Thursday, April 17, 2014

Vellum 2010: The Waiting Game

I wanted to touch on the recent critical success that we have had with the 2010 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Vellum Black, and look back on the vintage that many claim to be the best Napa Valley has had in recent years. However, I changed my mind! What the critics think is fine, but what everyone else, who has actually purchased our wine thinks is far more important to me. So, I thought is best to offer some tips on how to best enjoy your acquisitions!

In the vineyard, we develop Vellum wines for a signature of fresh aromas of strong cassis, bright deep fruit and summer bramble all combined and tightly wound around each other. These characteristics make for a brooding and resolutely powerful wine, so they need to be approached in a way to best display their virtues.

I frequently mumble to myself how the wine is not ready to drink even a year or two past bottling.  Sometimes this fact gets out to others. I don’t mean to do this, so what I should say is that the wine will keep getting better.  You can enjoy the wine now, but with my assurance, it will continue to improve with age.

When we make any Vellum wine we do so in the presence of very little oxygen and we extract an abundance of tannin. All of our wines are driven by a higher quantity of skin rather than seed or oak tannin. Skin tannin is inherently condensed in small chains and pieces and lacks the immediate presence of oxygen to broaden it and space out. To compound the condition, Vellum has a higher quantity of this tannin, but it is bottled in an environment of extremely low oxygen to preserve the wine.

By the time the bottle gets to you, it is understood that there can be a temptation to open it - -resist this!  We feel that long term aging of these wines (even the Vellum White!) can extend out twenty years. From a numbers point of view, this is a realistic milestone, however if you really cannot help yourself then get two bottles, put one away and acquire temporary amnesia. Years later it will prove itself a worthy find!

With the other bottle, the best way to enjoy it now is to decant it, and let it sit for about a half an hour. Then, against all sensible reason, pour the wine back into the bottle,cork it and plan to drink it the next day! This perhaps will come as a shock to many, but it works, and you will reap the benefits of planning and patience!

Good wines you can drink anytime. They are built that way, but they are not going to be too generous or forgiving. However, the great wines are like great friends! They will do anything for you, they want to do it right, and will they keep giving. Such wines need to move around to get everything into place. They need air and time - if you can spare both?

Right now I am drinking our current release of the 2010 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon on day three. The wine still is vibrant and fresh, tannins are in a perfect position to contribute a wonderful richness and the adroit depth of this wine shines through with surprising ease to a broad finish. This is how I drink Vellum. Its a waiting game but one worth waiting for…

Please open any of our wines now and try for this yourself. We would love to know your thoughts!

- Karl Lehmann, Vellum Winemaker

Monday, April 7, 2014

Vellum on the map

California is home to some of the greatest wines on earth, mostly because of its varied climate, hundreds of soil variations, and its pioneer spirit.  Vellum continues to pave its own path and has been recognized among the wineries in the Napa region on this beautiful map.  While there are bountiful choices for wineries in Napa, we hope you'll start your next journey in wine country with us.  Credit:  Pop Chart Lab (

Email for visitor information and tours.

Monday, August 19, 2013

2013 VELLUM White: Another Vintage is Born!

With the 2013 harvest quite literally around the corner (this week in fact), we spend our time preparing for only one thing - the white wine.  August in Napa Valley for VELLUM is and always will be the month devoted to VELLUM White!  We find that the best time to harvest Sauvignon blanc and Semillon is when the fruit is coming out of its adolescence and is discovering its maturity.  Here is the right of passage for the fruit, when we portend the future of it ten years later in bottle!  That is harvest day - we capture a one moment frozen in time and find a new home for its best flavours that are bright, wild and full of life!

This year August is especially uncommon.The weather has given us an earlier harvest by at least a week. With earlier ripening, such a situation should yield an added benefit of succulent acidity, fine structure and a well defined palate. It certainly is a vineyard year; where as winemakers, our job gets a whole lot easier when nature is on our side. We expect this vintage to have more than its share of promise!

As we usher in the 2013 harvest, we do not want to forget the bounty of 2012 that gave us VELLUM White. Now in current release, the wine has become everything we want it to be and it will only reveal more of its hidden layers in the years to come. For those of you that already have a bottle of it in hand, I have been asked to share to a few thoughts...

The 2012 Vellum White is wonderfully vibrant and generous in nature. Aromas waft easily from the glass and present remarkable notes of fresh citrus, young fig, chamomile and thistle. The wine reaches across the entire palate with ample volume and a tensile strength. It moves its gentle oily weight to yield a supple viscosity and reveal an inner incense of spice from the near east.Layered flavours continue with lively citrus, ripe gooseberry and summer thicket that persist to a long, succulent and complex finish. Vellum White is focused, unique and singular in style, but pays tribute to the tradition of great Bordeaux blanc! Age 15+ years.

Well, enough of the “critic-speak”, that is a lot to think about, but what I really want to say is that all of you simply enjoy it!  I still think 2013 has a lot to live up to, however the weather weighs heavily in our favour, and the undercurrent of what we do at VELLUM will always be there.  So, expect more great variations on this theme for VELLUM White. I suspect there may be a pattern forming?!

-Karl Lehmann

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Rave review from Groezinger Wine Merchants, Yountville CA

2009 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon -

A couple weeks ago I met VELLUM's winemaker, Karl Lehmann, at a friend's house during a dinner party.  There were a lot of really good wines on the table, and this one in particular that I had never seen before.  I tasted through the wines, and some were really quite good.

When the VELLUM hit my lips, I forgot about all the other wines I had tasted that evening, forgot about the beautiful leg of lamb that was served, and was practically born again with my enthusiasm for Napa Valley Cabernet.

This is no bullshit.  The 2009 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon is exactly how I want and think Cabs should be crafted.  It had balls of steel, with an inky black-purple hue, deep briary flavors of wild blackberry, cassis, earthy spice, firm tannin, and an unparalleled completeness unlike any other Cabernet from Napa.

