Winemaker Interview

Apr 022014
 

Last October we attended a wonderful event, Pinot on the River, on the town square in Healdsburg. It is a Pinot Noir lover’s dream, featuring over 100 of Sonoma’s best Pinot producers. As you’d expect, we tasted some amazing wine and met some outstanding winemakers.

Bucher Vineyard

John and Diane Bucher

As the afternoon crowd dwindles towards the end of the event, the buzz begins from those in the know. Some of the loudest buzz was around Bucher Vineyard, a 38 acre vineyard in the Russian River Valley, not far from Healdsburg. Single vineyard designated Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noirs have been created by some of the most renown Sonoma vintners, including Williams Selyem, Siduri Wines, Papapietro Perry, Arista, HoldredgeC. Donatiello Winery, and Thralls Family Cellars.

While I was familiar with the vineyard name and the wines made by other producers, the buzz was actually about the wines under the new Bucher Vineyard label. So we had to check them out. I must say they were indeed buzz-worthy. Just a day later we spent a few relaxing hours with John and Diane Bucher at their home on their 360 acre ranch which includes the vineyard and a 700 head organic dairy farm.

John’s parents, immigrants from Switzerland, purchased the acreage in the 1950’s to create a dairy farm. Interestingly, there were vineyards on the property, but they were torn out to make room for the dairy operation. John began running the farm after his graduation from UC Davis in 1984. Vineyard planting began in 1997 and now includes a section aptly named the 360 vineyard, a respectful nod to the original vineyard removed in the ’50’s. Winemaker Adam Lee of Siduru says the location “makes the wines a bit different and unique from their neighbors just south” on Westside Road in the Russian River Valley. Thralls Family Wines owner and winemaker, Ed Thralls states, “John is a meticulous farmer who understands wine growing, Pinot Noir and is willing to work with winemakers to grow the highest-quality fruit possible.”

Bucher Vineyard

The Patio view…Perfect for tasting

Our visit to Bucher Vineyards was reminiscent of our first visits to Sonoma in the early 1980’s. No fancy tasting room…actually, no tasting room at all. We drove along the dairy farm fence and up a short climb to the Bucher’s ranch style house where we were met by John and Diane. Both are warm and friendly. Since the weather was ideal we began our tasting and tour on their back patio with an expansive view across the Russian River Valley.

I was very interested in seeing the Bucher’s acclaimed vineyard, so we jumped in their vehicle and took a short ride across the property. The first thing I noticed was that different blocks in the vineyard were planted at different angles and in different directions. John explained that this was done so that each block could take advantage of the soils, hillside and sun orientation. Special care was taken to choose the right Pinot Noir clone for each panting. Diane Bucher explained, “Our 40 acres of vineyard are comprised of a variety of clones, root stocks, terrain, soil types and row directions.  No cookie cutter vineyard management here.” Adam Lee offers that much of the Russian River valley is flat space including old river bed areas “but the type of hills that Bucher has are special.”

Pinot Noir VineyardParts of the dairy farm are visible from the vineyard, making a compelling contrast. There is a definite separation, however. While Bucher vineyard employs any number of organic and sustainable farming techniques, the vineyard is not certified organic. Therefore a defined distance must separate the vineyard from the certified organic dairy farm so nothing will endanger the dairy operation’s organic status.

We returned to the Bucher’s patio to taste the wines. Read reviews of these outsanding here. The wines are made by Adam Lee of Siduri at the direction of John and Diane. When asked about the difference between Bucher Vineyard Pinot and Siduri’s Bucher Vineyard Pinot, Adam said, “John chooses all of the picking dates for his own wine, so to call me winemaker is a bit of stretch.  We make the wine for John, in consultation with him, but by directing the farming for his sections and picking dates he is really the one dictating the style….John tends to pick earlier than we do by a bit…but from a wine style point of view, John and Diane tend to want a somewhat lighter, somewhat more elegant wine.”

Bucher Vineyards

Fall Vine Colors

The tasting experience itself is the way I wish more tastings were, intimate and personal. John and Diane’s passion for their exceptional wines, beautiful vineyards and dairy farm are all evident. As Diane said, “Our visitors are drawn to the history of the farm, our dedication to Sonoma County and agriculture, and our commitment producing the highest quality products. And with some outstanding 2012 Pinots in the bottle and fantastic 13’s in the barrel, there is plenty of wine to be tasted and discussed.”

