We harvested yesterday at Butterdragon Hill. We brought in just over 6 tons for our own crush. The fruit looked wonderful. Mild weather really paid off and rewarded patience. It was time to bring it in though… rain is in the forecast for next week. My camera was a bit late to the party, but here are a few pics:

Here are some pictures and comments from our winemaker, Cary Gott. He took these the other day while visiting an unnamed high-end winery that was using their new Bucher Vistalys grape sorting machine. It can process 8 to 10 tons per hour and is a programed sorter that sorts by flying the grapes over a computer/optical controlled air-blast rejector. Cost $150,000 for the machine. It is capable of selecting raisins and dehydrated grapes (and trash)… an ultimate / luxury piece of winemaking equipment. It does work.

“We have to get over what I call the trophy mentality”
-Dick Grace

Our neighbor, Dick Grace, created what could justifiably be dubbed the first Napa Cult wine back in the in the mid-80’s. His wines at the time were some of the most expensive and still are. Release price is $225. BUT, Dick Grace, is not your average high-society, new money, big party throwing winegrower. His profits, after what he admits supports a very comfortable lifestyle, go toward supporting charities world wide.
Read more: SF Gate (the San Francisco Chronicle) article
When you spend a lot of time and money on a passion like wine collecting, there can be the tendency to get that trophy mentality. We strive for the next big wine prize. It certainly happens to us winegrowers. We strive for recognition from our customers, peers, and the press. Times are tough and we’re all watching what we’re spending. Charitable organizations are having a heck of a time with most facing reduced giving and funding. If it comes down this year between supporting a charity and buying our wines, give to the charity.

A fellow member of Vinocellar.com asked me recently if I’ve ever posted a vertical tasting note on our Butterdragon Hill wines. I haven’t. In fact, the only time I write a tasting note on a Match wine — or even think about it in that way — is for the particular wine’s release letter. Still, I am constantly trying our wines and, when hosting folks for tasting, usually get a chance to try a vertical. I make mental notes about how a wine is developing, what would be the optimum decant time, drinking windows, etc. I also make a mental note that I should post such thoughts either here on the blog or, probably even better, on a web page on the site. That mental note seems to always get filed away and never done.
Anyway, here are some current thoughts on the Butterdragon Hill vintages:
2002 – the first vintage, the highest score from Wine Spectator, very popular, currently my least favorite. While the fruit is delicious, big, round, and sweet, I always thought this wine was a bit too heavy and stylistically simple. Not really where I wanted to be but a full throttle Napa Cab for those looking for it.
2003 – currently drinking the best (I’m hearing this from a bunch of folks as well) and ironically, on release it was definitely the most worrisome and the least popular. It seemed a bit thin while barrel aging and on initial release but continued gaining heft to where now it is an awesome wine. I think one of the biggest initial stumbling blocks for us business-wise was that the 03 (from a cooler vintage) followed the 02 in a different style. I know this caused some confusion as distributors and brokers tried to follow up the 2002 with the 2003 in placements. It also didn’t help that 2003 Napa vintage was generally damned by the press. Very elegant and drinking wonderfully right now.
2004 – Fruit and flowers. This was the first vintage, in my opinion, where the vineyard really started showing its character and we could start to see the Butterdragon HIll style. It sort of combines the roundness of 2002 with the elegance of 2003. Lovely candied fruit aromas fill the glass and yet it doesn’t seem to be all about candy. I love the complexity we’re able to get from this cooler side of the Valley. Depending on how many you have in the cellar, it wouldn’t be a crime to open one now with about an hour in the decanter though I’d say the perfect time will be in two years.
2005 – Spicier. This vintage shows much more traditional cabernet flavors… currant, green herb, tea leaves, pepper. Reminds me of old world more than new. Although it is far from ready to drink, this is one of my favorites so far. This is the wine Gary Vaynerchuk gushed over to the tune of 93+ points. My favorite way to serve this wine right now is to just open the bottle a couple of hours before serving and pour right from the bottle. It could use a few more years in the cellar too.
2006 – More like 04 but everything is a bit bigger on this wine… the fruit is more lush, complex undertones are there and will develop further, tannins are not overbearing but promise long-term ageability. Just a baby, but 3-4 years from now should be an awesome wine. Definitely needs time.
2007 – The younger the wine, the harder it is to evaluate and we just bottled the 2007 Butterdragon Hill in July. I think it is going to be incredible.

