Quite simply, he enjoys drinking and making California fruit and wants his wines to be expressive of that. Not one to mask the grapes into something it's not or try and submit it into something it could never be. He works closely with the families and persons managing the vineyards where he acquires his fruit then works his magic at a local, custom crush facility that's like a toy store for the winemaking kid.
Kent was kind enough to meet me one afternoon for a tasting of his only wines currently bottled and available then barrel sampled a variety of batches currently in the works. We talked about art and its influence on his winemaking process, making the career change, future plans in winemaking and why he's not planning to own a winery any time soon.
You're front label is actually your back label. That is, you feature art on the front label and your logo and wine details are actually on the back. You're probably the only I know that does that...
Exactly. We've got photography, collage, even sculpture. We'll put poems on smaller run bottlings because they don't necessarily, on a shelf, grab attention. When we began this, Colleen, my wife and painter, knew a bunch of artists whose work we liked, but nobody ever got to see it. We thought how can we help them get an audience? And that's why we don't put our logo on the art side-- it's all about the art. We put their names on the back and how to get in touch with them. Roughly a third of the artists have sold reproductions or been offered show space, or commissioned to do originals of the painting on the wine. When we began, we figured-- unknown name, great way to get noticed on a store shelf and would stand out. Now, people come in looking for us so shops started stock them with the back label facing out.
As a small production winery, what are some of the things you're striving to achieve?
To just reach the point where we can hold certain wines back six months longer. There's a business reality that keeps us from doing that immediately. But we're on our way to getting there.
Do you intend to stay small production or are there plans to expand?
We produce about 1800 cases of wine. I'd like to get to maybe, twice that.
You have no formal training despite producing some top-notch wines. Where does your winemaking background originate?
I mean this as an honest answer, not as a flip one. I always tell people I started out with about 17 years of drinking. But the reason I say that, it's a funny answer and yet, I say it in truth. I really got an idea of what I liked most. I got an appreciation through buying wine for many years, cellaring it, sharing it and drinking it with family and friends of the immense variety that could be out there. It just gave me a chance to develop a-- I won't even say a hyper critical palate, but a palate, none the less-- that I had a history with. I started studying the wines I was buying and cellaring. It turns out they were, more often than not, made by people who did not have a degree. That didn't make me think anything less of the degree. It merely pointed out that it didn't seem to be essential to making wines I really liked. I've since worked with a lot of people who do have a degree, and I have immense respect for it. What the degree does is help you understand what's going wrong. It's not something that tells you how to make it the way you want. You have to go through the process and get the hands on experience to be able to do that.
This one industry has all these ancillary businesses supporting it. So even if I were a great chemist, at my small production, I can use a lab like ETS who will have results that in most instances, I would trust more than my own. I still have to read the numbers and every now and then, you get a sketchy one, and you say, "Can you rerun that one to make sure?" But it's very similar to having a mobile bottling line come in. These people bottle wine every day, all year. They know their equipment better than I ever could. If something's not quite dialed in, they know how to tweak it with greater refinement than I ever could. Labs are very reliable in that respect.
But working with other winemakers is the only way I learned how to make wine. Asking way more questions than anybody ever wanted to have to answer.
It's great to have a deeper understanding of the mechanism that's going on. But the amazing part is the deeper you get into the study of what we DO know about wine, the more shocked you are to recognized how much we DON'T know. The debate around bottle shock... it wasn't that long ago that professors at Davis would've denied it existed. We still don't have an understanding to what's causing it in some wines more than others, and some wines, seemingly, not at all. Now, there's consensus that it is a real phenomenon which exists. I'm sure there are more theories than I'm aware of, but we don't have enough understanding to cure it and get rid of it for everybody.
How much influence do you have with the growers to harvest fruit the way you want?
We work with seven vineyards and most of them are small. As long as I'm flexible and good to work with, they usually are, too. I haven't had any issues in terms of when we want to pick, or splitting the pick up into a couple of dates. If you go at it from a cooperative standpoint then people are willing to meet you halfway.
