New Ideas for a New Year


Today’s weather January 23, 2017

OK, so yes. I know that January 1st is “just another day” in the year, not really any different than March 22nd or October 24th (except maybe the weather). But still, we all tend to take this beginning of the New Year as being a chance to reflect and start something new.

Although the wine industry is steeped in tradition and we essentially make wine the same way as they did hundreds of years ago, there’s always a chance to make a change here and there. Here at Madroña, some New Year aspects are mundane and behind the scenes. Others are coming down the pike with an opportunity to partake with your senses. Regardless, for us, there’s an excitement in the air that can only come from hints of change. Continue reading

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Some Thoughts on Port…Part 1

sierra-5As you may know, every February Madroña celebrates Port. For twenty eight days (29 some years) we open and sample older vintage Ports from the library, pair Ports in the conventional way with chocolate or cheese, and explore unusual pairings of Port with foods of all kinds. This blog was originally intended to inform you about Port Month, and Portopia (which I’ll get to later), but as I was compiling my notes, I realized that some people may have one simple question that I completely take for granted: Why?

Why all the fuss? Why spend an entire month celebrating a dessert wine – a SWEET wine? What is so special about Port? Continue reading

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Grandma M’s Stroganoff Recipe (Merlot)

ryan-merlot-pairingBeef stroganoff is one of my favorite wintertime comfort foods. Normally I would recommend pairing this with our Cabernet Sauvignon, but I recently paired it with our Merlot and it worked beautifully. The tender beef, having been slow cooked in the Merlot, along with the onions and mushrooms, created a nice marriage of flavors that work well with the characteristics of our Merlot.  With it’s density and structure it stands up to the creamy and savory aspects of the stroganoff. With stroganoff being a relatively simplistic dish, it really brought out some of the unique subtleties of our Merlot, allowing it to show well. As for myself,  I specifically enjoyed the deep cherry characters and Merlot (which isn’t typically known for it’s spice) showed a very Continue reading

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Madroña Wine and Dine–January 13th, 2017 2-3:30 @ Sierra-at-Tahoe

madrona-solsticeSierra-at-Tahoe, Solstice Eatery and Corkscrew Bar

Imagine this. It’s snowing lightly as you look out the window of a lodge high atop the Sierra Nevada. Skiers are frolicking in the snow while all the time you’re sipping incredible Madroña wines paired with the culinary delights of talented chefs. Sound like a movie from the ‘40’s? In most areas, this would be too good to be true. But anything’s possible in El Dorado County, especially during California’s Restaurant Month! Continue reading

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It’s a Wrap, that 2016 Year!

2016-grapesIt seems that 2016 is one of those years for reflection and introspection. Most people I’ve talked to are ready for 2016 to leave and will welcome 2017 with open arms. With such uncertainty in the world right now, sometimes it’s difficult stay focused on the daily chores. But as always, each challenging era has incredible opportunities.

As I focus on my own small world of winemaking and grapegrowing, the 2016 vintage is one of those opportunities. I reflect back onto this growing year and harvest, and my mind wanders into how perfect the season was. With some amount of rain in the spring, the vines grew vigorously compared to much of what we’ve seen over the past few years. The crop load was reasonable, especially compared to the previous year. Temperatures were moderate throughout the summer, and harvest started just about right on time. Continue reading

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A Harvest Update—Midway Through at the End of September

14310381_10153624555051525_2993898574420084391_o“How’s harvest going?” That’s the most common question I hear, whether it’s in the tasting room, or my mom bringing apple doughnuts to the crew. Generally, my answer is directly proportional to the number of hours I’ve spent at the winery the previous day times the number of days we’ve worked without a break minus the number of varieties still to be pick divided by average high temperature of the last three days times the percentage chance of rain in the next three days.

Harvest=((hours x days) – varieties)/(temperature – rain)

As of today September 29th, H=((11 x 40) – 12)/(84-50).  The answer is 12.588.

One can see immediately that 50% chance of rain this weekend is impacting my answer, but only in that it’s kind of balancing out the fact that I’ve worked 40 days straight. But most importantly, I only worked 11 hours yesterday, which during harvest is considered a “half” day. Pretty clear, huh!?!

To be honest, all these things do matter. The harvest, as work period, is a demanding time when an endless sea of grapes just seems to be coming in. As I get older, I find that my excitement of working the long days is starting to wane, and I’m ready for the last grape to come off when the first one comes in.

14207772_10153611288741525_8921028538730707693_oAnd then we have a wonderful harvest like 2016. It started off slowly with small amounts trickling in. The days were reasonable in length (8-10 hours), and the quality superb. As things ramped up, a cool bout of weather would come to slow down the grapes. This lengthening of the season takes a lot of pressure off of all of us, giving us more time to work with our limited amount of tanks as well getting us all home at reasonable hours.

So unlike the last three vintages where grapes were all picked in about 3 weeks, we are being given a more normal 5 weeks picking window to do the job. It’s almost leisurely the way we’ve worked this season, and it’s just Tim, Ryan and myself in the cellar (until John comes up this weekend).

