There just isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do; visit all the Wineries, see all the incredibly beautiful places, eat at all the terrific restaurants, and taste all the wines you want to taste!
As I stated in the Day One article, I could have every minute taken up with appointments if I chose too. But that wasn’t what my lovely bride Margie and I wanted to do on day two. We both have been burning the candle at both ends the last several months at our jobs, and we needed some Margie & Terry time. We wanted to just let it happen as it came with a two basic starting points:
Start in the City of Healdsburg, Sonoma County
Spend time together talking, laughing, meeting people, and making memories
We awoke on Saturday morning at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotelin Santa Rosa needing coffee really bad. While the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country is comfortable and in a great location for Sonoma, I have to say the hotel needs a serious renovation. They do offer a full service restaurant, large rooms, and amenities such as wine tastings in the evening. However the rooms look like they were decorated in 1980. And the pool was completely torn apart and we had to listen to the workers refinishing the pool. But… we don’t spend a lot of time in our rooms; we basically sleep there and go, go, go! I personally prefer the newer Marriot Courtyard for my money.
We dressed, had coffee and a light breakfast at the hotel and back to our room to get ready for the day. We decided to drive to Healdsburg Square, park the car, and just discover the town. We arrived about 11:00 AM. After parking we strolled around dipping inside the many shops lined around the square, as Margie dearly loves to shop. I think it is something in women’s DNA. I am convinced that the word “SALE” works as a pheromone that draws women into a store, where they can nearly always find something “cute”! Along with clothes, you will find terrific restaurants, candy shops, bakeries with lots of goodies, ice cream shops, and lots of places with home and kitchen goods..
I really did not mind walking around the shops, because about every 4-5 shops it seems is a wine producer sampling their wines. Well, it would be rude not to do a tasting right? We first stopped for a tasting at Roadhouse Winery tucked away in the corner of the square.
I have to tell you I was a little hesitant at first, but also intrigued as well because I am currently on my Pinot Noir kick. Plus I really liked the label. The young men inside were laughing, joking around, and NOT taking much very serious…except their pinot noir. This they were very serious and enthusiastic about the product. And they should have been because the Pinot Noir that they were pouring was great! In fact I bought 4 bottles and brought them back to Texas.
Next was an ice cream break at Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie. With a great selection of delicious deserts to temp you! And anyone that really knows me understands I love my ice cream as much as my wine.
On around the square for more shopping and wine tastings. We enjoyed the wines at Portalupi Wines so much we bought a glass each and sat down to chat and sip the terrific wine and decide our next move!
Remember, we had very little agenda upfront and decided to just let the day come to us. So we decided since we love the Dry Creek AVA so much; let’s drop the top on the convertable and go discover!
First stop is one of our favorite places in Sonoma; Dry Creek General Store. Established in 1881, the Dry Creek General Store is a very historic and unique establishment that is still to this day a local hangout. They offer great crafted sandwiches, soups, salads, and local gifts. We have a a tradition of buying coffee cups every time we stop to remind us of our great times in the valley. You can get a great sandwich or salad made to order, then head to the gardens or on the front stoop to enjoys with the locals. Many times we will load up on picnic supplies and head over to one of the local wineries to picnic. Regardless this is a MUST STOP when in the area!
After a great sandwich, and wine out of our new coffee mugs, we are off to explore!
Feeling adventurous we just took a road and drove, looking and exploring until we ran upon a small winery by the name of Zichichi Family Vineyard.
There was a small sign out front that got my attention: “Wine Enthusiast 95 Points”
Now we were WAY off the beaten path, but what the heck? Let’s check it out. We were extremely surprised and pleased.
A little history of Zichichi:
In 2000 a New Orleans Physician Steve Zichichi and his wife Kristen purchased the 22 acres in Dry Creek Valley. 14 acres of zinfandel and 4 acres of petit sirah, all planted in 1928 and 1964 by the previous Bartolozzi Ranch. After several years of selling grapes to local wineries, the Zichichi’s built their own winery in 2006. They now produce an Estate Zinfandel, an Old Vine Zinfandel, A Cabernet Sauvignon, a Petite Sirah, and an incredible Sauvignon Blanc that blew me away!
