Monday, January 9, 2017

01/09 FRED SCHERRER, SCHERRER WINERY, GARY PISONI, PISONI VINEYARDS

FRED SCHERRER – SCHERRER WINERY 

THE WINERY AND WINEMAKING
In the mid-1970’s, due to a normal teenage interest in alcoholic beverages, my family allowed me to make some wine from the family vineyard and beer at home (under adult supervision, of course). This led to a UC Davis degree as well as concurrent work at a local winery doing the dirtiest and most menial jobs imaginable. In the mid-1980’s good friends at Duxoup Wine Works (think Marx Brothers for the pronunciation) inspired me to try my hand at my own label so I negotiated cellar space in lieu of a raise by my then-current employer, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Anderson Valley (I got a raise anyway). Greenwood Ridge was supportive of my project and decided to have some Scherrer Zinfandel produced for their label as well. Unfortunately, I had a poor business plan and during the first year I realized I was not yet ready for this project. Greenwood Ridge continues to make a small amount of Scherrer Vineyard Zinfandel to this day.

Enter Dehlinger Winery in the late 1980’s. Tom Dehlinger was very supportive of my long-term plans and challenged me to develop a solid business plan, facilitating an important entry into my own project. In return, his winery received my heart and soul for a decade. The final key element in our getting started was from my parents. They allowed me to delay paying them for their fine grapes until we began getting cash flow from our wine sales. By 1997, we were ready to make the move to a facility of our own. In anticipation of this, we were able to add Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to supplement the Zinfandel we were producing, all from my father’s vineyard in Alexander Valley. Tom Dehlinger supported this transition of my focus, allowing me to produce these additional wines in his facility and we parted very amicably after that vintage.

And so after the harvest of 1997, I moved our operation to a corner of an apple packing shed-turned-winery, finally leasing the entire building. During this period, our production grew from just the three varietals from Scherrer Vineyard, to now typically a dozen wines, about half of which are Pinot Noir. Total production is now 4000 to 5000 cases. My good friend, Don Bliss helped me whenever I needed a hand (or a finger to dial 911 in the unlikely event of a forklift mistake) throughout this period until he sold his fine vineyard and moved back to his native Texas in 2006. Since then, I have been able to impose on a handful of friends and local customers when I have needed help, but still continue to work at the winery pretty much alone most of the year. Judi, my wife, has handled administrative and compliance for the winery since 2002, keeping me out of trouble with bureaucrats and making sure we are able to conform with the complex and changing world of direct shipping and wholesaling laws, reports and fees.

Current Wines
Fred began making Zinfandel from his father’s vineyard in 1991. The first vintage consisted of 600 cases made from the oldest part of the vineyard planted by Fred’s grandfather in 1912. Over the next 5 years, Fred was able to slowly expand production of Zinfandel as he continued his ‘day job’ as winemaker at Dehlinger. In 1997, we were able to expand production to include Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay from the Scherrer Vineyard. This expansion included making the winery a full-time occupation in 1998 and moving into its current location in an insulated metal building near Sebastopol.
Because we make so many different bottlings now, it is difficult to decide just what schedule to offer them for sale to our direct customers. We usually offer wines here (especially the Zinfandels and Cabernets) well ahead of any commercial release to wine shops and restaurants since most of you know what you want and are cellaring these wines for yourselves according to your own tastes. This also helps enable us to survive the financial difficulty of holding back vintages until they really shine. If you are interested in purchasing any current wines, you can place your order easily now on line at the Scherrer Wine Shop.

WWW.SCHERRERWINERY.COM


GARY PISONI – PISONI VINEYARDS 

ABOUT 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, December 19, 2016

12/19 MICHAEL BROWNE, KOSTA BROWNE, TED LEMON, LITTORAI WINES

MICHAEL BROWNE – FOUNDER AND WINEMAKER, KOSTA BROWNE

THE KOSTA BROWNE STORY

POWER OF TWO
The story of Kosta-Browne begins with two friends, Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. The year was 1997 and the buddies both were working at John Ash & Co., a popular restaurant in Santa Rosa, California. Dan was the general manager; Michael was the sommelier. But their real passion was something bigger, bolder, and more brazen than anything either ever had done: They wanted to create Pinot Noir. The catch: Neither gentleman had experience making wine. What ensued was a tale of perseverance, dedication, and hard work. That, and of course, a little bit of pinot noir.

“THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE”
Once Dan and Michael agreed to make wine together, they realized they needed money to bring the dream to life. So they started saving. Dan proposed saving $10 apiece every night on those nights when the duo worked together. Looking back, he says, “The amount was something that wasn’t going to kill us but something that was going to push us to keep going.” As Dan and Michael socked away their hard-earned cash, they stashed the money in an envelope that they kept in Dan’s desk drawer. Over the course of a few months (working anywhere from three to five nights a week), they amassed about $1,000, still a few hundred bucks short of their goal. Thankfully, a chef at the restaurant kicked in the difference and Dan and Michael were on their way. The next step: Purchasing equipment and grapes.

NO SCHOOL LIKE THE OLD-SCHOOL
With $1,400 in the bank, Dan and Michael managed to buy a half-ton of pinot noir grapes from Everett Ridge, in the Russian River appellation. The next challenge: Actually making the wine. Neither man had problems using other people’s equipment for most of the winemaking, but Michael insisted on purchasing a used barrel and his own hand-cranked de-stemmer/crusher. Finding the barrel was easy; finding the other tool proved to be a bigger challenge. Finally, with harvest approaching, they bought the device from a friend. All told, Dan and Michael estimate they spent about $400 of their cash on equipment and about $1,000 on grapes. Once the wine was in the barrel, they made enough labels for 24 cases. Those early labels read KOSTA BROWNE. They looked eerily like the ones we use today.

GROWING WITH WHITE
Dan and Michael poured most of that first barrel for VIP customers at the restaurant. When the barrel was almost empty, the duo decided it was time to raise some more money. This time they didn’t pool tips; instead, in 1999, Dan and Michael secured some angel investments from friends and family and made 3,400 cases of sauvignon blanc from Lake County. As Michael explains, this move made sense because sauvignon blanc grapes were cheaper than pinot noir, the wine didn’t need barrels to age, and he and Dan could turn around the product quickly. “It was a quick strike,” he says. It also was a decent hit; the wine sold well enough to get the brand moving, almost exclusively through distribution.

STICKING WITH PINOT
The following year—2000, to be exact—Michael set out to follow his dream and make more pinot noir. Because Kosta Browne was so young, because it wasn’t well-known yet, Michael experienced a certain degree of difficulty getting good grapes. After weeks of networking, Michael convinced John Ferrington, the former assistant winemaker at Williams Selyem, to connect him with the owners at Cohn Vineyard, a source for one of Williams Selyem’s single-vineyard designate wines. Always the charmer, Michael convinced the Cohns to sell him grapes. The good news: Finally, our winemaker could make more pinot. The bad news (at least for a startup winery running low on cash): That pinot needed time to age.

TWO BECOMES THREE
Waiting for wine to age can get dull, and in early 2001, Michael decided he’d pass the time by writing a formal business plan. He studied business books. He read through plans friends gave him. Finally, over the course of a weekend, he put together a plan of his own. He printed it out at the Kinko’s on 4th Street in downtown Santa Rosa. Dan took the finished plan to his father, Tom, to ask for advice. Eventually, Dan and Michael ended up in a meeting with local entrepreneurs, Rick Markoff, Jim Costello and his son, Chris. After spending time with the guys, they were all intrigued. Then they tasted the 2000 Cohn. They were hooked, and agreed to form a partnership.

