News

CINSAUT December 31, 2021 11:30

A delicious Rhône grape variety.

Cinsaut vines have been in California for centuries. Until recently known by the synonym Black Malvoisie. Before the 1970’s  most grape varieties were mixed and blended. Cinsaut was not used for a stand-alone wine. You never heard the name. Varietal wines were uncommon.  

I made my first batch of cinsaut in 1991 with the intent of blending, as was the norm. When I tasted my 100% batch I fell in love immediately. It was so beautiful and delicious. That wine deserved to stand alone as a varietal. Now I have been making 100% varietal cinsaut for 33 years. It has become an old friend to me and many of my customers.  Every vintage has been consistently spectacular. The grape has flavors and balance that are compatible with my traditional hands-off winemaking practices. 

My grapes come from two Dry Creek Valley vineyards. One is 65 year old head pruned vines on 2 acres of red bench soil. The other, 33 year old vines on 1 acre of rocky hillside soil. Clusters have juicy, distinctively large, oval berries that are dusty purple color. Being well balanced with good acidity and soft tannin make for a delicious wine.

Cinsaut is not a common variety. Only 10 acres are planted in Sonoma County. This compares to 12,720 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in Sonoma County.

  Classic Cinsaut grape cluster.

The wine is delicious. I say "beautiful". Cinsaut is a friendly wine. It approaches you with lush fruit aromas and with a sip brings on complexity of more red fruit flavors. Soft restrained tannins and crisp acids lead to a long soft finish with a little nutmeg spice. This character allows you to pair the wine with a wide range of foods, from vegetarian to fish to steak.

Pair with: roast turkey, summer fruit salad, cambozola cheese, pasta primavera, BBQ chicken, spring roles, eggplant parmigiano, salmon, hummus, halibut, quail, guinea fowl, duck comfit, samosas, pizza, red curry, matar paneer, squab, ribeye steak with baked potato

Cinsaut or Cinsault

You will see the grape name most commonly spelled two different ways; Cinsaut and Cinsault. The government label approval for my first bottling was rejected because of my Cinsault spelling. I had already printed the label so I was lucky to get a one-time dispensation. I was instructed by the authorities not to use this spelling again.

  My first Cinsault label from 1991

So I now use the spelling "cinsaut" to comply with TTB regulations. TTB is the federal agency that governs wine in the USA. Every wine label in the country must be approved and certified by this agency.

TTB has a comprehensive list of allowed grape variety spelling. This is the section of that list that includes cinsaut. 

No matter what the spelling. This grape makes a beautiful wine.

You can view my current release cinsaut wines at Frick Wine Shop


Frick Winery. A little Local History. August 21, 2021 22:13

There are two official California Historical Landmarks within a few miles of Frick Winery. You could drive past and easily miss them so I present them here.

Italian Swiss Colony

Here in 1881 Italian Swiss immigrants established an agricultural colony. Choice wines, produced from grape plantings from the Old World, soon brought wide acclaim. By 1905, ten gold medals were awarded these wines at international competitions.

Italian Swiss Colony Historical Plaque

Italian Swiss Colony Winery is my inspiration for becoming a winemaker. 
See my personal story here.


Icaria-Speranza Utopian Colony

Icaria-Speranza was a Utopian community based on the writings of French philosopher Etienne Cabet. In 1881, at Cloverdale, French immigrant families led by the Dehay and Leroux families began their social experiment in cooperative living based on solidarity and depending on an agrarian economy. It lasted until 1886. Icaria-Speranza was the only Icarian Colony in California and the last of seven established throughout the United States. On this site stood the Icarian schoolhouse, deeded to the county in 1886. 

 


The 2020 Grape Growing Season November 10, 2020 14:00

VINTAGE 2020 is over.
Harvest has ended. 

Clean crusher.

All my crushing equipment is clean and put away. 

This is my lovely stemmer. Sparkling clean.

Whew! What a year.
Here is a short recap.

