Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ordering Lineage

We have received a large number of Orders for our new wine as well as a number of questions. To place an Order for Lineage fill out the Invitation form that was mailed to you and fax to 925-373-6324.  You will receive a confirmation letter shortly after we receive your order.

Thank you very much for your support. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Evolution's the Thing

Back when my dad started selling wine, there were only a handful of premium wineries in California, and the only model for world-class Cabernet was the wine from Bordeaux. Those wines were significantly lower in alcohol and less fruit-filled than their California counterparts. They were also very tannic, nearly undrinkable wines when they were young.

The concept of laying Cabernet down before you drank it and for ascribing inherent quality to a wine that can (or needs to) age before it is drunk is directly related to the Bordeaux experience. California wineries trying to make exceptional Cabernet emulated Bordeaux even when the viticultural conditions in their home state blessed them with a completely different kind of wine.

To my mind, the biggest, brawniest Cab in the room is not the prettiest pig at the Fair. Often, these huge monsters are so out of balance that by the time the tannins have softened with age, the piddling fruit that had started the journey was long gone when the wine was finally opened.

I love big, BALANCED wines. Cabernet is a grape that has tannin, and even more tannin is imparted to the wine when it is aged in newer barrels. Cabernet shouldn't apologize for having structure, but it also shouldn't haughtily beat its chest for having way more tannin than the rest of its constituent parts can elegantly support.

All wines will age. Tannins will soften out. Some wines will, no doubt, age better than others. What is important is not the wine's ability to age, it is the wine's ability to evolve into something worth waiting for. Great wines give you something substantially new each time you drink them...some new palette of secondary aromas, the dramatic debut of a heretofore shy mix of flavors, the effortless marriage of fruit, wood, and structure.

Great wines are like great books. No matter how long or short, each time you open them they always have something new to teach.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What's Art Got to Do With It?

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin defines an artist as one who changes an audience's perception of the status quo. The medium doesn't matter; the message doesn't even matter. The artist uses his "paintbrush" to re-envision, to re-create reality.

Winemaking is certainly a be really good at it requires time, experience, passion, diligence, luck, great fruit, a vision. Is winemaking art?

Using Godin's definition, the act of winemaking is the canvas or the paintbrush or the marble...if there is art, it is in the ability of that wine to change the winedrinker's perception of quality...quality of the winemaker or quality of the appellation.

There are as many definitions of art as there are people. Art or not, Lineage is meant to change perceptions. This wine is meant, in part, to show wine lovers that the Livermore Valley is a special winegrowing place, and that it's lack of success up to this point is simply a failure of imagination, not a failure of appellation.

Friday, February 12, 2010


I just finished Malcom Gladwell's wonderful book, What the Dog Saw, and one of the essays underscored a thought I was having about Lineage. Gladwell was describing his conversation with a playwright who had used some of his material, without attribution, for one of her plays. His immediate outrage at the act of plagiarism, upon reflection, turned to very thoughtful discourse about how the concept of plagiarism can change depending upon the way the work is used or what it becomes.

Gladwell wrote that though the playwright used roughly 650 words worth of phrases from his work, the way she used them was so wonderfully different that the phrases became just simple bricks in a beautiful edifice. What became important to Gladwell was the difference between something that was transformative and something merely derivative. 

While plagiarism doesn't exist in the wine world, there is no lack of "me-too"-ism especially in regard to the production of ultra-luxury wines like Lineage. The mission for me is the same thing that became acceptable for Gladwell...I am out to transform the idea of the Livermore Valley from a quaint, average-quality wine region to one that can compete with and be compared to any great region in the world.

To be certain, the best Bordeaux blends from California owe their inspiration to those from France. But, the similarity between French and California blends ends at the grapes used to make the wines. In the same vein, Lineage will be different from the blends made in other parts of California. It will have its own structure, its own way of expressing the intricacies of five different grapes. And, in my opinion, it is in those differences that the greatness of wine lives.  


Monday, February 8, 2010

If I Didn't Have Uncertainty, I'd Have No Certainty At All

One of the things that has always fascinated me about wine is how each contact point with it is an entirely new experience. When I am tasting through a specific lot of wine to determine which (if any) barrels are of great-enough quality to be included in Lineage not only is each barrel unique within the context of that lot, but also those barrels change dramatically from one tasting to the next. What seems like the right blend in April may not be quite good enough 6 months later.

It took me 18 months to be really satisfied with the inaugural vintage of Lineage - 2007. I thought I had the blend nailed...then found out after tasting a mock-up of it over the course of several days that one element was just a little too conspicuous. I did get it later, though.

I'm going through this wonderfully unnerving period of uncertainty again now. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been tasting through all of the 2008 vintage lots of Cabernet and Bordeaux varieties to finalize the next Lineage. I have been through the Cabs four times now since post-malolactic fermentation in March 2009 and have seen beautiful growth in the wines. (Recent tasting notes can be found here.)

I have gotten to the point in which I know what clones (and which percentages of each) will make up the base for Lineage. Now comes the layering of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, and Malbec on top of the Cabernet to create the sense of complexity and age-worthiness that this wine must have.

The wines change in barrel; they change in bottle; they change in the cellar; they change just standing around, and from the top of the glass to the bottom. Even though the change is constant (and mostly for the better!) there comes a time when I have to say..."This is it! This is Lineage!" 2008 is nearly there. (Become a fan of Lineage's Facebook Page for more insight)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Starting Small...Only the Best Make the Final Cut

Though the Lineage Wine Company will release just one wine, I cull through about 100 others to get down to the very best. I look at each barrel of wine - even if it is only one of 15 barrels from the same lot of Cabernet, for instance - as a separate entity.

The wine in each barrel is ultimately "colored" by its time in that container...some barrels impart more toasty wood than others, more chocolate or graphite or cedar. Even barrels from the same cooper, forest, and toast level can taste dramatically different.

In making the final blend of 2007 Lineage, only 5 barrels made the final cut. As you can see from the detail on our label, those five barrels yielded 1193 Bottles, 60 Magnums, 10 Double-Magnums, and 10 Five Liters, less than 120 cases total.

No matter how many cases Lineage Wine Company may produce in the future, you can be sure that they will be the best cases that we can produce.    

Monday, February 1, 2010

One Line

"...touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world."
-Look Homeward, Angel

Sometimes you find what you are looking for; sometimes it finds you. Had a nurseyman from France not been late to the gold rush; and had he not found the sublime fecundity of the Santa Clara Valley; had his daughter not married another Frenchman and had a son before that first husband's early death; had that great grandfather not felt the green tug of the earth too, and not had two sons who had four others who made a premium brand in the antediluvian days of the California wine business; and had one of them not had a son who crossed the country to the big cities to grow up and then recrossed it, feeling the same beat of the asphalt under the verdant carpet of Livermore Valley vineyard; if all, or even a single one of these things, had not spooled out the way they did, there would be no chance for this Lineage.

Lineage - the wine - is a mission, a challenge, and an idea. Nothing like it has ever been attempted from our growing area. It is our mission, challenge, and idea to show that this is so because of a failure of imagination not a failure of appellation.

Whether the forebears knew it or not, Lineage began with them. It is up to this generation to bring it to the larger world. Join our Mailing List to take the journey with us.