In fact, we loved the Sauvignon Blanc so much that we bought a case and shipped it to Texas, where we almost immediately drank every bottle and wished we had bought 2 cases! I am on the very short member list now, and have already bought the next vintage. They are very unique in that they sell out most of their wines to members every year, usually within 3 months.
We were taken to the back for barrel samples of the upcoming vintages of Old Vine Zinfandel and this was quite impressive. You can really see how well the wines have been made, and the promise to come in a few years. We will stop in again next trip to the area.
After driving around the wondrous beauty of Dry Creek and Russian River Valley, we headed back to the room to rest up, then clean up for dinner. I made dinner reservations at Willi’s Wine Barin Santa Rosa. Margie and I had visited, and loved the original Willi’s Wine Bar in Paris, and in fact have artwork in our entryway of our home from the famous establishment in Paris. While I understood already that they were not affiliated, I was still intrigued.
While Willi’s Wine Bar was almost nothing like the Paris version, it was a very nice wine country restaurant, lots of character, and a very impressive wine list.
We like to arrive before our reservations and sit at the bar. We meet a lot of wonderful Bartenders and staff, as well as the patrons at the bar. We enjoyed a terrific bottle of Black Kitty Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard that was a suggestion of the Bartender. It was nicely perfumed with aromas of raspberry, violets, chocolate, and somewhat earthy. Chew tannins, and black cherry bursting in our mouth. Delicious Pinot Noir! We had a wonderful time at dinner, food was very good, and I would suggest it when in Santa Rosa.
The next day was pack up and go home day. I carry with me a great packable wine shipper called “Wine Check”. It holds 12 bottles of wine in Styrofoam, covered by a very sturdy box, and then covered by a padded heavy duty vinyl cover. It has a removable strap and wheels on one end for easy transport. It weights 45-48 lbs full and you can check it as luggage on the plane!
I always bring back a nice booty of wine to enjoy!
Margie and I had a short, but incredible time in Wine Country. I hope this article helps you plan your next trip. If you ever want me to assist you with where to go taste wine, great places to eat, and beautiful places to visit feel free to email me. I would be happy to help you with suggestions.
Just keep in mind:
A Weekend in Wine Country is Never Enough!
Thank you again for reading the ramblings of a Texas Wineaux!
(Please leave a comment,good or bad, because I need the feedback.)
Although the Wine Country is a great getaway and incredibly beautiful; 2 days in California Wine Country is just not enough. Especially if you are half a continent away from California in Dallas, Texas and you spend much of your valuable time in an airport, on an airplane, or trying to get a rental car!
My beautiful wife Margie was going to be in Oakland and Sacramento on business back in March, so I decided that would be the PERFECT excuse to take a day off and spend the weekend together in my personal Mecca; Napa and Sonoma! So I set up a few appointments for winery visits on the first day day and left the last day wide open to do whatever came to mind.
You can imagine I have a multitude of connections in the wine industry, and get offers to visit and write about my experiences on a regular basis. So I could have scheduled 4-5 winery visits per day and had every minute of our two days booked.But I really needed a nice relaxing and romantic weekend with my beautiful wife more than I needed to visit new wineries.
Margie is a Director of a large hair care products distributor, and lots of travel is just part of her job description. And the beginning of a New Year always brings on even more travel (to get the New Year started), so she has been away from home more than usual. Spending really quality time with each other was very high on our list.
SO…I only scheduled TWO (yes you read right, two) winery visits for the trip!
I flew into Oakland on Thursday, landing about Noon and rented a convertible Mustang. I then drove “topless” to Sacramento to pick Margie up at her hotel. She had just finished meeting with her clients in the early afternoon, and they were begging her to go to happy hour to celebrate a successful meeting. She politely said no, offering that I was picking her up and we were going to Wine Country for a fun weekend!
My wife is absolutely my best friend in the world, and we have an incredible marriage. We have so much fun together, sometimes doing absolutly nothing but making the best of our time making each other laugh.
I am a lucky man indeed!
