Monday, December 26, 2011

12/26-Michael Horn visits with Dick Calafato, Larry Van Alst, Terry Hall

Dick Calafato - Partner/General Manager Pyrenees Vineyard and Winery
Special guest Dick Calafato will update you on the latest news from the Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon's fastest growing wine region.
Apodaca family’s commitment to the superb quality of their wines is evident in its excellent quality and distinction. Pyrenees Vineyard and Winery pulls many of its influences from the Basque country of northern Spain where the Apodaca’s Heritage was originated. Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars brings to you their many varietals of wines from the finest Oregon grapes influenced by the textures of the rich soil, the abundant vegetation and mild climate of the Umpqua Valley.

Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars sets along the South Umpqua River surrounded by 30 acres of lush grapes and rolling hillside. You will find sitting out on the vineyard’s deck overlooking the river extraordinary, while you take pleasure in one of our indescribable wines. Come walk through our long rows of beautifully intertwined grape vines and smell the aromas in the earth and wind that you find as welcoming on your palate as you take each sip of our Vino.
At Pyrenees Vineyard and Cellars we have a wonderful group of people who will welcome you as old friends and take you through our majestic wine selection. A place where relationships are created that last life times and memories will be made that last through-out countless generations!

Larry Van Aalst Hosts the What's Cookin' On Wine: Sonoma Wine Report from the Equus Restaurant inside the Fountain Grove Inn

Located just 65 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, the hotel is close to the Redwoods, the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River. The quaint towns of Healdsburg, Calistoga and Sonoma are within an easy drive as well as the wine appellations of Dry Creek, Russian River and Sonoma Valleys.

Golf at the private Fountaingrove Golf and Athletic Club located only a half a mile from the hotel or plan a shopping excursion in nearby charming downtown Santa Rosa. Sonoma Wine Country has so much to offer.

The Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association announces its annual Premiere Napa Valley Wine Auction June 2 - June 5, 2011.
The Napa Valley Vintners is the non-profit trade association responsible for promoting and protecting the Napa Valley appellation as the premier winegrowing region. From seven founding members in 1944, today the association represents nearly 400 Napa Valley wineries and collectively is a leader in the world-wide wine industry. To learn more about our region and its legendary American wines, visit .

Monday, December 19, 2011

12/19-Michael Horn talks to Christine Wente and Jim Fiolek

Christine Wente - Wente Vineyards
Wente Vineyards is California's oldest family owned and continuously operated winery. Founded in 1883 by C. H. Wente, the winery is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. The winery farms nearly 3,000 acres of estate vineyards in the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay, and Arroyo Seco, Monterey appellations, two premier Central Coast winegrowing regions.

Family owned and operated for 125 years, the fourth and fifth generations are committed to producing wines of distinguished character and excellence at an affordable price.

The Wente family shares wine country experiences with visitors to the Livermore Valley at their award-winning Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Greg Norman designed golf course, wine country events center, summer concert series, and two tasting rooms.

Jim Fiolek - Executive Director Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association

The Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1983 to support and promote Santa Barbara County as a premium wine producing and wine grape growing region. The Vintners’ Association produces festivals, seminars and tastings and provides information to consumers and the wine and travel media.

For more info, go to

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

12/12-Michael Horn visits with Terry Culton & Robert Z. Hass

Terry Culton  -  Winemaker Adelaide Cellars

Terry Culton had no complaints working as assistant winemaker at San Benito County's Calera Wine Co., refining his education under Josh Jensen, one of California's most respected makers of Pinot Noir.

But when Adelaida Cellars offered him a chance six years ago to return to the Paso Robles region - where he worked as a self-described cellar rat for Wild Horse Winery in the early 1990s - Culton knew it was time to strike out on his own.

"It was a chance for me to do my own thing," said Culton. "I knew I would have total creative freedom."

Plus, he said, it gave him the chance to work with Adelaida's HMR and Viking Estate Vineyards. Paso Robles isn't generally noted for its Pinot Noir, but Adelaida's HMR vineyard sits more than 1,700 feet above sea level and is a mere 16 miles from the Pacific.

It is, noted Culton, the oldest vineyard planted to Pinot in San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara counties, having been established in 1964 by Central Coast wine pioneer Dr. Stanley Hoffman.

"Calera was a great place to learn, but the opportunity to work with HMR and Viking vineyards was irresistible."

