Behind the Wines with Elaine Chukan Brown | Esther Mobley and Kelli White

Okay, hello everyone, and welcome to California Wine Institute’s, Behind the Wines with our host Elaine Chukan Brown. Thank you all for taking the time out to be with us today This month California Wine Institute’s, Behind the Wine Series brings a regional focus to our continued exploration of the development of the golden state’s wine industry and its place on the world stage. Our host Elaine, will speak with leading authorities in wine media, education, hospitality, and science, to weigh in on state of California wine and offer insights about general perceptions on the subject in their respective communities. These conversations will highlight the exchanges between California and other great wine regions of the world. The common threads as well as the varied approaches to viticulture and winemaking And today we have the great pleasure to welcome Esther Mobley and Kelli White So before we get started some housekeeping reminders for everyone, during the webinar note that there are two communication methods available to participants, a chat section and a Q&A section. The chat section is an informal way for you to communicate with other participants, just be sure to select everyone in the to field as it can default to panelists only And then the Q&A section, and this is where we’d like you to submit your questions to be answered during the webinar. We will do our best to address your questions and for those that are not answered live, we will provide in a Q&A summary in the email you’ll receive following the program Now I’d like to introduce our host and guests Elaine, in addition to writing for her own site, Waka Waka Wine Reviews, she serves as the American specialist for jancisrobinson.com, and contributes to a long list of respected publications She contributed to the eighth edition of the World Atlas of Wine, which has won multiple awards, as well as the award-winning fourth edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine She was named by the International Wine and Spirits Competition, Vinitaly, as one of the world’s top wine Communicators of the Year, for the last two years in a row And we have Esther and Kelli. Esther has held the position of wine critic at the San Francisco Chronicle since 2015. Previously she was an Assistant Editor at Wine Spectator in New York, and she was the 2019 Feature Writer of the Year in the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards and has twice earned first place for wine writing in the Association of Food Journalist Awards Kelli is the Director of Education at Pacific Union Company Prior to her current role, she was the Senior Staff Writer for the educational nonprofit, GuildSomm, and before that worked as sommelier for nearly a decade between New York City and Napa Valley In 2015, she published her first book, the acclaimed Napa Valley, Then and Now. And she recently contributed to the latest edition of Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine She’s also won two Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Awards Right now Elaine, I’ll turn it over to you Yay! I’m so excited to do this today. Yay Thank you to both of you for making time, things have been kind a little chaotic this last week. So I really appreciate you both being here. Thank you for that I want to go ahead and address some questions that I know people have before we get started with the discussion, you know we have an international audience, and people have been really wondering how California is doing and how things are going with the fires. So I want to go ahead and address that briefly, right away in the beginning. And so thankfully, the fires around the state have gotten really good containment in the last week and week and a half, and so they are subsiding. There is still some smoke in some areas. But people have been able to return home the different evacuation areas have been reduced simply to warnings, or been removed from evacuation status altogether, which is great The really important thing to remember about the fires is that California is a very big state, and while multiple areas were affected by fires, a lot of the state actually was not affected by fires at all And so 2020 is going to be a really interesting and varied vintage I spent a lot of time talking to different producers in the last couple of weeks, and I actually went out and watched harvest in a few places. And the amazing thing is that fruit quality

is actually incredibly good this year. So there’s the potential for some really good wines to come out of 2020 In areas affected by it, people are aware of smoke exposure But all of the producers I spoke to were being very intentional and purposeful about that. A lot of people are taking small samples before deciding to harvest in order to check if there’s any smoke exposure impact on wine. So while different people will have to make decisions around the question of smoke exposure, people are being very purposeful about it. And a lot of people also are working with UC Davis researchers in order to facilitate greater knowledge around the impact of smoke as well. So in the long term, we’re going to gain a lot of insight on on the subject. So I just wanted to kind of give people a quick overview on how things are going Again people are able to return home in in most of the state now, which is which is really good news. So I just wanted to address that at the beginning because we have a great opportunity to have a really interesting conversation with Kelli and Esther today, and so I want us to be able to go ahead and focus on that So again, Kelli and Esther, thank you. It’s an especially busy time of year so to have both of you here is really exciting You’re both people I love seeing in person when the opportunity arises, so to get to have you both on screen is wonderful Thanks for having us! Yeah, thanks Elaine, this is really fun So you know what the three of us talked about addressing today is really very simply like the state of California wine, and the future of California wine. And the three of us have this really interesting sort of jogged perspective, KellI, you arrived here in 2010, I got here in 2012, and Esther you arrived in 2015, and so we each came at kind of different periods of evolution over the last decade plus. And and the three of us also have spent so much time really in in-depth discussion and contact with producers all over the state as well. So we all three have very in-depth insight into the state of wine here in California, yet also work in very different ways. And so I’m excited to see how this discussion goes, and I really want to treat it more as a round table rather than just an interview. So feel free to you know pester each other as well But the thing we decided to start with, we’re actually one of the wines that we’re going to talk about today is White Rock Vineyards, they’re Clarets. And White Rock of course is a second generation winery, it’s been in Napa for a good amount of time now And Kelli, you know you’re uniquely positioned, you wrote an entire book on on Napa Valley, you worked you know in Press Restaurant, and created an incredibly deep cellar of Napa Valley wines And now again, have seen sort of how it’s moving