October 27, 2009
Dear Frogtown Citizen:
Commencement of Distribution Partnership with Empire Distributors, Inc.
I am delighted to report Frogtown and Thirteenth Colony wines will be distributed in Georgia by Empire. Frogtown is indeed fortunate to have Empire as its distributor. Last Friday, I made our first delivery to Empire. You should be able to purchase Frogtown wines at restaurants and wine stores in Atlanta and throughout Georgia in the very near future. If you’re favorite restaurants or package stores do not offer Frogtown and Thirteenth Colony wines, please request the restaurant or package store contact Empire to purchase our wines. I would greatly appreciate your support by purchasing Frogtown wines in Georgia restaurants and package stores.
New Web Site
We also have our new web site in full operation. We encourage you to e-mail Cydney or me at your special email address, [email protected], with your comments to this new web site and any other comments, thoughts, or opinions you may have about our wines or our service. We take your comments seriously and you will receive a reply.
The 2009 Vintage Report
The 2009 Vintage is like no other vintage we experienced in our 10 years of growing premium wine grapes in North Georgia. As reported in our Winemaker Notes to our May 30, 2009, shipment, the year started out with lots of rain at bud break, blossom, and fruit set. Within two weeks after fruit set (around the second week of June), I decided to thin the 2009 crop by eliminating, depending on the grape variety, between 30 to 50 percent of the fruit on these vines. The dropping of fruit to the ground by shoot thinning or cluster thinning is not unusual for Frogtown; however, in none our preceding vintages did we drop this quantity of fruit so early in the growing season.
In past vintages we waited to drop a material portion of our fruit until verasion (when wine grapes soften and turn from green to purple/blue for red wine grapes and to yellow/chartreuse for white wine grapes). This early crop thinning paid enormous dividends, as the weather changed during June, July, and most of August to mostly sunny days and very moderate temperatures (very few 90 degree days) followed by substantial mid-September rain. Due to this early crop reduction, our later ripening red and white grapes were substantially ripe by the second week of September, prior to the onset of the September rains discussed below.
Harvest was just fractionally late (we harvested Sauvignon Blanc, our first ripening grape, the last week of August). We followed with Chardonnay, Seyval, and Viognier. Sangiovese was the first red grape harvested on the 4th and 5th of September.
Around the 12th of September, the weather appeared to be changing with lots of rain in the forecast. I decided to accelerate our harvest. Between the 12th and the 14th of September, Frogtown harvested a substantial portion of our red fruit.
The weather did in fact materially change making my decision to harvest a good decision. The vineyard received over 16 inches of rain from the 15th to the 21st of September. On September 21st (one day) it rained approximately 4 and ½ inches (almost 10% of the average annual rain fall for our area of North Georgia). Most of the Cabernet Sauvignon, some Merlot, and all of the Norton grapes hung through all of this rain. When the weather cleared botrytis was present, but we were surprised to find virtually no sour rot. Botrytis we can live with, but sour rot is just horrible.
A good amount of the post-rain grapes harvested actually were benefited by the extra time on the vine notwithstanding all of the rain. While the Brix levels were down, the post-rain harvested grapes did well in the winery. I employed the French technique of saignée to a greater extent than customary on these grapes with very good results. As of this date all these post-rain harvested grapes appear to be Frogtown quality wines. We do not anticipate allocating a material portion of our 2009 Vintage to our second wine label, Thirteenth Colony.
Bottom line, the 2009 vintage gave us the best Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Sangiovese ever harvested at Frogtown. The 2009 Chardonnay, Viognier, Seyval, and Vidal were what we expect from our vineyard. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Tannat, Touriga, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Norton are deep in color and now appear to be more tannic than our previous vintages. We will need to “manage” this tannin in the Winery as these wines mature. The 2009 Vintage may give Frogtown its longest lived vintage wines.
Deceptive Trade Practices in Wine Labeling.
