Simple Definition of Natural Wine August 20, 2018 10:19

Until recently “wine” and “natural wine” were the same. Then that changed with increasing technology, winemakers interested in manipulation and companies looking to expand their winemaking product lines.

 “Natural Wine”, what does this term mean?
 It means fermented grape juice.
Here is my red wine recipe:
  • Start with really good fresh ripe grapes.
  • Break or crush the skins to get juice.
  • Put this into a vessel.
  • Add a little natural yeast.
  • Ferment until done.
  • Remove the liquid wine from skins.
  • Clarify and age the wine in small oak barrels for 22 months.
  • Put wine in bottle and cork it.

    Otherwise it can get complicated. Wine can be manipulated and altered
    by adding things that are bought commercially and not naturally found in grape juice or wine, like microbial control agents and:

      artificial enzymes  
      artificial tannins
      yeast nutrients
      fining materials 

     Pile of tannins



     Or by using industrial manipulation like:



      reverse osmosis 

    Wine is a wonderful thing.
    Manipulations are not all bad. They can have their place.
    They can work to correct problems and make a wine approachable. For example, most folks would think a bottle of wine they bought at the supermarket was ruined or foul if they saw sediment in the bottle. Manipulations will eliminate sediment. (Although WE know sediment is indication of a superior wine. See Sediment Blog about this.) 

    I prefer not to alter or manipulate the beautiful perfect grapes I grow.
    Fundamentally I find that I enjoy things most when they are
    made naturally and simply.  Like wine. Like bread baked from only flour, water, yeast, salt. Cheese made with whole unpasteurized milk, rennet, salt.

    Nothing more, nothing less than is needed. It's simply natural.

    I Like Sediment April 21, 2018 10:02

    Wine Sediment. You won't find it all the time, but when you do consider yourself lucky.

    A Dictionary definition of sediment: “Matter that settles to the bottom of liquid.”

    You will find sediment in wine because wine is a  liquid containing matter. Delicious matter.  If a wine is not industrially processed natural tannins, acids, tartrates and pigments can sometimes settle and appear on the bottom and sides of a bottle and on the cork.

    Sediment is the sign of a wines authenticity.  A wine that retains all its natural structure and ingredients from the grape.

    When wineries process their wines to strip out sediment the character of the wine is diminished. But processing is done anyhow because of fear that their customers will reject a wine that has sediment.

    I prefer to embrace the integrity of a whole natural wine. I eschew processing, so that all of a grapes tasty elements remain.  When you hear terms like unfiltered and unfined, this is indication that a wine is not processed.                                                                                                                

      Sediment in white wine may be tartaric crystals as you see on this cork or in bottom of the bottle. Sometimes a small amount of powdery white sediment settles. 

    The places to find red wine sediment are on the cork, adhering to the bottle wall or loose on the bottom.

    The wine itself is always clear unless you shake the bottle.

     Sediment is a perfectly harmless indication that you have a good natural bottle of wine. Here you see sediment stuck to the inside of a bottle.


    The article below tells more of the story.

    SPELLING BEE - Cinsaut or Cinsault March 1, 2018 09:52

    Spell "Sahn-so"

    I am confounded as to why I am seeing more spelling with an "L" as in Cinsault on wine labels. Nothing totally wrong with that because it is the spelling in some counties. I even occasionaly slip the "L" in there myself. Except when it comes to American wine labels we are told to skip the "L".  Regulations in the USA stipulate that the spelling be without the "L" as Cinsaut.

    This I learned 27 years ago.  Below you see the label for my first cinsaut bottling. It was sent to Washington DC for approval (all wine labels require a federal label approval) and was rejected because of the spelling Cinsault. I had already printed the labels and luckily received a one-time use dispensation, but I was told to never use this spelling again. I have not. The regulation sited is that a wine varietal label using this grape name must be spelled cinsaut.

    On every label since I comply and use "cinsaut" based on that regulation. Every wine, before it can be sold in this country, must receive a certification of label approval. I prefer getting my labels approved, not rejected.

