“Every region is different. Every grower is different. It's always new out there.”
John's role, as Grower Relations Representative at Coppola Winery, focuses on relations between the grape growers and the winery; which takes time and attention. Vineyards can be growing and selling grapes for on wards of 30 years. Coppola has been with growers for over 10 years.
As with any relationship, the goal is to be honest and open. Coppola Winery fosters ongoing dialogues with vineyard teams about what kind of fruit they are looking for. It's a discussion not a monologue.
“We want both sides to get what they're looking for,” John shared. Winemakers seek premier fruit and a good price per ton of grapes. Growers look for the volume to pricing they need to keep their businesses thriving.
The wine industry is a tight knit community. For John, it's about building and keeping the relationships growing between the winery and growers. In the vineyard, he can be an extra set of eyes and a resource for growers. Not a police. He keeps notes all year long on the health of the field: monitoring weather and bud break. He collaborates with the growers to look at pest management, pruning, vine balance, and fruit yields.
It's about bringing the growers in so they are a part of the winemaking process. Coppola Wines looks for growers they can work with in California, and into Oregon.
Imagine you grow produce for a local restaurant for a living. Once the produce leaves your field, typically, the farmer doesn't have any say on how the produce is cooked, served, or tastes.
But Coppola wines bridges the gap. Their “Grower Feedback Tasting” is a merging of strengths. The Coppola team and grape growers meet for wine tastings to share feedback; from the grapes to the glass.
While typically hands-on and in the soil, John also focuses on the wine industry at large. I had the chance to talk with him at North America's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, and at the national ASEV conference. When not in the field, John keeps tabs on current wine trends and knowledge, as well as the chance to collaborate with wine industry peers.
Fostering relationships makes for a better family, and makes for better wine.
From the soil to the production room, John, and others like him,
play a supporting role in crafting your favorite wines.
A toast to those who build kinship!
A bit of science helps wine enthusiasts find better quality wines. Visit my feature on the ASEV.
Cabrillo Culinary Arts students and Surf City Vintners
join together to get ready for a
food and wine pairing competition.
The D2P celebrates its 10th competition this April 14, 2019!
Cabrillo College Culinary, Hospitality, and Wine students are given a chance to work together and
wow your palate.
In one locale, guests can walk to 8 wineries and enjoy food parings
by emerging culinary students.
Dare to Pair originated as a way to promote Surf City Vintners to the neighborhood. Ten years ago, Barry and Jennifer Jackson of Equinox Wines came up with a game plan based off Iron Chef of Japan. They imagined a wine and food pairing with local students and vintners. People in the community could buy tickets, taste and sip, then vote on their favorite pairing. Since then, the event has taken off.
On a cold and rainy Friday, Surf City winemakers met with the Cabrillo students. A bit like speed dating, the students walked around, tried the different wines, and met the winemakers. Then, they chose a winery to collaborate with.
From there, the winemaker-student teams met up to choose a wine and to discuss the food pairing. The students have to be ready! At the D2P, they will serve over 250 eager food and wine tasters.
Students receive in-the-field training, a chance to meet local winemakers, and a venue to put their talents into action. Prizes are awarded such as knife kits and culinary materials.
In the past, some winning students were even approached for jobs from local restaurateur-judges. One former winner is now an assistant winemaker!
This small collective of family owned wineries on the West Side of Santa Cruz is making a place for our local Culinary, Wine, and Hospitality students. Some even donate their wines to the Cabrillo College student-run restaurant, the Pino Alto (Link.)
Get your taste buds ready. Invite a friend. Buy your tickets online (Link.)
Silver Mountain Vineyards
Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards
Bottle Jack Winery
All proceeds benefit the Cabrillo College Culinary program.
Support the next generation of winemakers, culinary icons, and hospitality pros
Here's to the Wine, Culinary and Hospitality students in the Santa Cruz area!
To get ready for the Dare to Pair, brush up on your Nose & Palate Vocab, here....
This feature is the 2nd of a series, on winemakers and what's ahead for wine in 2019.
Jerold O'Brien of Silver Mountain Vineyards, Los Gatos
From the Summit to Sea, Jerold O'Brien has been crafting
Certified Organic wines for over 38 years.
When convenience was king a few decades ago, Jerold took the high road.
Since the beginning of Silver Mountain Vineyards,
he has been a leader in sustainable vineyard practices.
More important to him—even over selling his wines—is stewardship of the earth.
Jerold attended this year's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento.
In the middle of the big city, his genuine persona and smile shone as he shared with me
about Silver Mountain Winery.
Straddling the Santa Cruz Mountains' Summit, the tasting room, organic vineyards and energy-self-sufficient winemaking site are perched on the ridge. The property offers picnic tables, views, fresh air and nature. It's a calm place to enjoy life, just minutes from the haze of the Silicon Valley.
The "Alloy" is Jerold's signature Bordeaux red wine blend. By far, this is one of my favorite local wines! Comprised of: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdo. The Alloy is always made with these four varietals. Only the percentages change each year to suit the flavor profile Jerold's looking for.
Jerold prefers this Bordeaux blend's subtlety and complexity, vs. a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon which, he shared, can be too big and too heavy. With Cabernet being the front runner in the Alloy blend, I think he's brought out the best of this leaner, mountain grown Cab with the supporting varietals.
For In addition to Chardonnay, Jerold makes a Rose' of Pinot Noir (again, one of my local favorites.) It's crafted in the French Saigne'e Method, which naturally increases the blush Rose' color and strengthens its flavor profile. (For more on Saigne'e, see Wine Folly's article.)