I, however, suspect that our sanity is not so much the answer to this question as is the overall quality and quantity. Starting with quantity, the tonnages are still a bit short, growing out of some of last year’s weather impact  in the Chardonnay and Zinfandel, but others are coming in a bit heavy too (Malbec and Riesling).

But quality tastes “off-the-charts”! By in large, the grapes have great acidity this year, partly from a more moderate summer temperature season. This extended season has given us a bit more hang-time, thus giving the grapes a bit more intensity. With all this has come more intensity of color and, as of today, a bit more mid-palate texture.

2016-grapesTaking a snapshot while the wines are fermenting needs to always be taken with a grain of salt. These are living and changing beings, tasting different from day to day. But of particular excitement for both color and extraction, the 2016 Sumu Kaw Vineyards Zinfandel and the 2016 Rucksack Vineyards Cabernet Franc are exceptional!

With another 10 days of harvesting, it all looks pretty good. Our challenge is rain this weekend although even the most delicate-skinned varieties (like Zinfandel) are ready to pick. The cool weather coming up should keep the grapes in check (rather than continuing to ripen rapidly), and we have high expectations for the vintage.

And we’re getting to sleep at night too!

Watch for the final wrap-up of harvest and the crush in the October Shrub Report, taste some new wines at the Harvest Fest in November!

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Riesling Month


Julie for Rejuvene 2011

Paul just loves Riesling! (I love talking in the third person!)  But honestly, this is true. But for those of you who can’t believe it, let’s explain this with some of the superlative notions that I often expel in the tasting room.

Although I drink more reds (on average) than whites, Riesling would be my choice if I could only choose one wine the rest of my life.  If I were stranded on a deserted island and my disable sailboat had only one type of wine in it, I would hope and pray that it was Riesling. And the best wine I’ve ever had in my life (to this point) was a Riesling (1997 Zind Humbrecht if you really must know).

Am I getting through to everyone yet? Ok, so now I’m ready to back up my words with concrete “facts”.

  1. No wine is as versatile as Riesling is with food. Pork, chicken, fish, fruit, spicy, sweet, fresh or cooked, Riesling will pair nicely. I can even make a heavy beef stew that is showcased better by Riesling than any red wine!
  2. Dry, off-dry, semi-sweet or sweet, Riesling can be made in so many styles and still be a world-class wine. (Try that with Cab. Blah!)
  3. No other variety showcases the terroir (the tastes of the region) better than Riesling can, partly because Riesling can grow wonderfully in so many regions. A New York Riesling is different than an Alsatian Riesling, which both are different than an Australian Riesling. But all are beautiful.
  4. From the grape-growing point of view, we do almost nothing with the vines in the growing season. No crop thinning, no leaf thinning, no cane tying, no nothing. The vine seems to do it all itself. Compared to Merlot (the problem child), or Nebbiolo (Uncle It), Riesling is a heavenly saint.
  5. Riesling ages spectacularly. It can out-age many or most reds in California simply because the variety has such wonderful natural acidity. That acidity acts as an “anti-oxidant”, keeping the wine fresh and vibrant over many years as it matures. (We just opened a 1993 Madrona Riesling today, and it was beautiful.
  6. Lastly, Riesling is affordable. Even the best of California come in under $30 a bottle. Compare that to good coastal Cabernet Sauvignon, and you’ll get three or more bottles of Riesling for each Cab!

So are we clear? And you respond, “Crystal!” Riesling is truly amazing and worthy of it’s own month of celebration.

Throughout the month of August, we are excited to be partnering with 5 local restauants to present a special dish paired with Riesling.  Check these out!

Bear Moon Grill 1Bear Moon Grill
901 Ski Run Drive, South Lake Tahoe

Bear Moon Grill will be featuring their House-made Crab Cakes paired with the 2014 Riesling, from our Hillside Collection.  The complete description:  House-made Crab Cakes set in a bed of arugula salad, spiced walnuts, and a drizzle of stone-ground mustard. Paul and I happened to be in Tahoe and tried this pairing – it’s outstanding!

Farm TableThe Farm Table
311 Main Street, Placerville

The Farm Table will be featuring the 2014 Dry Riesling from our Signature Collection with their Chef’s Platter.  One of our favorite items on the menu!  It’s the Chef’s choice of 5 items from their meat and cheese selections.  It also includes sliced baguette, and house-made pickled things!

PowellsPowell’s Steamer Co. & Pub
425 Main Street, Placerville

Powell’s Steamer Co will be featuring their Seafood Louis and the 2014 Riesling, Hillside Collection.  Fresh garden greens topped with your choice of crab, shrimp or both served with their housemade louie dressing.  Another fabulous pairing that we have enjoyed!

Smith Flat HouseSmith Flat House
2021 Smith Flat Road, Placerville

Featuring their Local Cider-soaked Pork Tenderloin paired with Apple Chutney, served with a roasted potato medley with peppers and onions and local hand-cut vegetables.   This amazing dish will be paired with both the 2014 Riesling, Hillside Collection, and the 2015 Dry Riesling, Signature Collection.

TotemTotem Coffee
312 Main Street, #104

Totem’s is featuring their fabulous Falafel (checkpea cakes, flatbread, kalamata olive, cucumber, dill/mint yogurt) with the 2014 Dry Riesling.

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