Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2007 Lillian - Release Alert

Well, I am a litte late to the game in posting this, but better late than never.  As I have said before, and I will say again, Lillian is one of my much anticipated releases throughout the year that cannot be missed.

Lillian was started by Manfred Krankl's protege, Maggie Harrison, who workd as Manfred's assistant winemaker for many years.  It turns out that Maggie grew up in Barrington, IL, the same town that I grew up in, and those two elements have always brought great interest to me and Maggie's wines.  Needless to say, we have truly enjoyed her wines, and we still have a few of each in our cellar going back to her 2004 release.  In seeing this release, I once again placed my order, and we look forward to these in the years to come.

One thing to note is that these wines are not for the faint at heart, and they definitely benefit from aging time in the cellar.  We still have two magnums left of her 2004, and we have yet to touch our 2005's or 2006's.  I did however source a 2006 when we were home in Barrington for Christmas from my good friend Craig's wine shop in Arlington Heights, Grand Cru Wine Merchants.  the '06 was still very tight, but it opened up nicely, and showed that the structure of this wine is going to be incredible in another 3-5 years.  I guess we'l all find out when that time comes and I am writing my review for it.  I hope to open a 2005 sometime this fall.

So all of that said, below is Maggie's release letter, and it is always a joy to receive an e-mail from Maggie, especially when it is to announce one of her releases!  I ordered ours last night!  Feel free to read it below, and be sure to sign up for her mailing list!  Also be sure to check out her Willamette Valley pinot noir on the Antica Terra label!  It too is another winner!  Cheers!  -F. Scott

Dear F. Scott:

I have a couple of stories to share with you. One tale of virtue, another of sin…and the unlikely way that I benefited from both.

The Virtue of Charity

Most of you are familiar with Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Maria, California. The vineyard traces its roots back to the year 1837 when a Spanish land grant of some two square leagues was made to the ancestors of one of the current directors of the vineyard. Today, Bien Nacido Vineyards is one of the most storied in the state. With over 600 acres under vine, the fruit from this vineyard has contributed to some of the most sought after wines in California. In 2005, the folks at Bien Nacido decided that it was finally time to consider planting the perfectly located, south-facing hillsides that overlooked the property. Instead of first planting the blocks and then, three years later, seeking buyers for the fruit; they decided to reach out to a small handful of the best winemakers on the central coast and offer to plant those blocks specifically for them. With my first, tiny vintage still in barrel, it goes without saying that I was not one of the few to whom a block was proffered. My mentors, however, were. The day that M drove out to the vineyard to take a look at the little block that had been earmarked for him, he generously invited me to tag along. For two hours in the car, we spoke excitedly about the prospects of this new planting. We debated the virtues of different clones and rootstocks, of vine densities and varietals. Once at the vineyard, I was surprised to be greeted by the director of the vineyard, who is infamous for being more elusive than the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. The three of us spent the next few hours walking the hillsides, digging in the soil, drawing sketches of the aspect, taking notes on the terrain and imagining the eventual layout of the vines. Back in the parking lot, I was barely paying attention as the two of them talked. I was feeling a little melancholy because I would never have the chance to see what this block would produce as I would be leaving my job at the end of the year. I was thinking that I would have to make sure to visit the cellar in four years to see how things had turned out when I overheard M say, “this block is going to be amazing…now what do we need to do to secure this for Maggie?” I was stunned. Even as I retell this story to you, I am again astonished and humbled by the kindness and generosity that now allows me to call that 2.14-acre hillside block my own.

Planted in 2006, to my specs, I harvested the first fruit from this block last year. However, because I was so incredibly excited about the Bien Nacido fruit (and, I admit, because I’m such a relentless pest) I was able to start working with just a tiny bit of syrah from one of the oldest existing vineyard blocks starting in 2006. All of the Bien Nacido fruit I harvested in 2006 found it’s way into the 2006 Blue Label and makes up one-fifth of that year’s cuvée. The 2007 syrah is deepened and made more complex by an 11.8% addition of this beautiful fruit. I will look forward to sharing with you the result of one man’s wild generosity with the release of the 2009 syrah in a few years.