We encourage you to visit Bucher Vineyards and spend some time with John and Diane. The wine is exciting, the people delightful and the views are spectacular. The Buchers offer private tours at the vineyard by appointment from March through November, but have a limited schedule during the harvest season. If you are interested in a vineyard tour and tasting, please contact Diane at 707-484-5162 or diane@buchervineyard.net.

Mar 122014
 

Cartograph wines

Cartograph’s Alan Baker and Serena Lourie

Winemaker interview with Alan Baker of Cartograph Wines – We at Bacchus and Beery, are always on the lookout for stories of people who left successful careers (not millionaire investors) to start over in the wine industry. When asking around northern Sonoma, the name Alan Baker of Cartograph Wines came up over and over again. Alan walked away from career in Public Broadcasting with few prospects, a little wine knowledge and a lot of wine passion. We have now had the pleasure of getting to know Alan and his partner (in life and wine), Serena Lourie . Together they have recently opened a lovely new tasting room right off the square in Healdsburg. Being hands-on owners and winemakers, you are more likely than not, to be greeted by Alan, Serena or both, when you stop by for a visit and a glass of wine.

B&B Wine Blog: Who do you see when you look in the mirror?

Alan Baker Picking grapesAB: A guy who has more tasks on his list than he has time to complete them. I think the days are long gone when a winemaker could just focus on making great wine. If the world doesn’t know about your wines, it won’t matter how good they are. So I’m almost always in the tasting room, online, or on the road interacting with our customers. Continue reading »

Jan 212014
 

Clos du valNearly two years ago we interviewed Kristy Melton of Clos Du Val shortly after she was named their first female winemaker. Since that interview Kristy has risen to Head Winemaker with a broader set of responsibilities and a new vision for Clos Du Val. Kristy has undertaken the task of taking Clos Du Val to “the next level of premium” by improving the winemaking and vineyards while refurbishing the historic facilities. Expect some exciting additions to Clos Du Val’s wine lineup including single block and single clone wines. 

As you will see, Kristy is still a hands-on winemaker, not afraid to get dirty. As we spoke, I was glad to see there is still quite a bit of the spunky Texas rodeo queen (really) left in this rising Napa winemaking star. Maybe that’s what makes her special. Read Kristy Melton’s first interview Continue reading »

Jul 182013
 

“Whether I’m making a $100 bottle of wine or a $12 bottle of wine, I put just as much effort into each wine. All wines have to be balanced to be successful.” Charles Smith, winemaker

Charles Smith Charles Smith has been called everything from the Wildman of Walla Walla to Winemaker of the Year (2009 Food and Wine Magazine & 2010 Seattle Magazine). Looking more like rock star Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame, than the stereotypical winemaker, Charles is a rock star in the winemaking world.

After years of managing rock bands across Europe, Charles landed in Walla Walla to follow his true passion; winemaking. His first vintage was a mere 330 cases of 1999 K Syrah. A self-taught winemaker, Smith created the House Wine label which he sold in 2006. Today his labels include K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, Secco Italian Bubbles, Charles and Charles Project and Vino.

We met up with Charles on a beautiful spring morning in Austin, Texas in the courtyard of the trendy Hotel San Jose on South Congress. After the interview, we headed out for post-interview enchiladas at Guero’s Taco Bar, just up South Congress Avenue. While sitting at the bar, one fellow looked to his friend and pointed at Charles saying “look dude, this is cool thing about Austin, we’re sitting at a bar with Sammy Hagar.”

As you will see, Charles Smith is as unique an individual as are the wines he strives to create. He prides himself in creating high-quality value-priced wines that appeal to the consumer who might not reach for a glass of wine as their first beverage of choice as well as the budget conscious wine enthusiast. Continue reading »

Jun 082013
 

Mark Oldman

“I am going to make it (wine seminars) worth their while. I have a short attention span. I don’t want to be bored. I am going to do whatever I can to make them walk away and say, that over-delivered.” Mark Oldman

During the Austin Food and Wine Festival we had the chance to meet wine style guru Mark Oldman, two time winner of Georges Duboeuf Best Wine Book of the Year Award for: Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine: 108 Ingenious Shortcuts to Navigate the World of Wine with Confidence and Style and Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine’s Usual Suspects.

Oldman has a distinct style described by Bon Appètit magazine as “winespeak without the geek” and by Publishers Weekly as “the ideal mix of wine connoisseur, showman, and everyday dude.”

I didn’t know what to expect from Oldman, of Drink Bravely fame. He was very fun, engaging and frankly a blast to chat with. While in Austin he professed his love for the Lone Star State repeatedly, interesting for a Jersey guy. He even pulled out his Longhorn money clip in testament.

