Winemaker Interview: Randy Meyer

Randy Meyer

As our regular readers know, from time to time, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Randy Meyer, the Director of Winemaking for BARRA of Mendocino in Mendocino County, California.

Randy graduated from UC Davis and then spent more than two decades at Korbel. He started as a cellar worker, moved to winemaking, and held various titles and responsibilities – including, at one time, brewing beer at Russian River Brewing Company. Randy joined BARRA of Mendocino in June 2019.

The Barra family has been growing grapes in Mendocino County since 1955. That of course makes them true pioneers in the region. Charlie Barra was one of the first grapegrowers on the North Coast to plant Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. After focusing exclusively on grapegrowing for four decades, in 1997, the Barra family began making their own wine under the BARRA of Mendocino brand.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

Santa Rosa, California.

When and how did you get into wine?

My sophomore year at UC Davis is when I switched from pre-med to Fermentation Science. During this period of time I got my hands dirty doing various harvest jobs at Piper Sonoma, Far Niente, and Domaine Chandon.

What has been your career path to where you are?

After college, I started as a cellar worker for F. Korbel & Bros. I spent 23 years with Korbel, starting out in the cellar learning the ropes of racking, blending, and press operation. After a year in the cellar, I moved into the lab for two years, which helped prepare me for four years as an enologist working under the senior winemaker. In the mid 1990s I had an incredible opportunity to become the original brewer at Korbel’s Russian River Brewing Company. Over the next 11 years with Korbel, I would add Winemaker, Business Analyst, and Director of Grower Relations to my list of responsibilities. After leaving Korbel, I became the Senior Winemaker for M. Draxton for several years and, before joining BARRA of Mendocino, I was a Senior Winemaker / Operations Manager for Geyser Peak.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

The Barra family has been farming vineyards in Mendocino County for over 65 years, so by default, this makes us pretty special! In 1955, Charlie Barra started with a 175 acre home ranch in Redwood Valley, and today the fruit I work with comes in from 350 acres spread across three different estate grown, certified organic vineyards. In addition to our organic farming techniques, I would say that our vineyard locations and their unique microclimates also set us apart.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

I am all about balance. My goal is to balance intensity with finesse and live by the rule of “fruit first, oak second.”

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

People – without good people, one can’t make good wine.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Dennis Martin. Wayne Donaldson. Corey Beck. All unique and extremely talented in different ways.

What new winemakers are you most excited about and why?

I really respect and admire the up-and-coming winemakers who are choosing to work with organic fruit. It takes a whole other level of knowledge, expertise, and creativity. One name that comes to mind is Brianne Day out of Oregon. We share the same distributor in Illinois and in Quebec, actually. She is doing some really interesting stuff.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

New Zealand – amazing Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Rafanelli Zin and Williams Selyem Pinots from the late 1990s.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

In all honesty, I like to buy wine and then I like to drink it. On special occasions I might spend $30 on a great Pinot, but it had better be worth it!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Girasole 2019 Zinfandel – luscious and fruity!

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

Barra 2018 Zinfandel. Any 2019 Russian River or Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc.

Is beer ever better than wine?

Always…

How do you spend your days off?

Gardening, home improvement, golf, skiing.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m actually not very social.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Something blue-collar, working with my hands.

How do you define success?

A happy marriage, raising successful, caring and grounded daughters. I’ve never sought the spotlight in my Winemaking career.

Winemaker Interview: Rick Tagg

Delaplane Cellars

As our regular readers know, from time to time, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Rick Tagg, the winemaker at Delaplane Cellars in Northern Virginia.

Delaplane Cellars was founded by Jim and Betsy Dolphin in 2007. Last year, Daniel and Katie Gomez, along with their friends Nicholas Jordan and Thomas Duckenfield, purchased Delaplane. They look forward to continuing the Dolphins’ legacy of producing high-quality wines, as well as adding additional options for extended tastings with food pairings.

Rick grew up in Northern Virginia and has stayed local. After discovering fine wine while working at French restaurants, he worked as the winemaker at Barrel Oak Winery, also in Delaplane, VA, before joining Delaplane Cellars. Rick is continuing as the winemaker at Delaplane Cellars under the new ownership.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Philadelphia, PA, and moved to Virginia when I was two. I grew up in Alexandria, VA.

When and how did you get into wine?

I worked in French restaurants and that was when I first learned about good food and quality wine.

What has been your career path to where you are?

When I worked as a waiter in French restaurants, I had to learn the cuisine and the ingredients. I was not familiar with some of the herbs and vegetables so I started growing them myself and ended up getting a part time job at a greenhouse specializing in growing and selling culinary herbs and heirloom vegetables. I have always been interested in food and wine and growing things and thought that working in a vineyard and winery would be a good fit for my interests.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

What makes our vineyards special is the attention that we pay to growing the vines, because the wine comes from the vineyard. If we cannot grow excellent grapes, we cannot make excellent wines. We have a pretty good site with a nice Southwestern exposure, good slope, and drainage.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

Great wines are made in the vineyard. It is possible (although not usually encouraged) to make mediocre wine from great grapes, but impossible to make great wine from mediocre grapes. I also remind myself that wine is food, albeit a very complex, ever-evolving food. Cleanliness and sanitation go a long way to help food from misbehaving. It is also important to be flexible in winemaking choices, rather than following the same recipe all the time, because not each variety behaves differently each year.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Making wine in Virginia is the biggest challenge. Vintage variation. Some years drought, most years too much rain. Hurricanes. Derechos. Hail. Humidity. Disease pressure. Early freezes. Late frosts. Weird invasive insects. A winemaker is first and foremost a farmer. It’s important to remember patience and kindness, particularly at harvest.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

I think that I would have to list the Gallo Brothers for getting a recipe from the library and having a business evolve into such a commercial juggernaut.