Its more difficult to accommodate a bunch of small buyers than one big buyer. But there are benefits to working with smaller producers. They may be more willing to give you a vineyard designate. They may not try to negotiate as much. The bigger the buyer, the more leverage they yield and the more pressure they may try to exert.
The California wine industry has to recognize that it needs to be a good viable business for everybody. You can't just squeeze your margins out of the growers. Otherwise, there's no incentive to grow good fruit. Besides that, I left the advertising industry so I could work in a field where I got along and where its all about a common goal: producing this good product.
Do you use commercial or native yeasts for primary fermentations?
All our Chardonnay are native yeast fermentations. Sometimes, Syrah too. The best answer is that anytime someone is a proponent of only one thing, I tend to see that as close-minded. Let's explore all of it and find out what we can learn through our own practical experiences. I've recognized that a native yeast fermentation can be very dangerous if you've got must that already presents a lot of challenges. If a native yeast fermentation begins and everything seems healthy then, sometimes, I'll just let that go and figure that wine will be a lower alcohol wine. Or maybe, the vineyard has a history of doing beautifully with native fermentation. Nobody can tell you whether you're getting the lead yeast in your native fermentation from the vineyard or from the winery. And I think it makes perfect sense that you end up having some of each in there. The question is what dominates and finishes your fermentation. You can't really say.
My biggest fear with native is, ethyl acetate or brett, neither one of which do I like. There are many variations on brett and so you hear people say, "Well, is it good brett or bad brett?" And I would say, in most cases, brett is just unpleasant to me. It robs the wine of something else it would have otherwise. With that said, every now and then, I'll open a wine that has just a hint and it makes it more interesting. I am not a trained organic chemist in any sense so I can't say that I've looked into the different strains of brett. Historically in Napa, people have cultivated it on purpose. But what strain you get and where you find it is unanswerable to me. In general, I would try to prevent it. I don't appreciate it as a characteristic in wine.
Do you play with a wine's chemistry by adding anything to compensate for ripeness or low acid?
Ripe enough is very relative. In the coastal areas, in Freestone for instance, people call it extreme west county. People get nervous about whether it's going to get totally ripe or not, but they're learning how to farm it so it gets ripe enough to make really nice wine most of the time.
I'm not opposed to adjusting the acid level in a wine. If you don't have to, that's even better. It's preferable to have quality fruit that doesn't require it, but it's also preferable to make that adjustment than to not, because the end product is better than to refuse to do it because of dogma. If you have a winemaking philosophy that says, "I do not add acid to my wine," then sometimes you might make a very flabby wine. If you do that in a balanced way, most trained palates would have a very hard time discerning wine when that had been done.
People who are making small production wines are almost entirely about making the wine to their palates and their styles as best they can. I won't complain about any procedure if I believe it's making a better wine.
Ultimately, finding better vineyard sources, being more careful with the farming, choosing your harvest dates wisely. That stands a better chance of making your products better wines, but how great is it that we have the ability to adjust something if it's not coming in perfectly?
Do you work with any enzymes to emphasize the fruit more?
No enzymes. Enzymes are an arena that I haven't delved into because I haven't felt the need to. I try very hard not to be biased against an idea, just because it seems either traditional or new world, manipulative or purist. I try to stay open minded and just explore all of the approaches, because there's something to be learned from all of it.
Enzymes right now just don't seem to be a necessary endeavor. I don't have trouble getting fruit qualities or finding color. I don't care if the Pinot is not as dark as the Syrah. I don't need to add an enzyme to make it black. I think through careful fermentation management, you can get the extraction you're looking for. You can manage the tannins without having to use an enzyme.
That said, I'm not going to condemn somebody for using them. Everybody has to look at their own situation, their own fruit sources, their own practices and decide if that's a good tool or not. At some point, I may discover a great use for one. As of yet, there hasn't been any, and I'm not going to go out and do it just to play with it.