Culton believes the austere, calcareous soils of the vineyards produce superior grapes.
Upon arriving at Adelaida, which was purchased in 1991 by the Van Steenwyk family, Culton made some immediate changes.

One of the first steps he took was scaling back on the use of oak.
He switched from American to French oak barrels, with only about 25 percent new oak. Oak should spice the wine, said Culton, not overwhelm it.

"I want our wine to give you something from the beginning of your palate to the end of your palate," said Culton. "I want people to taste our terroir, not cover it up with oak."

Under Culton's guidance, Adelaida reduced the yields of its sustainably-farmed vineyards, producing fruit with more concentrated flavors. Culton also uses only native yeasts during fermentation and the wines are unfiltered.

"I believe in minimalist handling," he said.

Culton didn't grow up thinking he would become a winemaker. He graduated from Humboldt State University with a psychology degree, but changed careers after moving to Paso Robles in 1991 so his wife could attend Cal Poly.

He wound up working for Wild Horse Winery, where owner/winemaker Ken Volk gave him the job of cellar master. It was there that Culton first worked with Pinot Noir grapes from HMR Vineyard, which Volk purchased.

Volk, said Culton, was "an incredibly gracious man" who became somewhat of a mentor to Culton and others working at Wild Horse (including Jon Priest, now the winemaker at Napa's Etude.)

"He's responsible for a lot of us being where we are today."

Culton continued learning his craft during stints in the Anderson Valley and Oregon's Willamette Valley, before landing at Calera.

Besides Pinot Noir, Culton is producing Rhone-style reds and whites that are gaining fans and generating positive notices. Culton said 85 percent of the grapes he uses are estate-grown and he expects Adelaida to be 100 percent estate-grown within a few years.

And Culton is happy to be back in Paso Robles, which he said retains the close-knit feel among winemakers that was present 15 years earlier, when only a handful of wineries existed.

"I think that's what makes the Central Coast so special."

Robert Z. Hass  -  Tablas Creek Vineyard

Robert Haas has played a leading role in the American wine industry for over half a century. After graduating from Yale in 1950, he joined his father’s firm, M. Lehmann, Inc., a retailer of fine wines and spirits in Manhattan. As a buyer for the company, Haas traveled through the cellars of France, establishing a formidable reputation as a wine taster while forging lifelong relationships with premier wine producers.
In the mid-1960s he set out on his own to import fine estate wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, the Loire, Alsace and the Rhône Valley, where he met the Perrins of Château de Beaucastel and became the exclusive American importer for Beaucastel.  As his company Vineyard Brands grew, it introduced the American market to brands such as La Vieille Ferme, Marqués de Cáceres, Santa Rita, Warre’s Port, and Villa Maria. The company also served as a representative for newly emerging California wineries including Chappellet, Freemark Abbey, Clos du Val, Joseph Phelps, Rutherford Hill, Hanzell, Kistler, and Sonoma-Cutrer. He founded the symposium "Focus on Chardonnay" in 1984 to promote dialogue between producers in Burgundy and California.
As Managing Partner of Tablas Creek since its foundation in 1989, Haas has consistently spoken in favor of organic viticulture, minimum-intervention winemaking and wines of terroir and sophistication. He has spoken on wine and winemaking topics at festivals around the country, including the New York Wine Experience, the Boston Wine ExpoSociety of Wine Educatorsannual meeting, Santa Fe Wine & Chile FiestaHospice du RhôneCentral Coast Wine Classic and many others.
Haas is one of four American members of the Académie Internationale du Vin. In recognition of his contributions to the international wine community as an importer, a vintner, and an advocate for quality, he was elected as the AIV president in 2000.  He manages Tablas Creek with his son Jason.

Monday, December 5, 2011

12/05-Michael Horn talks to Richard Arrowood and Dave Pramuk

Richard Arrowood - Winemaster Amapola Creek Vineyards & Winery
Richard is an iconic winemaker who has recently completed his 46th harvest in Sonoma County. Throughout the years, Richard has gained critical acclaim and a world-wide reputation for crafting exceptional wines. In 2005, Richard and his wife Alis founded Amapola Creek, a tiny, ultra-premium winery in the Sonoma Valley to focus on producing small quantities of organically farmed wines including a Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel (SRP $$40), an Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $$70) and Cuvée Alis, a Rhône blend of Grenache and Syrah.