Spring was ideal. Late rains fed new vine growth but did no harm to blooming grape clusters.

grape clusters changing color from green to purple

Perfect full grape clusters were set on all my Rhone varieties. They went into veraison looking beautiful. My anticipation was for a classic normal year after having years with lower than average yields. “Looking good!” was how I explained the crop for 2020. The fruit was beautiful and abundant.

Purple grape clusters in a green canopy of leaves.

 

 August brought on a “Heat dome” with an extended 7 day period of extreme heat. This kind of heat spell never lasts this long. It usually ends in 2 days with fog.

Thermometer reading 110F

The heat was brutal. The humidity was low.

The long days of dry heat sunburned clusters and leaves.Dry grape leaf

Then...

Plume of smoke rising from the distant hillside.

Along with the heat, thunderstorms on August 17 came with dry lightning igniting hundreds of fires. I was greeted the morning of August 18 with a plume of smoke from the new Wallbridge fire, 4 miles away in the western hills of Dry Creek Valley.  Ensuing smoke was moderate here because of the wind direction so it did not get into my grapes. Firefighters battled and kept flames from crawling down the ridge into the Valley.

Airplane tanker dumping red fire retardant on Wallbridge Fire.

High heat arrived again in September.  The grapes were not getting ripe, they just continued drying up and getting more sun burned.  

Episodes of smoke from various fires kept me on edge.
I was worried about my grapes.
Bill Frick with a worried expression.

It is difficult seeing beautiful grape clusters wither away on the vine.  I harvested my early varieties. They tasted and looked good. Viognier was harvested before the fires.  Eventually a few weeks ago in late October I decided not to pick the remaining grapes, about half of my crop.  They were too beat up by the heat and low humidity and possibly compromised by repetitive smoke influences.

I made less wine than I would have liked this year. Tasting after fermentation I can say that the wines I did make will be excellent.  They will have compelling stories to tell about this trying year.
Panorama of vineyards and hills tinted orange with wildfire smoke.
Dry, hot, thunderstorms, fires. The word that defines this year is SCORCHING.
The 2020 Grape Growing Season is over. It is cool now with some early morning frost. Vines are going into their winter dormancy with beautiful fall colors. I am enjoying cool weather. Toasting 2020 with a bottle of Mourvedre and looking forward to barreling the new vintage.
Glass of Mourvedre wine.
Onward and upward Cheers!

Clarity August 10, 2020 10:00

What’s the deal with cloudy, foggy, hazy wine?

Wine is a glass with haze.

Wine drinkers eventually come across a wine that is not brilliantly clear in their glass.
Some may say,
“Ew, something is irregular here.”  or “Yay, I’ve got a natural unfiltered bottle.”
This appearance of haze or sediment does not harm flavors. It is not dangerous. It is solely a visual thing. That is not a “bad” bottle. 

If you age your wine for a day you may never see this.
But if you keep a collection of wines, like most wine drinkers do, you will most likely be seeing sediment and haze in older vintages.
As a wine ages in the bottle sediment will develop. When the bottle is handled sediment is suspended in the wine to create haze.

Sediment in wine bottle. This is sediment in wine bottle.

What’s going on?

During natural wine making wines become clear when ingredients that create turbidity fall with gravity to the bottom of a barrel. I call it “falling bright”. The clear wine is then decanted / racked off that sediment before bottling.

However, many wineries choose to process a wine further to assure that it will remain crystal clear under all conditions.

Fining is a process of adding a fining material to absorb, coagulate and strip elements from the wine that might affect clarity. This is filtered or falls to the bottom of the vessel and the decanting procedure is repeated.

Filtering is forcing the wine through a pad or membrane the catches particles.

A wine may also be centrifuged to spin out elements of substance.

All these processes are just for the sake of clarity. Clarity assures nothing more than a wine without haze and has little to do with overall quality, flavor or aroma.

