Varietal Vigilantes

In the United States we tend to think of wines being driven by a single variety. That there is somehow something purer about being made from one type of vine. The varietal vigilantes are always asking, “is this 100%?” Due to the heavy emphasis on varietal labeling they don’t realize is that historically wines made from a single variety were the exception, not the rule.

Some of the greatest names in the world of wine: Bordeaux, Châteauneuf du Pape, Côte Rôtie, Chianti, Rioja, Porto and Champagne are, and have always been blends of varieties. There are classic marriages like: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot; marsanne and roussanne, syrah and viognier that have defined their wine regions. Without a doubt there are great mono-variety wines like Burgundy and Barolo, but many a classic wine region discovered over the centuries that blending produced not only the best wines for them, but a more consistently good wine vintage-to-vintage.

I believe that the Applegate Valley is one of those regions where blending creates the most complete and complex wines. In almost all of our wines at Troon Vineyard you’ll find more than one variety in the blend. We think deeply in making these choices looking for varieties that together create wines with greater nuance and personality than they could on their own. My goal in blending is to make the wines come alive and to craft wines that could only come from the Applegate Valley as making a wine of place is at the center of everything for me.

Blending is one thing, but I believe you need to go farther and actually co-ferment the varieties that you believe make will make your best blends. When you blend finished wines you can make wonderful wines, but when you can ferment the different varieties together they meld in a new an magical way that simple blending cannot reproduced. When fermenting together Mother Nature’s natural chemistry is amplified and a whole new wine emerges from the fermenter. When co-ferments are combined with natural yeasts and natural malolactic fermentations a unique purity of place and variety is expressed in your wine.

One of the better examples of this magic is our Troon Vineyard Longue Carabine, conceived by winemaker Steve Hall, which is created by blending several different co-fermented lots. The characteristics of each variety in the 2014 blend (38.5% vermentino, 33% viognier, 33% marsanne, 1.5% roussanne) shows their distinctive highlights in the expansive aromatics and rich texture. Longue Carabine is a one-of-a-kind wine totally unique to the Applegate Valley, Troon Vineyard and Oregon.

Being able to create wines like this is one of the inspirations that led me from Napa to the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon. The freedom to constantly experiment and push your wines forward is truly exciting - and truly fun!

2014 Troon Blue Label Longue Carabine, Applegate Valley 

Apple Wine Geek

I'm a geek when it comes to technology. On top of that I'm an Apple geek. As my desire is to use my Apple products to the max I listen to many podcasts on Apple products. I've learned a lot from the many hours I've spent listening to these podcasts.

I've learned to be more efficient and to use the software and hardware available to me the way it was meant to be used. Investing this time has made me a power user. I've learned another thing too, the hard way. While I'm a technology geek, the hosts of these podcasts are technology addicts. When they use hardware and software they are looking more intensely for what is wrong with it than what’s right about it. They inevitably get bored with any piece of software and constantly need to fiddle with new products just because they are new. If you follow their impassioned comments podcast to podcast you'd be changing your software weekly.

I’m just as much a geek when it comes to wine and the wine addicts as compared to the wine geeks work the same way. Too often newness alone is considered exciting and, all too often, a blind eye is turned to winemaking faults. They get bored with Bordeaux, Napa Cabernet and Oregon Pinot because they simply need to fiddle constantly to entertain themselves. When you have to write a new article every week shiny new toys are always more interesting than the old ones.

More and more I find myself settling down with my technology and my wines and focusing on understanding more deeply what they have to offer. I’m finding it more rewarding to dig deep into what each has to offer me and truly come to know all they have to teach me. With software the more I work with it the more I learn about the real power written in the code. With a wine, the more often I revisit it the more nuance I find. I am finding this approach deeply rewarding.

All things considered, I think I’m becoming a bigger geek than ever.

Swearing Like an Italian

I'm a unabashed fan of Luca Currado and his wines at Vietti. I had the pleasure of spending hours tasting through his cellar with him when I lived in Italy. He is a thoughtful and talented winemaker making extraordinary wines. Do not miss the current interview with Luca on I'll Drink to That with Levy Dalton, the consistantly excellent wine podcast. You can find it here.

