Drake asked me to write you all about what has been going on in the Whitcraft realm and I’m honored to do it as I don’t do much anymore around the winery. Drake has everything else covered - better than I used to!
He has taken the winery completely over and I’m so glad because he’ll be a better winemaker than I ever was. I’m very proud he has the palette to do it (which, somehow, he got from me). He was making world class wine at the age I started to make it! And we have some new ones that he crafted… but more on that later.
Alyssa is still working on her doctorate at the University of Maryland and she is in her fourth year (nearing the end, she hopes), going back to Italy to do more university level teaching, and going around Europe to places like Ireland and Spain. She also has a boyfriend, Jeremy, who has been a great help doing the web site for us. As for me, I am doing much better and more so each day. Drake and Alyssa have been on my case about it, so I have to do better! I’m getting around more but improvement is needed and I will try to do so. We are all very upbeat about the winery, new wines, and wine club, and hoping the economy gets better! Speaking of the wines, the tasting notes will follow.
The wines are three pinots and a Grenache. One of the pinots is the 2008 Melville, which is amazing. So are the other wines but the extra age makes it really stand out.
Drake is writing the tasting notes, (with my suggestions) but he really does not need my help.
Please come visit the winery, now open Friday thru Monday noon to 4:00 and by appointment the other days, or even stop by and see if anyone is there. Normally, Drake is there working and he always has something open.
It has been a slice talking with you and hope to see you soon at the winery.
We are still slugging away and have three good new wines to offer you. Since these wines are ready to go we need to get your order ASAP and ship before the heat hits. You will still receive the 20% on any amount you order. I’m sorry to report that everyone has to pay the California sales tax of 8.75% because our state is in bad shape and they say it’s the point of sale that counts. I’m not happy about that as it might impact sales to some degree which will mean less income to the state.
The three wines: the first one is called Trois Terroirs, a blend of three vineyards that we tried to blend into a great, well-priced wine. This is not a left over blend but rather, one that we intentionally put together using Aubaine Vineyard in San Luis Obispo county, Kick-on ranch in Santa Barbara county and Morning Dew Ranch in Anderson Valley, Mendocino County. The notes will describe its wonderfulness. We also have a syrah from McGinley, formerly known as Westerley, that is a joy to drink now. Lastly, the famous Morningwood from Morning Dew Ranch from all new oak is as luscious as the 2006. All are well priced and not to be missed.
All are well here, Alyssa just got back from Kenya and is working on her degree at UMD, and Drake is doing better than I would ever be able to do. I’m plugging away, doing what I can when I can.
Good on ya mates, Chris.
We have been very busy - well Drake has - and now it’s time to send out the Fall release. Two wines: the 2007 Clover Creek Syrah and the last Bien Nacido from us, the 2007 Pinot Noir, a blend of both the “Q” and the “N”.
When I started writing release letters Reagan was (napping) in the Oval Office; Alyssa had not been born yet and I was only getting one type of grapes from only one vineyard - Chardonnay. I had quit Pinot in 1984 as I felt it couldn’t be grown down here well. The grape growers got better, I learned more from Burt Williams, and by 1990 I was back at it.
This harvest is all Drake’s and he is doing great. It was my 32nd harvest, and I was there, health permitting, when I could be. Nothing really wrong, just old age and a tiredness of the process but still interested in the quality and the product. I believe Drake can do it better than I ever could so please show him support as you have with me for all these years.
This has become a very difficult business. Grape prices for the most part remain high, bank loans to growers have to be serviced resulting in the prices remaining high, glass and cork prices keep going up. As with any business, all other aspects keep going up and yet, as you will see, we have lowered our prices to help you drink the kind of quality wines you’re used to from us.
The lateness of this release allows us to ship as soon as we receive your order and not charge you for the ‘holding’ of your money as you will still receive the 20% discount on any amount. Please go to the website for other wines that may still be available, www.whitcraftwinery.com.
We have new grape types coming in the future. Remember to join our wine club to get wines that may not be offered on a regular release due to amounts produced.
We are all well, Alyssa is at UMD, Drake is becoming the face of the winery, and I will be available if needed.
It’s been a slice and it’s time to get out of the way.
Love to you all, Chris
Things are good here at Whitcraft, honestly it’s good for any winery that hasn’t succumbed to the effects of wine recession yet. We are feeling the effects as every winery is, but the quality of the wine, and recognition of that by our loyal customers are what keeps us going. That being said we have three UNBELIEVABLE wines right now that are being offered as a pre-release with the usual 20% off (good thru August 31st). Great deal if you don’t delay! Here are the descriptors and the order form is also attached in this email. Wines will be shipped in Late August if cool enough in your region, later if not.
We are very very proud of these wines….