Bo Barrett for comparing winemaking at harvest to coaching a baseball team and making consistently excellent wines.

Jim Law for his pioneering leadership in pursuit of balance in Virginia wines and his patience with those of us who are still learning.

Dr. Daniel Norton for persevering in cultivating a Virginia grape that can be made into drinkable wine.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

I am excited to see that so many women are entering the field.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

Burgundy.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

I tasted a Dopff & Irion Les Sorcieres Gewurztraminer in 1988 I think. It was a transcendental experience — it was the first time I recognized how a wine could be so amazing, so complex. I once tasted a Madeira bottled in 1866 from grapes grown in 1863. Can you imagine? Grapes that were growing when Abraham Lincoln was president. Was it good? Not too bad, but who cares? What other food is a time machine that can evoke such powerful history and emotion?

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

Chateaux Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 1985.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Tawny Port. Viognier for cooking.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

Pouilly Fume. St. Joseph.

Is beer ever better than wine?

Only after work.

How do you spend your days off?

Gardening, hiking, reading, photography, cooking, and thinking about Paris.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’m nicer than people think.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

I have absolutely no idea. Probably something outside involved with growing or making food.

How do you define success?

Success in life:  being good enough at something you love to get paid for it. Success in winemaking: tasting a far from bad wine that I made and saying “No way I made this.”

Winemaker Interview: Remi Vervier

Remi Vervier

As our regular readers know, from time to time, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Remi Vervier, the Managing Director and Oenologist of Champagne Palmer & Co.

Remi hails from a Burgundian winemaking family. He was born in Macon, and grew up around the family vineyard in Pouilly Fuissé. He returned to the region after his studies to work at Louis Latour, before joining Champagne Palmer & Co in 2010.

Champagne Palmer & Co. was established in 194 by seven growers. Its wines are created from 415 hectares of vineyards, across forty crus. Once vinified and blended, Palmer’s wines undergo extended sur lie aging – far beyond what Champagne’s laws require – which I think helps impart Palmer’s house style, marked by richness and lusciousness.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Macon in the South of Burgundy.

When and how did you get into wine?

My family has a vineyard in Pouilly Fuissé. I have always been in the world of wine, since I was a child, playing in the vineyard or in the winery with my brother, who now runs our family vineyard. Wine has always been a strong part of my life.

What has been your career path to where you are?

I chose to study agronomy, then oenology, and then I started my career in Burgundy, becoming Technical Director for the House of Louis Latour, where I stayed for over 10 years before joining Champagne Palmer & Co in 2010.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

With no doubt the amazing terroirs of the North face of the Montagne the Reims are very special. Premier and Grand Crus of Trépail, Villers-Marmery for the Chardonnays, and Mailly, Verzenay, Rilly la Montagne, Ludes or Chigny les Roses for the Pinots Noirs are just fantastic, and contribute strongly in the Champagne Palmer & Co fingerprint.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

Time is essential in winemaking. Find the perfect moment for harvest, take time for fermentations, take time for decision of blending, and leave the wine on lees for many years to achieve the perfect balance. Managing time is one of the keys to the Champagne Palmer winemaking process. “What is done with time, Time will respect it,” wrote Rodin. This maxim could be applied to Palmer & Co.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

The biggest challenge happens every year! When you have to compose with what Mother Nature has given, the big challenge is to make the right decisions to maintain the very high quality standard of Champagne Palmer.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

I really like the approach that Ricard Geoffroy had for Dom Perignon, and I think that Michel Rolland has done a lot for winemaking in general.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

After Champagne and Burgundy, I am a real fan of Tuscany and the romantic glamour of its endless rolling hills, cypress-lined country roads, and hilltop villages. Its vineyards produce an array of internationally recognized wines in various styles.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

I have a memorable feeling of a Cheval Blanc 1982 . . . a precious moment.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

We still have 7 bottles of 1947, the first vintage from Palmer & Co – these are priceless and not for sale!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Nothing is open, but there is always a bottle of Champagne Palmer & Co in the fridge, ready to be opened when friends come. You know the adage: “Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes, the special occasion is that you’ve got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge.”

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

A top red Burgundy like Romanée Saint Vivant or La Tâche, and a magnum of Champagne Palmer & Co Blanc de Blancs.

Is beer ever better than wine?

I really think that there are moments for beer and moments for wine. And I never say no to a good pint of a glorious Ale.

How do you spend your days off?

I spend time with my family and we love to travel the world all together. During the weekends I like to cook at home for dinner with friends.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I really don’t know. Maybe my fear of snakes!

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

This is the best career I could have possibly chosen, but I am pretty sure I would have done something in the world of gastronomy. I could have embraced a career as a chef.

How do you define success?

Success is the feeling of happiness you have when you achieve what you wanted to achieve.

Winemaker Interview: Gabriele Tacconi

Gabriele Tacconi

As our regular readers know, from time to time, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Gabriele Tacconi, the chief winemaker at Ruffino.

You have undoubtedly seen at least some of Ruffino’s wines in wine shops and restaurants. But you may not have known that Ruffino was founded by Ilario and Leopoldo Ruffino in 1877 — more than 140 years ago — and that Ruffino has continued traditional winemaking while collecting prized vineyards. And while you may be familiar with Ruffino’s Prosecco, Riserva Ducale (Chianti Classico Riserva), or Riserva Ducale Oro (Chianti Classico Gran Selezione), you may not have known that Ruffino also makes Lodola Nuova (Vino Nobile), Modus (Super Tuscan), and Greppone Mazzi (Brunello).