The first night we decided to head over to Healdsburg for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in Sonoma Valley; BarnDiva. Located on Center Street in Healdsburg, it is an eclectic blend of different modern and old barn decor, with an ever changing menu. The bar scene is terrific and hip at night, and the Patio and area out back is calm, artistic, and relaxing during the day. The food is always creative, delicious, and ever changing according to the season. If you go you have to try the goat cheese croquettes with Wildflower Honey and Lavender is is incredible!!!
We enjoyed a perfect 2009 Simmonet-Febvre Vaillons 1ér Cru Chabliswith our dinner that was outstanding.
The next morning I had a 9:30 appointment with Jeff Mangahas, Winemaker at the legendary Williams Selyem Wineryin Russian River, Sonoma Valley. Jeff was gracious and accommodating with his time. You can read more and the actual interview with Jeff in my previous post in March. It is times like these that I dearly love what I do, as I feel very humbled to have had this opportunity to interview and spend time just visiting and talking wine with Jeff. We loved the behind the scenes stories as well that can only be told by the winemaker!
Our next appointment wasn’t until 2:30 but it was across the mountain range in St Helena, Napa Valley. For those of you that have driven from Santa Rosa to Napa Valley know there is a mountain range between the two valleys. So as the crow flies it isn’t that far. But to drive you have 2 choices;
1. Go south on Hwy 101 and go around Southern Sonoma down and come up along the highway 121 to Scenic Hwy 29 where all the wineries are located just North of the City of Napa (BORING).
2. From Santa Rosa in Sonoma Valley head east along Calistoga Road, across the mountains to Petrified Forest Road to Calistoga. This is the scenic route! If you can ALWAYS take this route because it is so beautiful and so “Northern California”.
Calistoga, CA is a beautiful place to stay, taste wine, have lunch or dinner, shop, and just spend time! We had about 2 hours to kill before our next appointment at Fantesca, so we stopped and had lunch outside at Calistoga Kitchenon Cedar St. Very quaint and full of character. Great food, and we were so impressed with the owner and Chef Rick Wankel. Margie and I split a terrific BLT with duck egg and it was incredible! The bacon was localy sourced thick cut, smoked to perfection, and very meaty! We split a County Line Mixed Green Salad, and enjoyed a bottle of 2012 Cakebread Cellars Napa Chardonnay (that matched perfectly) and we were in heaven! The owner Rick explained his food is ingredients driven, featuring local growers, purveyors, and wines. If you are in the area I highly suggest a visit and tell them the Terry Hill the Texas Wineaux sent you!
When I took my Sommelier class at Texas Sommelier Conference(TEXSOM) many years ago, Master Sommelier DLynn Proctorassisted in our instructions and blind tastings, and I have kept contact with him over the years. You may know DLynn from the movie “SOMM”.Dlynn had suggested a few wineries to vist that were “unknown gems” in Napa. I chose Fantesca Winery from his suggestion and it was terrific. Fantesca was an extremely interesting story.
Susan and Duane Hoff were working for Best Buy, and decided they wanted to be in the wine business. So they bought 53 acres with 10 planted to vines in Napa Valley. The property was originally part of Caroline Bale’s dowry when she married Charles Krug, and the vineyards dated back to the 1860’s. After Phylloxera epidemic of the 1900’s and then Prohibition in the 1920’s the vineyard was allowed to go back to native forest for more than 70 years! The vineyard was replanted in 1997 with only 10 acres.
Susan Hoff is the real heart and soul of Fantesca, and she recruited the legendary winemaker Heidi Barrettto be the Winemaker. If you are not familiar with Heidi Barrett; she gained legendary status at Dalle Valle by creating powerful Cabs including the famous “Maya” cult cab that received two perfect 100-pt scores from Robert Parker. She then was hired by Screaming Eagle and AGAIN received two perfect 100-pt scores from Parker! This is a legendary name in Napa and she married well too. You may know Heidi’s husband Bo Barrettand Father-in-Law Jim Barrettof Chateau Montelena and the famousJudgment of Paris and the movie Bottle Shock.
We had a personal tasting of available wines, a barrel tasting, and a tour of the facilities including the Cave. The Cave was an old silver mine in Spring Mountain, and it holds the barrels for aging at a perfect 58-F.
