“Seriously, why are you farming organically?”

I thought this would be a question we’d be getting all the time. Yes, it’s more expensive. Yes, the vineyards have more weeds. Yes, we have to worry about weather patterns a bit more. No, I can’t tell anyone that you can taste the difference.  So naturally, from a purely American business point of view of maximizing profits, I thought we’d be constantly answering why we chose to jump off the cliff and choose a natural way of farming.

Ironically, all we really hear is, “Good for you!”

DSC_8751As I’ve mentioned before, spring is the time of year when I, myself, question the whole organic notion in our vineyards. Our farming life has enough stresses and strains to worry about that adding in just one more thing, farming naturally, really can put me over the edge. The biggest concern this time of the year is weeds!

Recently as I drove down the road, heading into some of the most beautiful wine regions of California, I truly envied the pristine aspects of their vineyards. The vines were immaculately pruned, mustard flowering in the rows, and not a single weed under the vines. It’s a picture-perfect scene. Continue reading

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A Bordeaux Cruise Update

Madroña Vineyards 2018 River Cruise
Cruise Only: November 15-22, 2018
Paris Pre-Cruise Tour + Loire Valley Post Cruise Tour: November 13-25, 2018

Maggie & Paul

Have you made your plans to join us for this outstanding River Cruise yet?  Our Madroña is now 32 people strong!  NOTE: November is off-season, usually with mild weather in southwest France. There is now a $1,000 per cabin ($500 per person) discount for our Madroña group.  You must book through our tour operator Expanding Horizons to be part of the Madroña Vineyards Group.

Are there any singles out there wanting to go?  We have had a lovely club member inquire if there were others who might want to share a room?  Let us know and we will introduce you!

Here are some highlights that the tour company has provided us.  I wish I could write about these places intimately, but there are places we have yet to explore in our personal travels.  But we are certainly excited by what it planned!


Day 3 of our Madrona Bordeaux Rivers Cruise visits Pauillac, in the heart of the Medoc region, home to 60 Grand Cru vineyards. Continue reading

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Celebrating 45 Years Passport 2018

Create Passport at Home!  Here are our receipes

Riesling – Coq au Vin (Riesling) Recipe
Cab Franc – Deconstructed Reconstructed Pasta recipe
New-World Port – Walnut Cake

El Tinto Lot 37—Reality is Sustainability

45 Years 1If you’ve been by the winery lately and talked to me about my favorite El Tinto blends, you’d know that I feel the dark chocolate spice and brooding berry fruit of the Lot 37 makes it one (if not the one) of my favorite El Tintos from the last 30 years. But to be honest, it isn’t the wonderful characters that sets the wine to the top. It is instead the overall balance of the Lot 37 that truly strikes me.

Why is this all important? Really, it’s not, especially for the point of this narrative. But there is one connection with how much I enjoy this wine. The El Tinto is pretty much the only wine we get credit for making. All of the other varieties (like Zinfandel, Riesling, Malbec, etc.) are meant to be expressions of the vineyard and vintage, and keeping our winemaking hands out of the mix makes are purer expression. Continue reading

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45 Years and a Bit of Passport

It really is hard to believe that the whole Madroña Vineyards story started just a mere 45 years or so ago. For me, as a kid growing up in it and then tackling wine as a career, it seems like an eternity. Better said, perhaps, is to point out I can’t really remember a time when the vineyards and the winery weren’t part of my life. And I’m 51 years old!

A kid’s view is always skewed just a bit, but back in 1973 I have memories of playing in stacks of hardwood grape posts that still line our rows today. It was a “family” outing planting those first vines, with friends coming to help. At just six years old, I have a feeling the vines that I planted probably didn’t survive, but I remember it was hot, dusty and tiring. (By the way, I still feel vineyard work is hot, dusty and tiring!) Continue reading

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Lost and Found—It’s a Win-Win Situation

Tim pic 2Have you ever seen a Madroña wine with a crooked label or a wrinkled foil? Chances are that you have. But understand that it’s not part of a drunken pirate employment program or using a troop of deranged baboons at the helm of our equipment. Instead, our foiling and labeling machines sometimes have a mind of their own by spitting out extra labels or chewing up foils. The machines can be a little temperamental.

