Monday, September 15, 2014

9/15 JOE SHIRLEY, NAPA CELLARS, MARY ROCCA, ROCCA FAMILY VINEYARDS

JOE SHIRLEY - WINEMAKER, NAPA CELLARS 

In 1839, settler George Calbert Yount planted the first wine grapes in the Napa Valley where fruit and nut trees already flourished in the valley’s rare soils and mild Mediterranean climate. Other pioneers soon followed Yount’s lead and by 1861, the valley’s first commercial winery had opened its doors.  Destiny quickly found its course. Just 28 years later, more than 140 wineries had been established.

Two historic events led to the Napa Valley we know today.

In 1968, Napa Valley winery owners and grape growers joined forces to have Napa Valley declared the country’s first agricultural preserve. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. City sprawl and freeways soon transformed nearby agricultural regions into bedroom communities for San Francisco. Napa was protected.

Then in 1976, a blind tasting held in Paris pitted a Napa Valley wine against the best wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Napa Valley wine won, and the world’s perception of Napa Valley changed forever.

The same year that Napa was granted the status of agricultural preserve, self-made man Charlie R. Woods founded our winery on five and a half acres of prime Oakville soil. In the 1970s, he built a geodesic dome there to store barreled wine, and he concentrated on making reds, in particular Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The winery changed hands a number of times before being purchased in 1996 by Koerner Rombauer and Rich Frank. That’s when we earned our reputation for rich, buttery Chardonnay—a style that was becoming popular in the United States at the time.

A decade later, the Trinchero family was looking for a winery property that would capture the essence of Napa. Napa Cellars, with its ideal Oakville location and fame for luscious Chardonnay and authentic Napa reds, was the obvious choice. Winemaker Joe Shirley came on board a year later, in 2007. He has since introduced French oak to our Chardonnay for a more balanced and contemporary style of wine.

Though Napa Valley is small—30 miles long and only a few miles across as its widest point—its varied microclimates and soils make it possible to successfully grow a variety of wine grapes. That gives us the luxury to choose the best fruit for each wine we make without ever having to look beyond the Napa Valley.

BIO                                                                                                                                              
Joe is that rare bird known as a California native. He was born in Long Beach, raised in Napa Valley and after high school headed back down south to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise Physiology from Occidental College in Los Angeles.

“I was pre-med and interested in sports medicine,” Joe says. “Then at a barbecue at Maynard Amerine’s house I met a few people from the wine world, drank some wine and thought, ‘Hmmm, this is fun’.”

Just a short time later, Joe enrolled at the University of California, Davis where he received a Master of Science in Enology. After college, Joe launched his winemaking career at Sonoma-Cutrer in 1997. He joined Trinchero Family Estates in 1999 as enologist and worked his way up to winemaker for Trinchero Family Selection and Trinchero Napa Wines in 2002. In 2007, Joe accepted the position as head winemaker for Napa Cellars.

“I don’t try to put a big winemaker signature on my wines,” Joe says. “When you’re fortunate enough to work with Napa Valley fruit, the vineyards add the character and sensibilities to the wine that I like to see.”

Beyond the artistic side of winemaking, Joe is also a leader in the technical aspects of his craft. His work on grape seed tannins was published in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. Joe also researched and a co-authored a letter published in the Lancet (the British equivalent of the Journal of the American Medical Association) on the phenolic content of chocolate.

Joe makes his home in Napa with wife Monette and daughter Savannah. In his spare time Joe follows baseball, enjoys beer and power tools, and does the NY Times’ Sunday crossword puzzle in pen. Joe once bowled a 252.

