WineSmith Double Dare Offer (4)


#1

#2

WineSmith Double Dare Offer 4-Pack
$59.99 $̶1̶3̶5̶.̶0̶0̶ 56% off List Price
2003 WineSmith Napa Valley Chardonnay, Student Vineyard Napa Valley College
2004 WineSmith Napa Valley Faux Chablis, Student Vineyard, Napa Valley College
CT links above

Winery website


#3

Opened the 2004 the other night which I had from the previous rpm tour.
Since I last tried it the wine is starting to calm down and come together. Wonderful tropical fruits and apple on the nose. A hint of minerality. Also, something savory. I want to say “cheesy” but… not in the way you are thinking. Like a nutty, salty, aged, hard old world type cheese. Probably a combination of the minerality, un-toasted oak and yeast (lees). Quite a complex nose.
On the palate it is dry, crisp, and clean with a little bit of creaminess/oily feel on the finish which is long. I taste some citrus and slight wood with some tannins still present. Great acidity. No alcohol apparent. Very interesting and different wine. Was spectacular with white clam sauce.
If you’ve had much Burgundian Chardonnay this will remind you of that. Less minerality/stone and possibly more fruit. If you’ve only had CA Chardonnay, even the unoaked no malolactic version then you have no idea! 100% of the time it is either too hot or too fruity or too flabby with no acidity or minerality. The time and care put in to this is obvious.
I would buy a case and age some of it further and have the rest this summer with seafood.


#4

I tell this story best on my video at http://bit.ly/Z0GWiF . Please go there and hear me out.

I have taught winemaking classes at Napa Valley College since 1991 off and on. In 2001, I started making Chablis-style Chardonnays. I am so tired of the oaky toasty butterbombs Napa is known for, and we wanted to show that this is not our terroir, but rather just a cheap marketing trick that has little to do with the true potential of Napa for Chardonnays of great distinction, building on the work of Fred McCrea at Stony Hill.

The Student Vineyard is lovingly tended by the Dean of Viticulture and Winery Technology, Dr. Stephen Krebs and an army of students, each of which is assigned ten vines to baby, making this the most carefully tended vineyard in Napa. Steve and I both love our Valley and long to see its true expression emerge through the trendy obscuring influences of excessive oak, microbial elaboration and excessive hangtime.

We wanted to test Claude Bourgignon’s claim that we could get true Chablis-like minerality without the limestone – yes, even on our sandy loam – if we knocked it off with the herbicides and pesticides and let the weeds go crazy, allowing the earthworms to work the soil and we get a healthy mycorrhizal population which facilitates trace mineral uptake.

Now when I say minerally, I am not talking about wet stone aromas and tastes, but rather a sort of electric buzz in the finish, often confused with acidity. Nobody knows exactly what this is, but when you taste it (usually from wines grown on limestone, schist, slate or decomposed granite, or in organic vineyards), the wines are reductive and tight in youth and age a long time.

Finally, we opted for a non-malolactic style with no toast on the oak (we actually do it in stainless with 5 g/L of well-cured untoasted Allier forest oak chips in the fermenter – so shoot me. I did this to give me a tannin skeleton on which to build a structure using lees stirred twice weekly for about eight months.

The secret of Chablis is although cold, the days are very long and grapes achieve full ripeness. Ripeness happens at about 18 brix, which would result in thin, salty wines. To correct this imbalance and show the flavors in balance, the French routinely add beet sugar to boost the alcohol from 11% to 12.5%. In the drier climate of Napa, we get fully ripe fruit at maybe 24.5 brix, which yields about 14.8% alcohol, resulting in wines that are quite hot and bitter and with poor aromatic expression. To correct this imbalance and reveal the true flavors of terroir, we use the reverse osmosis process I invented (okay, draw and quarter me and THEN shoot me) to lower the alcohol to the Chablis range. This dispels the bitterness and allows the lemon oil / lemon blossom aromas to emerge.