The 2012 King Richard Reserve Russian River Pinot Noir and the 2012 Russian River Sonoma County Chardonnay were all that was available for tasting, and both were quite impressive. We left with few bottles of each, and we are looking forward to sharing these incredible Heidi Barrett wines soon! I will have tasting notes at that time.
Next stop was the iconic and legendary Chateau Montelena!I This is the historic winery that bested the French Burgundy in the famous Judgement of Paris! I have been all over Sonoma and Napa Valley and never visited in the past, so a quick visit of the beautiful property so full of history was a “must stop”. We strolled around the beautiful grounds longer than we did tasting wine because I know how incredible these Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are already because Margie and I often drink them at home.
We headed South on Hwy 29, and even though I knew it was getting late in the day I always have to stop at one of my favorite wineries; Peju Province Wineryin the mecca for Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. We stopped in for a quick tasting! Then back in the car to visit my very special friend Carrie at Napa Valley Wine and Cigarin the city of Napa!
Stopping to see Carrie is ALWAYS a MUST STOP for me when in Napa!
She is such a sweetheart, and she has an absolutely phenomenal selection of wines and cigars for all your hedonistic needs. If you tell her I sent you and ask very nicely, she will take you to the back room and the “special stash” of wines. I have bought some great wines from her over the years because she is on everyone’s wine lists, and has the wines in stock when no one else does!
Looking for a Harlan Estates or Screaming Eagle? She has it! How about a Dalle Valle or Saxum’s James Berry Vineyard? She has it!
Pick up a great stogie while you are there too!
We were exhausted after a long day in paradise, so we had a simple dinner and an early night getting ready for the next day!
Check back soon for Day-2 where we have NO SCHEDULE and we improvise the entire day!
Jeff Manghas took over as Winemaker early 2015 at the iconic Williams-Selyem Wineryafter 3 years as the Assistant Winemaker working under the legendary Bob Cabral.
Jeff Mangahas has big shoes to fill at Williams-Selyem Winery
Because Bob Cabral is a living legend in wine… world wide
In 2007 Wine Enthusiast awarded Bob’s Litton Estate Pinot Noir a perfect 100 points. It is the first Pinot Noir in North America given 100 points by any major wine publication. Then in 2011 he was awarded Winemaker of the Year for 2011by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Bob follows fellow past honorees Genevieve Janssensof Robert Mondavi Winery (2010), Scott McLeodof Rubicon Estate & Francis Ford Coppola (2009), Margo Van Staaveren of Chateau St. Jean (2008), Carlo Ferrini of Italy (2007), and Olivier Humbrecht of Domain Zind-Humbrecht, France (2006).
As I said; Big shoes to fill.
Jeff Mangahas joined Williams Selyem from his position as Winemaker at Hartford Court, where he oversaw all aspects of winemaking for the ultra-premium Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel producer. Jeff received his Master’s in Enology from UC Davis, in addition to his B.A. in Molecular Biology from the University of Washington. He began his winemaking career as a cellar hand at Artesa Winery prior to becoming the assistant to Dan Goldfield at Dutton Goldfield Winery, digging into the world of cool-climate Pinot wine growing. Then he was on to the role of Winemaker at Hartford Family Winery, specializing in Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.
So when he stepped down as Winemaker at Hartford Court to Assistant Winemaker at Williams-Selyem you had to read between the lines that he was being groomed to take over for Bob Cabral someday.
Not a bad move if you ask me…
So when I sat down to interview Jeff Mangahas back in March 2015, I was excited and curious how the transition and passing of the torch was going. Jeff was very gracious, well spoken, and is a terrific spokesman for this iconic winery.
Terry: Bob Cabral helped define the style that is Williams-Selyem, and in the process achieved legendary status, not only in California but the world. These are big shoes to fill. How will you deviate if any from this style, and how will you make these wines your own?
Jeff: The realility is Burt Williams was the first Winemaker at Williams-Selyem and a lot of his philosophy… and we will take a tour and take a look at the tanks here, but Bert put in place the process that is Williams-Selyem. He sourced the best grapes throughout the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, sites of uniqueness, sites that have expressiveness that speak volumes about the process we have here at Williams-Selyem. Bob studied under Burt, and I studied under Bob. So the reality is the process is pretty much identical. Not to say we don’t do things a little bit differently, because we do. But the philosophy stays the same that Burt instituted.