One of the funniest moments however, was during his last seminar when he pulled out a 3X5 foot blowup of his outstanding arrest warrant from the 2012 AFW festival and his newly minted “Free Oldman” t-shirt. It seems Mark was caught by the tireless (obviously with too much time on their hands) Austin police for ….drumroll… Jaywalking, which in Austin is, believe it or not, a criminal offense. The crowd rolled out of their chairs laughing. Continue reading »

May 092013
 

Ray Isle

Ray Isle

“I still get excited when I find a $17 wine that blows me away.That is a continuous hunt for me at the magazine.” Ray Isle

During the 2013 Austin Food and Wine Festival, I had the chance to sit down and chat with Food & Wine Magazine Executive Wine Editor, Ray Isle. A self-described “Texan living in New York,” Ray was one of the festival’s preeminent wine presenters, offering three seminars. His gentile Texan style eschewed any sense of wine snobbery as he shared his knowledge and passion for wine. Continue reading »

Mar 142013
 

Winemaker Trione VineyardsIn the fall of 2012, as the bounty of harvest was coming to an end, we had the opportunity to meet winemaker Scot Covington at the beautiful Trione Winery. Trione Vineyards and Winery sits in the heart of Alexander Valley, just north of Healdsburg in Sonoma County. For over 35 years the Trione family has been involved in Sonoma vineyards and winemaking . We were lucky enough to be on site during the Trione staff harvest party, complete with grilled wild duck, compliments of Mark Trione’s hunting skills. Scot’s excitement over the 2012 wines was contageous. The barrel and tank tastings showed exceptional promise.

In 2005, when the Trione family decided  to venture back into winemaking, it was Scot they tapped to design and build the winemaking facility. He is a warm and friendly person dedicated to the winemaking arts. As you will read, Scot was well traveled before Trione, though now he seems to have, paraphrasing Jimmy Buffett, “found a life that suits his style.”

B&B: who do you see when you look in the mirror?

SC: Well, that is a good question. Some days it’s Brad Pitt, some days George Clooney some days Archie Bunker…more often than not I see my Father. I see his eyes, ears; laugh lines. I wish my Father was still around to taste the wines that I am making now. He was a big fan of mine as I was of him and I see him often in the mirror especially now that I am a father. The mirror gives perspective. Continue reading »

Jan 312013
 
rockandvinebookjacketYou Can Win a Free Copy of Rock and Vine …Read on….

CONTEST CLOSED…CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THREE WINNERS

Many California wine lovers have heard the stories of Napa and Sonoma pioneers from the 1960’s, 70’s and earlier. Even the movie Bottle Shock celebrated their early successes. But what about now? Who are the rising wine stars that wine lovers need to know? Many of the up and comers have it in their genes…they are the children, grandchildren and even in some cases the great-grandchildren of the early wine country pioneers.

Due out early February 2013 is the beautifully written and photographed book, Rock and Vine which “reveals the lives and innovations of next generation changemakers in California’s wine country. Continue reading »

Jan 302013
 

Kurt BeitlerDuring the 2012 Aspen Food and Wine Festival we had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Sonoma Coast winemaker Kurt Beitler of Bohème Wines. I was excited to meet the energetic and passionate young winemaker; if for no other reason than he is a grandson of one of the winemakers most influential in my early wine development, Charlie Wagner, co-founder of Caymus Vineyards. We waited for Kurt outside an Aspen restaurant, to find him wheeling up through the festival crowd on his mountain bike with a great smile on his face and even better wines in hand.

While Kurt learned much of his craft working with his uncle Chuck Wagner (co-founder of Caymus) and cousins at Caymus Vineyards, he ventured out a few years ago to create hand-crafted Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under his own label Bohème Wines. Kurt’s five small-lot wines are exceptional examples of terrior-driven single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Bohème Wines are available from their website and tasting room in Occidental, CA. For those who support small, family and artisan wineries…Bohème is a wine find that will definitely excite your palate and enhance your cellar. Continue reading »

Dec 232012
 

Kathleen InmanIn November of 2012, we had the pleasure of meeting Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines located just outside Santa Rosa, CA in the Russian River Valley. Her minimal-interventionist technique produces small lot Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that are crisp, well-balanced and very terrior-driven. Each wine has a unique personality and vineyard voice worthy of your time and attention.

The new barn-style winery on Olivet Lane doubles as tasting room and winemaking facility. We were greeted by Kathleen and her friendly staff. While Inman Family wines is not quite a one-woman show, Kathleen is involved in all aspects of the winery including organic grape growing, sales, winemaking and even forklift driving. Continue reading »