The finish is long, satiating and pure, with super firm, fine, fuzzy tannins.  While discussing the wine with Karl, he mentioned that the pressed juice is reintegrated into the wine instead of making a "free run" only wine.  Many winemakers don't use their pressed juice and basically steal the wine's soul in the process.

With the VELLUM Cabernet you get all the parts, all of the flavor, all of the structure, everything those grapes had to offer is in the bottle.  It has the grip and structure like some of the great Napa Cabs of the late '70's and '80's combined with the polish and finesse of modern day Cabernet.

This wine is one of the reasons why I love what I do and love sharing it with you.  You would be doing yourself a significant disservice by not procuring a small load of the 2009 VELLUM Cab.  It's absolutely magnificent wine.

- Rick Beard, Groezinger Wine Merchants, Yountville, California

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Preview of the 2009 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon - Tasting notes by Winemaker Karl Lehmann

The 2009 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon does not need to stand up to get noticed. The wine displays dense, opaque violet tones from the start. The colors are whole, full, and move together. Tell-tale signature aromatics of sweet tarry tobacco, pure vibrant cassis, and summer thicket bound up from the wine. A heady final note of baking spices then continues on to the palate. Here blacker forest fruits emerge and knit with flavors of tar,minerals and winter mulling spices. They ascend as a capacious wave and fall gently onto a long, seamless and structured frame. In a crescendo, they are greeted with a vibrant, wild succulence and pile up in layers of an utterly satisfying and lasting richness. The effect is captivating!

The 2009 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon beams confidence and is certainly a wine that exceeds the sum of its parts. It exists with a presence of its own and has come into form with all the markings of classic bearing and proportion that foreshadow a great long life.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Star-Crossed Vintages!

The 2009 wines are about to be bottled and the 2011s are begging to be noticed! What to do? Hmm… How’s this? Please join us on Saturday April 14th 2012 for a rare sampling of these grand wines ahead of their much anticipated release! Also, be the first to discover why these vintages may very well be gone soon! As seems to be the current trend, I won’t even get any – and I made them! I think I need to re-negotiate my perks?

Any way you look at it, this is a great plan! We always enjoy the great French En Primeur tradition of barrel tasting the newest vintage, but we are also offering up the 2009 vintage too. On Saturday, our new 2011 reds, the coveted soon to be released 2011 Vellum White will be sampled for “future” consideration and we will preview the 2009s ahead of bottling. I love it! Vellum Wine Craft is one of the few small producers in Napa Valley to confidently “Put it all out there!” for the world to see the purest form of Vellum, before the wine elevates in its maturity. Always an exciting time!

With these vintages side by side we hope everyone can get a better idea of the flow and maturity of Vellum as it ages. I am certain that no one does this but us! Why? Who knows!... However, we want all of you to know, really know wine in all its bits, pieces and stages - not only what you go home with in a bottle.

As for the 2011 wines, I will let your imaginations run wild when you taste, but I thought it would be best to share a few “humble” words on the 2009 vintage before it is put to rest in glass.

2009 Vellum:

The nose of the 2009 Vellum leaps from the glass with top notes of cassis and exotic spice, a heart of aged briar and creosote and a base note of wild dark blackberry. This deep ruby wine is surprisingly seductive with lots of intense brambly fruit. It covers the palate broadly all at once with muscular layers of fine tarry extract and seamless integrated oak. The finish is wonderfully long and vibrant and it possesses a grand lasting persistence.

2009 Vellum Black:

The nose of Vellum Black has real charm. Subtle spiced cream and warm blueberry compote aromas bound up and give way to well defined oak and an inner perfume of anise. The wine moves as one unit, finding broad traction across and even under the entire palate. There is a very supple fabric here, yielding in the right places and exposing concentrated notes of wild blueberry and sweet tobacco. The finish warmly lingers with terrific length. Vellum Black displays a classic proportion and exudes and overall harmony even in its youth.

I hope all of you enjoy these wines this weekend (and beyond?) as much as I enjoy making them…You may use your own adjectives?!

We are looking forward to Saturday, and I want to remind everyone to pace yourselves…There are a lot of wines to get through, and we want you to try them all!

See you then!

-Karl Lehmann

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vellum 2011 Vintage Notes

I say this every year, “This is the finest wine we have made yet!” The expression may be getting a little trite, canned and a few may wonder if I have original thoughts in my head(?) but still... I can’t help myself! The 2011 vintage really is the best wine Vellum Wine Craft has produced to date.

This harvest marked our fifth successful year of production and regardless of the cool, sluggish weather I could not be more pleased with the results. The wines are honed, elevated and grand- even in their youth.

We started off 2011 with the second coming of the much anticipated Vellum White. I expected this to be a great year for white wine. The persistent cool weather and and intermittent rains throughout the summer slowed development and the fruit never really saw any real heat or burn. Nature handed us perfect clusters with a bright expression and the wine practically made itself in the vineyard! Today, Vellum White sits in cool, still neutral oak barrels on its lees. It has been frequently stirred to marry the sediment with wine and develop a full silky texture and considerable length. Lively aromas of gardenia, green apple skin and apricot leap out and they are already integrating nicely with the palate.

The Merlot, likewise was picked in its youth and much like the white, it too gets stirred! This is not usual for a red, but it is an important part of its development. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot needs (for lack of a better word?) - meat! Everything else is there, wonderful (but uncharacteristic for the varietal) cocoa aromas topped with dark brambly fruit for which our vineyard is known. The mouth feel is unctuous and plump and beginning to lengthen. It makes me realize that last year’s vintage was no mistake. The 2010 Merlot is destined to be contribute beautifully to our classic Cabernet!... And, this one will follow suit. I would bottle it tomorrow if I could, but then I forgot... like many of you out there, “I don’t drink Merlot!”. It’s true and shame on all of us! So the best we can do is stir and wait and one day hope for acceptance in a more enlightened wine drinking world...

Fortunately, the anointed Cabernet Sauvignon grape does not endure such bad press. This year however presented a challenge for many, as the cool rainy weather was not anticipated, yields were down and mold ran rampant. For Vellum, the vintage played right into our hands. This is what we have been waiting for - bring on the Ice Age! No mold and we gently pressed out more wine per ton than ever, making for a healthy yield. I am astonished really and I do not know how this happened, but it means more wine for all of you!

