I’ll Drink to That: Winegrower Mimi Casteel


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Episode 469 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features owner and winegrower Mimi Casteel of the Hope Well Vineyard in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

Mimi Casteel argues that we have lost a connection with our planet’s soil, not just because we often miss out on a meaningful experience of nature in our lives, but also because the very soil itself has changed for the worse. She suggests that we have lost, through poor farming, the mineral-rich topsoil that we need to give nutrients to our crops. Without that topsoil to give it life, our food has less of the nourishing aspects that we assume it has, and our wines are less compelling. Why does she think this, and what steps can be taken to remedy the situation? Mimi addresses those questions at length in this interview, but a theme stretching across all of her statements …

I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker David Ramey


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Episode 468 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features winemaker David Ramey, founder and co-owner of Ramey Wine Cellars and Sidebar Cellars.

David Ramey was a student in the UC Davis enology program during the late 1970s, an era in which that university played host to a number of people who would subsequently become well known names within California wine. John Kongsgaard, Cathy Corison, Richard Ward, Paul Hobbs, Randall Grahm, and many other notables were at Davis around the same years. Like those people, David graduated into a boom time for wine in California, as corporate investments changed the shape of the industry. David would subsequently work at Simi, Matanzas Creek, Chalk Hill, Dominus Estate, and Rudd Estate, and he clearly explains in this interview what he learned at each winery. He also shares what his various trips to Europe contributed to his thinking. Along the …

I’ll Drink to That: Burgundy Vigneron Benjamin Leroux


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Episode 467 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Burgundy vigneron Benjamin Leroux of the winery also named Benjamin Leroux, located in Beaune, France.

Benjamin Leroux began his wine career in 1990 at the age of 15 years old, and took on his first head winemaking job in 1999. In hindsight, it can be said that his winemaking generation was also the generation of climate change. Ben discusses 2003 in this interview, a vintage with unprecendented heat in the summer months. Having recently moved into a new home, Ben had stayed in Burgundy during the customary summer holiday travel time to instead settle into his new place. What he then saw in the vineyards caught him completely by surprise: dark colored grapes and high sugars already in July. Passing a much older vigneron in the vineyard a short time later, the man called out to Ben …

I’ll Drink to That: Winegrower Joe Rochioli, Jr.


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Episode 466 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Joe Rochioli, Jr. of J. Rochioli Vineyards and Winery in the Russian River Valley of California.

Joe Rochioli, Jr. begins this interview talking about how his family grew hops, and ends it by expressing astonishment at the sheer number of vineyards that have been planted in the area around his home. In between is the story of California wine in the second half of the twentieth century, as family farms dedicated to cash crops like beans, apples, and hops were replanted to vines. While that march may appear inevitable in hindsight, Joe suggests that it didn’t seem all that preordained while it was going on. He talks quite a bit about the disagreements that he had with his father and other family members, as they wanted to plant crops that would give quantity, while Joe wanted to …

I’ll Drink to That: The Lifetimes of Russel Hone


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Episode 464 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Russell Hone, who lives and works in Burgundy, France with his wife Becky Wasserman.

Russell Hone has had enough lives for multiple people, with, for instance, his childhood adventures out at night hunting deer in Germany contrasted with the post-war rationing back home in England that meant even simple foods were rare for him. Or his plying of the college circuit, selling wine to Oxford and Cambridge dons while chatting with them about their subjects, versus his time roaming the aisles of city markets, giving out samples of Bulls Blood to anyone who would take them. It has been an up and down life for Russell, and this interview charts both the lows (multiple firings from jobs that just didn’t suit) and the highs (multiple vertical tastings of wines from Leroy and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, among …

I’ll Drink to That: Geologist Brenna Quigley


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Episode 463 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Brenna Quigley, a geologist who works as a consultant in the wine industry.

Brenna Quigley is a geologist focused on “hard rocks”, a specialization that seems slippery at first (aren’t all rocks hard?) but listening to Brenna explain the different family groups of rocks and how they may interact with grape vines provides a quick and informed primer into why this sort of distinction is important. She gives a tour through France’s rock formations in this interview, and explains what wine regions correspond to which rock types. She also breaks down (“breaks down” is an inside joke, as it turns out) the origins of soil, and what different types of soil there are out there. Confused as to why some limestone is Jurassic and some other limestone isn’t? Brenna explains the answer to this as well …

I’ll Drink to That: Winegrower David Hirsch


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Episode 462 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features David Hirsch, the owner of Hirsch Vineyards in the Sonoma Coast of California.

There are several entertaining stories told within this episode, but the one that really makes me laugh – after three listens now – involves a rubber boat, cowboys, barbed wire, and a big batch of Old Crow. At first glance that may seem like a disparate cast of characters for a single story set, but David Hirsch has a knack for weaving a lot of scenery together to convey a place and time. I can say that his ability to cast a binding spell with words is real, because this interview kept drawing me back. If you are late for something you need to get to, do not start listening to this episode: you will not want to stop. If on the other hand …

I’ll Drink to That: Burgundy Winemaker Pierre Morey


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Episode 461 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Pierre Morey, whose family runs Domaine Pierre Morey and the micro-négociant Maison Morey-Blanc, both located in Meursault, within France’s Burgundy region.