Dave Pramuk was born and raised in Napa in a medical family. After graduation from CSU Chico and newspaper work, he began a career working in sales and public relations at Napa Valley wineries. A Founding Partner in Robert Biale Vineyards and lifelong friend of Bob Biale all the way back to grammar school, Dave is a board member of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley and active in Appellation St. Helena, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers and Petite Sirah’s P.S. I Love You. Dave is responsible for the Biale winery’s marketing, sales, and communications.

Monday, November 28, 2011

11/28-Michael Horn talks to Stephen Ross & Adam Lee

Stephen Ross - Stephen Ross Wine Cellars
In the summer of 1994, Stephen Ross Dooley started his label Stephen Ross at a custom crush winery in Santa Maria. By the next year he moved to Talley Vineyards to make his wines and in 1998 moved to Courtside Cellars in the Edna Valley - a large custom crush winery that Dooley designed and helped establish.
In 2001 he developed an estate vineyard planted exclusively to Pinot Noir in partnership with Talley Vineyards called Stone Corral Vineyard; it is located in the Edna Valley, a designated American Viticultural Area (AVA).

Home to several well-known vineyards, the Edna Valley exemplifies the characteristic microclimate and geologic features, which are the hallmark of the south central coast; an east-west valley, which mitigates its temperate climate with cooling, ocean-borne breezes. This provides a long growing season ideal for the development of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Petite Sirah grapes.

More recently, in 2005 he invested in new winemaking equipment and moved to Santa Maria where he leased a winery building to make his wine directly under his control. In 2008 Stephen Ross moved to a new building at 178 Suburban Road , San Luis Obispo for wine production as well as a tasting room.

Adam Lee - Siduri Wines

Siduri started more than 15 years ago in our native Texas.  At the time it was a dream shared by two wine geeks (us!) who wanted nothing more than to move to California and make killer Pinot Noir from the finest vineyards we could find. Today that dream is a reality.
In 2004 Siduri celebrated its 10 year anniversary. We can hardly believe it, but between two wine labels (Siduri and sister label Novy Family Wines) and three beautiful children, we are beyond blessed and beyond busy! With our small but tireless crew we produce over 25 different Pinot Noir wines each year, representing the largest Pinot Noir focus of any California winery.
We invite you to use this site to learn more about our wines, winemaking, and vineyards as well as to access our online tasting notes.  To receive information directly from the winery on special wine offerings, events and tastings, please take a moment to join our mailing list.
Next time your travels take you to the wine country, be sure to give us a call. We would be delighted to have you visit the winery for a personal tour and tasting.
Thanks again for your interest in Siduri. We love what we do and enjoy the opportunity to share with others.
Adam & Dianna Lee

Monday, November 21, 2011

11/21-Michael Horn talks to Mark Cummins & Dan Teldeschi

Mark Cummins - Winemaker, Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards

We recently tapped Mark Cummins to lead the Kelsey's into the new decade.
As a winemaker, Mark has worked in wineries and vineyards for over two decades. He grew up in the Silicon Valley, in the shadow of the venerable Ridge Winery and soon became drawn to the discipline and lifestyle of the vinters.
"The craft of winemaking requires use of both sides of the brain, lying in the crossroads of art and science," Mark says, "I enjoy how wines are an integral part of celebrating life."
Mark has worked various Crushes in the Napa Valey, the Sierra Foothills and Santa Cruz Mountains before he found his home on the Central Coast. He found a passion for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay while working at Byron in Santa Maria, and he has carried that passion with him here to Kelsey since August of '09.
"I am bringing more of a focus on Pinot Noir, and making some Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and Zinfandel from some vineyards I enjoy," he says, adding to the already tried and true Kelsey portfolio, "my philosopy is to find balance in each wine, and that varies in style from grape to grape and vineyard to vineyard."

Teldeschi Winery is a premium wine producer in Dry Creek Valley. The Teldeschi Family owns approximately 70 acres of vineyards in the AVAand makes mainly Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Muscat.

