A message from Michelle Whetstone -
As I sit at my dinner table at home with my lap top on a rainy Saturday, our tasting room closed since March 20, contemplating what to write, I thought back to an old spring release letter from 2018. As I read through it, I thought about how much has changed since then (just in the last fews weeks) and how little has changed at the same time. The latter gave me a lot of comfort and peace so I thought I would share some parts of this again with hope that it also brings you some comfort and joy as well.
So this one is dedicated to all the moms out there, to all the friends and family that help us look good and most importantly, the women of Whetstone- Addie, Alli, Jenna, and Lauren who have been more supportive than ever to our family, our business and to the care of all of you, our extended Whetstone family.
Lastly, I must give a nod to my husband for finally making this beautiful rose. The timing could not be better to celebrate spring and to toast all the mothers out there!
the women of Whetstone- Addie, Alli, Jenna, and Lauren who have been more supportive than ever to our family, our business and to the care of all of you, our extended Whetstone family.
Lastly, I must give a nod to my husband for finally making this beautiful rose. The timing could not be better to celebrate spring and to toast all the mothers out there!
T H E H I S T O R Y . . .
After moving to California in 1998, Jamey was handed the large task of planting, farming, and harvesting hundreds of acres of organic vineyards all up and down the California Coast for Turley Wine Cellars. He was proudly part of the pioneering team that developed their Paso Robles property. By 2002 Jamey was the assistant winemaker at Turley and into his 5th year of wine making.
“It was one of the most exciting times in my life and easily some of the most humbling lessons I would learn where farming and winemaking were concerned. I have yet to experience the level of intense learning I was shoved into for those seminal years. I was so lucky to be there, it was so effing cool, and it was the epicenter of my world."
N E W B E G I N N I N G S . . .
The year 2002 also brought the first vintage of Whetstone Wine Cellars; It was the year Jamey snuck in an opportunity to start choosing his own vineyards and making his own wine. With the help from mentors and friends alike he solidified the vision and style that became Whetstone wines and that still is today.
"I didn't realize back then but I know now that the level of vineyard and winemaking education in my first years in the valley would be impossible to garner in todays Napa. I've said many times that this is a humbling business. What may have started out as an ambitious endeavor to see my own name on a label, quickly became a lesson in perseverance and patience. Someone once said the impossible becomes the possible when your back is against the wall. Larry Turley tried to talk me out of starting my own label, 'Do we really have to do this now?' This was one of the many times over the years Larry would offer his wisdom. After showing him my fledgling business plan with lots of begging and promises he reluctantly said 'Yes'."
That same year Jamey was introduced to Maxime Graillot, son of famed Rhone Valley producer Alain Graillot, and was tasked with keeping him busy and well-fed during the harvest season at Turley. It didn't take long for Jamey to realize this was an incredible opportunity to further develop and broaden his winemaking education in addition to forging a friendship. Maxime accompanied Jamey to his first pick of Whetstone Viognier at the “Catie’s Corner” vineyard and, after listening to Jamey’s rant of how he wanted to do it, Maxime gave Jamey the “keys to Condrieu” which he has used to this day.
T H E P R E S E N T . . .
Fast forward 18 years, it is 2020 and we at Whetstone are still people; real, transparent, not a corporation. We’ve adapted and evolved, but never changed course.
We are a little older, wiser, and living in the present moment by being aware of the here and now. Appreciative and thankful for the life this business has given us.
We honor each experience and are grateful to every person who has been a part of our growth - be it helping with punchdowns or tasting our wines in the bed of the beloved pick up truck - you are the backbone of our brand.
To our wine club members who are really more like family, and to each and every person who walks through our doors on a daily basis - thank YOU for your stoke and enthusiasm, it is for you that we will continue to make great wines!
Whatever your past may be, we are grateful to be a part of your future with our 18th vintage of Catie's Corner Viognier and Pleasant Hill Pinot...
Many thanks for your continued support and friendship,
The Whetstone Team
- Michelle, Jamey, Addie, Alli & Jenna
Attending music gigs is one way to relieve stress and be social. In fact, studies show that just 20 minutes can result in a 21% increase in feelings of well-being! Furthermore, the research found a direct link between live music and a lifespan increase of 9+ years.