Terry: How long did you work under Bob?
Jeff: I started in 2011, so it was a number of years, three years or so. So this process; down to the barrels and the same cooper, the same house toast that Burt used when he started the winery in 1981. Same barrels that Bob used, and the same barrels that I use today. The fermentation tanks that we use are really very unique. We use these dairy tanks so they are very non traditional. You think of tanks as round, upright tanks. Ours are horizontal and actually used dairy tanks that have the ideal ratio of skin to juice that really allow us to define our style. And whether you go from Burt to Bob to me, it is that wonderful texture which I’m sure you understand. And that is largely due to how we make our wines in these tanks. Most of our wines are in that 13.5 to 13.8% alc range. Coupled with the way that we make the wines, it makes for freshness and acidity that allows for longevity and elegance. There is something about what we do that has a unique texture. I mean I can always pick our wines out of a blind tasting.
Terry: So can I.
Jeff: Exactly, there is a signature to that. So to partly answer the question ‘what have I changed’? I really haven’t changed anything.
Terry: As my grandfather used to say ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
Jeff: Exactly, obviously we as winemakers are always going to have these small differences, but it never deviates from the philosophy of what Burt did.
Terry: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the primary varietals of Williams-Selyem, both were originated in Burgundy France. Although the terroir is obvioulsly different, in fact worlds apart. What can you tell me about how the wines of William-Selyem are similar and how are they completely different?
Jeff: It’s kind of a difficult question to answer because obviously the varietals are the same and the spirit of the wines are the same. But the climate is so different, and we make a little bit of zinfandel as well. But mostly pinot noir and a tiny bit of chardonnay. Arguably those two varieties express the site very well. Obviously we have very different soil types here, more of a sandy kind of loam. In Burgundy it is more of limestone rich. Our heat units are a lot more consistent here in this region. So it is almost impossible to make those comparisons because we are making unique wines, just like they are making unique wines in Burgundy. Or in Oregon, as they are making unique wines because the soils are so different. What I love about what we do is we make 25 different pinot noirs on average, and about 19 of these are vineyard designate. And if one were to taste all those wines side by side you would find transparency in the sight. It is the nature of pinot noir. It translates that sense of place very well. And our wine making style is geared towards highlighting that sense of place in that we do. Everything exactly the same across all vineyard sights and each individual blocks. Same kind of tanks, same kind of barrels, so when you are tasting the wines the uniqueness and expression of the flavor profile really becomes apparent. It is just hard to compare. The soils are different, the weather is different, more fog here than Burgundy, certainly more than Oregon and that has an impact on preserving acidity. So it’s all pinot noir in spirit. But what everyone has in common with pinot noir is it’s ability to be specific to the sight. I think that is what we all have in common.
Terry: William-Selyem has a rather large portfolio, especially considering your near cult status. Are you making too many wines?
Jeff: I don’t think so, I mean again just being able to go back and taste all the pinot noirs side by side, they are all very unique and different. We are making a small production for each one of those. I think it is great for our customers to have that education level. And we have five different Chardonnays and they seem to enjoy them and continue buying them. So no, I don’t think we are making to many wines.
Terry: As long as the quality is there they will continue buying them.
Terry: How do you assure such quality across the board? Because you do have a very large portfolio.
Jeff: We have a phenomenal team across the board, both in the cellar and the vineyards. We work with great Vineyard Managers from all the vineyards we buy from, and our own Vineyard Manager here is great. But to be sure it isn’t easy. There is a lot of hours and a lot of precision work that goes into that. As much as anything as we start the growing season, and the shoots are a couple of inches at this point, I make regular rounds with the Vineyard Managers, and meeting with all to make sure everything is going as it should.
Terry: How often are you in the field?
Jeff: During the growing season definitely almost every day. Depending on my work on this ranch, then going up to Anderson Valley, then up to a vineyard called Ferrington Vineyard and work with that manager, so every day I’m in a different place. And yes, it’s almost overwhelming but keeping tabs on everything is the key.
