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News from Greenwood Ridge

 

The wine business is famous for hyperbole: "Best vintage ever!," "Gold medal winner!" and "Praised by the wine gods!" are a few of the things you'll hear. At Greenwood Ridge Vineyards we don't have to give in to the hype. As one of the pioneering wineries in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley, we're content with simply producing tasty wines, year in and year out. Okay, we've become a bit cynical, too, but it's only because we've been here long enough to see wine industry trends come and go, and come back around again.

 

One thing that doesn't change is the continuing quest to make great wine, whether it's the "vintage of the century" or not. And regardless of what Hollywood has to say. We must be the only winery selling Merlot as fast as Pinot Noir after the movie Sideways. It's got to be a tribute to our independent-thinking customers as well as to our outstanding 2001 Merlot, because I know it's not an insult to our highly regarded 2002 Pinot Noir!

 

We are finally leaving the paper age and embracing internet technology, hopefully saving a few trees in the process. We are discontinuing the paper version of this newsletter in favor of email communications.

 

While Greenwood Ridge Vineyards was an early winery pioneer in Mendocino County, our wine industry roots go back much further than our 1980 founding date. My great-grandfather, Ferdinand A. Haber, was influential in introducing California wines to the world when he worked for Inglenook Winery back in the 1880s. It's a fascinating story...

 

For 23 years now we've hosted the California Wine Tasting Championships. No, we're not crazy; it's just a heck of a lot of fun. Every year people make a pilgrimage to the winery from as far away as Connecticut and Minnesota; the music, food and good wine make for a great weekend. See the article to learn about this year's winners.

 

Speaking of winners, the Greenwood Ridge Dragons hardball team really sparkled over the July Fourth weekend, bringing home the California Cup Championship trophy.

 

Finally, our biggest story this year: our winery has gone solar. We're pleased to be part of Mendocino County's commitment to sustainable practices, including alternative energy use. Not only does all the electricity for the winery now come from the sun, but our winery and vineyard vehicles (and my car) run on bio-diesel fuel.

 

Allan Green, Vintner-in-Chief

 

The Sustainable Lifestyle: Solar, Bio-Diesel Fuel, No GMOs...

Mendocino County Has It All

 

Is Mendocino County the most sustainability-orientated county in the country? We don't know for sure, but we do know that Greenwood Ridge Vineyards is the only solar-powered winery in Anderson Valley. In July we finished installing the solar panels that will power the entire winery, from refrigeration to crusher and press.

 

Mendocino County has always been ahead of the curve in all things alternative, be they energy or lifestyle issues. We took the initial steps a few years ago, when Allan first poured bio-diesel fuel into the vineyard tractor and discovered just how easy it was to do something good for the environment. Now all the winery vehicles (and Allan's car) run on bio-diesel.

 

The added bonus, of course, is that things like solar power and bio-diesel actually save money, not just the earth. Allan says "winemaking itself is such a natural process; going solar meshes the idea of sustainable farming with the real world of dollars and cents."

 

Others in the County agree. The Fetzer Vineyards offices in Hopland have been solar for years. Many other businesses in Mendocino are converting vehicles to bio-diesel and growing grapes organically. (Almost 30% of Mendocino County's vineyard acreage is grown organically, a higher percentage than any other county.)

 

Elsewhere in the County, several farmer's markets with organic produce have sprung up, and a new event called Pure Mendocino will be held on Labor Day weekend. Pure Mendocino is a weekend of organic farm and processor tours, presentations and workshops, culminating in a giant organic food and wine tasting, dinner and auction, all to benefit the Cancer Resource Center of Mendocino County.

 

David Greene Wins Individual Grand Championship at 2005 California Wine Tasting Championships

 

David Greene of Sonoma County's Ramey Winery dazzled a hushed crowd by specifically identifying the 2001 Cosentino Winery Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind taste-off. In doing so, Greene walked off with the Individual Grand Championship at the 23rd annual California Wine Tasting Championships July 30 and 31 at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards.

