For today’s #WineWednesday chat, we were lucky enough to catch up with Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard . Founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Haas, the vineyard sits in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles and was chosen for its limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain—its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape. All seems to be going well in Las Tablas as evidenced by Robert Parker’s August 2010 Wine Advocate reviews in which he awarded 17 Tablas Creek wines 90 points or higher.
JK: Although many of us are familiar with Tablas Creek, can you provide a little background on who you are and why you have such a great focus on sustainability?
JH: Tablas Creek Vineyard is an estate winery in Paso Robles, California … we are committed to making wines that reflect the place in which they’re grown. And the less that we put onto our vineyard from the outside, the more they’ll draw from the soils and climate they have surrounding them. Vineyards are also long-term investments. Grapevines live for up to 100 years, and don’t produce their best fruit until they’re 30 years old or more. So it’s particularly important that they be farmed sustainably if you hope to reap the full rewards of the work you’ve put in. Finally, this is where we live and work ourselves. Knowing that we’re not exposing ourselves and the people we work with to chemicals day after day is great.
As the third interview with California wine luminaries we were fortunate enough to track down Charlie Barra, owner and grape grower for BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards.
JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards and you?
CB: I grew up in a vineyard starting at a very young age. My family emigrated from Italy in 1906, so when they arrived in the Redwood Valley area of Northern California (where my vineyards are today) they began farming grapes as they had in Europe. So I was fortunate to be able to learn farming from my father Antonio and my grandfather, Guiseppe. And in Europe, they did not use chemicals in the vineyard, so it was a natural progression for me to adopt this approach when farming my own vineyards.
JK: What was your first job?
CB: I will be 84 years old this December and my first, and only job, has been grape farming. As a child, I even got a pair of pruning shears for Christmas one year!
Cedar Mountain Winery combines the creative interests of Linda and Earl Ault wine food and art. Earl is an accomplished sculptor watercolorist and large format photographer. Linda is a recognized amateur gourmet chef. Together they manage the farming activities and operate the winery. Earl is the winemaker. The Aults believe that quality wines begin with the grapes in the vineyard. They specialize primarily in Livermore grown and produced wines.
JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on who you are, why you care about sustainability and what you’re doing?
LA: Earl has been on the Board of Directors for the Wine Institute for many, many years (we are the smallest winery on the board). We have been practicing their Sustainable Winegrowing Practices for both the winery and the vineyard since they published the guide in 2002. The self-assessment workbook/guide is aliving document that is frequently updated. To us sustainability means a minimum impact on the environment. Why spray insecticide when lady bugs and soap will do (and the soap bio-degrades to fertilizer). Weeds in the vineyard are OK – they harbor pests that would be on the grapes. Disking the weed into the vineyard wipes out one generation of pests and adds compost to the vineyard at the same time. As for the winery, Cedar Mountain Winery is the only certified green winery in Alameda County. To be certified we had to pass audits in the following areas: solid waste reduction and recycling, energy conservation, water conservation and pollution prevention. And we must show improvements every year in order to maintain our certification. This past year we took out all of the water hungry landscaping in front of the winery, donated the plants to the local college for their plant sale and put in drought resistant, native California plants. After this year we won’t have to water them. We also put in a tankless water heater in the winery in order to use less water. Our gammajet washer, for washing barrels and tanks, takes only a fraction of the water we used to use. As we said before Sustainability means Minimum Impact on the Environment. I could go on forever on this subject.
As the second interview with California wine luminaries we were fortunate enough to track down Dave Guffy of The Hess Collection in Mount Veeder, Napa.
JK: Although Hess Collection needs little introduction, can you provide readers with a little background on who you are?
DG: For the past 11 years I’ve been the winemaker for The Hess Collection, which is located in a historic winery high atop Mount Veeder in Napa Valley. Donald Hess established his first Mount Veeder vineyard in 1978, and today, we farm about 1,034 acres, all sustainably, with 704 acres of that total in Napa Valley.
I recently became involved with Toast Wine Lounge, a start-up wine bar in my new neighborhood (did everyone catch that disclaimer…). The founders, Heather and Kristen, have so much going for them and their business plan that’s its hard to single out what really caught my eye. That said, there was one thing that really stuck out: In addition to selling t-shirts and pre-purchase punch cards, Toast is raising start-up capital by selling memberships:
We need YOUR help! In the past, when someone needed help building something useful, such as a barn, the local community got together and built it. Once built, everyone would celebrate by sharing a meal under the new roof. We seek to build TOAST in the same manner. Help us Raise Our Barn! Your participation by purchasing wine glass punch cards, toast-tees or better yet a membership is all it takes to open the doors to TOAST. We are certain we will reach our goal and that one day soon we will all sit back and celebrate our collective accomplishment by enjoying a glass of wine in an inspired setting.
There are a range of member benefits, depending on the investment level, but they include things like complimentary tickets to winemaker dinners, a TOAST email address and calling cards with a “Founder” title, vouchers for glasses of wine, priority seating at the Melchior table (reserved for members only) and ‘serious celebrity status when you visit Toast.’
Welcome to VineCrowd. Stay tuned as we build out the next great adventure in sourcing wine.