Do you aim to push must to dryness before press?
That depends on the wine. Some wine is all about managing your tannins. There's a block of Syrah that if I leave it until complete dryness, it's going to be a tannic beast so that gets pressed off a little bit earlier. Ironically, with cooler climate Syrah, we do a larger percentage of whole cluster and they're not as tannic. They can stay on the skins a lot longer. With Chardonnay, we press immediately...
But there is no precise formula. It's a lot like cooking. You have to have good ingredients or you can't make a great dish. People don't think about cooking as chemistry, but it is. When you caramelize an onion, you're changing the cell structure. As you study cooking, certain spices can be incredibly flavorful independently. Then you put them together and they cancel each other out. Somebody who is a professional chef doesn't cook by a recipe. It depends how fresh the ingredients are. They'll treat the ingredients differently depending on how they arrive in the kitchen.
That's what we do as winemakers. We have an idea but if you just follow a recipe, sometimes, you'll nail it, and other times you'll grossly miss it.
What's your barrel regime?
I keep trying to experiment with some new ones. But we work with a variety of, probably, six. What you discover is that every cooper has their own seasoning process and their own approach, skill set, method. One person's medium plus is someone else's medium…
We don't move the barrels to a different wine but in higher evolution of the wine, it will be the same set barrel. Whenever it is we decide to do the first blending, whether that's before or after harvest, we'll blend the wine into a tank, take those existing barrels, clean them, get rid of the tar trays, whatever is in the barrel. Then, we'll go back to use those same barrels.
There'll be a certain percentage, some higher, some lower, of new barrels in any lot. Then you learn that one vineyard really enjoys being in a particular kind of barrel, whether it's a cooper or a forest or a toast level. Every now and then, we'll say, "Wow. This new barrel really doesn't agree with this wine." And that won't go into the blend. For the extra barrels that don't make a particular batch, hopefully, you find a home for it in a blend. Like, our Chardonnay doesn't have a vineyard designated right now. I have some leeway, because I'm putting together two blends. So the hope is if it's not a nice component of one, it might be of another. But there's also the bulk wine market, so you can sell there. Sometimes, another producer is happy to take it.
Do you daydream of having property with a gate emblem "E-K" in the center, a barrel room and tasting room perhaps...
Sure. That's a gorgeous idea but I don't want to destroy any illusions. Wine is mysterious, wonderful, romantic and all that, but making wine isn't. It's dirty, hard, and expensive. Land around here is through the roof expensive and you need a sizable amount of capital to start a winery or own a vineyard.
People lament the fact that we'll pay a good chunk of change to the custom crush facility every year. They say, "That's like renting instead of owning. And why rent when you can own? You get to a certain production level and you can cover a mortgage on your own facility.” And while that's true, it's also a little bit simplistic. Because that's not all that's involved. With your own facility, you have to buy your own equipment, take care of that equipment, service that equipment. If you have your own facility, more often than not, you realize you'll need somebody else to help with the facility. You have to hire employees. It's not just the monthly rent payment that we would be giving to a custom crush place. It's everything else involved in being an owner. It doesn't mean I wouldn't ever like to have a facility, but I'm not in any hurry.
I love making wine here. It's a really supportive place. This is an idea center with 20+ other winemakers. You could check in with everybody about frost damage. Or better yet, smoke taint, because of all the fires last year, smoke taint was a relatively new thing. Not a lot of people, if anybody, had had to deal with it. And certainly, the services to help correct it weren't out there in the past so you had everybody putting their heads together. There's a huge amount to be learned that way. Its also fun. In the craziness of harvest, there's great camaraderie. I don't feel like we're competing for the same buyers. In fact, we discover customers through each other. It's not about protecting trade secrets. Everybody figures, "Let's all make the best wine we can. And that's going to be good for all of us."