This is going to be short as Drake has begun taking over (with help when needed) for me more and more over the last three years.
The ‘07s (and the ‘08s) were made by him and are great so you’ll know how well he’s doing. Alyssa, a professor now at University of Maryland, is teaching a class this summer in Remote Sensing and now you know how well she’s doing. Me? I’m basking in the glow of my kids doing so well and lending a hand where and when I can. I’m taking better care of myself now.
I hope you’re enjoying the wines and remembering that we use the best materials and do it all by hand, (and foot), with a care rarely seen these days. We do it for you.
Hello all this is Drake.
Things are pretty good despite… you know, the obvious which is affecting us all. Times like this you get thankful for a hug, a meal, music, friends, and family, stuff that matters. Anyway the wines are incredible from 07, a general consensus in the industry of the vintage but none the less they are very balanced and approachable young. All I’m doing here at the winery to change things is on the business side. The wines will suffer no ego driven attempt to change anything. So don’t worry.
I hope all of you are doing well too. Come and see us. As usual we are offering this pre-release at 20% off, with an added 10% if you get a case. Shipping will be in April.
We have three wines for the fall release in our quest to make it easier on both you and us. As you might be aware we have gone from two releases a year to four and are still considering a club of some sort. (I’m holding out for a Louisville Slugger!) We will let you know as soon as we know! Suggestions welcome.
Harvest is upon us; actually we did the Olivos del Mar chardonnay four weeks ago. We got the first pinot on the 14th of this month, Burt’s vineyard, Morning Dew Ranch, Aubaine the week after. It looks good but smaller for all vineyards.
The good news is we’re going to be making more chardonnay in 2008! We have more of Olivos del Mar than the previous 3 years of the BNV! The bad, and it’s not really bad, there will be no more Bien Nacido anything including the… I’ve had to put up with all these years.
Drake is really taking over close to everything and doing a fantastic job and that’s not a dad talking that’s the wines doing the talking. Alyssa is at the University of Maryland going for her Doctorate and I miss her sooo much. It’s hard being a country apart after losing so much time with her growing up but I’m thankful for the time I had and that she was well raised by both her parents. I hope to get back to see her as DC is one of my favorite places to watch my money being wasted. I’m doing well after a bad spell from mid May to mid July. Something to do with the meds I was on but I’m back.
We have an election coming up and between oil, the market, both housing and Wall Street, health care, (personal experience!), war in maybe three or four places soon we need a change. Regardless of which way it goes it’s going to be historic and you’re a fool if you don’t take part! If you don’t like the choices do what I’ve done, write your own name in! Show that you made the effort at least and that you’re not happy with biz as normal! Have a wonderful fall and drink more/my wine!
As promised! We, as per last letter, are going to 4 releases a year so as to not overwhelm you with 6 or more wines like last fall. It gives us the opportunity to consider a club but that has not been completed yet. Suggestions wanted. An added plus is that I don’t have to write as much per letter.
Drake has been doing wonders at the winery, computers, racks, and files and doing almost all the winemaking, with my hairy eyeball on him, and Alyssa, until she goes off to get her doctorate at the University of Maryland in August, has been manning the tasting room so well I wish she could stay. I just go in to be around them both. Now for two spectacular wines!
S’up homies? Boy howdy! Things have gotten weird here in the wine biz! But as Hunter Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird go pro!” I’ve been doing a lot of reading about how some folks make wine and I think I should relate some of it to you as you might want to know what kind of things may be in the wine you drink. (Not mine!) As to refresh your knowledge of how we make our wine I’ll give you a quick walk through. The grapes are hand picked and delivered in 1/2 ton bins, which are also used as fermenters’, put on a bin dumper and hand sorted on a sorting table and foot stomped, (usually by young women, like Alyssa and her friend Erin and covered (the grapes, not the women). We might add some tartaric acid, a natural wine acid if the grapes need it but most of our vineyard sources are so good that’s a rarity. After a period of time, it varies; we will add yeast known as “Williams-Selyem”. I’ve done all the natural yeast trials and such but the fermentation is the thing and I like it to finish. (Otherwise nasty things have to be done to the wine.) We add NO enzymes, NO ‘Mega Purple’, NO oak chips, dust or liquid and NO chemicals or anything inorganic. We also do not use techniques such as extended maceration or “micro-oxygenation” which dissolves oxygen in the wine to make it softer and speeds up the aging process. Also we never fine, filter or pump our pinots which mean no animal products are used making us a vegan pinot winery. I bring this up because there are rumors of ingredient labels floating around and I would welcome them as it would show why our way of making wine is better, but sadly, not cheaper. I really don’t care how others make their swill, (not any of my winemaking friends wine), but you should for your health’s sake. I’m lucky! The wines I get to drink are my own and my friends, and I don’t have to rely on Best Buy or Cost Plus or a mega store that market those wines. (And no, I’m not going na-na-ne-na-na!) A long time ago I made up a fake wine label that said we were dedicated to making fine wine because we couldn’t afford it! We still feel that way and we try to do the best we can and keep the prices down. I wish grape prices were not sky rocketing but the real villain is the energy situation. We have got to become less reliant on oil and maybe the war would end. Peace out, please. Cheers, Chris