    There is a comprehensive list of all approved grape variety spellings. The list below shows the section of that list that includes cinsaut.  The logic is that spellings need to be consistent in order to standardize a name so that consumers know what they are getting. When you have too many synonyms it will be confusing in the marketplace. Here are just a few of the synonyms: Cinsaut, Black Malvoisie, Cinsault, Chainette, Cincout, Cinq Sao, Ottavianello, Picardan noir, Cinquien, Cinsanet, Sinsó, Black Prince..

    The List


    27 years ago I spelled "sahn-so' cinsault,
    but quickly changed to cinsaut.
    This is my label today. Click it to read more and buy. 

    Winter Is Always About Pruning February 5, 2018 08:00

    Pruning defines winter. I am pruning. Everyone else is pruning.
    Soon we will be finished, just in time for spring.
    This most important job is done only once a year when the leaves have
    fallen and the skies are grey.
    Chances are all the folks you see out in the vines this time of year are doing pruning.
    Every single vine in every vineyard gets pruned.

    We prune to remove all the growth from last year except a few chosen buds. Decisions on what and where to cut are important.
    This coming vintage will be determined by the remaining buds.
     Pruning directs how the vine will grow and how many grape clusters a vines will set.


    The goal is one or two buds per spur
    depending on the size and age of a vine.

    If you don’t prune you end up with a large rangy vine
    with numerous small clusters of grapes that don’t get fully ripe. 


    Here canes removed from the vines are chopped up and plowed into the soil to build humus.
    Some are saved to fuel and flavor summer grilling.

    Orange Wine August 24, 2017 15:26

    It is called Orange wine because it is orange in color.  It is a different kind of wine made from white grapes, just like rose is a different kind of wine made from red grapes. Orange wines are gaining in cult popularity, but will never be main-stream. They are controversial because most people are not accustomed to white wine with tannin. Not everybody's expected glass of wine. Those who love it and enjoy successful pairings are big advocates. Great to use when experimenting with food pairings. Goes great with rich foods just like a red wine.

    Orange wine has a been around in eastern and central Europe for a thousand years. Imagine enjoying a home made meal and wine with a family in the country side of Georgia. Made with an ancient method in which white grapes are not separated from the skins before fermentation. This gives the orange wine color, complex flavors and pulls tannins from the skins that imparts a red-wine-like body. 

    I make my version of Orange wine with Estate Owl Hill Vineyard Genache Blanc grapes.  I chose this grape because it is naturally amber in color.

    Grenache Blanc juice and skins foam and ferment together for over a week. The bright color indicates that fermentation is going well.

    A new unique and magical orange colored wine flows from the fermenter.

    I call my wine Cuvèe Orange. 

    Tasting Notes: Orange color. Mysterious aromas of caramelized pear, orange zest, cashew butter and spice.  Deep flavors of dried mango, kiwi, key lime, gooseberry, vanilla, touch of fresh peach pie. Earthy mineral and dry tannin finish.

    Orange wine pairs well the a wide variety of foods.  Curry, roast turkey, ham, tajine, pork chops, Korean BBQ, natto, chicken liver pate, squab, eggplant parmesan, sweetbreads, poached salmon, mushrooms, spiced butternut squash, game birds

    See more and buy it here:   FRICKWINESTORE


    What I Know About Counoise July 30, 2017 19:06

    Counoise is originally from the Southern Rhône. The clone I grow is from the vineyards at Château de Beaucastel.

    Part of what I know about Counoise was gleaned from readings, readily available to anyone interested. So this discussion is based solely on my personal experience with the grape variety.

    Research indicated that it would grow well here in the terroir of my hillside. I tasted counoise wines that spoke of their character and heritage. They were interesting and delicious. I’ve had success with Cinsaut.  Cinsaut & Counoise have similarities like large juicy berries and a love of heat.

    So I planted counoise at the top of Estate Owl Hill Vineyard.

    top of Owl HillThis section of the vineyard is rough & rocky with two microclimates.  The warmer section, 65% of the total vineyard, is hot with long full day sunlight.

