HERE COMES THE 2016 BRILLIANT!

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Fairhaven pushes ahead with the improved vinitfication of the Brilliant grape!

This wonderful Munson American Hybrid was winner of the Jefferson Cup National Wine Competition last year in Kansas City Mo. during its first appearance since the 1900’s. Fairhaven is producing this grape in a Beaujolais style carbonic masceration with the goal in mind of capturing the amazing fruit sweetness that this very tough hybrid can produce. The whole clusters are then pressed to release only the pure juice of the Brilliant.

For those of you who are following this developmental process you’ll notice the color difference this year. Our vineyard crew made the decision to let the grape hang a full two weeks longer than we did in 2015 and the result was just stunning. We were able transfer some of the wonderful hues that this Heritage demonstrates. These colors are best described as Rose/Peach with a distinct golden highlite.

The wine is just sublime with lilting notes of orange blossom, nectarine, and peach notes wrapped in soft natural sweetness. Served ice cold this wine is of the highest order of light refreshers!

This year marks the second developmental round for four other American Hybrids, so stay tuned to goings-on and the home of the Vine Cranks!

THE 2015 LOMANTO MEETS THE NEW FUSION OAK BARRELS

Fairhaven’s never ending quest to elevate the Lomanto wine to its highest mark continues!

In a major step forward the 2015 has been resting quietly for months in new Cooperage 1912 Fusion barrels. This barrel represents a quantum improvement for the production of Amercan Hybrid wines. Composed of premium oak, this barrel is unique, in that it’s a combination of French and Amercan oak. Specifically, 50% American and 50% French, with 100% French heads.

The 10 years of cellaring experience with the Lomanto has shown us that preserving the amazing fruit character of this sturdy hybrid is critical to the proper varietal expression. Further, the soft floral notes and enhanced vanilla background that American oak affords the wine is critical to proper finishing.

imageBut what happens if we inject a little mystery into the equation? After conferencing with the experts a Cooperage 1912, and selecting the proper toast, we made the decision to include the new Fusion barrel in our program and a few short weeks later the truck pulled up with the new oak.

The French oak has added the missing piece of the puzzle to the equation. The improved mouth feel is silky, and significantly rounder, combined with a subtle spice and smokey character that integrates perfectly into the structure of the wine. All of this resting firmly on the American oak foundation of fruit first makes for a dizzying portrayal of the Lomanto.

The 2015 represents the next step in the Elevage of the Lomanto Hybrid!

 

 

 

 

FAIRHAVEN MAKES HISTORY AT THE JEFFERSON CUP!

THREE GOLD MEDALS AND TWO SILVER!

History was made last week at the Jefferson Cup National Wine Competition by Fairhaven Vineyards. Or perhaps a better way put it might be history was restored at the competition!

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The long, and arduous road to the restoration of the American Hybrid wines to their rightful place in history made giant strides in this difficult competition. Beginning in 2003 Fairhaven had identified a group of cultivars inside this 117 year old treasure house of wine genetics for production of table wines. Much of the early information on these varieties was gleaned from publications so old that some of them, literally, fell apart while the study process moved forward. The materials were written in the period from 1883 to 1918, included newspaper articles, farm reports, grape texts, agricultural circulars, and experiment station reports.

The first four of these terrific historical wines sent shock waves through the entire competition.

The new wines were:

Brilliant: Gold Medal- A marvelous pink grape that produces a delicate white wine with notes of white peach and cantaloupe with a soft floral bouquet.

Nitodal: Gold Medal-Deep and brooding red wine , posing with dark blueberry notes with raspberry underpinnings.

Delicatessan- Gold Medal- Stunning astral purple juice with fresh, wild plum and raspberry notes.

Extra-Silver Medal-Soft pink rose’ captured by free run press. Supple notes of strawberry with layers of cherry and raspberry.

All Smiles!

All Smiles!

