Monthly Archives: August 2013


Visiting Thomas Fogarty

In July, I was able to spend time at Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The first trip focused on a Chardonnay Vineyard walk and 2011 Pinot Noir tasting with the Sommelier JournalTerroir Experience” trip. Two weeks later, Nathan and Tommie invited me to return for a longer stay. Here are some photos and quick notes from the visits. I’ll be writing a longer profile on the history of the site, the wines, and the team later.

Thomas Fogarty

Thomas Fogarty Vineyards and Winery are located on a ridgeline of the Santa Cruz Mountains along Skyline Boulevard, the first to plant in that portion of the AVA.

Thomas Fogarty + Michael Martella

In the late 1970s, Thomas Fogarty (left) and Michael Martella began developing the Thomas Fogarty Vineyards, with Martella becoming the label’s winemaker and viticulturist. At the time, Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello and Mt Eden had pioneered the region showing that the Santa Cruz Mountains had potential for making quality wines, but established their plantings in different portions of what would become the appellation. Thomas Fogarty’s first vintage release came in 1982.

Looking up at Thomas Fogarty Winery Building

looking up at the Fogarty Winery Buildings from Damiana Chardonnay Block

Fogarty was inspired by the wines of Burgundy to plant Pinot Noir, while also understanding he needed the right winemaker. Martella saw the raw ground as the opportunity for building a lifetime’s project.

“My brother is a viticulturist so we came out here and looked at the property. This is at the end of the 1970s. I told him, ‘You know, this is my lifetime project.’ I don’t think I actually believed it at the time but it’s kind of turned out that way. My goal was to have a really complete project, and it does feel that way. Now I am here just to help out. To help out Tommie. Whatever he needs.” — Michael Martella

When I look down at Michael’s hand I see he is wearing a small wrist band that reads, “I choose happiness.”

Looking through the Chardonnay

looking through the Langley Hill Wente Clone Chardonnay, though irrigation is in place it hasn’t been watered in over 6 years

Fogarty’s Skyline Blvd Estate property includes 23 acres planted to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay focusing on California heritage clones such as Wente, Calera, Swan, Mt Eden, and Rochioli. Most of the site was planted in the late 70s and early 80s, with one Pinot Noir block recently having been replanted.

Uplifted Shale

The site features fractured shale and sandstone at 2000 ft elevation, 10 miles from the ocean on the Eastern side of the Ridge, readily generating lower vigor and higher acids.

Julio Deras, Vineyard Manager

Julio Deras has served as Thomas Fogarty Vineyard Manager since 1986, working first with founding winemaker Michael Martella, and now also with winemaker Nathan Kandler to bring the wines’ focus from the vines to the bottle. As the team has gotten to know the site they’ve also shifted their understanding of how best to manage the plantings.

Tommie Fogarty (Jr), Director

Seven years ago Tommie Fogarty (Jr) returned to work at Thomas Fogarty assisting his father in management of the business. In the last year, after 35 years of development, Thomas Fogarty (Sr) and Michael Martella officially handed leadership of the winery to the next generation.

Tommie Fogarty + Nathan Kandler

Nine years ago Martella hired Nathan Kandler as assistant winemaker, recruiting Kandler straight from a harvest at Torbreck in South Australia. As Kandler explains, Martella helped Kandler learn the site while also giving Kandler room on the side to experiment with methods and approach in making the wines. The approach allowed Kandler the ability to investigate how the cellar work best suits the location without simply mimicking what Martella had developed. Today Kandler acts as head winemaker, with Martella continuing to offer support.

Looking East over the Bay

looking East over San Francisco Bay

One of the unique aspects of the Thomas Fogarty Vineyards is its apparent isolation. No other vineyards are visible from the grounds, giving a feeling of self-determination to the Fogarty team — without the subtle pressure of seeing what the neighbor is up to, it is easier to decide based simply on the vineyard itself.

