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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 – 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 – Way Back In {July}

September 28, 2011 The Regions 1 Comment
The Regions – Way Back In {July}

So things change in a few month’s time.

We moved… again, into a different beach place much like the old beach place one (small first floor of a two-story house with a yard). Our friends vacated it when they moved to China for a year to check that out. It was a killer deal, so we packed up and came a few miles north.

… 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

The Regions – San Luis Obispo & Paso Robles

May 4, 2011 The Regions Comments Off
The Regions – San Luis Obispo & Paso Robles

For March (yes I know it’s May), we moved further North to San Luis Obispo County home of some of the best vineyards in California.

In the extreme south of the County is the Edna Valley, a cool climate paradise that produces brilliant Pinot Noir, crisp Chardonnay, and other gems like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. It is also home to famed producer John Alban and his highly sought after Rhone wines. It is also one of my favorite regions to visit. (Wolff Vineyards, Claiborne & Churchill)

As you continue North on the 101 and over the Questa Grade, the temperatures rise and the vineyards become dominated by Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, Rousanne, and a few dozen other Rhone and Bordeuax grapes. Paso Robles, about 30 miles North of San Luis Obispo, has built a name producing wide range of styles and varietals, a fact that is reflected in its diverse group of growers and styles (Tablas Creek, JUSTIN, Barrel 27. A March trip to the area is also detailed here). … Continue Reading

The Regions – Santa Barbara County

March 9, 2011 The Regions 2 Comments
The Regions – Santa Barbara County

The Regions. It was intended to be a monthly look at a specific wine region, it was a great idea, in theory. In reality, only reviewing wines from one region is extremely limiting. For one, what happens if I can’t visit an area during the month I want to review it? What if I find a great wine from Santa Cruz the month after we featured Santa Cruz?

So although we will continue to focus our efforts on the regions that most catch our fancy (Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo County, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and Mendocino), we will no longer focus on one singular region a month. We will still try as best we can to focus on a region each month, but not to a fault. If a Paso wine or two slips into Sonoma or vice versa, so be it. … Continue Reading

Black Sheep Finds – By the Will of the People

Black Sheep Finds – By the Will of the People

It is human nature to respect great efforts of time. Be it a work of art, the sculpted beauty of a National Park, or a long overdue title win, we value more so what takes longer to achieve. For those wine enthusiasts with a larger vocabulary than “mmm grapes!” we too value and esteem great efforts of time. We respect the Grand Cru vineyards, the storied Chateau, and even the great vintages. We do so because we respect the time they represent and the effort, determination, and foresight behind them.

This respect of time is evident when considering wine regions and the importance we place upon them. France is the undisputed King of wine and for many it will always be so. It is more difficult and subjective to crown a Queen, but for now, France still has a powerful monarch named Wine and his influence is strong and his dominion wide. … Continue Reading

Tercero Wines – More Than Numbers

Tercero Wines – More Than Numbers

Robert Parker has it out for Larry Schaffer.

In the most recent issue of Parker’s highly influential publication The Wine Advocate, Larry’s Tercero Wines, were eviscerated by the East Coast King Maker. Parker took the numerical and verbal gutting so far that he happily ignored his own rule of not publishing ratings lower than 85 points. Aside from one wine, which scored an 86 and was called “a superficial red with no real depth or layering,” the other wines scored in the low 80’s. Some of Parker’s critiques included gems like: … Continue Reading

“Pneumonia’s Last Syrah” By: Jason Haas

“Pneumonia’s Last Syrah” By: Jason Haas

Most of you are probably aware that Syrah faces a challenging marketplace. Even articles complimentary about Syrahs (as nearly all of them are) feel compelled to begin with a story about how hard they are to sell. A recent article by Eric Asimov in the New York Times began “There’s a joke going around West Coast wine circles: What’s the difference between a case of syrah and a case of pneumonia? You can get rid of the pneumonia.”

How did we get here?  The theories are many, but my own opinion is that there was such a rapid increase in planting that it was inevitable that demand would lag compared to supply.  In the 1990′s, California Syrah acreage saw an enormous leap, based on guesses that Syrah was going to be the next big thing.  In 1992, there were 867 acres of Syrah planted in California, 0.7% of the total red grape acreage.  By 2000, that had increased to 12,699 acres, of which nearly half we non-bearing because they’d been planted in the last three years.  In 2000, Syrah accounted for 4.6% of red grape acreage, an absolute increase of over 1400% and a percentage increase of 657%.  … Continue Reading

Kunin – Middle Chapters

Kunin – Middle Chapters

Seth Kunin looks like the perfect Santa Barbaran. On a recent visit with him, he wore a dress shirt with the sleeves cuffed half way up his forearm, shorts, and Converse sans the laces and socks. He wears a short white beard and glasses. In Santa Barbara he could be a lawyer, a billionaire entrepreneur, a tech company CEO, or unemployed. His laid back dress is typical of Santa Barbara men’s fashion and is a reflection of his calm and collected personality.

Seth and his wife Megan pour and talk about their Kunin Wines from a sun filled tasting room a few blocks from the beach. It is an inviting space. In the back, a grid of shelves display neat rows of their wines; which are mostly Rhône varietals. In the front, there are several toys for their young daughter Phoebe. The tasting room, which until recently was shared with Westerly Vineyards, sees over 1,000 tasters a month, from locals to Los Angeles based beach goers and mustached hipsters. … 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 [...]

{People We Like}

Studio Holladay
Municipal Winemakers
Kunin Wines