Local Wine Co's Blog

Sweet Spot 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon by cdbakunas

The wait is over. On January 24th we bottled the 2012 vintage of our Sweet Spot Cabernet. Why do we call it Sweet Spot? Because there is no other appellation in Sonoma that grows cabernet better with more sense of soul, soil and place then Alexander Valley. We worked with two vineyards for this vintage, Warnecke Ranch and Adams Knoll. There is a small amount of merlot from Adams Knoll that we blended into barrel 8 months ago. 2012 was an amazing vintage and such a relief to have after the challenging and low yield vintages of 2010 and 2011.

Technical production notes are below.





Appellation: Alexander Valley, Sonoma, CA                                      Titratable Acidity: 6.2 g/l

Varietal Composition: 89% Cabernet Sauvignon,

11% Merlot                                                                                           pH: 3.55

Case Production: 2240                                                                         Alcohol: 13.97%

Brix at Harvest: 24.1

Vinification: All of our fruit was destemmed and cold soaked for 4-5 days at 55 degrees Fahrenheit before yeast was introduced. Brix had become 24.5 and three strands of yeast were introduced for fermentation. Ferment lasted three weeks at almost 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Maceration on the skins was included to induce color, tannins and phenols. Sweet Spot Cab was then pressed to barrel with malolactic inoculation. This beautiful wine aged and ameliorated in French and American oak barrel for 16 months and bottled in January, 2014.

Vintage Notes: 2012 was a near perfect vintage for cabernet sauvignon in Alexander Valley, Sonoma. Many of us called it “idyllic,” or “outstanding.” And why? Because of the balance of weather and the ideal diurnal temperature swings that allowed slow and even maturation of our vines throughout September and October. The crop load was considerably larger than 2011 and displayed a near perfect balance of texture and flavors. Our Sweet Spot Cabernet, primarily sourced from the Warnecke Vineyard, is one of the most balanced and giving wines that we’ve yet made.

Vineyard Sources:

Warnecke Vineyard, Alexander AVA

Adams Knoll Vineyard, Alexander AVA

Tasting Notes: A beautiful dark garnet and robust ruby color. The aromatics of the 2012 Sweet Spot Cabernet are full of explosive ripe blackberries, blueberries and mulberries intermingled with mountainside sage, mint and pine needles. The palate is redolent with a ripe compote of blackberries that rides into a rich cascade of herbs, fruit and tannins into a long finish that speak of longevity.


Angel’s Wings is Released by cdbakunas
July 18, 2012, 12:33 pm
Filed under: Food and Drink, Word on the Street | Tags: , , , ,

July 17th, 2012

I am so excited to announce that we have officially released a passion project of mine this week, Angel’s Wings Sauvignon Blanc. I made this wine in memory of a great friend, a mentor and an angel in my life, Ron Miller. The wine will be available in a few select markets since our production was very small. If you are interested in the wine please don’t hesitate to contact me (cb @ localwineandspirits.com). Click here for production notes ANGEL’S WINGS

A portion of our profits will be donated to an amazing organization that Ron created 34 years ago called Common Ground (www.cg.org). With my most humble thanks I hope you enjoy. Sante!

Trade Shows by cdbakunas
April 26, 2011, 7:54 am
Filed under: Travel, Word on the Street | Tags: , , , ,

Trade shows are the ubiquitous gathering of wine and spirit professionals in regional areas where one distributor takes three or four hours to highlight all their wares and invites their entire customer base to attend. In major markets these events get very large. The question is how do distributors differentiate themselves in this rather cookie cutter style event; how do they position themselves to their customers; and how do the wineries and distilleries that attend make an impact amongst dozens to hundreds of other colleagues vying for the small attention of the buyers? And let’s be honest, palate fatigue sets in rather quickly, there is always a high percentage of consumption which clouds the rational mind (but makes the event a helluva lot of fun) and beverage professionals tend to have short attention spans, especially when coming from the fast paced and hectic environment of restaurants.

I believe that one way to stand out in the crowd, as a producer, is to be honest, humble and sincere (be yourself) and to offer better product and better prices than your competitor. Of course if you have a product that is completely unique, like the only Old Tom Gin produced in America, that makes a huge difference, but if you are making California Cab or Chardonnay, why are you unique? Not saying that you can’t be, but what is it that makes you unique in this over burdened supply side world of domestic and international wines?

And as a distributor, what are you doing to separate yourself from the crowd. Cream Wine Company in Chicago is doing a very interesting thing this year at their annual Small Batch portfolio tasting. And remember, this is one of the top five markets in the US. Only owners, winemakers or distillers are allowed to present at this years tasting. That means no regional sales managers, no marketing interns, no national paper pushers will be pouring and entertaining the beverage professionals. I have not seen this done anywhere else in the US and I love the idea. It gives separation from their peers (distributors) and offers the highest level of quality information to the buyers who attend this tasting because the get to speak directly with the man or woman who is responsible for making the wine, the whiskey, the vodka, etc.

I hope to see more innovations in trade tastings over the coming years. It’s all to easy to fall into conformity and do what the other guy is doing. Let me know what else you’ve seen out there that is unique and wonderful.