Thomas, Michael + Nathan

“When I first started at Fogarty, I thought it was a great opportunity. I thought it was a challenge where there was room to grow, and affect some change too. The longer I’ve been here I’ve realized it is less about me. This is a really special spot, and it shouldn’t be about who makes the wine. When it comes to winemaking, you have to be comfortable with making less impactful decisions. The farming and the place, that’s what’s interesting. That’s what I hope people will talk about.” -Nathan Kandler

Michael, Nathan, Thomas, Tommie, Me

Michael Martella, Nathan Kandler, Thomas Fogarty, Tommie Fogarty, me

There is a palpable warmth and generosity throughout the Thomas Fogarty Winery famiy and team. The afternoon was spent with the various generations all together, talking about the history of the project, and tasting through several decades of wine.

The Chardonnay line-up

Before my second visit, Nathan asked me if there was anything I’d like to focus on in our tasting. I said I’d love to taste some older vintages of Chardonnay, if possible. We tasted Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay all the way back to 1995, and three Sparkling Chardonnays from 1989 and 1998, in addition to barrel tasting all of the 2012s. With dinner we enjoyed more of the Pinot Noirs, and some older vintages of Thomas Fogarty Cabernet Sauvignon, and Nebbiolo.


More on Thomas Fogarty wine soon!

Thank you to Nathan Kandler, and Marta Kandler.

Thank you to Tommie Fogarty, and Michael Martella.

Thank you to Thomas Fogarty.

Thank you to Anne Krolczyk.


Just to show you how outrageously cute Nathan’s family is (he gave me permission to share these photos too).


Olive was 6 months old here (now 7)


I love their dog, Lewis.

holding Olive

Olive and I got along great.

dog and Olive

If I was in any way related to either this dog or this baby I would use this as my Christmas photo.

Marta and Olive

Little Olive decided Momma should take her out. Sleep she wasn’t having it. Marta and Olive.


Thank you again!

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Tasting Tartaric and Malic Acids

Acid Tasting w Einstein

cilck on drawing to enlarge

Acidity in wine composes an important part of the wines’ overall structure, encouraging aging potential, and drinkability alongside food. Acids are present first in the grape, and the levels resulting in the final wine reflect picking decisions on the part of the winemaker, as well as vinification techniques.

In considering acids levels, one can look at both titratable acidity levels, that is, a measure of the total acidity in the wine itself, and also at the pH, or the intensity (or strength). In addition, however, the types of acid present in the wine can also be considered. Different types of acid create different tasting experiences as they affect the palate in differing ways.

While there are more than a handful of acid types that can be present in a grape or wine, two are the most common and have the most apparent impact on the palate–tartaric and malic acids. Different vineyard sites tend to generate differing levels of each due to both climate and soil distinctions, with irrigation also impacting final levels. However, it is also possible to do acid adds during vinification.

Recognizing the apparent acidity level of a wine is one of the primary elements of a formalized wine tasting regimen. Parsing the two primary acid types adds a further layer of recognition in the wine experience, as well as insight into other aspects of a wine.

Tasting the Actual Acid Solutions

I was able to do a tartaric and malic acid tasting recently. Though the sheer taste experience wasn’t exactly obviously pleasurable, it was one of the funnest ‘wine’ tastings I’ve done recently. I’d already developed plenty of knowledge about acid types found in wine from study and conversation, including their apparent effect on the palate. As a result, I’d been able to track that information in wines tasted as well. But to then have a purely focused singular acid tasting where all that information EXACTLY lined up to the pure phenomenon experience struck me as hilarious. It was a weird form of pleasure to have intellectual knowledge click directly into place with experience. I don’t know how else to put it than to say that the precision of the tartaric acid doing to my mouth EXACTLY what I knew it was supposed to do was joyful. It was a joyful experience.

These types of acid concoctions are used in the production of candies like Fun Dip, Sweettarts, or Candy Necklaces and both the tartaric and malic acids offered a kind of powdery candy aspect without the sweetness. I had Junior taste both acids solutions as well. She remarked that the tartaric acid tasted like the inside of a Gobstopper, where as the malic was like a Candy Necklace. (She also hated it finding the malic acid especially hard to take.)

