Diamond Ridge Vineyards is located at the southeast corner of Clear Lake in Lake County. One of the best sites in California for these two varieties. The Merlot is unlike any other in the State, and resembles more the wines of Pomerol, with dense structure, lush mouthfeel and a rich core of fruit. The site’s high altitude dispels any herbaceous character in either variety and imparts firm tannic framing to the Cabernet Franc and an aggressive spiciness which perfectly complements the softer Merlot.
The result is a complex mixture of bright red fruit aromas: grenadine, white cherry and black raspberry which are well preserved by the lake effect which cools the vineyard each afternoon. Droughty herbs that surround the site impart “air-oir” – sage and bay laurel elements which are apparent in the nose. The volcanic soil imparts a racy mineral energy to the palate and gives the wine a prolonged aging trajectory. After 51 months in neutral cooperage, the wine remains fresh and purple, and will repay extensive further cellaring. Delicious now or in two decades. Recommended with rosemary lamb, wild mushrooms or ratatouille.
Clark Smith is an MIT drop-out who wandered out to California in 1972 and sold wine retail in the Bay Area for several years, where he acquired a love of Bordeaux, Burgundy and all things French and observed first hand the California winery explosion in the 1970s. After a three year stint at Veedercrest Vineyards, he secured enology training at UC Davis and spent the 1980s as founding winemaker for The R.H. Phillips Vineyard in Yolo County. In 1990, he founded WineSmith Consulting and patented a group of new winemaking techniques involving reverse osmosis, spinning off Vinovation, which went on to become the world’s largest wine production consulting firm over its 17-year history.
Frustrated with California’s winemaking trends, Clark started WineSmith Cellars in 1993 as a teaching winery to make Eurocentric wines to explore traditions beyond the mainstream, expanding for his winemaking clients the range of possibility for California fruit. Choosing to create long-term partnerships with committed growers rather than growing his own grapes, Clark has become an renowned expert on Cabernet Franc, having vinified twenty vintages from a wide variety of sites.
Teaching at Napa Valley College gave him access to the Student Vineyard for Faux Chablis and his Pauillac-style $100 “Crucible” Cabernet Sauvignon. From Renaissance Vineyards in North Yuba County he has made a sulfite-free Roman Syrah and also produces a Pinot Noir from Fiddlestix Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills in a delicate, age-worthy Côtes de Beaune style. These wines are vinified in an ancient beat-up warehouse in Sebastopol, California.
WineSmith wines are noted for their longevity, classic balance, structural integrity, minerality and understated soulfulness. They often are aged extensively prior to release. When drinking a WineSmith wine, always ask yourself “What is this wine trying to teach me?” Clark is a vocal advocate of living soil and graceful longevity, and generally avoids excessive oak, alcohol, or extended hang-time. He is not shy about employing new tools when they are needed, such as alcohol adjustment to bring fruit into balance or micro-oxygenation to build refined structure, but always fully discloses techniques which are controversial and is outspoken in explaining his rationale.
His book, Postmodern Winemaking, is the culmination of four decades of reflection on wine’s true nature.
AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WA, WV, WI, WY
FedEx Ground: Monday, November 12th - Wednesday, November 14th
Hi everybody! I’m very excited about this new WineSmith line. Those of you who remember the Diamond Ridge Aspects blend will recognize similarities here: the bright red fruit, solid, ageworthy structure, and racy minerality you’ve come to expect from this vineyard year in and year out.
However, there are nuances here I managed to coax out through different yeast selections, aging without sulfites until near bottling, and more prolonged barrel age that impart a decidedly Bordelais tertiary bouquet with carob, tobacco and leather nuances that are to me very sexy, plus a remarkably refined, plush tannin that’s eminently drinkable but also built to last at least another decade in a good cellar.
Since it’s a new wine for us, we’ve sent out several samples to our intrepid lab rats, so I hope they’ll chime in soon with comments and questions.
I’m also happy to field questions about what has proven a unique harvest full of unusual challenges but also remarkable quality.
Hello to Clark and congratulations to Sandra on her promotion to assistant winemaker!
I am waiting on a bottle of this to arrive for ratting purposes but sadly it appears that it will not get here before the end of the offer. Suffice it to say that I have greatly enjoyed Clark’s wines over the years and am already in for a case of this Meritage on blind faith alone, haha.
The last Meritage I tried from Clark, a 2006 Planet Pluto, was still going strong as of last year. It was one of those bottles that was so good I almost regretted sharing it with friends from work!