In Italy, swearing is an artform as compared to English, where it is usually simply vulgar. In Italian swearing decorates the language adding life, spice and personality. In this interview, Luca leads us on a educational tour of this Italian artform. It's a delight!

The Vietti family story is very compelling and this interview touches on the entire modern history of winemaking in Piemonte, beautifully told by the colorful and delightful Luca Currado.

Drink and Yelp

She was nasty; complaining and putting us down. No matter, it's only your life's work; better get a thicker skin. But then I thought better of it, when someone's full of it you should stand up for yourself.

Of course I'm talking about a Yelp review. I can't really complain as, after over 122 reviews, Cornerstone Cellars has a four and half star rating. Honestly you can't do any better than that. Indeed it's an accomplishment of which I am extremely proud.

At a winery tasting room, odds are pretty good that that outlier one star review was by someone who had too much to drink and was refused anything more to drink. Nothing pisses off a drunk more than cutting them off.

So I have decided to stick up for myself and, contrary to Yelp's recommendation, take on the that rare dissatisfied customer. Now, obviously if you're getting bad review after bad review you'd better do some soul searching, but in our case nothing could be further from reality.

For Cornerstone Cellars, out of the last twenty-five Yelp reviews eighteen have five stars and four have four stars or better. Take a look here and be sure to read the one star review. Perhaps they were not feeling so great when they woke up the next day and wrote them.

Yelp is powerful and for us, for the most part, a great thing. The only real issue I have with Yelp is that they don't take into account that usually the people that write bad reviews for winery tasting rooms are the ones that have indulged in a bit too much fruit of the vine. They need to find away to take that into account and banish such wine induced rants.

In Sideways Miles drank and dialed, the equivalent of drinking and Yelping. We do not recommend either.


Purity and delicacy are wine descriptors that do not appear often in reviews of top scoring wines. Terms like powerful, opulent and dense are the genre of pointy wines.

Poor Beaujolais seems destined to miss the mark for ratings defined by such descriptors. Youthful, fresh, lively, fruity, zesty and, the phrase that always damns a wine for the point obsessed, a "food wine", means low 90s at best.

Big points are the black holes of the wine universe. In the heart of the black hole the wines are dense and no light can escape from them, only points seem able to escape. Before all the lightness of wine is sucked away, down into the black hole itself, is the point of singularity where lightness can still exist. That's where wines like Beaujolais become relative.

If young Beaujolais finds relativity a problem, where can old Beaujolais find its place in the universe? It turns out Einstein was wrong when it comes to Beaujolais, Einstein's formula E=MC2 does not compute in this case where less mass creates more energy.

Recently I did a double take when I got a club shipment from Kermit Lynch. Côte de Brouilly? No surprise there. But wait! The vintage was not 2014, but 2006. The 2006 Côte de Brouilly Domaine de la Voûte des Crozes is indeed a singularity. It's a lacy, high strung ballerina of a wine. It was pure pleasure to let her dance through my dinner.

Black holes warp space time just as the 100 point scale warps wine time. Lightness is a concept that suffers in a universe dominated by black holes. They have indeed warped the wine universe.

I prefer to experience wines at the point of singularity.

This Wine Makes Me Mad

This wine makes me mad. It really ticks me off. It's balanced, elegant, complex, interesting and outrageously good to drink. What really gets me is that it's from a warm climate, downright Mediterranean, with hot sunny days - just like the the Napa Valley. This leads to the question, what the hell is wrong with the Napa Valley and why can't we make wines like this?

Yes there are those few that do, but they are lone voices. We all know Corison, Dunn, Stony Hill and a few other regal producers who get nods from the more enlightened media. Yet when it come to points it's excess that still wins the day.

The wine that angered me so much? The 2009 Mas de Daumas Gassac a stunning wine from a place famous for its sunshine.

