November 2018: News From the Vine
Get comfortable, because I have a lot to say in this letter. Perhaps this is more of an informative essay as it were. This is the most important wine club of the year.
Caught up in a rush:
First off, I would like to extend my apologies for the last letter not coming through. I wrote to you amidst the chaos of Pinot Noir harvest and after hours of preparation my letter became entrapped in an editing purgatory and I had to move on. If you missed it, please check it out on our website blog.
As I wanted to explain in the entrapped letter to you in September, I have made a conscious decision to tighten in what Beauregard Vineyards is to be known for in the future. Quite simply explained, I want Beauregard Vineyards to be known for making a very specific wine. By specific, I mean Ben Lomond Mountain, and more specifically our Estate fruit from Beauregard Ranch, Coast Grade, and Bald Mountain. This year, I purchased grapes from only two wines outside of our Estate because the wines are too remarkable to part ways from. I love all of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and I am forecasting that I will continue to make wines from outside of our estate in the future once an epiphany of a second brand name comes to me by way of a shooting star or bigfoot or something along those lines.
In the past few weeks, I hope you have been privy to my library wine purge. Tying back into the paragraph above, I have been holding onto a large array of library wines. Most from the estate vineyards, but many that were favorites from my tenure working with other growers. When I am old and grey, I only want to reflect back on my family estate wines. I only want to tell those tales. So I have decided to purge some spectacular wines,this will allow me to turn my stockpile of these fine wines into cash and further my ability to invest into our own terroir. I will continue a weekly offering until the purge is complete. Stay tuned.
So here we are moving on to November, and the grand finale of a great year. This is my favorite time of year because of the vast gatherings and causes for celebration. Being the father of two amazing young girls has rekindled my appreciation for the holiday season which in my earlier adult years I had despised. Now in my midlife, I have come to find that this is a time of year to show appreciation for my friends, family, coworkers, customers, and community at large. I have come to find that my gratitude for the people in my life is my greatest personal treasure and therefore this time of year has become my favorite. The community that has arisen around Beauregard Vineyards is more amazing with each passing year and I am thankful that you are part of it.
Harvest 2018 report:
I could write you a novel about how perfect this vintage was, but I will try my best to keep this short. 2018 was textbook perfect for our vineyards with slow ripening caused by a cooler growing season. The yields were light but that leads to higher quality wines (in most cases). The last time we had harvests this late was 2010 which I remember vividly. The big difference between 2010 and 2018 is that we had no rain to speak of during the 2018 ripening season. The diurnal temperature shifts were quite extreme with the nights dipping into the high 40’s and the days warming to an average 65. This slow ripening leads to more fruit development and better physiological ripening for the berries while preserving acidity. By better physiologically ripening, I mean that the skins of the berries are thicker, the seeds are darker, and the stems of the clusters become more lignified (brown rather than green). In my career, I can name a few perfect vintages; 2002, 2012, and 2018 come to mind. I am not going to boast the tonnage we brought across the scales, which is something that winemakers do amongst themselves kinda like a pissing contest, but I am going to boast that the quality of the vintage is remarkable and my team put in 110% effort to craft the best wines that can be made from our family estate. I have selected rare and unusual barrels from constructed in France which will hone these wine gems while they mature into wines I will be proud to put my family’s name on.
Yesterday (October 26th), was one of the final picks of the season to come across the scales at my winery. The pick was Merlot from my good friend and collaborator John Bargetto. The Beauregards and the Bargettos have been in business relations since the days of prohibition, when Amos Beauregard arrested one of the Bargettos for transporting illegal wine across Soquel. I assume that relationship may have taken some time to heal. Post prohibition, Amos began selling Zinfandel grapes to the Bargettos. I value this relationship and I admire and respect the Bargetto family immensely and it tickles me that 5 generations later we are still involved in wine business with one another. The final grapes across the scale made way for smiling faces on the crush pad. As much as we all love the excitement of the harvest, we are ready now for some new excitement.
The last fruit on the vines still hanging is the Late Harvest Zinfandel which I will pick the day before Thanksgiving with hopes to make a condensed sweet wine with loads of acid and residual sugar.