The two acids hit on markedly different parts of the tongue with tartaric acid at the tip or front quarter, and malic acid directly behind in the front portion of the mid-tongue. Both made the mouth water but tartaric acid gave that classic overt mouth watering-jaw clenching experience often described as acidity in wine (and that I consistently find in a vibrant blanc de blancs), and the malic acid had a less overt and more focused (to the particular area of the tongue rather than overall) watering effect.

In tasting the tartaric acid, it felt immediately salty with lime and lemon flavors floating to the surface after. The malic acid, on the other hand, gave a light green apple (without sweetness) flavor followed by an ultra long silvery metallic sensation.

In terms of sensation, the tartaric acid lit up my whole head like a light bulb in bright sunshine yellow light and a high note pitch of energy. The malic acid by comparison was a much deeper frequency feeling, with a more muted tone to it.

For bullet point notes on the acid distinctions, please see the above drawing. Enjoy!


As a quick note: perception of acidity can be impacted by temperature of the wine, as well as other factors — so if it’s a warm day, cool your wine a bit to get it back to better drinking temperatures. Also, perception of wine does not translate directly to actual measurable acid levels in the wine itself, but nevertheless improving one’s recognition abilities over time is a valuable tool in formalized wine tasting.


Thank you to Jason Lett.

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Tasting Pikes Rieslings with Neil Pike

Chuck Hayward organized a small party vertical tasting of Pikes Clare Valley Rieslings with Neil Pike a few weeks ago. Around 10 of us got together to learn more about Pikes history, Riesling vintages from the region, and Neil Pikes own family history.

Understanding Clare Valley

Clare Valley produces some of the top Rieslings of Australia, showing nice aging potential, with distinctive aromatics from the variety compared to other locations around the world. Growing conditions are unique in the region, but Australian wine culture also carries its own view of appropriate style for the grape (partially due to how fruit does grow there). As Pike explained, petrol notes are seen as a fault in Australian Riesling as the country tends to look instead to pristine fruit expression as the ideal. In his view, canopy management plays into how the flavor and aroma profile arises, with too much sun exposure the skins toughen generating bitter phenolics.

One of the cooler zones of South Australia, Clare Valley offers a cool and wet winter, followed by a very dry spring. The combination gives vines a good dormant period followed by healthy growing conditions that allow for generally no need for humidity intervention (little to no mold or mildew). Clare Valley is one of the latest harvesting regions on the continent.

Pikes sits around 500 meters/1640 feet elevation, with 650 m/2132 f at its highest point. Clare Valley is a small region producing only 2% of the wine in Australia, but 15% of the country’s premium wine. The Valley’s Mediterranean climate carry cooling breezes of the Spencer Gulf, balancing the warmer day time temperatures with cooling breezes and a diurnal shift that keep acid levels up.

Pikes Riesling “Traditionale”

Pikes Traditionale

click on drawing to enlarge

Pikes Riesling “Traditionale” comes in as the labels annual, more accessible style wine. The fruit is sourced from two locations with 75-80% brought from their Polish Hill Vineyards on the Easter side of the Valley. There is always some Watervale fruit as well, as it lends a softer and more opulent presentation to the wine. The Polish Hill Vineyard, on the other hand, grows in blue slate giving a needle tension. When coupled with the Watervale, the pair dance with long juicy lines and a friendly lightness of flavor.

Pike explains that the region offers high acidity. The house focuses on picking to preserve that juiciness. He also recognizes, however, that the type of acidity impacts the mouth experience with tartaric acid, in his view, giving a softer overall feel when compared to higher malic acid numbers, which he views as sharper and harder to drink (this will be explored more directly in a post tomorrow looking specifically at acids found in wine). As such, Pikes likes to maintain high TA with a lower focus on MA.