LEANING ON THE COMPANY CAR
Chris’s first act on behalf of the fledgling partnership was to work with his father and Rick to rewrite Michael’s business plan. With the right plan in hand, the challenge was three-fold: To line up investors, to make more pinot noir, and to figure out how to sell it. Michael and Dan were optimistic this next phase would take months; the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, slowed the industry to a halt, and the next chapter took three years. There’s no way to sugar-coat it—this time was a slog. Michael’s broken-down Volkswagen Jetta became the company car, and he drove it all over the San Francisco Bay Area to drum up support. Jim leveraged his network hard to entice investment. After three years of meetings, rewrites and a restructuring, the team had raised just short of $1 million from 19 investors.

KEEPING HOPE ALIVE
The leaders of the new partnership, and Jim in particular, recruited nearly every one of this crew personally, by sharing the vision, enthusiasm, determination, and dedication to quality exuding from both Dan and Michael. The group became known as the “Founder Investors.” Without them, Kosta Browne likely wouldn’t have made it through this difficult time. Bankruptcy certainly was an option—Michael and Dan mentioned it frequently but refused to give up. Chris remembers he felt the same way. “I thought of backing out numerous times, but I never did,” he says. “Michael’s enthusiasm and determination and Dan’s likability and charisma kept me involved.” Michael channeled a different kind of inspiration—in one particularly disheartening stretch, he pictured himself in a rhinoceros costume, barreling his way through the realities that were holding him back. In the end, the team was committed to making great wine. Their perseverance was about to pay off.

BREAKTHROUGH!
From the very beginning, Michael’s goal with his pinot noir was to get at least one 90-point score. With this in mind, in 2005 he made a decision that would change the history of Kosta Browne forever. He was late to bottle the 2003 vintage that year, so he implemented a micro-filtering technique that eliminated the possibility of bottle fermentation, removed doubts, and preserved the integrity of the wine. These simple differences in protocol—longer hang-time for the fruit, more aging in the barrel, micro-filtering—resulted in an elegant intensity upon which critics seized in reviews for that vintage. Wine Spectator gave the 2003s two 95s, as well as three other scores of 90 or higher. They were unprecedented scores for a winery as small as Kosta Browne. And the scores changed everything. Michael admits he was “terrified” when he heard the news, and wondered: “How the hell am I going to keep this up?!” Chris remembers him being white as a ghost when he arrived at the winery that morning, and screaming with glee when he heard the news.

GROWING INTO TO A NEW HOME
From there, the name of the game at Kosta Browne was growth. With growing numbers of collectors and connoisseurs becoming interested in Kosta Browne, demand skyrocketed, and our brand set off on the path toward becoming the fan-favorite it is today. Vintages sold out. The list to be on our list grew. Michael and Dan found themselves in the difficult-but-not-shabby position of telling friends and customers that they’d have to wait for the opportunity to purchase wine. It all added to the mystique. We were able to move into our own dedicated winery facility, still nothing fancy but a place that was just for us. We had the tools to continue to make great wine and keep our fans happy. Almost overnight, Kosta Browne became a cult sensation. It was an overnight success that took eight years to happen. The rest, as they say, is history.

WWW.KOSTABROWNE.COM
WWW.CIRQ.COM


TED LEMON - PROPRIETOR, LITTORAI WINES 

Littorai Wines is a small, family owned and operated winery producing world class vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the true north coast of California: the coastal mountains of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. Littorai Wines was founded in 1993 by Heidi and Ted Lemon. In July 2008, we completed construction of our winery located between Sebastopol and Freestone in western Sonoma County.

ABOUT TED AND HEIDI

Ted is a lifelong winemaker who began his career by receiving an Enology degree from the Université de Dijon in 1981. He worked at many prestigious estates in Burgundy: Domaine Georges Roumier, Domaine Bruno Clair, Domaine Parent, Domaine De Villaine, Domaine Delorme and Domaine Dujac. He was the first American ever selected as winemaker and vineyard manager of a Burgundian estate, Domaine Guy Roulot in Meursault, and remained in Burgundy through 1984. Since 1984, Ted has been a partner with the owners of Domaine Dujac in Druid Wine Company, which distributes Domaine Dujac wines internationally and produces wines from Puligny Montrachet and Meursault under its own label. Upon returning to the United States, Ted became the founding winemaker of Chateau Woltner on Howell Mountain.. Since then, he has been consultant to a number of prominent wineries: Franciscan Estates, Clos Pegase, Green and Red Vineyard, Reverie, Howell Mountain Vineyards, Black Sears Estate, Archery Summit Winery in Oregon, Burn Cottage Vineyard in New Zealand and many more.

