red Threadℱ Exclusive: Jeff Emery | Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard

Welcome to binNotes | redThreadℱ

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Jeff Emery | Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard  | Santa Cruz, CA.

Author’s Note:

This exclusive interview with Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard  also coincides with my new role as Santa Cruz Mountains news contributor for Wine and Vines Magazine. Serendipidity, indeed.

About Santa Cruz Mountains AVA

Approved in 1981, the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA claims fame as one of the nation’s first wine growing appellations defined by mountain topography. The region stretches as far north as Woodside and as far south as Watsonville, with elevations rising to 2700Âș.  Coastal fog rolls inland and upslope, breaking across the Santa Cruz mountain ranges in stealthy, opalescent waves that coddle the vines, while diurnal shifts ensure vivid acidity.

Soils in Santa Cruz Mountains AVA range from coastal sands to inland clay, loam, limestone, decomposed rock, and exotic mineral deposits like graphite, gypsum, talc, melanterite (a greenish-blue crystal), and cinnabar.

These various components, combined with a multitude of microclimates, allow for varietals like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon to thrive.

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Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”- New Oxford American Dictionary

Serendipity. It’s a word used a lot when talking with Jeff Emery, proprietor of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard (SCMV). Recently, I met up with the rangy, bearded wine maker at his tasting room and winery in the Swift Street Complex on Santa Cruz’s Westside.

Multi-tasking adroitly between delivery folks, his assistant winemaker, and thirteen-year old daughter, Emery engaged in the interview with thoughtful authority. His low-key demeanor belies a multi-faceted career, equal parts wine maker, mentor, Santa Cruz Fungus Federation founder, long-time folk music radio host and brandy blender. In short, Jeff Emery embodies the spirit of Santa Cruz  – authentic, diverse, and firmly rooted in community.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and continuity.)

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r/Tℱ:   The original owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, Ken Burnap, proved instrumental in mentoring you in your wine making career. In turn, you’ve mentored many local rising winemaking stars like Denis Hoey of Odonata Wines and your own assistant Cole Thomas. How has the Santa Cruz winery scene changed since you started working with Ken in the 1970’s? What part does mentoring play?

Jeff Emery:  Mentoring young people has always been intentional for me, in large part because I came to this brand [Santa Cruz Mountain Winery] as a nineteen year old in the late 1970’s.

At the time, Ken did his own vine management, built a cement block storage house, and slept on a cot. The only other help he got was from a buddy named Bill Craig, also from Southern California. Then I came along as a third ‘part time’ position in 1979 [while a geology student at UC Santa Cruz.] 

 I started [learning about wine] by going to all the Santa Cruz Mountain Vintner (now Santa Cruz Mountain Winemakers) Association. It was when they were talking about starting a Santa Cruz Mountains appellation.

Two of the association members, David Bennion of Ridge [One of Ridge’s four owners at the time] and Ken Burnap [owner of Santa Cruz Mountain Winery] felt strongly that the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA [American Viticultural Area] needed to be based on unique, climactic geological issues, rather than broad, arbitrary boundaries. The appellation, approved in 1981,  follows their recommendations in 1981.

Fast forward to today, where I’ve gone from being the young guy in the 1970’s to  ‘the elder statesman’ in 2017.

So my mentoring comes from Ken’s approach with me to demystify wine. Ken was very generous with his cellar, and I feel it’s my karmic duty to pass this along – wine should be fun, part of the table –  it is a food, and a social ingredient.

As for mentoring Denis of Odonata – that was serendipity. I came to Santa Cruz Mountain Winery [initially]  because a friend’s wife went into labor; he was suppose to help bottle [at SCMV], but he couldn’t, so he gave me a me a scrap of paper with an address and told me to go bottle for him. 

Same thing happened to Denis with me. Denis came to help me to help me move from the old Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard site to this new site in Santa Cruz, and ended up staying. Since then he’s moved on to found his own winery. Cole has done stages all over the world, including his most recent with Prophet’s Rock in New Zealand, and is starting his own brand. I also help mentor through the UCSC Agro-Ecology farming program. 

r/Tℱ:  When Ken Burnap sold Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard in 2004, what did it feel like taking the ‘leap of faith’ to ownership of the business and label? How you were able to face your fears and get through the doubts and keep going? 

Jeff Emery:  I [just] knew I wanted to stick with wine. Ken had other sources of income, and I do not. [Over the years], Ken kept checking in with me, asking “are you still loving what you’re doing?”

Finally, when he decided to retire [in 2002], the questions became “Will someone buy the winery?” and “Will I stay on to help out?” In 2004, he sold the vineyard, and by then I figured out how to buy the business; I was [already] running the books.

How did I take that and make it work? More serendipity. In 2004, I met the regional buyer for Trader Joe’s Santa Cruz, who need a floor-to-ceiling wine display for his store opening. He ended up writing me a check for something like $40,000 worth of SCMV inventory.

But I also needed a place to make wine in 2004, and so through a friend of a friend learned about Bradley Brown at Big Basin Winery, [who at the time] had space to grow into. He and I worked out a deal – Jeff made wines in 2004, 2005, and 2006. By then he’d grown into the space. 2007 was the hell year. But in 2008, this space [Swift Street Complex] came up when Boony Doon downsized. Since then, I have been taking a known winery into a viable business. Part of our success is due to this site. 

rT:ℱ   You also attribute your success to your second label featuring Iberian blends, Quinta Cruz. Is it true part of the popularity of Quinta Cruz stems from its wide embrace by Millennials?