Brothers Dan and John Teldeschi currently run the winery. Their parents, Frank and Catarina, established most of the vineyards. Although Frank has passed away, Catarina remains the family matriarch and land owner.
Frank sold grapes to home winemakers in San Francisco in the difficult years following World War II. There was very little commercial demand for wine grapes at this time, but the Teldeschis persisted, and found buyers wherever they could. The Frei Brothers and Seghesio Family were two of their consistent customers followed by Pedroncelli and Ravenswood in later years.
In addition to Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignane, Malvasia, Cinsault, and Gamay are planted. There is also a bit of French Colombard and Palomino. These are rustic grapes not exceptionally valued for winemaking that John Teldeschi says he feeds to the deer and turkeys so they don’t eat his better varietals.
Teldeschi Winery makes a number of wines with a focus on Zinfandel. The family also produces outstanding Petite Sirah, a Port-style wine with Zinfandel grapes, and a blend Carignane, Valdiguie, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah called Terranova. This wine is made in memory of Dan and John’s father, Frank Teldeschi.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

11/14-Michael Horn talks to Eileen Crane & John Thunen

Eileen Crane - Founding Winemaker CEO Domaine Carneros
Eileen, Domaine Carneros' founding winemaker and president is equally at home in the world of food and fine dining. Raised with a keen appreciation for fine wines and haute cuisine, Eileen originally prepared for a culinary career, earning a master’s degree in nutrition followed by professional training at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America.
After two years of teaching nutrition at the University of Connecticut, Eileen made the decision to turn her passion for wine into a profession, headed west, and enrolled in the U.C. Davis Enology and Viticulture program. Upon completion of her studies, she was hired by Domaine Chandon, where she progressed to the position of assistant winemaker.

The next move for the young winemaker involved a task that most lifelong veterans of the industry never undertake--building a winery. Hired as winemaker and vice president of Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves, she was entrusted with the dual responsibilities of overseeing the design and construction of the facility in addition to developing the line of sparkling wines.

It turned out to be an experience that served her well. Selected personally by Claude Taittinger for the position of President/Winemaker of Domaine Carneros, dedicated to producing world-class sparkling wines made in the French tradition from famed Carneros region grapes, Eileen oversaw the planning and development of the beautiful Carneros landmark chateau, vineyards and winemaking facility. In 2003, Eileen directed the planning and construction of Domaine Carneros' second winemaking facility, dedicated exclusively to the production of Pinot Noir wines.

It is understandable that Taittinger and Eileen Crane have joined forces as they share a common winemaking style. The elegant, delicate, yet intense style for which Taittinger is well respected is what Eileen strives for. No less surprising is the fact that the joint venture is located in Carneros. Carneros and Eileen Crane go together, as do Carneros and sparkling wine.

Carneros is famous for production of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, two key ingredients of a premium sparkling wine. An area blessed with a long, cool growing season, Carneros produces grapes which are particularly fine for sparkling wine as they have greater fruit maturity and produce wines with superb balance and a long finish.

In 1992 Domaine Carneros started producing small quantities of fine Estate Pinot Noir. The wines are appreciated for their great depth, balance and long silky finish. In 2003, Domaine Carneros completed a dedicated Pinot Noir Facility that incorporated the largest solar collection system on any winery in the world.

Eileen Crane is one of a handful of women who are now in the forefront of the wine industry in California. Recently recognized as one of the 75 Most Influential Women in Business by the San Francisco Business Times, Eileen is actively involved in numerous wine and civic organizations and is a past president of both the Carneros Quality Alliance and the California Classic Methods/Classic Varieties Society (CM/CV) and currently Chairs the Board of Napa Valley Hospice.

John Thunen Ph. D Winemaker - Phantom Rivers Wine

The Nipomo Wine Group was created in 2004 by four couples who share a passion for making wine and enjoying the life style of the California Central Coast. Each one of us brings a unique skill to the company which includes: wine making, business administration, marketing, scientific theory, cooking, and wine & food pairing.
The name Phantom Rivers was selected for our winery as it pertains to the misty fog that evaporates into the air. Streams of fog flow in and out of the valleys and wind their way up the old maritime valleys hugging the courses of ancient rivers. This fog cools the vineyards at night and early morning which extends the hang time of the grapes on the vine. This all adds to the distinctive flavors and complexities of Central Coast Wines.
We do not believe a single property is capable of producing the best fruit for each varietal, as the terroir required for each varietal is different. Therefore we focus our efforts in finding the perfect area for each varietal and purchasing grapes from those farmers.
While we are all winemakers, the title of Wine Maker for Phantom Rivers belongs to John Thunen, PhD. John had an extensive career in the aerospace industry during which time he stayed “grounded” by making wine. During the past 30 years, John has honed his skills as an exceptional winemaker in much the same way he did as a Physicist, using scientific method coupled with natural artistic ability. For years John led a team of scientists, now he leads our team of winemakers.