 

In the meantime Lomato racked up its second consecutive Silver Medal, clearly showing the tenacity in head to head competition of this superb 1902 variety, bred in Denison Texas. Literally exploding with wild fruit flavor, blueberry notes, a distinctly wild brambly soul, wrapped in an swirling veil of currant and ripe plum, with soft hyacinth notes.

Production levels of these wines will continue to increase with the planting of over 900 vines of these cultivars with many more coming on line next year. We plan to continue on this great endeavor and have targeted 12 more American Hybrid varieties for elevation based on new juice chemistry data.

 

 

 

 

FAIRHAVEN STARTS ANNUAL PRODUCTION OF GERMAN CHRISTMAS WINE

The perfect holiday treat!

The perfect holiday treat!

A MASTERPIECE OF GERMAN WINE STYLE FOR THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTIMAS!

During the month of November Fairhaven transitions the production schedule to the manufacture of its spectacular Gluhwein, a traditional German Christmas wine.Over the last four years the expert winemakers at Fairhaven have refined this centuries old process to a fine art!

Gluhwein may be one of the oldest wine formulas in existence with its origins reaching back to the beginning of the 15th century. The German translation means “glow wine”. A complex spice mix of 21 components is used in the thermal blending of the wine. The spice mix is sourced from a registered German heritage supplier in Munich Germany, thereby assuring the authenticity of the product. The wine is served hot (192 degrees) and delivers a sumptuous palate of mountain herbs, mingling with cherry, cooked plum, with abundant spicy aromas, all built around a lingering strawberry hard candy finish.

One aspect of this wine style is the quality of the base wine. Most European producers select lower grades of red wine for the production base. Fairhaven has instead taken the approach that calls for only the highest grade red wine foundation for this wonderful wine. Our base wine selection, is our premium grade Syrah, sourced from Fairhavens renown North Block.

The wine may be heated by many different methods, including hot water bath, microwave, or saucepan. The key factor in preparing the wine for service is to avoid boiling (to protect the alcohol content), while targeting around 190 degrees (roughly coffee temperature). Garnishes for the wine include, cinnamon sticks, and sliced citris fruits.

Handmade pure concentrate

Handmade pure concentratex

FAIRHAVEN SELLS OAK BARREL ALTERNATIVES!

Premium White Oak Med. Toast

Premium White Oak Med. Toast

Fairhaven has begun marketing a new line of oak barrel alternatives. These high grade, air cured, White Oak chains are hand selected and medium toasted to perfection!

Each chain is made up of 8 sticks cut in our unique diagonal double- cut system that yields up to 50% barrel interior surface area per chain. Perfect for stretching neutral barrels another season.

East Texas White Oak 8 Stick Medium Toast $35.00 ea (shipping extra)

Cherry 8 Stick Chains Untoasted $40.00 (shipping extra)

 

RECORD HARVEST IN 2015!

In a year where many vineyards lost most (or all) of their crop to the excessive rainfall, Fairhaven posted the largest haul of grapes in the six years of commercial production! Most of the credit for this success goes to Fairhaven’s vineyard manager, Miguel Orta, and his determination to protect the crop through the periods of blinding rainfall.

Miguel uncovering the North Lomanto Block

Miguel uncovering the North Lomanto Block

The Lomanto and the other American Hybrids showed their usual durability by producing gigantic clusters that ranged well up toward the 12-14 oz. range on the Lomanto, Albania, and Extra. Totals exceeded the 12 ton range on these varities.

Another pleasant surprise was the amazing production of the Nortons! Katherine’s “Acre of Gold” yielded the biggest crop in the history of the planting!

Hanna all smiles on a really hot morning!

Hanna all smiles on a really hot morning!

Harvest began in earnest on July 24th and concluded with the taking of the Nortons on August 4th.

The really big news is the first high volume harvest of the Heritage American Hybrids including, Brilliant, Extra, Delicatessan, and Nitodal. All of the wines are currently in the final stages of fermentation and are being made ready for the finishing phase of production.