I am willing to share up to 6 bottles of this with the usual NE Ohio suspects. Cheers!
@chipgreen@mrn1@pjmartin@scott0210 Okay, sounds good to me. I am likely to be teaching my Fundamentals of Wine chemistry class for Ohio winemakers next Spring or Summer, as I imagine we could piggyback on that. I’ll talk to veteran State Enologist Todd Steiner about the dates that will work for him, then work towards a venue.
I think they were talking about meeting each other in Wooster to split the case of your Meritage, haha… but Wooster could also work for a vertical tasting, especially if Todd gets involved (which shouldn’t take too much arm twisting).
@PLSemenza Because I left the 2007 Crucible extra time in old wood, it’s more accessible than the 2005 right now, and quite ready to drink. It’s also very well built and can easily go another 10 years at the minimum in a good cellar.
I really like the way the 2005 Faux Chablis is beginning to open up finally. It is of course totally dry but because it’s become so lush, one guy recently compared it to Sauternes!
What’s really amazing though is the way the 2001 is drinking - pure silk and incense. See my note on the vertical tasting tour I’m setting up. Hope you can hook up.
@PLSemenza Glad to see that the 2005 Faux Chablis is opening up - I have 10 bottles, mostly 05 but with a few 04’s mixed in, plus one last bottle of the 2003 Chardonnay. I do need to start drinking those!
In other news, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for WineSmith devotees. I am now down to one case of library wine of most of the six Faux Chablis vintages (2001-2006) and the four declared Crucible vintages (1999, 2004, 2005 and 2007), so we are organizing a twelve city tour to sit down with 12 - 20 locals and taste these classics (plus a few mystery wines), now valued at about $3,000, for $200 per seat.
We will be coming to Chicago, Toronto, Miami and of course Sonoma in the Spring. If you live near one of these, please let me know if you’re interested.
If not, let us know where you’d like us to stage the other five events. Seattle, Boston, Denver, Boston, New Orleans, LA and San Diego come to mind. Anywhere we can put together at least a dozen people is possible.
@GatorFL Please whisper me your name, email, phone number and city of residence so we can communicate developments to you and work together to achieve a 12 - 20 person subscription in a convenient venue. If you have suggestions for an appropriate venue or if you have a posse that would also wish to attend, include those details in your message.
@southpaw25 Please whisper me your name, email, phone number and city of residence so we can communicate developments to you and work together to achieve a 12 - 20 person subscription in a convenient venue. If you have suggestions for an appropriate venue or if you have a posse that would also wish to attend, include those details in your message.
I can labrat, although I wasn’t sent a bottle from this particular offer. I’m the one who created the CT listing for this wine (I hope it’s correct).
My wife and I tasted this (along with 12(!) other wines) in an epic tasting and dinner with Clark and Mike Faulk in Santa Rosa in early September. I remember liking the Meritage a lot during the tasting, but honestly was probably not in great place that late in the night to give accurate notes.
I did order a mixed case that had 2 bottles of the Meritage, and we enjoyed one of them a week ago. We had some cheese and Journeyman salumi (amazing!) and eventually chocolate while polishing off the bottle. I opened the wine and immediately double decanted and returned to the bottle to get it moving.
Those of you who are familiar with the 2010 WineSmith Cabernet Franc will recognize elements of the nose and palate, especially the white cherry aspect of that wine. Great balance, fine/polished tannins, a little rounder than the CF, with some complexity of leather, herbs, etc., and the energetic minerality that I get in all of Clarke’s wines.
Clarke’s CF and his Two Jakes Merlot are two of my favorite wines, so this is kind of their best of both worlds baby. Totally another winner from Clarke, drinking beautifully now, but clearly tons of upside for holding/aging as well. As far as I know, this is also (case price) the absolute cheapest price to get your hands on this wine. Highly recommended.
@scott0210 I’m drinking the 2008 WineSmith Pinot as we speak. Figured I’d open it in honor of this offer. It’s more tart than the 2007, and comes from different area vineyards in CA, so just a California designation. Seems great with food, taking some time to open up. More info on the WineSmith website…
The Seattle crew had a a chance to taste this over the weekend. It was well received and we personally really enjoyed this wine. I have notes to post, which will come later in the day once I can find my sheet and works stops getting in the way.
@radiolysis@rjquillin It sounds like me and @radiolysis would be fine with 3 each so far, leaving six from a first case, so it depends on how many more SD peeps chime in. Are you saying you’re interesting?
@tklivory i think Ron jumped on a case for himself. If we can’t get another few people, i’m out. I really should start making prudent choices to make room for BD. And just room for other good offers here.
