May 1997

Three New Releases:  Dry Chenin Blanc, Johannisberg Riesling, Tinto

    The Casa has three long-awaited new wines for you:  1996 Chenin Blanc, 1996 Johannisberg Riesling, and 1994 Tinto.  These releases come just in a nick because our inventories were near zero in every category.  Your patience, however, will be handsomely rewarded.  The techniques which we learned in Chile last year (see page two) have really paid off in wine quality.  The white wines especially are richer, more aromatic, and more fruity than before.  Although the crop in 1996 was short, it will be remembered for the outstanding quality of its wines both red and white.  The 1994 Tinto is unusually smooth and complex, with the nuances of old wine beginning to emerge.  “These are the best wines I’ve made so far,” said the Happy Farmer with his usual flair for modesty and understatement, “Of course I always say that.”  No Kidding!


Cardiac Rest

    So what do you call a Happy Farmer with a major blockage in his main left coronary artery?  Send your entries to the Casa.  The winner will receive a copy of the HF’s worrisome angiogram.  The good news is that your present author has so far avoided open-heart surgery through a program of life-style changes including:  diet (I now actually weigh what I always said I weigh); exercise (a daily walk); relaxation (ooommmm); visualization (see those spindly little arteries bloom into robust ropes of pulsing, blood throbbing, rivers of health!); stress reduction (“Oh you just smashed my fender?  Of course, I don’t mind, smash the other why don’t you?”)  

    Having a heart condition is very time consuming and it’s no fair being a workaholic to catch up.  It has been quite a challenge to finish all the wine, which I made in the fall before I knew I was “sick”.  Good thing I did, though, because now there is plenty of inventory to tide us through if the HF should have to be absent for a while.  I’m not planning to join the celestial choir invisible soon, but it does seem prudent for me to back off a bit for a while.  So don’t fret if the future brings fewer sightings of the HF.  Rest assured that I will be counting my omega three fatty acids and planning a comeback.


Behind the Scenes

    Some of you who have visited in the late fall have had the unusual experience of tasting the Chenin Blanc within weeks of the end of fermentation.   At that formative stage in its life, the wine which has been fermenting at cold temperatures for as long as eight weeks has an intensity of fruit flavor and aroma which is delightful and unique.  I have applied great energy to the challenge of capturing those flavors in the bottle; but truly I have never succeeded; and after almost twenty years of trying, I had concluded that it really couldn’t be done, that it was simply a lovely, but transient, stage in the long life of this extraordinary variety, something which would only be known to those tasting the wine during its infancy.

    I was discussing this frustration with a Chenin Blanc producer in Argentina last year and he knew exactly what I was talking about.  He, however, claimed to have been able to capture this character of the new wine in the bottle.  I was skeptical, but he produced a bottle, which satisfied me that he was not bragging.  According to Carlos, the remarkable flavors in the young wine are hyper sensitive to oxidation.  The key to his success was in his maniac attention to protecting the wine from oxidation.  Where he pointed a new direction was in his understanding of the importance of oxygen pick up before the fermentation begins.  I believe buyers of the ’96 Chenin and Johannisberg Riesling will benefit from this increased knowledge.  There is some fruit loss between the early tank tasting and the bottle, but much of the youthful enchantment has been captured.  And the further good news is that this benefit is gained without loss to the enduring complexities, which characterize the Chenin Blanc as old wine.  Our few remaining bottles of 1980 Chenin Blanc are still going strong!


Felonious Famer

    The effort to snuff out direct wine sales over state lines is intensifying.  Last year, when the wholesale and retail monopolies of Kentucky passed legislation making it a felony to ship wine to customers in the state, there was a cry of outrage.  Since that time, six other states have joined the bandwagon; and there is not a peep of protest.  The Wine Institute proudly announces that it has negotiated a pardon for wineries who have licensed distributors in the offending states.  Wow, that’s rich.  Only wineries, which are already locked out of the trade, are prohibited from shipping to customers in the state, yet another overlay of legal protection for the discriminatory monopolies already in place.  The Happy Farmer commented moodily, “When they come for me I’ll go quietly.  As Chief Joseph said when he surrendered to the tyranny of white man’s government:  ‘I’ll fight no more forever.”