Hand crushing a rare American Hybrid

Hand crushing a rare American Hybrid

Fairhaven salutes the legion of dedicated workers that “toughed it out” through the blazing heat during this period!

 

Here comes the 2015 Lomanto

Here comes the 2015 Lomanto

Miggy and the Lomanto!

Miggy and the Lomanto!

Feeding the crusher

Feeding the crushers

Acre of Gold Nortons

Acre of Gold Nortons

FAIRHAVEN SWEEPS LONESTAR INTERNATIONAL WINE COMPETITION

imageAt midnight on Wednesday the news rolled out that Fairhaven had swept the Lone Star International Wine Competition with 2 Gold Medals for our Lomato Reserve and our Reisling Blend, Blanc du Blanc. That was followed buy 3 Silver medals, two of which were awarded to our Chambourcin Dolce’ and yet another silver for our Lomato Reserve. Rounding out the Silver Medal category was our Aliona semi-sweet Chambouricin.

To complete our clean sweep of this difficult competition, Aliona was awarded a second medal in the Bronze category bringing the medal total to six!

Most importantly, our Reisling/Traminette blend, Blanc du Blanc, was awarded the coveted “Best Varietal” of the Competition!

THE TEXAS WINE GULAG

How Big Retail Is Wrecking The Texas Wine Business

How many times have you gone into a liquor retailer looking for a specific wine and been told “Oh, the reason you can’t find it is because the Texas wines are over there”. Have you noticed, that frequently, “Over there” really means “Back there.”

I have begun to question the reasoning behind store schematics that takes a specific regional wine and (effectively) locks it up, prisoner, to a separate, and frequently, remote section of the retail area. Does a Texas wine section really stimulate sales, or does it guarantee that your product won’t be seen by the majority of wine shoppers?

One recent experience with one of the large Texas retailers points up the problems that Texas wineries face in the crowded wine market.

After, not less than a dozen phone conversations with the wine buyer for the retail establishment that included ridiculous comments made by the buyer about our labeling such as, “I don’t like your labeling” and “You’ll need to change your labels”, this, in spite of the fact that our labels have garnered wide spread praise in the wine world, and have been used as examples of quality labeling at the various grape expos. Meanwhile, amidst all of the label grumbling, you’re  presented with a long list of excuses why the buyer simply doesn’t have the time to sample the products.

Assuming you have the patience and perseverance at a level granted to few mortals, you might end up with that five minutes with the retailer to offer up your wines! In this case, two months later, there we were, working our way thru the maze of the Mega store on the outskirts of Houston. In the treasures you are carrying is a Double Gold Medal Merlot Blend, a World Bronze Medal Texas Heritage Wine, a World Bronze Medal Chambourcin, and two delicious semi-sweet French American Hybrid Wines. Wow! Looks like a slam dunk doesn’t it!

The first warning sign that hits you is the demeanor of the buyer, and his little cubicle office overflowing with reams of computer print outs. Granted, we have some higher end wines that are priced that way for a specific reason, but our French Americans are priced for the retail market right in the middle of the range for most table wines. It took only a couple of seconds for the buyer to attack our pricing, even though it is commensurate with similar wines (both domestic and imported). All the while you are sitting there, there is an almost palpable sense that no matter what your price is, it’s simply too much.

The buyer finally agreed to sell three of the wines, the ones we took a cut of nealy two dollars a bottle on, and rejected the more complex and interesting wines, we were then treated to a tour of the “Texas Wine Section”.  And where was this section? ..ALL THE WAY AT THE BACK OF THE STORE… with cheap liquor on one side and jug wines on the other. The perfect Gulag for your products!

The guided tour was a revealing experience that included addle minded comments from the buyer like “Why don’t you take a red wine and blend it with a white wine and produce something that would be priced around $9 a bottle?” So, it really didn’t matter what it was, after all, just so it was around nine dollars a bottle! Nor did it matter how creative your wines were, or how good of a job they did representing the varietals from which they were made, it somehow had to do with the fact that they were “Texas Wines” and therefore (or so the reasoning goes) are somehow fundamentally inferior. You could safely assume that the retail buyer had never suggested to the California producers that they rush back to their blending bench and whip something up for the “misery market”.

