Inside Winemaking - the art and science of growing grapes and crafting wine

As winemaker for Silver Oak, Nate Weis is the steward for one of the most prominent and recognized brands of Cabernet in the US.  In this episode of the Inside Winemaking Podcast Nate shares how what may be considered an old-guard brand of California winemaking, Silver Oak, is actually on the cutting edge of innovation and is now the first wine producer to have taken an oak barrel cooperage in-house.  After rebuilding the Napa winery due to a fire in 2006, Silver Oak has drawn from its experience in winery  design and is now building its Alexander Valley facility with the goal of being LEED Platinum certified by its debut in 2017.  Part of Nate's role is to oversee winemaking for the Twomey brand, which was created to produce Merlot, but now has a full range of wines including Pinot noir from Willamette Valley in Oregon.  

Those interested in working a harvest vintage in New Zealand are encouraged to apply to the Doug Wisor Memorial Scholarship, which provides funding and a job placement at Craggy Range Winery.  After working for Doug when he was in New Zealand, Nate now helps aspiring winemakers discover this opportunity to honor a man who was one of his own mentors.  

Direct download: Nate_Weis_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:58am EDT

Four winemaker friends came together and created The Living Wines Collective.  This conversation begins with Shaunt Oungoulian, in whose parents' basement is the winery where all wines are produced, and then Sam Baron joins us midway to hear help explain the Reverse Rose.  Shaunt, Sam, and their other partners met at UCDavis while studying viticulture and enology, went off to work at some impressive estates across the globe, and then returned to California and launched the Populis, Les Lunes, and Ama Cellars that now encompass the natural winemaking efforts that bind their efforts and aspirations.  

"What can I not do?"  Asking this question throughout all of the winemaking, Shaunt describes their definition and practical applications of natural winemaking.  We take time to wade through the methods employed to hold true to those intentions and the thoughtful ways they use SO2.   This young team is making wines from organically farmed, select vineyards, treating the wines as naturally as possible in the cellar, and releasing them to the the world at affordable prices, an uncommon formula which pits them with the perception of something less serious.   It is precisely the combination of these tenets that sets their wines apart and that hustle is very serious.  

Direct download: Shaunt_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:54am EDT

In this podcast Legendary winemaker, Dick Peterson, describes his recently released book as, "A history book of California winemaking as told by me."  "The Winemaker" is a must read for any wine geek or fan of California winemaking.  Dick began making wines with Ernesto and Julio Gallo in the 50's, took over at Beaulieu Vineyard after being chosen by Andre Tchelistcheff in the 60's, developed The Monterey Vineyard and the original Taylor California Cellars in the 70's, then dynamited and drilled caves to develop Atlas Peak Vineyards in the 80's.  In his eighties he is still consulting for wineries and makes his own wines from Wrotham Pinot, which he cultivated after finding a single old Roman vine in England.  More on Dick's background and accolades can be found on his website listed in the Inside show notes.  

Our conversation covers not only Dick's career of winemaking in California, but also has stories that didn't make it into the book, including how a spelling mistake helped get some of Piero Antinori's greatest Sangiovese budwood into the Napa Valley.  I had a wonderful time with Dick and was quite impressed with his both his honesty and detailed accounts of a long and storied winemaking career.

Direct download: Dick_Peterson_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:38am EDT

Soil science is a difficult subject to get your head around.  Years of making "housecalls" to visit with farmers throughout California has honed Kyle Truesdell's ability to translate complex topics of soil science and vine interactions in a manner that anyone can understand.  As an agronomist with Certified Crop Advisor and Pest Control Advisor licenses, Kyle runs the Wilbur-Ellis offices in Napa and Sonoma.  He still makes time to get out and visit vineyards, and that is how I met him this past October at Seavey Vineyard.  After peppering him with nearly every soil question I had ever thought of, I realized that our conversation could be helpful to many, and that lead to the recording of this episode.