It's funny you say trade secrets. I think, the general public, when they think about the romance of winemaking and the wine industry as a whole, that there's some “magic wand” that winemakers and wineries try to keep it to themselves. But in reality, there is no magic wand. There's no secret ingredient that's added which takes a wine from quaffable to transcendent, so to speak.
No. I don't think so at all. That gets back to your question about how I got started. I identified that I liked wines coming from Sonoma so I started working to make wines that I'd had a long history of drinking. At least, I had an idea of what I wanted to make. Then, you have to get good fruit. It doesn't really matter how talented you are or lucky you are. If it's not good fruit, it's just going to be average. You hear people say, "The winemaker's job is simply not to mess it up." There's some truth to that. But every time somebody tries to encapsulate the whole of the process in one simple statement, its oversimplified.
As these two Pinots we're tasting clearly indicate, they are the same clone, same soils, same vineyard management. The only difference in the material is about 20 feet of elevation but they're noticeably different wines. That's not just not messing them up. That's deciding-- let's try to enhance certain characteristics of these because, clearly, they lean toward being one style over another. You make a decision to try to either force them to both be the same, pay no attention to the differences at all, or enhance the differences.
Do you have high hopes for Syrah in California?
The feeling on the street, right now, is definitely not. We like the wines, but not so much so that we don't ever want to stop making Syrah. If I were to predict anything, I think, it's going to be a slow road. Syrah can grow just about anywhere and the result is very different, depending on where. You can have an incredibly fruit driven, not even tannic wine. Or you can have a very minerally, smoky, lean, high acids, like northern Rhone that needs tons of time. That's confusing to people. There are other theories about Syrah being a masculine wine or a feminine wine. But I think it's a personal comfort level, and that takes time.
Have you started doing any blending?
None, not even official trials. But when we're in here and a tasting is over, sometimes I can't resist. I say, "Wow. I wonder what that would be like if I just put 60% of that and 40% of that together?" I've done that a couple of times. And it's enough to let me know that it does make a better wine blended than they are separately. But nothing official yet.
What is your blending process? How do you go about it? How long does it take you?
That really depends on the wine, and whether we go through trials. Some years, your first round of trials are thrilling, and some years, you just think, "Boy, we haven't hit it yet."
What I tend to do is rely on help. I come up with the blends that I'm interested in considering. Then I work with Dan (my assistant winemaker) and my wife. Dan is in the winery making wine, and he's got a great palate, but comes at it from a winemaker's point of view. My wife has an amazing palate, but she doesn't make wine. I think it's really great to get both sides. Ultimately I have to decide what the final blend is going to be.
Everyone's palate is different on different days. If I had to only trust myself, I would be a little nervous about it. I'm sure I could do a fair job, but it's great to have different input from people who I know really do have developed palates, but who come from totally different perspectives. One of the dangers for winemakers is to get interested in something that tastes different. They pursue the difference. Somebody like Colleen will remind me that if that's not pleasant to anybody else, then maybe that's not the way to go.
And then my sister, who does our wholesale and distribution, she's developed a really good palate. So if she's around when we're doing it, we'll get her take on it as well. That's all we really need to put together a good blend. Beyond that, it's really great to get somebody who's not even asked to evaluate very often and just say, "Try these two. Which one do you like better?" It may not change how we do the blend, but I think it's valuable. It's great.
Obviously, having the big scores helps push bottles and get exposure, so is there a desire to balance making wine you know will get the big score, versus wine that you like?
That's a hot topic out there right now. I think the most balanced answer has a couple of problems to it. There's a debate about whether winemakers are doing that or not. The answer is yes, clearly they are. I think it's erroneous to say that all of them are. I feel very fortunate in being a small producer. We can find enough buyers for our wines that we don't have to take that approach. But I have all the sympathy in the world for somebody whose job it is to make 50,000 cases of wine and they need it to sell. And the difference between an 88 and a 91 is the difference between that wine selling or not. Do I lament the influence of the scores? Yes. Do I appreciate it when we get good ones? Absolutely. Do I make the wines to get those scores? No. But that is only because we are fortunate enough to sell through our wine without needing to.
