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John Susi
December 2, 2014 | John Susi

Re-Romancing The Merlot!

Well here we go; I'm sure I will raise a few eyebrows on this one. Merlot is one of the grand grape varieties we have grown to know, love and enjoy......and take for granted, get bored with and eventually have it become generic! PLEASE STOP THE PAIN! A proud grape it has served in the background for a long time be a part of a group of grapes that have become the fantastic wines of Bordeaux. But then the humble Merlot found favor of a few winemakers that worked the vines and created the wines that made Merlot a cultural phenomenon. The Merlot blew up in the 80's and it surpassed all other wines in its class as far as popularity and related sales. As often happens with things that are popular, they become over exposed and over worked in the market place. The effect is felt all the way down the line, to the vineyards. Growers rush time lines, over water or they over crop the vineyards (too many tons per acre). All of this results in weak, substandard fruit with low grade flavor. And what happens when you make wine from poor fruit ?....?....You get wine with no mouth feel, low flavor profile, flabby, nothing exciting. Oh well, why bother!

All of that being said, I am here to tell you that things are going to change. It's all about the fruit, the best of the Merlot fruit that can be found.  And this is it, the best we have found in many years and it's ready to be bottled. Big full-bodied Reserve Merlot, one aged in French oak, one aged in American oak. To Merlot with mouth feel that gives you that velvet flow across your tongue. Both with a unique spiciness unto them selves that leads you down a path of dark chocolate, but with the sense of earthiness and peppercorns and spice. Very reminiscent of the Merlot from France and California in the late 60s and early 70s before the boom of their popularity. This is the Merlot you've been waiting for. Taking the time to find the right grapes and giving that fruit your full winemaking attention produces an exceptional wine that sets itself apart from all others.
You can be a part of Re-Romancing the Merlot.  Both of these Merlots are scheduled to be bottled by the end of this year and I'm extremely excited to have you experience them. If you're planning to come to the winery to taste our new Reserve Merlot please give us a call to be sure that they're ready, we'd love to see you.
Have a wonderful holiday season, please enjoy responsibly, we'd love to see you again.
John Susi


Time Posted: Dec 2, 2014 at 11:42 AM
John Susi
November 4, 2014 | John Susi

So, What's In A Name?

Recently while attending a wine festival at Rippavilla Plantation, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of Tennessee's more hardy wine enthusiasts. Braving stormy sky's and strong cold winds, bundled up like Eskimo's, and holding glasses of wine from any of a dozen attending Tennessee wineries. The conversation came around to the names given to wine and grapes as well. Is it a varietal name or a fanciful name, who knew? After decades of hearing a name in use it's hard to tell. The subject of Cabernet Sauvignon came up and of course.....I had to put in my two cents worth !

I didn't feel to bad about speaking up because as it turned out someone I have known since 1990, led the team that discovered the grapes true origins in 1996 using DNA typing. Dr. Carole Meredith and the UC Davis department of Viticulture and Enology.

The DNA evidence determined that Cabernet Sauvignon was the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc and was most likely a chance crossing that occurred in the 17th century. Prior to this discovery, this origin had been suspected from the similarity of the grapes' names and the fact that Cabernet Sauvignon shares similar aromas with both grapes. A deep currant jammy-ness with a touch of pencil shavings of the Cabernet Franc and the grassiness of the Sauvignon Blanc.

So how did this happen? We are talking old school winemaking and grape growing after all. As a winery we go to commercial vineyards and buy vines that are two year old starts, 24 - 30 inches long. Back in the day they started with wild seedlings. Countless new and unusual strains came into being from un-controlled cross pollination and mutation.

Petite Vidure was one of the names given to the vines that were to become Cab Sauv. The period when the name Cabernet Sauvignon became more prevalent over Petite Vidure is not certain, records indicate that the grape was the most popular Bordeaux plantings in the 18th century. One of the first estates known to have actively grown the variety and the likely source for Cabernet vines and the common use of the Cab Sauv name was Château Mouton.

When you get down to it we know of about 8000-10,000 varieties of grapes with 200-300 of those making the best of world class wines. With the advent of DNA typing we are finding more all the time, plus all that we intentionally create. It looks like we are going to have lots of wine to learn about for century's to come. So the next time you wonder what's in a name, be careful. You may get a history lesson!

Living life is the only way to really be alive !

John Susi

Time Posted: Nov 4, 2014 at 9:20 PM
John Susi
October 1, 2014 | John Susi

A Question of Balance

After returning from a trip to California I found myself thinking about a few of the wine shops I had stopped into. Some very quaint and non threatening, other's running deep in wines you have never heard of with a stuffy wine snob that cant believe you missed this hot one! Then some just flat scared me to death and I ran for cover. Finally I ventured into a place that right away let me know this wasn't Tennessee any more Toto ! As my head snapped around my body went with it and I became dizzy. Taking in a visual snapshot as I went around and then.....I found a vision, a store map! How can I do this I ask, my other self say's stop whining and get walking.

So off I go, the first thing is the very finest of collectable wines, it made my wallet wince a bit. Moving on I am surrounded by 8000 choices of wine (yes, 8000 !) laid out by varietal and country. Not just a few choices but 10,500 of them including the very finest. My head is spinning again ! I make it to the back corner of the store and I find myself out side of a small classroom, it's able to close the doors and hold a private educational seminar, wine, spirits, beers and even the art of fine cigars. How cool is that, really getting to know the how what where and why of your favorite beverage.

I turn the corner and across the back wall. Half way I look to the right and in the center of the store is a wine tasting bar, very cool and large and able to accommodate a large group of folks. It's always great to taste and find what you like before purchasing. Making my way to the opposite corner I am surrounded by the brew! Lot's of brew, like 3000 kinds of beer. Organized by style and country, seasonal beers and you can even build your own six pack or case. If you cant find it here you just don't like beer ! As I swim that foamy river of hops and barley I come ashore in the cigar emporium, a LARGE walk-in humidor. My first apartment was smaller than this humidor. Now, I don't smoke but the smell of fine tobacco rolled and crafted into stogies takes me back to my Italian Grandfather, my uncles and a finer time in the past.

Moving away from cigars I venture into the world of spirits. 3,500 kinds of spirit. Remember not only am I winemaker, but a trained distiller as well, I am very impressed! Outrageous single malts, Some older than old and smooth as babies' face. Every kind of vodka, rum gin tequila that you could ask for. Never in my life have I seen such a collection of brands and styles, from the rarest to the more pedestrian.

By now I have seen more beverages than I can process, my feet are starting to hurt, I've been walking around in here for two hours! I've seen side places and grotto's containing all types of glasses, opener's chillers, gasses and so much more. But what I found next really got ! Not just a box of crackers and a hunk of cheese, but real live gourmet meats cheeses, fish, pickled veggie's, artisan breads and chocolate's.....oh my.... the list was endless. All kept in the proper coolers and ready to help me indulge in the finest things life has to offer. Oh yes, one more thing. They even print a catalog with every item listed in it. You can call in your order or send it on line. Then show up and your order is ready.

Now, I've returned back home to Tennessee and I suppose I miss the shear volume of choices that the California super store had, no not really. Maybe I realized I never needed all those choices, nor the two hour walk to find my way around. I just want what I like. My favorite haunt's around town are just fine with me. Walk in, get what you want, talk to some new folks and some others you know. It's really about a sense of community, communicating with others feeling like your apart of this place called Tennessee.

So, I will remember to slow down and enjoy this life and all that is Tennessee!
It all just a Question of Balance.

John Susi

Time Posted: Oct 1, 2014 at 9:24 PM