The Sin of Pride

Many of you are familiar with my winemaking wizard of a friend, Sashi Moorman. Wickedly funny, insanely talented and incredibly generous, he became one of Michael’s and my closest friends when we moved to California. With an incredible depth of knowledge about wine and a palate similar to mine, it was at Sashi’s table that I tasted some of the wines that proved so formative in my own winemaking. He is an incredibly talented cook and it was in his kitchen that I learned to roll pasta, to grill squab in the fireplace, to make my first foie gras terrine. Sashi and I have walked a similar path. Neither of us had any formal training in winemaking. He was the assistant winemaker at the Ojai Vineyard when I was the assistant at SQN. He started his own tiny syrah project a year before I started Lillian. He became the winemaker for a pinot noir project (with vineyards in Oregon) the year before I started making wine for Antica Terra. He had his first child six months before I had mine. We share many things…including, shamefully, a competitive streak a mile wide. With all of our similarities neither of us could ever definitively claim the title as the better winemaker. One of us might receive a better score from a critic or have more success selling our wines but neither of these seemed a fair measuring stick for our winemaking prowess. There were too many other variables. Finally in 2006, Sashi decided to level the playing field. He made a deal with me that I could come to his vineyard and choose any fruit that I wanted. Even if it was fruit that he had earmarked for his top cuvée, I could pull one small fermenter’s worth. He allowed me to visit the vineyard as much as I wanted, sample as many lots as I liked and change my mind as frequently as necessary. It was a deal I couldn’t refuse! The syrah at Stolpman Vineyard is some of the most beautifully raised and thoughtfully farmed fruit on the central coast. This allowed me to work with undeniably superlative fruit while at the same time allowing us to finally have a true point of comparison in our respective cellars. I guess we both thought that since we each have projects on the central coast of California and in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, we would have ample opportunity to visit one another and taste through each other’s cellars. But somehow real life intervened. With vineyards and barrels and children to care for, we somehow just haven’t found the time to settle the score. I adore working with the tiny bit of Stolpman syrah that I’m allowed to harvest (and secretly know that Sashi is the better winemaker) but I’m hoping that our lives will continue to keep us busy enough that he’ll never find out. You can let me know if our petty competition spoiled the soup when you taste either of this year’s offerings. Twenty-percent of the 2006 Blue Label owes its lofty aromatics to the addition of the Stolpman syrah and the 2007 syrah is elevated by a 9.6% addition of the same.

I am incredibly excited about both of these wines. As delighted as I’ve been with the wines I’ve made from White Hawk alone, I think the introduction of both Bien Nacido and Stolpman has helped me make wines of greater complexity, balance and charm. For those of you who don’t feel like digging back through all my blathering to work out the final blends on this years wines, it looks like this: The 2006 Blue Label syrah is born of 60% White Hawk Vineyard syrah and 20% each, Bien Nacido and Stolpman. It spent 33 months in 100% new French oak and has been resting in our chilly cellar since we bottled it in August of last year. Once again, with 69 cases and 99 magnums bottled, there is not very much of this stuff to go around…I’m sorry. If you find that you haven’t been allocated some of the Blue Label but would like to try it, please add it to your “wish list” when you place your order. I will do my best to get the wine to as many of you as I can. Made in greater, although still pathetically puny amounts, (452 cases, 118 magnums and 9 double magnums) the 2007 syrah is a blend of 78.6% White Hawk Vineyard, 9.6% Stolpman Vineyard and 11.8% Bien Nacido Vineyard syrah. It spent 21 months in 82.4% new French oak and was also bottled at the end of last summer.

You may view your allocation and, if you’re curious to see what a dollop of virtue and a splash of sin have done to the Lillian wines, place an order by clicking on the link at the top of this page. The wines allocated to you will be available until July 28th. After that time, I will offer any unclaimed wine to the next folks on the waiting list. And please, if you have any trouble with or questions about our brand-spanking new (finally!) e-commerce system, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at

Being that patience is one of the seven heavenly virtues and sloth one of the seven deadly sins, the fact that I am just now –in July- sitting down to type out this little missive makes you incredibly virtuous and me…well, nothing more than a common miscreant. Thank you once again for your patience and for your incredibly generous support of my project…a sinner like me doesn’t really deserve it.



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