Winemaker Series: Bill Frick, The One Man Band
After the bare requisites to living and reproducing, man wants most to leave some record of himself, a proof, perhaps, that he has really existed. ~ John Steinbeck
It was quite the warm day in the Dry Creek Valley, as you can see, the harvest was still nigh, the vines groaning silently with their heavy load, anxiously waiting to be picked. We strolled through the vineyards, picking a berry here and there, Frick shaking his head after tasting, "no not quite ready yet," and me looking at the brown seeds in my hand thinking, "really?" But what do I know, I'm just a wine writer, definitely not a winemaker, vineyard manager and not even the garden variety cellar-rat by any stretch of the imagination. Thus I'll trust the timing of grape picking and other related activities to professionals like Bill Frick.
I've been in positions where I've run, nearly an entire operation on my own, from processing film, calibrating printing equipment, mixing chemicals, drawing silver from exhausted chemistry, then running across a busy sales floor to close another sale. Just so I could make my bonus that month, stay on top labor hour goals and keep my boss happy with my performance. But that is a young man's game, I doubt, and I'm honest here, that I could do all of that over again, at my current age.
All the grapes are picked by hand, no machine harvesting at all and the bottling truck pulls right up on his property, where Frick connects the hoses and mans the pumps; he takes little to chance with his artwork and who can blame him. It's often said, if you want anything done right, you're better off doing it yourself, and I'd have to conclude sometimes that is the best course of action. All wines are bottled unfiltered, with no fining and zero fooling around. It's just seriously good juice, that is made ready to drink, but I believe a few will age gracefully and reward the patient.
Now before it seems I've gotten carried away, here's a bit of perspective. The truth is the property is only a little over 7 acres, and Frick just bottles 1400 cases a year. While on the surface of those stats, may not seem like much, but folks I'm here to tell you, that is some ass-kicking work to do on all your own, don't try this at home.
I was saddened to hear, that he had lost his partner Judith Gannon, who with Bill and via the sale of a premium 57 Chevy embarked on this fantastic journey, on a lovely slice of Sonoma County back in 1976. Now he didn't tell me this, but from my perspective, she was a fabulous artist, whose paintings you will see here and there. If you do decide to take the full nickel tour, you can see some of larger than life canvases in the barrel/crush-pad. I asked Frick [I was encouraging him really] if he had thought about showcasing some her paintings at a gallery or other exhibit. I also asked if he thought about talking to the folks at the Hess Collection, to inquire whether or not they'd be interested in showcasing some of her more significant works at their museum.
I explained that it would be a great way to celebrate her life [my opinion, one I'm fond of sharing] and share those images with the rest of the wine world. Perhaps, he's thinking about it, I hope so. He also lost his dog, and now it's just him, and his fantastic winery. I asked, who will take the reins when he is gone, he replied: "it will pass when I do." Honestly, my heart winced a bit hearing his answer. I thought to myself, "no, that can't be true, it would be a terrible loss."For anyone who watched the movie "My Dog Skip," you know the anguish I experienced at that moment.
After opening that second bottle here at Chez Vino, Mrs. Cuvee brow-beat me into having the last pour splashing into the glass. In the glass, a garnet-brick rim and solid garnet core, the perfume of ripe plum, dried brush, and licorice. On the palate, dry, cracked peppercorns, vanilla, acacia, dry orange rinds, ripe cherry and plum skins.This wine is elegantly textured, the acid to fruit ratio is flawless, it has depth, balance and the finish sails on and on. My score for this wine is 96 points. Barrel aged in small American oak barriques.This wine is only $24, making the QPR through the roof.