Pikes Riesling Reserve “The Merle”

Pikes Merle Vertical

click on drawing to enlarge – (each vintage came in at 12%)

Only in the best years, Pikes also produces a reserve style Riesling that is meant to age and offer greater intensity in its youth. The wine is held back slightly longer by the winery too as a result. Named for Pike’s mother, “The Merle” offers a pure Polish Hill expression, the vineyard growing in blue slate with some iron stone spotted throughout generating a light ferris element mixed into all that tension. In Pike’s view, the Merle is their more challenging and austere Riesling, as it is meant to drink after some time in bottle and is more loved by Riesling devotees.

The Wines

Both flights offered lovely aging characteristics with the older vintages giving a nice combination of fruit-flower expression and secondary deepening. The middle years tended to be pretty while light in comparison to either the seering acidity of the new wines or the thickening plushness of the older. The line drive intensity of the Merle was impressive giving too a rich textural experience. It had a lot of energetic focus while being a wine to slow down with. The Traditionale, on the other hand, came in all about pep, verve, dance and lift with tons of energy certain it was meant to wake the palate up.

Thank you to Neil Pike.

Thank you to Chuck Hayward, Peter Bentley and Kat Luna.


To read Blake Gray’s write-up of this same tasting:


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Living Alaska

Growing up in Alaska I could only run or ski so long. A group of us would leave the house and run several miles across town to the cross country ski trails where a truck with our equipment would have driven to meet us. Then we’d nordic relay around the course in preparation for upcoming races. Still, even after several hours of training, we’d be out of something to do.

Besides one year with a late hour coffee shop in town, mostly there was nothing to do if you were underage. Then, even when drinking became an option most of the bars were too sketchy to waste time in. As a result, my friends and I had to get creative on what to do to pass the time. Mostly we spent our time driving, getting to know all the streets of neighborhoods all over town. Or, we’d come up with ridiculous games specific only to that evening’s mood then race around in the dark fulfilling the task we’d made up.

Last night, my sister Melanie, our friend Robin, and I decided to reprise Alaska ridiculousness with a new game. We had to on-the-fly design a photo series of iconic Anchorage moments showcasing a bottle of Forlorn Hope San Hercurmer Delle Necce, and Dirty and Rowdy Semillon.

Here are the photos from the series.

The Alaskan Athletes Hall of Fame

Susan Butcher in the Athlete Hall of Fame

Susan Butcher, 4-time winner of the Iditarod, was the baddest bad ass athlete the world has ever known. For real.

The Wild Animals Almost Got Us

Musk ox sniffing out the wine

That Musk Ox was totally sniffing out our wine. Melanie even set off an alarm trying to save us.

dude. bear almost got our wine.

Dude. The bear almost got the bottles.

oh shit dog!

Oh shit dog.

One in Three People in Alaska Has a Pilot’s License

my sister good woman

One in three people in Alaska has a pilot’s license, and the state is covered in lakes. So, there are lots and lots of float planes.

she braved leach infested water for this stuff

Melanie took off her shoes and braved the waters of a leach filled float plane lake. She brave woman.

wines on the floats

When traveling you are likely to meet bear.

wine on floats

Bring wine.

Totem Poles are so Alaska

Taco King Totem Pole

Totem poles are from Southeast Alaska but in Anchorage even Taco King “Real Mexican Food” has its own Totem Pole. #TacoKing

Tourists Run the State

The Alaska (tourist) train

The Alaska Railroad only moves tourists. Through town. The tourist train crosses the middle of town then up to Denali National Park and on to Fairbanks. We showed those tourists what’s what.

The Mortal Coil

Anchorage's whale of mortality

In downtown Anchorage, a block from the courthouse, in front of an office building full of lawyers there is a sculpture of the whale of mortality, whose waves threaten ships and tempt hunters (but the whale dives for wine). (Incidentally, one of the lawyers in this building helped me secure custody of Jr. Thank you, lawyer.)

The Inlet View

with a view of the inlet

The city is surrounded on three sides by the mountains. The fourth side by Cook Inlet.

the view a little later in the light

The sun finally sets this time of year for just a few hours.

Cook conquered the New Worlds, and then one conquered him

Captain James Cook conquered the New Worlds, including Alaska, until the New World conquered then ate him. Go Hawaii!

