June 1994


Dear Casa constituents,

If you have been thinking lately that there must be more to life than this, the reason is probably because you haven’t received your Casa Nuestra Journal for several months.  Thank heavens for support groups.  Now, with Casa Nuestra wine as near as your mailbox, things will be looking up!  For the cybernauts out there, we now have an E=Mail address (internet).

In this issue, you will find a new release of everybody’s favorite Chardonnay and an irresistible offer on Dorado, Casa’s best-kept secret.  In other news, there is a report from the Happy Farmer on his trip last March to El Salvador with the international delegation of election observers.  He managed to dodge both the bullets and the amoebas.

Summer is here and you won’t want to run out of wine for those lazy-day celebrations.  It is always shady and cool in our wine garden, so be sure to pay us a visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

Warm regards,

The Kirkhams


T.B. Aqui”

Tom Blackburn 1913-1994

Captain John Thomas Blackburn, predecessor to the Happy Farmers at Casa Nuestra, died on March 21 in Jacksonville, Fla.  Services to honor him were held at Arlington National Cemetery.  Tom was 81.

Until his retirement to the Napa Valley in 1962, Tom served with great distinction in the United States Navy.  He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1933.  During World War II, he was an acknowledged hero as a fighter pilot “ace” and air squadron commander.  In 1942, Tom commanded the VF-17 fighter squadron, known as the Jolly Rogers, the first to fly the F-4U Corsair fighter plane in combat.  He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his war service.  After the war Tom served at the Pentagon and commanded the aircraft carrier Midway.  During his retirement he wrote a colorful and informative memoir entitled “The Jolly Rogers” (Orion, 1989).

Less well known is the fact that Tom planted the vineyards of Casa Nuestra and gave this enchanted spot its present name.  The Chenin Blanc and the Johannisberg Riesling, still in production today, were planted by Tom.  In addition to grapes, Tom originally intended to breed Golden Retrievers.  He adopted “Casa Nuestra” as his trade name and hung the first Casa Nuestra sign on the Silverado Trail more than 30 years ago.  Evidence of Tom’s resourcefulness is everywhere apparent around the Casa.  It seems that there was little he could not do given enough baling wire and radiator clamps.  He was definitely a good man to have on your side in a war.  All who knew him appreciated and admired him for his courage good humor, and joie de vivre.  He will be missed.  We will not see such another soon.

NEW RELEASE – 1992 Chardonnay, Marion’s Vineyard

To know the real meaning of a “green thumb” you must see Marion Sargent’s vineyard and garden.  Everywhere you look there are exotic fruits and plants.  Under her care a few acres seems like a plantation.  Her Chardonnay vineyard is in truth a garden, meticulously manicured, leaf-by-leaf, bunch-by-bunch, vine-by-vine.  These grapevines are truly happy and they show it.  From this flawless fruit, Casa Nuestra has made its 1992 Chardonnay.

Using the techniques of Burgundy, this Chardonnay was fermented in small oak barrels, with extended contact on the lees.  It is rich, with a bit more oak than the 1991.  It is particularly distinguished for a refreshing acidity.  A standout among Chardonnays, this is without doubt the best value in a Napa Valley Chardonnay.  $12 per bottle.  $129.60 per case, plus $9 CA sales tax if applicable.


One of the best-kept secrets of Casa Nuestra is our dessert wine, Dorado; and now is the time for you to get in on the secret.  Dorado is our late harvest, botrytis wine, made from Chenin Blanc.  It is sweeter (residual sugar 6%) than table wine with the flavor intensity and mouth feel of a liqueur.

Few wine drinkers have experience with late harvest wines because of the price:  in the $20 range for a tenth bottle of most California examples; $75 and up for a tenth bottle of Chateau d’Yquem, the premier French sauternes.  These wines are pricey because they are difficult to make and because the weather frequently does not permit the making of them at all.  Essential to the program is the action of botrytis, known as the ‘noble rot.'  Botrytis dehydrates the fruit, concentrating the sugar, acid and other flavor elements.  Botrytis also imparts a distinctive flavor of its own, usually closes the sale.  To encourage our mail-order customers, here’s an irresistible offer:  six 375ml bottles for $50, tax and California delivery included.  For out of state delivery, add $10.