 

Scot Covington of Trione Family Vineyards won the Professional Singles title. In Professional Doubles, first place went to newcomers Jason Schnieder of the Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa and Michele McClendon of Korbel Champagne Cellars, who edged out last year's champions, Jeff Brinkman and Brad Holstine of Husch Vineyards. Jim Macrae swept the Novice division, winning both the Singles and the Doubles, with partner Allen Wood.

 

The California Wine Tasting Championships has been held the last weekend of July every year since 1983 at Greenwood Ridge Vineyards. Participants compete at all skill levels, from novice to professional. More than a competition, the event attracts local families as well as participants and spectators from around the country. The day includes live music as well as chocolate tasting and cheese tasting contests. Next year's event, the 24th annual, is scheduled for July 29 and 30, 2006. To register please visit www.greenwoodridge.com.

 

Early California Wine History

 

It would be a stretch to assert that Allan Green's family has been in the wine business for over a hundred years -- but not by much. His great-grandfather, Ferdinand A. Haber (left) was influential in introducing California wines to the world while working for the historic Inglenook Winery in Napa Valley. This historic essay about Ferdinand was pieced together from various publications from the era.

"Ferdinand A. Haber, prominently connected with the wine interest in California, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1839, and is descended from French, Spanish and German ancestry. His father, Abraham Haber, was a leading merchant in New Orleans.

 

In 1880 he engaged in the California wine business, and since that time has labored assiduously to bring that business up to a high standard, indeed, there is not a representative of the wine interest in California who has done more in that direction than Mr. Haber. Giving his whole attention to the work, he opened up a fine market for the Inglenook wines and brandies all over the world, his name being as well known to the leading representatives of vineyards in France and America as it is in California. In 1890 he accepted the management of the well-known Inglenook Vineyard, belonging to Captain Niebaum, at Rutherford (although identified with it since 1884), or rather the management for the marketing of its output.

 

Mr. Haber is a man of generous impulses, is a linguist, well read and possesses a cultivated mind, finding his greatest pleasure in home life. He was appointed by Governor Waterman Commissioner to the Paris Exposition of 1889 for California, and although Mr. Haber has taken a lively interest in public affairs he has eschewed politics, not withstanding many tempting offers."1

 

"Alfred Greenbaum & Co., who have the sole agency for the celebrated Inglenook Vineyard in Napa Valley, need no recommendation to an already appreciative public. The other member of the firm, Mr. F.A. Haber, is without a peer as a wine taster, and both men unite in effort to keep only the highest grade of California wines."2

 

"The establishment of the above firm may be regarded as the model wine house on the coast. The premises comprise the Union Foundry Block and include the store and cellar at 51 to 61 First Street. A magnificent glass-covered court in which half a dozen six-horse teams can easily have entrance and exit is used for the reception and shipment of wines. On the ground floor are elegant offices and commodious sample rooms. The remainder of this floor is devoted to the storage of sweet wines, brandies and the dry wines of Inglenook Vineyard cased and ready for shipment. There are two rows of oaken casks having a capacity of from two thousand to four thousand gallons, each of which are saddled with smaller casks containing from 650 to 800 gallons, and a number of tanks containing 6000 gallons each. Perfect ventilation and a normal temperature of 60 degrees are secured in the cellars by means of an air shaft built of galvanized iron running 35 feet above this immense building and regulated by dampers and checks. The cellars are cemented and filled with large oak cooperage. The casks are raised eighteen inches from the ground with a space of eighteen inches between them, thus securing a perfect current of air around each. The most perfect cleanliness is rigidly observed in all departments.

