I have often been asked how I have such an amazing palate and how I can find a customers perfect wine after asking just a few questions. I am completely self-taught and honestly I have no idea. I do know if was brought up trying every food at least once. “You never know until you try” was one of my moms’ favorite sayings around the dinner table. My parents at the time my parents were hippies living on a goat farm with a house garden to feed a family of seven. Well they had that and Costco. As I grew up giving everything a try became a point of pride. I would sample any dish or any food at least once. I would come across an “exotic” dish on a menu and already know what it was by reading my moms’ cookbooks or having her make it first. With a large family we didn’t eat out much, so when I watched my mom cook, I saw how she cooked. When it was too salty she did this, when a flavor was strong she used this herb or that herb and so on.
To me a lot of what wine tasting is having an idea about how something tastes and being able to say, “Hey X reminds me of Y” harking back to my palate memory. But it did take me a long time to get good at this. What I did to get here is that wherever I went I tried wine. I would talk to people about it. Ask them what they tasted or what they thought. Interestingly enough about the first year here at Locals was all an amazing amount of memorization about what went with what in said order. I never really felt confident with my own ideas until I came up with my three questions. It helped me figure out how to help people help themselves on how they taste wine. The questions came from my background in food flavors, cultural anthropology, and watching way too much food network.
Question 1: Where are you from?
Well right off the bat the three question idea is a fib. This question actually has three parts: Where were you born and raised? Do you like spicy foods? And do you have any dietary restrictions? People love to talk, and usually will give you a geographic history of their lives which is helpful. Also asking if they grew up in a rural or urban environment helps define what their might like palette some more. Urban palettes usually have a more culturally diverse palette because of the cosmopolitan food options available. Most people from large cities will have access to different food flavors and will be able to differentiate between more eclectic food flavors more easily. Think about trying to explain to a farmer how the flavors in a Thai peanut sauce work on their own as well as with the flavors of Thai Cuisine. This is not an easy task. Where people were born and how their parents fed them does affect what flavors they like and what they do not like.
Similarly, if you really like spicy food this effects what flavors are pleasing to the palate. To me there are two main types of heat. The type of heat that hits the back of your throat and goes up into your sinuses, clearing out any congestion one might have had; one that makes your eyes water. Typically this is a characteristic heat found in central and South American foods. If someone doesn’t like spicy foods they will be less likely to like wines with high tannins unless they sample the wine with meat to cut the feeling at the end. Smoother wines with a little acid seem to be preferable. Also people who don’t like spicy foods tend to go for the fruit forward wines, but that depends on their geographical location. If people like spicy foods I will recommend certain wines that have some good herbal spice flavors and wines that compliment spicy food like for example a blend like the Peterson Vignobles. Even though this is not a sweet wine, the combination is of some acid on the back of palate and the tannins strips your tongue of the spicy oils found in South East Asian cooking. But one word of caution….this wine does not work as well at getting the Jalapeno type of oil off of your palate however.
I wanted to let Locals fans get to know the origins of some of our winemakers. This will be a sporadic series based off of availability of the winemakers.
What was your first experience with wine? I was in my 20’s. Mostly drinking white wine, red wine gave me a headache. I drank mostly chardonnay. Then I started drinking some of the smaller winery wines, noticed I didn’t have the same problem with them as I did with the mass produced wines. They had the lower sulfates.
How did you get into the wine industry? Back in 1994 I moved up here to Sonoma County and met David Coffaro. He had just won a gold medal for his zinfandel. It was unlike anything I have ever tasted before! Dave found out me and my wife were in the catering business and had us cater a small dinner for them. Dave invited the Peston family among others from all throughout Dry Creek. I saw them sitting around a table drinking wine and talking and thought I want that. I want to be over there drinking and talking about wine every day. Also the passion of David Coffaro, it is infectious. His passion for wine and movies and music. He would invite me over to his house for dinner once a week. He would open 10 bottles of wine with dinner then take me out to taste barrel samples.