Gabriele has been with Ruffino since 1998. After eleven years, in 2009, he became Ruffino’s chief winemaker, handling production of all of Ruffino’s wines, and he has continued in that role for ten years now.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Modena, Italy—land of great food (tortellini), sparking wines (Lambrusco), balsamic vinegar, and fast cars (Ferrari and Maserati).

When and how did you get into wine?

As a child I helped my granddad with his small Lambrusco vineyard. I love the countryside and food and wines… What else I could have done as a job other than being a winemaker!?

What has been your career path to where you are?

I worked a couple of year as junior winemaker in Sicily. And then, in 1998, I came across Ruffino with its iconic Tuscan wines, and the rest is history.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

A number of reasons. Our vineyards are planted with amazing native grapes such as Sangiovese. They are located in Tuscany — a favorable and wonderful region with diverse soils and exposure. And the fruit from these vineyards is then crafted into our fine wines with the help of a very talented team at Ruffino using state-of-the-art wineries.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

My philosophy is based on a lot of time spent in the vineyards tasting grapes and even more time spent in the cellar tasting every single fermentation tank. The classic Tuscan wines, such as Chianti Classico and Brunello, are steeped in tradition yet they have to stand in the future. As a winemaker, I am devoted to honoring Ruffino’s heritage while embracing innovation.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

The seasonal differences especially with the very sensitive Sangiovese grape is a challenge. For instance, Tuscany often experiences spring frosts, summer heatwaves, and at harvest-time, rain. This can make things very tricky as Sangiovese can be very temperamental and with its thin skin, it is especially sensitive to environmental changes.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Good question. My favorite winemakers are the ones who dedicate their talent to working in synergy with the land. While there are a lot of these talented winemakers, if I have to say only one name it would be Genevieve Janssens — she has been with Robert Mondavi’s winery for a long time and has made Mr. Mondavi’s dream possible.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

In my opinion new winemaker are very excited about the incredible attention that is around wines and food. More than ever now, food pairing, is the most interesting part of the challenge!

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

Alto Adige, a region that sits at the foot of the Dolomites in northern Italy, is my favorite. White wines such as Kerner, Riesling, and Sauvignon, and reds like Lagrein are incredible! Second place is the Champagne region, and third place for Emilia Romagna with sparkling Lambrusco.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

For me tasting every wine is an experience. And, it’s often a combination of friendship, food pairing, taste pleasure, and more. I have had a lot of these great experiences and can’t say which was the best one.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

The oldest vintage in the “Riservetta” (old cellar) is a 1947 Riserva Ducale Oro; the most expensive is Alauda (an IGT Toscana made from Cab Franc, Merlot, Colorino) that is $100, and Romitorio Gran Selezione (90% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino), but that wine is not presently available in the US.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

2018 Ruffino Chianti Organic, perfect for enjoying with food!

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

The red: Ruffino Romitorio di Santedame Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2016 (90% sangiovese-10% colorino). The white: Ruffino Prosecco Bio (Organic) Extra Dry.

Is beer ever better than wine?

I love beer. They are great with a lot of food but I consider wine a better food companion.

How do you spend your days off?

Riding motorcycles, hiking in the Dolomites (Italian Alps).

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Perhaps that as a winemaker my life is not a full-time tour of wine regions, visiting wineries, organizing wine tastings with friends, etc. My activities with wine and those that are not related to wine are complementary — I need them both for balance.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

It’s a long list! 1st place brew master, 2nd place chef, 3rd place musician in a rock group, 4th place motorcycle mechanical engineer. I have a lot of choices…

How do you define success?

Success is not given to you; you almost entirely make it by yourself. It is a balance between talent, respect, inspiration, drive, attraction, kindness, attention, and listening. It’s a sensation of happiness and be satisfaction. There’s no room in it for arrogance, lack of true values, or isolation.

Winemaker Interview: Armando Castagnedi

Armando Castagnedi

As our regular readers know, we frequently pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Armando Castagnedi, the owner and winemaker of Tenuta Sant’Antonio in the Veneto region.

Armando was born into the wine industry: his father produced grapes for a wine cooperative. So the industry was natural to him. But it took an affirmative decision by him and his brothers to move from growing and selling grapes to winemaking. They did this over the past three decades by purchasing additional land and initially hiring winemaking consultants.

Today, Armando oversees the estate’s production of various Amarone, Valpolicella, and Soave bottlings, as well as some sweet wines and grappas.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in a small village in the Illasi Valley, east part of the Valpolicella. I attended the school of Viticulture and Enology and always collaborated with my father (who used to produce grapes for a wine cooperative) in the vineyards together with my brothers. I had the chance to live the vineyards daily, to be present in both positive and negative moments, and this experience gave us strength and will to look ahead and become curious about the world of wine.

When and how did you get into wine?

I’ve always been fascinated by wine but at the beginning it was unimaginable to become wine producer since my father was producer of grapes and didn’t want us to do anything different. Year by year we weren’t satisfied so in 1989 my brothers and I decided to buy some plots of land (MONTI GARBI, where now we have the winery), a difficult area but with good qualitative potentiality. This was the moment when we were closer to the idea of producing wine. In 1993 we met Celestino Gaspari (now owner of Zymè winery) and, with his consultation, we planned our first experience in winemaking.

What has been your career path to where you are?