The story of the stockbroker that struck it rich and her romance with Cabernet Sauvignon:
Years ago, I had the privilege of working with one Warner Strejan. Warner (like the brothers he would say) became a great friend to me during his time working from me as my direct to trade salesman servicing the San Francisco Bay Area restaurants and boutique bottle shops. Though Warner moved on to brighter pastures in the throes of the Manhattan wine sales market, we still keep in touch. There was a story that Warner would tell people that I was slow to adopt. When Warner would sell wine, he would use his story telling skills to tell the tale of the New York Stockbroker who managed a hedge fund and struck it rich. She was a native to Manhattan, but her love was always wine. Therefore, she put her sights on the Napa Valley and purchased a large estate and hired the best farmers in the business to plant a massive new vineyard and the best construction company to build the most elaborate winery with the largest caves in California. The tasting room features fresco paintings from an Italian artist that was employed for several years during the construction. There are travertine fountains and elaborate gardens with a view of Howell Mountain in the distance. She hires the best winemakers from UC Davis to craft the wines and the first release of her Cabernet Sauvignon is now $300 per bottle.
At this point, Warner would lean in towards the wine buyer and tilt his eye glasses down with a eye to eye intensity and ask the wine director how many times he has heard that same story. At that point there would always be that awkward silence that would last only seconds but would seem like minutes. The point that Warner would soon make is that wine is more about culture and long term commitment rather than to prove how much money somebody had and that the price tag that some of these wines displayed was not based upon the quality of the wine but more so on the perceived value of the wine because of the monetary investment into the facility. Warner would then explain that Beauregard Vineyards may not have the lavish showmanship of the Napa Valley but the wines stood as strong if not better in a blind tasting lineup as the glittery producers of the Napa Valley. Warner would then say that these glamor wineries from the Napa Valley lacked only one thing, and that was soul.
Warner and I parted ways about a year ago (dreadfully) when he moved to Oregon. We tried the long distance bromance for a few months but it proved impractical. Recently, I was reminded about his story as I decanted the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Beauregard Ranch (one of your club selections). To me the Beauregard Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon embodies everything that I have been trying to achieve in my career. Heart and soul, generational commitment, specific mountain terroir, skillful craftsmanship, community, and a story of the owners dirt covered hands striving to make the best wines in the world year after year after year, decade after decade.
Much ado about Chardonnay:
I have been outward in my affection for Chardonnay for twenty years now. I flew the Chardonnay flag amidst the shortsighted ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd all the way until they floundered and (thankfully) faded away. I began my winemaking journey in 1998 when I was 23 years old. My novice mind at that time could not pinpoint what it was about Chardonnay grown in Bonny Doon that I loved so much. My middle aged hindsight now knows what the novice, pompous, and rather arrogant young Ryan loved about this wine. I loved terroir, which I knew nothing about at that time mostly because it was a foreign term seldomly used in the late 1990s. At Beauregard Ranch there is a familiarity of the land that is ingrained into my childhood memories. When I walk the fields nowadays I am swarmed with memories of my childhood including my grandparents and their friends. Chardonnay has a special tendency to show its reflection of origin like no other wine that I know of. So in the infancy of my appreciation for wine, I would try to compare the nuances to familiar foods or scents which is something that I never do now.
During the past half-decade we have experienced a major growth to our wine club which many many factors (and people) contribute to. Beauregard Ranch Chardonnay is only a two acre block of our family estate. The vines yield a very low quantity of fruit because of the sandy and poor quality soil. The 2018 vintage yielded only 4 harvesting bins which weighed a meager 1.8 tons. This yield is not expandable by much and for 2018’s harvest I will only get 1,557 bottles (or thereabouts). 168 bottles gets reserved for my family’s wine library leaving an estimated 1.2 bottles per club member. After we process this wine club I estimate that the 2017 vintage will only have 170 bottles (~14 cases) remaining. As a club member, this wine is $60/bottle and you get the 20% discount bringing it to $48.00. The remaining bottles will not be available on the tasting bar ever and will be reserved for club members.
In closing this long-winded letter to you, I want to reiterate how thankful I am for your patronage to my family’s winery. As you are aware, we are a small producer from a small and virtually unknown area. I have no intentions to become a big winery because I prefer to craft soulful wines from small plots of esteemed land which are farmed by people that I care about. Your continued support of my wines helps allow the Beauregard Vineyards community to thrive on it’s small scale supporting a handful of dedicated craftsmen and a very talented sales staff in the tasting room.
I wish you and your family a blissful end to a remarkable year. With a deep hearted thank you,
Ryan Beauregard, Winemaker