forward. And that that puts us in a really great position to start with just the question of you know, what’s the future of luxury wine? Napa is very much associated with that idea of luxury, it’s not the only thing it does But you you know just to get us started, let’s go ahead and begin there What’s the future of Napa Valley? How has it changed since you arrived? And how do you see that question, the future of luxury wine? Well, I think first of all that’s a very intense question. So thanks for starting out gently. But I will say that you know a lot of that depends on how you define luxury wine, right? I think in Napa, probably most people when they think about Napa and luxury wine, they’re thinking about you know expensive Cabernet Sauvignon right, like above $100 bottle, retail, right. So let’s talk about that first And you know that’s been really interesting because in the last five or so years, you know there’s been an increasing amount of media attention on the generational kind of handover in wine to the millennial generation, to younger drinkers, and the changing drinking patterns that that’s kind of bringing.And a lot of that media coverage I think has been like borderline hysterical, right. Like the there’s they’re killing you know what they’re killing, Napa Cabernet, they’re killing this, they’re killing that, no alcohol, low alcohol, and then some other like more important stuff to like a a better focus on more sustainable farming, a better focus on like fair labor practices, etc stuff like that. So how does that impact Napa Valley’s kind of super premium Cabernet landscape? I think the important thing to remember about Napa Valley, is that even though there is kind of an outsized attention on the wines, right there is really very little wine coming out of Napa Valley when you measure it. And especially when you start dialing into like the premium Cabernet sector right. Napa is considered planted out at 45,000 acres like

that’s not a particularly big region And it’s probably not going to grow from there And it’s just a small amount of wine, it’s you know less than around one percent of California’s wine output right. I’m sorry, four percent of California’s wine output. So it’s a small amount of wine. So in that sense, that kind of isolates it a little bit, from some of these larger movements So that’s one thing, and then the other thing is that I think that we have a dependency in general, to oversimplify trends and things right And so when when we have, and I include myself, have talked about the new generation of wine drinkers and certain millennial trends, like we talk about millennials as if they’re one thing this like completely homogenous group of drinkers, with all the same priorities which are you know what wellness, natural wine, you know we sort of associated certain categories with that generation. When you know there’s hardcore capitalist millennials, you know there’s millionaire millennials is a thing, you know especially in the bay area And you know there is a lot of younger interest in that super premium category of wine still, and so you know I’m not particularly doom and gloom about it. I don’t think that necessarily means that people in Napa aren’t paying attention, and adjusting practices, and trying to you know respond and understand these forces that are changed. But I also don’t think anybody’s particularly scared Right, well and Napa has really actually done quite a bit of work in terms of evolving our thinking around sustainability, and increasing like salmon safe measures, and looking at regen, you know helping to develop regenerative agriculture and viticulture as well. And also you know healthcare programs for vineyard workers. So Napa’s actually done quite a lot to help with these different practices that you’re referencing You know but Esther you’ve actually, I mean you’ve written on this and like even in your first year or two there at San Francisco Chronicle, right away you sort of tackled the Napa versus you know versus other aspects of California in that question. And so how you know in the time you’ve been here, how have you seen this sort of perspective evolve? Well I think there’s, I mean you know, I think one very concrete way we can see it evolve is the focus among Napa Valley luxury wineries on kind of experiential visitor stuff And it’s not just confined to Napa but, it seems like more and more there’s this sense of people really want to be up close and personal. They want to know who the winery is and I think that’s a real departure from a previous era where there was a bit more of a wall, and a bit more of an air of mystery around some of the more luxurious high-end exclusive wines. And I think there’s like a hunger to know now. AId i mean we live in this era where we’re kind of over exposed to each other. I mean especially now and I think there’s, I mean I don’t think that the kind of luxury tier of California or Napa wine is going away either, but I think there is like going to be a different kind of mood to the way people want to interact with those kinds of brands Well, I agree with that, oh sorry Elaine, go ahead. No, please, please I do agree with that. I think you know in the previous generation and even kind of when I first got here, that lingering mystique of like the you know the house on the hill that you can’t you don’t have the gate code for, you know you want to get on the mailing list and like that’s sufficient Now there’s the more of a driver for intimacy, so I agree like it’s been interesting to see that shift to more experiential based you know interactions with consumers here in Napa. But I think you know that’s driven in part, in my opinion, by consumer interest and the generational kind of shift. But I also think it’s driven by the financial realities of running a successful winery in California in that you know it’s more and more important for wineries to sell direct to consumer. And the best way to do that is you know through a lot of times through wine tourism, and you know getting people in your yard. So you know part of it I’m sure is like listening to trends and reading the Nielsen Reports and understanding that that’s what consumers are looking for now. But I also think it’s just a financial reality of balancing wines and distribution with the need to cultivate you know more robust DTC programming just to just to make it pencil. Well and that’s something that’s emerged you know Kelli, in the time that you’ve been here. You know after the global financial crisis in 2008, the entire wine industry, and especially in California, really pivoted to that Direct To Consumer, in person, you know that it really took

