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.

1 comment:

  1. That's great as to make the special to be creative one have to take chance and he will get it. The story of wine from economic, religious, cultural and political viewpoints is quite fascinating. Wine has been an integral part of man's life for over 8,000 years. Hopefully, without interference from the neo-prohibitionists, it will survive another 8,000 years.Wine of the Month Club