Our small lot American clone Cabernet Sauvignon was fermented with flawless uncompromised clusters and finished well under 14% alcohol. This dark ruby wine is succulent not only on the palate, but in the nose. Both carry persistent black raspberry and raw cassis aromas and flavours. It is a little exuberant now for the variety, but it will integrate with care in barrel in the months to come. Like the its predecessors, the understory characters of the vineyard are captured too, but this year I created something new. The flavours underpin the palate and the wine is so complete that it actually folds under the tongue with amazing reach. I can’t let this get away!

Not to be outdone, our French clone Cabernet Sauvignon from Coombsville (pictured above) recently finished and has been put to sleep in barrel today. This as many of you know this is our base and also signature wine that comprises Vellum. It provides not only the structure of the blend but also the fulcrum from which the other wines spring. Even in its infancy I am calling it out and tipping it for greatness! Roasted nuts, vanilla bean and cocoa hover over a bottom note aroma of sweet, warm but herbaceous blackberry. The nose and the palate are in contrast shifting to a strong, pure cassis and only cassis. There is an explosive entrance to the wine apexing with a magnificent high mid-palate adhesion - a gripping quality reminiscent of the best Cuban cigars! It releases and floats down gently to a side palate succulence and very broad length. This is certainly the grand Vellum wine of the year!

April 14th, 2012 cannot come soon enough...This will be another classic vintage and the best(?)! Please save the date to find out and join us for the 2011 Vellum en primeur.

Karl Lehmann, Vellum Co-Founder and Winemaker


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2011 Vellum in Good Hands!

As I have been saying years, Vellum is truly handmade. Now I can prove it! Here two of our closest supporters Bill and Robyn Mathy help us with punch downs by hand on our newly fermenting 2011 Merlot. Not only does this help with extraction, but they are literally ‘breathing life’ back into the yeast.

Wonderfully basic, but gentle, this is a new ‘old concept’ and strangely satisfying. The practice is one that I may consider doing in the vintages to come!... And, the Merlot has never tasted better. I think the Mathys are on to something with their ‘lost art’ of mixing!

I strongly urge everyone to come barrel taste the 2011 Merlot as soon as possible. This wine was made ahead of the curve, and there really is nothing else like it in Napa Valley. Please be the next to find out why!

Well, back to the vineyard for me...More of Harvest 2011 to come!

Karl Lehmann, VELLUM Winemaker

Thursday, September 29, 2011

VELLUM Merlot block is ready for harvest - THIS SATURDAY!

VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon has just a touch of Merlot - adding a depth and vibrancy to the aroma of our wines. We harvest just one row of Merlot from a beautiful vineyard block in St. Helena.


Here are some photos and a quick video (below) to whet your appetites!

Stay tuned for news from harvest - we will be picking the Merlot on Saturday morning.


Jeff Mathy, Founder


Friday, September 16, 2011

VELLUM White is back for 2011 !!!!

Another harvest is upon us in Napa Valley!

Hard to believe, that here in September we usually anticipate the sweltering heat and the blazing sun beating down on the vineyards for the rapid push to quick cluster maturity. Not this year! As the saying goes, if you have nothing to talk about, then talk about the weather! It seems that is true for all of us here. No one can stop talking about the cool to cold but even temperatures we have had this year. Perfect for white grapes and the reds...but that is a waiting game.

We had fully developed clusters this summer and no sunburn in our Sauvignon blanc and Semillon. The sugars stayed low and the acid naturally bright, all while flavours concentrated at the right time. 2011 will go down as a white "vineyard year" for the region and one of the most notable ever I suspect for VELLUM White!

The response to the inaugural 2010 micro-production of VELLUM White was overwhelming and now, tragically gone, but this year we got smart! VELLUM White is still a very small production, however we did make a little more. The fruit has been successfully harvested with a healthy yield, pressed gently, and now it is fermenting carefully in neutral oak barrels and hitting all the signature way points of the 2010 vintage.

This again, is a classic Bordeaux style white on the nose and it combines the best of our protected mountain vineyard for a palate unlike any other. For those of you who already know and love it, you will get your share - I promise this time! For those who don’t, welcome, VELLUM White is one of the most exciting and intriguing white wines to come out of Napa Valley in a long time... I am excited to share it with any and all takers next spring after its march to bottle. But! Anyone, who is nosy enough to poke around the winery may get a "preview", and rare look into what it takes to create it. Perhaps it is true that fortune does favour the bold, but for the rest, the patient purists, our tasting notes are soon to come!

- Karl Lehmann, VELLUM Winemaker

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Balance is More Than a Word

Anyone that knows us, really knows us, will also know our palate, what we dream about, and what we chase in a wine. We are after balance , the “B” word as some people in the wine world refer to it. Everyone claims they have it, and for marketing purposes no winery will live without it. A proclamation of balance to the right ears can turn even a ordinary wine into liquid gold - it's that easy!

Marketers and critics aside. To really understand the true meaning of the word as it relates to wine, one must look to the past to find those benchmark bottles that originated balance long before the world was given a new buzz word.

Ironically, and contrary to what most people think of winemakers; we drink very little of our own wine. VELLUM is for all of YOU! The past does not mean our past vintages. We look to to others' pasts in Bordeaux for inspiration and capture it in our own way.

Not too recently, a couple of those dream wines fell into my lap. I had the privilege to drink a 1975 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou out of the grand cellar of Dr. Robert Shannon of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Not to be outdone, the encore was a 1998 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou from an anonymous and generous collector of San Francisco, California. It is hard to know what to say after these wines. Empty buzz words need not apply here. Balance, simply is the essence of their existence.

They are what Jeff and I have been going on about for years, and before this time, I have only had the second labels from this producer. Even then, I was duly satisfied, but nothing could prepare me for the harmony and elation that these two vintages truly yielded.