off at at that point And that’s something I you know you know a girl is asking to, how have we seen kind of the pandemic impacting these kinds of questions around experience and direct sales? And you know one of the things I’ve seen is wineries that have a mixed model where they are doing a lot of direct to consumer, restaurant, and also retail. It’s been been hard because they’re you know at least one of those is impacted. But it’s also kind of spread out. Their potential for stability too. But how are you know, how are you both seeing wineries respond to sort of the current situation this year? Well, I mean first of all, I think it has been a lot harder for high-end wineries, that’s my sense, largely because they depend on restaurant sales in a lot of cases. And then of course, the kind of DTC model is so dependent on tasting rooms in a lot of cases, and people actually coming But one thing, I and we know that off-premise retail wine sales have been booming during covid. Maybe not as much now as they were kind of at the beginning of it back in March, but the winners of that are often not the really high-end wineries, they’re the the larger volume wineries that have a bigger presence in supermarkets, etc. But I think, I mean I don’t know what is you know how wineries really have adapted so far. I think this is like a moment when wineries are having to begin a kind of longer process of adapting in the long run, to e-commerce and I mean at the beginning of this pandemic, we were quoting figures from Rob McMillan about how for the average small California winery, I think online e-commerce sales represent only about three percent of revenue, and that’s just so different from the way everyone else buys everything these days I mean like the way we buy things in general in our lives has completely transformed in the last decade. And it feels like the wine industry is still catching up to that in a major way I think there’s also, I mean we can bring it back to White Rock for a minute, and like they make the perfect kind of case study in like how their business has evolved to address all of these things. And that you know I was speaking to Christopher this morning actually, and he was saying that as they’ve grown their DTC sales over the last decade. They had to hire a full-time hospitality person because he and his father could no longer accommodate you know 15 tours a week or whatever. And then when the pandemics started in April, he said they hired a full-time phone person, which I think is so wonderfully old-school. I’m imagining like a lady with a switch board to call all of their customers and have a friendly conversation. You know obviously the goal is ultimately selling wine, but also just to check in and you know keep the connection going over the phone which you know that’s that’s a new position, but like it that’s how they’ve decided to respond to this. And I think it’s kind of both brilliant and and old school which is cool. Well it speaks quite a bit though too, to what you were just saying Esther about people wanting that more direct contact And you know I know one of the recent studies that came out from or the the study’s still being done, but they released some of the data one of the current MW students did a lot of polling with wineries and wine club membership. And the greatest retention with wine club members was in wineries that actually instigate contact beyond just the regular shipments you know Which once it said it’s sort of an obvious point, but the thing is that’s a new situation People wanting more contact with who they buy products from and specifically wine too. But let’s go ahead and talk about, and taste the the White Rock, The Claret. This is one of you know it’s a favorite wine of mine But it’s also in my mind it’s an interesting example of California wine and thinking about what do we mean by Bordeaux blends here in the state Because there’s a way in which even just the name, implies sort of a throwback to another time. But it’s a style in my mind that’s kind of re-emerged in popularity and interest. It’s kind of re-inspired a lot of new winemakers. But Kelli, go ahead and talk to us about you know why did you select this wine? Yeah, so I mean we had in our kind of pre-conversation we were talking about you know ways for the kind of youthful drinker to engage with Napa Valley. And I think that this is a great great example of a wine that really should check a lot of boxes for our kind of imaginary millennial drinker You know and their priorities that we’ve assigned to them And so I thought it would be an interesting wine to talk about

And also I think one of the things that all three of us have written about, commented on, and certainly discussed previously, that part of the future of California wine is very much mining from its own past. And so not only is this a historic winery, and a historic wine name, but they’re doing a lot of kind of pre-technology stuff here, that I think really resonates with, certainly resonated with me when I first got to Napa Valley. And I think even perhaps more so people get drinkers younger than me So Claret is an interesting word that we could probably have an entire seminar just on the evolution of that term, and wines that have been bottled under that name But here, it’s an obvious reference to as Elaine intimated, the Bordeaux blend, this particular vintage goes one step further. And this was also just a field blend, a single pick single tank field blend. And Christopher prides the winemaker, Christopher Vandendriessche prides himself on being like a blending winemaker. He says he really enjoys blending, he makes his best wines through blending. But this year, they have a relatively small vineyard, kind of picked what was ripe all in the same day, put it in a tank and then just weren’t able to improve upon it from there, through more blending. So left it as is The other thing that’s really cool about this wine, is that it changes from year to year. So I also have the 17 here, and you know while this 16 that we’re trying is legally Cabernet Sauvignon, it could put that on the label because in California you have to have a minimum of 75 percent of the grape variety and it’s what 83, 86 The 17 is only 51 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, and so it’s also really kind of a harkening back to the point of a Bordeaux blend, in that you know in the beginning which was almost like responding to the strengths and weaknesses of a given vintage you know How did the Merlot perform that year, is it more or less of a presence in the blend? You know how was the you know was there shatter in the Cabernet? And instead of kind of forcing the wine to have a consistent product vintage for the market, and forcing it to conform to these kind of artificially imposed legal standards They just let this like wind flights freak flag every year and like be what it is. And it’s also not that expensive So and that’s like a real, I think you know cost of wine in Napa Valley is a real like, that’s like the thing. We need to keep talking about, it’s a definitely a barrier of entry for a lot of drinkers, especially younger drinkers This wine retails for $54, I think And they haven’t really raised the price much since they’ve been making it, since the 70’s. So I mean it’s, there’s a lot to love in this wine It’s also delicious, you know mostly native yeast, you know all that good stuff like very, ver,y very responsible farming, you know minus certifications but you know no pesticides, no herbicides, all that stuff. Family-run winery, small production, like all of the boxes you know are getting checked for these young drinkers and it’s great It has you know it has I think a lot to offer. And it’s very well made Well, and Christopher, you know we’re featuring the 16, but Christopher is kind enough to give us the 17 as well. And that it’s super fun to taste them side by