The result is a classic style which shows off our terroir and goes deliciously with crab, ceviche, sushi, lobster, and of course, half shell oysters. The bad news: the combination of oak tannin, lees and minerality, all strong anti-oxidants, means the wine takes ten years to come around. But it’s worth the wait!

Clark

[MOD: Embedded video for you!]

[youtube=dRwtTTIG6tg][/youtube]


#5

I’m wishing there was Cab Franc in this offer also, but seriously considering this one despite my constraints. I remember these being excellent but quite young when we tasted them on the 2010 Tour.


#6

Since I know the smith himself will poke his head in here, could you please talk to:

“Alcohol adjusted via recombinatory distillation of reverse osmosis permeate to “sweet spot” at 12.9 %”

What is it, why is it, how does it make for a better wine, and how are you sure?

EDIT: And Already answered, my hat is off to you Dr. Smith


#7

Split and trade on the 30th?


#8

Waiting on these notes… I NEVER buy Chardonnay untasted (too hit and miss for my palate) but this one piques my curiosity… perhaps enough to jump in.


#9

I’m down if he isn’t.


#10

Welcome! Thanks for staying up with us tonight… this morning.


#11

Seems to be quality, aged, well made chardonnay for $16/bottle. Even if some of those adjectives are less than 100% true, this is still likely a good deal. At very least SWMBO can look forward to some tasty Chicken Picatta.

With 290 bottles of red and 10 bottles of white, I need to fix something…

In for a full Case!
Last wooter to woot:cmaldoon


#12

Great question, and thanks for asking. This is a topic about which there has been way too much yellow journalism and way too little straight talk. Ever since I dropped out of MIT in 1971, I’ve been engaged in trying to understand wine and improve the making of it. In the early 1990s, visiting French friends told me that California fruit is not very ripe at normal sugar (say around 23 Brix). This is as opposed to French grapes, which get ripe at about 21 brix due to rain on the harvest and also the influence of humidity. However, at 11% alcohol, French reds taste thin and salty. Accordingly, Napoleon’s minister of Agriculture, Dr. Chaptal, legalized alcohol adjustment the addition of beet sugar to French wines (up to 20 gm/L) and that’s been a standard practice, even in First Growth Bordeaux, for 200 years.

In California, we have the opposite problem. In our dry climate, photosynthesis runs wild and we end up getting true ripeness at high sugar, leading to wines that are hot, bitter and aromatically suppressed (the aromas are soluble in the alcohol).

So 20 years ago, I stumbled on a process involving a water purification membrane called reverse osmosis which turned out to be a gentle and effective way to reduce alcohol. I patented the process and started a company called Vinovation (you can get a lot more detail at Vinovation.com) in 1992 to offer alcohol adjustment as a service. It took off, and is regularly utilized by about half the wineries in California, and between that method and a vacuum distillation process called the Spinning Cone, today about 45% of California’s wine is reduced in its alcohol, which is about the average percentage that is chaptalized in France.

True French Chablis, though low in alcohol, is made from fully ripe fruit. To get that lemon oil character, Steve Krebs and I waited until the berries were fully golden. This left us with 14.8% alcohol and a wine that was hot and bitter, with little aroma. We used alcohol adjustment to bring the level down to a “sweet spot,” a point of harmonious balance, at 12.9%. At this level, the wine has much more expressive aromatics, the energetic minerally finish is apparent, and the wine ages much longer.

The proof of all this is in the bottle. What other Napa Chardonnay is still straw green at ten years of age?

About 2000, a number of paparazzi decided to blow the whistle on this as wine manipulation. But it depends on your definition. My Random House supplies the following:

ma•nip•u•la•tion \mə-ˌnĭp-yəˈlā-shən\ n.{ens}1 : treatment or operation with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means, especially in a skillful manner.{ens}
2 : Shrewd or devious management by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage.