@radiolysis@tklivory@klezman wanted four. I could supply from my case or he could do the split with you two. Easy enough for me to give him bottles and grab some from your case to make the exchange easier. @technoviking in Vegas was also looking for a split and we’ve done deals with him as well.
@klezman@radiolysis@rjquillin@TechnoViking All right, the case has arrived. Unfortunately I won’t be able to hand it out for at least week or two, but if anyone really needs it for Thanksgiving, reach out to me and let me know so that I can make arrangements.
Anyone in the Syracuse area?
WineSmith makes some excellent wines. I particularly liked the Mokelumne Cab Sauv (Yeah, Lodi! for those of you snubbing Lodi recently). It had a brightness to it that was very enjoyable, and if you look at Cellartracker, it got mainly 90 & 91 scores.
I, however, lived a bit higher in the Sierras and swam in the North, South and Middle Forks of the Mokelumne River…upstream from Mokelumne Hill.
2013 Winesmith Meritage (81% Merlot, 19% Cab Franc)
PnP. 58F. Nose isn’t showing much initially or after 10 minutes in the glass. After some heavy swirls we are getting some sage/tarragon notes but not a whole lot of fruit, perhaps some cherry. The palate however was bursting right out of the gate with opulent plum and a nice white pepper spice to it. Medium acid, medium+ tannin, lengthy finish at 20+ seconds. There is a ton of tannic grip in this wine, but it is not particularly drying or bitter.
We took this along with us to a casemates gathering after the note above. I checked in on it for a couple small pours at 3 and 4 hours after opening, but don’t have details notes from that. Tannins smoothed out a bit and the fruit started picking up more spice. This was enjoyed by many and was gone rather quickly considering we had about 15 bottles open.
Clearly will age for a couple decades, and I would take a guess at the peak drinking window not starting for another 5-7 years.
A weekend in Napa/Sonoma wrecked havoc with a decent rat, as I just got home ~90 minutes ago to open a too warm bottle. That said, a quickie for this evening with additional tomorrow…
Cork: Natural and looks like this was just bottled; minimal surface coloring.
Nose: Herbaceous, in a pleasent garrigue/savory kind of way, no pyrazine taint, and bright fruits.
Entry: Bright tart acid and fruits, cherry and berry. Much of the tartness quite likely to the elevated temperature; ~22C. Need to revisit at a reasonable temperature.
Mid and finish: Plush but crisp fruits enhanced by a lingering pleasent tannic finish.
I would not have thought Merlot; Cab Franc, yes. Not sure I can cite another wine I’ve had similar to this blend, but it certainly works well with the fruit Clark has sourced. This has the stuffing to cellar well for some time, while still being quite approachable now, in it’s (WineSmith) youth.
Yes, I’m a fan and enjoy what Clark does, and did grab a case already.
Question for Clark;
You cite pH at bottling. How does pH change, if at all predictable, from harvest to bottling.
Tim and I were at Bell over the weekend and I was looking at the labs on the bottles, where pH generally seemed to decrease.
I know, buy on bread, but this is quite respectable with some BeeHive TeaHive too…
Served at a more acceptable, for me, 19C, the flash of bright acidity I was getting yesterday is much more controlled.
Picking up some nice dustiness in the nose as well that was hidden earlier in addition to all the former.
Clearly for me a food wine. This is working well with a light white pasta that includes basil and cherry tomatoes. Doesn’t overpower, but clears out the creaminess of the sauce.
Later on, with bread and brie (didn’t have that other fancy cheese in the larder), they again complement one another.
A good buy and drink now, with a short decant, or hold and see what happens.
Need a case to do that, and one is on the way.
Thanks @winesmith for the opportunity to rat the bottle.
Let’s start by saying what pH is. It is not the human sensation of tartness, crispness, or sourness which stimulates our salivation. That is measured by TA: titratable acidity. An hydrogen atom is comprised of a proton (positively charged) nucleus with an electron (negatively charged) in orbit around it. Frequently these hydrogen atoms can participate enthusiastically in molecular assemblies called molecules. Acids are such substances that can spin off the proton part, retailing the electron. Such substances are called acids.
In inorganic mineral acids such as sulfuric, nitrric, and hypochloric acid, the moment they hit water, these substances disassociate, jettisoning the positively charged proton and leaving behind everything else, such remnant gaining the title of the corresponding acid anion or conjugate base, but it’s really just the whole molecule minus the proton.