Hello People, Jon Carroll, who writes a column in the San Francisco Chronicle, (and is one smart fellow), wrote once, (or twice, I don’t know if he copies himself and that is an example of his mind set.) “I am grasping one hair at the end of the tail of a very large tiger, whose exact nature and intentions are not known to me, nor will they ever be.I can only hope to describe a few things about the hair. And I could be wrong.” That about covers it at this end for me these days it seems. Life happens so fast, I can barely keep up! Here’s a shocker, my little girl, Alyssa, who I’ve often mentioned in these ego fests, graduated from UCLA, in two majors, Summa Cum Laude and Valedictorian last June! My son Drake has taken the controls this harvest, (my 30th), and I’ll be working for him! Advice and whatnot, pitching in now and again, (i.e. everyday) and adding my experience to his enthusiasm. I feel like Marlon Brando in the “Godfather” “You trust me? I trust Michael.” We’re in good hands. And the wines are ‘Allstate’! This business is getting tough. How tough? I can’t tell why right now but I promise to do so next letter. The harvest looks…so-so in some places. The year has been like ’91,’95’,’99 and 2003. Those were not so good although my ‘95s and ‘03s taste mighty fine now. You can see the pattern, low rain, heat at the wrong time, 4 years apart. We have the advantage of getting our fruit from all over the state and can mitigate the potential problems of a winery that only sources from one place. Planned? I’m sure! Our new winery is still working out kinks, (Ray, Dave, OUT!), but it seems to be shrinking! We are growing back to where we once were and storing more at the winery because the tasting room is working out well. (Fri., Sat., Sun. 12-4.) We can ship to more states now so the bottom of the order form isn’t quite up to date so ask. The address is 36 S. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, Ca. 93103 and the phone is 805-730-1680. The other address, fax and phone, below, is my office at home, still good but I’d rather you use the actual winery’s numbers, you’re not tasting at my house, in the Jacuzzi, unless you’re a woman and younger than, well, me and I’m beginning to think that there aren’t many out there! At least I’m playing more guitar but the fingers are not what they were. For the first time we are bringing in new winemakers, well, help. Two to be accurate and they are both from Australia and worked with Drake while he was down there. (AGAIN!) Maybe someday I’ll get to go, sigh. Good on ya mate! The tasting notes were taken from the combined notes of Randy, Drake, Luke, (the first Aussie), and myself and they do not do justice to the wines as they are so outstanding we were at a loss for words! ME? You will enjoy them and the wines I’m sure! I did and I’m very picky about what I drink which is why we went in the damn business in the first place!
Oh yeah, I’m doing well aside from the three cracked ribs I got… sober!
I can’t believe it’s that time again but the new wines are almost ready to ship. I feel like harvest just ended, which, by the way, went very well at our new winery (36 S. Calle Cesar Chavez, Santa Barbara, down by the beach.) Improvements can and will be made but all in all I can’t complain. Once again I got a lot of help from my friends, Bradley and Harry who helped rebuild the press and of course Randy and Randy Jr.
The tasting room, open 12-4 Sat. Sun., (winter hours) has been interesting and the most asked question was “Why is the alcohol so high and why can’t I taste it?” We don’t try to make it high it’s just there is a difference between ripe and mature and we wait for mature. I didn’t drink the kool-aid on there being only one place to grow pinot, seeing that I source grapes from all over the state. (It’s getting warmer too.) The good news is that the new wines and the 2006s are lower in alcohol but then that never bothered me! The 2006s are excellent. We made a little more than 2005.
Drake is off to Australia for harvest again. Alyssa is back from four months in school in Budapest and at UCLA and both doing well. Me too.
Some short tasting notes on the new wines. There are four, three pinots and the last Lagrein. Good-Bye old friend.
Hello Friends, This release letter will have a different look as hopefully, most of you will get it as an e-mail and it will be shorter because of that. Call or come by the new winery if you need more catching up than this letter. Speaking thereof, the winery is coming along fine, lots of improvements getting done and pressed for time with the bottling and harvest around the corner. Getting scary! I used to send out two release letters a year but with the internet I can send out notices when I want and when I think the wine is ready. For example, the 2005 Bien Nacido Chardonnay is not ready at this time but might be by December, if so I’ll send another note out then. Cool huh? Mo’ better wines. Alyssa left today for Hungary for school until the New Year and I miss her already. Drake is making the winery shape up and helping in the sales and tasting room. Maybe I can retire? (After the tasting notes.)
