Can a Jackass Improve with Age? A Vertical Tasting of Martinelli's Jackass Hill Zinfandel

Jackass Hill is one of the legendary vineyards of California.  Planted in the 1890s by Giuseppe Martinelli, this is a legacy vineyard of Zinfandel.  One of the oldest in Sonoma, the vineyard is farmed without irrigation or pesticides. 

Called Jackass Hill because "it is so steep that only a jackass would farm it," the wines produced from the vineyard are some of the most sought-after Zinfandels in California.  They are extracted, high-alcohol, expensive, beasts that are in very limited supply. The wines routinely sell for over $160.  If you can find them.

This is normally not a style of wine headed for the cellar and it isn't readily apparent if they will last, improve, or decline with age.  People are buying this wine for the delicious blast of powerful fruit and pleasure of owning a scare luxury item.

So, when I was invited into a back room of the Martinelli winery to taste a vertical of Jackass Hill Zinfandel with the Martinelli family, I knew it would a special moment and a chance to taste some Sonoma Valley history.

Here my notes on the 2014, 2007, 2003, 2002, 2000, 1997, and 1996 vintages.

Here are my tasting notes of a few memorable bottles.  All the wines were of the finest provenance possible, pulled directly from the winery's cellar, and were tasted first by the winemaker to confirm that they were tasting correctly. 

Martinelli 2014 Jackass Hill Zinfandel.  "Tight and intense. Yet perceptibly soft with extreme black fruit. Flavors of charred meat and hickory smoke. Very smooth. Right now this wine is a strange mixture of alcohol burn and smooth mouthfeel.  The genre here reminded me of bourbon, even if the taste did not."  90 points.

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Martinelli 2007 Jackass Hill Zinfandel.  "Luscious with an apricot and jalapeño compote. That is an incredible thing to write in a tasting note, 'tis true, but it is also an incredible thing to taste in a red wine.  It was truly there and obviously so.  The texture is very smooth with red berry jelly with the least perceptive heat from the alcohol of any vintage of JHZ that I've ever tasted."  92 points.

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Martinelli 2003 Jackass Hill Zinfandel.  "Peaches, plums, and apricots in a slow-cooker with dashes of herbs. A crusty char from smoke and heat. Creates a dark delicious goo."  93 points.

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Martinelli 2002 Jackass Hill Zinfandel.  "The Jackass Hill terroir shows through the alcohol with strong apricot aromas and flavors. Also some stone fruit. Sexy and extreme! Incredibly big and incredibly lush. Massive but not ungraceful. Sweet stewed peppers. A finish that recalls apricots on the grill."  95 points.

Martinelli 2000 Jackass Hill Zinfandel.  "Two bottles were both off-putting and funky. Winery representatives considered them flawed. Not enough experience for me to know if this is the end of this vintage's life or if we just got unlucky."  No Rating.

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Martinelli 1997 Jackass Hill Zinfandel.  "Exotic and lush with those aromas that are created when you pour red wine into cooking tomato sauce. Sweet potato cream. Apple pie with cinnamon. Spicy tomatillos and salsa on the finish."  91 points.

Martinelli 1996 Jackass Hill Zinfandel.  "Over the hill at this point, into the funky tomato-paste thing."  83 points.

Some final thoughts on Martinelli Jackass Hill Zinfandel.

These wines are not subtle shrinking violets and if you want to age them, you need to be prepared for some wildly usual flavors.  I absolutely adored the grilled apricot flavors that hit this wine in the 8-14 year age bracket, but at the 20 year mark, I was not a fan of the stewed tomato character. 

It is unlikely that you are going to find old bottles of this on the market.  Most have likely already been consumed.  But if you spot one, and if you want a wild adventure, consider picking up one of my recommendations here.


Keep reading.  More great wine articles here...

5 Things You Need to Know About the 2015 Bordeaux Vintage. (notes from the 2018 Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux Tasting)

Whether making wine or promoting it, nobody does it quite like Bordeaux!  Every year the Union des Grand Cru de Bordeaux sponsors a industry-only wine tasting in major markets around the world.  Some of the world's greatest winemakers travel together, pouring their wines, and introducing the world to a new vintage of Bordeaux.

