October 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

Bogle Vineyards

Pioneering winery in Clarksburg, Calif., celebrates 50 years and modern 20-acre facility

by Jim Gordon


A visit to the tasting room and original winery of Bogle Vineyards gives no immediate sign of how big and how progressive the family owned winery is today. County Road 144 that reaches the Bogle ranch and winery from the tiny town of Clarksburg, Calif., two miles away runs along the top of a levee that keeps Elk Slough from flooding the rich farmland all around. This is the Sacramento Delta region, California’s version of the bayou, and as if to prove this point a foot-long snapping turtle inches across the road and causes a short delay as Wines & Vines approaches the family property.

Tucked between the road and large stretches of flat terrain covered by vines are the Bogle offices, tasting room and wine club reception area, housed in a vaulted two-story frame building with a second-story deck wrapping around one end to give expansive views. Nearby sits a smallish, ramshackle winery complex that has been expanded over time and includes a number of 5,000 to 20,000 gallon tanks resting outside.

Winery staff greet visitors daily, host wine club events and pour the array of $10 to $20 wines that have won a loyal following over time for their quality and especially for their value. The scene is familiar in every California wine region, and encourages the idea that Bogle Vineyards is a small, artisan-style winery that grows its own grapes and makes its own wine on the premises. But there’s more to it than that.

The Bogle family built and expanded these facilities during the first few decades of operations, but as the brand prospered and grew, they began to outsource winemaking to custom crush outfits in places including Monterey and Sonoma counties. By the late 2000s they were well on the way to today’s output of 2.5 million cases and decided to build a new winery to bring all the winemaking together in one place.

With wine distributed in 50 states and exports expanding to 38 countries, they began planning a brand-new, state of the art 20-acre facility on a 250-acre property they already owned a few miles away. Designed by Calpo, Hom & Dong and Summit Engineering and built by Rudolph and Sletten, the winery was put into partial service in 2011 and now handles all their needs with an efficient crush pad, tank farm and 200,000-square-foot barrel cellar.

Now as the family celebrates its 50th year of farming wine grapes and its 42nd year of winemaking, the Bogles and their staff are welcoming some attention to their efforts. Warren V. Bogle and his son Chris were the first to introduce wine grapes to Clarksburg when they planted an initial 20 acres of Petite Sirah and Chenin Blanc in 1968. Today the family manages more than 10 varieties and more than 1,900 acres.
The children of Chris Bogle and his wife, Patty, are now the third-generation to make wine in Clarksburg. Of the three Bogle siblings, Warren, named after his grandfather, is in charge of farming, Ryan manages the business side and Jody Bogle oversees customer relations, direct to consumer sales and international sales. Bogle employs 135 people in the delta region.

Wine production is the responsibility of Eric Aafedt, director of winemaking, who has been with Bogle since 1994 after he graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in chemistry. Working with him is winemaker Dana Stemmler, who earned a degree in viticulture and enology from the University of California, Davis, in 2005 and joined Bogle the following year.

While ramping up production from year to year, Aafedt and his team have maintained high quality in their wines by sourcing grapes from the best vineyards that Bogle’s average price point of $10 can justify, and then making the wine as if it were going to sell for twice as much. For example, each vineyard lot, whether grown by Warren Bogle or by partner growers, is processed separately to improve quality control throughout the winemaking process. This practice helps keep quality high and is rare for a winery of Bogle’s size.

Estate fruit satisfies about 40% of the winery’s needs, and partner growers supply the rest from locations throughout the state. In 2017 the winery fermented 650 lots and kept them isolated so that Aafedt and Stemmler could grade them A to F on quality and share those scores with the various growers.

“You can roughly grade the wines by how the grapes look, whether they’re clean and pretty,” Aafedt said, “but the way to really identify a piece of a land that either needs work or needs accolades is to keep it separate and taste it separate.”

Very unusual for a winery of this size, Bogle barrel ferments 50% of its Chardonnay in small new American oak barrels and hand stirs the lees monthly to create a rich texture similar to that of wines at twice the price. The Chardonnay hall in the winery holds 12,000 barrels and another 80,000 barrels handle the reds.

Bogle’s lineup includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, old-vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Essential Red (blend), a Port-style dessert wine and two wines under the Phantom brand — a red blend and a Chardonnay.

New this year is a 50th anniversary bottling of Petite Sirah. The limited-edition silk-screened bottle is available only through the tasting room and wine club. “We are featuring our Petite Sirah as the wine has been a staple of Bogle for the last 50 years,” said Jody Bogle. “It is the very first grape variety our grandfather planted in 1968 and was the first red wine we bottled under our own label in 1978.” The Petite Sirah grapes are handpicked from Bogle’s Quick Ranch estate vineyard.

