Welcome to our blog!  This is where we post the stories and pictures in greater detail than the nuggets on Twitter and Facebook.  Enjoy!  - Alan & Serena

Serena Lourie
January 23, 2015 | Serena Lourie

Public Service Announcement: Riesling

This is a quick public service announcement that we are down to the last 4 cases of the 2013 Greenwood Ridge Riesling. The 2014 Riesling will not be released until Fall 2015. If you would like us to ship or hold some of this vintage for you, please let us know as soon as possible (email, call 707.433.8270, or order online).

How is it tasting? Delicious. Aromatically, this Riesling is full of citrus notes, including orange blossom and mandarin zest; you’ll get stone-fruit and wet-slate aromas as well. On the palate, the wine is silky and very bright with pronounced acidity—almost evanescent, but with a finish that’s full of minerality and that same bright citrus. 118 cases produced



Time Posted: Jan 23, 2015 at 10:39 AM
Alan Baker
January 21, 2015 | Alan Baker

What's up?

A big chunk of my year is spent with a furious focus on one or two aspects of our business. By late November, I've left behind the all day/every day tunnel vision on winemaking to focus on the end-of-year sales season. But as we roll past the holidays and traffic starts to slow in the tasting room, I get to widen my view to take stock of everything—big and small—that’s on the horizon. Here's a quick snapshot of what's up.

Starscape vineyard prunedIn the vineyard: Pruning is underway. The photo shows the Starscape Vineyard (Floodgate’s new name after the vineyard was sold), where pruning is mostly complete. With yearly temperatures rising, it’s probably smart for us to get things pruned early to be ready for an early budbreak. You can see in the picture that the pruned wood is piled in the middle of the row, awaiting mulching, and the canes just need to be tied down to the fruit wires. The vines are still completely dormant. In the picture below you can see the buds that formed last year waiting to start their spring swell and eventual budbreak.

In the winery: The 2014 Pinots are settled in for their long winter's nap, and I'm in the middle of pulling everything together for bottling the 2014 Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Rosé along with the 2013 Sangiovese. The wines are in a great place, so I'm looking forward to getting them into the bottle early in February.

bud 2015Out there: We rejoiced in early December as a series of storms dropped 15 inches of rain. However, it's been dry for a couple of weeks and we need a LOT more rain to break the severe drought. One of our vineyards will probably not produce a usable crop this year if the water conditions don't improve.

2014 will go down as the warmest year on record. It’s been easy to see the evidence of this as we watched the vines take off super-early last February and now as we watch plants bloom out of season or come out of dormancy on the wrong side of the new year. As a result of this ongoing trend, we’re looking at shifting some of our grape sourcing to more coastal locations, closer to the cooling influence of the Pacific.

The Cartograph garden is yielding up its winter crops of citrus and lettuces, while the garlic and fava beans are putting on slow growth preparing for a spring delivery.

Oh, and Massachusetts has approved direct sales and delivery to residents! We're all over it, but so is everybody else. As soon as we get the thumbs up, we'll send word to our friends in Massachusetts.

Cheers, Alan

Time Posted: Jan 21, 2015 at 10:18 AM
Serena Lourie
January 13, 2015 | Serena Lourie

New for the New Year

new planter boxesThis past weekend our new planter boxes arrived! Our friend Seth Richardson has taken our drawings and turned them into sleek metal planters for the sidewalk in front of the tasting room, which Alan just filled with fragrant rosemary bushes free for the cutting.

Here’s the back story: There used to be an enormous rosemary bush at the old Healdsburg post office, about 75 feet from our tasting room; everyone in town could cut as much rosemary as they wanted. When Alan moved to Healdsburg in 2005, he clipped a branch that he rooted. When he moved to San Francisco, he took that bush and replanted it, moving it with him to a couple of locations in the city, and when we left SF, we brought it with us back to Healdsburg.

The post office burned down in 2009 and the town lost the rosemary bush, but we've been propagating the plant—giving some cuttings to friends and splitting off a few to plant in the new planter boxes. Soon enough, we’ll have plenty of rosemary and folks can help themselves. We’ll also probably be working on some new recipes that feature rosemary and pair well with Pinot noir.

Our soil sample wall is coming to fruition: we’ve ordered graduated cylinders and have shelving designed. When it arrives, we’ll do a field trip to our vineyards to collect soil; then, we’ll develop the slideshows that will accompany each vineyard.