NAPACELLARS.COM



MARY ROCCA – PROPRIETOR, ROCCA FAMILY VINEYARDS

The idea for Rocca Family Vineyards began many years ago, in the minds of proprietors Mary Rocca and Eric Grigsby. Eric grew up with the stories of his father, a Tennessee farmer-turned-salesman, reminding him of their close connection with the earth and the bounty it bore. Mary, born in the rolling hills of northern California, spent many warm summer days working in her mother’s vegetable garden. Picking prunes and walnuts out of nearby orchards late each year inspired an awe for the bountiful harvest a carefully tended plot of land could produce. While launching their respective careers - Mary as a cosmetic dentist, and Eric as a physician - the pair dreamed of the day when they could re-establish this kind of connection with the land they loved.

In 1999, that dream came to fruition. A three-year search for the perfect vineyard finally yielded results: a 21-acre vineyard nestled deep in the heart of the Napa Valley, where the pair had made their home for over a decade. After renaming the new parcel The Grigsby Vineyard, Mary devoted her full attention to the new project, while Eric continued to cultivate a career as one of the nation’s most respected pain management physicians. Mary’s first years in the wine business were hectic, to say the least: With four children under the age of 13, a family grocery store on the West Marin Coast to manage, and the steep learning curve of running the world-class Grigsby Vineyard, just keeping it all together was an achievement in itself.

Mary called upon renowned winemaker Celia Welch Masyczek to produce the label’s first vintages. The debut bottling was the 2000 Syrah, a varietal which to this day garners praise and awards for the Rocca family. But Rocca really got on the map in 2002, when its Grigsby Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon came in #1 in a blind tasting of 12 Rising Star Cabernets at the Vintners Club tasting in the U.S. Later, the wine was taken with a group of 12 other Cabernets to show in France's 12 Best Cabernets from California. It came in #1 over there as well. Finally, those same 12 Cabs had another blind tasting competition in SF to see how they would rank by American consumers. We came in #1 again! Rocca’s star was rising fast.

The following year, Mary purchased the 11-acre Colinetta Vineyard, planted on a small hill in the Coombsville Appellation, several miles east of downtown Napa. These two vineyards produce some of the Valley’s finest winegrapes, and in turn, some of the Valley’s finest wines. In 2008, Celia passed the winemaking baton to Paul Colantuoni, who has continued to produce world-class wines under the Rocca label. His non-interventionist approach to winemaking allows the unique characteristics of each vineyard, and each growing season, to shine.“These sites have all of the pieces in place to make world-class wine, so my job is mainly to stand out of the fruit’s way,” he says.
Years of accolades in the press and popular opinion have established Rocca as one of the industry’s finest wine producers, a reputation the team is happy to uphold.

WWW.ROCCAWINES.COM

Monday, September 8, 2014

9/08 STEPHEN PEPE, CLOS PEPE VINEYARDS, OFER SHEPHER, SPEAR VINEYARDS AND WINERY, SAVE OUR STA. HILLS AVA

STEPHEN PEPE – OWNER, CLOS PEPE VINEYARDS LLC  & OFER SHEPHER - OWNER/VINTNER,  SPEAR VINEYARDS & WINERY - SAVE OUR STA. RITA HILLS AVA!

 THE ISSUE:

  • Last year the Board of the SRHWA voted unanimously to oppose the expansion of the SRH into an area north and east of the current, legal, historic boundary.
  • The Sta. Rita Hills Winegrowers Alliance Board asked Wes Hagen to serve as the ‘Integrity Czar’, and spearhead an attempt to oppose the expansion.  
  • The time has come to call ALL members to action.  This needs to be done today or it won’t get done.
  • Each member should encourage their family, employees, winemaker, asst. winemaker, cellar rats, customers, tasting room staff and wine club to comment online AND write a letter to the TTB and thus go on the record that they oppose the expansion of the SRH into an area purposefully omitted by the original petitioners.  
  • I am asking each member that is committed to this defense to encourage at least 10 letters be written.  100 would be much better, and perfectly do-able.
  • It will be very disappointing if we cannot produce 500-1000 letters of opposition in this fight.  Letters are public and we will all be able to see who engages and who ignores this moment to protect what you all have worked so hard define and build.  Wes will start making inquiry calls late September to those that have not engaged, which will be a huge waste his my time during crush.
  • I have found it takes about one minute to encourage a letter via email or Facebook.  If I can make the time to do this, you can too.  Be brave and great forces will come to our aid!!  Choose the heaviest hitters of the wine world in your FB friends and email lists and send them this document.
 THE PLAN:
  • The Sta Rita Hills Winegrowers has hired lawyers and experts to produce a ‘Master Document’ that will detail our opposition with science, history, viticulture and geology
  • SRHWA will produce a Master Document to submit right before the end of Public Comment period which is quickly approaching.  It will contain expert opinions on climate, geology, geomorphology, satellite imagery, local use of names and many other sections
  • Members, sommeliers, wine shop owners, customers, neighbors, land owners, etc. will write their own letters of opposition according to the instructions carefully constructed below.  These are the letters we need you to encourage TODAY.  When the fruit starts rolling in, we will have to pause this fight.  I cannot stress strongly enough how important that we focus on this issue TODAY!  Be sensitive and substantive in your opposition.


THE DETAILS:
Educate yourself, and if you feel comfortable opposing the expansion of the Sta Rita Hills AVA, use the following guide to writing a letter of opposition. I have also attached a PDF document that includes tips for submitting effective comments.  BE SUBSTANTATIVE!  Data matters, as do your opinions.  Don’t be snarky or angry.  Be reasonable, thoughtful and persuasive!

(USE YOUR OWN WORDS AND DON’T JUST PASTE)
Go here:  http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=TTB-2014-0007-0001 to submit your comment electronically.  We also suggest you print and mail your comment as well.

If you already sent a comment to TTB, you need to send it again.  You can also mail comments via U.S. Mail: Director, Regulations and Rulings Division, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 1310 G Street NW., Box 12, Washington, DC 20005.  ALL COMMENTS MUST BE SUBMITTED BY OCTOBER 6, 2014.  Please read the section “General Rules for Commenting” before submitting your comment.  Your comment must reference Notice No. 145 and must include your name and mailing address.  You must state if your comment comes from an association, business or other entity.

Your comment will be most valuable if it represents your knowledge of the area and supports what we know to be the correct boundaries of our Sta Rita Hills AVA.  Your comment should introduce who you are and your relationship to this area or the industry.

ABOUT CLOS PEPE:
Clos Pepe Vineyard was purchased by Steve and Cathy Pepe in 1994 as a horse ranch, and established the 9th vineyard in what would become the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Specializing in cool-climate, small production, craft-based Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Clos Pepe is now recognized as a leader in local and national wine culture, wine education and providing fruit to some of the best winemakers in California.

The Italians say, ‘Il vino e' la Poesia della Terra.’  Wine is the poetry of the earth.  There is nothing that can obfuscate Pinot Noir’s ability to speak of a time and place.  Of every plant on earth, Pinot Noir is unique in its ability to show every angle of a vintage, every silt particle in the soil, and every drop of morning dew that wet its leaves. Tea, coffee, white truffles—these can tell a story and confound us with their deliciousness, but the uncontested Queen of Natural Complexity must be Pinot Noir. We anticipate each vintage with a proper mix of anxiety and hope, knowing Mother Nature and the Sta. Rita Hills have a plan that will allow time and effort to fill a glass.

ABOUT OFER SHEPHER:
I am the proprietor of Spear Vineyards located on the south side of HWY 246 west of Drum Canyon across from Dierberg. I’ve spent nearly a decade on the Gnesa Family Vineyards property while planning my dream of farming and producing wine in our world class appellation. After nearly eight years, I was finally blessed with the opportunity to acquire an amazing and precious site within this magnificent AVA. While I had multiple opportunities to acquire land outside of the SRH AVA, I held steadfast. You can imagine my dismay upon finding out that my dream appellation was potentially going to have its boundaries modified. I implore you to give this pending matter appropriate thought, consideration and action. We’ll only get one shot at this.

