|I am a chef, restaurateur, wine retailer, and now a wine maker; how did I get here? 20 years in the restaurant business; and I always dreamed of the idyllic country life. The sun coming up over the horizon, hot cup of coffee in my hand, a chair on the porch watching the dappled light revealing the acres of vines in front of the manor, yes Mr. Falcon Crest life is just like that. Unless you have millions to play with, the gentleman farmer routine is out of reach. After 20 years in the hospitality business I don’t really think that is what wine is about anyway.
Wine is all about hospitality, good food, good wine and sharing with the people you love; friends, family, even strangers, as my daughter reminds me, dripping with sarcasm, a stranger is just friend you have not met yet. The intoxicating part the wine business are the people who work, walk, and wander the vineyard during the 100 days of the growing season, thinking about whether this will be a profound vintage, better than last but maybe not as good as the next. Those people are so very generous with their time. They are quick to share a story or a glass of wine and a bite to eat. Sit a while, relax, what brings you to this part of the country?
I have found this type hospitality all over the world always centered on the wine of the region, the food that pairs best with that wine and stories intertwined with the history of the area.
What could possibly be a better way to live? I have asked my wife that very question; her response was sounds great, are you going to rob a bank? I responded, can’t you picture a small rural winery, a 10 room inn, a small wine bar, the kind of places we had seen in France 16 years ago. Her retort was a hearty “dream on”. Ok, I will.
How can I make wine without having a large fortune to start with? I have made a lot of friends in the wine business over the years, maybe I can learn from them. Most of them told me I was crazy, and I should stick to the restaurant and retailing businesses. I would not be deterred. When my good friend, Scott Klann, told me he was finally quitting his day job at a large winery to focus on Newsome Harlow and building a new winery I asked what he was going to do with all his free time now that he only had one job. I suggested that we work on this little wine project on the side, he said no over and over and over; I kept nagging him for a year. It would be fun, I won’t be a pain in your ass, I promise. You are building a new winery; I won’t take up much space, just a few barrels. He finally agreed if only to get me to stop calling him. After I got Scott to say yes; the follow up question was what do you want to make? I blurt out the following: Corton Charlemagne, Bordeaux, Chateauneuf du Pape, and Txakolina Rose. His response, you’re a fucking idiot. Why don’t you want to be Superman as well?
What followed was a yearlong conversation about wine, where is it was from, why does it taste a certain way, what creates a particular flavor characteristics, old world vs new world, mailing dozens of bottles back and forth across the country. Questions about farmers, do I know any does Scott have any leads on grapes. We really created a road map of what I wanted to make and He was going to help me get it done. We had a plan for the 2011 vintage. Damn that was five years ago, it seems like just yesterday.