The ‘98 Ducru was a modern effort in wine and a little nervous even at thirteen years. It had a touch of Brettanomyces (an infection) but the “horse sweat” component that Brett produces was in all the right places on the nose and palate. Dark fruit, bramble and fresh tarragon cropped up everywhere. The wine fell as a solid gentle sheet then flapped successively on the finish, as if a quick strong breeze picked up its flank. The sensation had power and purpose, but the uniform wine displayed no aggression. It was designed for a sort of heraldry and precision cadence. This balance of repetition clearly proved that this wine knows its purpose and is not afraid to show it.

Going back 23 years, it was evident that Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou has passed down their on the tradition of harmonious winemaking to the next generation. The ‘75 Ducru took patience as any old wine should, but it had the same heightened awareness and balance as its offspring. The nose was smartly complex. In a half an hour span, it went from oxidation to mushroom, to tarragon and Herbes De Provence then cured meats and finally brandied cherries.

It was not until I was finished experiencing these notes that I took my first sip. There again was oxidation, but front to mid-back palate the wine was complete. It had some slippage of the tannin like loose powdery talc on a smooth floor. So I waited. Almost an hour later the wine exploded after aeration, and it went high mid-palate to the roof of the mouth then dove seamlessly straight back to the finish with succulence of brandied cherries dusted with Herbes De Provence. It was so focused and quick that I lost track of time caught up in the fleeting moments with each sip. I could not say when it finished, but I understood then - the true dynamics of wine. Not only did I see why the French love tarragon so much, but I saw what this fine producer from Saint Julien sees.

Wine is a living breathing thing with many moving parts, cautiously and sometimes begrudgingly working together - a lot like us. Balance is the efficiency and harmony of a system where briefly everything works. Even to aspire to this state, parts must be there from the beginning and over time have a willingness to come together for a larger purpose. I suspect at bottling, balance was perhaps guessed at; where all of these structures in the wine fought for position in their youth and found their rightful place in life to glide as a well timed unit across the palate years later.

These two simple bottles, tomes even, taught me that balance is not a word. It is a point where time and space agree. VELLUM hones this event with each vintage in a mindful approach. Looking back, this is why I make wine, to capture a moment in a bottle - and wait.

- Karl Lehmann
VELLUM Winemaker

Thursday, January 20, 2011

VELLUM 2009 Discovered!

Last year I wrote a little about how we at Vellum Wine Craft blend our wines to bring one final offering to the world. Back then, I mentioned that blending essentially is the art of good planning. This still rings true! Jeff and I carry on this tradition of “good planning” at the beginning of each year. What has escaped me, is that whilst I made a fair assessment of what blending is and is not, I never came around to describing the individual wines and why they are so essential to VELLUM. I am kicking myself now! All that wine is integrated and bottled, so the 2008 VELLUM vintage is soon to be released! For the lucky few that have a bottle, there’s no guessing what’s what. Again, my apologies - all around.

This year I resolved that for the 2009 VELLUM vintage I want to bring clarity and understanding to every palate. You should know what you are buying. We keep no secrets here and we feel that a more informed palate is certainly a happier one! VELLUM, as many of you know is comprised of four distinct blocks of wine - two Cabernet Sauvignons, a Merlot and a Petit Verdot. Here is rare a look in at some of my 2009 notes:

Petit Verdot:

A nose of baking spice, toast, briar oil and dark fruit translate neatly to a full, but complete and lightly structured wine with a considerably persistent finish. This wine has all the depth and elegance I could ask of it.


Classic caramel nose with additional notes of raw cocoa and an undertone of tar. This wine is surprising and has gone through a marked transformation especially on the nose - with a little guidance. It is supple and light with buoyant bright cherry fruit hitting front, middle and back continuing to a sleek finish. I have a rocky relationship with all Merlot, but I nominate this one for Comeback Wine of the Year!

Clone 8 Cabernet Sauvignon:

The nose is of particular interest in this wine. There is the signature espresso grounds and graphite, but there is also roasted meat, freshly chopped hickory wood and hawthorn berries. I could smell this for a very long time. The wine has a wonderful high fore-mouth entry which comes down gently with counterpoint flavours to the nose of Bing cherries, raw cocoa and understated dark stone fruit skin. The finish is weighted but long and balanced. I get the sense that it is wanting to be bottled?

Clone 337 Cabernet Sauvignon:

I am struck by this nose displaying leather, cigar box and cedar oil- some of my favourite things. However, none of that can be found on the palate. This wine broods. There is layer after layer of dark briary fruit and it unfolds in waves. Each one is complete and focused and outdoing the one previous. I am not sure when the finish is going to end but I truly love it. It’s good that we have a lot of this!

Please forgive some of my language when tasting, I get a little passionate, caught up in the moment and the words gush out in real time. Maybe all winemakers are like this...I hope not? I do want to mention that it is easy to imagine when putting any blend together there would be little difference in the end as the largest volume would absorb the others. Wine does work that way, but there is a percentage limit where component wines do become noticeable. In VELLUM, we maintain tight control of proportions - not too much of this or too little of that. That part is the balance we preach and practice in the vineyard and likewise in the cellar...and it shows.

This first critical tasting of 2009 VELLUM was full of surprises for the two of us, and we expect VELLUM will be elevated in a bolder direction. Also, there is so much going on with each of the four wines that they should to be able to stand alone if the need arose. And that, for 2011, may indeed happen (hint, hint...)!

Barrel tastings are always a pleasure for us. Please come discover what makes this vintage is so special!

- Karl Lehmann, Winemaker

Friday, November 26, 2010

The End of the 2010 Vintage!

The 2010 vintage has come to a close as the wines rest in their barrels for a long slumber until we rack off the lees sometime this winter. The cool weather of August was on our side this year as we obtained another overall lower alcohol for the vintage. In the months to come this will make the task of balancing the wines much easier.