Heidi’s path to farming started with a year living and working in Germany after college, a MA in ESL (English as a Second Language) followed by work at Domaine Chandon, Robert Pecota Winery, Robert Long Vineyards and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

In 1992, The Lemons spent months traveling the vineyards of the west coast from Seattle to Santa Barbara looking for the best growing conditions for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, finally deciding to focus on what we at Littorai have always called the “true” north coast of California.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY:
The Littorai path flows from our dedication to producing wines of place, wines which reflect the genius of an individual site. There are no substitutes for low yields and careful site and vine selection. Winegrowing is a wonderful word, for it implies that the object is not to produce the most beautiful vine or grape cluster but to produce the finest wine. Such wine should be a reflection of the vineyard and not the cellar. We believe that all additives, such as cultured yeasts, cultured bacteria, acidification, enzymes etc are not appropriate to the greatest expression of terroir. Where some producers look to technology as the route to great wines, we focus on hands-on farming and working with Mother Nature.

Wine is a reflection of the culture from which it springs. We believe in culture less boisterous and more gracious. We do not make wines for competitions, ratings or trends. We believe that the words elegance and finesse are wholly compatible with the notions of concentration and complexity. The Littorai aesthetic is one of finesse, balance and length.

WWW.LITTORAI.COM

Monday, December 12, 2016

12/12 MICHAEL C KEENAN, ROBERT KEENAN WINERY, IAN BLACKBURN, WINE LA, BEEKEEPER CELLARS

MICHAEL C KEENAN – PRESIDENT, ROBERT KEENAN WINERY

Certain that mountain side vineyards in Napa Valley could produce world class wines, in 1974 Robert Keenan purchased 180 acres in the Spring Mountain District at an elevation of 1700 feet. Located on the eastern slope of the Mayacamas mountain range, Spring Mountain District gained recognition as an American Vineyard Appellation (AVA) in 1993. The low vigor soils unique to the region were known to create a stressful environment for vine growth, setting up perfect conditions to encourage vineyards planted on the steep, rocky, mountainsides to produce wines of great concentration, structure, and pure varietal flavors.

The original acreage Robert acquired included the crumbling Peter Conradi Winery, founded in the late 19th Century and one of the first pioneering properties established on Spring Mountain. Peter Conradi had originally planted the vineyards to Zinfandel and Syrah, but they declined when the property was abandoned during Prohibition, and by the time Keenan arrived in 1974, none of the original vineyards were producing. Robert cleared the estate of tree stumps and rocks, extended the original vineyard acreage and replanted the property to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. He built a new winery using the existing stonewalls from the old Conradi building, and celebrated Keenan Winery’s first harvest there in 1977.

When Michael Keenan took over leadership of the estate in 1998, we made the decision to replant the vineyards with an eye toward increasing grape quality. In addition, we built a solar power system that went on-line in 2007 and now supplies all of the estate’s energy needs, including the winery, administrative offices, visitor hospitality area, and the homes located on the property. The Napa Valley Vintners have recognized Keenan as a “green” winery, which we now proudly announce on our back labels: Solar Powered and Sustainably Farmed.

Today Keenan Winery produces four superb and distinctive wines exclusively from grapes grown our Spring Mountain Estate: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Cabernet Franc and a Merlot Reserve from the Mailbox Vineyard. Keenan also offers wines produced from estate fruit blended with grapes grown in carefully selected Napa Valley vineyards: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and the Mernet Reserve, which is a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. Our Summer Blend, an annual spring release, is composed of mostly Chardonnay and blended with small amounts of Viognier and Albarino.