Jeff Emery:  Yeah, Millennials are a large part of success of our Quinta Cruz wines, although Americans in general are now getting past all the “shoulds” about drinking wines.

For Millennials, it’s more important to bring something new, rather than known, to the table. It’s the opposite for Baby Boomers, who want the known. Millennials are also willing not to just pay for cheapest – they are willing to pay for the story behind it.

That said, we still need to capitalize on social media. Cole, my assistant winemaker has been instrumental in that, but there’s still a lot more storytelling to be told. There are so many wineries now – to be present in the market today, you really have to stick out. Story is what sells the wine.

As for the Quinta Cruz  label – I made those wines for my own amusement.

[Author’s Note: Emery’s business manager Bill Vieira Vroman is of Portuguese heritage, and spends part of every year in Portugal. Emery first learned of Iberian varietals during a trip to Spain and Portugal.]  

When I got home [from the trip], I found some winegrowers here in California, like Markus Bokisch in Lodi, that grew them [Iberian varietals], so I bought some, thinking  it would be a ‘wine club only’ thing.

As time went on, I felt it was important to create a separate wine label from SCMV. Luckily, the timing was perfect –  Rhone Rangers had already laid the groundwork for non-traditional varietals. Plus a second label expands a winery’s appearance on restaurant tables. 

rT:ℱ What’s the history behind Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard’s link to Pinot Noir? 

Jeff Emery:  Ken [Belnap] is a big food and wine guy, former restaurateur, and a Burgundy lover. He couldn’t figure out why California Pinot Noir was so horrible. Ken spent a lot of time talking about this with wine maker friends David Bruce of Santa Cruz and Joe Swan of Russian River Valley. 

Eventually, from those conversations, Ken came up with a list of about thirteen criteria needed to grow good pinot in California, and felt that Santa Cruz Mountains offered all of them.

Meanwhile, David Bruce had purchased property in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the1960’s that had old-vine zinfandel on it. David Bruce made his last California Zinfandel in 1968, and in 1969-1970 he tore out the Zinfandel and planted Pinot Noir. 

Ken bought that site from David, and for two years Ken commuted from Orange County to the vineyard, until he sold his restaurant. Ken made his first vintage in 1975, and never looked back.

[Author’s note: Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard on Jarvis Road sits on of California’s oldest continuously operated vineyards, Jarvis Brothers Vineyard, originally established  in 1863.]

Talk about serendipity –  in 1974, Ken was drinking champagne with David when Ken decided to buy the Jarvis Road vineyard. Over the years, Ken would occasionally make bubbles from the second crop on the vines.

In 2004, when Ken sold the Jarvis Road vineyard, and I bought the business, we drank a bottle of those bubbles  –  and later realized that our celebration was almost exactly three weeks from the same date when he had celebrated with David Bruce twenty-five years earlier!

rT: Since you don’t currently own your own vineyards at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard, how much control do you have over the vineyards where you purchase your grapes?

Jeff Emery:   Since I purchase all my grapes, I do have control. I wouldn’t have it any other way, especially picking, because most vineyards in California pick too late. Again and again, I’m the first to pick. I’m usually out there tasting the fruit.

Bokisch Vineyards in Lodi is the furthest away [where] I source, but I trust him. And at Pierce Vineyards  and Hahn are nearby, so I get many samples. So much about picking is to understand the gestalt of a vineyard – how they taste, feel, dimple  – versus just analyzing numbers. 

I like ‘light on land’ practices. For example, Bokisch Vineyard is CCFF [Author’s Note: Bokisch Vineyards practices Lodi Rules, one of California’s earliest, and most stringent. sustainable farming program.] Pierce is sustainable, Hahn is Sip-Certified.

r/Tℱ:   Let’s talk terroir. How do the various vineyards’ microclimates and soil types inform the varietals you choose, and the wines you produce?  Any particular area/vineyard/block that surprises and delights you each harvest? 

Jeff Emery: The Branciforte Creek Vineyard is planted to Pommard, while the Bailey’s Branciforte Ridge Vineyard is planted to the Dijon clone. These vineyards are less than two miles apart, yet they have different soils, different clones, and different expressions of Pinot Noir.

Branciforte Creek Vineyard makes consistently amazing wine. It’s a true climat, with huge diurnal swings that maintain natural acidity.

The [Luchessi Vineyard] Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard above Cupertino is also special.

r/Tℱ:  In 2003, you partnered with local distiller Dan Farber at Osocalis Distillery in Soquel (‘Osocalis’ is the original Native American name for Soquel] making award-winning artisanal brandies. What made you want to get into the distillery business? 

Jeff Emery:  Working at Osocalis Distillery allows me to push my craft.  It’s important to rip the tablecloth off the table every once and awhile. We do all the blending through nosing. It’s all new flavors and  blends for me, and it also makes red wine look like a fast cash business. We’re still sticking to the same traditional values and approach, which means we’re sticking to long-term goals.

r/Tℱ:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard or any of your other projects?

Jeff Emery:  I like to educate guests about history, food and wine, instead of just saying “Here’s the wine.” Stylistically, we try to set ourselves apart in this way – it’s what we’ve been doing for forty years – have fun, demystify wine, and hopefully introduce guests to new ‘flavors.’ And you might even run into a wine maker! 

r/Tℱ:   Finally, if your experience as a winemaker has taught you anything, it’s taught you
?