    Life in the theme park grows more pretentious and self-important every day.  Realtors used to describe a property in the Napa Valley as a “place”, e.g. a place in the country.  By 1970, a “place” had become a “ranch” – so long as there was at least one grape vine planted on it.  Later, a property where grapevines might be planted could be called a ranch.  Lately, a “place” has become an “estate”, usually adorned with remote controlled iron gates bearing the initials of the latter ay aristocrat dwelling within.

    Keeping up with Sir and Lady Jones has become quite a challenge.  The locals say that Robert Mondavi isn’t a winery, but an attitude – despite its down-to-earth founder.  Our next door neighbor, Rombauer Vineyards, plans to expand its “family” operation to 450,000 gallons – over ten times its start-up size.  We wonder whether the wastewater treatment pond, which will border our driveway, will improve the neighborhood.  At least there are no present plans for an art gallery or a cooking academy.  More and more we wonder what we are doing here, which is also an attitude.  It may be doomed, but a stop at the Casa is still the easiest way to visit the third world!


Recent Sightings

    The wild life seems to be more visible.  Are there more creatures around?  Or are they being squeezed out of the habitat?  Some examples:  At Elvis Rock, in the Napa River, a family of Canadian geese, in the alligator pasture, a turkey.  Although there have been rumors of turkeys, this was the first sighting at the Casa.  In the frost protection pond, a pair of river otters- almost mistaken for muskrats.  They stayed about a week during which time they succeeded in devouring every fish in the pond!  Crossing Highway 29 near Diamond Mt. Rd., a coyote, on the front lawn, a fox.

    Question:  Is there more wildlife around or are we just seeing more?  Are the animals becoming less fearful, or are they being squeezed out of the available habitat, therefore more visible?


Sample case – Big Discount

    Our sample case is a way to try all the different wines we presently have on hand at a big savings.  Each case contains two bottles of Chenin Blanc, two bottles of Dorado, two bottles of Johannisberg Riesling, two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, two bottles of Tinto, one bottle of Quixote, and one bottle of Cabernet Franc.  $126.00 plus delivery and California sales tax, if applicable.


Six packs and Mixed packs

We offer a 5% discount on orders of six bottles, and we can make up other configurations (e.g. 3-packs, 4-packs) for gifts or other special requirements.  We routinely mix a case (12 bottles) to your specifications and the 10% case discount still applies.  For something really special, we can make up big bottles (3-liter, 5-liter) for you.  Give us a call for a quote on your special orders.  We aim to please.


Dry Chenin Blanc:  This is a specialty of the house.  The Casa is one of the few North American wineries that still make Chenin Blanc in the grand style.  Like the legendary white wine of the Loire Valley, Casa Chenin Blanc is dry, highly structured, with intense and complex fruit flavors.  It is delicious as young wine, with a potential cellar life of decades.

Johannisberg Riesling:  An exotic spicy wine made in the traditional German off-dry style.  A welcome change from dry white wine.

Dorado:  Our late harvest Chenin Blanc is a sweet aperitif wine.  Like the great Sauternes, Dorado is a gift of the “botrytis” or “noble rot” which concentrates the sweetness and adds a unique nut-like flavor of its own.  A special treat.

Tinto:  Our most popular wine, Tinto is an authentic Napa Valley field mix, a wine recipe planted in the ground over 50 years ago by an Italian who brought his folk knowledge with him.  An entirely enchanting and unique red wine.

Cabernet Franc is less familiar in North America than Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is the red wine of the St. Emillion region in Bordeaux.  It is softer than Cab Sauvignon and more complex than Merlot, with intense flavors of red berries.

Quixote is a shameless copy of the ultra chic, first growth wines of Bordeaux: a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  6-bottle limit

Cabernet Sauvignon:  The signature red wine of the Napa Valley needs no further introduction.  Don’t leave here without it.