When you alter a wine by removing components
you lose the qualities a wine possesses when it is whole.
Unprocessed wines are more flavorful, more complex and often age better.
But there is a chance a bottle may have sediment and display a haze.
This may freak out from folks. But now YOU know that haze is a sign of goodness. A sign that the wine is whole.

My wines are natural, but only a few exhibit haze. Best examples in recent years are 2016 Grenache and 2016 Grenache Blanc “Cuvèe Orange”. Interesting side note; a characteristic of Grenache as a variety is that it naturally tends to be turbid. 

More about sediment in this Article.

Glass of red wine tilted.  Cheers!  


Weeds May 3, 2020 16:30

I've got my hands full.  Cutting, pulling and chopping weeds is what I am doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A hand pulled weed

Each new year starts with cover crops, weeds and wildflowers that are allowed to flourish in the vineyard. The vines are dormant. The entire vineyard is green with plant growth.

In April I mow and plow in the cover crop leaving only the weeds in the vine row. Here is where the real work takes place. Controlling weeds between the vines is delicate tedious hand work. This is why many growers spray herbicide down the entire length of each vine row.

I don’t abide herbicide. I have chosen the tedious way instead.

Vineyard view with weeds in vine row.

This is a vine row with weeds that needs work.

The worst weeds are the ones that keep coming back even after all the chopping and weed whacking I do.  After my first pass down a row the ground looks summer neat. But then some weeds grow back so I need to repeat the whole process of chopping and weed whacking. My dream is that doing the job just once would work.

 Weed Overview 

  • Plantain is the worst. Keeps on coming back like a boomerang. They say you can eat the leaves and make past to put on skin, but I never have.  Here it is growing under Mourvedre after the first pass 3 weeks ago.
Plantain weed plant in the vineyard
  • Filaree grows then dies, but leaves this twisty, sticky seed pod.
                  Filaree seed
  • Burr Clover grows then dies, but the burrs left behind are unpleasant and a real nuisance on dogs. It is a legume so they say it adds nitrogen to the soil. I think it may have inspired velcro.  Round spikey burr from burr clover                                                                    
  • Wild radish has pretty flowers and woody stems. Its flowers and seed pods are good to eat. I've eaten them, mildly spicy. Cut it down or pull it once and you are done.
  • Wild Oats no problem. Pretty waving in the wind. Cut is once and it is gone for summer. It will be back next winter.
  • Rattlesnake Grass is my ornamental favorite. I preserve small patches to enjoy seeing. rattlesnake grass pods that look like rattlesnake tail.

 

Contemplate any weed up close and you see beauty.

3 Purple filaree flower  Filaree      Wild radish in bloom.  Wild Radish

 

 

 

 

 


2019 - A Short Review. Fun, Flood, Fire, Fruit December 30, 2019 00:00

 
Fun
There are few things more enjoyable than working in vineyards, making wines in my cellar and visiting with guests on weekends in my tasting room. I am so lucky that this is what I do all year round. 2019 was no exception. This year was packed full of fun. Pruning, racking, bottling, harvesting, crushing, pressing, pouring samples of my finished wines for good people. This year I installed solar electricity. I was excited to release a pale direct press rosè. A red blend with 19% white grape. I got a truck load of aromatic oak barrels to play with.
Bottle of Cinsaut Rose with rose pedals around it.  New Barrels on racks in the setting sun. 

       New Wine              New Barrels

 

Flood 
Last winter the rainy season started off slowly and late. Then it rained and then it rained a little more. Frick is located on high ground so the water soaked in, then the water flowed away. Lower points beyond flooded. Homes, vineyards and some wineries were inundated. But the soil reservoir was full and ready for vines to come out of hybernation. Season total rainfall here at Frick was 61.87 inches. Spring sprang green and lush.

Stream in Vineyard     Rain gauge overflowed

Waterfall   Rain gauge full to the top     

 

 Fire All is OK and safe with the people, vines and wines here at Frick. Here is the story.