What's your excuse Napa Valley? Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Ram Horn Vineyard Syrah Harvest, Mendocino

A true family endevour, the Poor Ranch in Mendocino is home to some wondeful old vines. The third generation is now working on the land and a fourth is one the way. The vineyard has always been farmed organically, in fact, this was the way vineyards used to be farmed and they just kept doing the way they had always farmed the land. They kind of laugh when people talk about the "new California" style of agriculture. True natural winegrowing by people that know no other way

Let's Play Two

The Dodgers and the Mets were in game five of the division championships and it occurred to me that the winner would be facing the Cubs in the NLCS. As a long time White Sox fan I'd spent the better part of the last three decades hating the Cubs. Normally I'd just assume I'd be pulling for whoever they ended up playing.

However, now I've been on the west coast for so long I've truly become a San Francisco Giants fan. To be a Giants fan means having a deep contempt for the Dodgers. So the idea of a potential Cubs and Dodgers NLCS made me face my true baseball fan soul.

What I discovered is that Tony Bennett has won out over Frank Sinatra and my roots are now truly more on the west coast than the midwest, where I grew up. The true measure of this was revealed to me when I realized in a showdown between the Dodgers and the Cubs I'd have to pull for the Cubs. Mind you I might not have been pulling very hard for them, but anything is better than the Dodgers getting to the World Series.

I guess we’re defined equally by not only the team we root for, but by the team we decide to see as evil incarnate.

There are several things that have made the Giants number one in my heart over the White Sox. Without a doubt winning three World Series in six years didn't hurt, but the fact that the White Sox, as they play in the American League, have a DH and the Giants don't has really changed the way I like to watch baseball played. The game is just better without the DH.

The Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees are rich teams in big markets. The (L.A.) Dodgers and Yankees have thrown their money at the game always feeling that anything less than a World Series Championship is failure. The Cubs, on the other hand, have been satisfied to just take the money from their fans and delivered mediocrity knowing they would still pack their quaint ballpark just by coming close to the playoffs every few years. Success at Wrigley Field has been measured by accountants not championships. It’s hard to like a team that has treated its long suffering fans so callously. Just think if they win the World Series this year they can ride that gravy train for another century. If is often joked about the Cubs that any team can have a bad century. But in fact the Cubs have had a tremendous century, they just haven’t won any championships. The lovable losers have been taking it to the bank for a long time now.

It was this attitude that eventually drove my loyalties from Wrigley Field to Comiskey Park and there they’ll stay in Chicago. I was drawn to the White Sox as, like me, they had to win to succeed. I felt closer to a team that had to produce results than one who was living on a type of inheritance and was milking it for all it was worth. It took a lot to drive me away from the team of my youth and the first place I ever saw a major league baseball game, but the Cubs did it.

My mother loves the Cubs and so if they do win I will be very happy for her and the other Cub fans so desperately praying for their beloved Cubbies to finally break the fabled curse. The same goes for the players who will be the real champions if they can pull it off. However, the ownership of this fabled franchise should not be let off the hook. They could have pulled this off much sooner with the resources at their command. The reason the Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 is not due to the players or fans, but due to the callous economic interests of the various owners over the years.

I was lucky to visit Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame this summer. It was an amazing experience for someone who loves baseball and nothing moved me more than the plaque honoring Ernie Banks. Behind me in my office sits a framed scorecard my dad kept when he took me to a game in Wrigley Field on August 24th, 1962, the day after my ninth birthday. Warren Spahn pitched for the Milwaukee Braves and Hank Aaron hit a home run. A young player named Lou Brock was playing center field for the Cubs. Billy Williams was in right and Santo was on third. The Cubs lost. On the front of that scorecard are the autographs of Don Landrum, Ken Hubbs and the incomparable Ernie Banks all scored for me by my dad.

So for my mom, dad, Ernie and that beautiful game in 1962 I will root for the Cubs to make it this time in spite of the suits who have run the franchise so cynically for the last century. Terrible owners have given Chicago the Black Sox and a hundred years of frustration for generations of faithful Cub fans. It’s time to think about the game, not them.

“Let’s play two,” said Ernie, the most beautiful quote in baseball. For the next two weeks, I’ll be a Cubs fan.