Wertzberger Wine Wines of character, made by a character


Great summertime wines

IMG_2007The weather is getting on the warm side and that means margaritas and beer. But it doesn't mean I'm quitting on the wine; in fact, the volume of wine consumption doesn't change much around here from season to season - I have a glass or two with dinner nearly every evening. I don't drink wine at cocktail time. It's part of my meal. With the environment becoming sunnier, warmer and offering more hours of daylight, I trend to  a lighter red or something that's compatible with a refrigerator. And fortunately I have recently released a number of wines that fall within those parameters. For white, the 2011 French Colombard has rounded out after a year of bottle age while remaining refreshingly zippy. Great with salads and seafood. My other white wine is the 2011 Chasselas; fabulously weird and slightly cloudy with less acidity than the Colombard. The Chasselas is primarily for serving with fondue or cheeses during the cooler months but during hot weather I will mix it with seltzer or bubbly mineral water. In addition to being refreshing, it also dilutes the alcohol so it's close to the strength of beer. You can chug it, but of course I will officially state that my wines should only be consumed responsibly! OK, let's stop right here. You no doubt have noticed all the beverage ads that end with that and maybe you wonder along with me: What the f does that mean? I think it's ridiculously open for interpretation, and to me it means don't imbibe to the point that you're acting stupid. Unfortunately, I know of only one way to find out how much alcohol makes you act stupid...                                         Back to wines for summer - and the best thing for summer is a dry rose'. There are still quite a few people who look down on pink wine as something cheap and cloying, and they'll be in for a shock if they ever visit the south of France. Pink wine is what they drink there during the summer. And I make my rose' wines in the same manner as they do in the Midi. Much of the rose' in California is made from juice that winemakers bleed off their red grapes before fermentation in order to make a darker and more flavorful red wine. And instead of throwing that juice out, they ferment it and present it in their tasting room as a rose'. With 14.5% ABV.    I specifically pick fruit earlier than the grapes used for my red wine and then press either the whole clusters or immediately after crushing. This yields juice with a lower potential alcohol and higher acidity. Try the 2012 Dry Creek Valley Valdiguie or the '12 McDowell Valley Grenache. And they go great with everything: salads, grilled salmon, chicken, pork, sausages, bbq. And when I really want a red wine for the grilled sausages, I gravitate toward a lighter red such as Grenache or one of my new releases like the 2011 Dry Creek Valley Carignane or the 2011 North Coast Mourvedre-Carignane.

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Vineyard Rescue; Saving Grapes

billvineOver 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.


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Bill and wines

Bill and wines

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.