Aug 132014
Have you ever dreamed of starting a family winery? Follow us as we embark on our wine-stained adventure at J. Cage Cellars.

When dreaming big dreams, have you wondered if the reality of living the dream would live up to the expectations of the dreamer. I am about to find out and it is a little scary. My father loved small WWII vintage aircraft. Much as he wanted to pilot, he remained always a passenger, until the day he passed in a mid-air collision of two of his beloved planes.

After the funeral I wondered aloud why my dad had never taken flying lessons so he could experience flight from the pilot’s seat. My mother responded by saying she thought it was because he was afraid the reality of being a pilot could never live up to his dream of being a pilot. He didn’t want to face that possible disappointment after a lifetime of anticipation. I don’t think my father was alone in that fear.

I’ve had a dream for much of my life that took a passenger seat to running a business, raising a family and other less engaging hobbies. My dream started in 1983 on a rainy November afternoon when my wife, Donna, I and two friends pulled into the parking lot of the then fledgling Caymus Vineyards in Napa Valley.

Roger & Charlie Wagner - circa 1983

Roger & Charlie Wagner – circa 1983

We were met by the senior co-founder, Charlie Wagner. It was apparent on that wet chilly day that Mr. Wagner really didn’t want to do a tasting for us. But instead of just sending us on our way, he challenged my group of aspiring wine enthusiasts to tour his post-harvest leafless vineyard in the cold mud and muck. We gladly took him up on the challenge even though I knew my loafers would never recover from the assault by vineyard mud.

What was supposed to be a quick tour and tasting turned into a four-hour lesson on the art, science and agriculture of winemaking. I was hooked. Still today in my office hangs a photo of a smiling Charlie Wagner in his paid shirt and me in my tweed jacket and soiled loafers, after enjoying Caymus Cabernet around the Wagner family dining room in their small farm-house that now serves as winery offices. Continue reading »

Mar 182013
Musings on the death of Chateau Montelena’s Jim Barrett
and the movie Bottle Shock
Courtesy of Chateau Montelena

Courtesy of Chateau Montelena

We were saddened this weekend to learn of the death of Jim Barrett, founder – Chateau Montelena, just outside Calistoga in the northern end of Napa Valley. Barrett was 86 years old. His son, Bo, who now runs Montelena said of his father; “He was a tough and loving man who will be greatly missed at home, at the winery and throughout the Napa Valley. My father bought Chateau Montelena in 1972 and has worked hard every day since to grow the best grapes and produce the best wines. My dad died of a life well lived.”

Though we never met Jim Barrett, he was a positive influence in the our lives. To honor this Napa Valley legend, my wife and I settled into our leather couch with a bottle of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay and watched again, the movie Bottle Shock. For those few wineauxs who have not seen the film, it is based (some say loosely) on the story of Chateau Montelena, the father – son relationship between Jim and Bo Barrett and the coming of age of Napa Valley…in the Age of Aquarius. All this the result of a sparsely attended blind Paris wine tasting, where some of the most renown French wine palates, much to their surprise, voted Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar’s 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon superior to the more respected French competition. Continue reading »

Sep 232012

Today, Facebook is awash with photos of the grape harvest across the northern hemisphere. I look forward each day to beautiful pictures of grape clusters, men and women picking grapes as the sun rises across the vineyard and free-run juice on the winery crushpad that will soon be the wine in my glass. As a wine-writer in Colorado and Texas, I dream of being more than a chronicler, I want to be part of the action. This desire is never more pronounced than when I see harvest pictures posted by my winemaker friends in California and Texas.

This year I decided enough with the wine dreaming. It was time to get dirty and pitch in a for a few days with winemakers Chris Brundrett and Bill Blackmon of William and Chris Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg. Chris is regarded as one of the real up and coming young Texas winemakers while Bill offers the hand of experience from many Texas grape harvests. They make a hell of a winemaking team creating predominately blended wines with 100% Texas fruit using a minimal intervention approach. Together, Bill and Chris have a sort of yin and yang quality. Chris is full of energy and a “get ‘er done” approach while Bill has a very calm Zen-like quality about him.

Before you say, Texas, wine, what? Texas now is home nearly 250 wineries (up from only 45 a decade ago) making it the 4th or 5th (depending on who’s counting) largest wine producing state. The Texas Hill Country AVA sits behind only Napa and Sonoma as the most visited wine region in the U.S. Continue reading »