Hello Friends, I finally have some good news for us all. After 31 years in the Santa Barbara wine biz I have my own place! Starting in March we should be open for business at 36A S. Calle Cesar Chavez in Santa Barbara, about a Tiger Woods 9 iron to the beach! Phone and mail address remain the same at this time. We can be open for sales and tasting a very limited time due to zoning and lease agreements and we guess those will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday, (and some holidays) from Noon to 4:00. The building is about 18 years old and we need to do some work, cutting drains, installing hose bibs and other things we need but it’s our space. I did 5 harvests at/with Craig Jaffurs and will forever be in his debt for his help and support. We are both happy with this as we’ve both grown enough that there is no more room for us to work easily. We consider it still one winery under two roofs as we will both be helping each other in any way needed while being in our own kingdom. I hope you get a chance to visit sometime; I won’t bite, (maybe). One thing that wineill be nice is that the wine library will be at the new place and I plan on pairing it down. As I go through it you can call to see what I’ve found that’s for sale but hold on that until mid April at the earliest. The 2005 harvest was the largest one I’ve ever seen with the kind of quality it has. I did not get any new vineyards this time but there would have been no room for any! All that I did get are great and look forward to seeing them mature in barrel and bottle, (a ways off!). The rest of the 2004 pinots are being released now and a word of warning, sales have been very good and we seem to be taking a wine a week off the website as sold out and now have a waiting list for the wines which doesn’t affect you people much unless you want to reorder. You are my primary sales point, my peeps! We are all doing well, Alyssa spent her fall quarter as a junior, (!!!), in Mexico and is back at UCLA doing great, planning to go to Hungary next. Drake will be in Australia for their harvest, (glutton for punishment), most of March and April and I envy him for it and happy that his mother is making it happen. Drake and I got to go to Hawaii for a week of sales and fun after harvest, my first trip away since 2001, and hope to visit the other states that sell Whitcraft Wines. Hope to see you at 36A!
Hello People . Sorry I have to go back to small type but too much to tell so I'll get right to it. I think some of you think I'm a winery in the pop-culture sense, i.e. a large winery, maybe vineyards, a tasting room and a lot of people working for me. None of that is true. In fact the case goods are stored in Santa Maria and not at where the wine is made and bottled. The mailing address is my home where my office is. It's only me and my son, (and in critical times a lot of great friends), meaning I am the guy who gets the phone, writes the checks and invoices, and handles the banking, shipping and everything involved in getting the package put out. We make a very small amount of wine, less than 2000 cases in the 3 vintages prior to 2004, down from a high of almost 3000 cases in the late 1990's. I started with nothing, trice, so you might be able to understand why we don't do tasting. Which brings to mind something I've been thinking about, why do people expect to taste wine for little or no fee and don't except the same thing at a fine restaurant? The arguments are the same, for and against. We simply can't afford it and our track record should be enough to tempt you to buy the wine. Large wineries know that a certain percent of their wine will go over the hill before it's sold out and can use that wine to sell the rest of it. I take too much care to be able to make wine in large amounts and great pinot has never, in 2000+years, been made in large amounts. So, if you're upset you can't visit it's because there's nothing to see. I hope that clears up a few things for you, I'm not mean, nor am I trying to be, just busy and not set-up that way. And while I'm at it, the IRS doesn't allow a winery to deduct donations of wine. It says the 'reduction of inventory' is enough. Only privately owned wine is deductible if the charity is nonprofit, so please keep that in mind when you ask since I have a few charities I support as much as I can in addition to two kids and a few banks and credit cards! The news is that we have two new pinot vineyards in this offering. Information on those and the other wines are in the tasting notes. I'm doing well and so are the kids, Drake is on his way to being a great winemaker and Alyssa is off to Merida, Mexico to spend her junior fall quarter abroad, instead of at UCLA. I love the Yucatan. The following quote is a comment on the vagaries of life, not classes. I dig it. "There those who argue that everything breaks even in this dump of a world of ours. I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man in winter things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I can't see it that way..." Bat Masterson, October 25, 1921. Pithy, these were the last words he wrote at his desk before having a heart attack and pitching forward dead. After his western adventures he had become a sportswriter in New York. Now one of mine, "The sugar in grape juice will kill you before the alcohol in the wine will!" Cheers!