Here at Whetstone, we support this theory, especially if it includes a glass of wine! (and we have all read about the benefits of red wine)
So if you have yet to attend one of our music events, let this be the motivator to get tickets to our annual harvest party now:
Floral nose of rose petal, plum, and anise. Full-bodied flavors of ripe bing cherry... (read more)
Really (really) big nose full of ripe cassis, black licorice, violets and white pepper... (read more)
MICHELLE'S PICK: This band takes me back to a simpler time (before kids and a winery) and so stoked I can listen to it on vinyl finally! The Very Very Best Of Crowded House’s long-awaited vinyl was released on July 12 in a glorious gatefold sleeve including notes & printed inner bagsand compiled & cut from original analogue master tapes recorded at Abbey Road Studios to Heavyweight Black vinyl LPs.
JAMEY'S PICK: Live with me on Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones. 2016 Phoenix Ranch Syrah. The song is a gritty, stripped down, smelly version of what the Stones do best when their Delta Blues side slams into Rock n Roll. The Syrah is a racy concoction of violets and cassis and pig on the grill over a peppery fire w some tobacco tossed in for good measure; a smidge of some of my favorite flavors.
ADDIE'S PICK: To me Troubadour is a lowkey laidback album solely about livin' and lovin' which is what I am all about! It’s melodies are pretty but simple and the Tulsa Blues keep the rhythm rollin’ and rockin’! It’s the perfect soundtrack for enjoying the breeze with my husband, swayin’ in our hammock, spending time in our garden, sipping special with our chickens, playing fetch with our two golden fur babes, and cooking for our family and friends!
ALLI'S PICK: Bon Iver's self-titled album instantly takes me back to when I first moved to Napa and began dating my husband, where we spent many late nights drinking wine and getting to know one another. It sets the perfect tone for dreaming big and drinking well. When the harvest season approaches I find myself putting it on repeat and reaching for a wine key as its moody tone and the call to get outside yourself inspires me to slow down and be present.
JENNA'S PICK: No matter what the mood or occasion, Stevie fits the bill. ‘Don’t you worry bout a thing’ is my JAM. I have on many occasions blasted that song in my car while cruising down the highway, and you better believe I am singing along at the top of my little lungs. (You can also find me at home, having a dance party with my Weiner dog, no big deal.) This album has so many classics and many of my faves. Stressed out? Stevie. Super Happy & Dance-y?? Stevie. Feelin’ blue? Definitely Stevie.
LAUREN'S PICK: Whether savoring my cup of coffee in the early morning hours or sipping on a glass of vino whenever I feel so moved, Here Comes the Sun does the trick! Nina's sultry voice covering some of the true classics (in my humble opinion) helps me lean into the joyful soulful sweetness of the sunshine. I just can't help but sway to the rhythms and let those ivories tickle my soul. Also a perfect way to set the tone for a summer dinner soiree - paired with a bottle of Whetstone, obvi ;)
The 2019 growing season started with lots of rain that continued well into May. Spring was long and cool with a 2-week lag time behind a normal vineyard trajectory.
Once we got to set though, we had a run of heat in the low 90s to low 100s for a solid week that seems to have made up some ground heading into veraison. Set was fantastic by the way, and yields look (at least to me) as healthy as last year if not more so.
So another year of lots of top work in the vines!
The "soup" of the Whetstone story starts with these two wines for this release: Catie’s Corner Viognier and Pleasant Hill Pinot Noir. I have been working with these vineyards since 2002 when I was still under the Turley roof and first launching Whetstone Wine Cellars.
In our case, the "nuts" of the Whetstone story may be when Michelle and I decided to jump all in and grow Whetstone together, build a life and dailiness around this business while raising four children…. But I digress.
What happens next could not be possible without the care and thoughtfulness that goes into the collaborative preparation: attention to detail in the vineyard, great fruit, all eyes on the cellar, the gracious hospitality with our dream team at Whetstone, and the experience around your own table sharing Whetstone wines with friends and family.