Making all the wine “at home”
Aafedt says the new facility aids wine quality in several ways, including a gravity-assisted receiving center, six new presses, a wide variety of tank sizes that enable his team to keep each vineyard lot separate and a TankNet system to monitor and control fermentations.

“It was amazing to see such high-quality juice coming from our direct-to-press operation,” Aafedt said about the 2011 crush. Having all the fermentations take place “at home” also means Aafedt can smell each tank every morning during fermentation and Stemmler can do the same each afternoon.

At harvest time, a portion of the Clarksburg Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes are hand picked, and the rest of Bogle’s supply is machine harvested at night to keep the grapes cool. Truckers drive their rigs to the top of a massive ramp which was part of the construction to deliver the grapes, which are dumped into a receiving hopper, augered to a conveyor belt that enables hand sorting and moved to one of the six Diemme Velvet presses supplied by Collopack Solutions.

The winemakers cold settle the white juice for 36 to 48 hours. They inoculate all the Chardonnay with CY3079 yeast and half goes directly into all-new 62.5-gallon American oak barrels from World Cooperage for fermentation and malolactic. It stays on the lees for 8 to 10 months and warms itself to a peak of about 65° F in the 52° F cellar. Monthly lees-stirring gives the wine more body and a richer texture. The other half of the Chardonnay goes to stainless steel tanks for fermentation with the same yeast but no malolactic.

Aafedt said the oak that World Cooperage uses for their barrels is Missouri and/or Midwest grown, extra fine grain and has “the longest, deepest toast we can get without creating oak.” He prefers Profile 105 as the toast level, and uses a lot of that for the Chardonnay, but also likes how it works on reds after its initial use for the Chardonnay.

The second fill wine picks up less dill flavor – which used to be a major concern with American oak for some winemakers — because the slow toasting process penetrates deep into the wood, according to Aafedt. The coopers at World Cooperage use infrared heat sensors on the staves as they toast them over an oak fire. A computer screen shows a graph that helps the cooper manipulate the barrel for the desired effect.

Fruit-forward and varietally-correct wines are the goal, with subtle oak aromas and flavors, Aafedt said. “We don’t really want one thing that will smash you over the head in terms of butter or oak.”

For Sauvignon Blanc the process is much more reductive, employing CO2 in dry ice form on the grapes, and as a gas in the presses and in tanks. All the Sauvignon Blanc is gentle-pressed and fermented in stainless steel while kept at 55° F for about 30 days.

Red, red wine
The red wines get what Aafedt called standard treatment, but aided by technological advances in monitoring and manipulating the fermentation process. Grapes are delivered to the top of the ramp for destemming one block at a time in one of two Diemme Enologia Kappa machines from Collopack.

The must goes to tanks for fermentation that lasts about seven days and reaches average temperatures of 75° F but can get into the 90°s in the caps. Crew members run pumpovers twice a day in each tank using attached pumps on some tanks and prompted by TankNet readings of temperature. They use Toad irrigators to wet the caps, but keep a human eye on the process through 36-inch diameter manways that Aafedt specified for this reason, and making adjustments in pumping speed and duration as needed.

The winery has roughly 350 tanks made by Westec Tank & Equipment that range in size from 1,000 gallons to 129,000 gallons. The fermentation tanks were designed to accommodate trailer loads from one-half load (11 tons) to six loads (132 tons). Tanks are outfitted with temperature probes for the cap and for the body of the wine and are integrated into the TankNet system. All of the tanks are set up for semi-automatic pumpovers and the largest ones have dedicated pumps.

At 5° Brix, they let the tanks warm to 80°. When the Brix reads zero the crew pumps the wine and skins to a press. After pressing, it returns to the same tank to settle for five to 10 days before being racked off the primary lees, inoculated with malolactic culture and moved to a full tank to finish MLF. After that, it gets racked again, dosed with sulfur dioxide and transferred into mostly neutral barrels.

When it’s time to empty white or red wine barrels, Aafedt is especially happy with a Tom Beard racking and cleaning line that accepts four-barrel racks. Nitrogen pushes the wine out of the barrels to blending tanks and then the equipment completes a three-step cleaning process that uses hot, clean water from a boiler for only the final rinse. Murky third-run water does the first pass and cleaner second-run water does the second pass.

After the 2017 harvest was completed and before the 2018 crush began, the Bogle family received some well-deserved recognition from the California wine community. For one, they accepted the California State Fair Lifetime Achievement Award based on their family’s multi-generation contributions to the state’s wine industry.

Also in 2018 a coalition of wine and grape associations across the state honored the family with the Green Medal for Leadership in sustainable winegrowing and winemaking. It recognizes the vineyard and or winery that best demonstrates the “3 E’s” of sustainability by excelling in environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable practices.

It seems that the cat is out of the bag regarding the Bogle family’s success and their many contributions to the wine industry. Despite keeping a low-key presence for decades, their peers and the public are now giving the Bogles some well-deserved respect.

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