In honor of Cabernet Day today, a little something fun:
Question from Mark:
I have an opportunity to purchase property in central Nevada that has 3 acre of Frontenac Grapes planted on gravelly clay. Up to 12 more acres are prepared. They are irrigated with a high tech drip system.
Will Frontenec ever be used as either a blend in California wines since I am told they have a “problem” with high acidity? The vines are clones from the University of Minnesota.
Reply from Josh Beckett, winemaker:
Before somebody buys a vineyard they should take a hard look as to why they are buying the vineyard. Is it for a hobby or are they going to make a living of some sort from the purchase? The hobby is a no brainer — have fun with it. It is a big task for a hobby but to each his or her own. If it is for an investment, to hopefully generate money, than you need to look deeper into the vineyard and the overall surroundings…
Things to look at:
Just some thoughts … Not sure if people will bring it in CA but you never know.
Cheers and Best of Luck,
So you’ve been here a couple of days, what are your first impressions?
I like [Peachy Canyon] a lot. I like that it’s a family-run place, all the people are really nice. Josh (winemaker) and Raul (cellar master) are great to work with — they’re laid back and easygoing, which is kind of my personality, but at the same time they really care about the wine and the work, which is the right balance. They care about making the best product you can.
Where did you come from before this?
Well, most recently I was at Kenneth Volk Vineyards down in Santa Maria. I’ve been traveling around following vintages since I finished school, so I’ve been working seasonally at different wineries. I started out at Justin here in Paso Robles, then went to New Zealand — Kim Crawford — came back and worked in Edna Valley South of here, then returned to New Zealand, and came back again, and worked Kenneth Volk. And so, once I came back and worked Kenneth Volk I was kind of ready [to find something permanent]. I enjoy traveling, and I’d love to go to New Zealand again, but it was time to transition from the seasonal stuff to full time work.
You went to Cal Poly, did you study wine there?
I studied agribusiness with an emphasis in marketing, and minored in wine and viticulture. The way it happened is that, originally, I wanted to be a physical therapist and get into sports medicine (when I was in high school). Fortunately for me the quarter I applied to Cal Poly the school wasn’t accepting new applicants under that major, so I applied to agribusiness instead.
At school I became really focused on agriculture in general, and each time I would hear about the wine industry in my courses I would find myself more and more interested. I picked up extra classes [on wine] and once I started doing that, I realized I should probably minor in viticulture. I was about halfway through college at that point. Once I began my minor, each little bit I learned — soaked up more and more — made me more excited about it. Finally, I thought: “Well, I don’t want to sell wine, I don’t want to market it … so I should probably see what it’s like making it.” That’s what initially brought me to Justin.
It was a snowball effect — each class a took, I wanted to take another class, and once I got into the industry and worked my first harvest, I wanted to learn more and more and more. After a few vintages I realized I needed to become a winemaker. It was no looking back, once I realized that.
Most winemakers tend to fall into two camps: the people who like to be out in the vineyard more, versus those who like to be in the lab. Where would you place yourself — do you prefer the vineyard or the lab?
I’d probably say the lab, because that’s more of my background. I’ve spent more time in the lab and I’ve always been on the winery side of things. So, answering the question specifically, I’d say that. But that’s partly because I haven’t been out in the vineyard as much as I’d like to, so I look forward to spending more time out there [in the vineyards].
I’ve been just walking around after work in the vineyards — because I’m living here on site — and checking everything out. There’s a lot appealing about the vineyard. In the lab you have control and immediate answers. There’s a way to do things, and do them right, it’s more black and white and straightforward. In the vineyard you only have so much control because of nature, so while you can do a lot, it can sometimes be frustrating learning to work with nature.
How would you describe your style of winemaking?
Definitely fruit-driven, referencing the California style. I like fruit-forward wines, but at the same time, I like — and know the wines need to be — balanced. I like to balance New World techniques and winemaking with some of the Old World stuff, having them be a little bit softer, having balance in the structure … not too big or too bold, but with an emphasis on fruit.
Has there been anything that’s surprised you about your new work environment since you recently began here at Peachy Canyon?
I don’t know if there’s anything I didn’t expect, but jumping right into bottling has been quite an experience. A lot of bottling! That’s been something. I wouldn’t say any surprises, because I’ve been with so many different places already I’ve learned that though I can’t help but have certain expectations, but there are lots of expectations [I just] throw out the window, because each place is different.
I knew bottling was coming, because Josh warned me, but it was still just go! go! go! right away, so that’s a memorable experience. Other than that I’m just training and learning. It’s a bit different because normally with training, like lab stuff, you’re working on a trial run and it’s nothing important. It’s a little bit different when those first few times you’re working it’s for the bottle — the pressure is on.
I guess the one thing that has surprised me a little bit, in a good way, is how nice everyone’s been.
What’s your typical day look like here at the winery?
Well, since I’m staying at the winery right now … typical day I wake up, come down to the lab, make sure I have everything set up, and do whatever I need to do to get the cellar going. Running the first analysis, whatever it takes to get ready for bottle. Then I catch up with Josh, catch up with things I know need to be done, that he knows need to be done [in the lab and in the cellar], and that’s it. Work hard until the works as done as it can be for the day, then relax a bit and wander around the vineyard. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Final question: What are your aspirations as a winemaker?
Two things, the first is pretty general, and it’s that I’d like to make a really, really great wine. One of those wines that everyone loves, that gets a ridiculously high score and everyone wants. I think most winemakers want that.
But secondly, I aspire to be really balanced. Like I said, I want to find the place between the New and Old World styles. Doing what’s true and tried, and doing it well, but also bringing something new to the table. Experimenting, with different styles, varieties of grape and practices keeps it interesting for the winemaker but also for the people who drink the wine. I want to do all these different things, and I’ve seen that it’s also what the people like to drink, so it’s a win-win.
Really though, if you make a good wine, it takes care of itself. Even if it’s an off the wall wine variety that no one’s ever heard of, if people taste it and like it, they’re going to want it. So I’d say that — make great wine, but don’t just be “one of a million”. I’d like to have something different in what I do.
As anyone in Paso Robles will happily tell you (twice), it’s been a hot couple of weeks. This had lead to some serious speculation about the state of the upcoming grape harvest here in wine country. As many other winery blogs and wine blogs — subtle difference there — have already pointed out, the heatContinue Reading
Last night was the Winemaker’s Cookoff here in Paso Robles and the Peachy Canyon crew had a great time … though we are (just a bit!) disappointed to report that we did not win, despite many attempts at bribery via Death by Chocolate. The cookoff is a charity event in its 14th year in Paso,Continue Reading