The heart and soul of Casa Nuestra is its mailing list.  There is no charge for the Casa Nuestra Journal and we are happy to send it to you on request.  After two mailings, if we do not hear from you, we send a notice asking whether you want to remain on the list.  There is at least one flaw in this system.  We have no way of tracking people through the sales room unless they sign the guest book.  Thus, regular salesroom customers may receive a “will we hear from you?” notice or even be dropped inadvertently from the list.  If this has happened to you in the past, please accept our apologies.  You can help us avoid this mistake by putting your name and address in our guest book each time you visit our sales room –even though you are already on the list.  Your name in the book is our signal that you are still an active member of the Casa family.


There is something particularly vexing about delivery charges.  It seems like wasted money, without any value – no bang for the buck.  On the other hand, have you ever stopped to think of the small army of people and machines it takes to insure delivery of a case of wine anywhere in the U.S. in only a matter of days?  The ease, reliability, and speed with which these packages move around are a modern miracle – at any price.  And consider the personal cost to you of making a trip to the wine store.  Merely to avoid an interview with an arrogant clerk who makes you feel like an idiot would be worth $25 per case.  You should also take comfort in knowing that as a Casa customer, you pay the lowest delivery charges in the industry – below the cost of the service.  So the next time you add on the delivery charge, think of the deal you’re getting.


I had the good fortune to join a delegation lead by folk singer Peter Yarrow to observe the election on March 20 in El Salvador.  It was an enlightening and transforming experience.  The election was an important step in the on-going peace process, which ended the twelve-year civil war in that country.  Observers from all over the world were invited to participate in the effort to deter fraud and violence.  It is impossible to distill into a few words the impact of the experience.  I return with the profound hope that all of us will in every possible way express our solidarity with those near and far who are trying desperately to improve their way of life.  We, who have so much, have a great opportunity to make a difference.

Since the domestic turbulence surrounding the Viet Nam war, I have been a closet peace activist.  At Peter’s urging, I was able to resume an active role in the effort to spread the cause of peace.  It feels good to find so positive a way in which to carry on the struggle.  I urge any peace activist “drop outs” who may be reading this to “re-up."  There is much to be done.  Nothing is more tragic or false than the conviction that we are powerless to bring about change.  If you are wondering how to start, contact the non-profit Center For Global Education, Augsburg College, 731 21st Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN, 55454, and 612.330.1159.


When wineries resemble theme parks or miniature golf courses, why should we express surprise at the idea of a plastic cork?  After all, as the promotional literature points out, real corks come from trees “horror” grown by foreigners. Synthetic corks are made in the US (hooray) from the one thing, which we seem to have in unceasing abundance – PLASTIC!  Oh, I know, it’s a real problem, sometimes, to get a cork out of a bottle.  Sometimes they leak.  Experts, who must know, say that a “corky” taste is sometimes imparted to the wine.  I may be hopelessly old fashioned, but there is something charming about a cork – an organic thing that returns to the earth.  Do you think the growing enthusiasm for plastic corks could be because they are cheaper?  They are probably the wave of the future:  the wine biz equivalent of the pop-top littering the landscapes for a half-life of forever.  At least they won’t lacerate our bare feet on the beach.  Or have I switched to plastic feet?

I can’t remember.


Many customers in response to the survey expressed the desire to order in 6-bottle increments, and so beginning immediately we are offering 6 packs with a quantity discount of 5%.  Compute the price using the bottle prices.  Help yourself to a 5% discount and then add freight and California sales tax (7.25%) if applicable.  If your calculator is in breakdown mode, send us the order and we’ll compute the charges for you and confirm them with you by telephone before shipping.  Shipping charges for 6 packs in California - $10 and out of state - $22.


Here’s a chance to sample everything we presently offer and save 20%.  Each sample case contains three bottles each of 1992 Chardonnay and 1992 Dry Chenin Blanc; two bottles each of 1989 Cab Franc, 1991 Tinto and 1987 Dorado.  

$99 plus $7.18 CA sales tax if applicable.