In the beginning, I had to go with my gut and cautiously choose vineyards and farmers that I knew would be worth a lifetime of relationships. When I look back on foundations of our success it starts here:
Charlie Chenowith planted and farms Pleasant Hill Vineyard. He has taught me a lot over the years about the subtleties of growing world-class, California Pinot Noir. Born and raised in Sebastopol, Charlie manages and owns hundreds of acres of storied vineyards throughout the Russian River and Sonoma Coast appellations. Pleasant Hill is planted in Goldridge loam soil, which from my perspective reads a bit like pound cake; well-drained soils tempered by foggy mornings, warm days and cool nights.
Christine Magretts oversees all farming/business ops at Catie’s Corner Vineyard, where we get our Viognier. She and I have been working together since I founded Whetstone in 2002. The vineyard is planted in Goldridge loam soils riddled with river cobbles. Bi-lateral cordon pruning was established here to open up the canopy, expose it to more sunlight, and give the vines more stoke with less competition underground due to a less vigorous soil. I like to set a really big crop (think 7-8 tons to the acre) then throttle it back to 3-4 tons per acre with a rigorous fruit drop at Veraison. The Dutton family farms this place and is shepherding it into the barn with a level of quality our customers have come to expect.
And speaking of the barn, Rebecca Laird owns and runs Laird Family Estate where I have been making Whetstone since 2005. With 50 years in the wine business, her family’s history and expertise, state of the art custom crush facilities and shared goals to produce great wines gives me a great home to make our wines.
I take so much pride in watching these wines continue to shine and make their way into homes across the country. A big shout out to those that have been enjoying these wines for years and for first timers…….these wines are the foundation of Whetstone so we look forward to sharing them with you!
Vineyard Notes: Sustainably farmed, cool climate vineyard site, Goldridge loam soils. Normal spring budbreak, fairly hot summer with record heat first week of September. Yield of 2.8 tons per acre; 2/3 clone 115 and 1/3 clone 667. Havested on September 8th.
Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Stainless steel fermented, aged for 16 months sur lees in 100% French oak; 35% new oak. Deep ruby in color. Bright, expressive nose of dusty raspberry, ripe Bing cherry, violets, and clove. Secondary notes of saddle leather and mint. Medium-bodied flavors of Bing cherry, ripe raspberry, orange pekoe tea and tobacco. Finishes long with bright notes of alpine strawberry and baker’s chocolate.
Vineyard Notes: Sustainably farmed, cool climate site, river cobbles and Goldridge loam soils. Very rainy winter ending a string of drought years. September. Yield of 3.9 tons per acre. Harvested the grapes September 11th.
Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Barrel fermented in neutral French oak and aged for 16 months sur lees. Golden honey in color. Rich nose full of banana runts, guava, licorice, pineapple and orange rind. Background notes of jasmine and paper whites. Mouthful of ripe pear, orange cream-sicle, lime, liquid minerals, and peach liquor. Finishes long and bright with hints of lemon meringue, citrus and subtle tarragon.
As for this harvest, 2018 will go down as the largest crop in the history of California grape growing. Despite the yields, the concentration and natural acidity of the wines in barrel run counter to what I figured might be the end result. Tickled on all fronts is what I feel as I put these wines to bed for the next 12 months.
Many thanks for your continued support and friendship,
"Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence." - Robert Fripp
Michelle and I love to consume music. We have been fortunate that the universe has connected us with some of the best people working in the music business. The live shows at Whetstone are really an extension of what we do every day. It is always about the experience and how we connect with people. In an ever-changing industry, our story of struggle, lucky breaks, setbacks, perseverance and support from people who believed in us is what almost anyone can relate to.
Over the past half of the year Michelle and I have been on a tear reading through accounts of musicians and influencers that cemented their fame. A few books struck me as amazing not only for the first person accounts, but for the brutal honesty penned by each artist:
For me, successful musicians and winemakers seem to understand what it takes to monetize passion. Music is no different in degree of difficulty and lifetime commitment to your skill set. Also, I love understanding why people are who they are and what influences drive them to be/do certain things. In each of the books you get a full discourse on heroes and villains alike that shaped the artist. These books are for the workers, dreamers, lovers and loners, artists, freaks or anyone who wants to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.
