The 2011 growing season was one of the coolest in memory and we were looking forward to an exceptional crop. Then the rain started. Many late-ripening varieties and vineyards in cooler regions succumbed to rot, but we got everything in before it was ruined. The whites (Chasselas and French Colombard) were picked during the first week of October. The fruit was clean and at 21 brix perfect for our style of wine. The alcohols ended up around 12 per cent with a good acid balance. We had to hustle to get the Carignane, Zinfandel and Valdiguie picked after the first signs of botrytis appeared. The sugars came in around 22 brix so they won't be flabby wines. Ed Johnson picked his Grenache in Potter Valley at the same ripeness and it should be a terrific wine.
Now it gets weird. I was offered Mourvedre from Napa's Mt. Veeder appellation in November and I wondered what kind of shape it was in. When I first walked through the biodynamically farmed vineyard I was amazed at the quality of the fruit. No rot, while half the Chardonnay in Sonoma County had turned to mush a full month earlier. I ended up taking the Counoise from that ranch as well. The higher sugars and lower acids will blend extremely well with the Carignane and Grenache.
Last and probably best was the Grenache I picked in McDowell Valley as late as December 8th. This is unprecedented. I was talking to Bill Crawford after Thanksgiving and wondered if his second crop was still viable after the rains quit and left us with a long stretch of dry weather and no frosts. he said I was welcome to it and I found that the Syrah was shot but the old vine Grenache was 25 brix and clean. harvesting the small clusters of leftovers was time-consuming but the quality was worth it. Better than the first crop. 92 year old vines. Made a small batch of Rose and I can't stop drinking it myself. Looking forward to the finished Red wine.
Over the last few years, Bill has devoted some money and many hours to bringing some neglected Sonoma County vineyards back from the brink.
It started in 2008 when he took over the management of Mercedes Soto's one acre of Merlot in Dry Creek Valley.
In 2009, Bill began a rehab project on six acres of Chasselas owned by the Raffaini family on Eastside Road and started helping Ray Davilla with his small mixed vineyard near Chianti Road.
2010 saw the addition of two more projects; a tiny Dry Creek Zinfandel vineyard and an old patch of French Colombard in the Chalk Hill district of the Russian River Valley.
This year Bill will personally farm about half the grapes that he will eventually turn into wine. In a world filled with highly processed products, these are wines that receive the personal touch of one person from pruning the vines through filling and labeling the bottles.
After leaving home at 18 and before becoming a winemaker, Bill Wertzberger was a medic with the U.S. Army, spent 18 years on the floor of the Pacific Stock Exchange, and held part-time gigs as an insurance examiner, handyman and wine store clerk. He is alternately funny, clever, goofy, and inspired, and stubborn enough to insist on performing every step involved in producing his wines, from pruning vines to pasting on labels.
Bill loves grilled German sausage, lasagna, pork chops and wild mushrooms. His travels have taken him from the South Island of New Zealand to the South Face of Annapurna to the southern reaches of the Sahara to the South Side of Chicago. He is a Neil Young look alike, and may be found listening to Jimmy Reed, Jerry Reed or Lou Reed while painting the oils used for his wine labels. Some call him a renaissance man, but back in his native Iowa, he is what they refer to as a "character".
People in Sonoma County, however, say that Bill's wines have character. From his deep thinking Cabernet Sauvignon to the fresh and flirty Chasselas, each wine has a personality of its own that it shows off in the glass. This is real wine made by a real person; different from the ocean of monotonous factory-produced offerings and you can taste it in every bottle.