We likely don’t mention it as often as we should, but Matchbook Wine Company does its best to donate to nonprofits and fundraisers in the greater Sacramento/Davis/Woodland region. This month, for instance, we’ve donated a mixed case of Matchbook wines to Sacramento’s public television affiliate KVIE for their annual Uncorked event on Thursday, March 26.
According to the event’s website, Uncorked “supports the non-profit mission of KVIE Public Television – offering a world of ideas, arts and adventures to everyone in our region.”
With that in mind, we’re happy to know that attendees will be enjoying Matchbook wines while auctioning items and listening to live music by Frankie Moreno.
In recent years, we’ve noticed our customers increasingly referring to us not by our business name, Crew Wine Company, but by our flagship label’s title, Matchbook Wines. In turn, you may have noted us referring to ourselves as Matchbook Wine Company in conversation, emails and even on our business cards. That’s our way of telling you that we’ve taken the hint, and will continue to increase use of the Matchbook name in our correspondence.
Starting today, we have changed our Twitter handle to @MatchbookWines. You can expect the same to follow with the rest of our social media accounts, although some, like our Facebook page, require an extra bit of authorization [edit: the Facebook name change has gone through!]. In time, we also hope to change the url of our website to reflect the Matchbook name–though that may take some time as well.
So what about Crew?
Well, we’re still Crew Wine Company. You’ll note that on all of our official documents. But given the affection for the Matchbook label, we’re honored to call ourselves Matchbook Wine Company for the sake of our customers.
It’s finally happening, and we could not be more excited.
After years of planning and hard work, Matchbook Wine Company opens our tasting room this weekend. Come on out to Zamora and discover your favorite wine from our Matchbook, Mossback, Chasing Venus and Sawbuck labels, all while taking in the fall scenery at our comfortable Dunnigan Hills estate.
Designed by Woodland architect Bill McCandless, this 2,160-square-foot space is quite a sight. We’ve got a welcoming wine bar made with wood salvaged from an old barn in nearby Esparto, photographic artwork by Ivan Sohrakoff, and a 400-square-foot covered patio on the west side of the building where guests can watch the sun set beyond the golden, rolling Dunnigan Hills landscape.
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”.
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.