• Difficulty sleeping?
  • Difficulty concentrating?
  • Obsessive compulsive behavior?
  • Irritability?
  • Mood swings?

If so, you may be, as I am, a wine collector during wine release season.
Every year my fellow sufferers and I make our wine-related New Year’s resolutions. “I’ll buy less wine in 2010.” “I’ll buy more wine in 2010.” “I’m going for quality over quantity.” “I need to concentrate more on daily drinkers.” “I’m going to collect a wider variety of wines.” “I’m going heavy on the 2007 vintage from Swavobia.” Whatever. By this time, if you’re still reading, you are either nodding your head in understanding, or shaking your head thinking I’m crazy.
If you are disciplined and able to easily follow your wine resolutions, well, my hat’s off to you.
This year I planned to continue last year’s trend of buying fewer bottles, spending less money on wine, and buying wines that are a better value. Notice that those last two are not necessarily the same thing. I’ve pretty much stopped chasing points — a bad habit new wine collectors can get in to — and am buying what I either know I like, what I suspect I will like, or wines recommended to me by trusted sources. That has ruled out many new wineries. Just because Mr Superstar Winemaker makes it or Mr Superstar Winereviewer says it is good will not make me pull the trigger on something, especially as the price starts approaching and then surpassing the century mark. And unfortunately, a lot of new wineries, especially those from my own beloved Napa, have surpassed $100… by a lot.
But I’ve got to admit I’ve got a collector’s (or hoarder’s) mentality and the potential loss of a coveted mailing list position does still strike “fear” into my heart every time I shred one of these new offers. Will I be sorry later?
Note to self: you are almost never sorry later with the exception of passing on Kosta Browne back in the very beginning.
The other day, I received a snail mail and email that the order window for a great winery was going to open. I’ve bought for quite a few years so had a large allocation initially including even the chance at a magnum. But now, the price that was about $60 per 750ml just a few years back, has risen to $125. For most of you, that is waaaaay too much to spend on a bottle of wine. It’s more than I should spend as well, but that didn’t make the decision any easier. This wine has garnered lofty scores from the Wine Advocate for many years and is in very high demand. If ever there was a wine that deserved such a price, this is it. So I started looking over my own notes on past vintages. They were good, but not stellar. I pulled a 2003 out of my cellar to do a little liquid research. Even after a few hours in the decanter, the 2003 was disjointed and a confusion of flavors and structure. All the elements were there, but it was too young. I recorked and waited a day. Day two it was much, much better. It made me feel confident that in 3-4 years, this would be a great bottle of wine, but right now, our own 2003 Match Butterdragon Hill is a better wine and a more enjoyable experience.
So what to do? If I go ahead and pay the $125 for this offer, I’ll be buying wine that probably won’t be worth the money to me until 2017 or later. How many special occasions do I celebrate each year that are worthy of such an expenditure? And this won’t be the only time I am tempted this year by a wine this — or even more — expensive. If I wait long enough, the decision will be made for me. They’ll sell out. Already the mags are gone. But each day I suffer from those symptoms I described, distracted by the temptation — or is it a fixation — to order.
I know other wine collectors face similar dilemmas this month. How are you deciding?

Today I noticed that what used to be my Local Wine Store (LWS) in the Montclair district of Oakland is now going to be a self-serve yogurt place. I guess it is a sign of the times, but let’s see if you can make a little blip on the sales charts of your favorite LWS. Show them that you appreciate them adding value to your wine passion. Please pass this on. Share it on Facebook or post comments here. Tweet it and tag #wine. But most importantly, buy a bottle of something at your LWS this weekend.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Issue #186 (Dec 2009) is out and the big man himself reviewed some of our wines:

2007 Match Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Baconbrook
Revealing the most opaque color of these offerings, the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Baconbrook’s abundant notes of blue and black fruits, forest floor, graphite, and vanilla are followed by a tannic, rich, backward wine with undeniable minerality. It should turn out to be outstanding after 3-4 more years of bottle age. It will last 20+ years. (90-93 pts) Release Fall 2010
2007 Match Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Butterdragon Hill
The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Butterdragon Hill possesses attractive, fleshy black currant, crushed rock, cedar, spice box, and tobacco leaf characteristics. This broad, savory, pure, moderately tannic 2007’s overall impression is one of elegance, with a Bordeaux-like framework to the tannic structure. Give it 3-4 years of cellaring and drink it over the following two decades. (90-92 pts) Release Spring 2010
2006 Match Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Baconbrook
The impressive 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Baconbrook does not possess any aggressive or rustic tannins. It offers pure red, blue, and black fruits intermixed with notions of crushed rocks and flowers. Medium to full-bodied with excellent balance, ripeness, depth, and length, it will benefit from 1-3 years of cellaring, and should easily last 15-18 years. (90 pts) Available Now
2006 Match Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Butterdragon Hill
The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Butterdragon Hill reveals plenty of plum, spice box, floral, cedary, black cherry, and black currant notes, elegant, medium to full-bodied flavors, and well-integrated wood, acidity, and moderate tannin. This graceful Cabernet should be enjoyed over the next 15-18 years. (90 pts) Available Now

We’re pretty proud of these notes. He describes our wines in very similar ways to how we would hope folks would perceive them. “Graceful.” “Pure.” “Elegant.” Wines that you can confidently age for 20 years. These are characteristics we are going for. As always, one can follow how our customers are enjoying our wines at Cellartracker.com.
At the end of the day, however, what really matters is how you like our wine. To receive information and the opportunity to buy our wines on release, please join our mailing list. The 2007 Butterdragon Hill that Mr Parker reviewed will be offered in just a few short weeks at a price of $60 for new customers. Repeat customers will receive their customary discount.

The Finklestein Family is Napa Valley wine royalty. Okay, perhaps they’re more like the wine court jesters. They are fun, funny, eccentric, and make life in wine country just a little bit more interesting. Art and Bunny Finklestein created Whitehall Lane and then moved on to found Judd’s Hill. Their son, Judd, follows in their footsteps running the winery now. Check out Judd’s off-the-wall video blog: Judd’s Enormous Wine Show. I especially like Episode 2. I’m ready to order tshirts for every kid I know.

It was our very first release. It was dedicated to my late father-in-law. We started with 500 cases but only a few are left which we’ve been storing for personal use. It hasn’t been available to the public for years, but I’ve managed to grab 10 cases for this offer. I’m pleased to make this final holiday offer a rerelease of our 2002 Match Vineyards Butterdragon Hill Cabernet Sauvignon.
Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV was “completely blown away” by this wine and scored it 96+.
Wine Spectator Magazine said the 2002 Butterdragon Hill is “[r]emarkably plush and opulent, impeccably balanced, with rich, soothing layers of ripe currant, blueberry, blackberry and plum, scents of cedar, anise, herb and dusty berry. The tannins are ripe and polished and the finish sails on and on.”
We just say yummy.
With the exception of our personal library, the initial release of this wine sold out at $72 a bottle. We are offering these 10 cases at our new, lower price of $60. Plus, for shipments of six bottles or more, we’ll pay for shipping. Eligible repeat customers may use their individual discount. This offer expires midnight PST 12/4/2009.
Download Order Form

Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV scored our 2005 Butterdragon Hill 93 points when I was a guest on the WLTV Thunder Show. We’re not big in to points, but 93 sounds good to us, so for this Holiday Special we’re offering magnums of 2005 Match Vineyards Butterdragon Hill Cabernet Sauvignon for $93. That’s $67 off the original release price!
Tasting notes on Cellartracker.com indicate that with a few hours in the decanter, this big bottle will be a great addition to your holiday table.
This offer expires Midnight PST on 12/4/09 or until the small supply is gone.
No additional discounts apply.
Download Order Form

We’re going to do a little test of social media. Let’s see what kind of response we get to some very special offers which last only a extremely limited time. These deals will be promoted via Twitter, our Facebook fan page, and Facebook advertising. The rest is up to you. Please spread the joy.
Holiday Special #1: three 2004 Butterdragon Hill for the price of two AND free ground shipping. That works out to $40 bucks a bottle delivered to your door, BUT it only lasts until midnight PST on Friday, 12/4/2009. Orders placed now will be delivered prior to the holidays.

Download the Order Form

If you’d like to know how the 2004 Butterdragon is drinking, check it out on Cellartracker.com
Limit 4 three packs per customer.
Eligible repeat customers will receive their appropriate discount as well.