Our experience started step by step, our effort was focused on improving the quality of grapes and wine, few bottles but made with care, looking for style innovation.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

There are several variables that can make a vineyard special. Every producer knows the characteristics of his own vineyard: first of all the soil, the exposure, the altitude, if the area is ventilated or not, etc. All these characteristics put together create a particular result.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

Our purpose has always been to produce wines with personality, to create clean, fruity, and fresh wines. Many of our wines are made with the appassimento technique that gives concentration and density, but it’s not easy to obtain balance between alcohol, sugars and acidity. So our philosophy is creating wines with good structure and notes of fresh and fragrant fruit.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

To impart to the final consumer our ideas, our incessant research, the difficult situations that sometimes we may have and to let them understand the work behind the wine. The result could be great or not, but the consumer has to understand that every wine is “son” of that vintage. Another challenge is to amaze with the quality of our wine.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

There are some producers from our area that have been a great inspiration, such as Dal Forno Romano and Quintarelli Giuseppe, everyone with his own style. There are famous wines that can’t avoid to make their mark such as Penfolds Grange from Australia and Opus One from California; I also like wines from Burgundy, elegant and mineral. Speaking about Italy, I love Tuscany, from Brunello di Montalcino to Bolgheri area, but the wines that touches the most are the ones from Barolo, with elegant, long-life and aromatic complexity wines.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

I’m always very curious about new winemakers, I like to understand their idea of wine, if it’s in accord with mine, but above all their style, which is a very important feature to me.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

Barolo.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Barolo Riserva Giuseppe Mascarelo, a wine that you definitely can’t forget.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

The oldest and most expensive bottle is Amarone Bertani vintage 1964, a present for my wife, that I hope to open soon!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Verdicchio Podium 2010, Garofoli. A classic super Italian wine.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

Since it’s summer, I would go for a white wine from Alto Adige, it could be a Sauvignon or a Pinot Bianco only vinified in steel. About red, lately I’m attracted by Sicilian wines from Etna, made with Nerello Mascalese grapes, mineral and not too concentrated.

Is beer ever better than wine?

I drink beer in summer, I love craft beers from small producers but I never have the same feelings that I have with wine.

How do you spend your days off?

Unfortunately I don’t have many days off, I often travel for business. When I’m at home, I like to read especially history books or about political background.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

They could be surprised if I decide to leave my job, but I’ll never do it because it is my life.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

I really don’t know, this has always been my job, I never did anything different.

How do you define success?​​

I believe that success is the result or the recognition of your work, research, dedication, it’s something that has to improve your life without upsetting your balance.

Winemaker Interview: Anthony Walkenhorst

Anthony Walkenhorst

As our regular readers know, we frequently pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. After a long hiatus, this week, we are featuring Anthony Walkenhorst, the chief winemaker at Kim Crawford Wines.

It is hard to name a more well-recognized New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc than Kim Crawford’s. But Kim Crawford’s history isn’t long. Founded in 1996, Kim Crawford quickly expanded, exporting its wines to the United States within just two years, and becoming the recognized brand within a decade. In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, Kim Crawford also produced Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Rose. It has just launched a reserve bottling of Sauvignon Blanc.

Anthony joined Kim Crawford as an assistant winemaker in 2005, after graduating with a degree in agricultural science from the University of Adelaide in Southern Australia, and working harvests around the world. Initially at Kim Crawford, Anthony worked alongside the founding winemaker Kim Crawford and focused his efforts on the reds. Then, in 2010, Anthony became the chief winemaker

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia – however, I’ve now lived in New Zealand for over a decade, starting and raising my family here, and it truly feels like home.

When and how did you get into wine?

When I was 16, I did some work experience at a small Pinot Noir winery in the Yarra Valley. The head winemaker was a Master of Wine and we did blind tastings during lunch every day, which really opened my eyes to the world of wine. From then on I was hooked!

What has been your career path to where you are?

I grew up in Australia and became interested in winemaking early in life. This passion inspired me to earn a First-Class Honors Bachelor of Agricultural Science from the University of Adelaide, South Australia. From there, I had the opportunity to work harvests in the Barossa Valley, Napa Valley, and Ontario, Canada. I joined the Kim Crawford team in 2005 as an assistant winemaker primarily for red wines, working and learning alongside then winemakers Kim Crawford and Matt Large. They were true mentors during this time period, always pushing me and our winemaking team to try new things and strive for the ultimate quality. Now, I oversee every aspect of Kim Crawford winemaking across red and white varietals, and feel incredibly proud to continue the brand’s innovative spirit.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

Across our Kim Crawford offerings, vineyard sourcing is so important – from geography and climate to soil type and grape quality. Take our new luxury tier and Signature Reserve Sauvignon Blanc for example. Our Kim Crawford Core Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from Marlborough, so were instantly drawn back to this renowned winemaking region for the Signature Reserve. Grapes for the Signature Reserve 2017 vintage were selected from the Springfields and Steam Wharf vineyards, located in the lower Wairau. The influence of this valley’s coastal climate keeps the vineyards frost-free and helps fruit ripen slowly, while its fertile and rich soils produce healthy canopies that drive powerful flavors into the grapes. Unique to the Kim Crawford Signature Reserve, our team will continue to re-assess small lot sourcing each year and choose only the highest performing vineyards and grapes for each vintage.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

My winemaking philosophy is to take risks and think unconventionally throughout the winemaking process, with the goal of pushing the highest levels of consistency and quality.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

As I winemaker, I challenge myself to continue elevating and pushing the boundaries of what New Zealand winemaking is and what it can be. I’m thrilled at the popularity New Zealand wines have gained over the years around the world, and I’m excited to keep that momentum going so that our signature varietals stay fresh and innovative, while also remaining true to their New Zealand origins. I believe we’ve successfully done this with our new Kim Crawford Signature Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

It’s a difficult choice! One aspect I love about winemaking is that – no matter where you are in the world – it’s always changing, from regional styles that winemakers produce to the flavors and aromas of wine as it ages. As Kim Crawford’s winemaker, I’m always learning and am a big believer in not having favorites – always keep tasting and expanding your horizons.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

A vintage port from my birth year and a few bottles of a McLaren Vale Shiraz that was the first wine I ever made.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

Since it is harvest in Marlborough now, there is probably more beer than wine in the fridge!