Junior High is to Embarrass You

I was a Trojan.

In Junior High I was a Trojan. We were all embarrassed even though we barely understood what it even meant.

How embarrassing

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As some of you know, my parents’ celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this summer. I flew to Alaska to be with my whole family for the event. This weekend we held a get together with many long term friends. It was a wonderful time.

Following are photos of the celebration.

Mom still fits her wedding dress

my mom still fits her wedding dress 50 years later

Oliver, Uncle Kev, and Emily

nephew Oliver with uncle Kevin and cousin Emily

Mariana and Ethel

niece Mariana with long term family friend Ethel

Mom and Violet

mom’s (left) grandma held Violet (right) when she was baptized in Bristol Bay



Rachel and Ethel

Jr outgrew Ethel

Mom, Elaine, and Ethel

Elaine (middle) is also from Unalakleet, my dad’s home in Norton Sound

Eva and Mom

long term friends Eva and Mom

Paula and Chester


mom and Rosie grew up together in Naknek


Sean and Dad worked together on the North Slope, Sean’s wife Tammy, and commercial fish together



Pastor Max from my parents’ church



Dad and Bill, high school and college basketball buddies





sister Paula


Tim (Melanie’s husband) and sister Melanie










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The Fort Ross-Seaview AVA Characteristics

Fort Ross-Seaview AVA

click on comic to enlarge

After a decade of wrangling to establish the appropriate boundaries of this mountain top-and-side, coastal AVA, Fort Ross-Seaview was officially established as a sub-appellation of the Sonoma Coast in January 2012.

The appellation stands entirely above 800 feet in elevation on mountains that reach to 1600 feet over a small section of the San Andreas fault. Thanks to the seismic activity, the soils are the result of the movement of the plates giving deep earthen rock and very little topsoil for plants to grow.

As David Hirsch, of Hirsch Vineyards, explained, the AVA cannot properly be understood as a cool climate due to its mixed set of characteristics–what he names “the confluence of 4 unique ecosystems.” As he describes, the sub-region receives ocean influence including fog and coastal breezes, while also river effect from the floor far below. Drainages are numerous and plant and animal life reflect the movement of water through the area. But the region stands predominately above where the fog settles thus receiving exposure to warm sun influences through the day in summer months, as well as warming aspects from inland temperatures. Finally, the range is dominated by conifer forests, effectively giving a rainforest effect. As Hirsch explains, then, between the soils, the moisture, the sun exposure and heat, and the winds, the confluence of factors determining the high elevation appellation are near impossible as one climate type.

looking through the ridges of Fort Ross-Seaview AVA

looking through the gully-ridges of Fort Ross-Seaview AVA from the second ridge towards the third, July 31 2013. The furthest ridge in the center frame has multiple vineyards growing from the ridge top down the side towards camera.

History tells us vines were planted in the coastal mountains more than 100 years ago, with Zinfandel being primary, but in the small population through the region grapes were not a priority. Most land holdings through the ridges were large parcels, with much of the property being difficult to use both because of its extreme slopes and gullies, and also because of the challenge in travel between ridges. Still today, the road system through the area is intensely windy as it descends one hilltop, then climbs another.

In the late-middle of the last century several large parcels were subdivided into 40 acres plots leading to a move-in of new small family owners, some of whom remain today still growing the new vineyards they established. Plantings are still far from dense in Fort Ross-Seaview, and with the complexity of land shapes it seems unlikely for such a phenomenon to develop, though there have been some attempts at closer-to-bulk.

Campbell Ranch Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview

looking through rows of Pinot Noir at Campbell Ranch Vineyard, surrounded entirely by conifer forest, Fort Ross-Seaview AVA, July 31, 2013.