Negociant vs Estate Wines by cdbakunas
March 29, 2011, 12:21 pm
Filed under: Food and Drink, Word on the Street | Tags: , , ,

I was recently working in Minnesota and had a very intense and interesting conversation about negociant wines vs. estate wines. Negociant as defined by Jancis Robinson is a “term for a merchant who buys in grapes, must, or wine…and bottles under their own label.” Jancis Robinson goes on to explain that negociants, in particular in Burgundy, like Verget, Laurent, Chartron and Trebuchet or Olivier Leflaive now “successfully present their work as high art, with concomitant prices.” There is another layer to the negociant merchant class and that is the negociant eleveur. This is the negociant that oversees the production of their wines from earth to bottle, not merely a trader of bulk wine.

Estate wines are all those that are farmed and produced by a single estate. The grey area in between is what fascinates me the most. Not every winery or winemaker has the money to purchase large tracts of land and in order to be a sustainable estate winery you need to be able to grow enough fruit to pay for production, land cost, capital infrastructure, sales and marketing. As you can imagine the tipping point is well beyond some 50 acres of vines with a winery. So what do smaller and upstart wineries do?

They purchase fruit by farmer contracts and either have had the cash or investors to create their own winery and make the wines, or rent space in a larger winery where they can crush and vinify their fruit. As I look back in European history and the advent of the merchant class that handled production, blending, aging, marketing and sales of all things wine due to the land owners disdain of soiling their hands, it seems that negociants weren’t too different then they are today. After a generation or two the negociants would have enough capital to invest in their own land and their own wineries, thus spawning a new competitive producer in the region that had originally borne them as negociants.

As an estate winery your lively hood is directly dependent on your harvest. Yes, you can operate with stricter controls and higher quality, if you know what you are doing. But you are seriously at risk of aberrant weather, cyclical buying trends and the vicissitudes of the economy in general. Negociants, by nature, have a more flexible business model that allows them to move geographically, stay away from natural fluctuations in weather that inadvertently produce inferior crops and can change business direction as trends and the economy fluctuate. A lot is to be said for both ways of making wine.

At the end of the day the negociant vs. the estate bottled wine is a relatively moot point. Both can be done amazingly well and both can represent the highest quality of terrior and style that any region can produce. It really is about vision and execution. The greatest estate on the planet without vision and leadership can churn out mediocre product year after year. It is the dedicated artisans on both sides of the field that raise the bar and set standards for others to shoot towards.

Swim deep and drink large.

How many bottles of wine are in…? by cdbakunas
October 25, 2010, 1:58 pm
Filed under: Food and Drink, Libations | Tags: , ,

Ever wonder how many bottles of wine come from an acre of vineyard? Or how many gallons of wine are in a 12 btl case? Even perhaps how many bottles come out of a wine barrel? Of course these numbers may fluctuate based on tons per acre, angel’s share (evaporation), what size barrel or bottle you might be discsussing but here are some interesting numbers you might want to bookmark or download onto your hand held for those evenings that you play Wine Trivia or when you need to impress your father in law while dining out at a fancy restaurant.

Spring cover crop in a California Vineyard

California Spring Vineyard

One bottle of wine = 750 ml or 1/5 of a gallon

One case of 12 750ml bottles = 2.4 gallons

One Barrel = 60 gallons – 25 cases or 300 750 ml bottles

One Ton of Grapes = approximately 700 bottles of wine

One Acre of Vineyards – Low yield for high quality wines = 2-4 tons

One Acre of Vineyards – High yield for less expensive wines = 10 tons

Bottle Sizes and Names

Piccolo = .1875 liter (also known as a snipe or a split)

Chopine = .25 liter

Demi = .375 liter (half bottle)

Jennie = .5 liter

Standard = .750 liter

Magnum = 1.5 liter

Jeroboam = 3.0 liter

Methuselah = 6 liter

Salmanazar = 9 liter

Balthazar = 12 liter

Nebuchadnezzar = 15 liter

Where did the “screw cap” come from? by cdbakunas
October 19, 2010, 11:23 am
Filed under: Libations | Tags: , , , , ,

Where oh where did the screw cap come from, and where oh where will it go?

The classic cork closure, developed for bottling wine circa 1600 has remained a very static technology. Harvest a thin layer of bark from cork trees in Portugal and Spain, sanitize the bark and cut to specific diameter to match the neck of a wine bottle. Voila, you’ve sealed your bottle of wine which can then be transported or stored for aging. Where did cork technology come from? Its predecesor was a small piece of hemp cloth soaked in olive oil that was jammed into the necker with a blunt piece of wood. This transition to cork closures was greatly aided by the ingenious monks from Dom Perignon who realized that cork was better than grimmy pieces of oil soaked rags. By 1795 the first patent for wine corks was issued in England which closely coincided with glass production which became more efficient and standardized. As early as 1750 Spain had its first cork production facility to supply the thirsty wine drinkers of Europe an improved closure.  So why hasn’t this technology changed over the last 400 hundred years? 90% of the world’s wines were still under cork as late as 2002. Yes, the screw cap, or the twist cap, is growing in popularity and acceptance but has not been entirely embraced

In the 20th century screw caps pop up under the eponymous name Stelvin. Stelvin technology was created in the 1960’s by La Bouchage Mecanique, a French company that was subsequently sold in the late 1960’s landing in the hands of Australian Amcor, a multi-national packaging company headquarted in Melbourne.  But is this really where the screw cap came from. Whiskey producers might have something to say about the evolution of closures.