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The Chicago 2018 tasting at The Drake in January was buzzing with excitement because this year, the vintage was 2015.  In rumor, this was the first truly world-class vintage since 2010 for Bordeaux and the room was thronged with the top buyers in the Midwest.  They wanted to see if this was true.  For the first time, I was lucky to be among them.

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This is the first of a few articles that I'm writing based on this tasting.  There is a lot to say.  Shall we start with a couple quick observations about the 2015 Bordeaux Vintage.

1.  2015 is truly a great vintage ... and an easy vintage to love.

In Bordeaux, great vintages are classified as Vin de Plaisir (wine of pleasure) or Vin de Garde (wine to age.)  Either style can be truly great, but they are truly different.  Vin de Plaisir vintages offer luscious fruit and youthful beauty.  Vin de Garde are firmer, more structured, and mature dramatically with time in the cellar. 

2015 is a Vin de Plaisir.  I don't think I've ever enjoyed Bordeaux in its youth as much as I did these 2015s.  Only the superlative 2009s came close.  This will be a very popular vintage for the sommeliers and restaurants of the world, who crave accessibility and often don't have the time to give the wines decades in the cellar.  I also expect great success in Asia, driving global prices upward again.

2.  Cheap Bordeaux will be amazing in 2015.

"A rising tide raises all boats" is a Bordeaux cliche.  It is also often true.  The quality of the lesser, humble wines was astounding and the quality distance between the cheapest and most expensive wines was far less than normal. 

This is a year to aggressively buy everything you can get your hands on.  You won't be disappointed.  I'll write about some recommendations in future articles.

3.  The White Bordeaux are stunning in 2015.

I started the tasting with some white Bordeaux, thinking ahead to the delicious reds that were in store for me.  Then I stopped, refocused, and realized that the wines in my glass were mind-blowing. 

White Bordeaux vintages do not always move lock-step with the quality of the red wines, but in 2015 they are show-stoppers.  Rich and flavorful with great mouthfeel and pure acidity that never overpowers. 

Most people will ignore the moderate to expensive white Bordeaux.  You shouldn't.  These are some of the best white wines in the world right now.  They are also dramatically unpriced when compared to the best white wines of Burgundy or California.  Specific recommendations to come.

4.  Focus on Pessac-Leognan and Graves in 2015.

The wines of Southern Bordeaux - the communes of Pessac-Leognan and Graves - were by far the most consistently superb of any region I tasted.  Not just because they produced the white Bordeaux that I thought were so amazing, but because the richness of the 2015 fruit, when mated to the earth and funk of these appellations, created the most complex and interesting wines of the tasting. 

Both the best white wine and the best red wine of the tasting were from these regions.  Specific recommendations in a future article. 

5.  Be a little careful with the Right Bank in 2015.

There is more than enough great wine coming from the Right Bank appellations - Saint Emilion and Pomerol - to justify this as a great year for that region.  Yet, there are also quite a few wines that really missed the mark for me, including many prestigious names. 

These wines came in overripe with inappropriate amounts of alcohol and completely lacking in acid.  It is likely that some of these wines will garner very high ratings from major critics, but I wasn't enormously happy with the category. I felt that many of these wines let the weather steal the soul of Bordeaux away from them.

I'd recommend that you try to taste 2015 Right Bank Bordeaux, before you invest heavily in them.  But don't worry, I'll have plenty to recommend in a future article.

Final Thoughts ...  for now.

My final thoughts are of a very lush, sexy, and delicious year.  The 2015 Vintage in Bordeaux is going to be loved around the world and prices will likely surge, but it will be for good reason and good taste.


Keep Reading...

Glen Manor Vineyards 2013 Raepheus. The Most Memorable Wines of 2017

I didn't truly expect to find world-class wine in Virginia.  Good wine?  Probably.  A beautiful country and a great time visiting a friend?  Absolutely.  In a year filled with extraordinary dessert wine experience, I would not have expected that a Virginian Petit Manseng would be one of the most memorable.  But it was.