Monday, November 7, 2011

11/07-Jennifer Horn talks to Tami Semler & Rudi Bauer

The rich, fascinating history of Saddlerock Ranch began more than three centuries ago when the vast expanse of land surrounding the Santa Monica Mountains was part of the original Spanish Land Grant. The area of more than 200,000 acres was a perfect site for sheep and cattle, and up until the 1930's, was known as El Malibu.

Local caves are filled with ancient pictographs painted by the Chumash Indians, dating back to the Portola Expedition of 1769. The beautiful pictographs of this culture have become very rare due to erosion and weathering, but some of the most well preserved examples remain on the ranch and have been studied by archeologists and photographed for books on the subject.

Today, the Semler Family owns Saddlerock Ranch. Ronnie and Lisa Semler, along with their nine children, have lived on the ranch for over twenty-seven years.

Austrian-born Rudi's reputation as a winemaker goes ahead of him, and his list of awards is extensive. Rudi gained a degree in viticulture and winemaking in Salzburg, and gained experience in Austria and Germany before his arrival in New Zealand in 1985. He worked at Mission Vineyard in Hawkes Bay until 1989, doing vintages in his offseasons in California and Oregon.
His Oregon experience gave Rudi a taste for pinot noir, and he moved to Central Otago to make the region's first gold and trophy pinot noir at Rippon Vineyard in 1991 in the Royal Easter Show 1993. His 1992 Rippon Vineyard Selection also won gold, and trophy. Rudi moved on to Canterbury to produce consistent medal-winners for Giesen over five years, before returning to Central Otago in 1997 to continue his success.
Rudi is a partner in a new vineyard, Quartz Reef, at Bendigo, whose first Sparkling Chauvet, made in association with French winemaker Clothilde Chauvet (also formerly a winemaker at Rippon), has just been released. He will leave the CO Wine Company next year to concentrate on developments at Quartz Reef.
Rudi says Otago wines have a good portfolio, with the flagship being Pinot Noir, because of its consistency and quality. He has strong confidence in Riesling, Gewurtztraminer, Chardonnay and especially Pinot Gris.

Monday, October 31, 2011

10/31-Michael Horn talks with Jean-Pierre Wolff & Matt Young

Jean-Pierre Wolff Ph. D. - Owner and Vintner Wolff Vineyards
Wolff Vineyards Winery is located on 125 acres of ecologically friendly property just minutes from downtown San Luis Obispo, scenic beaches and major tourist attractions.

The vineyard was planted 30 years ago by one of the Edna Valley's winegrowing pioneers, Andy MacGregor. World-class awards were earned by wineries that used MacGregor Vineyard Chardonnay grapes (such as Mount Eden). The new owners, Jean-Pierre and Elke Wolff, renamed the vineyard in 1999 when they expanded the vineyard and added their artisan winery.

The vineyard includes 55 acres of Chardonnay and 37 acres of Pinot Noir grapes. Twelve additional acres are planted in Teroldego, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Riesling. The 30 years old Chardonnay blocks are dry farmed, giving the wine a site-specific "terroir" characteristic.

The Pinot Noir blocks are planted on four Dijon clones. The vines are situated on steep slopes with maximum southern exposure. They are grafted on two different root stocks best suited to our specific soil conditions, sun and wind exposure. These clones are sometimes referred to as the new "sexy" clones, which have produced some outstanding Pinot Noir wines in California and Oregon.

The Syrah blocks are planted on steep slopes with an ocean breeze cooling influence. the two Northern Rhone clones benefit from this cool climat by developing a thicker berry skin with good color, soft tannin and pepper notes extract.

Our Petite Sirah is the first planted in the Edna Valley. This unusual cool climat Petite Sirah has quickly gained national review and recognition, as well as popularity with our customers.

Our grapes are sold to Ultra-Premium wineries who enjoy wide acclaim for their wines. "Our own very-limited production is hand-crafted using traditional Burgundian wine-making methods. French new oak, barrel fermentation, sur lie and batonnage are a few of the techniques applied to our wines," according to Jean-Pierre Wolff, winemaker.