The folks that shaped me most begin with my grandmother Marguerite “Rita” Rodwell. I bused tables and washed dishes at her restaurant The Rice Paddy in Georgetown, SC during the summers beginning at age 10. She taught me the importance of Southern Hospitality and the art of being present.
My first job and lucky break in the wine industry was driving a tractor and pruning old vine zinfandel for Larry Turley of Turley Wine Cellars under the direction of Ehren Jordan of Failla Wines. I garnered a ground level education in farming, along with a few life lessons and the opportunity to launch Whetstone.
Christophe Morin and Jacques Seyssess from Domaine Dujac gave me a crash course in farming Pinot Noir in Burgundy and the importance of family. Jacques once said to me: "If it comes down to making 1000 cases less wine in exchange for being at all your kids’ games- do that."
Fred Scherrer had a huge impact on me as a California winemaker & true Vigneron. He put Dehlinger on the map in 1994 and has continued to farm, harvest, and craft wonderful Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir under his eponymous label Scherrer. The finesse he employs in his wines while not being afraid of the abundant California sunshine is an art form that I aspire to.
So, without further ado, I present...2018 FALL RELEASE WINES (along with the perfect book pairings):
TASTING NOTES: Stainless steel fermented, aged for 10 months sur lees in 100% French oak; 20% new oak. Bottled unfined, unfiltered. Ruby red in color. Ripe nose of candied raspberry, dark cherry, and floral rose petal tea. Background notes of Bing cherry, freshly picked mint and tarragon. Medium-bodied, vibrant flavors of velvety plum and red berry fruits. Secondary flavors of ripe cranberry tea, cherry cola, citrus peel and hints of tobacco with long, ripe tannins and bright finish.
BOOK PAIRING: "Born to Run," like Bruce, a crowd pleaser and true blue.
TASTING NOTES: Stainless steel fermented, aged for 28 months sur lees in neutral French oak barrels. Dark purple in color. Expressive nose full of ripe red currants, savory red meats, black licorice and saddle leather. Secondary aromas of white pepper, bay leaf, cinnamon, and pipe tobacco. Intense flavors of raspberry, cassis and currants, with hints of baker’s chocolate and tobacco. Finishes long with velvety tannins and lively acidity.
BOOK PAIRING: "Just Kids," like Patti, a bit more punk rock and just gets better with age.
TASTING NOTES: Stainless steel fermented, aged for 16 months sur lees in 100% French oak; 35% new oak. Bottled unfined, unfiltered. Deep ruby red in color. Really big nose of alpine strawberry, rose petal, anise and clove. Secondary aromas of orange citrus peel, cayenne, and Mexican chocolate. Full-bodied flavors of ripe cherry, dark raspberry, and blueberry pie. Luxurious, long finish with flavors of dark red fruits and baker’s chocolate framed by soft tannins and mild acidity.
BOOK PAIRING: "My Life Inside Rock And Out," like Bill, a class act all the way.
Crack a bottle, grab a book and enjoy!
- Jamey Whetstone
It is the 5-year anniversary of Whetstone being open at the chateau; I am officially half a century old, and my first born is heading off to college. Talk about a year of growth and change! I say -bring it!
I read somewhere that your face at 25 is the one God gave you and your face at 50 is the one you've earned. So perhaps instead of wrinkles, I should call them life lessons and experiences.
When I joined Jamey full time to run Whetstone Wine Cellars, I had no wine industry experience and wasn't exactly sure what my part in all of this looked like. All that changed, however, one fateful day in the winter of 2011 when I found the chateau that is now the Whetstone tasting salon.
There isn't much separation for me between work and home life. I treat work as an extension of my home and making friends out of strangers is one of the most wonderful things about being in this business. I love to hear guests say how comfortable they feel when they walk into Whetstone, as if they'd walked into a friend’s living room.