WWW.KEENANWINERY.COM


LET’S TALK CHAMPAGNE WITH IAN BLACKBURN – OWNER/FOUNDER, WINE LA & FOUNDER/CO-WINEMAKER, BEEKEEPER CELLARS 

wineLA is about enhancing the wine culture of Los Angeles. To do so, wine must be in rhythm with fashion, music, food and other beverages.  It must take advantage of the geography, the architecture and the centers of interest. Los Angeles is a giant playground with an amazing array of venues, spaces, wine bars, restaurants, beaches, roof tops, gardens, and magical views. We want to be a part of the LA lifestyle, the wine lifestyle, and celebrate the people, the place and the passion.

wineLA will promote significant events, occasional classes, and tastings of merit. This is phase two of what we started 20 years ago at LearnAboutWine.com - America’s first wine education website and first in wine event creation. LearnAboutWine will now evolve onto a digital platform; the transformation will take some time; so we will slowly rebrand our event efforts onto wineLA, reduce the number of activities we focus on, and elevate our efforts to focus on the next big thing… Doing what is best for the wine industry and the communities we serve.  Edicts:  innovate, evolve and excite.

We thank you for joining our newsletter, we will be sending fewer emails and packing them with amazing content. We want to be your wine content provider and would love to hear about your favorite places, your music, your locations - we want to be under the influence of what ignites your passion for Los Angeles.

UPCOMING EVENTS:
CHAMPAGNE NEW YEARS PRIMER 
EAT.DRINK.AMERICANO
DEC 17, 2016
3:00PM-5:00PM

New Year’s Eve Champagne Prep – a comprehensive overview of the world of sparkling to help you become more well-rounded and educated about great sparkling wine.

Class is accompanied by a delicious small cheese plate.

EXPLORING CHAMPAGNE
EAT.DRINK.AMERICANO
DEC 17, 2016
7:00PM-9:30PM

Take your palate for a journey around the world in this "Exploring Wines" event. Taste a variety of wines and champagnes from all over the world paired with different artisanal cheeses... each flight is served blind so that we may assess the wines as a group and rate them. See what you like and prefer - of course you will love all the wines - but a few may show you which style you learn towards.... Pinot or Chard? Clean and fresh or Bold and Rich... blended or vintage... which vintage... we love to explore the questions of fine wine... and share our findings.

Class is accompanied by a delicious small cheese plate.

ABOUT BEEKEEPER CELLARS
Beekeeper Cellars is the vision of best friends and co-winemakers Ian Blackburn and Clay Mauritson. The two collaborated after adventurous individual careers in the wine business, and at last, decided to work together on a project of their own.

Clay, a 7th generation grape grower, and his family found themselves the owners of a significant slice of the Rockpile Appellation, through an amazing set of historical land transactions. The Mauritson family realized the potential and parented the creation of the ROCKPILE AVA. In 1998, Ian and Clay climbed the hill and watched the Madrone Spring Vineyard get planted, while discussing the future of Rockpile and the dream it represented.

In 2008, Clay saw the fruits of his family's labor taking shape and came to Ian with a unique opportunity to source some of the Rockpile fruit. He told Ian in the difficult days of 2008, “now is the time to get in and build the business and have it take shape as the market improves, and to not wait until business is strong as you will have a hard time getting access to the right quality assets.” Ian took heed of Clay’s wise comment and said "When your best friend is Clay Mauritson and he offers Rockpile fruit and to assist with winemaking…... you make Zinfandel.”

In Los Angeles, Ian operates a specialty wine marketing organization known as wineLA and has pioneered wine education for the past 20 years (since 1995) through www.learnaboutwine.com and www.wineLA.com.  Beekeeper Cellars is also involved in Ian’s Masters of Wine Thesis project and provides him the winemaking training he requires to help pass the difficult Masters of Wine exam...an ongoing pursuit.

WWW.WINELA.COM
WWW.BEEKEEPERCELLARS.COM