Jeff Emery:   Collaboration. In Santa Cruz, [at Swift Street Complex] we all have our own styles, our own wines, we share the same labor pool and equipment, have the keys to each other’s places, and collaborate on tastings and events. 

It’s also taught me to be semi-proficient at running a 5,000 case winery. You have to be a pretty darn good mechanic, a good business person, know how to fix the forklift, fix the press, be a good logistics manager, and keep things flowing. I’ve learned to be a jack-of-all-trades. I hold one title while actually having many.

I’ve been through thirty-nine harvests, and each one is different – you never get the same weather, or same set of grapes, which keeps it fresh, so I can do it over and over. I am constantly learning something new in my craft.

Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
334–A Ingalls Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060 – Map and Directions
831.426.6209
info@santacruzmountainvineyard.com

Learn more about Quinta Cruz Wines here.

Learn more about Osocalis Distillery here.

Learn more about Santa Cruz Mountains AVA here.

Learn more about Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyards Association’s upcoming Pinot Paradise here.

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More redThreadℱ exclusive artisan interviews here.

 

I want to hear from you! Please leave your comments below, and join the conversation on social media – cheers!

 

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThreadℱ.  All Rights Reserved.

red Threadℱ Exclusive: A Conversation with Ali Mayfield – The Walls Vineyards | Walla Walla, WA.

Welcome to binNotes | redThreadℱ

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Ali Mayfield – The Walls Vineyards | Walla Walla, WA.

Blame it on a darn hole-in-one.

Attorney Mike Martin wasn’t looking for a bend in the road of life when he and a pal stopped off in Walla Walla a few years ago to play some golf and drink some wine en route to business in Boise.

But bend it does. At Walla Walla’s Wine Country golf course, Mike Martin hits his first-ever hole-in-one. Bam! Much back-slapping, wine drinking, bad karaoke, and general hilarity ensue. Next morning, Mike and his friend sober up, suit up, and drive on to business in Boise – but Mike never shakes the thrill of that hole-in-one, nor the camaraderie with those folks in Walla Walla.

 Back and back Mike bends towards the warmth of Walla Walla for more golf, more wine, and – rumor has it –  more bad karaoke, always the glow from the community beckoning, growing, gathering heat – until its white-hot embers burn a hole in his expensive attorney attire.

As with every touchstone moment in life, trajectories alter. Paths cross.

About that time Mike meets local-girl wine maker Ali Mayfield, formerly of Longshadows. More wine drinking ensues in the discussion of its making.

A partnership forms,  a nascent winery forged: The Walls, the name a nod to the penitentiary north of town.

Trajectories alter further.

Mike buys a vineyard in the the Rocks District, then Whitman Cellars, then Charles Smith’s former tasting room/eatery on Main Street in downtown Walla Walla.

More paths cross.

Mike lures Waitsburg mixologist Jim German to shake things up at the bar.

 Seattle pasta star Mike Easton steps up to consult on eats.

In short order, the partnership, the vineyard, the winery, and the tasting room/eatery emerge as separate, but equally important, entities of a whole.

A vineyard that does more than grow grapes.  A winery that does more than make wine. A tasting room/eatery that offers visitors and locals not just food and drink, but an experience – a gathering place similar to the one Mike and his friend tumbled into years early fresh off that freak hole-in-one.

The Walls offers community – one bottle, one meal, one memory at a time.

 Special memories. Kinda like a hole-in-one.

Recently, wine maker Ali Mayfield took time, despite the rush of Spring Release, to chat with me about her decision to pursue life as an artisan wine maker, some of her star-powered mentors, and what her partnership in The Walls means to her.

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r/T:  Talk about your experience as a wine maker. You’ve worked at some of the region’s best wineries, including Long Shadows. Along the way, you’ve enjoyed mentorship by some industry greats, including Kendall Mix, formerly of Corliss Estate, and Claude Gros of Bookwalter. How has Kendall influenced your winemaking? How has Claude’s ’old world’ approach informed your own style? Which voice is loudest in your head in the vineyard? During crush? In the cellar?

Ali Mayfield:  Experience is a big part of winemaking and I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work along some of the industry’s greats. Every vintage brings us something new and having a network of mentors that have seen and experienced more than I have gives me the ability to make the best decisions for the vintage.

Kendall is the foundation of my winemaking – I was a blank slate other then a few homemade wines when we started working together. His gentle approach to extraction is still very present in my wines.

Claude has taught me to push the boundaries of winemaking, to respect the fruit and allow the wine to become what it wants to be.

The loudest voice in my head in the vineyard is Phil Coturri and what a great voice! Phil is helping in the development of our Rocks vineyard. Phil is teaching me how to grow a wine in the vineyard.

During crush and in the cellar it’s Claude voice – I know he’s coming at some point to taste the wine and I work very hard to please his palate. We are working with the same sites year after year – his comments from the previous year come to my mind and I will tell the guys in cellar – Claude’s not going to say this wine has no structure – which forces us to find the structure.

r/T:   In 2015, The Walls purchased a vineyard in The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA. What excites you most about your own vineyard?

Ali Mayfield:  What excites me most about owning a vineyard is the chance to embrace the farming aspect of winemaking – adopting the old world mentality.  All great wine is grounded in the vineyard and we look forward to getting the opportunity to see the process from beginning to end. 