Direct download: Kyle_Truesdell_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:40pm EDT

A summary of my winemaking through the 2015 harvest season in Napa.  Heat, fire, and rain drove a fast and furious harvest in the vineyards and winery.  This episode of the Inside Winemaking Podcast includes a special interview with Rob Taylor, who tells of his experience living through the Valley Fire that erupted on Sept 12th and wreaked havoc through Lake County, north of Napa in California.  

Direct download: Harvest_2015_Wrap_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:02am EDT

After reading an article summarizing the 2015 vintage (up to September) that Matt Reid wrote for the Napa Register, I scrapped my own attempt and invited him to deliver that on a solo podcast episode on the Inside Winemaking Podcast.  Matt is the proprietor of PWR Wines, winemaker at Benessere Vineyards, and consulting winemaker at Burgess Cellars.  In case you missed it, Matt Reid was the first interview for Inside Winemaking back in August 2014.  

Direct download: Matt_Reid_Sept_2015_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:38pm EDT

With his father's suburban loaded up with 
Petit Sirah and layered with dry ice, David Grega, nearly asphyxiated on the highway before he got his grapes to the crusher on his very first day of winemaking.  As someone who has no interest in saying "no" to opportunity, David has taken a novel approach to his career with wines.  An Army combat veteran of Iraq, cigar enthusiast, self-made Tea sensory instructor, and now Cab winemaker by day and Rhone wine guy by night, it became clear during our podcast conversation that the unifying characteristics of David's success in a range of fields stems from his focus and hyper-disciplined self education.  We spent a good portion of our recorded conversation talking about David's path into all things wine and ended with his specific vision of what he hopes his impact to be on the winemakers that come after him.

Carlotta Wines is the brand that David and his partner created to focus of wines using mainly Rhone varietals.  David also works with winemaker, Jeff Ames, who is the creator of the Rudius Wines, and together they manage Jeff's clientele of high-end Napa Wineries including Tor Kenward, Boich Cellars, and Anthem Winery.

Direct download: David_Grega_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:33am EDT

Up in the Tahoe forest I had a chance to  catch up with the woman behind the gas mask.  A winemaker who omits the easy details in an effort to draw you in.

Enter, Sabrine Rodems, winemaker for Wrath WinesScratch Wines, and the woman behind the curtains of Wines of Danger.  With two feet in the winery and the phone on speaker, Sabrine is not interested in conventional winemaking.  The word "experimentation" came up constantly during our conversation about her endeavors to dial-in the vineyards that she is working with.

Direct download: Sabrine_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:15am EDT

In perhaps the most entertaining interview I've ever had in a vineyard, Jake Terrell from St Francis Winery and Vineyard, takes me through his experiences throughout California's prime vineyards.  This interview has it all: earthquakes, historic vineyards, old-vine Zinfandel, Cabernet from Russian River Valley in Sonoma, strategies for reducing vineyard irrigation, and an epic Cannibas plantation.

I was particularly interested in having Jake share his expertise in caring for old vines, something he defines as planted before 1950.  He did not disappoint and in our conversation he gives multiple tips on how to work with old vines with the goal of delivering the highest quality grapes, something for which Jake is focused at all points of the growing season.  Beyond old vines we discuss how timing is critical for all high-end grapegrowing and he names the two most critically time-sensitive vineyard practices.

As a farmer who drinks a wide variety of wines, and has a keen fascination with the Old World, Jake paints a vivid picture in detailing the style for which the St Francis wines are known.  The conversation finishes with an invitation to visit St Francis, which is in the Kenwood area of Sonoma.  Need more reasons to visit?  The winery's restaurant was rated number 1 restaurant in 2014 by Open Table, they are certified sustainable, and the North Bay Business Journal listed St Francis as one of the best places to work in the North Bay of San Francisco.

Direct download: Jake_Terrell.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

Having never set foot in a vineyard before packing her Subaru with orchids and all other possessions Ashley Anderson set out across US for Napa and didn't look back.

Now, 16 years later Ashley is the vineyard manager at Cain Vineyard and Winery  up 1,700 feet on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley.  She knows intimately the 87 acres that she farms for the Cain wines, especially Cain Five.