Yes, that was a Whitcraft label, (2001 “Q” Block), you saw in “Sideways”. I’m going to tell you a short story as to how that came about. As you might remember for all the ‘90s I lived in my camper during harvest and a lot of the nights I was parked behind the Hitching Post, (with Frank’s OK), and spent many nights watching sports and talking wine. I’m fairly certain that Rex Pickett, the author of “Sideways” the novel, was one of the people I talked to on more than one occasion. In late 1999 I got a call from Michael London, the producer, asking if I would read the script, which I still have, and send him two bottles of a wine I had made that was mentioned in the book. It was a ‘novel’ way to get older wine out of me so I said I would. He said that they were going to start filming in 2000 and wondered if I would consult. I heard back a few times but the connection died out and I didn’t think the movie would be made. I was surprised to read in the local paper in the fall of 2003 that they had started filming in the valley but we know how much happened in between,( 9/11, my surgery), that I didn’t think too much about it, wished I had a part but…anyway on August 8, 2004 I was in LA doing a tasting fundraiser for Mike Bonaccorsi at Wally’s in Santa Monica and Alexander Payne, the director/screenwriter, came up and introduced himself and we talked for about two hours during which he said he had put a nice lingering shot of my label in the movie. Voila! Now you know the story and I wish it helped me sell more wine than it has but I love telling the tale. My 15 minutes?
To remind you why we might have been in the movie, we make all our reds and most of the whites without fining, filtering or pumping and as little sulfur as possible, nothing else except natural acid adjustments, if needed and occasional non-native yeasts, again, if needed.
We got a nice write up in Matt Kramer’s “New California Wine” book. Thanks Matt. Check it out.
Alyssa is doing well at UCLA, already a junior and Drake is helping me with the winery and about to pass me in ability. I only wish it was harder than he makes it look! Great wines now and in 2004, Williams pinot noir from Anderson Valley and a new vineyard, Aubaine, (ironically an old word for chardonnay!), in Nopomo. I’m doing well. Cheers!
This is not going to be a political letter, other than the salutation that hopes all of you chooses to exercise your hard won right to be in the process. Vote early and often, as they used to say!
What’s new on the Whitcraft Winery front? I’ve picked up some new states, renewed some old ones and am trying to get more representation in California.
It looks like I’ll be getting another pinot vineyard or two in 2004, not including some from Burt Williams’ Anderson Valley vineyard for another sparkling wine. The 2000 Hirsch sparkling is coming along great and should be released, maybe, next spring along with the main pinot release of Melville and Bien Nacido or Santa Barbara County as I haven’t decided if they’ll be a Bien Nacido yet. The Melville is astounding but the Bien Nacido is still a little hard, as per the vintage, and at bottling I’ll decide if it needs a little Melville to soften it up. I’ve already blended the ‘Q’ and ‘N’ so there will not be that option. Also in the spring will be the 2002 Lagrein. This fall I have a chardonnay for the first time since the 2000 but there’s not much of it, 140 cases so don’t miss out on it or it’ll be gone. I plan to make more in 2004 but I won’t have enough to last until it will be ready. The other wines I’m releasing now are tiny in quantity but huge in flavor! (See tasting notes.)
There is a typo in one of the labels’ of already released wine and even though it was government approved and passed by dozens of eyeballs it took my daughter Alyssa to find it in about 3 seconds! See if you can.
Now a couple of things that I want to address; I’m very discouraged with the amount of junk e-mail and faxes I get and am almost ready to pull the plug on both of them. Maybe some of you have solutions that you could share with me so I can stay on line. Secondly it’s been a bad year for a number of my friends, two passing and four in bad shape. I was speaking with the spouse of one, lamenting that I could do nothing as I wasn’t a prayer type of guy and they said prayer always helps so I said that while I’m not sure there was anyone to pray to there always seems to be some one to pray for. In that light I shall pray for you and yours, our troops, country and that the world comes to its senses soon.
Take care, Chris
Hello, It's that time of year again and I didn't begin with "Hello Friends" because you may not like some of the things I'm going to say in this letter and don't want to be my friend anymore. I hope not. Let's get right to it. PRICES UP!!!!!!! There is no way around it. I had to raise the prices as I was losing my shirt. I can't make the kind of wine I do cheaply. After I lowered the prices last fall I discovered that I wasn't able to either service my debts or afford the kind of quality materials that I require. A few examples; Corks, the best there is, went from $.49 to $.64 each, glass, $5.35 to $6.85, rent up, grapes up, tax up, freight up, (more on that later), in short everything went up but income. I make a high quality product and before I lower my standards I'll quit. If the 2003 harvest hadn't been so small I might have shut the doors! The major factor in this condition is OIL! I was getting glass price increases, (glass uses a lot), on a weekly basis. Freight surcharges are huge on both UPS and overland trucking. An example; Today I shipped a two pack from a UPS store to a business, the cheapest way, in Los Angeles and it cost $7.95! That's without the container! My charge for that use to be $5.00, I'd guess that I've been losing on the shipping for about 3 years! Amazing, just about as long as I'd been sick and not watching the bottom line. So to the point! Oil is the reason we're still in the Middle East and in that light it reminds me that we, the USA, are like the South in the Civil War in that we want our own way, (states rights), and cheap oil, (cheap labor, i.e. slaves) and we know how that turned out! I really love this country and all it provides for us and the world but we have got to wean ourselves off of oil! I know it's easier said than done but do we really need a 6000 lb. car/truck to get to dinner? I do have a large truck that I use when I have to and a small car to get around so I'm somewhat guilty but I can't be without the truck and I can't drive them both at the same time. Lecture over. Mea culpa. The good news is the new wines are great. I only tasted the fall releases this week and they are tight but excellent. Since there are only three new wines I'll use the tasting notes page to talk wine.