Looking back a few years, Texas wines were, in fact, punctuated by a few truly bad examples of winemaking. And , frankly, those years served to set a nearly indelible image of Texas wines as a second rate product, that, to this day, has consumers bypassing the Texas wines in the marketplace. Acknowledging our checkered past, confronting the problems, and open discussion of the issue has proven to be the key factor in a change for the better. In recent years the trend in quality production has seen overwhelming improvement, with some excellent wines starting to emerge from the various regions in Texas. You would think the time for change has come, right?

If there’s a Texas Cabernet that is on equal footing with, say, some of the better Napa wines, then why not let the Texas wine compete on equal footing? Many retailers are moving away from the “Texas Section” concept to simply grouping wine by varietal types. Promoting Texas wines even in this schematic is easily accomplished by identifying the varietal (or blend) as a Texas product. Simple huh.

But then there’s that troubling thought that looms over this issue. Many retailers use the Texas Section (the Gulag) as a tool to push the smaller wineries into disasterous price concessions and a product placement that leads to poor turnover, that, in turn, leads to yet another round of price cutting. The reasoning stems from a mindset that goes like this, “Oh well, that’s a Texas wine and it goes over there…..and if it’s over there it’s $2.00 cheaper than the wine (same varietal) that’s a couple of isles over.”

It’s especially aggravating to wineries when you’ve lost 35 cents on the dollar on your product, and then, are expected to stand in the retailers store, and pour samples (at your own expense) to promote the product. It’s like expecting the engineers and assembly workers at Boeing Aircraft to stand in DFW promoting their airliners! That’s the job of the retailers like American Airlines, not the manufacturer!

Combine the price cutting, with confiscatory rates charged by the various distributors, and you have an impending storm developing in the Texas wine business that threatens most of the startup wineries in the state, and will only serve to reduce the quality and diversity of the wines in general.

The intent of the Texas Winery Protection Law was to return Texas to its rightful place in wine history. It’s as if the Legislature enacted a carefully crafted law but forgot that greed and averice on the part of Big Retail and the Distribution Tier of the business would have them spending ALL of their spare time trying to figure out how to undermine a well thought out piece of legislation.

A more enlightened approach would be to enact legislation requiring retailers to carry a minimum percentage of Self Distributed wines in return for a reduced sales tax on sales. This method would end up a zero sum game, because the amount of sales tax relief to the retailer would be offset by the increase revenue from the sales of Texas wines and the associated business generated by the Texas wineries.

Texas wineries are constantly bedeviled by a host of regulatory problems that range from onerous reporting rules that, rightfully, are the responsibility of other agencies (outside sales reporting), mountains of ridiculous, antiquated, rules that limit their ability to serve their products to the public, and an (apparently) endless line of agencies (repleat with some real zealots) that seem to attempt to justify their existence by creating more paper work.

If the State of Texas is serious about building this important component of the Texas economy, then it’s time to act to create an environment where the opportunity to grow is assured for all of wineries, not just a few. The issue of aiding the Texas wineries, in an effort to gain more access to the market, is definitely within reach.

RLW

 

 

 

 

 

FAIRHAVEN WINS AGAIN IN WORLD COMPETITION!!

Fairhaven scored a third win in head to head, world competition at the Dallas Tex Som International Wine Competition with a Bronze Medal going to our fabulous Chambourcin Dolce’.

The delicate, and agile Chambourcin Dolce’ (sweet red) glided its way through the 13,000 labels represented at this world-class competition, to find its way to the winners platform. Proof positive that the seductive raspberry notes and the dizzying floral bouquet are hard to resist!

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If it’s free….then it must be worthless!

Let’s face it, the Texas wine business is still having a lot of trouble finding its way along.