In our May 30, 2009 Winemaker Notes accompanying our Second Wine Club Shipment, I made mention of the fact that the Federal Wine Labeling Regulations encourage deceptive trade practices, particularly by East Coast wineries. Specifically, it is my belief, when the U. S. wine industry was initially developing (primarily on the West Coast), California wine growers and wineries wanted to sell either grapes or wine to East Coast wineries, but did not want the East Coast wineries referencing the fact that their wines contained California fruit or wine. In response to industry desires, Federal Regulators adopted labeling rules which allow the blending of up to 25% of the wine from a foreign state into another State’s labeled wines without requiring disclosure that such bending occurred (i.e. 25% of California fruit in a Georgia labeled wine). Ethics and good business practices go beyond just doing “what is legal”; such ethics and good business practices require producers selling to the public to do “what is right.” Most people purchasing a bottle of wine labeled “Georgia” assume such wine is made from 100% Georgia grown wine grapes, without containing wine made from grapes grown in another state. This is particularly true in the wine business, where consumers are encouraged to taste the different “terroir” in the wines of a Country (France as distinguished from Italy) or State (Georgia as distinguished from California). This French term, “terroir” can be defined as a specific group of vineyards from the same region , sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, and grapes, which contribute to give such region its specific personality to the wine. How does blending fruit or wine from California into Georgia wines enhance the terroir (personality) of Georgia wines? It doesn’t. The wine may be better because of the blending, but if a wine purchaser in Georgia wants a California wine, there are plenty of opportunities for that person to purchase such a wine in Georgia wine shops and restaurants. Why make Georgia wines “non-descriptive” by blending California wine into Georgia wine? In the early spring of this year, Frogtown introduced two Resolutions to the Members of the Winegrowers Association of Georgia (“WAG”). The first Resolution required WAG members to only label their wines as “Georgia” if 100% of the grapes from which the wine was made came from Georgia. The Frogtown sponsored Resolution lost on a vote of 7 against to 3 in favor. After losing this first proposal, we proposed a second Resolution which allowed WAG members to blend California (or another states) grapes into their Georgia labeled wines so long as (i) the 25% limit under Federal law was met and (ii) the fact such blending occurred was disclosed on the label of such wine. Again, we lost on a 7 to 3 vote. For a listing of WAG member wineries, please go to georgiawine.com. Black Stock Vineyards and Stack Vineyards were the only other WAG members supporting our Resolutions. We flat out don’t understand why most of the WAG members (constituting the vast majority of Georgia wineries making wine from vitis vinifera grapes (the internationally recognized premium wine grapes) are against disclosing the truth of what is in their wine to their customers and the Georgia wine-purchasing public. It goes without saying that the blending of an amount as large as 25% of California fruit or wine into Georgia grown wine materially changes this wine to “other than a Georgia product.” No other premium wine growing country (region) in the world would allow this type of terroir-altering process. The public in evaluating such altered wine should know such Georgia labeled product contains wine made from grapes grown outside the State of Georgia!
In response to the WAG vote on these Resolutions, I decided to demonstrate to the public, with full disclosure, the difference between a 100% Georgia grown wine product from a wine product containing grapes grown in another appellation. We registered with the United States Trademark Office the terms, “A West Coast East Coast Wine” and “An East Coast West Coast Wine,” and the names “Convergence” and “Compulsion.” Convergence being a West Coast East Coast Wine, by containing more West Coast than East Coast fruit. Compulsion being an East Coast West Coast Wine, by containing more East Coast than West Coast fruit. We were forced to use the descriptors West Coast and East Coast, as the Federal Regulators would not allow us to identify, in any manner, the specific and truthful fact that the wine was made from California and Georgia grown grapes on the Convergence and Compulsion labels.
With the sole exception of Convergence and Compulsion, all Frogtown wines and Thirteenth Colony wines contain, and will continue to be made from, 100% Georgia grown fruit. Convergence and Compulsion are not even put in a Georgia labeled wine bottle. You will notice on the back label of the Convergence you are receiving with this shipment, the label states “American Wine.” We could not go against our belief that a Georgia labeled wine should be made from 100% Georgia grown fruit. Up to now, all of the Georgia grown fruit going into a Frogtown or Thirteenth Colony wine has been fruit grown at our vineyards. In the future we may source wine grapes from other Georgia growers, we respect as good growers, for Thirteenth Colony wines. Frogtown labeled wines will always be estate grown at our vineyards.
In making Convergence and Compulsion, we hope to prove that it is good business practice to tell the wine purchasing public, to the extent the Federal Regulations and Regulators allow, what grapes (i.e. terroir) is in the bottle right on the label to that bottle.
I encourage all of you to know what is in the bottle before you turn over your money to any Georgia winery. You now know the vote and the unwillingness of the majority of WAG member wineries to practice truth-in-labeling at a standard higher than the dubious Federal Regulations require.
For those of you that are receiving all red wines or red and white wines, we have included the following wines in this third Wine Club shipment:
Frogtown First Convergence -Convergence is composed 2/3 from Cabernet, Merlot and Malbec grapes grown in Sonoma County, California and 1/3 from Cabernet Franc grapes grown at Frogtown Cellars. This West Coast East Coast Wine has big California fruit flavor with a chewy tannin finish. The Frogtown Cabernet Franc fruit gives this bold wine more elegance than the wine would have without such fruit. Our Georgia fruit “tones down” what was otherwise a big in “your face California Cabernet Blend.” This bottle of Convergence won an American Example of Greatness from the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition (equivalent to a Gold Medal in other major competitions). Frogtown is one of only 300 wineries participating each year in the Jefferson Cup competition, a competition by invitation only. Wine Club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $27.99.
2006 Frogtown Cabernet Franc -After more than 30 months in oak, in June of this year, we bottle the following Frogtown labeled wines: 2006 Cabernet Franc, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 Tannat, 2006 Touché, and the 2006 Kritzer Family Reserve Merlot. Due to the amount of Merlot grapes used in this Reserve, there will not be a Propaganda made from 2006 Vintage gapes. The next Propaganda will be made from our 2007 Vintage grapes. This Propaganda will be one of the few wines we will make from the 2007 Vintage due to the fact we lost 85% of our fruit to a freeze occurring the day after Easter 2007.