Terry: Do you plans for a broader release of wines like a cabernet sauvignon or a sparkling?
Jeff: We do already produce a small amount of sparkling to people that visit the winery only. It is not available on the members list. It’s pinot noir, so it is a blanc de noir that we make. We dabbled in blanc de blanc but we settled on the blanc de noir. I want to say our first vintage was 2003, and it’s only 50-100 cases. Nothing on a commercial scale, it is simply to dabble and when we do events. It’s nice to be able to open a sparkling wine to start the evening. Beyond that no, we are not launching sparkling on a bigger scale. As far as the other varieties, this is Russian River, so we try and stay with what grows well here. Other wise we dabbled in a vineyard that has some limestone near Calera that we made a little Chinon Blanc that was very expressive of the sight. 150 cases, again only wines that are available if you visit the winery.
Terry: Kind of like Blue Bell Ice cream in the South; you “drink all you can and sell the rest”?
Jeff: Ha! Exactly!
Terry: Are you married?
Jeff: Yes I am.
Jeff: One 8-year old little girl.
Terry: I know the hours and commitment it takes to produce arguably some of the finest pinot noir and other varieties in the entire world has got to be very stressful. How do you balance these incredible responsibilities and still have any personal life?
Jeff: It’s difficult at times, but my wife Crystal is incredible supportive. This is my 15th year making wine and I’ve always been committed to work and have family. I’ve always wanted those two things and I am committed. And it is incredible to have someone that is so supportive. That is how I’ve been so successful in my life is that support at home.
Terry: I know it is more hours at different times of the year, sometimes I am sure it is 18 hour days. How many hours per week do you typically work?
Jeff: It is really hard to quantify exactly, I pretty much work as much as I need to get the job done. Sometimes its in the winery, or at events or what have you. Sometimes I do travel, but an average day, even when not in harvest, I usually come in at 6:00 and leave at 6:30. There is a lot to do. And if you are going to meet with someone, you have to prepare for the meeting so you just have to do what needs to be done.
Terry: And I know how precious your time is so I really do appreciate this time you are spending with me.
Jeff: You are very welcome, glad to speak to you.
Terry: Jeff, I have a better than average palate with quite a few bottles of wine at the house. I keep so many bottles because I don’t always know what mood I will be in. Often the mood dictates what I will open. That is why I keep such a broad spectrum of wines on hand, from Burgundy to Napa Valley Cabs and lots of French wines, and everything in between. Even though I write about wines, sometimes it just comes down to “what wine makes me smile”. So what wines make you smile?
Jeff: I enjoy drinking our own wines, and we have a large library of older wines. So I have been able to taste through those after they have benefited from age, and I really enjoy those. Wines can often times be a difficult to describe, and sometimes I don’t actually feel like I need to describe them. You just think; oh my gosh this is great and you know you need to sit down and just enjoy it without putting much thought to it. Example of this; a couple of weekends ago I had the opportunity to drink a 1990 Williams-Selyem. It was 24 years old and still vibrant, fresh and I didn’t feel the need to pick it apart or to decide if the balance was perfect. It was just one of those times that I just enjoyed it, and it gave me a lot of pleasure. This was one of those moments. You know I am a student of the wines of the world and have traveled and I am a fan of Champagne. I love Burgundy, and I have tasted a lot of wines in my career, and even before getting into the wine industry.
Terry: Have you worked overseas?
Jeff: No I’ve never worked anywhere but here in Russian River but I feel like I am a student of the wines of the world because I have traveled to Burgundy, I’ve traveled to Italy, I grew up in Washington State and I’ve tried a lot of wines from Washington and Oregon, and obviously throughout California. I appreciate a great bottle of wine and you can almost taste that handcrafted style in the best wines of the world and those are the wines that I crave.
Terry: I’ve heard it takes a lot of beer to make a great wine. Is that true?
Jeff: Ha! Ha! It is! I actually make beer as well. In my off time I enjoy that, so yes that is absolutly true.
Terry: What kind of beer to you enjoy?