Your pal, Chris
Hello Friends! "A rolling stone gathers no moss" and I've been positively 'peaty' for a couple of years. So, in an effort to shed some of this growth, I've moved again to 202 La Plata Street. Those of you who have been on the mailing list for a while might recognize this street where I lived from '85 to '93. Since this is where Alyssa was born and I began to gain some notoriety, it could be a good omen for things to come! I said in a few e-mails I sent out that I am closer to the beach but farther from the ocean and to try to figure that one out! It's easier and closer to the sand here but not on the oceans' edge. Sob, (both meanings), but I had a good run. The house is larger but weird. It's like a frat house or Al Bundy's dream house, wood paneling, large family room, only one real bedroom but what the heck, with my record I won't be here long anyway!
In terms of my family, I'm OK health wise, Alyssa starts UCLA in the fall and Drake is working both for me (yeah!) and at Trader Joe's, (boo!). I only say that because of Two Buck Chuck. Dan Berger, a wine writer I respect, wrote a story about how much Shaw wine is corked and how that is affecting consumers' palates in a way that will further harm real wine sales. I realize that I'm preaching to the choir but spread the word. The last wine 'depression' gave us wine coolers, white zin and Robert Parker. It will be interesting to see what shakes out of this one. I've already seen something like a frozen wine 'beverage' being marketed. In this business, you usually get what you pay for.
Before introducing you to my new wines, let me say that between the recall in California, (more debt to get a guy who got us in debt), war and murder in every direction, and possible rape by a respected sports hero, I can't believe I actually have any wine to sell. We need to sit back and 'pop a few'. Go ahead, do your share!
Since I've been a bit preachy in the last few letters, I've tried to make this note a bit more upbeat. It's easy to abuse any pulpit and I'm as guilty as the next person. Nobody is perfect but let's all try to be better than yesterday
Harvest starts in about 14 days so I've got to run. It looks small but good. Since this is the last letter on my current computer, I will be building an updated address list on my new system. If you are interested in being included, or if you have any changes in your contact information, you must respond to this letter in some way. I hope to hear from all of you!
Dear Friends, It is so hard to write a current letter when so much is happening around us, (and U.S.). I don't know but I expect when you get this we'll be at war. I first sat down to do this as I was hearing breaking news of the shuttle disaster. For some reason I couldn't concentrate. I remember that I was dropping off my son, Drake, at day care when the Challenger blew up. My daughter was 26 days old and the feelings I had, of helplessness in the tragedy and at my own perceived failure to be able to provide to keep my family at home came back to me. I remembered that I swore to succeed so that would happen - a classic transference of grief. We know how that turned out! I share this with you because the wine business is in trouble and this might be a good time to expound on the nature of the beast.
The two things that control all business is supply and demand and we all know supply,(two buck Chuck) is huge and the demand, (crashing economy) is gone. Those of us in the 'fine wine' market are hurt'n for certain and few can afford to compete by lowering prices. None of my suppliers have lowered their prices. In fact everyone and thing has gone up as have all other expenses of doing business, rents taxes, etc. Well, I think I have come up with an answer!
The wine business is a three tiered system, distributor, wholesaler and retailer. When you buy from me directly I'm a retailer,(even with the discount I give), and I feel I should be giving you, my loyal following, the wholesale price and shall! I don't base my economic plan on the retail sale price but slightly below the wholesale price. (Trust me, the distributors earn their dollar). Hopefully the prices on the web site will be changed when you get this.
I sincerely hope that all is well with you and we are able to avoid a war, anywhere, and that the economy rebounds and we all live happily ever after! Believe me, wine helps!