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The wine is liquid gold, done in the style of Southwest France's Jurancon.  It has been described as the 'apricots of the gods with the soul of raspberries."  One of the few dessert wines that blends the complexity of fine Sauternes with the delicate character of Eiswein.  It slides across the tongue like a sword cutting snow and then reveals absolute beauty beneath. 

Raepheus is not only the finest wine made in Virginia.  It is quite possible the best dessert wine made in the United States.

Glen Manor Vineyards is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the views are stunning.  More importantly, the terroir and climate of the vineyards provide a freshness and acidity that doesn't exist in most other Virginia wines.  Steep slopes and high elevations are also keys to the success.

For five generations and over 100 years, the family has owned the property.  It was not an easy life and for a long time the family operated as subsistence farmers.  In 1995, the realization came that less fertile land is ideal for vineyards.

I visited the humble tasting room.  I saw the beautiful property.  I also saw the hands and faces of the owners and winemakers. Glen Manor Vineyards is truly what many wineries pretend to be; a wine made in the vineyard.  That isn't easy, but it is kind of righteous.

What ever else the winery may be, they made the 2013 Raepheus.  One of my most memorable wines of 2017.


You Don't Need Expert Advice to Pair Wine with Thanksgiving Dinner.

You really don't.  If you are struggling to pair the "correct" wine with your Thanksgiving Dinner, you are maybe missing the point of Thanksgiving.  And perhaps also the point of wine.  Please allow me to explain...

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There is a deluge of Thanksgiving wine pairing articles are easy to write and easy to read, but the sheer number of them can make you think that pairing wine with your Thanksgiving table is somehow difficult.  It isn't.  It might not even be that important.

Thanksgiving is at its core a harvest celebration.  We give thanks for the bountiful crops of the summer and prepare for the lean times of winter.  The table abounds with a overabundance of meat, vegetables, and more.  And that is what makes the concept of wine pairing with it so irrational.

Precision wine pairing - finding the perfect pairing - is simply not relevant during a celebratory feast.  For most of us, the Thanksgiving meal isn't a crisp progression of courses.  It is a delicious free-for-all of flavors, family, friends, and probably football.  There are too many flavors in play, making a mouthwatering mingle of meat and vegetables.

Plus the flavors are relatively nondescript.  Turkey, potatoes, stuffing, corn, noodles, pumpkin pie!  These are some of the most versatile wine pairing foods in the world.  At most, you'll get a splash of sweet acidity in the cranberries and dark savory in the dark meat of the Turkey.  The neutrality of most of these flavors make wine pairing a cinch!

Love sweet white Riesling?  That will pair with Thanksgiving.

Love aged French Bordeaux?  That will pair with Thanksgiving.

Love explosively fruity Shiraz or Zinfandel?  That will pair with Thanksgiving.

The dirty secret is that almost anything will.  Better yet?  You can have all of the above at the same time.  If you enjoy a wine, you will enjoy it at your Thanksgiving Table.  But do not forget why you have gathered.

Celebrate the abundance of the harvest.  We have never had more choices.  The world of wine comes to our wine shops in a diversity that the kings of a few decades ago could never have experienced.

Time is fleeting.  Life is fleeting.  Family is fleeting.

Eat and drink and laugh and love with Thanksgiving.  Just don't stress out about the "perfect pairing."


7 Ways to Consistently Drink Bad Wine.

The wine world is difficult for anyone trying to drink truly bad wine.  The rampant flaws that plagued the wine world only a few decades ago have been mostly wiped away.  Modern wine-making techniques, refrigerated shipping containers, and a demanding wine trade have eliminated the vast majority of these issues.

Still, the modern world has gifted to us a new way of bad wine.   Bland, boring, corporate zombies of wine.  Wines made from irrigated deserts, high yields, and chemistry sets in the wineries.  And thankfully, these wines are slowly taking over our wine shops and restaurants.

To tide yourself over until the inevitable victory of boring wines,  here are seven ways to consistently drink bad wine.

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1.  Pick the 2nd cheapest wine on a wine list.

Sommeliers and restaurateurs know that most people don't want to appear 'cheap' and so the 2nd cheapest wine on a wine list is often one of the best sellers.  This is often where the restaurant puts its highest margin wine.  Frequently, this isn't a very good wine either.