Is beer ever better than wine?

While wine – of course – is my daily passion, it’s hard to beat a cold craft beer. Luckily, my brother actually owns a craft brewery and there’s nothing quite as refreshing after a long day.

How do you spend your days off?

The Marlborough Sounds are a short drive from the winery, but it feels like another world and is so relaxing. Three kids also help to keep my days off busy.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

I was also considering being a chef before I chose winemaking. I love creating flavors and experimenting in the kitchen.

How do you define success? ​​

At Kim Crawford, I feel that our team has been successful when we’ve built on our strong foundations and extensive winemaking experience in New Zealand to create something truly innovative and unique. That’s why we’re so proud and excited to be launching our new luxury tier and Signature Reserve Sauvignon Blanc. We hope that Kim Crawford fans and wine drinkers around the world enjoy this extension of our current collection of New Zealand wines as much as we do!

Winemaker Interview: Jill DelaRiva Russell

Jill DelaRiva Russell

As our regular readers know, we frequently pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Jill Russell, who was recently promoted to be the winemaker at Cambria Winery of the Santa Maria Valley in California’s Central Coast.

(We recently interviewed Jonathan Nagy, the winemaker at Byron Winery, who had previously worked at Cambria.)

Cambria is a part of the Jackson Family Wines portfolio. Following the footsteps of the late Jess Jackson, Barbara Banke and Katie and Julia Jackson manage the estate.

Jill studied winemaking at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California. After graduating, she stayed in the area and began her career as assistant winemaker at Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. She then worked harvest in France and joined Paul Lato Wines, before being named Cambria’s new winemaker.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Castro Valley, California.

When and how did you get into wine?

When I was in high school, I worked as a server at a winery in Livermore and fell in love with food and wine. Once I graduated, I moved to San Luis Obispo to study Wine and Viticulture at Cal Poly. My education there was centered around “learn by doing,” so I while I was there, I made wine with my peers and traveled California, learning about all the various wine-growing regions of the state. I spent one quarter in Adelaide, Australia, and took another quarter off to work a harvest at a local winery. There I tried to learn every possible aspect of the process, and I couldn’t stop asking questions — I just knew it was meant for me.

What has been your career path to where you are?

I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Wine and Viticulture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I developed my winemaking and regional expertise as Assistant Winemaker with Stephen Ross Wine Cellars in San Luis Obispo, making wines from Edna Valley, Paso Robles, and Santa Maria Valley. After five years, I spent a harvest at Domaine Henry Pelle in Menetou Salon, France, near Sancerre. After harvest, I spent months traveling to different wine regions in France. I returned to California in 2015 as Assistant Winemaker with Paul Lato Wines, where I focused on Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley and St. Rita Hills. As a passionate advocate of Santa Maria wines, I look forward to continuing Cambria’s tradition of world class, cool-climate winemaking.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

Hands down, the topography of the region. The fact that there’s an east-west orientation of ranges which allows fog and coastal breezes to move through the valley and create a long, even growing season makes it special on its own. And with low annual rainfall and warm sun, Santa Maria, and the Cambria Estate, is a perfect place to grow my favorites, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

I like to create harmonious, textural wines that reflect the varietal characteristics of the grapes and the place where they were grown.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

The weather during the growing season and harvest. You can’t predict or change the weather!

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Jim Clendenen was instrumental in cultivating an international reputation for Santa Barbara County and has some incredible – and funny – stories. I’ve enjoyed a few lunches with him, and I could sit and listen to him for hours.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

I’m excited about many of my friends. It’s been fun seeing the career progressions, and I’m lucky to know an incredible group of young, passionate winemakers, each with a very distinct approach and perspective.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

I would have to say the Loire Valley in France.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

It’s hard to say the best wine I’ve tasted but have had many wines that moved me. When I worked in France, I discovered orange wine and tasted a 30-year-old bottle that was super interesting that I still think about.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

I have few birth wines that are special to me. I believe the most expensive bottle is a 3L of Goldeneye Pinot Noir that we should drink to make more room!

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

A South African Rosé, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and a Cambria Pinot Noir.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

You can’t go wrong with Pinot Noir and a dry Rosé.

Is beer ever better than wine?

Maybe when you’re boating and floating on a lake.

How do you spend your days off?

My husband and I really enjoy exploring the Central Coast and all that it has to offer. I also spend my time hiking, cooking, and trying new wines.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’ve never been horse-back riding!

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

I would be a teacher.

How do you define success?

Happiness!

Winemaker Interview: Kevin Bersofsky

Kevin Bersofsky

As our regular readers know, we frequently pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became who they are. This week, we are featuring Kevin Bersofsky, the winemaker at Montagne Russe, a California winery specializing in cooler climate regions like the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River Valley.

Kevin gained interest in wine when he took the wine course at Cornell. When he graduated, he began work in other industries, but shortly after 9/11, Kevin decided to abandon his first career to become a line cook in LA. Then he got a call to work for a Napa winery, and soon thereafter made his first wine in his garage with his friends. That was the beginning of Montagne Russe, which now sources fruit from several growers in the cooler California regions.

“Montagne Russe” literally translates to “Russian Mountains,” but the term in French means roller coasters. Kevin explains why he named the winery so.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Syracuse, New York, but at an early age moved to Rockville, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., where I lived through high school.

When and how did you get into wine?