Matthew Richard Young (born August 9, 1958) is a former American Major League baseball player. Young played for a variety of teams over his career, and is best known for his unofficial no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians while a member of the Boston Red Sox. Young would pitch for the Red Sox for two seasons before being released days before the start of the 1993 season. He became part of baseball history during his tenure with the Red Sox. On April 12, 1992, Young faced the Cleveland Indians in the first game of a doubleheader, allowed two runs on seven walks and an error by shortstop Luis Rivera en route to the fourth no-hitter by a losing pitcher. On that day Roger Clemens pitched a two-hit shutout in the second game of the double header, giving Young and Clemens the Major League Baseball record for the least number of hits (2) allowed in a doubleheader.

Young was born in Pasadena, California in 1958. He attended the University of California Los Angeles. While at UCLA, he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners, in the second round of the 1980 amateur draft. He would make his major league debut three years later with the Mariners, eventually winning 11 games over 2031/3 innings, with a 3.27 earned run average, good enough to rank in the top ten for ERA that season. He represented the Mariners in the 1983 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, where he pitched a scoreless 8th inning facing Johnny Bench, Darrell Evans and Pedro Guerrero.

Professional career

Young, however, struggled to replicate that success, underwent "Tommy John surgery" and was traded twice, from the Mariners to the Los Angeles Dodgers, then to the Oakland Athletics in a three-team trade with the New York Mets, appearing in a game in relief during the 1989 American League Championship Series. Eventually, Young hit free agency and signed with the Boston Red Sox.

Young would pitch for the Red Sox for two seasons[1] before being released days before the start of the 1993 season. He became part of baseball history during his tenure with the Red Sox. On April 12, 1992, Young faced the Cleveland Indians in the first game of a doubleheader, allowed two runs on seven walks and an error by shortstop Luis Rivera en route to the fourth no-hitter by a losing pitcher (see No-hitter#No-hitters in a losing cause). On that day Roger Clemens pitched a two-hit shutout in the second game of the double header, giving Young and Clemens the Major League Baseball record for the least number of hits allowed in a doubleheader. While Young sent the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, Major League Baseball, in a rule created prior to the season, did not recognize the performance as a true no-hitter, as Young, playing for the losing team on the road, only pitched eight innings in his complete game loss. According to Seymour Siwoff, who was on Baseball's Committee for Statistical Accuracy, the feat could not be listed with the "pure" no-hitters because "Young didn't get the chance to go out and pitch the ninth...who knows what would have happened if he did." Had the no-hitter been officially recognized, it would have been the first no-hitter by a Boston pitcher since Dave Morehead did so in 1965, also against the Indians, and was the fifteenth time, at that point, that a Red Sox pitcher had completed a game without allowing a hit.

Young would be released by the Red Sox in 1993, appeared in 22 games for the Indians in 1993, spent a month on the Toronto Blue Jays roster before being released a final time in September 1993.

Monday, October 24, 2011

10/24-Michael Horn talks with Becky Gray & Claiborne (Clay) Thompson

Becky Gray - Executive Director, SLO Vintners Association

South San Luis Obispo County, located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, has earned worldwide recognition and respect for the exceptional quality of wine grapes produced in this ideal viticultural area. The area includes the Ed
na Valley, the Arroyo Grande Valley, each a designated American Viticultural Area, the Avila Valley and Nipomo.
Wine growing in San Luis Obispo County stretches back to the missionary days of California viticulture, when the first grapevines were planted by the Franciscan padres who settled California in the 1880s. Today, because of this region’s ideal world-class microc
limate and soils, wine grapes are the leading crop in San Luis Obispo County.
There are over 3000 acres of vines in South San Luis Obispo County, and more vineyards are being planted. The climate and soils have been proven to provide the perfect environment for growing and producing ultra premium quality wines.
Due to the unique geography of the South Central Coast, the valleys have east-west orientations and are distinguished by the extensive
maritime influence on the climate and soil. The soils are dominated by marine deposits left millions of years ago when the valleys were under water. Loam and clay topsoil overlay calcareous marine deposits promoting complex flavors.
The climate is tempered by marine air flowing directly into the valley from the Pacific Ocea
n. This cooling influence creates an unusually long growing season resulting in greatly intensified varietal flavors. All of these elements produce wine grapes and wines of complex flavors and intensity found only in the world’s greatest wine regions.