The Rocks are a big challenge from an operating perspective with the freeze risks and the costs to farm down there.  But it offers the opportunity to make truly exceptional and distinctive wine.  As a winemaker, I welcome the opportunity to express my own style with that terroir and to hopefully build upon the legacy of some of the great wines that are already made from those vineyards.

r/T:   You also source from some of Washington’s top sites. How do you choose which sites to source from, and what about these sites makes them so unique with regard to microclimates and resulting flavor profiles? 

Ali Mayfield:  Our desire is to source the best grapes from the best vineyards in the best terroir/climate for the types of wines we are looking to make.  We want each wine to have a distinct profile and characteristic, even when we make more than one of the varietal such as Syrah or Chardonnay.

A key foundation of our brand is our love of curiosity – including when it comes to wine – and how we love to be able to make and share wines that cut across the spectrum in profile.  The great variety in our lineup constantly challenges the winemaking team to learn and think on a daily basis – nothing is routine about the way we make wine.  It can be a very difficult and laborious task – but it also incredibly fun at the same time.  And it is great when we have groups visit us at the winery and they gravitate toward different wines depending on their own preferences.

r/T:  Do you adhere to any farming techniques (sustainable, biodynamic, organic) and if so, why are they important to you as a wine maker? 

Ali Mayfield:  “Do we adhere to any farming techniques?” is a tough question. I feel Washington State is doing a great job with sustainable farming to protect the environment, public health, human communities, and animal welfare.

I recently toured several vineyards that Phil Coturri farms, and they were all certified organic – not easy to do. This certification holds them to a higher standard of farming.

“If an organic tomato is going to taste better than a hot-house tomato, an organic grape is going to taste better than a conventionally grown grape.”[5] – Phil Coturri

This is something I’m looking forward to learning more about – each vineyard has it’s own soul and respecting that place is important to me.

r/T:  How do aging/oaking protocols vary from wine to wine?

Ali Mayfield:  Oak is a fascinating subject. For me, it varies a lot from wine to wine even vineyard to vineyard. There are so many options for winemakers, but truly understanding forests and grain is an art. At The Walls we work with both specific forests, stave thickness and grain. We work with traditional 225L (59 gallons) all the way to 650L (171 gallons).

Aging is also an interesting subject. On Claude’s resent visit he said to me, “you created this wine now you have to age it.” [S]ome wine is meant for small barrels and some wines need bigger space for aging. The key is to find the balance and let the aging begin. The wines will tell us how they want to be aged.

r/T:   In addition to the vineyard, about the same time The Walls purchased Whitman Cellars from Charles Smith, and has improved the 9,186 sq. ft. space with antimicrobial anti-slip floors, cutting-edge sorting and crushing equipment, solar panels, and guest accommodations. As a winemaker, what do you consider some of the coolest bells and whistles in the new winery, and how will they improve production?

Ali Mayfield:  Here’s the funny part, we purchased an old 20-foot sub-zero cargo container that we refer to as “The Game Changer”, and it’s the coolest! It allows us the ability to chill our white grapes to the perfect temperature for pressing.  Or, the ability to harvest Viognier for co-fermentation and chill the fruit until the Syrah is just right.

The solar system is great which was all Mike. Given the power that wineries consume – particularly during harvest – it does make us proud that we have invested to reduce the carbon footprint of our wines.

r/T:   Proprietor/partner Mike Martin also purchased Charles Smith’s 2015-219 Main St. complex, including and the old Pastime Cafe, and overhauled it to create Passatempo Taverna, featuring popular mixologist Jim German and a menu created by Seattle pasta rock star Mike Easton, as well as the Passatempo Wine Studio, featuring The Walls wines. Talk about this synergy at The Walls between food and wine, and how that fits into your philosophy/mission?

Ali Mayfield:  Yes, the Passatempo project has certainly been an exciting new development for Walla Walla.  It has been a treat for me to get to know Jim and Mike Easton better over the last few months. 

Passatempo reflects Mike Martin’s passion for creating a beautiful community enhancing space to have an amazing food, wine and spirits experience.  As he frequently says – a “place where he would want to bring his friends to.”   It has been a great vehicle for people in the community and visitors to get exposed to the wines we are making at The Walls – and other wines from around the Valley and of course Italy. 

Passatempo and The Walls are obviously two distinct businesses that over time will develop their own followings.  What they share is the passion to offer a truly exceptional experience to their followers and I am certainly proud to be able to be a part of that.               

r/T:  What’s it like to be part of such a strong team of industry professionals at The Walls? What do each bring to the table that enhance the whole?

Ali Mayfield:  It’s fun and inspiring to be part of such a strong team. Mike has such a brain for business, he will ask me how I feel about something and my general response is – that ‘s a really smart idea. He is the heart of what we do at The Walls.

My brother, Jake Mayfield, is the Director of Winery Operations, while we certainly have our sibling differences of opinion- we work in congruence. He has done an amazing job with the development of Pine Street. He is part of our Vineyard development and building the team at The Walls. 

Our Cellar Master, Roman Ferrer and I have worked together the longest and I can’t imagine anyone else looking after the wines. Claude reminds me that Roman has the most important job – topping the wines.

Peter Urian leads our lab at The Walls. He is extremely intelligent and has a great passion for winemaking. He is the go to at harvest when I need to convert centiliters to liters.  They all bring so much to enhance The Walls.

r/T:   Anything else you’d care to share with readers about The Walls that we haven’t touched on?

