Winemaker's Notes

Fall/Winter 2018 Winemaker Notes

Dear Frogtown Citizens:


A lot has occurred since my May 2018 Winemaker Notes.  No Winemaker Notes in September 2018.  Oops!

2018 Harvests at our AVA vineyards – Dahlonega Plateau, Adelaida, and Geneseo

Dahlonega Plateau AVA Georgia vineyard, incredibly a very good harvest, considering all the rain our Dahlonega Plateau vineyard received all throughout the 2018 growing season.

Geneseo AVA California, frost affected harvest; good fruit from vines unaffected by the frost.

Adelaida AVA California, very good harvest; fulfilling the prediction of Eric Jensen of Booker Vineyards, our principal customer, as one of the best Paso Robles vineyards for growing Bordeaux varietals.

California 2018 initial winemaking completed.

Additional 2018 winemaking protocols remain to be accomplished in Georgia.

Frogtown Reserve Labeled Wines

The determination as to whether or not to make a Frogtown Reserve wine is made after significant months of barrel aging. While I may have an inclination (no pun intended) at harvest, a certain new vintage wine is capable of making a Reserve labeled wine, I just “register” such fact in my winemaking notes and wait until the requisite barrel aging occurs.

If my recollection is correct, in total only 12 Frogtown wines have, to date, been classified as Reserve Wines.  Only two Citizen Estate Reserve Wines have been made from grapes harvested by our Citizens in the eight prior Citizen Harvest Days with Craig.

Twelve Reserve Wines is not a meaningful percentage when compared to all the Frogtown labeled wines made over the prior years.

Why such a low percentage?

I am very serious about the quality standard a wine must demonstrate to justify a Frogtown Reserve label; particularly a wine labeled as a Citizens Estate Reserve.  The bar is raised to the highest level for a wine to qualify for Reserve label classification.  The sensory evaluation I employ in determining which wines should be labeled as a Reserve Wine have been proven valid based upon the facts:

  • With the sole exception of vintage Propaganda wines being awarded a Double Gold Medal, all of Frogtown’s Double Gold and Platinum awarded wines have been Reserve Labeled Wines! Even the 2010 Frogtown Bravado, which won a Best of Class for Super Tuscan wines in a major California competition, was “only” awarded a Gold Medal. 
  • Further to the point, I have determined it is not appropriate for a Propaganda labeled wine being additionally classified as a Reserve wine. Why, a vintage labeled Propaganda, is, well Propaganda! No way I am going to attempt to decide that one Propaganda wine should carry the added classification of a Reserve wine, while another bottling of Propaganda is not so classified.
  • Is it possible for a Frogtown proprietary labeled wine to achieve a Double Gold [in addition to Frogtown Propaganda]? Yes, of course. A Frogtown Touché winning a Double Gold Medal would be a very welcomed.
  • Do all Frogtown Reserve Labeled wines win Double Gold Medals? No.

Double Gold Medal competition results specifically related to Reserve label wines, satisfies me there is transparency and ethical clarity in my sensory evaluation of which Frogtown wines should be Reserve Wines.  Yes, Frogtown Reserve labeled wines cost more.  Appropriately so. After 17 years of winemaking, I am very confident in my sensory Reserve Wine evaluations.

Citizens Harvest day with Craig Held September 29, 2018; Should a Focal Point of each Citizens Day with Craig be a the making of a specially labeled wine?

From my perspective, the September 28, 2018, event was the best Citizens Harvest Day with Craig held so far.  Good attendance and excellent “town meeting” discussions.

The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes harvested were the last Cabernet harvested in 2018.  Very ripe. Rewarding harvest. Our vineyard Associates did a great job of keeping the fruit relatively free of damaging rot; worked every day during the preceding week with the three rows of Cabernet fruit in Block D.  This Cabernet Sauvignon harvest was the penultimate harvest this year.  Only the white grape Vidal was harvested after the Cabernet.

The recent Citizens Harvest Day with Craig was limited to only harvesting grapes by Citizens.  All prior Citizens Harvest Days were conducted at the same time a regular Frogtown harvest was being conducted.

Harvesting grapes solely by attending Citizens resulted in a more relaxed and enjoyable harvest affording additional time for town meeting discussions immediately after harvest and after the initial processing of harvested grapes.  Therefore, unless it is imperative (weather conditions, principally) to conduct a “regular” harvest during a Citizens Harvest Day with Craig (CHDWC), Frogtown will only conduct a harvest by our Citizens on each CHDWC.

In the past, the only specifically labeled wine I considered making from grapes harvested at a CHDWC was a Citizens Estate Reserve.