Claiborne (Clay) Thompson - Co-Owner Claiborne & Churchill Winery

Claiborne & Churchill is a small, family-owned winery founded in 1983 by Claiborne (Clay) Thompson and Fredericka Churchill. Former teachers at the University of Michigan (Clay specialized in Old Norse Languages and Literatures and Fredericka taught German), the couple left the "Groves of Academe" for the vineyards of California in 1981 in order to start a new life in the wine industry. Clay began as a "cellar rat" in a local winery, learning the business from the ground up (actually underground), and soon the two were encouraged to start their own wine production in that host facility. With its first crush in 1983 Claiborne & Churchill announced its special focus, producing 565 cases of Dry Gewürztraminer and Dry Riesling, modeled on the fruity but dry dinner wines of the French province of Alsace. Claiborne & Churchill now produces about 10,000 cases of wine a year, purchasing grapes from vineyards in the cool maritime valleys of California's Central Coast. About two-thirds of these wines remain our signature wines, the Dry Riesling and Dry Gewürztraminer, which are sold all over the country (and abroad) by a network of brokers and distributors. A variety of other wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as other wines in the Alsatian style (Pinot Gris, Dry Muscat, and an Edelzwicker), are produced in small lots and can be ordered directly from the winery. In 1995 Clay and Fredericka completed construction on their new and permanent winery building. This structure, a noteworthy example of environmental architecture, is a "straw bale building," the first of its kind in California. With sixteen-inch thick walls made of bales of rice straw, the winery is so well insulated that it maintains a constant cellar temperature, without the need for mechanical cooling or heating. At Claiborne & Churchill traditional European winemaking techniques prevail, including extensive use of barrel-fermentation and barrel-aging (even with Riesling and Gewürztraminer), minimal manipulation of juice and wine, "natural" or spontaneous fermentation using indigenous yeast, and limited use of SO2, all in the belief that the winemaker's task is to bring out the flavor and character that is latent in the grape. Our aim is to create pleasurable dinner wines in which there is a harmonious balance of fruit and oak, structure and texture.

Monday, October 17, 2011

10/17-Michael Horn talks with Michael Young & Randy Ullom

Michael Young - Sales & Marketing Director Stephan Vineyards/L'Aventure

Stephan Asseo, owner and winemaker at L'Aventure Winery, began making wine in 1982, following his education at L'Ecole Oenologique de Macon, Burgundy, France. In that same year, Stephan established Domaine Courteillac in Bordeaux. He and his family later purchased Chateau Fleur Cardinal, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, and Chateau Robin, in the Cotes de Castillion, Bordeaux. Over the next 15 years, Stephan developed into an artisan winemaker of fastidious craftsmanship, and gained a reputation as a maverick vigneron. However, his true desire was to be more innovative than AOC law would allow. In 1996, this led him on a quest for a great terroir, where he could pursue his ideal as a winemaker. After searching for over a year among the world's great wine fields, ranging from South Africa to Lebanon, and Argentina to Napa, Stephan found Paso Robles. Stephan immediately "fell in love" with the unique terrior of west side Paso Robles. The rolling topography of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, the deep calcareous soils, and the maritime influence of the renowned Templeton Gap all combine to produce a world class wine country, with the potential to craft some of the world's greatest blends. It is here, in Paso Robles, that Stephan began his adventure, "L'Aventure".
In order to maximize quality in our harsh terrior, Stephan has established a high density plantation scheme of 2,100 vines per acre. A meticulous regimen of leaf pulling, shoot thinning, and cluster dropping result in benchmark yields of two to two and a half tones per acre. This equates to one bottle of wine per vine. In addition, Stephan's drive for fully mature fruit allows our grapes to fully express their character, in the form of intense, concentrated wines. After the painstaking labor in the vineyard, we continue quality selection by hand sorting the grape bunches as they come in. The grapes are then destemmed, and vinified in small lots, to maintain the integrity of each source or parcel. Thermostatic control enables us to manage premaceration and fermentation flawlessly, with silky, rich wines as the result. Furthermore, aging in French oak, and a minimal racking program contribute much to Stephan's artisan, handcrafted style.
The spirit of L'Aventure is most evident in Stephan's "Paso blends", such as Optimus and Estate Cuvée. Both wines are Cabernet Sauvignon /Syrah blends. In these wines, as well as in our Rhône blend Côte à Côte, the blending of premium varietals increases the authenticity, complexity, and balance of the wines. In this adventurous spirit, we find the future of Paso Robles wines…great, balanced red blends.

