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

April 26, 2012 Fifty-Two Weeks Comments Off
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 – The Harvest {Photo Essay}

December 15, 2011 Fifty-Two Weeks Comments Off
Linne Calodo – The Harvest {Photo Essay}

2011 took us many places. While the travel schedule was less hectic than 2010′s 5,000+ mile marathon, we still did our fair share of road miles and met numerous interesting people.

From meeting three cult icons of California wine (I have yet to write about two of them) in the same week, to being on hand for the naming ceremony of Popelouchum, Randall Grahm’s new vineyard, our experiences were wide and varied. While we try to experience as much as we can in this industry, there were a few experiences that stood out from the year.

One was night harvesting Pinot Noir under a nearly full moon at Clos Pepe with Wes Hagen. Their Sta. Rita Hills estate has become a special place for us and it was a real eye opener to actually get our hands dirty and fill-up some buckets with delicious tiny grapes. I only wish I had pictures, but we were working, not shooting.

… 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

The Regions – Paso Robles {April}

June 8, 2011 The Regions 1 Comment
The Regions – Paso Robles {April}

Paso Robles. A city with a long history of pioneers and entrepreneurs, outlaws and hucksters. In Paso, the wine history runs deep too, with vineyards being planted by Spanish Conquistadors and Franciscan Missionaries as far back as the late 1790′s. Andrew York, a settler from Indiana, brought commercial grape growing to the area in the 1880′s and the last thirty years has seen a once sacramental operation exploded into a full-fledged and world renowned wine industry.

Today, some of the most revered American producers (Tablas Creek, Saxum, Linne Calodo) call El Paso de Robles home.

In more than one way Paso is a town of true grit, it always has been. Famed outlaw Jesse James briefly found refuge in Paso Robles before making a hasty getaway when the law caught up with him. Merchants hocked Paso Robles as the home of California’s finest natural hot springs and mud baths which, for a time, made the tiny Central Coast town a destination for tourists the Country over. So there should be no surprise that Paso winemakers know a thing or two about marketing and selling their wine while still doing whatever the hell they want. It’s in their blood. … Continue Reading

Changes: Linne Calodo & Tablas Creek

April 6, 2011 The Press 2 Comments
Changes: Linne Calodo & Tablas Creek

Paso Robles, finally! Not since last July had I spent any reasonable amount of time in the Central Coast land of Syrah and Roussanne.

A few Sundays ago, in some of the worse rain Central California saw all season (and it has seen a lot), we braved the wind and water and headed north. The storms were no joke. We passed flooded farmlands and barns, tempest swollen rivers, and a number of micro-mudslides (not a good sign) along the way. But the wine was good, the conversation lively, and with my wife and our Beagle along for the ride, it was a perfect day. As it turns out, the timing as it was perfect too. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

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 [...]

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