Ali Mayfield:  Follow us on Instagram  and Facebook to stay up to date on what we have going on and some new releases we have planned.  As a new winery some of our most exciting wines are still in the barrel and have not even been released yet – so stay tuned for more details on those!

r/T:   Finally, if your experience as a winemaker has taught you anything, it’s taught you
?

Ali Mayfield:  Great question. My experience as a winemaker has taught me to never stop learning.

To sample wines from The Walls Vineyards, please visit:

As of Thursday, April 13, The Walls Production Facility, will be open Thursday – Sunday, 12 – 5pm and by appointment.
reservations@thewallsvineyards.com

The Walls wines are also available for tasting at the Passatempo Wine Studio.
Passatempo Wine Studio, 219 W. Main Street, Walla Walla
Saturdays & Sundays, 12 – 4pm

For more information or to make an appointment, please feel free to contact us via phone or email:
509-876-0200 / reservations@thewallsvineyards.com

Learn more about The Walls here.

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Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThreadℱ.  All Rights Reserved.

Thank you:

KGPR | Ali Mayfield

ArĂ­nzano | binNotes Exclusive Interview with Manuel Louzada Goes International

Dear Readers:

What a way to end the week! Honored to announce publication of my recent interview with Arínzano wine maker and CEO Manuel Louzada on their international site.

Not familiar with the name?  ArĂ­nzano claims fame as northwestern Spain’s first Vino de Pago certified winery, producing exquisite, small-lot premium wines. The stunning site also lends itself well to enotourism, offering bucket-list experiences like their annual ‘Running of the Bulls’ adventure in nearby Pamplona.

Read my exclusive interview here.

Grateful to share this story about wine – the redThreadℱ that binds us all, with you. Thanks for considering wine an art, not just a beverage.

Cheers!

Copyrighted 2017 L.M. Archer | binNotes | redThreadℱ. All Rights Reserved.

 

red Threadℱ Exclusive: Manuel Louzada | ArĂ­nzano – Navarra, ES

red Threadℱ Exclusive: Manuel Louzada | ArĂ­nzano – Navarra, ES

Welcome to binNotes | redThreadℱ

by L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne Master Level

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

Manuel Louzada | ArĂ­nzano | Navarra, Spain

“Singular terroir, estate character, noble pedigree.”

Sometimes a winery doesn’t just surprise you – it knocks you on your palate.

I discovered such a winery by happy accident while tasting wines from another country (Achaval-Ferrer of Argentina). Those wines lassoed me with their voluptuousness, verve, and vibrancy. Turns out the same team, part of the Stoli Group empire,  purchased an artisan winery in Spain in 2015.

Today we talk to CEO and wine maker Manuel Louzada about his Navarra venture Arínzano, the first Vino de Pago designated winery in Northern Spain.

For those of you unfamiliar with Arínzano, the winery soon goes full gaucho here in the United States as it accepts Champion Best of Show saddle prize  for the Arínzano 2010 Gran Vino Chardonnay at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition award ceremony on Sunday, February 26, 2017. This event marks the first time in the competition’s fourteen-year history that a white wine emerges the winner, and the first time that the winner hails from Spain.

Clearly, something is goin’ on down on the Pago…as Manuel Louzada shares here.

r/Tℱ:  Arínzano is Northern Spain’s first Vino de Pago certified vineyard, Spain’s highest category for winemaking, above D.O.Ca. Can you explain to readers the exhaustive requirements necessary to achieve this certification, including climate, terroir, and winemaking? Why was it so important to Arínzano to achieve Vino de Pago certification?

ML:  First, the Spanish Wine Classification is regulated by law and extremely strict, approved as well by the EEC (European Economic Community). In this particular case, the law 24/2003 de la Viña y del Vino contains the Wine Classification, which resembles a sort of hierarchical pyramid, from the Vino de Mesa (which has a wide source of grapes, being the least exclusive) to the highest, most exclusive both in quality and availability, as it comes from a single property, Vino de Pago (from the Latin pagus, determined district of agricultural land, mainly vineyards).

The Vinos de Pago have to go through exactly the same exhaustive requirements as the D.O.Ca, like La Rioja or Priorat. To start, vineyards must be located in a limited area and produce wines which have to be made and bottled in the region and before being release to the market submitted to the control organizations – Consejo Regulador, INTIA and EEC in the case of the D.O.Ca, while INTIA and EEC for the Vinos de Pago – so that these wines are authorized to be sold.

To achieve the Vino de Pago category, you have to demonstrate to the most important public organizations, INTIA and EEC, the uniqueness and exclusivity of your terroir, through a highly extensive in-depth study of soil and climate. Once this is proven, you have the obligation to produce wine for ten years and submit for organoleptic and physical-chemical analysis. This is not only to demonstrate consistency but, most importantly, to demonstrate that the wine has unique and singular characteristics. As you can see, it is not a simple process. On top of this, if at some point during that 10-year process—since you are the only representative—the wine does not reach the established standards for characteristics or the quality you risk losing this particular appellation.

The founding goal of Arínzano wines is to reflect the uniqueness and exclusivity of the amazing terroir where the different vineyards have been planted, therefore it was a natural evolution to become the first Vino de Pago in Northern Spain.

r/Tℱ  The history of ArĂ­nzano reads like something out of a Gabriel GarcĂ­a MĂĄrquez novel – a noble estate founded in the eleventh century by Sancho Fortuñones de ArĂ­nzano, selected by another nobleman in the 1600’s for the site of a palace. Over time, the estate lapses into ruin, only to be rediscovered in 1988. Today, in addition to its Vino de Pago certification, it’s the only vineyard in Spain certified by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for environmental responsibility. Can you briefly touch on the efforts ArĂ­nzano has made in four critical areas, and why the WWF is so important to ArĂ­nzano?