As for my long awaited first impressions of the wine, I first should first say that for those of you who have been fortunate enough to try the 2009 VELLUM vintage, expect the same from the 2010 VELLUM but with a lot earlier integration due to an improvement in our fermentation practices. Like 2009 there are no holes in these wines. Meaning that the palates are complete without the immediate need for oak. When a wine has a full palate and long length it lends to the focus of the flavors and lingering aromas without any distraction. So what you will find in these wines are fresh aromas of strong cassis, bright deep fruit and the typical bramble that VELLUM has become known for. All of these notes carry through on the palate with great length!

I also want to mention that the rumors about the much-anticipated 2010 VELLUM White are all true! After a very successful inaugural vintage I can safely say that we will indeed be expanding the production of this wine next year due to the very high demand. This barrel-fermented white wine is everything that I expected it to be. There are overwhelming aromas of gooseberry, guava and baked fig and they are mirrored on the palate. This is a white wine that grabs your attention and makes you take notice with its bright and defining acidity. The wine has a huge volume in the mid-palate and follows through with the same long length of the VELLUM red wines. Expect great things from this wine early next year! ...I certainly do and I am happy to have it as a welcome addition to the VELLUM name.

For those of you who took advantage of our great holiday offer please share VELLUM with all of your friends this season and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

- Karl Lehmann, Winemaker

Monday, October 18, 2010

A preview of the 2010 VELLUM Cabernet

VELLUM's 2-acre vineyard off of Napa Valley's Silverado Trail produces the majority of our vintage crop. We always harvest this vineyard last - and usually at the lowest sugar level (a good thing!) of all our vineyard blocks.

This year, the 2010 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon is right on schedule and looking world-class.

We are monitoring the vineyard closely and will be harvesting soon...

After the rains...

- Jeff Mathy, Proprietor

Cabernet and Petit Verdot Harvested!

The 2010 harvest is almost complete - and we now have all but one vineyard harvested. The past week has been a whirlwind of harvesting and sampling. The recent Petit Verdot crop looks exceptionally good this year. The grapes had nearly perfect ripening conditions and the fruit showed superb depth of flavor while maintaining the natural acidity that has become a signature of VELLUM wines.

We are waiting out some rain here - a tradition for us - as we prepare to harvest the last of our Cabernet vineyards in Coombsville, Napa Valley.

- Jeff Mathy, Proprietor

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A picturesque Napa harvest morning

There are many blessings for us to be thankful for - and this morning was one of them. It was an absolutely gorgeous Fall day in Napa Valley. A perfect morning for harvesting a small batch of rich, ripe VELLUM Merlot.

We started the pick in the early morning hours, just after the sun rose. But soon the coolness of the night had given way to clear, bright sunlight and very warm temperatures. Most of the winemakers in Napa Valley have fretted about the cool temperatures this summer - but now the heat spell has brought some of the fruit to full maturity.

The Merlot looks and tastes heavenly. The berries are not too large and not too small. The ideal size for a densely colored yet not overly extracted finished wine. The seeds are woody and crunchy. With focused concentration, the skins taste of the essence of raw cocoa. And the pulp is sweet and tangy.

It is important to take great care in minimizing and if possible eliminating Merlot's tendency to show a hint of bitterness in its tannins. And as you can see from the photos above, we have a tried-and-true method of avoiding negative tannin extraction. The answer - - whole berry fermentation. No crushing. No purple feet. No macerated grape skins.

We always harvest our fruit by hand, sort by hand and gently remove the berries from the stems before placing them in the fermentation tanks. The Merlot never sees a pump during fermentation and is treated with the greatest of care until it is placed in French oak barrels for aging.

Merlot is a grape that can easily go from good to bad - depending on how you treat the fermentation. And the grapes need the touch of a delicate hand from the vine to the barrel.

Some of our winery visitors have tasted the Merlot before it was combined with Cabernet and Petit Verdot in VELLUM's final blend. Our Merlot always surprises our guests with its suppleness, balanced structure and powdery tannins. In the photos from today's harvest you can see how the wine gets its start. There is reason and thought behind the winemaking methods that create VELLUM's signature style.

And perhaps - after a few weeks of fermentation - we will enjoy yet another vintage of fine Merlot, perfectly prepared for our 2010 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon.

- Jeff Mathy, Proprietor

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Merlot is at its peak.

VELLUM's small production of 2010 Merlot is about to come off the vine. And it looks fantastic!

The flavors of the fruit range from raw cocoa to deep dark berries. The sugars and natural acids are well developed and the seeds are woody and crunchy!

We are all systems GO.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


The early morning of Friday, September 3rd, welcomed VELLUM's first white production - an experimental batch of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion - to make the 2010 VELLUM White.

We are undoubtedly one of the first wineries to harvest white grapes (for still wine) this year...and the cold weather continues to dog the majority of Napa Valley.

Not so for VELLUM!

We love cool weather and our grapes are benefiting from the long ripening season.

The red grapes continue their slow crawl toward maturity at 23.5 brix, perfect sugar levels for low alcohols and balanced acidity.

The whites however, were right on time! A little about what will make the 2010 VELLUM White so special...

Made in a classic Bordeaux style, our Sauvignon Blanc and Semillion were immediately pressed as whole clusters. Yesterday they began co-fermenting in neutral French oak barrels.

The wine will be kept on the heavy lees and stirred daily to provide body and depth.

This will be no ordinary wine...

And we cannot wait to share it with you!

More coming soon,

- Jeff Mathy, Proprietor

Monday, August 30, 2010

- - Introducing VELLUM White - -

This is the time of year which I anticipate the sweltering heat and the blazing sun beating down on the vineyards pushing the grapes to their inevitable quick maturity-ripe for the picking. Surprisingly, there have been no dog days of Summer for us here in Napa Valley!

This year the vines have taken their time with the unseasonably cool weather upon us but we got there at last. Right now the sugar and acid ratio are in balance and we will have our perfect Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon clusters in tank by mid week to kick off Vellum’s 2010 vintage.

I have long desired to produce a white wine of my liking but I never had the opportunity to discover a piece of land that would produce what I want - - until now.

Vines unfortunately never reveal their secrets to the untrained eye or palate. Great fruit is invisible to most and it in its elusive nature does not like to be found. One must trust the most subtle flavors that the fruit yields to see their gentle translation to bottle in their truest form. These are the precepts of white winemaking as there is no room for error in this delicate medium.