In 1856 a thin cork disk attached to a metal screw cap is introduced in whiskey production. Hmmm, sounds like cork served again as a proper barrier to liquid beverages and was the precursor to the wad of plastic, mostly commonly made from PVDC. PVDC is attached to the underneath side (or wad) of modern twist caps (polyvinylidene chloride or Saran resin. Sound familiar? You got it, it’s Saran Wrap!). The first patent on twist cap technology was in 1858 by John Landis Mason (yup, the Mason jar) with a zinc twist cap. Further enhancements were made to the screw cap and its application was brought to wine bottles by a gentleman name Dan Rynalds in 1889. Mr. Rynalds invented the wine screw cap in England but the technology never caught on. There seemed to remain a pesky problem with wine’s acid corrosive relationship to metal. It wasn’t until Le Bouchage Mechanique invented an aluminum twist cap, in the 1960’s, that had a chemically treated wad facing that worked harmoniously with wine’s low pH levels (high level of corrosive acid).

So why are we still emotionally connected to cork? And is there truth in the belief that corks allows wine to breath over time, thus enhancing its character as it ages.  The real deal is that when bottling under cork there is a margin of oxygen to the order of a few tenths of a milliliter of air that is diffused into the wine in the first few weeks. And a few hundreths of milliliters over the next four months. This is significant as oxygen plays a critical role in wine making and the aging of wine.  Stelvin, or screw cap, closures reduce this diffusion to nearly nil. This then poses certain bottling problems under Stelvin and running the risk of creating a reductive environment inside your bottle.  Reduction can raise its head in a finished bottle of wine smelling like rotten eggs (hydrogen sulfide) to burnt match or burnt rubber (thiols or mercaptans from oxidized hydrogen sulfide) all the way to vegetal, rubbery, onion like aromas (disulfides).  As further studies continue on the reductive potential of screw caps gains are being made in order to eliminate these off putting aromas.

Simply knowing that screw caps are much more effective in reducing cork taint and spoilage caused by TCA (trichloroanisole), an occurrence as common as 5-6% failure rate, is reason enough to search for alternative closures. Will cork remain with us for more generations to come? Or will a new technology usurp screw caps and capture the emotional attention of wine drinkers around the world? I just don’t know, but am excited to watch how this story unfolds. Let us now raise a glass in the hopes of never having a corked or reduced bottle of wine again.

Brisket and Cocktails or Wine? by cdbakunas
October 6, 2010, 5:40 pm
Filed under: Food and Drink | Tags: , ,

I’m preparing for the cold weather in Chicago, which is sure soon to arrive, by experimenting with different brisket recipes with wine and cocktail pairings.

Last week was a decent try. I can’t say it was awesome, although the wine we had was truly amazing. But first the how and the recipe of cooking 4lbs of brisket.

Seared this beautiful hunk of meat in olive oil for about 4 minutes on each side. Then transferred the brisket to a deep lipped cooking dish that was to go into a preheated 350 degree oven. I took the lovely rendered fat, olive oil and little pieces of meat and added a bottle of red wine and reduced to half.
While the wine was reducing I rubbed the brisket with a dijon mustard, brown sugar, tomato paste, salt & pepper rub, diced carrots, onions and celery and cracked a bunch of garlic cloves. I put the so called mirepoix and garlic in the deep lipped pot, added chicken stock and the reduced wine just covering the brisket and vegetables and added a few extra whole black pepper kernels, covered and threw it all into the oven. I hung out for 4 hours turning the brisket every 30 minutes reducing the heat to 265 and then took the beast out of the oven and let it cool to room temp. Strained the veggies out of the remaining cooking stock and put the stock and brisket into the fridge. After the stock cooled and gelled the fats to the top I skimmed the excess and pureed the remaining veggies and a cup of the stock to make a psuedo gravy.

We ate the brisket and enjoyed a bottle of Cote Bonneville Carriage House 2004 Red wine, which was righteously delicious. The Carriage House had everything we wanted and needed in order to stand up to braised meats.  Excellent tannins, ripe and delicious black fruit and chalky terroir that is so typical of the Dubrul Vineyard, and tantalizing intrinsic natural acid that kept the fat of the brisket at bay.

The brisket on the other hand was decent, or rather just ok. The recipe that called for a veggie gravy, sans gras (fat) was a bad idea and I knew it when I was removing at that great rendered fat after cooling off the stock.

So what did I learn? I need to make another brisket, using a new recipe and this time make some gin and whiskey cocktails to go with dinner. I’ll let you know how it turns out. After four or five recipes I hope to have the ultimate braised brisket recipe and wine and cocktails to boot.

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