It's too simplistic to be down on somebody for taking that approach when its a recognized approach to helping their business succeed, or a necessary component of keeping their job. But it is a reality that everyone has to wrestle with.
When we began, we did not submit our wines for reviews, but we decided that if somebody asked us, we would happily say yes. We submit the wines to anybody who asks to review them and we put all reviews on our website, good and bad. We've got 83s up on our website and we've got 94s up there. When you put them all side by side, it allows people to self select whose palate they're most in tune with. It also makes the point that the same wine tasted at different times by different people can really show itself differently. It depends on what other wines you're tasting it next to, whether you have a cold or not. It depends on a lot of things. But ultimately, the job of wine criticism is to help consumers find something they like.
I like you say your wines are “proudly Californian”. There's a nice little jab in there. You're not trying to be something that you're not. It sounds like you have that approach with winemaking. It's very open and honest.
I'm just most comfortable that way. If we can make wines we like, help people discover them, because it's the kind of wine they like, and we can sell all of it, then we don't need more than that.
I say "proudly Californian" because-- I always have to preface this: I think anybody should be not only allowed but encouraged to pursue making whatever style wine they want to make. I think the battle between what's good wine and bad in terms of new world and old world is very silly. You can have well made wines on both sides of the spectrum.
I sort of chuckle when someone in California says, "I'm making this wine like a Burgundy," because even that individual, when pressed, would have to say, to make a genuine Burgundy, you have to go to Burgundy. You can be influenced by Burgundy. You can strive for a style that you grew to love because you were drinking Burgundies, but you're still making a California wine. If I were in their shoes, I would moderate it and say, "I'm making a California wine, but I'm trying to coax out of it what I enjoy from Burgundy."
I say "proudly Californian" because I'm not trying to fight our sites. They're in California, so they're not going to be 12.9 percent alcohol wines, or even 13.3. People can make California wine that way, and if you find the right sites, you can make gorgeous wines that way. But in Sonoma County, most sites aren't going to produce that without sacrificing something else.
To me, what California does best is emphasize the fruit nature in a wine. We are either blessed or cursed that nine out of ten years, things do get ripe enough and the result there is a certain fruitfulness in the wine, and I'm going to celebrate that. Hopefully, we can make it complex and interesting too, but I'm not going to dumb down that fruit so that it is old world, or whatever label you want to give it. As each vintage progresses, I am more interested in making the best balanced wine I can make, that is typically going to have a lower alcohol to it than a higher. But I'm not on the trajectory of trying to get away from a proudly fruity California wine. I like this.
What are you drinking when you're not drinking your own wine?
Mostly a lot of small local producers. It's almost entirely California. I do enjoy Spanish, Italian, French, some New Zealand wines. But there's a great group of small California producers that I can trade with, I'm happy to support, and I really enjoy their wines. I really like Radio Coteau-- Eric Sussman makes a really nice wine. There's some producers here. I've been on Carlisle's list forever. Hauteur is a small label made here, and Dan, our assistant winemaker, also is assistant winemaker for them.
Do you favor certain varietals over others?
I really like variety so when we do branch out of California, I'm looking at things that aren't as common. But for California wine, I even hesitate to say this, but because we started as such big Cabernet drinkers, I now think we have moved away from that somewhat. That isn't to say that I don't like Cabs but when I first started getting into wine, a great Cab was great wine, and if it wasn't a Cab, it wasn't a great wine. I don't feel that way at all any more. In fact, Cab is now something we have far less frequently than others. But we do drink a lot of Pinot, Chardonnay, and Syrah.
Any plans of your own to venture out into other varietals?
