Monday, November 17, 2014

11/17 PETER WORK, AMPELOS CELLARS, ERIC STIEFELING, ARIL WINES

PETER WORK – WINEMAKER, AMPELOS CELLARS

OUR STORY
Some dream of spending the rest of their lives on golf courses and cruise ships, but with a taste for business and a love of Santa Barbara wine country, we chose a different retirement plan.

In 1999 we purchased 82 acres in what would later become the Sta. Rita Hills appellation, and named it “Ampelos”, which is the Greek word for vine. The name has a two-fold purpose. First, we believe that all great wines start in the vineyard.

Secondly, we have close-ties with Greece; we were married there and own a small bed and breakfast, called Ampelos Resort, on the island of Folegandros. We bought the land with dreams of someday watching the nightly sunset over the hills and our dogs running through the vines.

At the time we were still working long hours in corporate America, and delegated our son Don (now winemaker at Sea Smoke) to get the vineyard started. Our vineyard consultant assured us that the land could produce a great vineyard with patience and care, but we had little time to focus on the vineyard with non-stop business travel, meetings and conferences.

In 2001, the first 15 acres were planted in the Ampelos vineyard. That same year, we landed in Newark on the morning of September 11th. Peter had a meeting in the first tower of the World Trade Center, and interrupted his plan to board Path 1 of the New York Subway when his meeting was canceled. If he had gotten on the train, 8:45 am would have found him under the towers as the first plane hit.

When we finally got out of the city five days later, we went straight to our safe place—the Ampelos vineyard. That is when we made the life-changing decision to quit our corporate jobs and focus all our effort into pursuing our dream of full-time viticulture. “Someday” was no longer part of our vocabulary.

We moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in January of 2002. We began to learn to nurture the soil and prune the vines to prepare for the first harvest, and purchased one ton of Pinot Noir and two tons of Syrah in order to learn winemaking as we waited for the vines to mature. We toiled under the tutelage of our son Don and several expert consultants.

2004 marked the inaugural Ampelos vineyard harvest. The first harvest yielded 15 tons of Pinot Noir and 6 tons of Syrah. In 2005, we planted 10 acres on top of the original 15, totaling 25 acres. Pinot Noir and Syrah remain our primary varietals, with a line of Viognier and just under two acres of Grenache—the unsung hero of the Sta. Rita Hills. We persist in experimenting with different grapes and winemaking styles, as we are major believers in the journey being the destination.

With the efforts of family and friends, wise guides, and a twist of fate, we have come to create our small, sustainable vineyard and winery. We have gone from expanding big businesses to focusing on creating a limited release of high-quality product that people can afford to share with friends and loved ones. For us, sharing those gifts is what makes it all worthwhile.

OUR PHILOSOPHY
You can depend on Ampelos wine to present the essence of each varietal in its purest form. Our winemaking processes are minimalist, meaning no added yeast, no artificial tannins, no artificial malolactic bacteria, and no artificial coloring. Every sip evokes cool ocean breezes and sunny afternoons wondering at the beauty of the rolling Sta. Rita Hills.

We experiment with both old and new winemaking processes, with eyes always fixed on eco-friendly, natural winemaking. With respect to longstanding winemaking traditions coupled with flexibility, we believe our results will be improvements to the cellar resulting in intriguing and complex wines.

WWW.AMPELOSCELLARS.COM


ERIC STIEFELING – NATIONAL SALES DIRECTOR, ARIL WINES                  

OUR STORY
The history of Aril wines is a love story. A love story about a beautiful little vineyard perched above the Napa Valley. And a love story about a wine that changed their lives.

Joanne and Harmon met in Telluride, Colorado, where he was running a popular restaurant, and she was heavily involved in the Telluride Foundation. They began to talk of food and wine, and then of many other things. What started as a romance grew into a strong partnership and a dream. Harmon had run a winery in Napa, and Joanne had always loved the classic Syrahs of the Rhone Valley and Provence…wines enjoyed by connoisseurs and French Kings.

The dream grew into reality via a small property in the hills above the Napa Valley with just a tiny block of the finest Syrah vines. As a symbol for the winery, Joanne selected the pomegranate tree that they planted there in the garden. Aril is the deeply red cover of the seeds of the pomegranate, a color that Joanne finds in the heart of their Syrahs.