The 2010 VELLUM White will follow again in the classic tradition of Bordeaux and we will capture everything the land has revealed to us. Jeff and I are very excited to deliver this wine next Spring to all who have requested and already purchased it by overwhelming popular demand. I will be tracking its progress here and explaining the distinctions of white winemaking throughout the harvest.

Please check back with us and discover this new direction for Vellum Wine Craft! Here’s to the first of many great white vintages to come!

- Karl Lehmann, Vellum Winemaker

Sunday, August 29, 2010

2008 VELLUM - Large Format Bottles!!

The new 2008 LARGE FORMAT bottles are ready to be filled...

They have been etched and beautifully hand-painted to perfection.

Now the 2008 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon is ready for "deep age". And what an amazing wine the 2008 vintage has become. Pure, focused, elegant...a true step forward for VELLUM in the direction of refinement and seamlessness. The 2008s keep their classic VELLUM character by also showing distinctive notes of what we call "bramble and understory".

For those of you who (like me, upon first hearing those words as wine descriptors) are looking at your computer screen with crossed eyes and brain melt - the aromas/flavors of bramble and understory can best be sensed by imagining this scene:

You are walking through a forest with tall trees, pines, blackberry bushes, ferns, and a thick ground covering of decomposing leaves and branches. Now imagine that the sun has started to peek through the trees and the forest floor is starting to warm up with the heat of the day. The aromas of earth and natural wood oils and the heated berries and stems of the blackberries...

THAT - is bramble and understory.

And for the best way to know what we mean by this description - you'll have to taste the 2008 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon. Available in the early months of next year. Or if you are in the wine club...even sooner!

Anyway, for the large bottles - - We will hand fill, hand vacuum cork and hand carry each of these bottles into the safety of the VELLUM wine cellar until they are ready for their debut.

Maybe we will open them again in 10-20 years!

- Jeff Mathy, Proprietor

Friday, August 6, 2010

2008 VELLUM Final Blend

Karl and I sampled the 2008 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon on Wednesday...

It still has a few weeks to go before bottling - - but this wine is a fantastic follow-up to our 2007 vintage.

Deep, rich color...over the top aromas of black currant and berries...

The tannins are so fine and so well-integrated that I feel this wine easily outdoes the 2007 vintage in early-age approachability.

The acid tightly structures the wine and provides an excellent framework.

And as always, the oak and alcohol are presented with restraint and finesse.

I am so proud of the 2008 VELLUM - you will absolutely love this wine!

- Jeff Mathy, Proprietor

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bristol Farms reviews the 2007 VELLUM

This, the inaugural release of Vellum Wine Craft cabernet, looks to be the launch of a promising endeavor. Two young enterprising wine professionals began their own project sourcing fruit from a group of small growers in the Coombsville area in southern Napa Valley. The grapes were sustainably farmed, hand harvested and strictly sorted to select only the best clusters. The fruit was gently crushed and cold fermented keeping the vibrancy and brilliance of the cooler climate fruit. The wine is then transferred to French oak barrels that were grown in sustainably grown forests. It was bottled unfined and unfiltered to guarantee depth as well as longevity. The resulting wine is a pure, racy, bright yet intensely flavored cabernet with superb balance and grace. Not wimpy, but compact, lovely, elegant and lingering. The wine is packed with flavors of mixed berries, café latte, toast and graphite. A welcome departure from the fatiguing over-the-top wines that we seem to be getting tired of. Great with grilled beef, pork, or chocolate desserts.

- Geoff Nicoll, Director Beer, Wine & Spirits

Monday, July 12, 2010

2007 VELLUM Magnums - - SOLD OUT

The 2007 VELLUM Magnums are now SOLD OUT. The exception being that we have reserved magnums for those who have enrolled in VELLUM's Wine Club.

Thank you all!

- Jeff Mathy

Friday, June 11, 2010

- - Announcing the VELLUM Wine Club - -

The VELLUM Wine Club is now open for membership!

As a club member you will receive convenient deliveries of VELLUM directly to your door – at a great discount!

Benefits of Vellum Wine Club membership:
** Save 20-35% on all wine purchases
** Wine arrives every three months
** Receive a selection of current & new releases
** Receive wines in multiple format sizes including magnums and half bottles
** Enjoy early exclusive access to Vellum wine futures
** Receive Vellum Wine Craft's experimental wines, including our much anticipated first white wine
** Give Club memberships as gifts for Father’s Day or Graduation

There are two levels of membership:

(2 bottles or equivalent per shipment)
As a member of the Vellum Club Level you will receive a selection of current release and new release wines in multiple format sizes including regular, magnum and half bottles.

(6 bottles or equivalent per shipment)
As a member of the Vellum Collector's Series, you will receive a selection of our current release wines, magnums and exclusive early access to new releases.

First Shipment Immediately, September 1, December 1, March 1, June 1

As many of you know, we produce a limited amount of VELLUM each vintage - which means that we can only offer membership to the VELLUM Wine Club to a few hundred households before we sell out.

CLICK HERE to enroll. Print the enrollment and mail or fax it to:

P.O. Box 10800
Napa, CA 94581

FAX: (707) 935-7916

Thursday, June 10, 2010


We are proud to announce that the 2007 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon is the WINNER of the 2010 World Wine Awards, Silver Medal (presented by Decanter Magazine). Over 10,000 entries competed from all over the world. A panel of esteemed Masters of Wine, Sommeliers, and wine professionals chose VELLUM from among the participants to receive this prestigious award.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The vines are thriving...


I spent yesterday afternoon and evening among the vines in our Petit Verdot vineyard high in the hills on the east side of Napa Valley. The vines are growing very rapidly right now - and the grapes can be seen in their smallest state - no bigger than 2 or 3 millimeters in size. They are clustered in bunches below the large mature leaves. There are also dozens of new tiny leaves on each vine, unfolding as the vines push toward the sky.

