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The Princes of West Paso {Matt Trevisan & Justin Smith}

April 26, 2012 Fifty-Two Weeks Comments Off on The Princes of West Paso {Matt Trevisan & Justin Smith}
The Princes of West Paso {Matt Trevisan & Justin Smith}

This is arguably the biggest week of the year for Paso Robles, Hospice du Rhône, a weekend-long celebration of all things Rhône; a week that will see the World’s best Rhône producers flock to the sleepy Central Coast town. Thousands of their disciples will descend from all over the Country to this Mecca of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre.


We are looking forward to covering our first Hospice du Rhône for A Long Pour. Even more meaningful, this week’s activities mark the 20th anniversary of the event.


Few regions of California have done more to champion Rhône wines than Paso Robles. From this part of the State came John Alban’s Alban Vineyards and the Haas and Perrin families’ Tablas Creek. Even Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon operated a tasting room in Paso for some time, before it sadly burnt doon.


In attendance this weekend, will be two young winemakers who have soared to the top of California’s most revered Rhône producers over the past decade, Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo and Justin Smith of SAXUM. Those who have followed their rise will know that Linne Calodo was founded by the two winemakers in the late 90’s when they were in their twenties. Justin eventually left to start SAXUM and Matt Continued with Linne Calodo, later building one of the most iconic wineries on the Central Coast. … Continue Reading

SAXUM {deeper roots}

February 16, 2012 Fifty-Two Weeks 1 Comment
SAXUM {deeper roots}

SAXUM, it’s obvious right? I am a glory seeker; I am Napoleon, motivated by my own lust for recognition. I search out the best, the finest; I am Alexander, an elitist, a snob, a name-dropper of the worst kind, eager to pat myself on the back, and exalt my own voice. I walk around with a sense of self-entitlement fit for a king and look down upon man as though I were David’s Goliath.

It is the same for Justin Smith you say, the golden boy of California wine, the charmer, the handsome forty-something behind Saxum. He who has schemed to unlock the magic formula that forces the palates of the World’s best critics prostrate in obeisance to his miracle juice. He who influences their pens with his smooth lips to write the shockingly high numbers of their tasting notes, to write the impossible three digit perfection as if they had wine scoring turrets. He has cast a spell on the wine world and his potion is Bone Rock, Broken Stones, and Rocket Block.

In some ways it is true I suppose. I have sought out some of the best in this game, the most interesting, the most passionate, the most gifted. But they are also the most genuine, people of class and substance, people with real stories.

And what an honor it is to tell those stories.

It is also true, Justin Smith is a charmer. You can’t help but like him. But if you strip away the hype and fade the endless praise and criticism into the background, if you stand there with Justin, in his jeans, v-neck, Patagonia vest, and flip flops and if you listen to him talk, to what he really has to say, it all comes down to a simple sentence:

Justin Smith is a farmer. … Continue Reading

Linne Calodo Part II {The Pieces}

December 7, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks 2 Comments
Linne Calodo Part II {The Pieces}

So I got a tad gushy the other week about Matt Trevisan of Linne Calodo. I don’t regret it. Matt is a rather wonderful kind of a guy and one of the most impressive winemakers I know. But rather than recap all of the reasons we’re impressed with him (which are many and were well documented here), let’s just sum it up by saying: we like him.

Setting out to document what makes a winemaker is a daunting task. Sometimes the people we work with are well known, like Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon, a celebrity in his own right. In such a case, one can skip a deep treatise into the history of the winery and get right to something of interest, say marketing and why it is like crack cocaine. In other instances, the subject winery was relatively unknown to us prior to our visit with them, like Pfendler. In this case, you must first explain their story before you can explain the wine.

With Linne Calodo, it was a bit different. On the one hand, Linne Calodo and even Matt Trevisan, have become synonymous with one of the greatest wine movements in the United States. Still, in my research there wasn’t much in print on Matt, the person. When speaking with others within the industry about Matt, in advance of our visits, they had little more to offer than a few rumors and some nice accolades for his wines. People love the wine, but they didn’t seem to know much about Matt other than the fact he is “kind of quiet.” … Continue Reading

Linne Calodo – Names Will Never Hurt Me

October 19, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks 7 Comments
Linne Calodo – Names Will Never Hurt Me

T H E   L I S T

It was the end of 2009 and the beginning of an ambitious project, to write about 52 California wineries in 52 weeks. I had no idea where to start.

I bought a subscription to Wine Spectator and scoured it for interesting producers to work with; highlighting the ones that caught my attention. Tablas Creek, Barrel 27, Foxen, Kosta Brown. I added them to an ever-growing list of “wineries to work with.” I knew almost nothing about the California wine industry, but if this big glossy publication liked them, that had to be worth something, right?

As my knowledge grew in early 2010, I began adding names to an “if by a miracle” list, wineries I thought it would be next to impossible to work with, legends like Ridge, The Ojai Vineyard, Sine Qua Non, and Harlan. A boy could dream.

In the months that followed, as A Long Pour took shape and I began to regularly cross off names from the “hope to work with” and add them to the “worked with” list, I was amazed at how well it was all going. Tablas Creek, check! The Ojai Vineyard, a very excited check! Barrel 27, Foxen, Jordan, check, check, and check!

I studied, I learned, I listened, and I drank. I stopped highlighting names in Wine Spectator and began working with wineries based on my own taste and interests.  I made the acquaintance of numerous winemakers who in turn gave me suggestions of their own. I took note of who inspired them, names like Randall Grahm, Richard Sanford, Paul Draper, John Alban, Helen Turley, Manfred Krankl, Justin Smith, and Matt Trevisan. … Continue Reading

Barrel 27 – Wine Amongst Friends

Barrel 27 – Wine Amongst Friends

Two weekends ago was a big weekend for me. To understand why, I need to go back to the fall of last year.

My initial short list of wineries that I wanted to work with included Tablas Creek, Kosta Browne, Sine Qua Non, JUSTIN, Barrel 27, The Ojai Vineyard, and a few others. As I re-wrote my list a few times, JUSTIN, Barrel 27, and The Ojai Vineyard were consistently part of the top five. So, the weekend of April 23rd was a big one for me. On Friday, I spent several invigorating hours with Adam Tolmach and his assistant at The Ojai Vineyard. The following morning was spent on a tour at JUSTIN, where I had the opportunity to meet Justin Baldwin. We concluded the day down the hill, on the other side of the 101 freeway in Paso Robles, at Barrel 27. Three of my top 5 in less then 24 hours! Oh, plus I got engaged the next day, but that’s another story… … Continue Reading


Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. […]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no […]