2019 Newsletter

Joseph Swan Vineyards

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Newsletter! Recent Releases! Return to Barrel Tasting! And a Cruise!!!!

It has been a long time since we have sent out a proper newsletter. Probably the biggest reason was simple inertia. I am also getting a little weary of the multiple offers of wine coming to my email every day and wondered if anyone would bother to read it. Despite that, there has been a lot going on here since our last newsletter so maybe it is time to get caught up~

Cruise with us!

After a several year hiatus, we are incredibly excited to partner up with Moshin Vineyards again, to do another river cruise! This time it is the Danube River from Budapest Hungary through Austria and finishing in Passau Germany. We have never been to this part of Europe but everyone that we know that has been on this cruise, says it is an amazing trip. We sure hope that you will join us. We have a few surprises planned! New Wines! But even without them this might just be the trip of a lifetime!

Maria Theresa Exterior Budapest Low Res

For more information go to https://foodandwinetrails.com/swanandmoshin2020

River Cruising

While onboard we will host a wonderful welcome dinner carefully prepared with our wines and a wine seminar and tasting. We will also be bringing along a selection of wines from our library for "off night", dinners. Remember, all beverages are included with the cost of the cruise. Check out some of our previous cruise antics here


Bubbling Fermenter

Grapes just can’t wait to be wine!

First, we are about to embark on our 52nd vintage and my 41st . Hard to believe. Although it hasn’t always been wine and roses, I can’t properly express how grateful I am for being able to take this amazing journey. So many great memories, so may gracious people that helped me along the way, so many great friends and of course countless wonderful wines.

Over the years, the business has changed in many ways. One of the biggest changes is how wine drinkers buy wine. I feel that the quality of our wines has improved over the years but there are now so many wonderful wines available, that the average wine drinker’s attention is now so fragmented it is difficult to gain anyone’s attention for long. For years our core customers bought wine by the case to cellar. They enjoyed the journey, tasting the wine over a period of years, watching it develop complexity and nuance. While there are still some of you out there, the vast majority of wine drinkers buy wine to drink now. What an amazing concept! Few have the ability to store wine properly so wines are generally made today to have immediate appeal. Recognizing that, and not wanting to change how we made our wine to follow the demands of the market, we began to hold wines back for additional bottle age prior to release as our wines have always, with a few exceptions, greatly benefited from additional time in the bottle. As a result, our releases are often a year or two, or in some cases even longer, behind the majority of wineries. While I feel that everything we bottle can be enjoyed shortly after bottling, we hold most of them back so that you can appreciate the benefits of bottle aging. Although most are no where near their peak (an elusive thing which may or may not even exist!), at least you will have the chance to drink wines that are showing more than just primary fruit. From the feedback we have received, this was a good decision on our part, although, from a business standpoint, perhaps not the best, as we constantly have a warehouse full of wine, each bottling patiently waiting for its chosen coming out day.

While speaking of having a lot of wine, last year’s harvest was larger than we anticipated but we received lots of perfect fruit and were able to make some amazing wines. The downside is we have had to pay for all of the extra fruit and the subsequent bottling, but that is a whole lot better than a big (or even small) harvest of mediocre grapes! We just finished bottling nearly 4000 cases of 2018 vintage wine in August. Most of that was pinot noir but also included our valdiguié and 2017 Trenton Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The timing was perfect as the first fruit, pinot noir from Catie’s Corner, arrived on Friday the 6th. The start of harvest was perfect. Good weather and wonderful fruit that is a bit later ripening than the last several vintages.

This past year has been special in a couple of other ways. I was honored by the Sonoma County Vintners, who named me as an icon, celebrating my 40 years of winemaking and my dedication over the years to the greater Sonoma County Wine Community. The Sonoma County Vintners has had a tradition over the last few years of honoring individuals who have helped shape the industry over their careers at the annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction. I have joined some amazing company and will be forever honored.

I was also asked by Jackson Family Wines (aka Kendall Jackson), to help craft a pinot noir blend for the 40th anniversary of La Crema, alongside their wonderfully talented winemaker, Jennifer Walsh. The reason for my inclusion is that I was the first winemaker for what was then known as La Crema Viñera. It was an amazing experience to be able to work with Jen on this project. I am going to have to acquire a few bottles as they are even mentioning me on the back label!