October is the month to wrap up harvest and get ready for winter. It has also become wildfire season. Jobs must be scheduled around planned power outages that are meant to protect us from fires.
One of those power outages began on October 21. In the darkness the following morning I smelled smoke grabbed a flashlight. Outside it was warm silent and windless as the light beam cut through thick clouds of smoke to illuminate falling ash. This is now known as the Kincaid Fire. The fire spread. That power outage was prolonged. Mechanized winery jobs were on hold. I was out of communication for many days. Prevailing winds away from here enabled my vineyard to escape smoke damage. Evacuation became extensive and long. During this time, I was able to be here and personally attend to my wines and vines every day, except for one.
October was a trying month.

Cloud of smoke rising from the mountains.  Dinner plate in candle light

The fire                Dinner by candlelight

 

Fruit
Fruit makes the wine. Last spring bud break was 2 weeks late. Last rains of the season were late. All varieties except Viognier escaped late rain washing away pollen. Good late season rainfall meant the vines grew vigorously through spring and summer. Weeds in the vineyards also grew vigorously so the winemaker worked vigorously hoeing weeds all summer. Harvest was late and ran from early September to early November. During harvest I worked around loss of power, but in the end it did no harm to the fruit. Yield quantity was normal. Grapes were delicious with excellent acid balance. Young wines are now going into barrels to sleep, age and mellow for 22 month into complexity.

Red grape clusters hanging on a vine.

2019 was a memorable year. It will be a delight to savor the wines from this vintage. Just going to have to wait two more years. BUT you can enjoy some 2016 and 2017 right now.


Rocks August 17, 2019 07:00

I like rocks. I like things older than me.

When I look at a rock I imagine how it may have been here before human beings walked the earth. Rocks are nearly eternal.

Turquoise bowl full of small round rocks.

I accumulate rocks. Pick them up and put them in my pocket, then unload them in a bowl. After the bowl is full I admire them for a while then scatter them back in the vineyard. Catch and release rock collecting.

Rocks are in my vineyards. I have licked rocks. Perhaps you have too. Some are sweet some are salty.  You can taste them in my wine. I know that this is not logical but I feel that I can taste them. Sometimes feeling is better than knowing.

In the vineyard rocks offer visual interest. A smooth bolder here, gravel there to punctuate the soil.

              

The physical properties of rocks keep clay from clotting. Rocks don’t hold water, but they do help the movement of water through the ground. Vine roots cozy up against rocks for the water that flows along their hard surface.

Rocks of all sizes in a stream bed.

Without rocks lizards wouldn't have the perfect stage to collect heat from the sun.

Two lizards lounging on a smooth rock.

If there were no rocks in the vineyard we would not hear the musical clanging of steel harrow discs against them during plowing.

I would have nothing of substance to throw at a marauding crow.

Marking a location in the vineyard would not be so elegantly simple.

Round marker rock on top of a wood grape stake.

Rocks are fixtures in my vineyard. A beautiful reminder of our place in the cosmos.

Full moon in a dark sky with two bright stars next to it.

This is my most rocky wine right now.

Close up of Mourvedre label on a bottle.

Mourvedre is an earthy wine.
See more about it here

Dog Days of Summer July 11, 2019 10:30

We will get through these long hot days. We always do.
My wines would not be so good without them.

Dog Days means hot and humid in many places. But here In Dry Creek Valley July days can start gray with cool foggy dew on the vines. Afternoon humidity is low.



   

 

A typical foggy morning.

 

 

 

Heat arrives around noon after the fog burns off. Bright sunlight begins heating things up in late morning and escalates to a peak around 4.

 

 

Temperature rarely rises above 100F. But when It does fog soon rolls in to moderate.

 

 

 

After a cool night vines begin the day fresh with turgor. Perky and upright they lean toward the sun to absorb sunlight in order to mature their grapes.

As the sun disappears in the west vines have become a little worn after a full day of low humidity and sunlight. Canes hang and leaves temporarily wilted are ready to have 10 hours to restore before their work begins again.