One classic example of this that comes to mind is the way many Texas wineries conduct themselves at public pourings. The question to charge for sampling, or not , still plagues the state wide pouring circuit.

If you’ve ever felt that your life was lacking friendship, then let me recommend that you open a winery!

As soon as the magic liquid starts to fill the bottles you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and friendship that appears out of nowhere! Every civic group, charity, promoter, and distributor is suddenly a long lost relative trying to convince you that you need the “exposure” that only they can offer, and you should be glad to supply your product in their pouring environment at little or no charge!

Many folks in the public realm (on the receiving end of the table) have begun to expect the local wineries to simply gush with samplings without a fee for the service. And, there are, indeed, certain environments where that is appropriate, such as charitable events, or small private events. The larger events are something all together different, however. One 750ml bottle will supply 25 reasonably sized samples. In larger crowds, say in the 2-3 thousand and up, it doesn’t take a whole lot imagination to figure out that any respective winery could go broke trying to fuel that kind of gratis volume!

So, many of the wineries have adopted a small uniform charge of around one dollar per one ounce sample to cover the cost of product and the related expenses.

Sound simple enough? Well this where things get a little muddy! A sizeable number of the wineries are owned and operated by independent business persons (and or farmers). If you know anything about either of those two personality types you would also understand that, as a group, they couldn’t decide (with any unformity) on when they should leave a burning building! And this is clearly evidenced when you consider how they conduct themselves at public pourings We just attended a popular Texas event that included a number of Texas wineries as well as the craft beer bunch. The event has historically been a for fee sampling ($1) event. Two of the attending wineries decided that they would give their product away for sampling and hope to make some bottle sales and some BTG sales (by-the-glass). First of all, it’s highly questionable, in a non-wine centered event whether that tact actually generates any sales, or just serves to throw product at a generally disinterested large crowd of non-wine drinkers. Additionally, many wineries try to justify this dubious practice by serving tiny “thimble” sized (usually around a quarter ounce) portions, as if it might actually be possible to taste a product by only hitting the front of the pallet. A tact that may work for the addle minded, sugary, sweet wines, but is useless for the more complex dry wines.

Well then….. what’s wrong with that, you might say? The issue is this, if there are other wineries at the event that are charging, then the free pouring wineries (who we have heard affectionately called “scabs”) foster conflicts at everyone else’s table. Try serving a disgruntled line of customers, say a couple of thousand long, and see how your day goes!

A significant number of Texas wineries are, in fact, shoestring operations that depend on every dime of income just to stay alive. That would include covering the cost of statewide travel expense, the cost of motels, and food. The small sampling fees are not the income center for any of these worthwhile wineries, but do serve the vital function of deferring the cost of operation.

There are two groups (with widely divergent interests) involved in this process of elevating the Texas wine business from its embryonic stage to maturity. One group is the wineries themselves, and the other is the consumer.

The wineries simply must act in unison to preserve all aspects of the business. This would include fostering the fundamental respect in the market for the value of the product as well as preserving a chance for the fledgling wineries to stay alive long enough to make a difference. The other group is the consumers themselves. I think it’s safe to say that we all want a thriving Texas wine business. And realistically this is the age of the $1.40 pack of chewing gum. Is it really such an affront to pay $1.00 for for a sizable sample of a product that is the result of hundreds of hours of loving devotion, the very life of the wine winemaker and the vineyard workers? Or consider the fee schedule of any of the Dallas wine bars, say for a blend like Gerard’s Artistry, at $18 an ounce. Ever tried getting a free sample at Cork Wine Bar, or Cru? You won’t get one.

To the wineries that show up at the fee based sampling events and then insist on undermining the event for everyone else by dumping their product as free samples, I would ask them what purpose they think they might be serving? It certainly isn’t the promotion of the Texas wine business and the level of respect it is due, or helping to assure the diversity of industry.

You can only assume that they are hell bent, in an all out race to the bottom. If that’s where they have determined that they want to be…… don’t expect everyone else in the business to want to follow them.

RLW
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