A Frogtown Citizen Estate Reserve made from fruit harvested at a CHDWC, while possible, has not been a focal point of prior CHDWC.

Since only a small percentage of CHDWC harvested fruit has been included in a specifically labeled wine, there was no reason to have as a CHDWC focal point the making of a specifically labeled wine.

OK, got it?

But is there a way of making harvested fruit from each CHDWC into a specifically labeled wine and therefore a focal point of each CHDWC? Yes.

During the recent CHDWC discussions I suggested adding to the focal point of a Citizens Harvest Day with Craig, the making of a “Citizens Harvest Day wine”. [not a Citizens Estate Reserve Wine].  This suggestion was extremely well-received.  I have developed the following criteria for a CHDWC wine:

  • The wine must be a “Frogtown Quality” red wine. After almost 20 years of growing grapes at our Dahlonega Plateau  AVA vineyard, I feel comfortable this requirement should not be difficult to achieve, barring no significant weather event occurs.
  • The wine can, if advisable, be blended with other grapes harvested prior to the CHDWC event, but only if processed by our Citizens at the CHDWC.
  • A sufficient amount of the wine bottled with grapes processed by Participating Citizens at a CHDWC harvest, agree to purchase such wine.
  • The wine will have a label name of “Enabler”; due to the fact Frogtown Citizens “enable” me to accomplish a number of very special “things” in the context of a commercial winemaking operation. Specifically, being able to sell Frogtown wine bottlings of 250 cases or less to a focused customer base. This is a corner stone of the relationship developed with our Citizens.
  • I would like to produce approximately 15 cases of each Enabler labeled wine to be dedicated as a “library wine”.
  • An Enabler vintage bottled wine is not intended to be another label to be offered to Citizens and others upon release.
  • The names of all Citizen’s participating in the respective harvest and purchase of the vintage Enabler wine will be included on each Enabler label.
  • The wine will be produced after barrel aging of approximately 18 months.

With the foregoing in mind, Citizens participating in CHDWC held September 29, 2018 processed the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes harvested by them and Chambourcin grapes harvested by Frogtown the day before.  The resulting wine blend will be approximated 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Chambourcin.

For those not familiar with Chambourcin, these grapes are characterized as “French/American hybrid grapes”.  We grow two other French/American hybrid grapes at our Dahlonega vineyard, Seyval and Vidal, both white grapes.  Chambourcin is a red grape capable of producing very dark intensive red wines with what can be described as “neutral” red wine flavors.  Neutral meaning a wine that is difficult to separately identify, especially when included in a wine blend.  Has Frogtown included Chambourcin in a wine in the past?  Yes, the Nebbiolo, Teroldego and Chambourcin wine called Priority, which has been extremely well-received by our Citizens.

All of our 2018 attending Citizens agreed to purchase an allocatable equal percentage of wine to be produced under the inaugural Enabler label, estimated at 3 cases per Citizen, at a price of $30.00 a bottle.

This is the format that will be replicated each subsequent CHDWC.  It is reasonable to assume the quantity of wine to be produced under the Enabler label each year should be fairly constant as a result of having a controlled harvest by Citizens only.

Frogtown Citizens Wine Library

At our CHDWC on September 29, 2018 there was one more significant discussion item.  Yep, the Citizens Wine Library!  Never one to avoid a good ribbing, I ventured into this topic with renewed vigor and determination.

First, let me attempt a “there is no defense, defense” for not completing the Citizens Wine Library earlier in what is an incredible 5 years since commencement of this endeavor.

Initially very good process was made in completing a dried-in Citizens Library building, but then very little progress in the ensuing four plus years.  Why? I became preoccupied with other Frogtown projects that were “on my plate” including the following;

  • Expansion of Tasting Room Facilities at our Dahlonega Plateau AVA Winery
  • Development of the Adelaida AVA vineyard in Paso Robles, CA
  • Development of the Geneseo AVA vineyard in Paso Robles, CA
  • Commencement of California Winemaking in Paso Robles, CA
  • Expansion of food service operations at or Dahlonega AVA Winery
  • Continued development of growing and making World Class Wines on the Dahlonega Plateau AVA,

Frogtown as of the end of 2018 has substantially completed all or the above.

Most significantly, continued development in growing and making wine has resulted in Frogtown achieving four consecutive Double Gold Medals for our 2011 Frogtown Propaganda, Inaugural 2011 Frogtown Citizens Estate Reserve, 2013 Kritzer Family Reserve Petit Verdot [all such wines being awarded Double Gold Medals either at the San Francisco International Wine Competition or the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition], and most recently the 2014 Kritzer Family Reserve Nebbiolo achieving a Double Gold Medal at Doug Frost’s invited Jefferson Cup Competition.