Fort Ross-Seaview is still quite early in its development, but as Sr Editor of the SF Chronicle, Jon Bonné explains, the appellation already has shown a consistency of wine quality. Saturday, August 3 the West of the West Festival offered a Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir panel discussion facilitated by Bonné, with Lee Martinelli, Sr, of Martinelli Wines, and David Hirsch. Having extensive experience with his own family vineyards through Russian River Valley, Martinelli became established in the coastal mountains in the 1950s. His wife’s family kept a ranch and lived there for generations. David Hirsch established his site in 1980, helping to usher in (along with already established farming families like the Martinellis) a new interest in true-coastal grapes.

We tasted through 7 site-specific Pinot Noir examples from the appellation out of the 2010 and 2011 vintages. The wines showed a range of styles, but within each there was a clear thread of crushed dark rock flavor and throat tightening tension, pulled forth by bright red fruits and lifted by the fresh aromatics of conifer forest. During discussion, Bonné confirmed that in his tastings through other vintages these characteristics are consistent to wines of the region.

Following are notes on the 7 wines. Each come from vineyards within the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA but some are named as Sonoma Coast.

Fort Ross-Seaview AVA Pinot Noir Tasting

Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir

looking through Pinot Noir clusters in Fort Ross-Seaview AVA July 31 2013–note the small cluster size, how early in veraison the fruit still is, and the conifer silhouettes in the distance; Campbell Ranch Vineyard visited with Gros Ventre

* North Appellation

2011 Red Car Estate Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview

The Red Car offers delicate aromatics with red berry and light dusty accents moving into crushed rock in the palate with touches of cracked pepper on the finish. The wine is juicy, with smooth easy tannin, and a touch of bread dough on the medium-long finish.

* Central Appellation

2011 Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Estate, Sonoma Coast

Bringing lightly perfumed aromatics that carries into the palate, the Flowers Meeting Ridge shows cherry blossom and red cherry, with accents of dark rock tension and light conifer. The tannin is lightly textural falling in balance with the acidity as a light grip on the palate.

* 2010 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Estate, Sonoma Coast

The stand out of the tasting for me, Hirsch’s San Andreas Fault accents a vibrant, lively nose with musky hints leading into cherry blossom, a feral musk, very light cocoa + espresso, and a touch of black pepper on the palate all together in a dancey frame. There is a nice crushed rock mineral length and good tension here. The acidity carries this wine all the way home.

2010 Martinelli Three Sisters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

The Three Sisters is a light and pleasing wine giving a light touch overall presentation. The cherry blossom and conifer with red notes on the nose carry over into darker, slightly brooding aspects on the palate. This wine has a lean focus with a very light musk dancing with floral aspects. The wine drinks now as though it is still private and will open more with age.

* South Appellation

2011 Failla Estate Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

Another stand out, the Failla Estate gives darker, and more bramble aspects than the other wines of the tasting. Dark berry shows here on the nose alongside an animal poise moving into coniferous notes on the palate. The mouth gives cherry with cherry leaf and bramble, a touch of cocoa, and dark rock. The wine is lightly brooding with still bright lift and long lines of tension.

2011 Fort Ross Vineyard Sea Slopes, Fort Ross-Seaview

Red cherry with cherry blossom carry over dark bands of crushed rock and conifer forest. This Sea Slopes drinks currently as though its flavors are still very much uncurling from its generally balanced structure. The wine is currently tight and needs time in bottle as well as air upon opening.

2010 Wild Hog Vineyard, Sonoma Coast

The most feral of the wines presented, the Wild Hog gave sweat and running horses with lightly candied aspects of red cherry pushed onto moist tobacco and light cigar box. The finish is long and tart with crushed rock and slowly appearing oregano oil and thyme. The various elements of this wine seem to still be finding their balance in the bottle showing currently as a little disjointed.


Thank you to Amelia Weir for your work on West of the West.

Thank you to Chris and Sarah Pittenger of Gros Ventre for taking me on a tour of multiple vineyards through the Fort Ross-Seaview appellation prior to the tasting.

Thank you to Jon Bonné, Lee Martinelli, Sr, and David Hirsch for the excellent panel.


To read more on why sub-dividing the Sonoma Coast matters, check out this previous article by Jon Bonné:

and his brief announcement for when the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA was established:

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