Our 2012 Matchbook Arsonist was featured and recommended in Benito’s Wine Reviews on August 28:
I love this label design, though it pains me that it might be misunderstood. The winery does not endorse arson, but rather their concept is an homage to the Titan Prometheus who stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to humanity, allowing them to begin forging metal and, more importantly, enjoying a weekend barbecue.
2012 Matchbook The Arsonist 98% Matchbook Vineyards, Dunnigan Hills; 2% Aquarius Vineyard, Russian River Valley 100% Chardonnay $22, 14.3% abv.
Ripe and peachy with a bold body and a round mouthfeel. Balanced acidity and a gentle finish. As it warms, you get light touches of vanilla and oak on the nose. Yes, it’s summer here in Memphis and I proudly enjoyed this wine with fried chicken, which was delicious. As the season winds down, consider this for your picnics and other informal gatherings where you want a crowd pleaser that will go great with casual fare.
At 2:00 am on an August Saturday, a grape harvester slowly moved into place over a row of chardonnay vines, revved up the picker rods and began harvesting the first crop off this Dunnigan Hills property in 50 years. In what could be called the ultimate makeover, 1120 dry, barren acres have been transformed into an economically viable agricultural enterprise. Chardonnay was the first fruit to be picked from the new vineyard and the grape clusters were beautiful and uniform, the flavors intense and the fruit chemistry off the charts.
Three years ago, we purchased an old sheep ranch across the road from Matchbook winery and literally started ripping it apart. We chiseled the soil six feet deep and worked in a homemade mixture of ash, lime and compost. We plowed it north to south, east to west, and then diagonally. Just for good measure, we added a ribbon of the mix down the vine row before planting. All those natural ingredients were a tonic for the sluggish soil.
The combination of ash, lime and compost acted like a super vitamin, making the soil healthier. Bringing the soil chemistry into balance helped break down years of compacted dirt making it easier for water to infiltrate a deeper and wider area. This set off a domino effect of benefits. Changing the calcium/magnesium ratio increased the absorption rate of potassium, which lowered pH and raised the total acidity (TA). And that’s every winemaker’s end game. Low pH and high TA stabilizes color in red wines and enhances flavor in white wines.
We saw the effects of all that good earth in the first bin of chardonnay fruit we crushed mid-August. The berries were uniformly golden, small and intensely flavored. The pH checked in at a near-perfect 3.76 to 3.78 with TA at or above 6 grams/L. Those are numbers a wine lover loves without realizing it; bright flavors balanced by crisp acidity. Numbers like these are easy to achieve in a cool region like the Russian River Valley, but are seldom seen in a warm weather growing region. This dramatically raises the quality bar for our Matchbook and Arsonist Chardonnay.
Three days later, the pattern was repeated when we harvested the Tinta de Toro clone of tempranillo from the same vineyard. Small, uniform berries with deep color and intense flavor. To quote Winemaker Dan Cederquist, “This is a game changer”.
The Wine Trail Traveler featured our 2012 Matchbook Arsonist Chardonnay in their August 21 blog:
Matchbook The Arsonist Chardonnay Provides a Spark
“The Crew Wine Company crafts a Chardonnay that is a very food friendly Chardonnay. The 2012 Matchbook The Arsonist Chardonnay, Dunnigan Hills AVA in Yolo County is a light gold translucent color. The aromas and flavors reminded me of caramel, pears, apples, butter and a hint of slate. The reserve wine is made from the best barrels of wine with Dunnigan Hills AVA fruit. The 14.3% alcohol wine is full-bodied with medium-high acidity. The dry wine is perfect to pair with food especially risotto. For the adventurous, the wine would make a good ingredient in many recipes that call for white wine especially Chardonnay. The wine can also hold it own as an aperitif especially served chilled on a hot summer day. The wines retails for $21.99.”
IntoWine.com, a web site created to aggregate the collective knowledge and experience of the wine community on one site, recently caught up with Crew Wine Company founders, John and Lane Giguiere to discuss their venture into winemaking:
In 1983 you entered the wine business as founders of R.H. Phillips, grew that business into an empire with such noted brands as Toasted Head and EXP, went public in 1995 and eventually sold to Vincor International in 2000. On the surface it would seem you have nothing left to accomplish in the wine business. What are you doing differently with Crew Wine Company?
When we started R.H. Philips, some people in the wine industry were skeptical that quality grapes could be grown in the Dunnigan Hills. We not only proved that they could, we went on to prove that the appellation could produce premium quality wines at an affordable price. After we sold our company, we realized that there was so much more we wanted to do. We really wanted to raise the bar on quality both in the vineyard and at the winery and the sale offered us a “do over”. This time around, we put so much more into the vineyards from enhancing the soil profile, selecting better clones to plant, to improving the irrigation and trellising techniques. At the winery, we are always tweaking our blends and experimenting with new ways to improve quality. The economics haven’t changed, however; we still need to keep costs down to offer consumers a real value. It’s that tension of constantly striving to produce better wines while keeping costs in check that is the challenge, the game, the thing that drives us daily.