Today the vines are being tucked between the trellis wires to keep the vines reaching ever higher without bending to the ground under their own weight. Petit Verdot loves sunlight and higher temperatures...and this eastern-facing hillside vineyard is the perfect spot for this stunningly beautiful vineyard.

The warm afternoon winds sweep across the vines during the ripening period and do a great job of keeping the fruit dry and healthy. The dryer the air is, the more moisture is lost through evaporation. This helps to create great concentration of flavor and richness in the grapes.

As we get closer to harvest, we will see the grapes grow from their tiny bead-like state...into large green berries. In August, they will start to turn black and ripen with sugar.

Keep checking back with us (and follow VELLUM on to hear the latest updates on the 2010 VELLUM vintage.


Jeff Mathy, Proprietor



CLICK HERE to join the VELLUM Wine Club

Thursday, May 27, 2010

All Clear for 2010 !!

Spring is in full swing here in Napa Valley. The buds have pushed and another vintage hinges on what happens right now. This is when we watch the weather very carefully - as do our growers. As always in Spring, early bud break followed by a late frost could seriously damage our chances at a successful year. It has been unseasonably cold this month and still raining on and off but as it is May now, chances of frost are very unlikely.

Also, this late rain is important because it increases the water table; which in turn will help in more uniform berry set after flowering. We expect a much later harvest this year with these additional cooler temperatures. So, it seems that we have passed the test and we may see another year like 2009 with full fruit development at lower sugar levels, higher yields and the pick of the crop!

Indeed, 2010 will be more like 2009 than the rigorous "winemaker" year of 2008 which put our knowledge, skills and luck to the test. Recently one of our coopers gave us a nice complement:

"It's wonderful to see the barrels performing so well, and to know that you are paying such close attention to the details of your winemaking. You really do set an example!"

While I love to hear statements like this, I believe it is best that nature is on our side and with a little coercion the wines will make themselves in the vineyards. So, enduring springtime in wine country may seem like a minor achievement to the outsider but we will take our victories when we can get them and fret less when we go to bed at night.

- Karl Lehmann, VELLUM Winemaker

Monday, March 15, 2010

On Inspiration...

The end of this week marked a milestone in activity for VELLUM. Never have we been more occupied with sales, events, and promotion than now. Nothing about wine is easy, whether it be its creation, message or assuring a bottle's final destination. We must be concerned with every detail.

In particular, Jeff has been out there everyday recounting our story to scores if not hundreds of people and they are listening. In my limited exposure to the public, one of the recurring questions that we receive is how we got started? It was not that long ago...

People seem to think that we came out of nowhere and introduced VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon. We had no previous attachment to a winery legacy nor was any land or label model handed down to us. And! We are not doctors or lawyers looking to find new ways to entertain friends. So to many, it is a mystery!

In truth, Jeff and I have been in the background of the wine industry honing our skills. Jeff has developed a lifetime of business knowledge around agriculture and I have been creating wines for others and dreaming of my own. The answer to how we started is that we believe in ourselves, in each other and in turn everyone else believed in us.

We have a shared love of wine as do all of the people we come in contact with everyday. The difference is that we maintain wine as art, history and culture. Almost a mantra - - and out of it VELLUM was born. What is in the bottle is a representation of what is in our hearts and minds. It is the past respected, knowledge gained and balance actualized. That is our love.

From a distant land the following was sent to me. As for the how and why, I like to think that it sums up everything we at Vellum Wine Craft have been doing with our time here.

Find your love.

You know that dream you carry around with you each day?
It's kinda important.
Wasn't it what you were put on planet Earth to do?
They say everyone has a calling, can you still hear it?
Doesn't it eat away at you?
That treadmill you are on, did it ever get too much?
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to do your thing?
Did you ever feel time was passing you by?
Just how many days have you left before your last?
Did you ever wonder about stuff like that?
Did you ask yourself 'what was stopping you?'
There is never a right time.
You will be too old. Too young. Too something or other.
When was the last time you took a risk?
Did you remember how alive it made you feel?
There are no guarantees of success.
It's not called a leap of faith for nothing.
It's not too late, honest.
You might fall.

You might fly.

-David Hieatt

I want to thank Layla from Walton-on-Thames, U.K. for this. She is very dear to me and shares my spirit for living...

In the end, this is how great wine gets made.

-Karl Lehmann

Sunday, March 7, 2010

On the Wine Road...

This week I hit the Northern Sonoma County Wine Road Once a year, wineries from the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys open their doors to the public for barrel tasting. It is a great event spanning two weekends in March for the public to go out to Sonoma County wineries, meet the winemakers and taste the current vintage in barrel.

I had a wonderful time touring the countyside with friends and even though there are over 160 wineries to choose from, we were able to visit only four. Each winery has several barrels to taste and you will want to try all of them! If you attempt the Wine Road barrel tasting pace yourself, the pours are generous and remember to bring along a designated driver!

Notably in my day out, I want to mention one winery in particular that has reached legendary status spanning four decades -- Joseph Swan Vineyards. Founded by Joe Swan, this estate winery has had more notable vintages I know of than any other its size. Focusing on Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, the winery has always maintained that "small was beautiful"; where carefully tended vineyards could be maintained by one person and this led to more intense and age-worthy wines.

Some time ago I learned this from my mentor Dr. Jerry Seps at Storybook Mountain Vineyards and he learned it from his mentor Joe Swan over 35 years ago. It is a philosophy that VELLUM will always admire and pursue and it is a privilege to carry on such a tradition.

If you can get a hold of the old wines of Joseph Swan Vineyards please do. I hear that they are very much alive! It was a pleasure barrel tasting there and I want extend the invitation to any who want to share a similar experience with us!

- Karl Lehmann

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mystery Solved!

This past week I started blending one of of our Cabernet lots based on our previous bench-top trials. I have realized, that sometimes even an educated guess is still a guess. In such a situation one has to rely on their instincts.