I’m going to assume that readers are all in favor of wines made according to definition #1, to wit, handcrafted. Those are not grapes in that glass. As everyone knows, wine is perhaps the most manipulated of all foods, and that’s just what we want. Pick ’em, crush ’em, ferment ’em, press ’em, age ’em, bottle ’em, and nobody minds. Those aren’t, it seems, offending manipulations. Indeed, this first definition is the very essence of the artisanality for which winemakers are worshipped so lustily.

So I don’t think I am going out on a limb when I interpret the desire to avoid manipulation as somehow connected to the moralistic accusations embodied in definition #2.

In this they have a point. A better word would be “deceit.”
Winemakers use these tools but they don’t know how to talk about them. For the history of why, see my article “Some Like It Hot” http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/466/Some-Like-it-Hot.html.

The paradox right now is that those winemakers who do speak out lose sales. Nevertheless, I make it a point never to use a tool I’m not willing to be straight with my customers about, as now. I know that some people will walk away from this offer because they buy the paparazzi BS that great wine makes itself and less is more. Indeed, showing off the wine’s natural character is our work, to become invisible, as it were. But I can assure you that it takes great skill to become invisible, and benign neglect is not a recipe for excellence.

More about all this at www.winecrimes.com.
I am working on a site where winemakers can go and make full disclosure. Meantime you can count on me to fill you in about my wines.


#13

I’m so happy you know about my Cab Franc projects. It’s the most difficult grape to get right, and the most rewarding. We’ll have a Cab Franc offer before long.


#14

In order to stimulate more burning questions, maybe I should say a little more about the things I’m engaged in.

Although I do not write science fiction (that’s Clark Ashton Smith), I do wear a lot of hats in the wine industry, which can be confusing. I make my WineSmith, Planet Pluto, PennyFarthing and Cheapskate wines as well as consulting for a large number of wineries.

I sold the wine technology business in 2008 to devote myself to writing and exploring the wine world. I run the Best-of Appellation tasting panel for AppellationAmerica.com, teach at CSU Fresno and Florida International University, for whom I do research in cognitive enology, teach online courses and conduct Edu-Tours to places like the Finger Lakes and the Republic of Georgia. I teach a class in Fundamentals of Wine Chemistry http://winemaking411.com/wine-chemistry which is basically a UC Davis degree crammed into a weekend, next one in Santa Rosa May 10-11.

I write a monthly column, Postmodern Winemaker, for Wines and Vines magazine which has been compiled into a book, Postmodern Winemaking, out this summer from UC Press http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520275195.

I’m very interested in the connection between wine and music, and am finishing up a CD of original songs about wine and winemaking.

The place to go for all these links is www.WhoIsClarkSmith.com.

Bring on the burning questions.


#15

Do you sleep?


#16

That element you’re trying to get at is definitely the sur lees character. It has opened up considerably more in the 2003, and resembles the bouquet of long en tirage Champagne, but I see what you mean about an old, dry parmessan or mancheca cheese. The lees element give the wine a structure which makes it appeal to red wine drinkers much more than your basic modern fresh, simple white wine, and contributes to the wine’s longevity.


#17

What is your take on:

  1. Extraction/concentration (I’m talking that which happens late in the process, not on the skins) I think it can be done with the help of a vacuum pump.
  2. Barrel substitutes - (and for once I’m not asking about chips and staves.) I just recently saw some plastic tanks at a winery that supposedly let through the same amount of oxygen as a 2 year old barrel.

#18

Discussing my passions is pretty playful work, and I cannot tell you what a privilege it is to connect with you wooters, who seem to “get” what I’m up to. I hope you realize what a unique community you are.

I reckon I’m good for another hour or two before I cash in. Got ribs and Cab Franc, so it’s all good.

What else you got?


#19

Damn… I want what you have!


#20

Now that sounds good, ribs and CF.
Yes we are wine nerds and proud of it! And very happy to have you here finally.

Can you talk about the terroir of this vineyard and also the area in general and how much you think comes through in the wine. And why that is important for the wine especially as it ages. Compare and contrast to France and other regions you are familiar with.