The wines are not products, but journeys from the vine to the bottle, and each journey is a unique experience to be enjoyed with friends and loved ones. Aril is our passion, and we are pleased to share it with the world.

ABOUT ERIC
Eric Stiefeling is the Managing Director for Aril wines. Born in New York City, he developed a love for wine after moving to California in the mid-1980s. He is a past president of the Golden Gate Wine Society, and the wine director for the Pine Creek Sporting Club in Okeechobee, Florida. Making frequent trips to Napa Valley, Eric soon became a fixture at commercial wine tastings.

Prior to his pursuits in the wine industry, Eric worked in the securities industry at Chapdelaine and Company, a municipal bond brokerage firm in New York, before joining Rauscher, Pierce, Refsnes Inc. in San Francisco. At the age of 26, Eric’s entrepreneurial spirit gave him his first taste of the food and drink world when he purchased The Attic. He turned that small restaurant in New York into a thriving business.

In addition to his work at Aril, Eric remains active in the Napa Valley’s wine culture. He served as Chairman of the Beverage Committee for Auction Napa Valley in 2010 and co-chaired the organization’s Barrel Auction for Auction in 2014.

ARILWINES.COM

Monday, November 10, 2014

11/10 LISA RIGISICH, PINOT DAYS, GARY PISONI, PISONI VINEYARDS

LISA RIGISICH – PRODUCER, PINOT DAYS

Pinot Days Southern California is our fastest growing event, and it makes sense! People who enjoy blue skies and an easy, breezy lifestyle gravitate to pinot noir because it is easy to pair, easy to drink, and fascinating to talk about. Couple that with the area's innovative food, and you have a fantastic coupling of place with pinot. Enjoy Winemaker Pinot Pairings at restaurants and wine venues around town in the days preceding our Grand Festival, which is back on the West Side at the Skirball Cultural Center. Meet our winemakers, hear their stories and enjoy the most diverse, lovely wines on the planet....

Where - Skirball Cultural Center
When - Saturday, November 15th, 2014.
Trade Tasting: Noon-2pm.
VIP Tasting: Noon - 5pm.
Public Tasting: 2-5pm.
Price - $75 - Grand Festival. $120 VIP Tasting and Seminar.
Tickets - Tickets are on sale for the Grand Festival and Grand Festival VIP Tasting.

MORE ABOUT PINOT DAYS:

OUR MISSION: As a non-profit, the Pinot Days mission is to educate those who wish to learn more about pinot noir, from seed, to vineyard, to winemaker, to winery, to bottle, to table. This has been our purpose from our inception, one which we fulfilled from our first year, and one which we continue to fulfill in novel and innovative ways. How do we educate? The Pinot Days festivals bring winemakers and attendees together, creating a venue for communication between the two and enabling attendees to learn, both intellectually and aesthetically. As those in the wine industry well know, those who pursue pinot noir don’t follow it simply to drink it; they want to understand it on various levels. It is a notoriously difficult and expensive grape to grow, drawing the most skilled and knowledgeable winemakers, and offering the broadest stylistic and regional range of all the grape varieties. Thus it presents itself as a compelling avocation and area of study. Increasingly, it's the genuinely boutique producers who come and pour at our events. They're the ones who don't have a marketing department to promote them, the ones who want wine lovers to discover who they are and what they craft. They're the real deal, the visionaries. It's Peter Cargasacchi who will show up with vineyard dirt on his knees because that's where he spent his morning. Or Rickey Trombetta (Trombetta Family) who will tear up when you mention a great pinot vintage. Or Kathleen Inman who, I’ve heard, refers to her grape clusters by name. “Hand-crafted” is a literal term with these folks, and you can taste the difference. You’ll hear it in their stories. And you are going to want to hear more than they have time to tell you, and taste more than you can in an afternoon.