Over the course of his career Pierre Morey has worked with and farmed an astonishing roster of top white Burgundy vineyards, encompassing the most famous Meursault Premier Crus (Charmes, Genevrières, and Perrieres), Premier Crus in Puligny-Montrachet (Pucelles, Folatières, Combettes, and Clavoillon), and Grand Crus including Bâtard-Montrachet, Chevalier-Montrachet, and Le Montrachet, the last of which Pierre worked with in two different parts. Pierre, whose family runs a domaine producing distinguished wines from a relatively small amount of vineyard holdings they own themselves, gained experience as a sharecropper for Comtes Lafon in Meursault and as regisseur for Domaine Leflaive, and it was through these roles that he found access to some of the most famed vineyards in the …

I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Joel Peterson


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Episode 460 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Joel Peterson, Founder and Winemaker at Ravenswood winery and the Founder and Winemaker at Once & Future Wine, both in California.

Joel Peterson’s wine career spans the arc of California wine from the 1970s to now, and for him it went from making a few barrels of wine in a shack to later being in charge of a million-case wine facility. In between were encounters with some of the early pioneers of post-WWII California winemaking, people like André Tchelistcheff and Joe Swan, and a key realization that Zinfandel offered a special opportunity for making wine. Joel made the connection that California had a wealth of old-vine Zinfandel, but that those grapes were often vinified into low-end jug wines. He felt that the grape offered more when it was vinified for more potential by the likes of Swan …

I’ll Drink to That: Wine Writer Jasper Morris


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Episode 459 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Jasper Morris. Jasper is the author of the book Inside Burgundy: The Vineyards, the Wine, and the People, and he recently launched the website Jasper Morris Inside Burgundy.

Jasper Morris fell in love with Burgundy over a bottle 66 La Tâche. A notably good choice for an induction into a new stage one’s life. Subsequently he traded in Burgundy at his own import company and then for Berry Bros. & Rudd in the UK. Over the course of many years in the trade Jasper learned quite a few details about the individual Burgundy crus, and his 2010 book Inside Burgundy put down on the page the specifics. This interview finds Jasper reminiscing about his import days, as well as sharing his thoughts about some of the “big topics” of Burgundy today: winemaking trends, vineyard work specifics, …

I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Luis Seabra


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Episode 458 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and it features Luis Seabra. Luis is the proprietor and winemaker at Luis Seabra Vinhos, a winery he founded in 2013 after working for many years at Niepoort. Luis makes wine from both the Douro Valley and Vinho Verde regions of Portugal.

Luis Seabra helped set the stage for a new wave of dry Douro Valley wines while a winemaker at Niepoort, and since 2013 has been doing further groundbreaking work under his own label, Luis Seabra Vinhos. Luis explains the larger progression of winemaking and vineyard work in the Douro Valley over the last 60 years, and his background as a university teacher comes through here in his ability to articulate these topics clearly for the listener. You receive a better knowledge of what Luis is doing today, but also an understanding of the greater region of the Douro …

I’ll Drink to That: Exporter Jeanne-Marie de Champs


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Episode 457 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features Jeanne-Marie de Champs. Jeanne-Marie de Champs is the owner of Domaines et Saveurs Collection, an exporter working with Burgundy and other wines from France.

Jeanne-Marie de Champs uses the phrase “defending” when she describes her work on behalf of the grower producers she represents in the market, and it is a telling admission. Jeanne-Marie sees herself as a protector of these small scale producers, and her work on their behalf as more than a business transaction. She says at one point in the discussion that making money is fine, but that we aren’t placed on Earth just to make money. The sense of a higher purpose that she radiates can be rare within the giant global wine market today, and it serves to highlight how Jeanne-Marie is a special individual. Moving cases can seem all-important within some operations, …

I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Ehren Jordan


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Episode 456 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features Ehren Jordan. Ehren is the proprietor of the Failla winery, and also the Day wine label. This interview discusses Ehren’s increasing interest in working with vineyards in Oregon, in addition to the California vineyards he has been sourcing from for years.

Curious as to why there have been so many vineyard purchases and new winery projects in Oregon in the last few years? Ehren Jordan explains his own decision to work more with Oregon fruit, and in the process illuminates some of the key factors driving the increased growth of the wine industry in that state. Ehren brings some perspective to the conversation that really underpins this discussion, as he can draw upon his own deep knowledge of both Napa and Sonoma counties when it comes to comparing and contrasting the current Oregon scene. Ehren’s ability to explain …

I’ll Drink to That: Burgundy Vigneron Jean-Pierre de Smet


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Episode 455 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features Jean-Pierre de Smet. Jean-Pierre was a co-founder and partner in Domaine de l’Arlot, the winery based in the Nuits-Saint-Georges appellation. Jean-Pierre retired from l’Arlot in 2007, and has since that time been helping his friend Didier Fornerol make the Domaine Didier Fornerol wines, also in France’s Burgundy region.