How did you start making your wine? I had the opportunity in 2004 to make wine at Dave Coffaro’s facility- a Bernier zin field blend, and the 2004 cuvee in honor of my daughter Leslie. For the cuvee Dave let me go to any barrel and make a blend. The first cuvee had Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Carignone, and Touriga Nacional. There were 100 cases of cuvee and 50 of the zinfandel. I started entering them in competitions and I won silver from the Chronicle for both. At that time Dave started to let me do some custom crush at his facility.
How did you go from making wine to selling wine? One year, back in 2004 I realized I made too much wine to drink myself. I looked at the different licenses and decided to get a winery license over a distributor license. Then in 2005 I planted my estate vineyard right next to highway 128 on the hillside.
Anything else you would like to mention? Well I have won 50 awards out of 54 for my wines. I am a nice guy, fun to talk to. Also you make great bacon toffee for your late harvest! Ha ha ha. You’re right.
People come into locals and they are looking for wine. But when you are wined out what are people looking for? The redwoods. What most people do not realize is that from the 101 north of Santa Rosa up to us in Geyserville is lined with redwood trees. Over the years some of the trees have fallen down or died off, leaving gaps along the freeway so you can see the grape vines. Sadly that time will not be around much longer. As time moves on and the highway needs to be widened, these trees are being cut down. The avenue of the redwoods will not be around much longer. Next time you drive up to see us, take a moment to look at the remaining redwoods, see how tall they are. Realize it wasn’t our grandparents, but ones before them that planted those trees.
One of my favorite ways to spend time with these giant trees is to drive up the coast and stay in one of the many state or national parks along the 101. Finding a great camping spot next to some trails and being able to have a nice bonfire. And speaking of bonfire I did have to “do some research” last time I went up to Humboldt Redwoods State Park. With some fresh Diavola sausage, some gruyere mashed potatoes, green salad, and smores; I made the ultimate camping dinner. And to drink? The Bedarra Bonfire. A wine to warm your soul around such amazing trees.
I love getting out in the vineyard a few weeks before everyone else and just picking the fruit that is the ripest at that time and going back through maybe three or four times. This allows me the ability to make small lots with different alcohol levels and then to blend those back, making for a truly great wine.
Eric Luse of Eric Ross Winery tells the story of how he got into the wine business. At one time Eric was a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle and it was his photographic assignments in Northern California that introduced him to winemaking.
Buzzard Red is a winemakers blend of select fruit.10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petite Sirah, 30% Zinfandel, 40% Mourvedre all from Sonoma County. This wine offers very nice blackberry and cherry flavors on the nose. There is a up front fruit eruption with layers of luscious cherries and black berries’ and softer layers with great complexity. Great with food or by it’s self.
Any hardworking gal knows that kicking back with a girlfriend and a glass of red wine is a fabulous way to de-stress. The best part? Your red-wine habit also happens to come with some happy health benefits, such as protecting your ticker and even slimming your waistline. Check out these eight reasons why winding down with a glass of vino is a good call all around.
Locals has a brand new wine from Treasure Hunter called Bedlam and I always like to see what grapes are in the wine and learn a bit more about them. To my shock and amazement there are actually 7 different varietals in this one! Going through the list some were very familiar like Tempranillo, Carignane, Cabernet Sauvignon; but there were two grapes I did not know anything about. Touriga and Tannat. So I decided to do some digging.
Touriga, or more specifically Touriga Nacional, is the cornerstone of the Portaguese wine world. This distinctive red wine grape has traditionally been a key component in fine ports, and increasingly, it is making its way into dry table wines. Though Port wine can be made up of 20 or more grapes, Touriga Nacional could be argued to be the defining factor in its makeup. Touriga berries are small and dark and have a high skin to pulp ratio which lends itself to intense succulent wines in good vintage years. Typically, wines produced from Touriga Nacional are deeply colored, concentrated, and fruit-filled with ripe to firm tannins. Any of these additions may fit nicely into a wine lacking one or more of these qualities, thus it is a favorable option for blending.
Come taste this grape in the Bedlam now at Locals! I am sure we will also be seeing more of it in the future.