OUR HISTORY: In 2004, pinot noir was an after-thought in the California wine world which, from our perspective, was a shame. We sought to rectify this by producing an event dedicated to exposing those who would listen to pinot noir, educating them about the industry as a whole. 100 wineries exhibited at the first Pinot Days in 2005, and fewer than 1,000 people attended. The event, however, rapidly became a linchpin of the industry, connecting producers with prospective customers via education. We also became the leading voice of the industry, providing access to “insider” views into wineries and winemaking, giving exposure to new producers, assessing wines and answering questions on influential internet wine boards (Robert Parker, Wine Spectator, Wineberserkers), serving as panelists and guest speakers at wine events and wine-related productions (plays, movies), producing industry-focused newsletters, emceeing pinot noir-focused dinners and pairings, and taking part in radio (KGO, KABC) and television (ABC) interviews wherein pinot noir and its production was the topic. The public, clamoring for information, began to turn Pinot Days as their source of information related to pinot noir. Along with other influences, Pinot Days’ various efforts translated into an incredible increase in interest in pinot noir. Pinot Noir’s market share increased from less than 1% of the total grapes crushed to over 4% from 2004 to 2010. Pinot Days was a chief contributor to ushering new wine aficionados to the variety’s doorstep. Pinot Days also grew considerably. Again, in 2004, 100 exhibitors and 1,000 attended the Grand Festival in San Francisco. In 2010, 220 producers and 3,500 attended the Grand Festival. And in response to popular demand, we have ventured beyond California, producing 4 festivals annually. It's nice to see pinot getting the groupie following it deserves!

WWW.PINOTDAYS.COM


GARY PISONI – PISONI VINEYARDS                                                  

A special place, Pisoni Vineyards expresses the land and climate of the Santa Lucia Highlands and the spirit of the Pisoni Family. The site is a source of exceptional Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah.

First planted by Gary Pisoni in 1982, Pisoni Vineyards consists of small vineyard blocks arranged on and around the ridges of the mountainous landscape. Ranging in size from one-half to seventeen acres, the vineyard blocks perch at an altitude of 1,300 feet in the granite-laced mountains of the coastal Santa Lucia Range.

Inspired by the Burgundy tradition of having several wineries source fruit from the same vineyard, Gary Pisoni has formed relationships with some of the most prestigious Pinot Noir producers in California. With agreements based on handshake alone, these wineries are guaranteed specific rows and blocks each year. They purchase grapes at a per-acre price rather than a per-ton price, which maintains the focus on quality and not yields.

In addition to supplying fruit to artisan producers of vineyard-designated wines, the Pisoni Family retains a portion of the vineyard for the production of Pisoni Estate wine.

THE PRACTICE
Vineyard management is meticulous. Under Mark Pisoni's leadership, a long-time permanent crew of 18 skilled individuals perform all the work by hand. Every decision implements sustainable farming practices and long-term considerations. This commitment, combined with the rocky soils and cold Monterey Bay weather, produce serious and compelling wines.

THE FAMILY
In 1952 Jane and Eddie Pisoni began farming vegetables in the fertile Salinas Valley. A celery-crop profit in 1979 provided the down payment for the Santa Lucia Highlands property that became Pisoni Vineyards. Their love for the land provided the place where their son Gary could realize his dreams. Gary developed a love of wine while attending college. He started collecting fine French and German wines, and he made his first wine in his garage in 1978 at the age of twenty-five. In 1982, Gary broke ground and planted the first vines at Pisoni Vineyards. He was up against many obstacles, including not having a water source at the time.

Mark Pisoni, the vineyard manager, completed a B.S. in Agricultural Economics at the University of California, Davis, and an M.S. in Farm Business Management at Cornell University. He oversees the meticulous care of both Pisoni Vineyards and Pisoni Farms.  Jeff Pisoni is the winemaker. He earned a B.S. in Enology at California State University, Fresno, and got hands-on experience at premium wineries before becoming the Pisoni Estate and Lucia winemaker in 2002.

THE WINE
The Pisoni Family produces one wine each year under the label bearing its name: Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir. Although actual quantities vary with fruit yields, typical production is a mere 500 cases annually. Often noted for their deep color and intensity, wines from Pisoni Vineyards offer complex flavors and layers of undulating texture. The rocky mountain soil and the long, cool growing season provide the fundamental character of the wine, and the tannin and acid structure contribute to the age-worthiness.