    Counoise vineyard section

    The other 35% has late afternoon shade and cooler temperature. The sun builds the sugar and rich fruit, the shade contributes savory refreshing natural acidity.

    The vines are not vigorous with chubby, pink, upright canes.

    They are late to bud, bloom and ripen. Of the 8 Rhône varieties I grow counoise is the last to ripen. The plump berries are a beautiful reminder of grape motifs from ancient ruins.counose clustersI am happy that I added this grape variety. It is a joy to grow. I think the wines have been delicious, decorous & intriguing.

    The wine has flavors of earthy blueberry and black currant.Luxardo Maraschino cherries, savory marzipan, fresh prune, black fig and vanilla.

    Pairs deliciously with many foods. Drink with pizza, Moroccan spiced chicken, eggplant roasted until creamy, duck confit, crisp garlic bread sticks, juicy pork belly, pasta with peas, vegetable soup, California teleme cheese

    Pronounce counoise as "coon-whaz"

    More about Counoise 2014 and purchasing information can be found HERE

    Killer Heat Wave June 19, 2017 12:07

    Growing grapes has a lot to do with weather. Here in Dry Creek Valley we have near perfect weather for growing excellent world class wines.  But weather charts its own course.

    This week we are having 5 consecutive days of 101F+  weather. Some days as high as 108F. 

    There is going to be some damage before the fog rolls in this weekend. Most of the established vines will weather this extreme. But I am watching the 2 acres that I budded earlier this year  The new buds and their growth is tender and susceptible to what is going on.  On my vineyard walk this morning there were already some totally welted and burned growth.  I am afraid the “take”, new buds that survive, will not be where it would have been without this heatwave.

    This is tender young bud grown.

    There is no changing the weather so as a grape grower you know to take the good with the bad. This period of extreme heat is not going to hurt the 2017 vintage, but it will kill some young vines.

    Winter in Frick Vineyards January 11, 2017 08:59

    Days are short and often gray. This season the storm door has been open. Rainfall to date (January 11, 2017) is 201% of normal. All lakes and ponds here in Northern Sonoma County are at capacity with water rushing down spillways into full flowing creeks.

    Frick Crick is flowing and Frick Fall is cascading.


    What to do on a day like today but stay dry and write a blog.

    The rain is needed. We have seen so many back to back drought years that all this water is making me giddy. Everyday the grass gets greener. The vines are going to love having this water to drink when they wake from their dormancy.

    In the vineyards all the leaves are gone. The activity you will see in the vineyards is pruning. It has begun in the periods between rainstorms. Pruning is the biggest and most important job this winter because it is setting up the vines for the entire 2017 growing season. 

     There are few things in life that more pleasurable than pruning grapevines. In the middle of a vine year after year it becomes very familiar and a good friend.

    The process of pruning is assure that you will get good wine from the vine. Each cane is cut back to just 2 buds. Next harvest each bud will yield 2 bunches of grapes.

    Perfectly pruned old vines. A beautiful winter sight here in Garibaldi Vineyard.


    Blends November 29, 2016 09:57


    Blends dominated before varietals were introduced in the 1960’s Now they are coming back into popularity in the USA.

    Varietals are a delightful pure expression of a grape variety. Blends are often the expression of the winemaker that go beyond the characteristics of one grape. Blends are not better nor worse than varietals, just different.

     Three ways of creating a blend.

     1. A Cellar Blend is made in the winery. Different varieties are first made into a 100% varietal wine. A varietal wine is then mixed with others by the winemaker to create the blend. The winemaker is in control There are no restriction on what varieties or how much go into a blend. Different formulas are mixed in the lab and then tasted to see what is the BEST.  Examples of my cellar blends are Cotes-du-Dry Creek, Lucia, C2 & C3 Understanding the characteristics of my 8 grape varieties I put them together in a way that they will contrast and compliment. Fruit with tannin. Earth with acidity. Leanness with richness.

     The process of creating a cellar blend. Each glass contains a different percentages of the base wines.