So, while bottling, we diligently set aside all these marred bottles to be used as tasting wines in the tasting room. Although the label is a little askew, the wine inside tastes perfect. Smart, eh!?! Continue reading

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Join us in Bordeaux!

Cruise Only: November 15-22, 2018
Paris Pre-Cruise Tour + Loire Valley Post Cruise Tour: November 13-25, 2018

Chateau Kirwan 1996 labelBORDEAUX CITY

Our Madroña Bordeaux Cruise travels next November and still has some space.  The ship is about 50% full right now (filling faster than expected).  This voyage aboard the good ship AmaDolce begins and ends in Bordeaux city, a wonderful town that has been reinvented and shaped in a positive way by tourism.

If you haven’t visited France yet, or this is your 12th time, there is no better way than to experience the history while enjoying the fruit of vine!

Chateau Lynch Bages vineyardBordeaux is second only to Paris in the number of buildings that have historical monument status in France.  Most of the historical buildings here were constructed in the 18th century. Once black and sooty, these architectural buildings are now clean and gleaming. Resplendent arches, towers and facades are interspersed with carefully designed open spaces.

The Place de la Bourse, a magnificent square framed by graceful 18th-century buildings, is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Across the road and bordering the river is the vast, shimmering Mirror d’Eau, a thin sheet of reflecting water built in 2006. On a calm day with no wind, the mirror perfectly reflects the buildings. The area around the square is delightful, with cafes, shops, bridges and open river vistas. For shopping, don’t miss Rue Sainte Catherine, a long street of busy shops that was once a Roman road.

The fame of Bordeaux as wine center began two millennia ago. In the time of Julius Caesar, Bordeaux wines were shipped all over the Roman Empire. Commencing during the English rule of Aquitaine, Bordeaux subsequently enjoyed 300 years of prosperity, primarily by shipping wine to England. Bordeaux wines are still considered some of the finest in the world. The University of Bordeaux is rightfully one of the world’s great viticulture and enology learning centers.

BORDEAUX - Jean d'Alos cheesesWith wine, cheese naturally comes to mind.  Bordeaux is home to one of France’s foremost cheese purveyors, Monsieur Jean d’Alos. His caves and shop are located at 4 Rue Montesquieu.  M. d’Alos buys his raw milk farmstead cheeses, directly from the makers. He then stores and ripens them in his caves underneath the city to peak perfection before sale.

Restaurants in Bordeaux are abundant.  The narrow streets of the old St. Pierre district, located behind the must-see Place de la Bourse, are packed with bistros and fine-dining options. Specialties include duck, foie gras, oysters from Arcachon Bay and crispy-fried baby eels.  Canneles, a famous Bordeaux treat, are little ridged cakes with a distinctive caramelized exterior and a creamy soft interior.

BORDEAUX - LaTupina kitchenLa Tupina is one of the top restaurants for authentic Southwestern France country fare, where lamb and beef roasts are cooked and turned on spits.  This restaurant’s extraordinarily delicious potatoes are cooked in duck fat.

Recommend this special holiday to any friends or relations who would appreciate a vacation focused on culture, fine cuisine and world class wine.  Book and deposit by December 31st

NOTE: November is off-season, usually with mild weather in southwest France. There is a $1,500 per cabin ($750 per person) discount for our group.  A $500 per person deposit will hold your cabin.  You must book through our tour operator Expanding Horizons to be part of the Madroña Vineyards Group. 

To see complete information and register online visit:  www.toursandwine.com/madrona

With questions contact Marie Cradle at our tour operator Expanding Horizons of Tustin, CA: Marie@Expanding-Horizons.com  Tel: 1-714-975-9943

So come along and absorb the history, savor the foods, taste the wines, and enjoy the company with a hint of California (Madroña) wines splashed in (just in case you’re homesick!). Learn, Live and Laugh!

