offers, thanks Clark and Mike!

I appreciated the playlist for the Bdx-style blend yesterday. Any other music tips for today’s offering?

As posted at the end of yesterday, I’d be good with the 2nd Fiddle.

A white that’s compared to a red, lengthy and fascinating notes by the winemaker, and glowing reviews from all here… Looks like I’m in for my first WineSmith!

I would like to lodge a protest. As I mentioned when I ordered yesterday’s deal, I just got back from a rather expensive trip to Paris where I over indulged on French food and wine. I came back firmly resolving to save money and was faced with yesterday’s very nice offering which of course I had to buy. Then I woke up this morning to find more Clark Smith wines including a nicely aged Cabernet Franc, an aged Pinot Noir and the Faux Chablis which I really enjoyed last year. So of course I had to overdo it and ordered two of todays offering because I do love Pinot Noir.

I appreciate the wealth of information that Clark imparts on these boards concerning his wine making philosophy and the technical information. I also appreciate the fact that the wines a few years on them, I am not getting any younger and can’t wait too long to drink my wines so I like to buy them as old as possible. As I don’t live in the US, I will drink these bottles next year when I come to visit my daughter, they will be another year older.

I am sure I will enjoy these wines but I will do so under protest! No more Wine Smith (no offense) for a while, please, my wallet is begging you!

“Particularly, a wine intended for age must never be overheated, even for an hour. This causes the wine to expand and push past the cork, breaking the seal.”

I have placed an order and would like to know when it will ship. I’m in SoCal and it’s fairly likely that the wine will get overheated during shipment given current temperatures here.

it will likely ship early next week. and you’ll be fine.

It’s great to see someone standing up for what’s right! I’m about to join your movement, buying again today as I did yesterday, but only under protest. And I will do my darndest not to love these wines, despite having enjoyed them so much in the past!