     2. A field blend is made in the vineyard (field). It is created by planting different varieties mixed together in the same vineyard plot. This was the common way to grow wine 100 years ago. All varieties are handled the same, harvested together and ferment together so you have many grape varieties, one wine. Example of my field blend is Garibaldi.

    Freshly harvested GARIBALDI. 10 grape varieties (red & white) are in this bin.

    3. In a Co-fermented Blend different varieties are harvested separately from their individual vineyards then brought to the winery, crushed and in the winery fermented together. I do not use this technique because my varieties do not ripen at the same time.

    COTES-DU-DRY CREEK, my signature blend comes as RED and WHITE wine.


    Brix October 2, 2016 10:52

    Degrees Brix is a unit of measure indicating amount of sugar in grape juice or other solution.

    In winemaking it is a tool in determining grape ripeness and when to harvest.

    Brix is also the name of some restaurants and wine shops because it is cool sounding common winemaking word.

    Named after creator Adolf Brix, it is a good indicator of sugar level and therefore helps determine the ripeness of a grape. One degree Brix is approximately one percent sugar.

    Brix is handy for grape growers and winemakers because it is a fast and easy test using a portable hand held refractometer.


     After tasting grapes in the vineyard I use a refractometer to monitor ripeness.


    Typically grapes are harvested in the range of 22 to 27 degrees Brix. 22 is marginally ripe and usually ferments a lower alchohol wine (around 13%). 27 is very ripe and will ferment a higher alchohol wine (possibly 16-17%).  Individual winemakers prefer different degrees of ripeness based on the style of wine they want.

    To decide when to harvest, in addition to Brix to determine ripeness I also pay attention to appearance of the berries, flavors in the juice, acids, color of the seeds and flavors in the skins. For me balance is the key to perfect ripeness.

    This is what a perfectly ripe cluster of Viognier looks like. Translucent (you can see the seed inside) and glossy rich color. This grape tested 24 degrees Brix.

    Varietal or Variety? July 13, 2016 15:26

    Varietal or Variety?

    Talking wine. Here is some insight into wine terminology of VARIETY and VARIETAL.  These words sound close and are often incorrectly used.

    • Definition of Variety is a kind of grape. Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, Cinsaut.  So grapes growing here in Owl Hill Vineyard are of the SYRAH VARIETY.
    •  Definition of Varietal is a WINE named after a grape variety. The wine I make from the syrah variety and label Syrah is a SYRAH VARIETAL.

    You see many varietal wines. Even ones I don’t make like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay.... By law these wines must be 75% of the grape variety stated on the label. My Varietals are 100% of the grape variety stated on the label.

    Say “varietal” when you are referring to a wine.

    Say “variety” when you a referring to a kind of grape.

    Summer Time and a Shipping Moratorium June 18, 2016 11:23

    Shipping Wine in Summer. Why a Summer Ground Shipping Moratorium? Update 5/26/18

    Ground shipping across the country takes a 3-7 days in transit. This is too long a time for wine to be exposed to the elements during summer. The moratorium is during hot temperature months of roughly May to October, depending what part of the country.

    To CA, OR, WA coastal areas it is possible to ship overnight during cool spells in summer by Golden State Overnight (GSO). Because of moderate temperature and  less time in transit. 

    If you are outside of CA, WA and OR you should order online now for fall shipment. This guarantees you access to wines that may become sold out. Your selection is reserved for you and stored in a cool place until shipment is safe on fall.

    Option: To have wine shipped now the new option to the moratorium is "Summer Solution". With this program 1-12 bottles will be shipped UPS overnight with ice packs for only $85 all inclusive.

    The Story

    Now until fall summer heat is a problem for wine sitting in a truck for days. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can damage wine. Therefore until cool weather returns I hold and store wine orders that will require more than a few days of transit time.

    Wine is a real living thing and is delicate. Think about this when you transport wine yourself anywhere this summer. Take care to insulate bottles. Don't leave it in a hot car. Ideally carry your wine in a cooler just like you would for potato salad.

    Most my shipments are packed in insulating styrofoam, a good way to protect wine from the elements. (See past Blog Post - Packaging for Wine Shipping. What is the best?)