May 1996



’92 Cabernet Franc

The release of our Quixote in 1991 caused some of our customers to fear that we intended to discontinue our line of Cabernet Franc.  Not to worry.  Although the Quixote is predominantly Cab Franc (about 60%), we will continue to make our 10% varietal Cabernet Franc as we have done since 1986.  In this, we are one of the few wineries to offer a 100% varietal Cab Franc, and it appears that many of our customers have become enchanted by this “sleeper” variety.  Though there was a short interval last winter when we were sold out of the ’89 and ’90 Franc, we managed to bottle (by hand) the 1992 Cabernet Franc in time for Christmas.  In fact, the boxes were moving out as quickly as we could paste the labels on the bottles.  At this writing, there are still 55 cases left of the ’92, but don’t panic.  We have the ’94 Franc in the cellar, so there are no shortages in sight!

Love Me Tinto

Students of Casa Nuestra will already know that Elvis Presley came to the Casa in 1961 to shoot a portion of the 4th move, “Wild In the Country.”  Now the Napa alley Arts Council is celebrating the Elvis connection with a weekend fundraiser called, WILD IN THE VALLEY, June 14-17.  There will be a special screening of the classic Elvis movies, including Wild In the Country on Saturday, June 15.  The entire event is retro, most especially the price: for five bucks you see Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock, King Creole, Viva Las Vegas and Wild in the Country.  This is an ideal occasion to dust off your blue suede shoes and boogie up to the Napa Valley.  Don’t be late or you might miss seeing Casa’s own Elvis rock in the opening scene!

Send Me Your Huddled Faxes

Is electronic communication a part of your life?  Like most aspects of the high tech revolution, you either love it or you hate it – maybe both.  Either way, it seems to be the direction of the future.  Instant communication does have its benefits.  Probably the time is not far off when the Journal will be published electronically, at least for those who want it that way.  Potentially that could save a lot of trees, and it will be good not to lick stamps!  So send us your E-mail and/or fax addresses.  As always your names and addresses are never shared.

Rites of Spring

 In my third decade of farming (and my sixth decade of life) I feel very lucky to be among the tiny fraction of workers in our country who actually turn the soil.  I use a disk for vineyard cultivation.  My disk, which has lived here at the Casa much longer than I have, is called a “Wilcox”, after the tractor company in Rutherford that build it before I was born:  in the days of victrolas, iceboxes, dial telephones and movie palaces.  It has been repaired a million times, and you can tell; but even if I were inclined to replace it (and I’m not), there is nothing out there that can do its job better.  It is its own up grade.

 At 2.5 miles per hour (6th gear), you can see a lot, like the wild asparagus stalks popping up between the vines.  I invariably stop and browse.  The soil is infinitely variable, it reminds me of food.  Some areas are dark, heavy and sticky, like fudge brownies.  Others are like gingerbread.  My favorite is the color and consistency of ground coffee.  Maybe it’s time for lunch.  The black birds gather as soon as they hear the starting crank – truly a Pavlovian response.  There are more colors in black than have ever been named.  The male birds are shiny and iridescent, like satin, gunmetal, or oil-on-water.  The female birds are brownish with yellow eyes the color of custard.  There is a lot of courting going on.  Observing the delight of these creatures foraging behind the disk, I wonder what a big juicy worm would taste like.  Too bad for the worm.  We are usually joined by two or three crows.  If my tractor were a boat, they would be the gulls.  When they are not observing from above, they perch on grape stakes like the piers of a wharf.  I am lucky to have this job.

Tinto Trends

Consistent with the law, which excites an interest in what is no longer available, the latest hoola-hoop in the wine business is an interest (at last) in “field mixes”.  It used to be common in the Napa Valley to plant vineyards with a mix of different varieties in the same field, like wine recipes planted in the ground.  These field mixes have almost disappeared from this valley in the rush to plant only “premium” varieties.  Now that ennui has set in with “Cab ‘n Chard”, the trend setters have at last discovered field mixes – with attendant hype and high prices.  Casa Nuestra customers, however, have been ahead of this end for twenty years – Casa Nuestra Tinto, still everyone’s favorite wine.