In July comes the first clue of ripening. Veraison (change of color in the grape berries). Grapes bunches will rapidly turn from green to purple.



 

 

 

 

 

 

  Veraison. Another magical time the vines.

 

 

 

 

Vineyard jobs like mowing, plowing, weed whacking, cane positioning have slacked off.

Walks thought he vines still requires little corrections like positioning canes and pulling leaves, but for the winemaker there is time for an occasional afternoon rest.


 

   It's just a short siesta on the
  tasting room porch.

 

 

 

Inside the winery the job is getting my 2017 vintage ready to bottle by moving wine out of the small oak casks where it has been aging for the past two years.

I reside inside the cool tasting room three days a week now for summer hours. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Folks on vacation are visiting from all over the world. When I see a familiar face returning to buy my wine I am happy and thankful for such a wonderful group of customers. 

We owe the term Dog Days of Summer to the brightest star in the July sky, Sirius. As the prominent star in constellation Canis Major it is a stand out. Sirius is twice as big as our sun. 

  

                                          

Water is life. I irrigate when needed. But I am judicious about it's use. Now monitoring is important in the vineyards. I am constantly checking for leaks, clogs and places where porcupine and coyote have chewed the drip lines


Summer Solstice Reflections June 19, 2019 13:00

Friday June 21, Summer Solstice, marks the onset of summer.
This is a special day. 

On this longest day, sunrise is 5:45am. But by 5:15am twilight is enough to see things. Dragging this body out of bed early is not my greatest pleasure. But once up and moving around in the vineyard magic begins. Bobcats and coyotes use the last minutes before dawn to get back to their lairs. The air smells so cool and fresh that is has substance. Crows and Jays have not started getting into mischief. No frantic chirping. A definite silence surrounds me. Light begins flowing this direction from the eastern horizon. As color slowly appears in the vines and trees I feel like I am the only human being on earth.

This day will be long in terms of sunlight. Almost 15 hours of daylight. The last rays of the sun will still be shining over the western horizon until nearly 9pm.  Now as days get progressively shorter the vines begin a race to ripen fruit for harvest before there is too little sunlight and the rainy season begins.

Grape clusters are currently bb sized berries. Vines require sunlight, heat and time to produce the correct kind of ripe, juicy, sweet fruit for wine. Today begins the long haul through summer towards harvest. It will be three more months before Counoise and Mourvèdre are ready. The summertime job  pulling leaves and thinning clusters of fruit to create a vine environment with balance of sun, shade and air is prime. An airy well-lit canopy of green is best to ripen flavorful purple grapes.

Summer nights on the vineyard are for cooking on the outdoor grill; chicken, corn, ribs, eggplant, squash. Drinking chilled Cinsaut with chicken dinner. Moonlight swims. Gazing with awe at the twinkling visible universe in the night sky; then counting satellites. 

The tasting room is open Summer Hours. I added Fridays to Saturday and Sunday. This will accommodate more people who are out and about. It is really nice to be able to show visitors the wines that are grown here.

The other 4 days of the week will be spent alone in the vineyard thinning canes and leaves, weed whacking, hoeing weeds, inspecting vines for signs of water stress. Or inside the cool winery working with topping, tasting, blending and bottling.

The green vines march over Owl Hill. Here with summer weather grape berries will grow plump and change color from green to purple (veraison).  

Before we know it autumn and harvest will be here.

Bill Frick lives and works full-time at the Frick Winery & Vineyard in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley. He personally makes wines from the grapes grown there and sells them from the tasting room on site. It is a self-contained little domain.
7.77 acres and a man

Bees and Flowering Grapevines May 20, 2019 13:25

I see an abundance of bees around the vineyard daily.
Honey bees and bumble bees are the most common.

They are busy collecting and scattering pollen everywhere.

They particularly love lavender, rosemary and wild weed flowers.

I rely on them to pollinate my fruit trees.
I love the bees, but I do not need them to pollinate my grapes.