We also have new wine bottle display shelves fabricated and powder-coated. Now we’re playing Tetris to create the perfect placement for each bottle. The shelves will display our 750ml bottles as well as several of our magnums.

What, magnums? Yes, we started making magnums with the 2010 Perli Vineyard and 2010 Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir. We haven’t released them yet because we’ve been designing new labels, but they’re now screen-printed and we’ll begin releasing magnums in the fall.

pouring a glass of pinotWe’ve been having so much fun exploring our library wines that we are expanding our winemaker tastings this year. Our plan is to have 12 tastings per year, each with a maximum of 10 seats. These small, intimate tastings allow us to connect with people interested in the Cartograph journey and gives guests they chance to ask all the questions they want.

  • Inside Pinot (details) offers a unique experience of seeing how Pinot noir evolves from grape to glass. You’ll emerge with a true understanding and appreciation of how simple grape juice becomes exquisite wine.
  • The Perli Vineyard vertical (details) gives you a grasp of how the tannins in the Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir silken over time while showcasing the incredible terroir of that vineyard.
  • The Floodgate Vineyard vertical (details) captures the essential elements of the Russian River Valley: the bright fruit, the cola undertones and the classic earth elements that Floodgate releases as it ages.
  • Our Mendocino Ridge vs. Russian River Valley comparison shows you the difference that altitude, soil and fog make in the growing season and flavors of Pinot from both those AVAs.

If you have a group of 10 and would like to schedule one of these tastings, email



Time Posted: Jan 13, 2015 at 8:29 AM
Alan Baker
December 10, 2014 | Alan Baker

Good parenting?

Floodgate 2009 - 2012Winemaking is one of those things, like raising kids, where you don't really know whether you've made smart decisions until you’re years down the road. Luckily, with wine the time frame is shorter and the stakes a lot lower. However, every once in a while I have these moments (making a call to pick, or fretting over whether we can make a bet on a new vineyard source) when I’m very aware of the potential impact of making a dumb move. The margins are too thin to accommodate bad decisions.

But it’s really fun and rewarding to see (and taste) the outcomes of good decisions. We recently held a vertical tasting of Pinot noir from Floodgate Vineyard, featuring four vineyard designate wines: 2009 through 2012.

It had been quite a while since we had opened a bottle of the 2009, and both Serena and I got a surprise with this one. 2009 has always been one of our riper vintages, so we expected it to be one of the bigger wines in this tasting considering that 2010 and 2011 were really cold growing seasons. However, youthful, fruity exuberance is in this wine's past and it has moved into a place that is really compelling. Where we might have expected Bing cherry and cola, we got mushroom and forest floor. The ample acid is still there, but now the fruit on the palate is bright cherry and soft strawberry. I always shy away from using the term Burgundian — we're in California, after all — but I'd love to slip this wine into a Burgundy tasting to see whether anybody would call it out. If you have a bottle of the ‘09 in the cellar, check out the risotto recipe below.

The 2010 Floodgate was in a great place; the tannins have softened just a bit. If you like your Pinot with a little bottle age and still want some solid fruit on the palate, this one is for you. Out of the four wines we tasted, I'd say this was the one currently showing truly classic feminine Pinot qualities. “Finesse” would be the label I’d choose rather than “fruit.”

“Fruit” would be the label for the 2012, which is definitely the wine showing the most overtly fruity nose (though none of our wines are really ever fruit bombs, even right at release). Considering the relative youth of this wine, I guess I’d expect more fruit, but with the 2009 now showing such earthy aromas I was surprised by the distance between them. And it is richer on the palate, which is testament to its warmer growing season. This is the wine that we go to when we have something a little richer on the menu.

Now let's back up a step to the 2011. While drinking nicely, I think it’s still hiding a few secrets. The nose is definitely Russian River Pinot, but it’s very subtle. The fruit is more dark cherry and there's the trademark RRV cola as well. It’s starting to show more dried leaves and earthy notes on the nose, but all these fruit and other aromas are quite soft and light coming out of the glass. I wonder if the ‘10 and the ‘12 will hit their peak before this one?

This was a great way to dig into a single vineyard and really show how the wines from a special place share certain consistent qualities from year to year. After tasting these wines, we're feeling pretty good about our chosen path for the Pinots: The priority should be on getting the fruit into the winery while there are still good acid levels. Don't hang the grapes until the flavors are big and jammy. Use new oak sparingly. Be fanatically focused on keeping things clean. And keep your hands off the wine as much as possible while aging.