Jeff: I enjoy an IPA on occasion, but mostly I enjoy a softer and maltier beer, like red ales and Scottish ales. Slightly less bitter and are fun and interesting. We certainly have Russian River Brewing Company here in Santa Rosa and I enjoy a Blind Pig or a Pliny every now and then.
Terry: Do you get the Pliney the Younger?
Jeff: Ya know, I haven’t done it in many years. It used to be less popular, now it has become so popular but I just can’t stand in line for it for 3-4 hours. And it is great what they have done with making it so popular, but it just gets to the point with work and family there just isn’t enough time. I would rather be playing with my daughter. As fun as it would be to go try the latest vintage of Pliney, I’d rather be playing with my daughter.
Terry: You are very well known in certain circles, and have gained a certain celebrity status because of your job. Can you walk into a restaurant and people not know who you are?
Jeff: Absolutely. Obviously having lived in this community I know a lot of people, but I like that I have a certain unanimity still. It’s all good.
Terry: And finally, anything new and exciting that my readers should know about that will be coming from Williams-Selyem in the coming year?
Jeff: There are a few vineyards that have come on line in 2011, and working with those Vineyard Managers and Growers heavily for the improved quality. We are always looking for opportunities to improve, that’s how you get better for sure. There are a couple of vineyards that I am really excited about, they are performing really well and as the vines get older. We are looking for consistency. The 2014 vintage that we just finished blending, and so far is a phenomenal vintage, so I am definitely looking forward to that. It will be interesting to see how the ’12, ’13 and ’14 vintages; each super high quality, and hopefully the customers will be able to appreciate that it isn’t just a broken record, that it just isn’t this good all the time. There is a real precision that the ’14 wines have that I am really excited about. Unfortunately those wines will not be released until 2016, but that is definitely something that you can look forward to for sure.
Terry: 2011 was a very challenging vintage. Did you see some of your clientele not taking all of their allocation?
Jeff: No we sold out. It was also below average in terms of quantity. We produced less wine produced in that vintage. We had some issues with flowering because of the bad weather that reduced the crops by 1/3. So in a lot of cases we were down in production by 25-30%. So we sold out.
As I said, I found Jeff very gracious, intelligent, and a with real passion for what he does. More so; a realization how fortunate he is to have the reins of this incredible bastion of World Class Pinot Noir! He definitely knows the challenges he has in front of him and the legacy he is following with Burt Williams and Bob Cabral, but he knows what he is doing I assure you.
I went in to the interview with a certain amount of skepticalism and left with a sense that Williams-Selyem is in very capable hands. I believe that Jeff will keep this iconic winery producing some of the best Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel in the entire world
And I want to thank Jeff for spending so much time with my wife Margie and I (2-1/2 hours). I understand how precious your time is and I cannot express how much we both appreciate everything you did done for us and more importantly the time spent with us.
Congratulations Jeff Mangahas!
Thank you for reading the ramblings of Terry Hill, The TEXAS WINEAUX!
Do you know where your grapes actually came from or what is actually in that bottle of wine you paid top dollar for?
It is date night at home with that special person and you want to make it memoriable.
You pull that very special bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Savignon you bought many years ago that has been on laying on its side in the cellar peacefully for 10+ years. You’ve been saving this incredible wine for just for this type of occation. That “POP” as you carefully pull the cork with precision and decant it in your favorite wide bottom decanter is all part of the antisipation of what is to come! As you decant very slowly to make sure all the sediment stays in the bottle and not in your glass, the excitment is simply palpble.
To add a certain allurement and grandeur, Tonight’s wine is a great exuse to break out the special Riedel Sommeliers Series Bordeaux Grand Cru wine glasses that ONLY come out for your best wines. You clean and polish them to perfection “extra carefully” as to not torque the stems because you know the stem will snap in your hands!
The Prime aged Ribeyes that were hand cut earlier for you have been marinating all day in your special “double-secret marinad” that always brings raves from family and friends. The meat sizzles as you slap them on the hot grill.
Everything is perfect…right?
Do you really know your wine? Are you sure the fruit from cabernet sauvignon wine you paid top dollor for is actually from the Napa Valley region? Is it even 100% cabernet sauvignon, or is it actually a blend of merlot, cab franc, petit verdot or even (god fobid) malbec?