Peace out, Chris
"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you" - Jean Paul Sartre
I've seen this quote used a lot since 9/11,(try flying somewhere!), but I had heard it a long time ago and had actually thought about it during my recovery. There were so many things I was no longer able to do, (hopefully not forever), that I had a lot of time to think about things and, unfortunately, watch way too much television. I always try to write these things with some point or bit of wisdom I think needs to be addressed but I think I don't know as much as I thought I did! I want to pass on some things that became apparent to me and might be of help to you. Some of them deal with past letters and some are more recent insights. I will list them in no particular order, then talk wine. 1. Most TVs have a channel select button. When you see something that offends or upsets you, delete it. Networks that superimpose their logo over a great movie get deleted. Pretty soon you have no channels to surf and you can go read a book! (Don't advertisers realize that when stations tell you to visit their web site their commercials are not being watched?) 2. Unless the writer has a MS, Master Sommelier, or MW, Master of Wine after their name I need to know them and taste with them before I give them a second thought. Joe Sullivan was one of the best I've met without those initials and I forgot to mention him in the last letter. He passed away on the day of my operation and he is truly missed. 3. I said 12 years ago I'd use screw caps if I thought they could do the best job. I've started to use corks of such high quality that corked bottles should become almost non-existent in my wines. These corks cost twice as much as the corks I special ordered in the past at great expense. A corked wine is the most aggravating thing that can happen to a winemaker as we have no real control over it. The new wines all have the new corks with the new web site, www.whitcraftwinery.com on them! Wow! A lot of 'new' there! Well that's some of the stuff I needed to get off my chest so here's some personal news. I am doing much better and think I'll be able to do harvest as normal as usual. Ha! I've never used the word 'normal' in referring to myself! The new winery is running smoothly and the quality of the wines has improved in my opinion as I can 'mother-hen' them now. The kids are fine, Drake is working at Trader Joe's and for me while Alyssa starts her senior year in high school and continues to beat me like a drum at golf. More news in the tasting notes as I seem to have run out of room by making the print easier to read! Cheers!
The above is a title of a heart-jerking country-western song, (We have both types of music here, Country and Western!), and as I sit listening to Hank 'Sugarfoot' Garland I find it apt. Quite so, as I have been sitting and looking at this empty screen for over 30 days now wondering what I could say about the horrible things that have taken place since I last wrote a release. I take some, (little), pride in my writing but there is no way I can adequately express anything that could convey my feelings or, (more importantly) give some measure of comfort to any of you that might have been closer to the events of 9/11. I was born in New York at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island and have some relatives still there, (OK). I have a little 'New York State of Mind' in me and the attack hit a deep nerve. At the time it happened I was three weeks out of major surgery and already not doing too well with recovery. I, in no way, am comparing the two. I do, however, feel that it's part of the reason my recovery has been so slowed. As I sat thinking about how bad that was and what I could say it occurred to me that I had benefited from some of the greatest response to my condition I could hope for and that would be what I would write about. Maybe, in some small way, it might help for you to know what kind of people are in this industry. We already know the quality of the people in New York.
When word of my condition got out every winery and winemaker I knew, (and some I didn't), offered to do anything they could to help as, if you remember in the last letter, I had to move, bottle and harvest in three weeks! I first was going to cancel this harvest but Greg Brewer and Chad Melville offered to make my Melville pinot at their winery, (Thanks Ron), and all I had to do is have my son, Drake, drive me to check on it. That offer made me go to Bien Nacido and ask if I could take only half of what my contract required as I thought that would be the most I could handle. The owners, Steve and Bob Miller, not only agreed to that, but when the reds were done they didn't require me take any chardonnay! (There will be no 2001.) I was really in bad shape by that time and this allowed me to take some much needed rest. Tons of people helped sort, stomp, press and rack the vintage and I can't thank them all here by name for space reasons but in addition to those mentioned above, Craig Jaffurs, Bob Knight, the crew at Central Coast Wine Services, retired winemakers, and my kids, Alyssa, who sat by me every day in the ICU and hospital and Drake who was my eyes, ears, legs, and driver, I can never thank you all enough! It's gonna kill me if 2001 is my best vintage yet as I had so little to do with it! There will be more information in the tasting notes.
I'm going to be OK.
There is so much information to give you I have to get right to it. A lot has happened since the last letter; I've been to Hawaii to be honored by Hawaii Public Radio along with David Hirsch. We did a tasting of '94 thru '99, all were great with the '95 taking 3 hours to open up and the '96 1 hour! No need to rush to drink any of these wines! The experience led me to try the same thing with the Bien Nacido pinots and here's what I found; of all the wines I've made from that vineyard,('90-'98), only two wines were not what I'd like them to be, the '91 and the '94 'Q'. The '95s are years away from showing their best, the '96s more ready but not there yet, the '97s are drinking well now,(light year), and the '98s not ready, but delicious. I would recommend drinking all wines from '94 and earlier on special occasions AFTER letting stand for at least a week,(a good cork will last months) and decanting off the sediment! That means if you want to take the wine anywhere you must decant it before you leave. Believe me, it makes a world of difference! The '93's are fantastic as is the '90!
