November 1999

Emeritus Farmer – The Return of Shay

    As the new millennium begins, there are big changes underway at the Casa, now in its twentieth year.  If you visited the winery between 1992 and 1994, you will recall Shay Boswell, who staffed the sales room on weekends during that interval.  Shay left the Casa to finish her degree at the University of Tennessee.  After graduation, Shay was recruited by Kendall Jackson, where she supervised sales in one of KJ’s most important sales districts, South Florida.  Shay was a rising star in the Kendall Jackson organization, but she missed Casa Nuestra.  Last Christmas, during a social visit, the idea germinated for Shay to become the next Happy Farmer.  This is an ambitious undertaking for it is hoped that Shay in time will be able to oversee all operations, farming, cellar and sales, rendering the present author HFE, Happy Farmer Emeritus.


Five New Wines

    Our pre-harvest summer has been a marathon of bottling:  five new wines!  Truth to tell, the Happy Farmer, in the post cardiac times, had gotten a little behind in the cellar.  Anyone who has ever been inducted into our bottling service knows what an undertaking this has been.  Each bottle is hand filled, hand corked, and hand labeled.  We make wine the way my father made jelly, one at a time.


1996 Cabernet Sauvignon…………………………    192 cases

1996 Tinto………………………………………………..193 cases

1997 Cabernet Franc………………………………..212 cases

1997 Late Harvest JR………………………………..166 cases

1998 Dry Chenin Blanc……………………………..100 cases


Casa Logo Shirts

    We have restocked our supply of logo shirts, with new colors, new designs, and new styles.  All of these items are top-of-the-line 100% cotton.  The tees have an enlarged Casa label on the front, printed in burgundy and black.  Our polo and sweat shirts have a reduced logo (3”x3”0 on the front-left corner, embroidered in five colors.

    Tees come in white and ash.  Sizes are M, L, and XL.  Polos come in white, ash, and navy.  Sizes are M, L, XL.  The sweats come in ash, navy, and holiday red.  Sizes are L and XL.  Tees:  $16; Polos $29; Sweats $29.  We have a limited number of all three styles in XXL for $2 extra.


Varietal Notes

    Cabernet Franc 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.  Cabernet Sauvignon is the signature red wine of the Napa Valley, a genetic hybrid of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.  Tinto, our most popular wine, is an authentic Napa Valley field mix, a wine recipe planted in the ground over 50 years ago by an Italian who brought his ancestral knowledge with him.  An entirely enchanting and unique red wine.  Quixote is a shameless copy of the ultra chic, first growth wines of Bordeaux:  a blend of Cab Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Sold out at the present time, but a new vintage will be available soon.  Chardonnay, the white wine of Burgundy, has become this country’s white wine of choice.  Ours is intensely flavored, aromatic, with only a hint of oak.  Dry Chenin Blanc, our casa Blanca, is a specialty of the house.  The Casa still makes Chenin Blanc in the grand style:  dry, highly structured, with delicate and complex flavors of fruit and oak.  It is delicious as young wine, with a potential cellar life of decades.  

Johannisberg Riesling is an exotic spicy wine made in the traditional German 

off-dry style.  A welcome change from dry white wine.  Dorado is our late harvest Chenin Blanc.  Arising out of the unusual conditions in 1988, which brought the “noble rot”, this Sauterne style dessert wine is richly flavored aromatic, and beautifully colored.  Only five cases left.


Sample Cases, Mixed Cases

    Our sample case is a popular way to try all the different Casa wines at big savings.  Each sample case contains:  two bottles of Chenin Blanc, two bottles of Chardonnay, two bottles of Riesling, two bottles of Tinto, two bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, and two bottles of Cabernet Franc.  This is a great gift because you don’t need to know the lucky person’s taste in wine.  The selection is balanced between red and white, dry and sweet.  She is bound to find what she likes in this package.  $145.  If our sample selection is not quite right for you, feel free to create a case to your own specification, and all discounts apply.


Rubber Boots and Panty Hose by Shay Boswell

    Sitting on top of a 1000 gallon tank of fermenting Merlot, I daydream about my life a year ago.  Last October, I was in Miami Beach calling on Kendall-Jackson’s top clients.  My goal for the day was to invite them to a yacht party for Christmas.  A call went something like this:  check lipstick (before entering), kiss the buyer on the cheek (upon meeting), and share snack (lobster dumplings).  After about 15 minutes I would ask the buyer if he/she would be interested in going to the party.  “We’ll be on a 90 footer drinking our reserve wines and eating gourmet food,” I would say, selling the idea.  “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you”, was the typical response.  Smile, then on to the next account.  It was a job with perks.  I drank well, ate well, dressed well, and socialized with the top restaurateurs.  It was glamorous, and KJ made me district manager of the year.  I felt secure about my future.

    The squealing of the must pump has interrupted my daydreaming.  I shimmy down the wooden ladder and turn off the pump.  I notice that I have spilled wine down the entire length of my arm.  I am puffing a little bit from the workout of the pump over.  Making wine is very physical.  I move the hose with a struggle to the other tank, bumping my head on the thermometer in the process.  I press “start” and the squealing begins again.  I shimmy up the ladder, and proceed pumping over, trying not to breathe too much CO2, which is generated from the fermentation.  The pump over will last 30 minutes, and soon I resume my daydream.  Why did I choose the Casa over the glamorous life I had a year ago?  Do I really dislike pantyhose that much?  Maybe, but there is much more.  The vineyards and the winemaking fascinate me.  The process is natural and down to earth.  And yes, I guess I do prefer rubber boots to pantyhose.  Call me a Happy Farmer wannabe, though I would not say no to a yacht party.


Back to the Future by Gene Kirkham

    In 1979 we made, rather tentatively, a batch of Chenin Blanc and some Gray Riesling, affectionately remembered as “the green torpedo.”  Now it is twenty years and about 150,000 bottles later; and in a reflective state of mind, with real change in the air, it is beguiling to wonder what it all amount to.  Down the street, at Duckhorn winery, a place that also moved grapes with pitchforks in 1979, an impressive two-story winery building is rising.  Next door, on the hill, Rombauer (which didn’t exist in 1979) has increase production to 450,000 gallons.  While here at the Casa the road is still dusty and unpaved, and we still cork the bottles by hand.  In a culture, which celebrates growth, one sometimes feels like an ugly duckling.  Who says size doesn’t matter?

    There is perhaps in every undertaking an invisible line beyond which the effort ceases to be what it was and becomes primarily “business.”  Few winemakers I know actually do any wine making any more.  Rather they attend meetings and take care of business; and when the old urge to make wine comes over them, they go into the basement and ferment a few boxes of grapes in a plastic garbage can.  So, after twenty years, it seems to me that the achievement of the Casa is its success at remaining what it is (and was) – a place where the farmer is transformed by the land, and not the other way around.