NOTE: The four critical areas:

  1. The conservation and restoration of the natural environment:  half of the estate is reserved for indigenous flora and fauna.
  2. Organic viticulture with a low-environmental impact, and integrated pest control.
  3. Use of only certified environmental materials in the construction of the winery.
  4. Natural waste water filtration through a series of lagoons.

ML:  Indeed, the history of Arínzano is fantastic. In some parts of Spain, the presence of vineyards was naturally tied to the economic situation of the area, especially in such a naturally rich region. During the least favorable economic conditions, some vineyards were uprooted to plant cereal grains, to feed the population, while when the economic conditions improved, vineyards were planted to enjoy wine, which was always recognized for its exceptional quality, with the locally produced foods. I believe that these cycles influenced the fact of having not vineyards in the property which led to its re-discovery in 1988. When you have in your hands such a magnificent estate, with incredible natural conditions, you feel immediately compelled to concentrate all your efforts to permanently take care of the environment. The fact that we have been recognized by the WWF is the result of all the daily efforts in the above mentioned areas. As a result, all the team is extremely proud and you can easily sense this difference when seeing the vegetal and animal diversity or the natural conditions of the Ega River.

r/Tℱ:  ArĂ­nzano lies in northwestern Navarra, in a valley formed by the last slopes of the Pyrenees Mountains. It comprises 355 hectares – 128 dedicated to Vino de Pago certified vineyards. Soils include loams, sand, limestones, limonites, gypsum and dolomites. Both marine and Ega River influences impact the climate, and the region enjoys over 2500 hours of sunlight annually.

Talk about the varietals you’ve chosen to cultivate here, and how the mĂ©lange of soil types and microclimates impact the unique wines created at ArĂ­nzano.

When applying for the Vino de Pago Classification, we understood one of the most significant particularities of this magnificent property is the diversity of its microclimates. The grape varieties were chosen by taking into account the type of soil and the overall climatic conditions as well as the movements of the Cierzo wind (a cold and dry wind coming from the North) through the property, the orography of the mountains, and finally the proximity of the Ega River, which translates into a milder climate. The Chardonnay, for example, was planted in the higher parts of the property with very poor and superficial soils but optimal limestone. The temperature there is colder as the result of the combination of higher elevation and the Cierzo influence. On the opposite is the Merlot, which is planted in slightly richer soils, protected from the wind by the Populus trees and benefitting from the naturally milder, slightly more humid conditions generated by the Ega River.

r/Tℱ. Do any of Arínzano’s production methods differ from other wineries in Spain? If so, how?

ML:  At Arínzano, we are convinced that the style of our wines must reflect the terroir where they come from. Starting almost two years ago my team, Diego Ribbert and José Manuel Rodriguez, and I dedicated our lives to understand each and every individual character of the Arínzano vineyards throughout all the vegetative cycle. We decided the most appropriate moment of harvest by walking each plot of vineyard and adopted the most appropriate winemaking technique to express and, if possible, help enhance the magnificent virtues of this terroir. Finally, the choice of barrels, only French, is in line with the wines obtained and the pursued style of the wine. The wines aging in barrel are tasted monthly to follow their evolution and to precisely decide when to blend and bottle.

In my opinion, on one hand, almost each and every winemaking technique has been discovered. On another hand, the majority of the high quality winemaking equipment is available for anyone. For me it is the importance of the terroir, the sensitivity to understand, protect and translate into the wine these particular characteristics together with maximum attention to details and handcrafted winemaking, as described before—this allows us to make the exceptional wines that we envision.

r/Tℱ:   Both Arínzano and the Stoli Group winery in Argentina, Achaval-Ferrer, share certain unique similarities, viz., geographically challenging sites with diverse soils, complex microclimates, and culturally rich histories. Is acquiring Arínzano part of a deliberate strategy, part pure luck, or a combination of both?

ML:  Indeed, it is part of a deliberate strategy to have exclusively included in our portfolio so far such fantastic brands as Achaval-Ferrer and Arínzano. As a matter of fact, the characteristics mentioned in your question are the pillars to achieve exceptional wines and afterwards to allow the brands to grow as references in the world of wine amongst the highest reputed wines.

r/Tℱ:   Arínzano employs a unique business model, a model which also includes luxury accommodations, tasting experiences, and cultural events. How have guests responded to these additional amenities? Do you have any upcoming events or amenities that particularly excite you?

ML:  Throughout my personal and professional experience, I have received continual feedback that after visiting the vineyards, walking the winery, talking to viticulturists and wine makers to have a sense of their work and tasting both the wines in barrel and from the bottle at the winery, visitors had a much more complete experience and stronger connection to the wine. I wholeheartedly agree and also firmly believe that, if all the visitors experience the same values at each and every moment of the visit, these will translate into a long-lasting memory.

One unique experience we are developing for a future visitor offering is a 3-day visit taking advantage of the San Fermines Festival timing in early July. We design a winery visit that allows time in the vineyards and the winery, to understand our artisanal winemaking philosophy, to taste the wines in barrel and from our wine library, while enjoying the most celebrated moment in Pamplona [the Running of the Bulls.] To date this is an experience for our global team and select journalists, which was so much fun throughout the visit last year that I’m very much looking forward to hosting the 2017 experience.

r/Tℱ:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Arínzano?