In wine, these mineral acids aren’t much present. The organic acids such as Tartatic, malic, suscinic, lactic and acetic, exist mostly in the conjugate base forms in equillibrium with those who have set free their protons to wander around and perhaps return.
A full count of available protons determines the sensation of tartness and the extent to which neutralizing juice salivary glands pump onto the mouth when a wine is placed there. The availability of these protons for service determines degree of the human sensation of crisp, tart, sourness.
It matters not whether they are free or bound. Like the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord, the availability of patriots, whether walking the streets or asleep in their family beds, determined in 1775 the strength of the resisting army that dispelled the British regulars and sparked our historic revolution. It didn’t matter what state they were in, only their availability.
By duplicating this process in the lab, we can measure this effect for a particular wine we are making. We make a neutralizing solution of a know strength how much of it is require to measure a given amount of wine, then scale it up to grams of acid per unit volume.
Sometimes the acid in question has two or three protons. In grape juice, the main acids are tartaric and malic acids, each of which has two acidic protons that can pack and leave town. If one departs, we are left with bitartrate and bimalate half salts. If both are missing both prodigal protons, we call the abandoned parents tartrate and malate.
When we taste wine, we are brought into the appropriate degree of acidity. We generally want enough to bring liveliness to the mouth to prevent dullness, but not so much that any balance is lost.
The free proportion of protons is measured by pH. Just as TA measures the titratable protons, the pH measures just the ones that are unbound, walking the streets and having a great many effects on microbes and chemicals grape juices contain.
What decides what state the are in? Why, quite obviously it is the availability of replacement protons. The more densely such protons are floating around, the more likely the bereaved conjugate bases are to make whoopie with them and, well, conjugate, resulting in protons back tucked snugly in their beds and not wandering the streets of free acidity, restored to proton babies of their own, whatever their identities.
The pool of free, available, promiscuous protons is measured by the pH. The small “p” is a negative power of ten, so pH means one proton for every thousand water molecules, while pH 4 means one proton for each ten thousand. pH has no direct link to taste, smell or any other humand perception. It just decribes how many of the proton cops are out on thestreet fighting crime (i.e. noxious microbes and disagreeable chemical states.) Managing this dichotomy is a major focus during harvest and beyond.
Now to your question. Grapes begin with high malic acid levels which are metabolized during ripening into energy used to transport sugar into berries, beginning wit high TAs around 20 grams per liter and pHs in the low 2’s. By the time of harvest, ideally grapes are around TAs of 8 gms per liter and pHs around 3.45.
The main events that change these numbers are, in whites, the precipitation of potassium bitartrate, which lowers both pH and TA so the result is TAs around 7.0 and pHs around 3.3, resulting in more or less crisp wines that retain freshness and don’t age very rapidly.
In reds, skin contact and malolactic fermentation cause TAs to fall and pHs to rise. Together with potassium bitartrate precipitation, these effects move reds into the region pH region of 3.7 to 3.9 range with TAs around 4 to 6 gm/liter, where there is less salivary protein to combine with tannins and result in coarseness.
Once skin contact, malolactic fermentation, and tartrate stabilization are complete, pHs don’t change very much. In long aging reds, the oxidation of the protective additive sulfur dioxide into small amounts of sulfuric acid cause pHs to lower and TAs to rise slightly. The result is that reds have less crispness and freshness, but are smoother in the mouth and age and develop more rapidly into mature, complex and profound wines which make up for their diminished fruity grapiness with soulfulness, profundity and ageworthiness.
@winesmith Now this took a direction I hadn’t expected, but in a very educational way for us all.
I didn’t intend to imply pH rather than TA was related to tartness but it seems I may have.
I do (incorrectly?) seem to associate lower pH with palate cleansing ability of a food friendly wine, and at the warmer temperature this clearly seemed to fit that bill. Is it really TA that is more important?
I was just curious based on looking at labs where the pH did seem to fall.
Really did like this blend, and look forward to a more proper messing this evening.
Dare I inquire about music?
@MaceKates@rjquillin 22 C, which is 71F, is a perfectly fine temperature for these wines. Most connoisseurs prefer cool cellar temperatures around 55-60F, but in truth, most wines are consumed at American room temperature around 70F, which is where the ones cellared at 55F end up in the glass unless very special care is taken.
The effects of elevated temperature bring out the volatile aspects of the wines, which along with oxygenetic decanting can be a blessing for young wines that need help opening up, but a curse for overblown wines with excessive alcohol. This Meritage is neither, though some lab rats have disagreed, hinting that the wine is still on the uphill side of its drink window, to mix metaphors. I like my wines a little tight; to me the residual ageworthiness tells me I have done my job, so I tend to drink them around this temperature. Structured, ageworthy whites too.