LUCIA
Lucia vineyard designated Santa Lucia Highlands AVA wines. Lucia is the sister label of the Pisoni Estate wines. Whereas Pisoni Estate is committed to a single expression of the Pisoni Vineyards, Lucia represents the collection of vineyards that the Pisoni Family farms: Pisoni Vineyards, Soberanes Vineyard and Garys' Vineyard (the latter two farmed in partnership with Gary Franscioni).

The wines of Lucia are vineyard designated Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from these vineyards and eponymous Santa Lucia Highlands AVA cuvées with varying percentages of each vineyard blended together. Lucia wines are made alongside the Pisoni Estate wines using the same exacting standards for quality. They are sold via mailing list and high-end restaurants and retailers. If you are on the mailing list for Pisoni Estate wines, you will automatically have the opportunity to purchase the Lucia offerings.

WWW.PISONIVINEYARDS.COM

Monday, November 3, 2014

11/03 BRANDON SPARKS-GILLIS, DRAGONETTE CELLARS, ROSS COBB, COBB WINES

BRANDON SPARKS-GILLIS – PARTNER, DRAGONETTE CELLARS

OUR MISSION
Inspired by the great wines of the world, and following in the footsteps of our mentors, we formed Dragonette Cellars a decade ago. We are committed to getting our hands dirty; personally executing each step in the winegrowing and winemaking process, from vineyard management decisions, to harvest (often in multiple passes through the blocks), to fermentation, and finally to blending and bottling. We know that only through our constant and meticulous attention to detail, underpinned by experience and overriding passion, can our wines reach their full potential. Dragonette Cellars is located on the Los Olivos Promenade.

Principal Varietals: Grenache, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah

UPCOMING EVENTS:

Thursday 11/20 6-9pm Winemaker Dinner at Meritage, Encinitas
MERITAGE WINE MARKET, ENCINITAS, CA
Join us at the newly remodeled Meritage Wine Market for an intimate winemaker dinner. SOLD OUT!

Friday 11/21 4 - 8 pm Winemaker Pouring
THE WINE CRUSH, LONG BEACH, CA
The Wine Crush was one of the first merchants in California to showcase our early wines, and remains a favorite of ours; their Central Coast wine selection is top notch. Join us as we return to pour our latest releases and share stories of our recently completed harvest season.

DRAGONETTECELLARS.COM


ROSS COBB – WINEMAKER, COBB WINES

ABOUT ROSS COBB
Since founding Cobb Wines with his father in 2001, Ross Cobb has guided Cobb’s winemaking program, championing a complex, cool-climate style of pinot noir that captures the sophistication of the Sonoma Coast. Approaching his work with an extreme dedication to craft—in both viticulture and winemaking—Ross has quietly earned a reputation as a pinot noir specialist, producing benchmark single-vineyard wines. In the winery, Ross applies traditional techniques and a gentle hand to capture the personality of each vineyard, while emphasizing quality and complexity at every stage of winemaking.

Ross was born in Northern California, and traveled widely with his family throughout his youth, visiting Europe, Asia, Africa, and living in the Middle East. While working toward a degree in biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Ross began helping his father David with the planting of Coastlands Vineyard on the Sonoma Coast. Working in the vineyard on weekends and summers, Ross fell in love with the process of growing grapes and switched his major to agroecology and sustainable agriculture.

After earning his degree, Ross joined the team at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery in Dry Creek Valley, where he established a soils laboratory and winery research team. At the same time, Ross remained deeply involved at Coastlands Vineyard, making his own non-commercial, small-lot pinot noirs each year. He also regularly tasted barrel samples, alongside Bert Williams, of wines being made by Williams Selyem from Coastlands fruit. “As I was making my own wines and tasting what Bert was doing with our fruit,” says Ross, “something happened. I realized how deeply I wanted to make the best wines possible—beautiful wines. To do this, I dedicated myself to learning everything I possibly could about pinot noir viticulture and winemaking.”

Over the next decade, Ross honed his winemaking skills. At the same time, he also narrowed his focus, developing a special talent for crafting Sonoma Coast pinot noirs. Following a stint as the enologist and lab manager for Randall Grahm at Bonny Doon Vineyard, Ross joined the Williams Selyem team as viticulturist and enologist. At Williams Selyem, Ross was able to work alongside Bert Williams and Bob Cabral, while at the same time working with grapes from Coastlands Vineyard. In 2000, Ross joined Flowers Vineyard and Winery as assistant winemaker. While at Flowers, Ross further refined his approach to Sonoma Coast pinot noir, and ultimately took over from Hugh Chappelle as winemaker in 2004.