side, because they’re actually quite different The thing I love about the 16, which I think is true of the vintage in general for Cabernet, is it’s so detailed. And but in a very elegant, easy sort of way. You know like there’s all this detail But it’s you know one of the other changes I’ve seen I think the evolution in California is you know red wines and varieties like Cabernet, people have you know learned tannin management in a different way. And so wines are more approachable younger, but it’s not that they’re being made to be soft. It’s just that people understand how to work with the tannin a way that retains age ability, and yet makes it more drinkable young And I really see that in both of these vintages of White Rock as well. Yeah, I will say actually you know we could talk about, I don’t want to get take things into crazy direction, but we could also just spend a lot of time talking about tannin and evolution in the time that I’ve been here, because you know I think there is like this kind of new interest in like strong tannins. And not that these wines have that, but sometimes the White Rock wines do. And you know tannin is something that kind of people were trying to deny around here in Cabernet Sauvignon in the early 2000’s and make that really approachable style And now kind of tannins back in fashion andIi think that’s just a great a great thing in general. And also great for these wines, and I have history with these wines, and these wines age really well And I think part of that is just the quality wine making. Part of it is the natural balance, but part of it is also

that they’re not over ripening the tannins, they’re in you know they’re knit into the wine There’s kind of a rustic quality to this, it’s not a super polished wine, and the tannins like are you know a little bit chewy. I know it’s not really a mountain vineyard but it’s on this kind of it’s in the hills. And there’s also like a sweetness to the fruit, I mean it’s not kind of it’s not an austere wine, it feels kind of generous in its fruit expression, and that feels a little old-school to me too Yeah Yeah, it just feels like a really honest wine to me. And the you know the soils are really shallow there like you’re saying Esther, it’s on a slope. And so the soils are pretty shallow and so they get plenty of concentration in the wine. But you know part of what’s come out in this discussion too, is just you know one of the challenges California has internationally is the price question. And you know Kelli you and I have spent a lot of time kind of talking about California wine in other parts of the world, and around the country as well And this is a question I get asked a lot, well like you know these other places in the world are less expensive. US wines tend to be more expensive. It’s not just California But I actually intentionally decided for my wine pick today I was going to pick a wine that totally goes against that point and stands up at the same time. And so for the second wine I chose J. Lohr Valdiguié from Monterey. And you know one of the questions that came in earlier was if we could talk about kind of less discussed areas and varieties of California. And I think that you know that Valdiguié hits that point. And also really gets at you know another aspect of what I think all three of us have agreed has really been emerging as just a lot more interest in less discussed varieties. But the thing about Valdiguié I find so fun is that it’s actually been here all along. It’s another case of California is like rediscovering what it has already You know and so but I just think this is like a reliably solid wine, super drinkable, really fun. But Esther this is also, your first time trying this particular wine. So I’m excited to hear your thoughts on it and just that idea of you know wine from Monterey, $10 price point, which a lot of people think doesn’t happen here, but really producers in California are more and more aware of creating wines that are more affordable That’s a great $10 wine. I mean that’s a great wine, but it’s kind of incredible that that’s a $10 wine It’s I mean it’s like it’s very, it’s just kind of fresh and energetic It’s super fruity But in this kind of really beautiful way. I mean I think when I think of $10 wines, I think of them often as being , well there’s often, I mean they can be really fruity, but in a kind of candied or excessively ripe way And this is like just, you could, this is really fun. This is a fun wine. It’s really cheerful You taste it you know That’s crazy. It’s my first time tasting it too I didn’t realize. Yeah, no this is a favorite go-to for me just because again it’s Valdiguié. A lot of people don’t even know what that is. But it’s been increasing in popularity and interest you know. We’ve had it in California like I said all you know all the way back so to speak But until the end of the 80’s we thought it was Gamay We’d kind of made a mistake and it and then an ampelographer from France came to visit, and he’s walking vineyards, and it’s like oh you have Valdiguié here, how unusual. And we’re like no, no it’s Gamay No, no it’s valde, you know. So it’s a great example of how California’s kind of rediscovering what it has already. And one of the things I’m interested in hearing about you know from both of you too, is I think California is in this really beautiful, interesting place in its own evolution, in that we have done enough now that we can look to ourselves for inspiration And I want to be really careful in how I say that because I think that we could mistake that as meaning, we don’t need to look elsewhere. And I’m saying no, it’s absolutely essential for our own continued development that we keep looking to the world of wines, and seeing our relationship to other regions But at the same time, we have such a profound history, that we can actually be inspired by our our own you know accomplishments in the state as well. And I feel like the Valdiguié is an example of that. Monterey has been

one of the backbones of the state for a very long time. And J. Lohr you know multi-generational, think family owned winery as well there in Monterey Well I think, oh sorry, go ahead Esther Well Elaine, what’s the history of Valdiguié in Monterey? We associate it much more with Napa and areas around. Yeah, so my understanding is Valdiguié really was throughout the state. But kind of to the northern part of the central coast. It didn’t quite get, it didn’t really get into the southern part of the Central Coast or Southern California But it, and so there’s this whole history of association with Napa Valley because people were trying to make Beaujolais-inspired wines from Napa Valley. And so they called it Napa Gamay But actually there’s been Valdiguié all the way down into, as far as Paso And so it’s been in Monterey, but I mean like you’re saying the history of association is very much north coast, more but there’s a lot of old vine Valdiguié throughout Sonoma County as well There’s a tiny bit in Mendocino Yeah and then Napa, Solano and then J. Lohr is really kind of leading the charge with it in Monterey at this point But it’s just such an I mean it’s such an example like you’re both saying of like friendly, delicious, lovely wine. And I’ve been able to use this wine in seminars around