I don't see that happening soon. I can make better Chardonnay, Pinot, and Syrah, so I want to stay focused on making these better wines. As a winemaker, I would love to. I could see eventually doing something else, but I haven't chosen what varietal that would be.
The way it would likely play out would be to get some Grenache or Mouvedra and work that in as part of a Syrah blend. The intention wouldn't be to do a separate bottle of all Grenache or whatever. If a wonderful site comes along and it's too good to pass up then we might consider it. But from a business standpoint, I'd like it if we didn't get past maybe 12 different wines. If we release wines twice a year, then that's six different wines twice a year. From a consumer standpoint, that seems like enough or more than enough already.
Barrel tasting with Kent Humphrey...
Stiling Vineyard Pinot Noir (barrel)
What we'll try first is a Stiling Vineyard Pinot which is on Vine Hill Road, in the middle of Russian River Valley. We work with two blocks of fruit which I try and allow them, or even persuade them, to be noticeably different from each other. This block we're tasting is 20 feet lower in elevation and in a small valley in the vineyard so it harvests almost three weeks later. So when the cool air comes in at night, it pushes all the warm air up the hill. So this is just a cooler site, even though it's the same vineyard.
This 40% whole cluster and came in at around 24, 24½ brix. I try to enhance the earthy, minerally, herbal quality of this block. Then, the hillside blocks that harvests at higher sugars really is just begging to be big and fruity. So I try to let it be. Then, by working with both of them, and encouraging them to be different, I've got pieces to work with for the final blend.
The hillside blocks always have less acidity. When you get to higher brix, it's not uncommon that you're going to see lower natural acidity. This one tends to have pretty decent acidity on its own.
Whole clustered fruit gives you more tannin which doesn't come naturally to Pinot. So a little bit at this stage, I think, is great because there's going to be that structure. The final blend is never going to be a tannic wine, in any respect. But having some in this block, for the structural side of things is really nice.
The hillside blocks harvest three weeks earlier, it's got higher sugars, lower acids, and we only did 10% whole cluster. The aromatics on the lower valley blocks are enhanced and driven by the larger percent of the whole cluster. This one has more weight and is fruitier. They're both nice by themselves but when I put them together, it makes a more complete wine.
Freestone Region Pinot Noir (barrel)
Let's try a couple different regions. This is a couple of vineyards in the Freestone area. If you take Highway 12 out to Bohemian Highway, it's where Bohemian Highway shoots off of Highway 12. It's a much cooler area. This harvests 3-5 weeks later than the Stiling vineyard and has a real signature to the area.
Out in Freestone, quite literally, if you cross the street, you're in Sonoma Coast and it really is more reflective of a coastal wine. This will harvest in late September or even pushing into October. It's still California, and it's still fruity, but it has an herbal component. And, also, sort of a-- I can't stand unnecessarily flowery wine terms-- but there is something to the concept of forest floor. With a mix of moisture, leaves, pine needles that evokes an aggregate-- all these different smells that come together that are recognizable some how. That's something that is just inherent to the site.
I think that area is a fascinating place. Admittedly, it may not be for everybody. It's definitely distinct and I'm very excited to be working with it.
Greywacke Vineyard Syrah (barrel)
California Syrah is just a dark wine. Pretty much, whatever approach you take to making it, it tends to be a darker wine. This is a new vineyard called Greywacke. Greywacke is an element in the soil and it's at a really high elevation. It's actually two Alban clones co fermented. Then we'll taste a 470 clone from the same vineyard harvested the same day. I created this controlled experiment to see if the clones really expressed themselves differently... and they do. They're quite distinct. On the palate, the differences are night and day. It's not quite as heavy. It's a brighter red fruit, instead of a black fruit and a nice spice component to it.
You can enhance a certain spice not with whole clusters, but as these two demonstrate, the Alban really didn't seem to have that characteristic inherently in it. I'm sure I could throw 60 percent whole cluster in there and pay a little bit more of it. That also depends on the conditions during harvest. People talk about stems being ripe or not, or just the fruit. You can actually bite them, taste them. You can see the difference.