ML:  First of all, I would very much like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to explain a little bit more about Vinos de Pago which, in my opinion, will soon be the future of Spanish Wine.

Secondly, and after all being said, I can only invite the readers to come to the property to live the complete Pago de Arínzano experience. As once someone I very much admire taught me “
it is not important to invite someone, it is important that the invitation has been accepted
”

r/Tℱ:  Finally, if your experience as a winemaker and owner of world-class vineyards has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

ML:  I believe it has taught me almost everything I know. My personal background is not very typical for a winemaker
 I’m the fourth generation of a family dedicated to the wine business. The first time that I have tasted wine was at the age of five, a tiny amount of Sparkling Wine from my family winery, Caves Messias, in the Bairrada region, which started my passion for wine. I studied in Spain and started my formal professional life in Portugal making Port Wine. Later I was invited to move to Argentina, to be in charge of Sparkling Wine of the most recognized producer, Chandon Argentina. Later, during my experience in Argentina, I was in charge of winemaking of all the wines production, Sparkling, Still and Iconic Still Wines, which allowed me to return to Spain and be in charge of Numanthia (Termanthia was one of the first five wines from Spain honored with 100 points by Robert Parker). Almost over two years ago, I took on a new challenge by assuming leadership of such a recognized brand like Achaval-Ferrer and one of the hidden jewels of Spain, the Vino de Pago de Arínzano*. With all this in mind, after studying winemaking and becoming passionate about making wines that reflect the terroir from where they originate, I have learned throughout each and every experience, especially with generous people equally willing to share their experiences.

Link to more information: Arínzano

*(NOTE: Outside the America market, the winery is referred to as Vino de Pago de Arínzano.)

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThreadℱ.  All Rights Reserved.

 Thank you:

Manuel Louzada

Patricia Clough

Wine Industry InsightNews Fetch | Wine People – Don Hagge

Wine Industry InsightNews Fetch |  Wine People – Don Hagge

Dear Readers:

WII_New_Masthead_6_Full

I’m so honored to be included in Wine Industry Insight’s January 12th 2017 News Fetch ‘Wine People,’ featuring my Conversation with Don Hagge of Vidon Vineyards of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Cheers!

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThreadℱ.  All Rights Reserved.

red Threadℱ Exclusive: A Conversation with Don Hagge of Vidon Vineyard | Willamette Valley, OR.

red Threadℱ Exclusive:  A Conversation with Don Hagge of Vidon Vineyard | Willamette Valley, OR.

Welcome to binNotes | redThreadℱ

Inspired stories about wine and taste makers.

By L.M. Archer, FWS | Bourgogne ML

Today’s Exclusive Interview:

A Conversation with Artisan Winemaker Don Hagge of Vidon Vineyard  | Willamette Valley, OR.

“A Petite Vineyard with a Boutique Winery”

Ever hear that phrase,  “Who do you think you are, a rocket scientist?”

Well, today’s guest IS a rocket scientist. One part humble midwestern farm boy, one part retired NASA astrophysicist-turned-winemaker, Don Hagge of Vidon (Vee-dohn) Vineyard talks softly and drives a big tractor. And at age 85, instead of slowing down, Don shoots for the moon – including a recent new release of his estate wines based upon NASA’s iconic space program, as well as implementation of a proprietary argon wine preservation tap system in his tasting room.

Recently, I caught up with Don to chat about life on his petite vineyard and boutique winery in Oregon’s Chehalem Mountain AVA.

r/Tℱ:  You’ve been described as a physicist, farmer, winemaker and innovator. What aspect(s) of your role as physicist helped prepare for your current role as farmer/winemaker? What motivates you to take the road less travelled as an innovator?

DH:  Since I grew up on a farm, the vineyard side is pretty much hard-wired.  The scientific approach and methodology, ingrained as an experimental physicist, is helpful in the winemaking process.

While I’m not UC Davis trained, I don’t think it’s hurt me as a winemaker. I do things differently – I think I’m more systematic and organized. I’m always trying to understand what’s going on and why.  

r/Tℱ:  You arrived to winemaking at an age most people are ‘retiring.’ In your physics career, Ernest Lawrence figures prominently as a mentor, both academically and professionally. Any such figures in winemaking that have helped/inspired you?

DH:  
Laurent Montalieu of Northwest Wines is the first winemaker I worked with, but many wine makers in the local community have been inspirational.

I think the land really inspires me. I fell in love with the land while doing tech work in Oregon, riding my bike through the Willamette Valley on weekends.

I would stop to taste wines from the area, and ended up talking to a lot of local wine makers like Lynn Penner-Ash, who was at Rex Hill at the time. I really liked Rex Hill wines, and found out that they got some of their fruit from Jacob-Hart Vineyard on Chehalem Ridge.  So when I was thinking of buying this land [on Chehalem Moutains AVA], I told Lynn – she got really excited, and even asked me to keep her in mind if I ever had fruit to sell, because she was just about to start out on her own.

r/Tℱ:  Talk about the innovations you’ve made as an artisan winemaker, such as implementing your own glass stopper bottling machine – anything else you’ve ‘tinkered with’ to improve production? Do your colleagues ever come to you for help with their stuff? 