Jean-Pierre de Smet came to wine almost by chance, on a family visit to an old friend’s home in Morey-Saint-Denis, and stayed with it for the rest of his adult life — in between sailing trips around the world, headlong ski sprints down steep slopes, and bicycle tours of Europe. Jean-Pierre seems to have embraced all of his activities fully, and certainly the wines he made at Domaine de l’Arlot have been recognized as accomplished and pure. This discussion with Jean-Pierre is remarkable for the window it provides on the …

I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Maggie Harrison


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Episode 454 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features an interview with winemaker Maggie Harrison. Maggie is a partner in Antica Terra as well as the winemaker for that winery in Oregon. Maggie also makes the Lillian wines from California fruit.

Maggie Harrison has worked for several years with both California and Oregon fruit. What is the difference between the two? Maggie answers that question, taking up the climate of the areas as well as the respective cultures. It turns out that she sees big contrasts, and also implications for the winemaking. Maggie hones in on her work at the blending table in this interview, and inside her blending approach are many of her thoughts on winemaking in general. She feels that if Oregon offers wide vintage variation that she should respond by blending for attributes and families, rather than huing to a specific vineyard or wine …

I’ll Drink to That: Wine Writer Esther Mobley


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Episode 453 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features an interview with Esther Mobley, wine writer for the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a short span of years Esther Mobley has proven herself to be a capable writer, and her articles for the San Francisco Chronicle have stood out for being not just good wine writing, but good writing in general. In this interview Esther discusses how she goes about her work, what is important to her, and how she sees her work as different from previous wine writing in the Chronicle. Esther also compares what she was doing earlier in her career at the Wine Spectator in New York with her work today in California. She addresses what it can mean to write for a general interest publication within this political climate, and what she feels readers want to find in her work. She also takes up …

I’ll Drink to That: Beaujolais vigneron Louis-Benoit Desvignes


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Episode 452 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features Louis-Benoit Desvignes of Domaine Louis-Claude Desvignes in Morgon, within the Beaujolais area of France. Louis-Benoit works together with his sister Claude-Emmanuelle at the domaine.

Louis-Benoit Desvignes sees an area around him in Beaujolais that benefits from the legacy of the past (he comes from a long family line of grape growers himself), but which may need new answers to changing conditions. Louis-Benoit specifically states in this inteview that his father harvested Morgon differently than he does today because his father was working in a different climate. But that isn’t the only concern Louis-Benoit has under consideration, and indeed what comes across quite clearly in this interview is Louis-Benoit’s engagement with a vast number of different questions. Here is somebody who is actively thinking about each step of the process, from sunlight into wine. Louis-Benoit rejoined his family domaine …

I’ll Drink to That: The Aligoté Thread


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Episode 451 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features a special segment by Erin Scala entitled The Aligoté Thread. It showcases interviews with Fanny Sabre of Domaine Fanny Sabre, Sylvain Pataille of Domaine Sylvain Pataille, Pierre de Benoist of Domaine A. & P. de Villaine, Frédéric Lafarge of Domaine Michel Lafarge, and more.

One of the advantages Burgundy has is that it can meet a drinker at any level. Whether you just want a glass of Pinot, or you would rather study minute differences in terroir expression or vintage character, Burgundy can reward you with what you are searching for. It is a complex whole that can also be easily grasped in parts. One of those parts that is often overlooked is Aligoté. How many times have you heard that red Burgundy is Pinot Noir and white Burgundy is Chardonnay? Well, that is not the whole story, …

I’ll Drink to That: World’s Best Sommelier, Arvid Rosengren


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Episode 449 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features Arvid Rosengren, who is the Wine Director of Legacy Records, the restaurant in Manhattan. Arvid won the World’s Best Sommelier title in 2016.

Arvid Rosengren divulges what it takes to be named the World’s Best Sommelier in competition, and it turns out that is quite a bit. This interview is full of details about Arvid’s rigorous training regime, including specialized computer learning, video analysis of service techniques, endless Skype calls, and consultation with an acting coach. Arvid explains what drove him to take on this challenge, and what it was like performing in front of a televised audience on that day two years ago that he took home the title. Like most of us would experience, there was a fair amount of self-doubt along the way, and one of the strengths of this interview is the openess with …

I’ll Drink to That: Winegrower Lee Hudson


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Episode 448 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently, and features Lee Hudson, the owner of Hudson Ranch and Vineyards, in Carneros, California.

A great bottle of wine is never the result of one person’s work. There is the winemaker, who of course is important. But there is also the barrel cooper, the lab tech, the bottle maker, the cork supplier, the office manager, the distributor, and not at all least, the grape grower. Lee Hudson’s work as a grape grower is a keystone of the success of several famous winery names, and this interview intersects with several other previous I’ll Drink to That! episodes, especially John Kongsgaard’s discussion in IDTT 327. Lee was a pioneer of the Carneros sub-appellation within Napa and Sonoma, but before that he was harvesting in the rain in Burgundy, and this episode captures the whole scope of his career from Texas farmhand to …