Huh, it all seems pretty simple now that I lay it out.

We'll be doing vertical tastings from other vineyards, and we’re planning to repeat this one on Feb. 14. Keep an eye on our events calendar for more dates.

Cheers, Alan

Time Posted: Dec 10, 2014 at 8:57 AM
Serena Lourie
December 8, 2014 | Serena Lourie

Holiday Gift Concierge

giftsLet us take the stress out of your holiday gift-giving with our new Cartograph wine gift sets.

Gift sets include winemaker tasting notes and tissue paper-wrapped bottles packed in a black gift box, plus a personalized handwritten note. You can make your gift even more special by upgrading to a 3-bottle wooden box for an additional $25. (Tax not included in any of the prices below.)

  • A Taste of Anderson Valley (2-bottle gift pack) Details here
    • 2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir and 2012 Roma’s Vineyard Pinot Noir
    • $80 [Cartograph Circle members: $68]
  • Floodgate Vineyard Vertical (3-bottle gift pack) Details here
    • One bottle of Floodgate Vineyard Pinot Noir from each of these years: 2010, 2011, 2012
    • $134 [Cartograph Circle members: $114]
  • Mendocino Ridge Exploration (3-bottle gift pack) Details here
    • 2013 Greenwood Ridge Riesling, 2012 Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir, 2011 Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir
    • $126 [Cartograph Circle members: $107]
  • Immersion in Pinot Noir (6-bottle gift pack) Details here
    • One Pinot noir from each of these vintages: 2010 Floodgate Vineyard, 2010 Perli Vineyard, 2011 Anderson Valley, 2011 Russian River Valley, 2012 Floodgate Vineyard, 2012 Mariah Vineyard
    • $270, [Cartograph Circle members: $230]

Now that winter has truly hit the Midwest, we recommend two-day air ($50) for any wine going across the country; we can use ground shipping for shipments on the West Coast ($15).

To order any of these gift boxes, you can:

  • Order though our online store
  • Email and tell her what you'd like and where to ship it
  • Call us at 707.433.8270 or visit the tasting room in person to order
Time Posted: Dec 8, 2014 at 10:40 AM
Serena Lourie
November 28, 2014 | Serena Lourie

Happy birthday to our tasting room!

Hard to believe, but the Cartograph tasting room has been open for one full year! People from all over the world have visited us, and we’re delighted that our Cartograph Circle members now have a place where they can relax and enjoy wine as we catch up on what’s been happening with them.

Because we’re so close to the main square in Healdsburg, we’ve been lucky to become part of a supportive local business community. We’re really excited to be small-business owners in this town — which, by the way, just keeps getting more and more great press as a destination.

It’s been fun to look back through the photos and see how the tasting room has progressed.

This is where we started:

starting the constructiondemo day 1base paintcoming soon

And now we're here:

rose on tap 

We’ve gotten accolades from various magazines about the look of the tasting room, which delights us. A few new touches:

  • Alan designed shelves to display wine bottles, which might make you think the bottles are floating on the wall.
  • Taking inspiration from our neighbors next door, Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, we’re making planter boxes for the front windows. They’ll be filled with rosemary from a plant that was started way back in 2005 as a cutting from the huge rosemary bush in front of the old Healdsburg post office.
  • The soil-sample wall is still in its conceptual phase, but should be in place next spring.
  • We’ll soon be introducing some holiday cheer — keep an eye on our space!

- Serena

Time Posted: Nov 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM
Serena Lourie
November 5, 2014 | Serena Lourie

Perfect Pairings for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays because it’s all about sharing a meal with friends and family. With Thanksgiving three weeks away, it’s time to talk about wines that might pair well with your menu.

Riesling and Gewürztraminer are both classic wines for Thanksgiving, since they both complement dishes that are spicy, salty, or sweet. The Riesling’s bright citrus and stone-fruit aromas plus its vibrant acidity make it a great pairing with sweet potatoes, turkey, and spicy or herb-filled stuffings. The Gewürz, with its hugely aromatic nose and spicy palate, can stand up to the rich flavors of both the turkey and the gravy. Both are high in acidity, which helps cut the richness of the meal.

Pinot noir is also a traditional favorite for Thanksgiving for several reasons: its combination of earthy undertones with bright red fruit plays well with the traditional aromas and flavors of Thanksgiving, and high-acid Pinots (like ours) cut through richness without sacrificing flavor. Pinot also tends to be lower in alcohol than bigger wines such as Cabernet and Zinfandel, which can be a good thing for a meal that lasts a few hours.