All you canine fans will appreciate Silver Mountain Vineyards' (SMV) dog wines, a line of wines named after the winery's four-pawed companions, Oscar and Spencer. Oscar Wild is a Bordeaux Blend and Spencer's Choice is a Pinot Noir Blend.
While Jerold has been making organic wines for decades, now
more and more Californians and other wine fans are looking for healthier wine options.
The beauty of buying wines from your local vintner is that you can ask questions.
Where were the grapes grown? What farming and production practice are put in place?
A dialogue opens the door to finding wines that suit your style, ecological, and health needs.
And just taste darn good.
Here's to your palate and to organic wines!
For the 1st in my Unified Series, see my chat with Barry Jackson of Equinox Wines, Santa Cruz.
This feature is the first in a series, on winemakers and what's ahead for wine in 2019.
The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium is North America's premier wine gathering.
It's three days of sessions, tastings, and an overview of the State of the Industry. (Link.)
Hosted in Sacramento, it's the place for the wine industry to converge and
discover where the wine world is headed in 2019.
I had the pleasure of chatting with three of our Santa Cruz County winemakers.
Each craft their own wines.
Each came with a wealth of experience, yet, also with an open mind to learn more.
Welcome to the first in a series.
Barry Jackson of Equinox Wines, Santa Cruz
Humble crafters make for some of the best products. Barry Jackson crafts some of the finest Champagne-method sparkling wines in California. Champagne is often equated with a high end, luxury lifestyle. But if you passed Barry on the street, his casual jeans, t-shirt, and understated manner would make him approachable to all.
At events, Barry often hangs out with the caterers and waiters. Even though he makes Champagne, he works hard to maintain a sense of reality, respect, and humility with others.
Generous and hospitable, Barry and Jennifer (his wife) often donate and share their wines at local charity events. Barry makes his own line of still wines, as well as a line of Champagne-method sparkling wines. Personally, I think Equinox sparkling wines are among the best in California. Period.
With California's thirst for exceptional Champagne/sparkling wines, Barry's been sought out for his wine making services. But, he shared, he looks for good business partners. People he wants to work with.
Barry crafts sparkling wines for his tasting room in Santa Cruz, as well as for other wineries. One of his clients, Wente Vineyards in Livermore, makes their own wine, then will have Equinox make a Champagne style sparkling wine for them.
In the wine business, there is a small family entity. In the early 80s, Barry made his wine at the Storrs' winery. And with 40 years of relationships in the wine industry, he now finds himself working on projects with the 2nd and 3rd generations of his first winemaker-peers. He shared, "it's an interesting and somewhat emotional, or moving, aspect."
“The wine industry, as a whole, is mostly in California,” shared Barry. “There's really not that many of us.” Barry started his wine career at Paul Mason decades ago, but he can walk into a winery and often know someone. When his daughter announced she was interested in the wine business, Barry said, “Here's a scrub brush.” Every aspect of the business is important. And “the people she meets in college, she will know for 30 years.”
For him, the Unified was a great networking opportunity. He ran into people he knew from Fresno State 40 years ago. It was also a place to for him to look for bottling equipment.
The next in our Unified Series is Jerold O'Brien of Silver Mountain Winery.
So here's to our local winemakers! Cheers,
For more local tasting rooms, visit my Santa Cruz Wineries page.
At the California/Oregon boarder, the roof on the old barn was painted “Wild Plum Winery.” There was a winery in what seemed to be the middle of no where. Did we stop? Definitely.
After pulling into the Stringer's driveway, we got out of the car. Silence. Stillness. Remote and beautiful. The old red barn door and green carpet of grass pulled us in. Inside the tasting room, owner and winemaker, John Stringer pours his own wines and goods.
The idea of using what the land has to offer appeals to me. For Stringers, the wild plum—not the grape—is the fruit of the region. John crafts the fruit into his own line of products.
Native to the high desert, these cherry looking plums are tart and thrive in the cold, harsh climate, at elevations of 4000-7000 feet. It's a short growing season in the high desert, and the plums are picked in September.
These native plums grow in the wild. The previous owner of the property took graftings of wild plums and planted orchards. Now John uses the estate fruit for his products. Stringer's is a family business. Roy and Joanne pioneered the business in the mid 80s. After their passing in 2013, Stringer's was fully passed onto their son, John, who continues the legacy.
For the Wine:
Wild Plum Wine, Semi-Sweet. This blush colored wine is a heady mixture of sweet and tart flavors. It has enough body to almost be a dessert wine, but is not quite as heavy or sweet. Pair and serve it with food as you would a sweeter Rose'. Or use it in a home-made vinaigrette.
We quickly move onto spirits:
My focus is typically wine. But if you have moderation under your belt, these could be nice to share with friends and family.
In the Bay Area, it's common to have a collection of tasting rooms in one area.
There is camaraderie and it draws tasters in.
But it takes guts, courage, and more than a hint of tenacity to fly solo, like John does, and make
wine from plums in the high remote California desert.
The fruit of each wine region in California offers something special.
Look for Pinot Noir, or cool weather Cabernet Sauvignon from Coastal wine grapes.
Central Valley grapes are the basis for beautiful Zinfandel.
The Foothills are an Eden for numerous varietals of wine.
Here's to your next wine detour, and your jaunt into something courageous!
Looking to try something new? Check out my feature on Canned Wines, portable & packable.
Join me at California Wine