See you in France mes amis!

Paul & Maggie Bush  

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February 2018 Club Shipment

Dear Madroña Wine Club Members,

Another winter is upon us (although it’s a balmy 65 degrees outside today), and our work in the vineyards with pruning and tying is taking much of our attention. But that’s not to say there isn’t excitement in the cellar where we have just finished bottling some of the 2017 vintage: Hillside Chardonnay and Hillside Riesling to be exact.

These first glimpses of the wonderful ’17 vintage are hints of what is to come…bold, beautiful and balanced. To be sure, we were one of the luckier wine regions in California throughout 2017. The intense heat throughout the state in early September didn’t spur us to pick early, and we had no fires in our area. Thus, when you taste the Chardonnay and/or Riesling in your February shipment, you’ll be tasting the extended hangtime in the vineyard with a complexity and richness showcasing in the wine.  And then just be ready for the ’17 Grenache and Zins later in the year!

Having said all this, the February shipment is packed full of exciting and expressive wines. The 2015 Hillside Merlot with opulent texture and dark brooding fruit is an amazing example of a drought-year Merlot. The 2013 Signature Zinfandel with its tighter tannin structure and complex fruit highlights the difference a year can make (remember both the 2012 and 2014 vintages).

And then there’s the ’13 Signature Quintet. Having just poured this wine all weekend at our annual Quintet Blending events, it has brought up the question of how to serve wines to maximize their potential. I spent a fair amount of time over the weekend explaining the concept of integrating oxygen into wine. Of particular note for this club shipment are the above-mentioned ’13 Quintet and the ’06 Quintet in the ROC’s shipment.

I will try to write this succinctly with focus. Just because a wine is older does not mean you should decant it. And just because a wine is younger does not mean you shouldn’t decant it.

Decanting wine (or letting a wine breathe) is slowly (or sometimes rapidly) adding air to the wine. This addition of oxygen can soften the tannins and blow off undesirable characters. However, you will lose some amount of character. On a young wine, this loss of fruit doesn’t really matter since the wine already has lots of fruit. But on an older wine, this loss of character may be damaging to the wine.

Take the ’06 Quintet in this shipment. The wine is already 11+ years old with a softened palate (due to the micro-oxygenation through the cork over time). Upon opening the wine, I smell it to determine if there are any off-putting characters in the nose. To be honest, undesirable aromas can develop over time simply because the wine has been “trapped” in the same container for so long. It’s a living product, but a hint of air can help these transient notes disappear.

However, if the cellared wine smells great, then there is no need to add oxygen to the wine. Decanting (or God forbid, using an aerator) will only make the wine lose unique and interesting fruit subtleties that you’ve spent years cellaring the wine to get.  And it’s amazing how quickly some of these aromas can be lost even just sitting in the glass.

I can tell you that our 2006 Quintet smells amazing poured straight from the bottle, and decanting the wine only diminishes the experience.

Now take the ’13 Signature Quintet. The wine is young with youthful tannins, but the fruit, spice and smoky characters are plentiful. This is a wine that can handle a hint more oxygen in the palate (to soften the tannins). So either I age this Quintet out for several years (for the slow micro-oxygenation through the cork), or I can decant this wine before serving in order to absorb a bit more oxygen (strictly for the tannins). Because the wine has so much youthful fruit/spice character, I’d be willing to give up a hint of that in order to make the wine more approachable. And of course, serving the wine with something rich (like braised short ribs in a wine sauce) will only make the experience more exciting.

So I’ve digressed off this month’s incredible wine club shipment in order to give a little more background on serving the wines, but I think that’s important to understand (and a bit counter-intuitive to what we’ve always learned).

Remember, decant when necessary and always taste the wine first!

Enjoy the shipment!

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