I took a course on wine at Cornell as an undergraduate, one of the benefits of attending a university with one the world’s best hotel administration programs. Along with 800 other students in a huge lecture hall, I got to taste some pretty interesting wines! Several of my friends and I took the wine tasting seriously. On weekends we would buy wines at the local liquor store in Ithaca, sit around and critique the ten dollar offerings. I am sure if someone observed us they would have thought we were a bunch of arrogant know-nothings.

What has been your career path to where you are?

You wouldn’t believe it if I told you. I started out as a mechanical engineer working for Estee Lauder in Long Island. After realizing that working for a makeup company was not my dream, I went to work for a large consulting firm that involved a lot of travel right out of college. During those years, still not feeling inspired by my work, I went to culinary school on the weekends, as I had loved cooking since I was a child. Just days after September 11th, I decided to follow my passion and started working as a line cook at a number of Los Angeles restaurants, such as La Cachette and Melisse. One day I got a call asking if I wanted to work in production for a Napa Valley winery. Little did I know that decision would change my life. While living in St. Helena, I rallied several of my friends together and we all chipped in and purchased a half-ton of amazing Syrah, which we crushed and fermented in my garage. The rest is history. A few years later, while I was attending business school, several of my friends and professors implored me to start my winery after tasting my garage wines.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

Montagne Russe only works with growers who farm their own land in the Sonoma Coast, Russian River, and Mendocino appellations. It is extremely important to me that the owners live and breathe their terroir. We walk the vineyards together and they know every inch of soil, every stone, and every vine. Our vineyards can sometimes be difficult and are presented with challenges that might scare some winemakers away. For example, the weather can be super cool, which requires much patience for the grapes to ripen. In turn, the cool-climate vineyards produce expressive and floral wines. Black Knight Vineyard in particular has many different micro-climates, elevations, and soil types, which contributes to the wine’s complexity over richness. Alder Springs Vineyard is so far north that snow is not uncommon.

Yields can vary greatly, especially for the Pinot Noir. For example, I know several winemakers that have used Springhill Ranch Pinot Noir in the past, but yields were highly unpredictable. For larger wineries, not having a guaranteed supply is a problem. For us, it’s all part of the roller coaster. Black Knight has 22 microclimates! Thus, the two to three tons we get could require up to four separate picks during harvest.

By developing a close relationship to the land and vineyard owners, my growers have faith that I will bring out the truest expression of their fruit and in return, I trust them to be transparent with me about growing conditions, especially closer to the pick date.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

Simple – we take what the vineyards give us each year and basically do our best to get out of the way. We rarely manipulate fruit and we certainly don’t let fruit hang until it’s over ripe. I really don’t love the word “balanced” as everyone should be going for balance. But it all starts in the vineyard. I don’t believe in super long 45-day macerations and overly perfect looking fruit. We don’t typically filter unless absolutely necessary and we only rack once. It has worked out pretty well so far.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Practicing patience and not getting overwhelmed by the roller coaster that is winemaking. That’s the reason we named our winery Montagne Russe, the French term for roller coaster. In the early years every odd aroma in barrel, every sluggish fermentation, and every rainstorm late in the growing season used to send my anxiety up the charts. More recently, I have learned to just enjoy the ride. That’s also the reason we don’t try and make a house style. Why produce the same exact wine every year? Where is the fun in that? It was one of the reasons I left the professional kitchen. There was nothing worse than putting out the same dish 50 times a night, 6 days a week!

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Probably my number one guy is Tom Rinaldi from Duckhorn lore. Not only because he was my next-door neighbor in St. Helena for many years, but also because he was so honest with me. His wines, of course, are spot on amazing. But he was also one of the few people who would tell me “Kevin, this Pinot Noir is not very good” or “Wow this is an ass-kicking Chardonnay!” And I really appreciated the feedback. As winemakers, we are often very hard on ourselves. Sometimes our view of the wines has nothing to do with wine but more the journey, especially if was a difficult one. So, when Tom gave me gratifying feedback, I knew I was on the right track.

Another winemaker I respect is Christophe Barron from Cayuse. The first bottle I ever tried of his, I stared at for ten minutes, trying to figure out where that level of complexity comes from. I have to give a shout out to Jeff Stewart at Hartford Court, who helped me believe you don’t have be known for one varietal, as his Pinots, Chards and Syrahs are all killer. Lastly, Steve Leveque at Hall. He has been so supportive of Montagne Russe and his feedback has been honest. I love and respect winemakers that help other winemakers.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

Marc Ripolli from Cal Batllet in Priorat, whom I just met during a recent trip to Spain. He personally goes out into vineyards that yield a half-ton per acre to baby some of the most amazing old vine Carignan. Now that’s dedication! He isn’t using fancy equipment and he is proving that the small guy can make wine every bit as good as the sophisticated operations. I would also call out Sean Boyd at Rotie Cellars in Walla Walla. His philosophy on Syrah dove tails with mine completely; we both embrace the Northern and Southern Rhone styles.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

I think the two that I am most enamored with right now are Walla Walla, and Priorat. I am a Syrah fiend. It’s my first love and on some level, I just don’t get why Syrah doesn’t receive the respect it deserves. In my book, Washington is redefining some of the deeper reds, especially Syrah. I had heard stories about Priorat, but until I visited the region in June, I was unprepared for what I saw. Ancient vineyards wrapped around hillsides, littered with stone, producing extracted yet insanely balanced wine. Basically my dream.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Hmmmmmmmm. Every winemaker has a handful of wines that altered their perception of wine itself. I think the one bottle that knocked me on my derriere was a 1980 Montelena Estate Cabernet. It was served to me hidden in a brown paper bag and I thought it was a 2005 Napa Cabernet. Eleven guesses later, I still hadn’t gotten all the way down to 1980. If I had not be holding the bottle I would not have believed it. The most interesting was the 2008 Callioux Vineyard Syrah from Cayuse. I ordered it at a restaurant in D.C. and that bottle evolved so incredibly over the course of two hours. If I wrote the list of flavors and aromas in the wine it would seem like an impossible set of characteristics including charcoal, grilled meat, nicoise olive, lavender, and salinity. Just crazy.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

