Get the Dirt about Frostwatch Vineyards from owner Diane Kleinecke

23 May

FrostwatchBrett1. What was your first vintage year? 2002

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? We have made up to 1,500 cases per year but more recently we are closer to 600.

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? We do not have a tasting room but will taste visitors by appointment, either at the vineyard or the production facility.

4. If not you, who is your winemaker? Our winemaker is my husband Brett Raven.

5. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? We were inspired by the 1976 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de LaTour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, we shared while in college at UC Davis.

6. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? We work with several varietals: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Noir and Merlot. We love each varietal, but if pressed to pick a favorite, it would be Chardonnay.


7. What vineyards do you source from? If Estate, why do you choose your location? We source all our fruit from Frostwatch Vineyard, our Bennett Valley vineyard that we planted in 1997. We chose the property after searching out various locations in Napa, Mendocino and Sonoma counties. We concluded Bennett Valley was an optimum site for Merlot and Chardonnay because of its soils and climate.

FrtostwatchBud8. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? We use French Oak barrels, primarily from the Jupilles and Vosges forests. We prefer those forests because they impart subtle, nuanced oak accents.

9. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? Bennett Valley in Sonoma County is a perfect growing area for our varietals. The cool climate and shallower soils help grow grapes with long hang time and great complexity and intensity.

10. What’s the story behind your winery name / label? The Frostwatch name was inspired when Brett was sitting on his four wheeler at 2:00 am, watching the temperatures drop and trying to decide when to turn on the frost protection. It was a beautiful moonlit evening, still and calm, but very cold. Brett thought to himself “what am I doing out here?” (It had been a very long frost season that year). He further concluded “I’m on frostwatch.” Frostwatch is a contraction of the term frost watch sometimes used by weather forecasters to warn of low temperatures that might injure crops. He ran the name by me and we concluded it would make a good vineyard and winery name. Our vineyard experiences some of the coldest nights in Sonoma and Napa counties.

FrostwatchBottle11. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? We wish we had known that the future would hold such a proliferation of wine brands, which would make it more difficult for our message of high quality and attention to detail, to be heard.

12. Most importantly, what’s so great about being small? What can you do as a small winemaker, that wouldn’t be possible for larger wineries? You can give personal attention to every detail of grape growing and winemaking. Brett is the vineyard manager (responsible for canopy management, frost protection, irrigation, fertigation, tractor driving, pest and disease control). Brett is also the winemaker and cellar worker—he does all the work on the wines from harvest to bottling. Larger operations involve a lot of delegation of duties that require paid (and sometimes transitional) employees to complete the tasks, hopefully to the best of their abilities. Being small allows the owner to complete these tasks personally, with the accumulated experience of many years with the vineyard and its grapes.

13. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? As consolidation continues among the large brands, the need for small lot, quality crafted small lots will continue to grow. However, price competition from the large producers will require small lot producers to differentiate their more carefully crafted goods in order to compete successfully.

14. If you could choose another wine region to work in what would it be? We are very happy with Bennett Valley in Sonoma County, but if forced to go somewhere else, we would probably like to grow Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Anderson Valley.

For more information about Frostwatch Vineyard, please visit their website.

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