What a great day! We started harvest at 6:45 this morning. Temperature was about 57. The crew jumped right to work and by 11 were just about done. The temperature by then might have been 70. So much for the feared and predicted heat storm. The grapes were down at Bin to Bottle for crushing by 11:30 and, as they only had one other vineyard scheduled to come in today, we didn’t have to wait. Crush began and was over by 2. Sometimes everything just works according to plan.
Bins were coming in light, but the fruit looked and tasted great. Our ten full 1/2 bins weighed 4.2 tons which means we will probably end up with 225-250 cases of 2009 Baconbrook. Of course, it will be a long time until that starts reaching you. Look out for the fruit of today’s labor in October 2012.

Winemaker Cary Gott

We estimate the juice will soak out to about 25.5 brix.
Additional pictures of harvest and the crush are on our Facebook Page.

CellarTracker just reached 1,000,000 user posted tasting notes. What Eric Levine began 5 years ago as a way to track his own wine collection has grown to be among the most influential and in my opinion the most useful wine website out there. I, along with 82,000 other registered users, manage our own wine collections, record our thoughts on the wines we’re drinking, and research other wines using this website. A good measure of CellarTracker’s range is, according to a press release from CellarTracker, leading wine magazines Wine Spectator and the Wine Advocate each publish about 1000 reviews per month. CellarTracker users post on average 1100 tasting notes a day.
I think this milestone represents more than just the success of one website. It, and certainly some other sites (even Facebook), are giving wine lovers the tools to learn more about their passion and decentralizing the information available. The influence of any one critic has been reduced. While some may argue that “amateur” tasting notes and reviews are not of much value, I think that when you get enough of them, you really start to get a feeling for what a wine is like. This, in my opinion, is the greatest value of CellarTracker. 30 positive reviews on CellarTracker are far more influential to me than one guy’s experience on one particular day, even if that guy was dubbed the emperor of wine.
I may be just preaching to the choir as I know that many folks who will read this already use CellarTracker, but those who aren’t, give it a try. It is based on the shareware model. It is free to register and use but there are suggested donations based on the size of cellar you are tracking. Donations also turn on some additional value added features like links to professional reviews and wine auction values. Note: I don’t have any commercial or other interest in CellarTracker. I’m just a very enthusiastic user.
I’d love to hear about your favorite feature or discovery on CellarTracker. Feel free to also post the negatives and suggestions too. Anything constructive, I’ll pass on to Eric Levine.

Search CellarTracker for notes on Match Vineyards’ wines.

Hi Friends.
First, my apologies to folks who are on our mailing list, AND read our blog, AND are our Facebook fans. You’ll see this message at least 3 times. However, I wanted to — as they say at auctions — give fair
and final warning that the Match Vineyards Special Summer Offer is about to expire July 31. It contains some of the lowest prices ever on our wines.
2004 Butterdragon (reg $72), 2005 Butterdragon (reg $72), and 2005 Baconbrook (reg $75) are all priced at $65 per bottle with just $5 per bottle ground shipping (in autumn) anywhere in the continental USA.
But it gets better…
Buy any combination of 6-11 bottles and pay only $60 a piece and get free ground shipping.
Or buy any combination of 12 or more bottles and now pay just $55 a piece with free ground shipping.
Special pricing is also available on these wines in magnum format. Any number of magnums receive free ground shipping.
Repeat customers will still receive their earned discount off these already reduced prices. That means customers at the maximum discount level can pay as little as $44 a bottle.
Refer a new customer and earn a free bottle of the soon-to-be-released 2006 Baconbrook.
The Order Form can be found here.
Thanks for your continued support.
Be well,
Randy Sloan
Match Vineyards
t/f 707-968-9040

This entry was originally published in June 2005 but I liked it so much, I wanted to move it forward in time so it doesn’t get lost as I relaunch the blog. I had asked, Cary Gott, our very talented winemaker, to jot down a few thoughts for the Vintner’s Journal. Here was his first post.