During this episode of the podcast Ashley tells how she is adjusting her farming for the current drought conditions, explains how "tolerance" is a major aspect of organic farming (Cain is about to finish their organic certification),  she talks about the results after five years of trials with biodynamics, and most profoundly, Ashley describes why her and her colleagues at Cain are invested for the long term.  All 16 of Ashley's harvests have been with Cain.

Direct download: Ashley_Anderson_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:52am EDT

Master of bubbles, Tom Tiburzi, spares no effort to explain the intracacies of making spectacular sparkling wines in California.  The 2015 vintage will be Tom's 26th with Domaine Chandon, yet the excitement he brings to this episode of Inside Winemaking leaves no doubt that he is more passionate than ever.  

Our conversation explores what normal red-wine traits are "evil for sparkling wines," how to keep Pinot noir fermenting slowly, the characteristics of a great sparkling base, why the visitor's center staff may be caught scratching the inside of flutes, how CO2 amplifies all flaws, and how wine style leaves an imprint similar to the fashion of a specific decade. 

Direct download: Tom_Tiburzi.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:13am EDT

At my request Zeke Neeley, who you may remember from Episode 2: Champagne, Cucumbers, and Estate Winemaking..., to come back and record a solo post about something he is well-versed, the use of Sulfur in winemaking.

In 15 minutes Zeke lays out the historical use of sulfur, specifically sulfur-dioxide (SO2), some of the common misconceptions it has had publicly, it's role with bacteria and yeast, the paradox of not using it, and his own personal opinions on the best use of SO2 for commercial winemaking.

Like cooks in a kitchen, all winemakers have different approaches to the use of SO2, and it's key to remember that Zeke's practices are a summation of his studies and practical experience.  Nothing can rile up a room of winemakers like the discussion of SO2.

I think anyone interested in serious winemaking will come away with new insights from Zeke's post.  I'm very appreciative that he was willing to sit down and record his thoughts on this hot-button issue.

Let me know if you find short guest post episodes such as this valuable.


Direct download: Zeke_Neeley_on_SO2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:11am EDT

The first three years of Douglas Rennie's apprenticeship involved learning to make oak barrels using only hand tools.  These hand tools were treated with great respect, never placed on the ground, as they had been passed down from the men in his family.  Douglas is the fourth generation to become a master cooper in his family.

After making barrels for Black and White Whiskey in Scotland Douglas made his way to California and began a new career making wine barrels for the French cooperage, Seguin Moreau.

I traveled to Seguin to interview Douglas for the Inside Winemaking Podcast and had a chance to ask him all the questions I've been saving for a true expert of oak.  In this Podcast Douglas tells the story of his apprenticeship, what it means to be a master cooper, he describes the many differences between French and American oak, takes us through the process of assembling a barrel, and describes the importance of toasting the staves.


Direct download: Douglas_Rennie_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

This short podcast is a teaser episode for the interview with Douglas Rennie, Master Cooper from Seguin Moreau in Napa, California.  Listen as Douglas tells two short stories from his early days of apprenticeship in Scotland and then another about some "dodgy fishcakes" in Beverley Hills.  The entire interview podcast should be live by Monday March 9th.  

Direct download: Douglas_Rennie_Teaser.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:19am EDT

"God and the devil are in the details."  In this episode Cameron Parry, who is taking over the winemaking reigns at Groth Vineyards and Winery explains which details he views are most critical to ensure that each vintage of Groth wines are exceptional.

A highlight from our conversation include Cameron's description of the flavor and texture qualities that result from Sauvignon blanc's fermentation in neutral oak barrels vs. stainless steel tanks.

Cameron does a great job in dispelling the myth that winemakers have some sort of gifted sensory ability. Training is the key to develop one's abilities when it comes to smell and flavor recognition.  I like how Cameron works that training into everyday experience, especially with his kids and their time spent cooking and "developing their sensory capacities."