Life in the Theme Park

Casa Nuestra has recently been solicited by the Rising Spark Corporation to reserve a space in the new Napa Valley theme park under construction in West Virginia, called Napa Valley East (registered trademark).  Four similar parks are planned.  Presumably, robotic Happy Farmers will wave to the visitors as their kiddies cars wend their way from Casaland to Duckhornland to Freemark Abbeyland and so on, confirming once again that appearance is all.  Not to be outdone, the original Napa Valley theme park (located in the Napa Valley, California) plans to double the number of daily scheduled Wine Train rides, despite continuing and ever more strenuous objections of those of us who actually inhabit the place.  So who’s being taken for a ride?

Casa Collection

1992 Dry Chenin Blanc.  The Casa Nuestra corner stone, our Dry Chenin Blanc sets the standard for this disappearing variety.  Its assertive flavors and lean structure enhance any meal.  There is nothing flabby here.  It is the adult food beverage of choice and a rewarding wine to keep in the cellar.  $8.50/bottle

1992 Chardonnay (Marion’s Vineyard).  A stand-out among Chardonnays, this wine is well structured, combining fruitiness with agreeable acidity.  It was entirely fermented in small oak barrels.  No malolactic fermentation.  $15.00/bottle

1994 Johannisberg Riesling.  In the traditional German style, our Riesling has a slight residual sugar (1.2%) and medium-high fruit level.  The exotic muscato tones are pleasingly balanced with an ample acidity which renders the wine fresh and lively on the palate.  $12.00/bottle

 1988 Dorado.  Made entirely from Chenin Blanc, enhanced by the “noble rot’ 

(Botritis), this aperitif wine is richly flavored with an exotic aroma of fresh pears.  It is a deep gold color, sweet (residual sugar 6%) but not cloying.  If you long for Sauterne but have been terrorized by sticker shock, discover Dorado.  Bottled in 375ml size only.  $12.00/bottle

1991 Quixote.  The Casa’s most ambitious undertaking, Quixote is a “meritage” blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Fashioned after the superb clarets of St. Emillion in Bordeaux, it is a dark ruby in color, with appealing oak and floral aromas.  The flavors are intense and complex, but the over-all impression is softer and less aggressive than Cabernet Sauvignon.  $18/bottle

1992 Cabernet Franc.  Our 100% varietal Cabernet Franc showcases the charm of this hard-to-find variety.  It is soft and fruity like Merlot, but the flavors are intense and complex, like Cabernet Sauvignon.  $18.00/bottle

1992 Tinto.  The Casa’s most popular product, our Tinto is a glimpse into the history of the Napa Valley.  We believe it is the only authentic Napa Valley field mix to be found in a bottle today.  The two-acre vineyard where Tinto is grown contains most of the “standard” grape varieties from Napa’s past, including Zinfandel, Petit Syrah, Refosco, Carignon, Alicante, Gamay, Cabernet and so on.  It is complex, smooth, deeply colored and oh so easy to like.  $9.50/bottle

Felonious Delivery

The distributors of alcoholic beverages who enjoy state-law sanctioned monopolies have become increasingly aggressive in their campaign to lock out small wine producers who reach their campaign to lock out small wine producers who reach their customers directly through the mail.  Recently, the state of Kentucky enacted a law making it a felony to ship wine into that state except through licensed wholesalers.  This extraordinary step toward criminalizing the wine industry brought immediate and strident reaction.  Kendall-Jackson announced that it would no longer do business in that state.  Other big players joined the boycott, including Glen Ellen and Robert Mondavi.  At this writing, a delegation from Kentucky was seeking a compromise with California wine producers.  These draconian measures prompted the following letter from the Happy Farmer to CA State Sen., Mike Thompson: 

Sen. Mike Thompson

Sacramento, California


Dear Senator Thompson,

I am sure you share my alarm at the action by Kentucky, criminalizing the direct shipment of wine into that state.  When we last met to discuss this general issue, I proposed that you introduce legislation which would prohibit the distribution in California of alcoholic beverages which were manufactured in states which refused to enter into reciprocal shipping agreements with California.  As you will recall from our previous discussions, it is my opinion that the attempt by some states to prohibit or otherwise interfere with the rights of their citizens to buy wine for private consumption directly from wineries in this state constitutes an illegal discrimination against small producers like Casa Nuestra.  I again urge you to introduce the legislation which we discussed, and I further suggest that the measure be extended to alcoholic beverages manufactured in 

Or transported through states which refuse to adopt reciprocal shipping agreements.


Eugene Kirkham, Happy Farmer