the US, but also with people in from other countries. And this is the wine, that every single time they want to know what it is, they get they’re stunned when they find out what it is, and then they really can’t believe it when they find out the price You know because it just over delivers Eell, one thing I think is so cool is this is a style of wine that I think feels kind of trendy and new, it’s light, it’s got this real kind of like crunchy bright fruit to it. And the variety seems like it’s kind of following in this kind of craze for Beaujolais-style wines that we’re experiencing now. But there’s nothing new about this wine, J. Lohr’s been making it for quite a while, like totally blind to any trends that may have existed, and this style of wine has just been around here for a really long time I also I think the point that you made about kind of California not necessarily needing to measure itself against you know classic wine regions of the world specifically, Europe anymore is something worth dwelling on because you know I know that it’s it’s interesting. It’s like that still I think compulsive comparison to Europe was really important when California was kind of establishing its identity right. You’re like okay, this is the reference, so we’re going to form ourselves in let’s say France’s model right Napa becomes Bordeaux, Sonoma becomes Burgundy, you know Paso is the Rhone, maybe the Sierra Foothills is Languedoc, and then we sort of like you know derive some like you know some information from that modeling But that can also be extremely limiting too. I remember when I was buying wine at Press and I would have producers come to taste on wines all the time and I remember constantly getting frustrated at producers being like this is my Burgundian style Chardonnay. And it’s like well, what does that mean because it could either mean this is my lower alcohol style of Chardonnay, it could mean this was my oak age Chardonnay, it could sometimes mean this is my less oaky Chardonnay, you know it was just a completely undefined term and it was distracting and not giving any information. And I think that you know I’ll keep, you still see that at people that like package their Merlot as like a right bank you know wine, and things like that And that’s fine, there’s information there But like Elaine, like you said, you know I think it’s okay for wines to be just Californian in reference. And that there is a lot of value there, and you know we have that formative influence, and it’s okay now to just like look inward and figure out what’s here and derive strength and identity from that In the last, you know the last several years especially, the thing I’ve seen more and more in doing interviews with producers is when I ask them you know what are your inspirations? What you know, where did you you know, how did you come to arrive at this style, it’s more and more often that people are referencing other California producers that have really pushed their thinking about what’s possible here You know, and they’ll, a lot of top producers will also mention oh you know my first love was such and such international wine. But when they talk about in a more tactile way about well how did they come to understand how to they want to make their own wine? They’re actually referencing other California producers that have kind of

shown them what’s possible. You know and that kind of, but for me, it’s really exciting to see because it’s a very different stage of creative evolution from thinking you don’t need anyone else, you only need your own region, or your own your own wine. You know that’s more of a sort of a closed sort of view that makes it harder to evolve. But what we’re talking about is this moment where, we’re aware of a global influence, but also the sort of work being done here is so substantial people are just naturally being inspired by each other, right here in California. It’s almost like a maturity arc, that’s like you can put in a metaphor context of a single person it’s like you’re so influenced by your parents growing up, and then you get out and you’re into college and you’re really influenced by your friends and your professors, and then at a certain age, you know you’re able to kind of pick and choose from those influences, but also like know yourself a little bit more. I mean it’s just it feels like a natural not to sound condescending, but it feels like a natural kind of point in the evolution of California wine that feels exciting. Yeah So Esther. There’s no better segue to Petite Syrah from that Well and so Esther, this is a wine that you selected Yeah and I see that Scott, the winemaker, is in the, Oh hi, this wine is Mountain Tides Petite Syrah, California Appalachian And just as luck would have it, my story about this wine label went online this morning So you can all go read that at sf chronicle.com/wine But I think Petite Syrah is such a cool California story because it’s essentially a grape variety that doesn’t really have a meaningful lived experience anywhere other than California. And it’s been part of California viticulture for you know almost as long as as almost any vinifera grape has been grown here But it’s really taken a long time for it to come into its own I think and a lot of people I think associate Petite Syrah with a kind of monstrous, you know just kind of aggressive wine that attacks your palate And I think even lovers of that style of Petite Syrah know that they’ve long been an underdog in it Many producers formed a organization called P.S. I love you, to try to you know promote the great variety and kind of celebrate its beauty And so what Mountain Tides is doing is making Petite Syrahs. They make single vineyard Petite Syrahs from a lot of different vineyards, and kind of are taking this terroir focused view of it. But then they make this I think great value, twenty dollar California Appalachian blend of several of the different vineyards It’s kind of a galage versus a a crew you know single vineyard model And I think this wine, I think it expresses a lot of the kind of exuberance and energy of the Valdiguié, although certainly it’s a kind of more substantial and structured wine like that I don’t think it’s denying its identity as Petite Syrah, I think it’s kind of embracing that rustic, chewy, dense quality. But I also think this is a Petite Syrah that I can get really excited about, and that feels like it has some finesse to it, and isn’t just kind of a monolith. One of the really important early lessons I got in coming to know California wine over the years is two kind of two different experiences one with Tegan Passalacqua, who of course makes wines for Turley and his own Sandlands, but then also tasting with Paul Draper at Ridge You know Turley works with one of you know I would argue one of the really important vineyards in the state because old genuinely old vine Petite Syrah in St. Helena, Napa Valley area And then Ridge has worked with Petite Syrah you know since the 70’s from also from kind of mountainside Napa Valley, and now Sonoma County as well. And the thing that I experienced with both of them was tasting older Petite Syrah And there’s a way in which I didn’t understand what Petite Syrah is as a variety until I got to have it aged. And I think of it as if the baby fat melts off you know So 10, 15, 20 years in it’s like the baby fat melts off and suddenly all of these gorgeous floral aromatics and really live