Groth is perhaps most well known for their Cabernets - all of which are from grapes sourced from the Oakville district of Napa.  Cameron tells the story of how the Groth Reserve Cabernet came about and the describes the most notable wines from the recent 30-year retrospective tasting that Groth put on as a press event.

Direct download: Cameron_Parry.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:48am EDT

In this episode vineyardist, David Bos, brings a lot of enthusiasm for organic and biodynamic farming.  David learned farming on the ground while working for Grgich Hills Estate in the Napa Valley, which is known for their commitment to natural winegrowing and sustainability.

These days David runs his own small farming Company, Harvest Bos, and is known as a specialist vineyard consultant for those who have an interest in employing organic and biodynamic farming.  That said, David doesn't smell like patchouli, doesn't speak in flowery prose, and doesn't believe we should get sidetracked by the less practical aspects of biodynamics.


In great detail he explains "that biodynamics can give you better health, quality, vitality" and the four tenets that he deems critical towards that end are compost, observation, biodiversity, and the biodynamic preparations.  The bulk of our conversation is spent exploring those topics and how David incorporates them into the care of his vineyards.

Direct download: David_Bos_Complete.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:03am EDT

Art Seavey is a man who slips comfortably between his water-based business Monterey Abalone Company and his family's devotion to farming grapes on steep hillsides for Seavey Vineyard.

Much more than just my boss, Art is the general manager at Seavey Vineyard, a small estate vineyard and winery in the eastern hills of Napa's Conn Valley.  In this episode Art discusses the path that led him to found the Monterey Abalone Company, which sustainably farms abalone on the commercial wharf in Monterey on California's coastline

Direct download: Art_Seavey.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:34am EDT

Everyday on my commute to work I pass Miner Family Wines in the Oakville District of Napa.  I was quite fortunate to stop on my way home recently and have a conversation with my friend, and Miner winemaker, Stacy Vogel.  

Before we got talking about her post at Miner, Stacy detailed her experiences traveling and working France and Australia.  Given how much time I spend cleaning and sanitizing the winery where I spend my days, I was a bit envious when Stacy described the benign neglect that was part of her internship at Bouchard Pere & Fils in Burgundy.  

Stacy also did stints at Tahbilk winery in Victoria, Australia, Cain Vineyard and Winery in Napa, and Ledson Winery and Vineyards in Sonoma.  I'd recommend to anyone visiting Napa to check out Cain, it's a bit spectacular.  

There's no such thing as a short harvest at Miner, as they are working with Burgundian, Bordelais, Rhone varieties, and even some Sangiovese.  It's one of my favorite pass-times to pick on Pinot producers and I figured Stacy was game because Miner produces five Pinots and quite a bit of that fruit comes from Garys' Vineyard in Santa Lucia.  

Direct download: Stacy_Vogel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:10am EDT

I had a great time recording this podcast with my friend and consultant viticulturist, Garrett Buckland.  Our conversation gets deep into the technical weeds right off the bat, and thus I've split the podcast into two episodes.  Get your coffee, turn on your brain, and get ready to get schooled on what is involved in growing grapes for some of California's top wineries.  Garrett gives insight into:


Bringing grapevines into the US and what it takes to clean up the virus and certify new clones.


How grapegrowing has changed in the past 20 years.


The most critical aspects of caring for a vineyard designed to make iconic wines.


The effect of the current drought on graperowing and the 2014 vintage.

Direct download: Garrett_Buckland_Part_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:27am EDT

I had a great time recording this podcast with my friend and consultant viticulturist, Garrett Buckland.  Our conversation gets deep into the technical weeds right off the bat, and thus I've split the podcast into two episodes.  Get your coffee, turn on your brain, and get ready to get schooled on what is involved in growing grapes for some of California's top wineries.  Garrett gives insight into:


Bringing grapevines into the US and what it takes to clean up the virus and certify new clones.


How grapegrowing has changed in the past 20 years.


The most critical aspects of caring for a vineyard designed to make iconic wines.


The effect of the current drought on graperowing and the 2014 vintage

Direct download: Garrett_Buckland_Part_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:12am EDT