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What's Croakin' at Toasted Toad Cellars

July 2, 2012

 

Wow!!! It has been way too long since we found time to bring you all the news. A lot has happened and a lot remains to be done. You would think that being in the wine business would be pretty relaxing with some hard work during harvest. Well, I can tell you that so far this adventure has been nothing but hard work. With that said, the work is also incredibly fun and rewarding. So here is a partial list of what we have been up to and if you read the whole thing, we have included additional details for each item.

 

Toasted Toad Cellars - 21 E. Elm Street, Lodi, CA

Now, for the excuse of why it has been so long between updates. The new winery and tasting room has been an interesting experience to say the least. What was supposed to be a simple, over-the-counter permit with simple plans not requiring an architect could not have been further from reality. First, we found out we were going to be required to pay for a conditional use permit and have a review by the planning commission.

 

If we received approval by the planning commission, we would then be required to do a full blown set of architectural plans including plumbing, structural, electrical and mechanical drawings. Of course there would be a whole additional set of fees, permits, reviews and delays. These were all changes that came about after we leased the facility on the last day of February 2011. After a considerable amount of debate, we decided to continue with the process. With a whole lot of time and way more money than ever budgeted, we were able to complete the planning process and finally get a building permit for all of the improvements.

 

Construction was started in August and completed in time for us to be open on November 5th, one week before First Sip. About 5,400 square feet in size, the building includes our tasting room, production facility, office and laboratory. Plus, we have another 5,000 square feet of paved and fenced area in the back which we use for storage of bins and totes when not in use. In spring of 2012, we even planted a garden in the back that includes a few grape vines, berries, tomatoes, peppers and herbs. Perfect for when we need some fresh produce for a winery event!

 

We continue to make improvements to the winery and have now added a great patio with tables, chairs and umbrellas where you can enjoy a glass of wine and some food from one of the many fantastic eateries located within walking distance. We added a new climate control system to our barrel room that includes temperature and humidity control. We continue to add new equipment to the laboratory, allowing us to do more than basic wine analysis.

 

2009 Wine Update

We bottled the 2009 Napa Cabernet, 2009 Lodi Zinfandel, 2009 Sonoma Merlot and 2010 Lodi Viognier in March of 2011. The Zinfandel was released for Zinfest in May of 2011 where we also poured the 2009 Viognier and the 2009 Toadilly Luscious Wine (TLW).

 

Due to the fantastic response for the Toasted Toad Cellars 2009 Viognier, we decided to significantly increase our production in 2010. We are extremely happy with the results and the 2010 continues to have the intense tropical fruit nose and flavors in a crisp, clean wine with a refreshing balance of acidity and sweetness. It is very similar to the 2009 Viognier, (now sold out) in fact, I can't even decide which vintage I like better. The 2010 Viognier is still the perfect summertime poolside wine to be enjoyed with anything from fish tacos to cheese and fruit. It is also great to enjoy on our recently completed patio in front of the winery.

 

The 2009 Napa Cabernet is rich and fruity with well-balanced mouth-filling tannins. It is the perfect accompaniment to a nice steak. While this wine is ready for release and drinkable now, it will definitely age for years to come. We plan on bottling a 3L bottle to open for Toasted Toad's 5 year anniversary. We look forward to sharing it with you!

 

The 2009 Zinfandel was poured at Zinfest back in May of 2011. It was definitely a little young back then, but boy is it growing up! It is bursting with red fruit flavors, vanilla and fantastic spice. Even though this is a nice, full-bodied wine, it is still great on a summer day with your favorite Italian dish. Try adding a  little to your spaghetti sauce and enjoy drinking the rest!

 

The 2009 Merlot is spicy and fruity. It is big and bold, calling out for equally bold food. Try a stuffed pork loin, figs stuffed with goat cheese and topped with caramelized brown sugar or bacon wrapped dates stuffed with bleu cheese.

 

2010 Wines

In 2010 we kept most of the 2009 lineup including the Viognier, Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. We added a Petite Sirah and changed from Touriga Nacional to Souzão for the dessert wine. This change was not intentional, but things happen and you have to adjust. The result is our new 2010 Toadilly Lickable Wine which replaced the 2009 Toadilly Luscious Wine in the tasting room when it sold out in March.

 

2011 Wines

Despite our best efforts, we were not able to make our wines in our new facility in 2011 because of the timing of the harvest and delays in permits from the Feds and State. In 2011, we really changed out lineup doing 100% Lodi grapes for our wines. The 2011 wines include the Viognier, Primitivo, Tempranillo, two Malbecs, Cabernet Sauvingon, Tannat, Touriga Nacional and Souzão, both as dry wines and dessert wines.

 

2012 The Upcoming Harvest

The plans for 2012 are quite ambitious. We are planning to double production this year and are looking to do 15 different varietals. We plan to add a second white wine made from Verdelho and will be attempting to do a white dessert wine in a port style. All of the grapes will be coming from Lodi except for a Sonoma Syrah. In addition to the wines we did in 2011, we will be adding a second Tannat, Grenache, Mourvedre and Pinotage. We are still on the hunt for a very small amount of Muscat for our white dessert wine. We except to produce around 19 different wines from this collection of grapes. So many opportunities and choices to be made. What fun and confusion. We bought a tablet computer just to keep track of the production activities this year in hopes of having exceptionally complete and accurate records. We will see how successful we are when it is 2am and we are still working.

 

Events Past and Coming

Zinfest 2011 was a great event for us. It was our first time pouring at a full blown wine event and the response from the crowd was tremendous. We had a fantastic time and enjoyed providing Toasted Toad Cellars temporary tattoos. They were placed in some very interesting locations and we can only imagine where they would have ended up if the weather had been warmer. People would come up and say they had been told to taste the wine in the blue bottle (Viognier) or to try that luscious wine (Toadilly Luscious Wine). Many people kept coming back again and again for another taste. Sales were far better than we had anticipated, being one of the new wineries, and based on what we were told, our sales were well above average.

 

One week after opening on November 5, 2011 we participated in First Sip where we had approximately 500 people come through the tasting room. The reception to the new tasting room and the wines was extremely positive and many new wine club members signed up.

 

Valentines weekend was the Wine and Chocolate event and almost 800 people came through the tasting room to enjoy each of the wines with a specific food pairing. Wine club membership doubled that weekend. We had 13 of us working non-stop both days and although exhausting, it was incredibly fun. All of the people helping enjoyed the dinner we prepared on Saturday night along with some very special wines from my personal wine cellar and a sneak drink of the dry Touriga Nacional. Only 15 cases were made and it was released for wine club members in April.

 

We have also participated in several other special events including being the only winery pouring at the Mayor's State of The City Address for Lodi, the Downtown Wineries Wine Walk, the Spring Wine Show and 2012 Zinfest. We did several other fundraisers along the way and we were the featured winery for a class on cheese appetizers at Cheese Central. We have had two wine club pickup parties at the winery to date and look forward to a special event this summer at the winery.

 

So, my only excuse for why it has been so long between posts is that we have been a tad busy, as you can see. I hope to do better at keeping up. I hope!!! - Jeff

 

Archived Blogs:

2011

2010

2009