What to pick: Pinot from the Russian River Valley or from Mendocino Ridge? If your meal includes flavors like figs, beets, butternut squash, and pumpkin, we suggest Mendocino Ridge. If you’re planning on flavors like persimmons, spinach, green beans, and pears, then go with the Russian River Valley.

And a curveball: Rosé of Pinot Noir. It’s the wine we sip as we are preparing the meal because its bright, lively flavors dance across the palate without overwhelming the food we’re tasting. During the meal, we like it between courses as a palate refresher.

Our recomendations:

For a Russian River Valley Thanksgiving:

  • 2013 Floodgate Vineyard Gewürztraminer (for a more lush white wine, go with the 2012 vintage)
  • 2011 Floodgate Pinot noir (if your guests prefer more fruit right up front, then go with the 2012)
  • 2010 Russian River Pinot noir

For a Mendocino Ridge Thanksgiving:

  • 2013 Greenwood Ridge Riesling
  • 2011 Perli Vineyard Pinot Noir 
  • 2012 Mariah Vineyard Pinot Noir


Time Posted: Nov 5, 2014 at 2:14 PM
Alan Baker
November 3, 2014 | Alan Baker

Looking back at Harvest 2014

I'm always a bit too superstitious to talk about harvest until the wines are really resting for the winter. Well, this year we put our last Pinot in barrel the first week of October. At that time last year, we were still picking—this year, we picked our first fruit August 16! We've never picked a grape in August before this year. It truly was an unprecedented season.

After all the handwringing and worry about the early budbreak and fast-moving growing season, as soon as we started picking I began to relax and all those concerns vanished. The reality was that the vines had started growing so early that we still had decent hang time, so the flavors are very good. The early start also put us in a position to sit back and wait out those vineyards that we are typically fighting to get ripe before the rain comes in October.

We're always looking for the flavors to really pop before we pick. In some years, like 2012, flavors are lagging behind while sugars are climbing. Those are the years where we have to hold back and wait for the right flavors, which leaves us with slightly higher sugars and alcohol levels over 14%. 2014 was the opposite, with good flavors showing up well ahead of where I expected. I was blown away when I tasted the Gewürz and the flavors were wonderful at 18 brix!

As a result, we picked at very reasonable sugars and I think there might be one wine pushing 14% alcohol. Everything else is mid-13%, and although the Riesling is still slowly fermenting, it's going to barely break the 12% mark with a classic flavor profile for a dry Riesling. Not to get too nerdy (too late?), but I’m seeing some interestingly high acids after primary ferment, so I'm watching how things move as they go through malolactic conversion. Is it too early to declare the vintage cellar-worthy? Maybe, but I'm already excited to taste these wines in a couple of years.




Time Posted: Nov 3, 2014 at 8:12 AM
Alan Baker
October 16, 2014 | Alan Baker

Harvest Weather Report

grapesMother Nature delivered an excellent harvest season this year. The vines kicked off budbreak quite a bit earlier than usual thanks to our very dry, warm winter. Without rain, there was no moisture to keep the roots wet, so when the warm early spring arrived, the buds began growing. Luckily there were no frost events after this early start, nor any extended heat spells this summer. All of our fruit looked beautiful and had wonderful flavor.

After that early start, we had feared that we'd get the typical late August/early September heat waves to push us over the edge early. But, just as though we had ordered it, the temps dropped as we were reaching the finish line and let us call the shots on when to pick. The weather patterns are now changing and we're getting a bit of rain. We're hoping that this winter brings an abundance of rain to refill the reservoirs and lakes.


Time Posted: Oct 16, 2014 at 3:50 PM
Serena Lourie
September 25, 2014 | Serena Lourie

Picking is over!

Our harvest season kicked off in full force on August 14 and now things are wrapping up. We did our last pick on Tuesday Sept. 23rd which was the Riesling pick. All the grapes are in and in various stages of fermentation and aging.  Some highlights of the season thus far: grapes look and taste great, we've had Circle members join us on picks which has been fabulous, we added one new vineyard this season, we had a great release party and we're having a lot of fun in the midst of sleep deprivation. Now the focus is on everything happening in the winery.  #harvest2014  - Serena

Time Posted: Sep 25, 2014 at 1:56 PM
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