All of the foregoing stated matters on my plate were achieved with the one requirement I made to myself upon commencing the Frogtown journey — Craig having active determinative involvement while having fun. 

Cydney and John have compiled and recorded all Library wines all the way back to 2001, our first year of making Dahlonega Plateau wines.

On October 22, 2018, we conducted our first tasting of Library Wines with the tastings of Vintage 2004, 2006, and 2008 Library Wines in our almost completed Citizens Wine Library.

The ultimate, and possibly the most significant vetting of our wines, was the ability of our red wines to age gracefully and mature for many years after initial release. Attending Citizens unanimously gave their imprimatur to these wines by acknowledging the impressive quality of the aged wines enjoyed during the October 2018 Citizens Wine Library pre-opening event.

I am not aware of any world class competition for significantly aged red wines.  If there were such competitions I would enthusiastically enter our Library wines with the expectation of receiving significant imprimaturs from the judges at such competitions.

Remember always, it is easy for any winemaker to state that he or she makes world class wines without the concurrence of others qualified to make such judgments.  It is quite another to back up a winemaker’s quality proclamation by achieving significant number of medals from wine judges and critics, themselves being recognized as world class.

Your Citizens Library has the same beauty and functionality of our other Frogtown building facilities (possibly even more).  It will serve as the back drop and venue for continued long term cellaring of Library wines.  The Library will also serve as a special tasting and hospitality venue dedicated solely for our Citizens use and enjoyment.

What to Look Forward to in 2019 and Beyond in your Citizens Wine Library

  • Putting the final touches necessary to finish the racking, lighting and decoration of the Library.
  • Holding tastings to include up to 12 Citizens at a time who sign up via making reservations at scheduled times on Sundays, to include Tapas food items paired with four different Library cellared wines. The cost of this exclusive Citizen event will be $50.00 per person.
  • Holding business meetings or other gatherings in the Library for up to 12 persons for a facility fee to be determined. A 13.2-foot live edge conference table in the second level of the Library will serve as the venue for such meetings.  Food and wine tastings will also be available for Citizens and their guests in our main hospitality venues.

2018 Vintage White Wines

I have decided to modify the time frame before bottling Frogtown’s Estate white and Rosé wines.

Commencing with the 2018 vintage, Frogtown will bottle its vintage white and Rosé wines sooner than in the past.  Other than a shorter period from harvest to bottling, no other winemaking protocols will be modified.

The shorter time period from harvest to bottling should result in our white wines sensory presentation being “tweaked” with fresher fruit flavors [tweaked meaning not necessary “pronounced”]. Frogtown white wines shall continue be relatively more complex and more full-bodied than what customarily is achieved in the wine industry.

The foregoing early bottling of white wines shall not apply to barrel fermented Chardonnay.  Frogtown commencing with the 2019 vintage, shall again make barrel fermented Chardonnay, which requires 8-10 months of barrel aging.

The following are the 2018 vintage white wines to be bottled:

  • 2018 Frogtown Steel Chardonnay,
  • 2018 Frogtown Viognier,
  • 2018 Frogtown Marsanne,
  • 2018 Frogtown 770,
  • 2018 Frogtown Sauvignon Blanc,
  • 2018 Frogtown Sauvignon Gris,
  • 2018 Frogtown MRV*,
  • 2018 VRM**
  • 2018 Oglethorpe Rosé***, and
  • 2018 Oglethorpe Seyval***


* Our Dahlonega Plateau AVA Estate blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier

** Our California Geneseo AVA Estate blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne

*** Unlike Frogtown labeled wines, Oglethorpe labeled wines contain small amounts of residual sugar added immediately before bottling.

Frogtown will bottle a new Rosé which I will call “Citizen Rosé” that will be bottled very early in 2019.  My intent is to make a lighter  “Provençal” style rosé.

Additionally, look for the resumption of bottling Frogtown Cachét, made from 100% late harvested Vidal, and Frogtown Grandeur made from 100% Tannat.  The Cachét and Grandeur will be made and bottled in 375 ml bottles with 2018 vintage fruit and will contain significant amounts of residue sugar similar to ice wines made in Europe and in the Finger Lakes Wine Region.

Cydney and I, along with Louisa, Ted, John and Chris and our expanding hard working Frogtown Tasting Room and Italian Bistro Associates, wish you the best in the New Year.

Visit us often in 2019, take full advantage of your Frogtown Citizenship privileges.


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