DH:  My approach to winemaking is to constantly search for ways to improve efficiency in making the best possible wine from available grapes.  [For example,] Argon is used for oxygen management; [which is] superior to Nitrogen. 

Occasionally I get questions from winemaker friends about how and why I do certain things. They don’t always agree with me, but that doesn’t prevent me from trying it anyway.  If you haven’t made any mistakes in life, you haven’t done much. 

r/Tℱ:  You purchased the land for what is now Vidon Vineyards in 1999, and built your home there in 2003. In 2014, Vidon Vineyard became 100% estate-grown fruit. You’ve invested not just toil, but time and treasure ensuring LIVE and Salmon-Safe certification. Talk about what sustained you during this painstaking route towards sustainability and self-sufficiency? It’s quite a commitment.

DH:  
The goal was always to make great wine from this land I purchased.  This required continuous learning and improvement in both the viticulture and winemaking aspects.  Although I now get a lot of satisfaction from sipping my wines, I know they could be better.

r/Tℱ:  Your vineyard boasts three soil types (Jory, Nekia and Willakenzie), southern exposures, and elevations ~400-500 ft. You’ve planted your 12.5 acres accordingly, with seven different varietals, including not just Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir (Pommard, 115, & 777), but also Syrah, Tempranillo, and Viognier.

How do you approach blending and bottling to yield the flavor profiles you seek in the finished wine, with so many flavor profiles at play?

DH:  Since all my Pinot Noir blocks are on Jory soil, the differences for each vintage is only because of the clones.  My 3-Clones is a blend of 1/3 each of the single clones +/- 5% with 11 months in French oak.  My Single Clones are not blended and are aged 18 months in oak.  I don’t blend the other varieties except for co-fermenting 3-5% Viognier with Syrah.

r/Tℱ:  As a farmer/physicist, what about each of these varietals alternately excites/frustrates you?

DH:  Pinot Noir is a finicky grape  and it’s difficult to keep the alcohol below 14% without watering – which I don’t do.

Even though Pinot Noir is suppose to be finicky, I think I’ve been pretty lucky, because since I started growing it, I’ve never really had a ‘bad’ year working with it. I’ve never found it to be a whole lot different from other varietals. I don’t do anything differently with it.

The main thing is to be meticulous and be clean, and to keep the oxygen out – I am adamant about that. And go back to the vineyard – if you make sure you have micronutrients in the soil, if you treat your soils right, then you won’t have problems inside with fermentation, etc.

r/Tℱ:  You enjoy the good fortune of enlisting Adelsheim’s Chad Vargas to handle the vineyard labor and spraying, while you ride tractor for mowing and tilling. Can you tell readers a bit about that dynamic?

DH:   David Adelsheim a neighbor and a good friend. When I started my vineyard, Chad Vargas offered to work with me because they bring in contract crews, so he started handling the labor part. Now they spray, till and mow for me, too. This year Chad is starting his own company, and he’ll continue to manage the vineyard and provide his services. I still like to drive the tractor in spring, though. 

Oregon will always have many small vineyards and wineries which is what makes it neighborly.  We need and depend on each other in several ways.  We work together to create great Oregon wines that are competitive in the larger market.

r/Tℱ:  What’s next on your agenda for Vidon Vineyard? Do you ever foresee increasing your current ~2000 case yearly production levels?

DH:  Not above what the vineyard will produce which is between 2000 and 2500 cases.  Estate planning at my age is next!

r/Tℱ:  What excites you most about your wine?

DH:  I can tell you about my own experience – a very specific one. In 2004, I was at lunch with a friend in Palo Alto, sipping a wine of mine that the restaurant carried, and tasting it brought me back to Burgundy – a bit lighter, a bit of barnyard.

I really love France – I really liked it while I was there [while doing post-graduate research]. I will never forget that feeling drinking that 2004 wine of mine – taking me back to a place I love. It was just really special.

r/Tℱ:  Anything else you’d care to share with readers about Vidon Vineyard?

DH:  It has been a great journey!  We started with a piece of land covered with stumps, rocks, scrub trees, poison oak and blackberries and turned it into a Boutique Winery on a Petite Vineyard that produces great wines.

r/Tℱ:  Finally, if your experience as a vineyard owner and winemaker has taught you anything, it’s taught you…?

DH: Care for the land and it’ll yield good fruit from which great wine can be made!

For more information:

Vidon Vineyard

(503)538-4092

17425 NE Hillside Drive ‱ Newberg, Oregon 97132

Thank you:

Don Hagge

Carl Giavanti

Images:  ©Paul Cunningham Photography.

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | redThreadℱ.  All Rights Reserved.

BKWine Magazine: Domaine Drouhin Oregon Tasting Notes

 

Dear Readers:

BK WIne Magazine logo

I’m excited to announce publication of my tasting notes for wines of Domaine Drouhin Oregon featured in my interview with vigneron Veronique Drouhin Boss in Paris-based BKWine Magazine.

Link here for English version.

Link here for Swedish version.

(Tack  to my Swedish-born editor, Per Karlsson for his skillful translation)

And thanks to you for your ongoing appreciation of these artisan wines crafted in ‘Oregon Soil with French Soul.’

Roserock Drouhin Oregon vineyards, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, copyright Andrea Johnson
Roserock Drouhin Oregon vineyards, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, copyright Andrea Johnson

Santé!

Copyrighted 2017 binNotes | Red Threadℱ.  All Rights Reserved.