Walking into my work…
In an interesting lifetime of making wine from lots of vineyards at many different wineries (Inglenook in 1969 was the first) I have learned to entertain myself with a few special experiences I get to enjoy as a winemaker. Some are in the vineyard and usually relate to driving tractors in the spring. Another is the design phase of a new winery when the architect in me puts a new design on paper, a cellar where I would like to make wine. There is always the opening an old bottle from my winemaking past and enjoying again the work I did many years ago. And there is one at the conclusion of a winemaking project that occurs just a few times a year…
Last week I created the blend of the Match Vineyards 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. In the caves at Rombauer two different lots of Cabernet and one of Merlot were racked from barrel, blended and returned to barrel (my unique mix of mostly new French oak barrels). Eleven barrels of clone 15 Cabernet, nine barrels of the clone 7 Cabernet and three barrels of Merlot. All three, very, very nice wines and just eight months old. I always worry that a new blend might not be as expected after the work is done. Maybe something unexpected happened or it just doesn’t go together as planned. Usually about a week after the blend is made I make myself go taste the wine, usually with a little fright in my mind but also there is excitement to see what I have created (especially when I’m working with wines as interesting and complex as the 04 lots from Butterdragon Hill).
I waited until the end of the day when the winery was closed. It was a rather warm day, the first day of summer. Beautiful outside, cool in the winery. I found a wine thief and a glass in the lab. Next, a zig zag walk through a room packed with barrels to the shut cave door and a fumble feel along the wall to find the light switch once inside. Lights on and the winemaking fun begins. The floors are shiny wet, everything is damp, the smells are a heavy complex mix of wood, cave walls and years of winemaking. The walk between two rows of barrels seems to be a gliding-on-water experience that does not require effort, just absorbing what is around me. Two turns into other tunnels and now here are the Match barrels that were just racked. My random selection machine is turned on and a barrel is chosen to taste. Bung out. I always amaze myself (I guess it is from doing this so many times) that I am able to to get the thief to go in the bung hole without hitting the sides since I cannot see the hole as it is hidden in the shadows of the barrels stacked above.
Half a thief-full is slightly splashed into a rather large bowl glass. One big swirl. I’m not concerned about the color, just the nose and the taste. I’m by myself with a wine I just made. Talk to me. I never had a large learned vocabulary of words to describe a wine. I have few friends I use all too often, but they work so well for my purposes. Big, rich, full, elegant, deep, stylish, long-finish, complete, nice, wow!.
After a smell and a taste (with a well executed and accurate spit, a fun talent) and then one more taste, I’m thinking this wine is better than I expected. All of those words I so often use are this wine. And now I say out loud in a rather large voice, “wow, this is great wine”. I’m speaking to the cave. I’m speaking to the other barrels of the wine. I do a 360 in place and have a last taste. I am so pleased. Do I take the credit (in my mind)? No. It’s the vineyard. I just finished the vineyard’s work. Great wine. Thank you vineyard.
Then I do a quick tasting of the 03 Cabernet. Just as expected the nose is getting spicier, complex and the body is silky and elegant. A wine doing its thing correctly and beautifully. But I was really here to taste the new blend of 04 and give myself peace of mind on the work we just did. Touchdown ! I now have two great wines aging.
I don’t remember my quick exit from the cave. Later I try to remember if I turned the lights off, I can’t. What I remember is the first smell and taste of what I think will be an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. Big, rich, full, elegant, deep, stylish, long-finish, complete, nice, wow!.
2004 Match Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon from Butterdragon Hill.
Cary Gott
June 23, 2005

Just a reminder, I will be pouring our Match Vineyards 2004 Butterdragon Hill Cabernet and the soon-to-be-released 2006 Baconbrook Cabernet from 4-7PM on Friday 7/17/09 at Wine on Piedmont, 4183 Piedmont Avenue (across from the Piedmont Theatre) in Oakland, 510-595-9463. Your $5 tasting fee will be donated to the Alameda County Food Bank.

Yesterday we bottled 584 cases of our 2007 Match Vineyards Butterdragon Hill. This was the first time we’ve used a mobile bottling line. There are always a few false starts on bottling day as everything gets set “just right” but I was very impressed by the mobile line crew and the Bin to Bottle staff in support. By the way, this ’07 Butterdragon is going to be killer!

The whole bottling line is inside this small trailer.

Final bottling count breakdown:
1122 x 6 packs 750 ml
24 x 23 packs 375 ml
9 x 6 packs of 1.5L
4 x 3.0L

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