elegant wine emerges. And when I realized that’s consistently what happens with Petite, i started wondering well, who can show that when it’s young? Is it that it can’t show it when it’s young, or is it that it’s a stylistic choice now that obscures that. And the thing that I like about what Mountain Tides is doing is there’s a way in which capturing and preserving those aromatics, those floral elements, seems to me integral to the project you know This is beautiful. Yeah, I think it is a very floral wine Someone in the chat is mentioning its genetic parents are Syrah and Peloursin And I think there’s that kind of Syrah, violet purple flower thing going on here I will say, I agree with Elaine, some of my favorite kind of older wines when we were building the cellar at Press were old Petite Syrahs, you know especially like the Ridge, what were they called, Devils? Well Yorkville Highlands. Yeah the main ones. Yeah, but anyway. Yorkville. Yeah from the 70’s Were beautiful, beautiful, and they just don’t budge. I mean this is a great variety that has I think probably could have so much intensity and density that it just doesn’t budge. They live forever, and they’re very inexpensive if you follow auction markets or the secondary markets at all. One they’re typically like an afterthought, very inexpensive, and there is like zero chance of fake wine No risk. They’re not going to be counterfeit you mean? No risk of counterfeit Old Petite Syrah I love it from a cultural perspective too because Esther like you were just saying, you know Petite Syrah really developed its character and found out what it is and who it is, here in California. You know it was made as an intentional cross in France, but didn’t really take off there And the growing conditions in California suit it quite well. And it’s now actually, there’s a significant planting of it in Israel, and then in Australia it does well, but under its original name Durif You know so it’s now emerging in other areas, but there’s you know, we talk about Zinfandel as the iconic California variety, but I actually think Petite Syrah arguably is really California’s wine at the same time you know It’s just a difference in volume. I agree and you know when you think about what would have made it an attractive grape variety to plant in the late 1900’s, excuse me, late 1800’s, early 20th century You know it’s those same qualities the kind of the structure, the firmness of the tannins, the intense color. I mean it’s just the kind of wine that girds itself And it’s like it you know now we’re kind of rediscovering the beauty in that. It wasn’t just like a kind of survival technique but that those wines actually there’s a kind of grace to that. And I love that I mean, I love old, old vines, and grape varieties that have been around for a long time. And the kind of history you can lift from seeing how these vineyards were planted and what they’ve done. But I just think it’s another really cool example of California as you put it Kelli mining its own history and finding a way forward. The other thing about this wine though too is and I was saying this to Kelli yesterday that in my mind now is the first time in wine that we could have a California Appellated wine So a multi-regional blend, and have it be taken seriously. I think that’s a really important shift that’s happened in kind of general wine thinking. That there’s been a history for decades now of assuming that the best wines in the world are single-variety, single vineyard And so there is an assumption that if it was a a wine was a multi-regional blend, the quality was lower When that clearly is not necessarily true. But I think that it’s taken until now, for there to be kind of room in sort of the wine public so to speak, for us to see no this is a California Appellated wine, It’s actually made from Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa, Lodi, Sierra Foothills fruit, and it’s a gorgeous wine. And the advantage of having that multi-regional approach is you can it’s a little bit easier to make it more affordable too. So again a $20 bottle of wine. But I’m curious to hear you know your thoughts on that, that shift in perspective from assuming single variety or single vineyard is sort of paramount to now, we’re seeing you know less lesser known varieties, lesser known regions, and also

multi-regional blends emerging and being taken seriously at the same time Well I think, sorry Esther, did you want to? Go for it, go for it I mean I think that in some ways for like again, thinking about premium, premium wines you know having a tie to a specific piece of land is still an important kind of part of that story and like having a single variety well that’s just sort of you know what California has historically done, well or has done in modern history But there’s something very kind of aristocratic about terroir right. And putting terroir at the front and center of the story, putting the land in the front instead of the story, like it’s a great it’s a beautiful like earthy experience, but it’s also aristocratic, like some terroirs are better than others right. And so there’s something like really kind of excitingly like democratic or like socialist about these multi-regional blends and I think you know I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re seeing a a renewed interest in that from a quality lens while retaining value, at a time when we’re experiencing those kind of same conversations in the political sphere of our life I feel like wine and wine trends are intimately tied in like political and socio-economical trends and we don’t spend enough time thinking about that, but to me these feel like we can Yeah I mean I think too some of the emergence of that happening more and more is out of financial necessity for the winemakers A lot of you know upstart winemakers can’t afford marquee, single vineyards and can’t often afford certain grape varieties that now the fruit costs have kind of ballooned and certainly in certain regions. So I mean I think there’s been kind of a forced creativity to a lot of the kind of satellite regions that have been overlooked. And I think it’s that’s to the consumer’s benefit that we’re seeing kind of new types of wines and certainly that are being made in this really, with a real eye to value. Elaine, do you think that there’s any kind of um synergy between this kind of what feels like to me an opening up of the wine industry to include like wine products, right which is still obviously like niche, but like blue wine, or you know it can be kind of like newish wine products that like where we’re starting to it feels like be more open to the idea of moving away from like the single vineyard, single thing, in like these bigger ways Is that having an influence do you think on these multi-regional? Well I think, I don’t know, that you mean there’s also gold fleck wine, which I just think is incredibly, it’s so what a bold move. You know, like I’m gonna put gold leaf in the bottle and it’ll float around, like I just you know that’s a very different kind of creativity you know, blue wine and other different kind of