Personal Philosophy on Winemaking: Make wine that can be enjoyed by all, enjoyed without a PhD, wines that have a lot of forward fruit, are easy and enjoyable to drink, with long enticing finishes...that linger, beckon and entice for another sip.
Favorite Part of the Process: Walking the vineyards, tasting the grapes, then the excitement, anticipation and chaotic rush of the harvest! I love the family feeling and team effort of our winemaking group. And finally, watching a smile appear on someone's face as they sample and enjoy the wines we have made.
If you were snowed in on a mountain-top villa...what two wines would you want?
I'd have to go with our Highland Estates Camelot Highlands Chardonnay and Stature.
Favorite wine descriptor? "Lush." "Rich" and "Velvet" are close seconds.

Randy's Creative Path: A native of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Randy became interested in wine during a three-year stay in Chile, while on sabbatical from college in the early 1970s. His stay inspired a cross-country trek through Chile's vast wine-growing regions. On his return to the United States, he entered Ohio State University to study crop production with a specialty in Viticulture and Enology and received his degree in 1975.

After six years as a vineyard manager and Winemaker in Ohio and upstate New York, Randy moved to California to become associate Winemaker at De Loach Vineyards in Sonoma County. He was promoted to Winemaker and Vice President in 1991. The wines produced during his tenure were consistent gold medal winners at wine competitions.

Hired by Jess Jackson in 1993 as Winemaker for some of our smaller and international vineyards, Randy was handed his most prestigious assignment in 1997 - Winemaster for Kendall-Jackson Winery.

"I look at all of the vineyards we own, and all of the individual lots of wines that we make, and the thousands of barrels we have sitting in our cellar and sometimes I think, you gotta be kidding me! After I've sufficiently recovered from my daily panic attack, I take off my coat, dig in my heels and take it one barrel at a time. It's a rewarding job that I love."

Monday, October 10, 2011

10/10-Michael Horn talks to Mikhail Gishizky & Craig Haserot

Mikhail Gishizky - Owner / Apprentice Winemaker,

The Spotted Owl Vineyards story began years ago on a warm Napa Valley summer evening. While enjoying dinner in their vineyard high on Mt. Veeder overlooking the Valley floor, Jill and Mikhail were astonished to see a rare spotted owl fluttering in the moonlit sky. As the tiny owl swooped down from the surrounding forest they became mesmerized watching him survey the vineyard then perching himself on a near by vine as though he was a dinner guest joining them with his meal. Overtime the spotted owl became a fixture among the serene vineyard, guarding the vines that have come to be known as Spotted Owl Vineyards. Since becoming a member of the Vineyard Family he is affectionately referred to as "Chuck" the vineyard caretaker.
Jill and Mikhail Gishizky are wine growers who have sold their prized fruit grown in the legendary appellation of Mt. Veeder for many years. In 2004, they decided to create a special wine, "Alexandria's Cuvee", to celebrate the birth of their daughter. This wine was extraordinary, receiving high praise and being called "Sensational" by Wine Spectator. This response confirmed what Jill and Mikhail had thought about the fruit grown on their unique vineyards and convinced them to create an enterprise that would continue their family passion and provide an opportunity for their daughter to experience how nature, science, art, and business come together to make a positive impact in this world.
At Spotted Owl Vineyards we are dedicated to crafting world class wines that respect our environment, support our community and help our patrons enjoy the wonderful gifts that nature has to offer.

Craig Haserot is co-founder and proprietor of Sojourn Cellars. He oversees sales, marketing, and operations, and he also plays important roles in the finance and winemaking functions of the winery. And while he enjoys his work in all of these different facets of the winery, his favorite part of his job is spending time with customers at release parties, wine events, and Tasting Salon gatherings.
During his nearly ten years in the wine business, Craig has immersed himself in all the aspects of the winery business. On the winemaking front, he has served as unofficial assistant winemaker, planted our estate vineyard (Home Ranch Vineyard), and managed grower relationships at a total of 14 vineyards in 2009. Craig’s main responsibility, however, has been to lead Sojourn’s sales and operations, and his success in these areas has enabled Sojourn’s production to grow to 5000 cases.
After growing up in San Marino, California, Craig attended Humboldt State University and graduated with a degree in Business Administration. He began his 16-year sales and sales management career in computer software with Ashton-Tate and left it in 2001 after working at Micromuse. Sojourn produced its first Cabernet Sauvignon in 2001 and Craig planted the Home Ranch Vineyard in 2002.
Craig lives in Sonoma with his wife Ellen and their four-year-old daughter Natalie.