@rjquillin The pH of a wine shifts very rapidly in your mouth as saliva enters. This is why you taste the different acids in different places in your mouth according to their relative strengths (in chemistry we call these strengths pKa’s: the pH(s) at which the acid gives up its proton(s). Tartaric is first (pKa1=3.0), then malic (pKa1=3.5) on the center palate, then lactic (pKa=3.8), and lastly acetic in the finish and back of the throat (pKa=4.8). The degree to which these impart souness or crispness is measured by TA. This is because humans are much bigger than the glass of wine, so they overwhelm (or “titrate”) and neutralize all the acid in the wine.
pH is an equilibrium measure which applies in storage to molecular chemistry and the environment of microbes before the wine is consumed. It also exerts an influence on the volatility of aromas in the glass. Low pH wines tend to be fruitier, and very low pH whites such as German Rieslings at 2.9 pH can push even small amounts of SO2 (freshly struck match) into the nose. Very high pH reds over 4.0 will be dull and soapy in the nose.
@mwfielder This is actually excerpted from my Fundamentals of Modern Wine Chemistry, a class that boils down a Davis Enology degree into a single weekend. I have taught this popular course throughout the USA since 1984 to over 4,000 winemakers. If you are thinking of making your own wine, you really must take it.
@southpaw25 The '04 is definitely ready to go, but will certainly hold up in a good cellar for another ten to fifteen years in a good cellar. Since I know this is not Florida’s strong suit, you might start thinking about an appropriate occasion to open one and plan to save the other for a good long while down the road. Also, if you are able to schlep down to Miami for the vertical tasting, you can taste it without needing to open either one. Much depends on how much you like older well-aged wines. Not everybody does.
If you wish to attend a vertical Faux Chablis / Crucible tasting in a given city please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org your name, email, phone number and city of residence so we can communicate developments to you and work together to achieve a 12 - 20 person subscription in a convenient venue.
@southpaw25 I just saw your question about cheeses. It’s been remarked that this wine is sexy and I think so, too, whatever that means. It refers to certain firm yet silky texture and to the suite of earthy tertiary aromas it exudes. As a result, it works for me with very ripe brie, Delice de Bourgogne, Italian fontina and Epoisse, but a ten year old black diamond cheddar should serve very well also. My old friend Denis Kelly used to say there is only two kinds of cheese: FROMAGIO and banana. This wine demands the former and would insult the later I should think.
That’s just my spin. Folksinger/songwriter Peter Alsop reports that he gets his jollies by donning pantyhose filled with strawberry jelly. Your personal proclivities likely vary from mine in this area, so I recommend experimentation without prejudgment.
Anyone wishing to attend a vertical Faux Chablis / Crucible tasting in a given city please email me your name, email, phone number and city of residence so we can communicate developments to you and work together to achieve a 12 - 20 person subscription in a convenient venue. If you have suggestions for an appropriate venue or if you have a posse that would also wish to attend, include those details in your email.
@cdn1127 I am interested in 3 since funds are a little tight. (Otherwise I would just grab an entire case! It is Clark.) I know that isn’t much help in swaying a case purchase, so if I don’t hear any news by 5pm-ish I will just order myself a 3 pack, but I would split if others chime in or that works for you.
Anyone in the Seattle area interested in splitting a case? I have just moved here from the bay area and could use making casemates friends along with the break in my bank account. This is a deal that is hard to pass up though.
I met Clark at the casemates launch party and really enjoyed his conversation and his wines. Everything he was doing from grape selection to timing of harvest through blending seemed like a calculated dance. Where he was picking through the California regions, using technologies and processes that fit the vision of what he wanted to make, and ending up with some very cool wines.
So, even though my last WineSmith order got cooked (the wine was still spectacular) and Fed Ex routinely changes their delivery dates I cannot resist this offer. The WineSmith CF is by far one of my favorites! Hoping this will be as interesting.
@GatorFL I have used the Walgreens myself on occasion. The time the wine got cooked I was not aware of that option; I have used it since, but today, for example, my case of Pedroncelli was supposed to deliver, and now it is bumped to tomorrow, and I won’t be home, so that is what I will end up doing. First world problems for sure, but it pisses me off that FedEx pretty well does as it pleases and there is nothing I can do about it because no one holds their feet to the fire. Thanks for the tip, however; hopefully those unaware of that option will get the message.