creativity In my mind, like I don’t think that blue wine or gold wine are influencing multi-regional blends as much as the public is opening up to what wine can be And I actually think the wine industry needs to be really careful and how it approaches this. Because the truth is that a lot of the wine code nasality to put it that way, like there’s a lot of people that, not producers, but people that talk about wine, so like the three of us right. Like we’re people that we sort of, we are in wine, but by talking about it, and keeping in contact with what’s going on, and sharing the news so to speak A lot of people in our kind of role, end up taking a very protectionist role, and act against these crazy, you know like hello kitty wine, or blue wine you know But I think actually wine needs to take a lesson that if wine wants to survive and and do well, it needs to allow a semi-permeable membrane. It needs to allow these kinds of creativity of exploration you know So multi-regional wine is sort of a soft example, in the sense that it’s still clearly wine right. But my point is that I think if we want to expand the audience for wine, which we clearly need to do to support sales. We need to be willing to allow that there’s going to be crazy, weird wine styles that emerge, and crazy weird wine experiments We don’t have to drink them, but we also shouldn’t be shaming other people for wanting to try them I like to try and balance the two sides of my personality a lot right. So I have this like 20-year career and like you know fine wine, luxury wine and and then I have you know I come from a family that doesn’t drink wine, that doesn’t have a lot of money, that doesn’t

have a lot of resources, and like I always try to when I feel myself wanting to pull in this like protectionist as you said direction and really be more kind of rigid and what I view as what both wine and fine wine. I try to lean the other way deliberately, and my mother you know her favorite wine is a sparkling pineapple wine that she buys at Trader Joe’s, I’m pretty sure it’s under $10 It’s her favorite wine and my husband makes wine, so it’s like really you know we have to pay attention to this wine. And what am I going to do, tell her that she’s wrong? You know that her tastes don’t count, that her impulses are bad. I mean and I’ve tried it and it’s delicious It’s very like enjoyable, you know it’s not you know nobody’s going to write a poem about it. But it’s you know it is interesting. And I think that you know we, like Elaine said, I think what you said is so important, like we have to be careful, we have to stop telling people that they’re wrong You know and open our arms wider and expand the conversation. I think this is the problem that we’re in with, you know the kind of old guard, wine community, you know poo pooing natural wine all the time, that’s what’s turned it into such a like you know punk badge of honor is because you know there’s so many people just being like well I don’t know. Well that’s a great way to you know make yourself irrelevant and to to you know shut down people’s interests when you know that interest could evolve in a direction eventually that you’re more approving of I don’t know. Well and I want to be clear too that there’s plenty of obscure high-end wines I love drinking and I absolutely support. Like I’m in no way speaking against single vineyard wines, or single-variety wines or you know I’m just saying like we need to allow people to have their own views you know And I think you know, I think the wine industry has inadvertently kind of made it itself obscure by taking a bit of an elitist tone you know historically. And that’s one of the things that I think is shifting that I’m really happy about Like it’s possible to be insatiably curious, super intelligent, and still really approachable and inclusive You know and I think that’s something that we’re seeing shift in wine. The wine conversation is expanding, and with that we’re seeing a parallel in wine styles expanding as well And you know, Eric Asimov is on the call right now as well, and one of the comments he made is like, it’s so great we’re seeing these multi-regional blends emerging. You know again with Mountain Tides, part of how they’re able to support the single vineyard Petite Syrahs is by also making this multi-regional Petite Syrah you know which it’s a little easier to sell. And you know brings together wine from across the state. But the point Eric was making was you know there’s a little bit of multi-vintage wine emerging too. I don’t see as much of that, but there’s a tiny bit. There’s a tiny bit of that too and I think as as we look at climate change and sort of vintage variation that’s something we should be open to producers using as a solution as well Yeah, I mean I think there has to be some kind of loosening of like what makes a great wine is that it’s single vineyard, single vintage, you know single variety. I mean, there’s many exceptions to that even at the high end in California. I mean I think Kelli what you’re saying about the the kind of hostile relationship that somehow got established between natural wine and the rest of the wine world, is a perfect example of like a tension that doesn’t really, I think necessarily need to be there It’s like somehow someone’s drawn a line and said like this is one thing and this is another thing I mean I think the to me blue wine and gold fleck wine are a bit like novelty flash in the pans, but I think the the more kind of permanent threat or let’s say long lasting threat is like the hard seltzer world, and even all the kind of adjacent products the canned cocktails, canned wine spritzers, and I mean to be clear, I don’t think those have to be a threat to wine, but I think there’s this kind of sense of like well that’s not real wine, that’s like this fake thing. I mean natural wine producers are making things you know grape beverages that I think a lot of people you know in some cases wouldn’t consider real wine at all. So I mean it does just feel like this is the way to drive yourself into, the way to alienate the millennial generation right. To kind of close yourself off to any kind of loosening of the definition of what you are It’s also, go ahead. No you go ahead. Well I just was going to say