Grape flower buds have plumped up. May is flowering time for my vines.
My different varieties bloom at different times. Viognier is first and is now in bloom. Later comes Counoise and Mourvèdre with most buds now still tight.

Out of the buds appear small white flowers.
These tiny flowers are self-contained pollinators
that have both male and female parts.


Gravity or a wisp of wind is enough to pollinate a grape.
Bees are not needed to carry the pollen.
Good thing because these little flowers do not attract bees.

If all goes well each individual berry will get pollinated and a full bunch of grapes will start growing.  
In a little over 3 ½ months a sweet ripe cluster will be ready for harvest like this Counoise.

There is an issue this year. Late rains. An unusual series of storm fronts have been dropping down here from Alaska. These fronts have been extra wet. Rainfall has been ongoing with significant heavy downpours.

Vines that are blooming now are at risk of having pollen washed away before it can do its job. Berries that don't get pollinated are called "shot" berries as seen in the cluster below. This really affects the yield at harvest.

On the bright side. The storm fronts have also been cold.
The cool temperature has delayed some flowering.

I will just have to wait and see how these May storms have affected pollination
and grape yields this vintage.

But one thing is for sure, bees had nothing to do with it.


Spring has Sprung at Frick May 1, 2019 16:42

May 1, 2019

The 2019 growing season has begun.
The vines and I are off and running.

  Rain gauge overflowed often.
It was a long winter with over 57” of rainfall here.
Cold wet storms continued well into March.
Cold and rainy weather kept vines dormant for 
a delayed but break. Ground in the vineyard was so
wet that cultivation was delayed until just now.
   Owl Hill Vineyard
Because of an abundance of moisture in the soil
and the sudden spring heat spell in April vines burst into life.
They quickly budded and started growing inches each day.
 
There has been no spring frost. Always a good thing.
 
Now all my vines have beautiful fresh young green leaves
seen in Gannon Vineyard above.
Fruit clusters are big and plump.
Growth continues with noticeable lengthening of canes every day.
 
Vine varieties are not all the same.
They start growing at different times.
Viognier and Carignane are early.
Mourvedre and Counoise are later.
Some sections of the vineyard have much more growth than others.
Different variety characteristics make for interesting farming.

   

Above-Carignane                                    Above- Mourvèdre


The tall, well-watered cover crop was, finally, just mowed and plowed in for some wonderful tilth.
The tractor did not get stuck in wet spots.

Below you see my main piece of equipment.
 
I have started weed-whacking and chopping extra thick growth of grass in vine rows.
There is a lot of extra clearing work ahead of me this year.
Maybe I will receive another Certificate of Excellence for 2019.


Vineyard Cover Crop January 21, 2019 22:27

Winter Time
All the leaves are gone and the vines stand bare
like woody sculptures.


But there is something green out there.
It is this Cover Crop.
This is how it as it looks right now in January.
It will often grow to be nearly 4 feet high.

These are the organic seeds. A blend of peas,
fava beans, barley and oats.

To improve the health of my vineyards
I introduced a yearly cover crop.
It builds tilth in my rocky soil. It develops a spongy
top soil that will retain rain water longer into summer.

The cover crop is food for many earthworms that nourish the soil.
Tons of additional organic matter, plowed in,
increases the volume of top soil.
Legumes release nitrogen to be available to vine’s roots.

A healthy vineyard means beautiful grapes,
a happy winemaker and delicious wines.


How I Do It.

In the fall.
I soften the soil by plowing with a disc harrow.

Then I drill the seeds.
Wait for rain to germinate the seeds and 
let the cover crop grow all winter until April
when it is big and tall.

In the spring
I mow down the cover crop and
mix the organic matter into the soil with Disc.
Then I've got some nice dirt for my grapevines.

Normally I need to mow down the cover crop before the legumes
and grains ripen. But occasionally timing allows me to be able to pick some favas. I enjoy them as a nice fava bean salad with a glass of cinsaut.