Dry Stack Vineyard Syrah (barrel)
Dry Stack Vineyard is cooler site harvest label. This was a 40% whole clusters. But it's remarkably different from the 470 clone in Graywhacky. Some people aren't as immersive of this clone, but I really enjoy it. I think I'm just learning how to work with it. This is just a piece of the blend. It has so much rhubarb. Rhubarb is not, if you've had a rhubarb pie, it's sweet, but that's because you've dumped a whole bunch of sugar into it. It's actually kind of a bitter root that you can enhance a fruit characteristic in it by sweetening it up.
This 877 clone is about two years away from being released. Then I'll probably tell people give it a year after that. This is three years away from being even presentable. It's similar to the Alban from the Graywhacky. The 877's darker than the 470. Less spicy, more dark fruit. When you put these two together, because I've already played around with that, it makes really nice wine.
Dry Creek Valley Syrah Noir (barrel)
This is a monster. It's a piece of a blend, probably no more than 20%. It goes into the Kaylen blend. This is Syrah Noir from Dry Creek Valley. It's warmer up there. I've tried every year to make the wine differently and it just really wants to be a big wine. I haven't been as successful in trying to make it something it isn't. So the approach is to tame it by blending. It gives us a cornerstone for something really bold to start with. Then we add nuance and complexity and pull it back in terms of its mass by blending in 80% of other things. This turned out really well this year but I could never have a glass of it on its own. It would be too much but as the cornerstone of a blend, it's going to be great.
Russian River Chardonnay (bottle)
This will show up in stores in about three weeks. It's shipped out to our club already, but we told everyone, give it six months or so. It will open up much sooner than our Sonoma Coast, which we're holding back for six months. This is three different clones. It's 50% Rude clone from Styling vineyard, 30% Seas, also from Styling vineyard, and 20% Robert Young clone from Windsor Oaks vineyard up in the Chalk Hill area. When we did our blending trials, we did about 18 different blending trials. This one just stood out as having a good balance, but the Rude clone gives it a sort of tropical component, which makes it somewhat unique, not a typical Russian River profile. It needs more apples, pears, a nutty quality maybe, certain mineral component is more typically associated with Russian River. So I like the tropical note that comes in from that clone.
Small Town* Pinot Noir (bottle)
This is the '07 Freestone, which we can't call Freestone. Turns out that Freestone is the name of a town. It is also trademarked in conjunction with wine. That was an honest mistake on our part. We didn't know. Once we were alerted to it, we agreed to call it something else. So the next vintage will be called something else other than Freestone. If you look on our website now, it's called Small Town, because that's what Freestone is.
I would say wait until Thanksgiving at least. Give it nine months. Ideally, give it a year, a year and a half. That said, it's already revealing itself to my taste as a wine I really enjoy. Going back to what we were talking about in terms of that herb and spice and forrest floor that complements the fruit. I find it very strawberry and bay.
One of the things we like to do is through blending and vineyard choice and clonal variety, make each of our Pinots and each of our Chardonnays and each of our Syrahs be identifiably distinct from each other. That's part of the fun of wine. We go to great lengths to have our blends stand out as unique from each other, so much so that invariably, people will say, "Well, now that wine, I really like, and that other one's not my style." There is a stylistic continuity in terms of the wines we make, and I think that's found mostly in the acidity level. I'm not a fan of a wine that is too heavy or too cloying. I'm striving to have a certain acidity in all the wines. It doesn't mean it's the same acidity. There would be that commonality across all the wines, but outside of that, I'm really interested in letting them be as different as they can be. It would be sad if one of them appealed to nobody. But we haven't faced that yet. And obviously we have to like them all. We have to appreciate each. I wouldn't intentionally make a wine I didn't like just to be different.