The problem in question was to determine whether or not wines have modularity. That is, can the parts of similar wines fit together to make the end result more complete and fully functioning? I can now answer that with an unequivocal yes! Also, as long as the framework provided by the acid and therefore the pHs are similar this hypothesis holds true. Essentially, I had a Cabernet that needed balance in the middle but more wine than I needed to complete the task. That is where the guesswork came in.

I wanted only a small part filled and to not dominate the entire palate. The blend resulted in a 4:1 ratio of the two wines and it integrated perfectly, smoothing the surface on the palate much in the way one would repave a pothole on the road!

I mentioned this to a friend of my mine the other day and he asked me why does it matter since everything will go together anyway? The reasoning and the importance of early blending is for the benefit of integration. It is much easier to combine two wines to address an issue than to throw everything together and hope for the best. There is extra security in knowing that each wine is tightly woven, seamless and balanced before moving on to the next step.

The methodology of modularity is deceptively simple but I am beginning to believe that it is the reason why VELLUM is so approachable in its youth however built for years to come. When I move on to the next blend and then ultimately to bottling I will readdress this technique and concept. There may even be a lucky few of you out there who may have the rare opportunity to barrel taste the 2008 vintage before its release! If the stars align in such an event we will post your feedback here!

- Karl Lehmann, Winemaker


Friday, January 15, 2010

Blending, demystified.

The creation of bottled wine is a seemingly never ending process. While we at Vellum Wine Craft believe that the best wine requires a hands off approach letting the wine "become itself"; there are circumstances where we invariably have to manipulate what ends up in the bottle.

The art of blending or assemblage is such a task. We have a collection of separate lots of wine with their own virtues but we need to combine them in the right proportion to achieve the signature in bottle that best represents the current vintage of VELLUM. At many wineries, blending is a secretive, pedantic and wasteful recourse. Winemakers can spend weeks doing this and oftentimes they get nowhere- but drunk!

Well, I have nothing to hide and fortunately I have learned from many of their mistakes, if only so Jeff and I can get on with enjoying our creation!

Each harvest, we begin the "assemblage" in the vineyard by selecting the fruit for the flavor, composition and tonnage we will require a year and a half later in the bottle. Now, I don't have a crystal ball however yesterday, my own father asked me, "How much of it is luck?". I suppose he wanted to know if I was hitting a hot streak these past years? My answer to that was most emphatically no - we create luck!

Jeff and I are meticulous planners and we effectively optimize our resources. So, in a way we can "see into the future"!

This past week we put together our 2008 blend for the first time and there were no surprises. Consequently, I was reminded of what Thomas Jefferson learned in during his travels in France - that you can't make a good wine better by adding a bad one to it. In other words, winemaking is not alchemy and as I recall; you still can't make gold from lead! So, we had in front of us four solid wines and I knew fourteen months back what to expect when the fermentations finished. They could stand alone but "as predicted" - they needed each other.

Each lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot bring their own merits in the fold. None diminish the other and best of all nothing goes to waste. The end result, is a wine that is remarkably full, balanced and similar to the 2007 VELLUM that many of you have come to know and love. If you have any of it resting in your cellar, I urge you to revisit it and get a glimpse of what's to come with the 2008 release this year! Perhaps then, you may see that mystery behind the "art of blending" is really the practice of good planning!

- Karl Lehmann


Monday, December 28, 2009

As 2009 does the 2009 VELLUM!

It is easy to say each year, "This is the best wine we have made".

In reality, the past vintages of VELLUM have presented many challenges.

The 2007 and 2008 vintages had their share of struggles and miscues with the weather and the logistics of harvesting. However, despite these divergent paths, the wines in their own right are strikingly similar and equally outstanding.

Although winemaking is never easy, for 2009 there were few trials or difficulties, colder weather and the wine (as it would seem) - "made itself"! The result is a vintage with amplified depth, focus, length and very early integration.

I have never witnessed a group of wines which I have ever had the privilege to make come together so quickly. To fully appreciate the 2009 vintage, one needs to see the progression of our house style with the 2007 and 2008 vintages first. The wines of 2009 respect the restraint of its predecessors but exemplifiy the potential of our fermentation methods, cool temperatures and gentle but persistent extraction.

Now, the entire 2009 vintage sits on its heavy lees (sediment) and awaits its first racking in January. It has officially finished its secondary fermentation. This is where the malic acid in the wine is metabolised by the beneficial bacteria Oenococcus Oeni and converted into the more subtle lactic acid. This fermentation is vital in stablizing the wine and preventing it from devloping any off flavors or aromas.

Also, it is here that we mark the wine's beginning of its maturity. So, the 2009 VELLUM is ready for a long winter's slumber and as it rests we will go back to the 2008 vintage for the much anticipated task of blending...More on this next time!

I hope that everyone can take time out to look back upon what went right for them this year. At VELLUM we are thankful for everything that fell into place for us and for this much needed time for rest and reflection. Since 2009 is coming to a close, I want to take this opportunity to thank those who have gone beyond every expectation to help us meet our winemaking goals...There are too many of you to mention here but if you are reading this - you know who are!

Lastly, owing to a recent trip to England, I want to thank Johan Torgersen and Vegard Ellensen for helping me introduce VELLUM to their native Norway and to thank the charming literati, Miss Laura Hulley for her knowledge on the shared heritage of wine and literature. I was reminded that one cannot hope to create great wine without such a perspective. This afterall, is the core of VELLUM!

Happy New Year to all and I hope 2010 is prosperous for everyone!

- Karl Lehmann

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

VELLUM for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday!!

And for the first time in many years, our family will celebrate Thanksgiving in different cities and time zones...

Despite the distance, it will be a great day of celebration - and though we won't share the same dinner table - we will all be sharing bottles of our family's fantastic 2007 VELLUM Cabernet Sauvignon.

It's not too late to have VELLUM with your turkey dinner.

Place an order this week and your 2007 VELLUM will arrive in time for the festivities!

Or send a magnum to the loved ones who celebrate as our family does this Thanksgiving - separated by distance...but warmly remembered with a sip of wine and a toast to holiday cheer.

Wishing you all the best this Thanksgiving,

- Jeff Mathy and Karl Lehmann