CLOSPEPE.COM
WWW.SPEARWINERY.COM

Monday, August 25, 2014

8/25 WES HAGEN, CLOS PEPE ESTATE, SHARON HARRIS, RARE CAT WINES

NICOLE NEILSON AND SPECIAL GUEST HOST CHEF GUINEVERE AIDE TALKS TO:

WES HAGEN – WINEMAKER, CLOS PEPE ESTATE                      
Wes has run the show here at Clos Pepe since 1998.  He manages the vineyard and the crew, Communicates with our producers and fine-tunes viticulture to suit the stylistic needs of their winemaking.  Involving himself in every aspect of the planting, growing, harvest, crush, fermentation, aging, bottling, shipping and marketing (Including the photography and text in the website), Wes is passionate about his life's goal -- producing and celebrating world-class Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  From 1997-98, Wes researched and wrote the petition that established the Santa Rita Hills American Viticultural Area with help from Bryan Babcock, Richard Sanford and other local wine personalities.  The 'Santa Rita Hills AVA' was approved in 2001, and the name was changed a few years later to 'Sta Rita Hills AVA'.  In his quest to promote the wines of Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Rita Hills in particular, Wes created and served as Director of the Santa Barbara County Fair Wine Competition from 2002 until 2004.  As a result of his hard work promoting the region and penning the AVA Petition, Wes was awarded the Central Coast Winegrower's Association 'Grower of the Year Award' for the 2001-2002 growing seasons.

Wes writes a bi-monthly column for WineMaker Magazine called 'Backyard Vines', and has written content for the L.A. Times Magazine, guest blogged for the Wine Spectator and ZesterDaily.com, articles for the Sommelier Journal,'Burgundy-Report', WestCoastWine.Net, VineSwinger.com and other small publications.  In his free time Wes consults on establihsing small vineyards (hillside Pinot Noir only), and has judged the L.A County Fair Wine Competition for eleven years, Riverside International for twelve, and the Long Beach Grand Cru for thirteen years. Wes also lectures on subjects such as the history of wine, backyard winegrowing, and general topics of viticulture and wine education.

CLOSPEPE.COM


SHARON HARRIS – PROPRIETOR, RARE CAT WINES        
Sharon’s love of wine started when she spent her junior year of college abroad, at the Universit√© de Bordeaux. She was taken under the wing of the wife of the University’s president, which is how she found herself, at age 20, being taken on a personal tour of Chateau Haut Brion, producer of one of the greatest wines in the world. The tour was led by the legendary Monsieur Delmas, who kindly let her taste the renowned 1982 vintage out of the barrel, followed by the 1966. After graduating from college Sharon returned to Bordeaux and lived with the Boutarics, the famed cheese mongers at La Marche des Grands Hommes, while she worked at The St. James, a two-star restaurant, under Jean-Marie Amat, the owner and chef. That moment changed her life and sealed her interest in wine and the Bordeaux region itself. Some years later, after a career in publishing and technology, with a young family in tow, Sharon applied and was accepted to the prestigious DUAD program (the Diplome Universitaire d’Aptitude a la Degustation des Vins) offered through the Universit√© de Bordeaux’s Oenology department. The DUAD is an intensive yearlong program that takes four years of oenology and condenses it into one compacted year: it is a technical oenology degree program taught in French. Several years later Sharon returned to the States and moved to Napa Valley. Today Sharon is one of only two women working as vintners in the Napa Valley who hold the DUAD degree. Sharon keeps her links to Bordeaux very present, maintaining a second home in Bordeaux today. As she works on the RARECAT wines, her passion extends to empowering women through wine and supporting women in the wine industry. Several years ago she formed an unusual ‘trade’ group called Wine Entre Femmes, comprised of female vintners from Napa and Bordeaux. In 2012 she established A Woman's Palate, a company that celebrates wines by women for women. “I am lucky; I am living my passion,” Sharon says.

WWW.RARECATWINES.COM