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