Wow, is my descriptor for the 2006 Cabernet Franc. I almost convinced myself into putting this wine in a Reserve Label. If I were teaching a class about the different wine grape varieties, I would use this wine as an example of a Cabernet Franc made from ripe full-flavored grapes. This wine is wonderfully balanced with a lovely finish. Typical of Cabernet Franc, the wine has a spicy character which does not over-power the wonderful dark blue fruit flavors. This is only the second time we have made a varietal Cabernet Franc (2004 was the first Cabernet Franc bottled varietal). This wine, along with all of the other 2006 Reds, and some 2008 whites will officially be released on November 21, 2009. While the wine could use some additional bottle age, please enjoy this bottle now. We bottled 125 cases of this Cabernet Franc. While not a big production, there should be sufficient quantities of this wine this winter and spring. Wine Club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $29.99.
For our Citizens receiving all red the third bottle included in this shipment is:
2005 Frogtown Touché – We included a bottle of our 2005 Touché in our first Wine Club Shipment. Since the very first vintage of Touché, this wine is Frogtown’s best wine to price value. In describing this wine to you in February of this year I said: “This vintage of Touché continues the Frogtown tradition of being a major award winning wine in major competitions; as this vintage of Touché has the distinction of being awarded a Gold Medal, Best-in-Class Designation from The Atlantic Seaboard 2008 Competition – the East Coast’s exclusive major competition. As with its prior vintages, this Touché is a unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat grapes. The exciting combination of these grapes offers complex flavors of ripe cherry, red berry and spice with hints of vanilla, tobacco and cocoa.” Wine club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $21.99.
For our Citizens receiving red and white, the third bottle included in this shipment is:
Frogtown 2006 MRV – we are sending this second bottling of our Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier proprietary blend. I like this bottle of MRV even more than our first bottling. If you put a blind fold on and a clothes pin on your nose, by the mouth feel of this wine, you would bet it was a red wine. This confirms my long-standing opinion that the Rhone Valley White wines are the “red wine drinker’s white wines. In addition to the classic Rhone white flavors of apple, pear, hazel nuts and almonds, this wine has lots of “flowers” on the bouquet and pallet with a wonderful creamy balanced texture. This wine is a wonderful example of how a non-citrus flavored wine can be enjoyed as an alternative to the ubiquitous Chardonnay, and, to a lesser extent Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio wines. Wine Club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $24.99.
For those of you that are receiving all white wines, we have included the following wines in this third wine club shipment:
2006 Frogtown MRV – described above
2006 Frogtown Inclination – this white wine continues to be one of our best selling white wines. The 2006 Inclination will be officially released at the November 21, 2009, wine release event. I am very pleased that the description of this
2006 Inclination can be written by repeating the descriptions we have used for prior vintages of Inclination. We work very hard in putting the Chardonnay, Viognier, and Vidal grapes together as a blend for each of our Vintage Inclinations. The combination is never the same, but the blend always is Inclination. Enjoy this Inclination with its clean, citrus, apple and toasty flavors. Wine Club members enjoy a 20% discount from Retail Price of $18.99.
Frogtown 2006 Cachet – we are sending this 100% Vidal dessert wine to you for the first time. We have been out of this wine for over a year. This is our example of an “Ice Wine,” although we cannot label this wine as an Ice Wine due to the Federal Regulations requiring the grapes to be frozen on the vine when picked in order to use the words “Ice Wine” on the label. This will never happen in Georgia. In all honesty, Georgia grown grapes would rot before being frozen; if we indeed had the low temperatures which are necessary to freezing wine grapes. We use a process of “freezing-out” the water in the Vidal grapes in the winery and then ferment this wine at 50 Degrees for over three months. Our Cachet also has a relatively modest 2.8% residual sugar. Stylistically I want the wine to finish like a dry wine without a sweet syrupy after taste. This level of sweetness is just right to enjoy Cachet with semi-sweet chocolate. Unlike other white wines, I recommend that Cachet be chilled down to a very cold temperature before serving (I put a bottle in the freezer for at least ½ hour before serving).
For those of you who are receiving this shipment by FedEx instead of pick-up, as you have in the past, I apologize for this inconvenience. Unlike our former software, this new software requires that we enter into the computer your preference of pick-up or shipment AT THE TIME OF INITIALLY PROCESSING THE ORDER, rather than allowing us to wait till you respond to an e-mail confirming your preference of pick-up or shipment. Please call or e-mail Cydney with your pick-up preference for future shipments ( [email protected] or 404-502-9463) and she will make sure you are “in the computer” as required by our new software.
For red only and red and white wine Citizens, the charge for the enclosed wines, with your 20% discount and the $12.00 shipping fee, is $80.45. For our red and red and white wine Citizens we are additionally enclosing with this shipment a Frogtown wine tool at no charge, as the $80.45 charge for this shipment exceeds the maximum shipment allowance of $75.00. Enjoy using this tool to open many Frogtown wines!
For white only Citizens, the charge for the enclosed wines, with your 20% discount and $12.00 shipping, is $66.75.
Your next shipment will be in December. Look for, and please purchase, Frogtown and Thirteenth Colony wines at restaurants and package stores in Georgia.
Best to all,