 

The stock of wines carried by the firm include all the new varieties such as Cabernet, Sauvignon, Merlot and Verdot, the choicest varieties from the Gironde district, the cuttings of which were imported direct from the celebrated Chateau Lafitte, Margaux and Brown Cantenac; the Mataros and St. Macaire from the Palus District, and the Haute Pyrenees; the above are the true Bordeaux and Medoc types; the Franc Pinot and Petite BoucheĀ“ and Chanchee Noir from the Romanee Conti, and the celebrated Clos Vougeot of Burgundy; the Semillon from Chateau d'Yquem; the Johannesburg Riesling and other German types from the Royal College of Geisenheim. All these cuttings were imported through the respective government consulates, grafted on old California stocks and grown in the celebrated Inglenook Vineyard."3

 

"One of the most exquisite departments of the cellar is the sample room. Stained glass windows throw a mellow light on the cozy interior. It is finished in carved oak, the sideboard is a masterpiece of workmanship, and the glasses are the finest imaginable. The beautiful oak table in the center is covered with various kinds of glasses from which it is the correct thing to drink the different kinds of wine.

 

The first attempt to bring these wines to the attention of our people was in 1884. F.A. Haber, then a member of the firm of Alfred Greenbaum & Co., and who had a local reputation as a connoisseur, was asked by Captain Niebaum to examine the wines and report on them. To his great surprise and gratification he found wines there of the highest order of merit and persuaded Captain Niebaum to allow him to place them, after proper blending, on the market. After making over 100 blends of red wines, the present qualities which represent the different grades of wines now on the market were made. Fifty cases of these wines were distributed throughout the country to experts in order to secure their verdict. An almost unanimous response was received that the wines were good and a surprise that California was able to produce such qualities.

 

The white wines were treated in the same manner as the red, as to blends, and elicited the highest commendation from both French and German connoisseurs. In October 1886, to the Wine and Spirit Trader's Society of New York, composed of leading importers, a full line of these wines was submitted by Mr. Haber, and the following Associated Press telegram speaks volumes about the result of the test:

 

New York, October 27, 1886--The pre-eminence California is rapidly attaining for the excellence of its wines was shown at the meeting of the Wine and Spirits Trader's Society, held here today, and composed of the leading importers of this city. Mr. Ferdinand A. Haber, of Alfred Greenbaum & Co., exhibited some of the wines of the Inglenook Vineyard, the property of Captain Gustave Niebaum. The wines shown were highly commended by all the members of the Society, and were pronounced the best California wines that had ever been shown here."4

 

"Inglenook is now in full charge of Mr. Ferdinand A. Haber, who has been in Mr. Niebaum's employ there for a number of years. The Inglenook wines are offered to the public in the glass only, being bottled at the vineyard in California, protected by its trademark, and the Pure Wine stamp of the State of California, which guarantees the absolute purity of the wine; the bottles are wired, bearing the seal of the proprietor of the vineyard.

 

Four qualities of red wines, Zinfandel, Extra Fine Claret, Medoc type, Burgundy; and Sauternes (Sauvignon and Semillon), Chasselas (Gutedel), Hock (Traminer), Burger (Chablis), Riesling (Johannesberg and Franken), form the delectable list of the Inglenook product, exclusive of brandies. The vintages of 1882 - '83, as marked upon the bottles are as undoubted as the purity of the wines."5

 

11892, Bay of San Francisco, Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and Its Suburban Cities, Lewis Publishing, p. 188.

21889, Wines and Vines of California, Frona Wait, p. 221.

31889, Industries of San Francisco, p. 85.

41890, San Francisco Examiner, Frona Wait.

51891, Alfred Greenbaum.

 

Many thanks to author Marvin Collins for his research.

 

Pyrotechnics on the Diamond

 

The Dragons hardball team created their own fireworks this past Fourth of July weekend, going undefeated in four games to win the California Cup Tournament in the East Bay Area. Pitchers Larry Hendrickson and Dennis McCroskey, backed by sparkling defense, held the heavily favored Tri-Valley Yankees to just one run in the Dragons' 3-1 Championship game victory

 

An amateur hardball team for players 48 years old and over, the Dragons play in tournaments in the western U.S. and as North and South squads in the Redwood Empire Baseball League. Founded in 2001 by Allan Green, winemaker and centerfielder, they have also played at SBC Park (SF Giants) and McAfee Coliseum (Oakland A's) this season. You can follow the Dragons at www.greenwoodridge.com