you know but I think you know Kelli implicitly already made the point that it’s not just about millennials, her mom loves pineapple wine right. And the other big piece of the wine industry is hospitality and service. And surely if our job is to serve the broader community, then that means bringing them what they love, even if that’s pineapple wine right You know so in that sense, it wouldn’t seem openness and responsiveness is fundamental to hospitality, which the wine industry is built on right. And so it’s not just about millennials, it’s about the broader audience as a whole. Yeah and how inhospitable wine hospitality can be, sometimes is I think one of the most maddening things to witness you know. But what I was going to say is that I’m so inspired by this conversation, and when we are done here, I’m going to make some phone calls and I’m going to make a single vineyard canned wine seltzer It’s going to be amazing and you guys can we can film this next year on my yard Awesome. Exactly. Well sorry, we only have a couple minutes left, so I want to hear you from each of you like what are you really excited about going forward? You know what have we not addressed, or maybe only mentioned briefly, but that you’re that really is actually getting you excited for wine going forward? Esther you start I don’t know. If there’s one thing i’m excited about, I’m excited for us to all transition out of this covid stage And I’m excited for the wine world to to kind of continue to modernize But generally, I think everything I taste these days from California, I mean there’s a there’s a higher percentage of wines now that I’m excited about even I think than there was when I started. I think five years ago, there was a real, I mean we’re talking about these kind of rifts, I think back then the rift was like between like the wines that thought of themselves as balanced versus not. Yeah And I feel like that is like hardly part of the conversation anymore and I’m excited by that. I think there’s kind of a I just think where there’s that specific brand of antagonism has eased a little bit and I taste so many California wines that have a beautiful sense of balance and structure and that seem like they’re going to be long-lived. But I also taste a lot of wines that are reveling in being short-lived and kind of young, easy drinking. And I’m really excited by those So I think we’re in a good, we’re in a good moment overall. We had, we had Jamie Goode, in July, and he and I were talking about that tension you just referenced, sort of the in pursuit of balance tension that was really strong when you got here Esther, like you got here in the last year IPOB was hosted. And the thing that actually struck me was based on the comments and questions coming in and during that discussion, I had to explain what IPOB was You know we’re it’s only been five years but actually the wine industry doesn’t necessarily know what IPOB was, But that that was a moment that changed the conversation and shifted how people were thinking about wine. And I take it part of your point too is that you know natural wine is has had that kind of effect in a different way and but actually, hard seltzer which we you know think of as outside of wine it’s actually affecting how we think about wine too, and what we think we should be doing moving forward you know Definitely, I think the you know one of the great lessons of hard seltzer is the I mean I think it’s, Kelli you talked about this earlier, but if you didn’t realize before that people are kind of concerned with this wellness aspect of what they drink, hard seltzer really drives that point home in a powerful way Whether or not it’s actually a wellness or should be considered a wellness beverage, so I mean I think there’s a lot of of lessons to learn there. And I think the kind of wine industry at large needs to learn a lot of lessons about the way they talk about their wines from the natural wine movement too Yeah. I would agree with that For me I would say the things that I’m excited about going for I’ll split it in two, and talk about Napa and Non-Napa Since I would say in Napa what I’m excited to see, and obviously this isn’t universal right, but I would say that what I’m excited to see in this kind of bastion of single vineyard, single variety, premium wines What I witness as an increased respect for the voice of the land We use, I’m starting to see a lot of top, top brands, expensive brands, where you know maybe the single vineyard was there as like a booster to the story, but the story was the brand right. Or

maybe the story was the winemaker, now doing more sensitive farming, kind of less interventionist wine making, less like oppressive like use of oak and ripeness and things, and just a more refined product at the top end of of the tier here And then outside of Napa, I’m just excited by the growth I’m seeing in small businesses like around and I hope you know with the pandemic and everything that a lot of these people are able to survive. But you know when I was traveling around the state for GuildSomm doing classes on like Monterey and Mendocino and things like that, and this it’s interesting how like the financial hardships and increasing difficulties of farming grapes, and making wine, and selling wine has like forced more vertical integration. And so you’re seeing like where like a place like Monterey is a perfect example, where it was dominated by big growers who were also like came to wine grapes out of produce maybe, then were selling the grapes, and they started making their own wine, and then you started seeing a proliferation of tasting rooms that were able to survive because there was a rise in local wine tourism outside of Napa, Sonoma, of San Francisco going down to Monterey, you know or people going up to Lake County or whatever. This rise in small family vertically integrated businesses all up and down the state making really interesting wines. That’s been thrilling to see and that has really swelled in the last 10 years. And I just hope to god that these businesses can survive What about you Elaine? Well and it gets at a question that came up earlier that we weren’t able to directly address, but just the point that that sort of model also depends on the success of surrounding businesses like restaurants, places to stay, you know Tourism is tourism right. So it’s not just the wine, it’s actually this the health of the surrounding community and the things that take care of you when you’re traveling you know And that’s one of the challenges people are facing right now as well. But I again, I’m so thrilled we could three of us could get together and have this conversation Vivian in the comments called it spicy. It didn’t occur to me we were being spicy, but that’s okay I’ll take it But again, you know thanks so much to both of you for making time to do this it’s always really good to see both of you. And I really hope that the wine industry will keep having more conversations like this You know I think what’s unique about the work each of us do is we talk to lots of people And I think the more conversations the wine industry can do getting together people that talk to lots of people, and seeing like what’s going on You know and kind of building those conversations. I’m excited to see those kinds of topics continue to build so we can really think about you know where are things headed, where are we now, and where have we been in wine. Elaine, thank you for this whole series. It’s really, amazing. People are loving it, you’re so good at what you do Thank you for being a guiding light And thank you Esther, you’re awesome too. Well I echo that Elaine, what Kelli said. And it’s such a pleasure to be here and you know I mean we’re not seeing the faces of all of you, but I see your comments popping up and it feels so nice to have that engagement with all of you, so thank you Great, thanks so much. Thank you Esther, thank you Kelli, thank you Elaine And we just thank all our attendees for participating today. A recording of today’s webinar will be published to the California Wine Institute’s youtube channel in the next couple of days Ad all participants will receive an email with the link excuse me. So remember you can access all of the previous Behind the Wines episodes on the youtube channel