During his tenure at Flowers, Ross and his father, David, founded Cobb Wines, crafting 130 cases of their inaugural Coastlands Vineyard pinot noir in 2001. As the winemaker for Cobb Wines, Ross divides his energies between the vineyards and winemaking to create singular wines with a clearly defined style. This style highlights a more complex and aromatic, lower-alcohol expression of pinot noir, picked at lower Brix and aged with a modest amount of new French oak. At the same time, Ross is constantly striving to enhance his knowledge, and has traveled to Burgundy eight times in the past eight years, meeting with as many as 100 different winemakers and numerous French coopers to expand his understanding of pinot noir, enhance his barrel program, and further refine his palate.

The Cobb Wines Story
In 2001, two generations of the Cobb family came together to explore a shared passion for pinot noir wines with the founding of Cobb Wines. Focused exclusively on crafting single vineyard, Sonoma Coast pinot noirs, Cobb Wines combines the winegrowing expertise of David Cobb—one of the pioneers of pinot noir viticulture on the far Sonoma Coast—with the winemaking talents of his son, noted Pinot Noir specialist Ross Cobb.

The original seeds for Cobb Wines were planted in 1989, when David began cultivating pinot noir vines at his sustainably farmed Coastlands Vineyard. A marine ecologist by trade, David spent years studying soils and climatological charts in his search for the ideal place to found his vineyard. His search led him to the ridgetops of the Sonoma Coast, where he believed he would be able to grow grapes perfectly suited to a more complex and graceful style of California pinot noir. On weekend and summer breaks from college, David would be joined in the vineyard by his son Ross, who quickly grew to love the hands-on work of growing winegrapes.

After graduating with a degree in agroecology and sustainable agriculture, Ross embarked on a winemaking career, learning his craft from an array of pinot noir winemakers on two continents. At the same time, Ross and David began making small, homemade lots of noncommercial pinot noir from Coastlands fruit. “We dug a little cellar out under the porch of our house at Coastlands,” says Ross. “We would punch down the wines in little open-top fermentors on the porch and then gravity flow the wine into barrel. Even though it was all very primitive, the wines showed promise, and each year we learned more.”

Though David’s original plan for Coastlands Vineyard was simply to sell grapes to artisan vintners, Ross had a different vision for Coastlands’ exceptional fruit. After spending nearly a decade developing his winemaking skills, he approached his parents with the idea of founding Cobb Wines - a goal that would allow David, Diane and Ross to guide every step of the winemaking process, from the planting of the vineyard to the crafting of sophisticated, cool-climate pinot noirs. This goal was realized in 2001, when David and Ross crafted 130 cases of Cobb Wines’ inaugural “Coastlands Vineyard” pinot noir.

Released in 2003, the wine sold out almost immediately. The following spring, their 2002
“Coastlands Vineyard,” along with 31 pinot noir wines from France and elsewhere around the world, were combined in an “In Pinot Veritas” blind tasting. The event was organized in France by Arnaud Orsel des Sagets of Tonnellerie Francois Freres, one of the world’s most respected producers of wine barrels. When the “Coastlands Vineyard” won First Place, the Cobbs knew they were on their way.

Since then, the Cobb Wines vineyard program has evolved to include four other handtended, independently owned vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. Though these vineyards share certain essential Sonoma Coast characteristics, they each have individual soil types, subtly different microclimates, and unique combinations of pinot noir selections. Not only does this diversity distinguish the Cobb Wines portfolio, it also ensures Ross and David access to excellent fruit every vintage.

In the winery, Ross focuses on a style of pinot noir that authentically reflects the terroir of each vineyard, striving for a more complex, aromatic, lower-alcohol expression of the varietal picked at lower Brix and aged with a modest amount of new French oak. By remaining true to this elegant and complex style, Cobb Wines has earned a reputation for crafting benchmark single-vineyard, Sonoma Coast pinot noirs.

COBBWINES.COM