I have a number of 1975 Napa Cabernets, including the BV George de La Tour. 1975 is my birth year. I am sure I have something older back there some place but I can’t get myself to dig through the bottles. I am a sucker for old California Cabernet. Some of those wines from the 1960s and 1970s are drinking better than modern cabs 40-50 years on. The most expensive… You know, I don’t spend much more than 100 dollars on any bottle. But if I had to guess it would be a 2005 Colgin Syrah.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

I just opened a Sojourn Sangiacomo Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. I am getting fruit off the same vineyard this year and had to see what they were doing with it. They of course nailed it! Both intense acid and big fruit, which is not an easy thing to pull off in California.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

It would have to be Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Assuming my Pinots are off limits for the sake of the conversation, anything floral from the Sonoma Coast including the aforementioned Hartford Court Seascape Pinot Noir and any of Kistler’s Chardonnays. A very close second would be Dehlinger Estate Syrah.

Is beer ever better than wine?

There are some terrible wines and amazing beer, so definitely yes. I actually find a lot of wines to be too acidic and in those moments I gravitate towards beer. Especially something amber from Alsace. So at most wedding receptions you will find me cradling a nice craft beer.

How do you spend your days off?

I wish I had more honestly. The chef in me usually has me going on some culinary adventure, such as a farmer’s market or out to Marshall in West Marin for some fresh oysters. I am a bit of a forager and pick up anything on a hike including bay leaves, wild fennel, mirabelles, figs, and wild berries.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I loathe blue cheese. There, I said it.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Something entrepreneurial and probably with food. I have had an idea of starting an heirloom juice business. I also really enjoy giving lectures at my alma mater, the Wharton School of Business. I have given a few on innovations in the wine industry and love connecting with the students.

How do you define success?

I once gave a bottle of my first Syrah to the parents of a friend that had passed away. She was a part of the group that helped make that wine with me in my garage. It made me proud to think that when they crack open that bottle, they will likely remember their daughter. My hope is that someone will open up one of my wines long after I am gone. Maybe they knew me, and maybe they didn’t. But if that wine brings a smile to their face, then that is my definition of success.

Winemaker Interview: Jonathan Nagy

Jonathan Nagy

As our regular readers know, we frequently pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Jonathan Nagy, the winemaker at Byron Winery.

Founded in 1984, Byron Winery is a part of the Jackson Family Wines Collection. Byron is located in Santa Barbara County, California.

Jonathan was raised there, in Santa Barbara County. His first job in the wine industry was at Robert Mondavi. Jonathan was then a senior in college finishing up his chemistry degree. He decided to work a second harvest at Mondavi, and before long, he was back in the industry at Cambria Winery. Jonathan joined Byron Winery as an assistant winemaker in 2001, and has been its winemaker since 2004.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

Born in Marietta, Georgia. Raised in Santa Maria, CA, and Campbell, CA.

When and how did you get into wine?

I was living with a Danish family one summer while going to junior college. They had wine almost every night with dinner. The exposure to different wines from different regions really turned on the light bulb that wine was pretty cool.

What has been your career path to where you are?

In 1996, I was a Senior at UCD studying towards a Chemistry degree, and I had one class to take in the Spring. I applied for lab jobs in the wine industry mostly because they would lay me off right around when ski season started. I was hired at Robert Mondavi in Oakville then went to live in Aspen, Colorado for the winter. I ended up working another harvest at Mondavi then moved to the central coast with the intention to go to Cal Poly to get my teaching credentials. I took a part-time tasting room job at Cambria Winery. When the winemaker realized I had a Chemistry degree and two harvests of experience in Napa, he offered me a full time job in the Cambria lab for harvest 1998. I figured I could always go back to school if I didn’t like it. One day, I was stirring barrels and realized how much fun I was having (while getting paid), and I decided to pursue a career in winemaking. I was promoted to Enologist in 1999, and I supervised the night crew during harvest. In 2001, Ken Brown hired me as the Byron Assistant Winemaker. I was able to work closely with Ken until he “retired” in 2004. I’ve been the Byron winemaker ever since.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

Location and soil.

Santa Maria Valley is one of only two East-West oriented valleys located on the West Coast. The straight shot to the ocean means the maritime influences really define our region and its’ vineyards. The daily breezes off the coast and fog keep things very cool during the Spring and Summer. Santa Maria Valley is pretty far South in relation to other premier Chardonnay and Pinot Noir regions. If we didn’t have the East-West valley, it would probably be too warm for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Because we are so far South, our mild winters leads to a very early budbreak. The early budbreak means a longer growing season, which lets the grapes develop intense flavors with more hang time on the vine. We have very sandy soils in Santa Maria Valley (with outcropping of shale and limestone). This really impacts skin development and subsequent flavors. I believe it is why our SMV Pinots always have a silky tannin profile and textures.

The other East-West Valley is the Santa Ynez valley which is directly South of the Santa Maria Valley. The mouth of the valley is the Santa Rita Hills AVA. Because of the orientation and location much of the growing is similar to Santa Maria Valley. The big difference is the soils. Santa Rita Hills has more calcareous, diatomaceous soils with pockets of clay and loam. In general, this means thicker skins and unique flavor development. The wines from this region tend to have darker fruit expressions with big, chalky tannin profiles.