Earlier this year, Congress passed credit card reform with the aim of preventing card companies from predatory and unfair practices. The changes were scheduled to take effect February 2010. One can guess why the companies received such a long lead time before the regulations started. They are big contributors after all.
The credit card companies are rushing to jack up rates and tack on additional charges ahead of these new regulations. This week I noticed that both Chase and Citi had jacked my interest rates on personal cards to above 20%. This is in spite of exemplary payment history. In fact, it’s extremely rare that I even carry a balance. Nevertheless, as a business owner, when it gets more expensive for consumers to shop, it hurts me. What a stupid thing as we approach the holiday season when we hope the American consumer is able to return to the stores.
Fortunately, the House of Representatives has voted to rush implementation of some of the regulations and freeze rates by December 1. The Senate should do the same. The Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, has a form letter than you can fill out to be sent to your Senators or you can find your Senator on your own and voice your opinion.. Let him or her know how you feel about the delay in credit card reform and urge them to join the House in pushing up enactment.

And watch your mailbox. Don’t be surprised if you get a little notice from your credit card company that you’re getting screwed too.

Here’s a brief report from winemaker Cary Gott after tasting through the barrels today:
I just tasted all of the wines we have that are in barrel. Very nice wines.
09 Butterdragon, a deep rich wine, a wow!, just finished ML [ed: malolactic fermentation]
09 Baconbrook, clean/fresh- firm texture, will need the extra aging as in past years, just finished ML
08 Butterdragon, beautiful barrel and Cabernet note in the nose and mouth, complex
08 Baconbrook, high structure, nose is developing, flavors are full and round/firm, nice
07 Baconbrook, elegant complex nose, as usual for Baconbrook, plenty of age worth structure, very nice

According to research cited in the Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail recently, it does. Study participants were given 3-5 identical — though they didn’t know it — glasses of wine to taste and then asked to indicate which glass they thought was the best wine.
It’s commonly accepted, and supported by past research, that the attitude “first is best” is prevalent. This again proved to be the case: When subjects were given only 3 glasses, they preferred the first glass.
Heck, it could be for other reasons. I almost always think the appetizer was the best part of a meal.
I know anecdotally from pouring our two wines that approximately 3/4 of folks prefer Butterdragon over Baconbrook. This isn’t because Butterdragon is better, but it is more approachable young — and all our wines are still young — plus it has more mass appeal than the brawny mountain fruit of Baconbrook. However, in side-by-side “horizontal” tastings, if I lead off with the Baconbrook, that 3/4 preference for Butterdragon goes down. It doesn’t work out that the first poured wine is always the favorite, but the crowd-pleasing popularity advantage of Butterdragon is minimized. My experiences seem to mimic the study results.
Back to the study cited in the Globe and Mail article.
When the the number of wine samples went up, and particularly as the wine experience level of the test subjects went up, the preference started to be towards the last sample glass. Researchers had a theory about why this order preference changed:

“Wine geeks thrive on discovering new and ever-better drinking experiences, so they’re more likely to give subsequent options a chance… [T]hey will keep looking and they will give themselves even more of an opportunity for something later in the sequence to beat the current favourite.”

Here’s where my experience seems to be different than the study. When I am pouring multiple vintages of both of our wines, no matter what serving order I pour, tasters usually gravitate towards the wine that is currently drinking the best and the 3/4 Butterdragon preference holds true. One thing to also note is that tasters in this setting with me, like in the study, are usually fairly experienced in wine. Without a public tasting room, my vertical tastings are with my customers accustomed to buying $60+ bottles of Cabernet.
According to the article, “The results have an obvious implication for the wine industry.” If trying to sell an overstock or high-profit wine, serve it first. If trying to impress a sophisticated buyer, save the best for last. At your own dinner party, they also recommend saving the best for last as the first wine will shine anyway. Really? At least according to my experiences, it’s not so “obvious.” While I can see the advantages of organizing a tasting so that it builds to a crescendo, I don’t think sophisticated palates are so easily swayed. One also runs the danger of your tasters suffering from palate fatigue before they ever get to the wine you really want to shine. Just because a study using identical glasses of wine shows an order preference doesn’t mean that it will translate to real-world enjoyment of wine.
I’d like to see a bit more information about this study. The article does not say how the subjects indicated their preference. Did they try each wine and in the end just say which they liked best? Or did they write notes — and perhaps even score — the wines as they went along and use those notes and scores to determine the preferred wine? I think the results could be different.

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3060 White Sulphur Springs Rd
St Helena, CA 94574
t: (707) 200-3510
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