You may be surprised about the answer:
Maybe… but maybe not!
There was a big movement in Texas a few years back to make sure that if a Texas wine says “Texas Wine” on the label, the grapes actually are from Texas! There are a few producers in Texas that have bought, or are still buying bulk juice from other states, including Arizona, New Mexico, or even California. I know this may seem very silly to the novice or naive wine consumer, but nothing could have been farther from the truth.
One of the biggest leaders of this movement for correct labeling wines is a friend of mine. Russ Kane is a Writer, Blogger, and huge proponant of Texas Wines. Russ is known as “Texas Wineslinger”. He was the one that brought this travesty to my attention atTexSomabout 5-6 years ago. Because of Russ (and many others like him) and the dilligence and hard work to get the word out; the laws were changed in Texas.
If wine producers are going to use “Texas” on the label, at least 75% of the fruit must be sourced from Texas.
Be very carefull because some so called Texas Wines will attempt to desguise the bottles. But by Texas Laws they are now required to label them the confusing “Not for sale outside of Texas” in tiny-tiny lettering. So if you want real Texas Wines made from “real Texas Grapes” please carefully read the label!
So is that bottle of wine really what it says it is?
When you shell out $100-$350 and more for a bottle of Rutherford cabernet sauvignon, you trust that the bottle is filled with wine that actually came from cabernet sauvignon grapes that were grown in the heart of California’s Napa Valley and specificaly Rutherford AVA, right? That is normaly the case, but not always!
Jeff Hill, Founder of the Hill Wine Company (no relation) and longtime Napa Vineyard Manager was a serious player in Napa Valley wine scene for many years, and very respected. He worked his way from pest control in a vineyard to a maker of $100+ cabernet sauvignon wines in the prestigous Silverado Trail, a destination for wine aficionados from around the world.
The federal government forced Mr. Hill to cede control of his business on April 23, and Napa County prosecutors have charged him with two felonies, saying that on two occasions in October 2013 he stole grapes that his crew was harvesting for another winemaker and diverted them to his own winery. He is accused of substituting much cheaper merlot and malbec grapes for the much more expensive Napa cabernet sauvignon advertised on his wine labels.
In January, he pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges, and a trial is set to begin April 13. If convicted, he faces up to four years and eight months in prison. Hill Wine has filed for bankruptcy and owes more than $8 million to creditors.
So how do we know what is in the wine and at what percentages? Here are rules for California wines produced in the state:
California Appellation of Origin
Wine labels may contain several types of geographic designations of origin:
Appellations of origin that are the names of states and counties can be used on wine labels under federal law if at least 75% of the grapes come from the named state or county. The remainder of the grapes may come from outside the named state or county.
For wine labeled with an American viticultural area (“AVA”), which is a specific type of appellation of origin established under federal law, at least 85% of the grapes must come from the named AVA (for example “Napa Valley”), while the remainder of the grapes may come from outside of the AVA. That wine must be fully finished in the state in which the AVA is located.
California law requires that 100% of the grapes come from within California for any wine labeled with the appellation of origin California or a geographical subdivision of the state. This is stricter than the federal labeling standard.
So, if you noticed in “B” listed above, if the AVA reads Oakville or Rutherford you could be drinking 15% cabernet sauvignon from Mendocino or Paso Robles, not from your beloved Oakville or Rutherford!
Does this matter to you?
While I do expect that if I am paying for Rutherford Cabernet, or Russian River Pinot Noir, I fully expect to be getting predominantly grapes from those sites and enjoying the terroir that only those sites can produce!
But I personaly do not mind if it is all 100% from the AVA listed on the bottle. I am more concerned in the quality of the wine vs. the cost. Especially if I am paying upwards of $25 per bottle, I expect my wines to be balanced and expressive no matter what the variety of grape.
Wines should be an expression of the soils, with a balance that incorporates all its main components; tannins, acid, sweetness, and alcohol in a manner where no one single component stands out above any other. This is a quality wine.
Thank you again for your taking the time to read the ramblings of a Texas Wineaux! Please take a few moments to leave a comment, and drop by often for new posts.