“Why aren’t you relaxing on a tropical beach someplace?” We hear that question so often we are starting to believe we must have been absent during that life lesson on what to do after you sell your winery in middle age. But faced with retirement at the end of 2005, we realized that a massive amount of free time was not our life goal. We had to face the fact that we thrived on massive amounts of stress. It was the 24-year journey that we loved; the long and bumpy ride from the threat of foreclosure to the phenomenal success of Toasted Head. We had plenty of skeptics in those early days who said we could not grow quality grapes in the Dunnigan Hills and that was motivation enough to dedicate our careers to prove that we could. Through many years of trial and error, we discovered which grape clones worked in our hills, what trellising techniques and farming practices were best for our microclimate. With each new vineyard, we tried a new idea and some worked beautifully and some failed in spectacular ways. And by the end of our tenure with R.H. Phillips, we simply were not finished with everything we wanted to do in the Dunnigan Hills. Sure, we had proven that we could grow grapes and make wine that exceeded all expectations, and on a very large scale. But we had more experiments in mind on how we could improve quality in both the vineyard and the winery. Things like seeking out new varietials and honing in on the grape clones that we knew worked well in our heat; tracking down the land with the rockiest soil to improve drainage; playing around with native yeasts, punch down bins and red wine barrel ferments at the winery to extract more complex flavors. We wanted to do all this and more and still keep our wine prices right around $15. That’s the challenge and the thrill of Matchbook. And why we are still hard at it even while we find ourselves far north of middle age. As alluring as that tropical beach sounds, it’s going to have to wait; we are still having fun creating something special here in Yolo County.
New York’s TimesUnion.com recommends our 2009 Sawbuck Cabernet. They say, “Any excuse to drink this wine will do.” We couldn’t agree more! Read the review
The Sacramento Bee has captured our passion for growing and making tempranillo in the Dunnigan Hills: “No winemaking couple has more faith in tempranillo. Its day will come, they are convinced. If and when it does, much of the credit should go to the Giguieres.” Read the entire review! CrewSacBeeArticle110211
It’s already happening, everyone is talking about the weather. Being farmers, we talk about the weather all the time; every day, all year long. But when the weather has the potential to increase the price of a bottle of wine, it broadens that conversational circle.
The 2011 winter in California was cold and rainy, the summer was cool and humid, and then it rained the first week of October – right at the beginning of harvest for a lot of growers. Crop levels were down and then those early rains ruined much of what was left on the vine at the end of the season. Growers were scrambling to fill the grape contracts they had and there was virtually no supply of excess fruit for wineries without contracts. In the short six months from February to August, we saw the price of coastal fruit skyrocket. The cycle has officially turned: it is now a growers market.
When you are both a grower and a winery, these market cycles aren’t really a part of your world. The grapes cost what it takes to grow them and that doesn’t change much year after year. And if you are in the Dunnigan Hills bubble, the 2011 growing season was pretty ideal. Cooler weather to us meant a summer of balmy days in the low 90’s and nights in the mid 50’s. We had a long mild growing season with a dry summer and a harvest that ended the day before the October rains.
The 2011 Matchbook wines will mirror what we harvested for the 2010 vintage: intense flavors from the long hang time. The fermenting Chardonnay already shows pronounced honeysuckle, melon and tropical flavors; the Tempranillo, its characteristic combination of espresso spice and dark berries. The Syrah had time to develop exceptionally deep color and robust tannins.
Wines from the coastal regions will be a different story and the weather will be the story of the vintage. There will be shortages and there will be price increases. But for those of us on the east side of the Coast Range Mountains, 2011 was pretty much the same and it was pretty wonderful.
There is a well-known saying in the wine industry that Wine Begins in the Vineyard. As with most well known sayings, there is a whole lot of truth in this. But to most people this relates strictly to the vintage year, the year the grapes were picked. At wine tastings we are often asked about the weather or the sugar levels at harvest or the tons per acre. These are all important, of course, but every farmer knows that the story starts well before the current harvest.
The Matchbook wines began in 2001, when we found this barren, abandoned sheep ranch and saw our future. The rocky soils and hardy grasses told the story of well-drained, loamy soils. The hills, a natural protection against frost. Then we had to make the huge decision about which clones to plant; they would determine the style of wines we produced in the Dunnigan Hills.
A chardonnay vine may look very generic. Indeed, it looks a lot like the syrah vine planted in the next row. But there are many different clones of chardonnay and the style of our Matchbook Chardonnay is in much part a blend of the carefully selected vines we planted in 2002. The most widely planted clone in the state and in our vineyard is clone 4. Not a very romantic name, but this is the “workhorse” California chardonnay clone because it produces good quality fruit at good yields; always important to grape growers. It also produces the rich, tropical and stone fruit flavors that are a trademark of our Matchbook Chardonnay. We call clone 17 the Robert Young clone, because – as you may have guessed – it originated in that vineyard in the Alexander Valley. We love this clone for its fleshy, full-bodied juice, and those bright green apple flavors as well as its amenability to malolactic fermentation. We planted three different Dijon clones with the unromantic numeral names of 76, 95 and 124. We harvest these at lower sugar levels to capture the natural minerality of the grape that adds the steely, crisp finish to our Old Head Chard. Every winery tour seems to come to a screeching halt at clone 809. Everyone loves it and just wants to stop right there and drink this wine with lunch. Aptly called Chardonnay Musque, this clone produces muscat-like characteristics that are highly aromatic and flavored with natural fruit sweetness. This is where the lovely floral honeysuckle and orange blossom aromas come from and the musky undertones that add a nice layer of complexity to our Matchbook Chardonnay.
There is a reason we print the term Blended for Greater Flavor on the back label of our 100% varietal Matchbook Chardonnay. It starts with the diverse characteristics of the six different clones in our vineyard that were planted nine years ago.