2019 Vintage. How does it look?

Automated Punchdowns

Automated Punchdowns!

Every year is a new adventure and 2019 is a great case in point. Record May rains had me wishing for the bad old days of the drought. Not really, but I was beginning to believe that the vineyard would never dry out enough to take a tractor out. We were a little ahead of the game prior to the big rains. The vineyard was pruned and all of the canes tied. Things looked good. The ground was drying out enough for us to start cultivating, then more rain came. The grass and green manure cover crop that we hoped to till in really took off, but the ground was too wet to get in. Fortunately, the usual spring frosts were avoided, as high grass traps the cold. Bud bread was delayed by a couple of weeks due the cold, wet ground, but ended up being amazingly consistent. We missed most of flowering and fruit set as we had two out of town trips with only one day at home. The worry was that the big heat spell in early June would cause a lot of shatter. Our vineyard managed to dodge that as well and set was pretty much complete by mid June. We made several passes through the vineyard over the growing season to tend to the vines due to the vigor being greatly enhanced by the early season rain and warm weather. In addition to the usual trunk suckering and thinning of shoots, the vines have, this year, produced an abundance of laterals. Laterals are shoots that arise off of the main shoots and shade the primary growth and tangle things up. We started to see verasion (change in color of grapes coinciding with the beginning of ripening) about when we would normally expect it (end of second week of July) but then it seemed to stall. Eventually, all of the fruit colored up nicely, and, in fact, more consistently than I had seen in the past. We began harvest with pinot noir from Catie’s Corner on September 6 with a lot more fruit coming in the following week. We should have all of the pinot noir as well as some other fruit in by the first day of Autumn.

Recently Released Wines

It is kind of embarrassing to say that we have released a number of wines since the last newsletter but we have. I will list a few of them here but for full descriptions go to our website at swanwinery.com. We don’t make a big deal about most of our wines. No allocations, no "if you don’t buy it within 48 hours it will be gone". We simply release them and hope that people taste them, like them and stock up! Some, like our rosé, Trenton Estate Cabernet and Chardonnay, and Valdiguié are made in such small quantities that they are rarely around for long. Some, such as our Pinot Noir Cuvée de Trois get worldwide distribution. At the end of the day our practice is rather, if we have it, you are welcome to it! So, check out the website to see what is currently available. In order to save space, we will not repeat our notes about the wines here. They are on our website.

Some of the newer releases include:

2015 Pinot Noir Trenton Estate

2017 Valdiguié (Sold out)

2017 Viognier Catie’s Corner

2014 Syrah Solas Vineyard

2015 Pinot Noir Saralee’s Vineyard

2014 Petite Sirah Bastoni Vineyard

2015 Chardonnay Trenton Estate (Sold Out)

2013 Bastoni Vineyard Zinfandel

2017 Gewürztraminer Saralee’s Vineyard

2014 Pinot Noir Catie’s Corner

2013 Pinot Noir Trenton View

2013 Pinot Noir Great Oak

2016 Grenache Blanc Catie’s Corner

2016 Grenache Blanc Catie’s Corner Cuvée Orange (Sold out)

2018 Rosé of Syrah Trenton Estate (7 cases left)

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Upcoming Events!

Barrel Tasting

Due to the miniscule crop in 2017, we did not participate last year. However, 2018 was quite bountiful so we will have a bunch of wines that we can pour, including our 2018 Valdiguié and our newest zinfandel, the 2018 Banfield Ranch. It is only new to us. The vineyard was planted in 1880! At this time, we expect to be pouring both weekends but as in the past, the second weekend we will not be official participants, but will be informally pouring from barrel for our customers that might want to come at a little less busy time. As it gets closer, we will finalize our plans and let you know.

A final note. I am going to try and return to my old practice of writing a newsletter three times a year and announce any current releases.

The next newsletter should be forthcoming late January or early February. We also plan to go back to notifying everyone by snail mail as well as by email. However, we have very few physical addresses. If you wouldn’t mind getting a note or newsletter in the mail, please make sure that we have your current mailing address.

Thank you for reading and your interest in our wines!

Joseph Swan Vineyards | 2916 Laguna Road, Forestville, CA, 95436 | 707-573-3747

There are few more civilized pleasures than good company, good food, and good wine - Joe Swan
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