The really BIG news is that the winery is moving to 819 E. Montecito Street in Santa Barbara in August! Craig Jaffurs has built a facility that we both will use and that means we can have visitors but we can't have a full time tasting room however you can arrange to come by and pick up the wines you purchase and save on shipping and who knows, maybe something just might be open,(wink-wink). I am very happy that this is finally happening as it adds 2.5 hours a day back in my life! (I'm hoping not to waste them!) I don't have a phone number for it yet so continue to use the ones below until further notice, and please wait until after November to try to visit so we can get settled and done harvest!
Now, I don't want to go on a rant here,(thanks D.Miller), but have you ever wondered what qualifies a person to be a wine critic? Not a wine writer which, like say Gerald Asher, is more of a feature/travel writer and one I consider one of the best but someone who 'grades' or 'scores' a wine? Nothing! There is no test or training, other than learning to drink, that one is subjected to! There are many who do study wine and then decide to become wine critics and I do also value experience as a valid method of learning about wine, but can't we, as both producers and consumers, devise some kind of test to subject those who would presume to be experts and really find out what they know? I remember the famous Harry Waugh saying the last time he mistook a Burgundy for a Bordeaux was at lunch and I completely understand how that can happen to a person as it can also happen to a wine, i.e. not showing it's best. I bring this up for two reasons; first, because I was a wine writer/critic who did more than 3,000 shows on radio and not once did I 'bad mouth' a wine! If I didn't like a wine I didn't review it, it might have been me, it might have been the time, place, company, food, or it might have been the wine but I could always fine another wine I liked or some other thing to talk about. The second reason is that I was in San Francisco in June and I had the opportunity to look over the wine lists of many of the city's (even world's?), best restaurants and what I saw convinced me that the wine writers of the world have totality screwed up the business! On one list I saw a Screaming Eagle cabernet of a very recent year selling (?) for $2,600! Now I'm sure that it's a very great wine although I agree with Burt Williams when he told Chuck Wagner of Caymus that he only drinks cabernet when he wants to hurt his mouth! On the very same list was the 1970 Chateau Mouton Rothschild , a great year, for, now wait for it, $550! You could have FOUR bottles and have money left for a nice meal! Who do you think is responsible for such madness? I'm sure it's not the winery because if they didn't sell the wine due to high prices they would be out of business or forced to lower the price. The rarity of such a wine could be a factor but if that were the case so many other wines would be priced near that or higher! Please don't think I'm picking on that winery as I saw many other wines priced like that. I wonder how many of these rare wines are tasted by, or now owned by, critics who reviewed them. I no longer submit my wines to any publication for review, not out of fear of a bad review but of mistreatment of the wine. I welcome any critic to taste my wines but at the winery or my home so I know the wine is right, remember that I don't use electricity in the production of all my red wines and most of my whites, allowing me to use less chemicals,(better for you), but that requires more careful handling. Remember that the age of instant information is also the age of instant misinformation! Of course, that's just my opinion and I could be wrong!
I have four new red wines to release at this time and please don't forget I still have both '98 and '99 chardonnays for sale. 2000 Bien Nacido pinot noir, 2000 Bien Nacido 'Q' block pinot noir, a new vineyard that I'm very excited about and which there will be much more in the future, 2000 Melville pinot noir, and my first blend, a 1999 red wine I call Rojo Grande. The tasting notes are on the back of the order form but I would like to tell you a little about the blend here first. The 1999 vintage has proved to be a difficult one in Santa Barbara County for me, (red wines, the chardonnay is my best yet). We had a heat spike in August and the pinots became very ripe quickly but not mature, resulting in wine that is not as smooth and round as I like. Conversely, my second attempt at petite sirah, a late ripening grape that was unaffected by the early heat, never sugared up and wasn't picked until almost Thanksgiving at only 19 brix! (That's a measure of percent of sugar content, 24 being desired.) What one wine lacked the other had in spades and while this has cost me 10's of thousands of dollars, (had they been 'normal'), the resulting wine has resulted in both maintaining the high standards I require to put my name on a wine and a gift to you because the price is so reasonable!
On the personal front I'm still loving life in S.B. next to the ocean, still trying to get in better shape, maybe I'll ride my bike to the new winery, (stop snickering!) and I still am staying away from cigars. On a sad note two of my best friends moved to Florida in June: Arne and Maryann Norbom. (I get to see her on Fox News once in awhile.) That, and now that the kids are too old to need me much I have no one to cook for! (Could be a good thing!) The kids are continuing to amaze me and I'm sure it's not because I'm getting dumber although that can't be entirely ruled out. Wish me luck with harvest, moving the winery and bottling all at the same time! I'm off to the heavy petting zoo!