While the path is not always straight, I believe in perseverance, grace under pressure, and providing a space where women can grow, be their best selves, and empower each other. In a male dominated industry, this is one of the many things that makes Whetstone unique. If you've been to Whetstone and met our team, you know the women I'm referring to. My vision would not be possible without the dedication and thoughtfulness they bring each day.
As for my first born, it would be selfish of me not to share him with the world. I can only hope that one day his path will lead him unexpectedly back to Napa (like it did me) and, perhaps, to run the family business.
I'm often asked about how the tasting notes for Whetstone wines come about and, as all things in the business, our dream team of women are part of the process.
TASTING NOTES: Aged 16 months in 35% new French oak barrels, sur lees. Dark purple in color. Really expressive nose of dark cherry and baked blackberry pie with spicy, perfumey notes of Asian spice. Secondary wafts of rose petal, orange peel, and black tea. Velvety flavors of Bing cherry cobbler, dark cherry cola and orange peel. Mouth-watering acidity with long finish of tea, baker’s chocolate and tarragon.
TASTING NOTES: Barrel fermented in neutral French oak and aged for 16 months sur lees. Golden straw in color. Big nose full of honeysuckle, bright peach, pear liquor, and floral apricot. Background notes of bees wax, marscapone, and thyme. Mouthful of stone fruits, orange runts, and liquid minerals. Finishes long and bright with hints of mango, hazelnut, and touch of salinity.
TASTING NOTES: Aged for 16 months in 35% new French oak barrels, sur lees. Garnet in color. Floral rose petal, with pretty notes of wild strawberry perfume and sassafras tea. Secondary notes of Asian spice, thyme and clove. Bright, medium to full-bodied flavors of pomegranate, plum and black mission fig. Finishes long with great acidity and notes of orange pekoe tea, a hint of tobacco and fine tannins.
To make celebrating easy, we're offering
for CASE ORDERS (12+ bottles) now thru March 31st!
Simply use the code: CELEBRATE
With that said...Let’s celebrate all the women who have earned a place at the table in the wine industry and beyond!
- Michelle Whetstone
To my 10 year old, Watson, this term is used in reference to old videos of Michael Jordan launching a dunk from the foul line.
To my 17 year old, Sterling, it is simply a path to the next hold while rock climbing.
For me, hang time for our fruit means phenolic ripeness in all its many facets. The heat spikes we experienced this summer were unparalleled and drove sugars sky high without the requisite softening of tannins and respiring of acids...until mother nature pumped the brakes for most of August. We were very fortunate to have harvested all our grapes before the fires began with our last pick of Syrah coming in on October 5th.
Another wave of heat coupled with 50 knot winds on the night of October 8th proved to be a recipe for the disastrous fires here in Napa and Sonoma counties. With the smoke cleared, blue skies and fresh air have returned to our lovely home here in Wine Country. We remain in awe of the strength of our community and grounded by the simple pleasures of hang time with family and friends.
So as we embrace fall and think about hang time with ones we love this holiday season, we have some special offerings for you:
We are harkening back to a staff-favorite: our 2012 vintage! Having just opened a few bottles, these wines are starting to come out of their infancy. I'm impressed by the way they are taking on weight and nuance as they loosen their grip on the vintage with more structure and a bit more tannin.
When we think of the holidays, we think of Pinot Noir here at Whetstone. So we're offering you a fun way to take a trip through the Sonoma Coast Appellation with our 4-pack of 2014 single-vineyard Pinots! Starting from the Petaluma Gap all the way up to Annapolis, each vineyard has a unique topography and micro-climate that translate directly into your glass.
Need a little Southern charm in your life? Our famous Fried Chicken Supper is featured in this stunning table top book: Napa Valley Entertaining, by Blakesley Chappellet, with photographs by Briana Marie. In addition to the people and places, this recently published gem artfully highlights the true beauty of food, entertaining, and hospitality. To make it even more charmingly Southern, we are including a bottle of our 2014 'Jon Boat' Pinot Noir!
We're raising a glass to you and yours...
Cheers to some quality hang time with family and friends this holiday season!
- The Whetstone Crew
Jamey, Michelle, Addie, Alli, Lauren & Jess