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

We work with some amazing vineyards. The goal is always to express each unique site by taking the best of old world methods and ideologies and applying them to the best of new world methods and ideologies. Which changes from vineyard to vineyard and season to season.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Paperwork and compliance.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

I think I’ll stick local. I’ve always been a fan of and have looked up to Billie Wathen at Foxen and Adam Tomack at Ojai.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

Burgundy.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Gigual’s La Turque and La Landonne were stunning. Also, Christophe Roumier’s 2002 Bonnes-Mares Grand Cru was amazing.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

1992 Taylor’s Vintage Port. The same.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

C. Nagy Rose of Pinot Noir (my wife’s wine brand).

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

Gran Moraine Chardonnay and Bethel Heights Pinot Noir. Both Oregon.

Is beer ever better than wine?

Not usually.

How do you spend your days off?

Outdoors with family or reading a good book.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I’m not that surprising?

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Teaching high school math, physics, or chemistry and coaching high school basketball.

How do you define success?​​

Aiming for perfection which is never attainable and usually results in excellence.

Winemaker Interview: Lisa Strid

Lisa Strid

As our regular readers know, we frequently pose a series of questions to a winemaker to probe their winemaking philosophy and to gain insight into how they became a winemaker. This week, we are featuring Lisa Strid, the winemaker at Aridus Wine Company in Arizona.

Aridus is a new winery in an emerging wine region. Currently it makes wine from purchased grapes, but Aridus has owned 40 acres of estate vineyards since 2009. The winery is just beginning to figure out how best to express the grapes from there.

Lisa Strid will therefore have a significant role in developing Aridus’s portfolio. Lisa joined Aridus just a year ago, after spending some time at Gallo.

Check out the interview below the fold!

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised on the plains of northeastern Wyoming.

When and how did you get into wine?

I wouldn’t have even thought about a career in wine without the Great Recession. At the time I was working at a magazine, and after a major drop in ad revenue, I was let go. I figured it was as good a time as any to move, so I washed up in Oregon. The only person I knew in the area was my uncle who had a small farm and vineyard in southern Washington. I started out spending weekends, and then as much time as possible working with him in the vineyard, and making wine during harvest. After about a year of this, I realized it was something that could be an actual job. It was really through love of the physical labor itself that I found my way into wine.

What has been your career path to where you are?

I started out in tasting rooms and wine shops as soon as I decided that I wanted to get into wine. It was a fairly flexible way to begin while I was taking classes at Oregon State University, and at the same time a great way to taste a lot of different wines and talk with consumers all across the spectrum of tastes and preferences. I also interned at a winery in the Dundee Hills while still in school. From there, I moved south to E&J Gallo Winery, working both in their Process Technology group and in Winemaking. The great thing about a place like Gallo is that I was able to both work in large volume production and understand the sorts of decisions, compromises, and conversations behind one bottle of wine produced at such a scale, and to work with cutting-edge processes and equipment and see firsthand how changes in production affect the style of the final product. After about three years there, I needed to make a few personal changes, and at about that time I saw the posting for the job here at Aridus. Arizona had always been on my radar for winegrowing, and I’d thought I’d spend a few more years in California before eventually coming out here to consult, but the circumstances just aligned in this case. I’ve only been here just over a year, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.

In your view, what makes your vineyards special?

We’re actually in the process of just finding that out— our estate vineyards are in their first bearing year, so we’re conducting trials to find out how to best treat these grapes to achieve a unique style. As far as the vineyards that we work with to produce wine currently, here in Arizona it’s largely the individuals who manage the vineyards who make the difference. We work with a meticulous engineer who is always experimenting and measuring his results, a man who spent his career working with vines in Oregon who intimately understands grape physiology, and an Italian in New Mexico who has been in the region for decades and who knows how to adapt just about any grape to the weather. It’s a fantastic mix of backgrounds and the grapes that come from each of these people have their own strengths, which gives me a lot of options when it comes to blending the final wine. Also, our altitude doesn’t hurt. (The vineyards sit at a minimum elevation of 4,100 feet.)

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

I’m almost disgustingly pragmatic, especially here in an emerging region. I want to make solidly great wines that sell, first and foremost. I’m also deeply committed to trialing new techniques to improve quality.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

Currently, deepening my understanding of vineyard practices and dynamics here in the southwest. It’s just very different here— we get monsoons at harvest time.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

Max Schubert. I like stories of people not doing what they’re told. Eileen Crane. Where would U.S. sparkling wine be without her?

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

I’m excited about anyone who isn’t a straight white man.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world – other than your own?

Mosel, Germany.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

Best – Dr. H. Thanisch Berncasteler Doctor Riesling Auslese, I suppose. It’s a difficult question. I love the aromas and flavors of sherry, so Valdespino’s Tio Diego gets my vote for most interesting.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

Oldest – 2002 Pegasus Bay Riesling. Most expensive – I try to forget this aspect of a wine, but probably a Domaine Robert Groffier Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru. At least that’s one that I remember. I try to hide all the expensive ones from myself, so I can be surprised later on.

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

2011 Les Vins De Vienne Crozes Hermitage. Opened it for a pool party.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose?

I’ve really been into Fiano recently. Oregon Pinot Noir for the red.

Is beer ever better than wine?

It’s a lot easier to hold onto a beer bottle than a wine glass when you’re cleaning up at the end of a 16 hour day of grape processing.

How do you spend your days off?

Walking the dog, yoga, cooking, spending time with my partner and friends. My life is very quotidian.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I listen to a lot of Korean pop music.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

Writing or baking bread.

How do you define success?​​

Personal engagement and fulfillment in the minutiae of the day-to-day.