2.  Buy wine in a big box store.

People love to buy from big box stores.  They think they are getting a great deal.  On most things they are right, but not in the wine aisle.  Any wine available in the kind of quantities that can service a big retail chain isn't going to be anything close to hand-crafted.

3.  Buy wine from a store without anyone in the wine department.

This is similar to number two, but is even more important.  If a wine store hasn't invested in qualified wine personnel in their wine department, you can bet that they are letting the ultra-large distributors run the show.  Those guys are going to put their corporate junk that "has to move" front and center.  You can count on the quality being sub-par.

4.  Buy wine from a wine club connected to a entity that doesn't normally sell wine.

I'm not talking here about that wine club from the winery you visited on vacation.  That wine is probably pretty good.  Nor am I talking about the wine club run by your local wine shop.  That is likely exceptional. 

I'm talking about the wine club run by a newspaper or some organization that promises discounts that are too good to be true.  They are correct.  The wine is consistently bland and boring.  It is also likely generic "custom crush" juice, since no one in the industry ever recognizes the labels they are selling.  This is a great choice for getting a bad wine on a regular basis!

5.  Buy any wine that you recognize.

Are you a wine expert?  Probably not, since they tend to want to drink good wine.  If you aren't an expert, please assume that reason you recognize the wine is because some large corporate wine company has dumped barrels of money into marketing to make you remember it.  They wouldn't do that if there wasn't hundreds of thousands of cases that they needed to move.  These wines are reliably awful.

6.  Buy a cheap red blend from California  (without doing copious research first).

Cheap reds blends are an important part of the wine world and a favorite of people that like good wines.  Just not cheap red blends from California.  The economics just doesn't work.  With the high costs of land and labor, you aren't going to get the value for money offered by a red blend from France, Italy, or Spain.

Also, most of these wines are sold on brand identity, not vineyards or regions or anything that denotes quality.  They are marketed like soft drinks and many of them have 'secret sugar' that makes your 'dry wine' anything but.  A great choice for bad wine.

7.  Buy Cheap Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is one of the greatest of all wine grapes.  Maybe the very greatest.  It is capable of wines of incredible finesse, elegance, purity, and complexity.  But you don't want any of that, and that's why you bought a cheap Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir is such a finicky grape that it requires premium (expensive) land and skillful (expensive) cultivation.  This does not make for an inexpensive bottle of wine.

Cheap Pinot Noir often contains the minimum amount of actual Pinot Noir that is allowed by law.  Many California Pinots can contain up to 25% other grapes and they don't have to tell you that on the label.  Most of the popular cheap Pinot Noirs have so much blended into the wine that there is truly no hint of Pinot left in the flavor. 

It is perhaps the best way to get a truly awful wine in the modern wine landscape.


Is Your Winery Really an Art Studio?

Why is it so difficult for many wineries to consistently sell their wine?  Perhaps, it is because they are behaving more like an artist in an art studio instead of a business selling a product.  What do I mean?  Let's take a look.

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One of the fundamental rules of business can be summarized in this way. 

"Find out what people want to buy and make that thing for them."

This is at the core of how capitalism creates value for the world.  Customers speak with their dollars about the products they want to exist and businesses are compensated for creating that product for them.

This is the opposite of what an artist does.  Artists create the thing that they wish to create.   Then they hope and pray that someone can sell it.  The effect here can be startlingly original and insightful works of art.  It can also be why the phrase 'starving artist' is a cliche. 

We live in a time when many independent wineries are suffering slowing sales, shrinking distribution channels, and the pain of deep discount online retailers.  Rarely, do they understand why.

There may have been a time in the American Wine Business when winemakers could make anything their hearts' desired and sell it all.  Those days are passing quickly, if they aren't already gone.

None of this means that we need to sacrifice originally and quality.  That isn't the point here.

If we want the independent wine scene in America to continue, we need a generation of wine entrepreneurs that inject a little more business acumen into their 'art studios.'

A Different View of California Cabernet Franc: John Skupny of Lang & Reed Wine Company

One of the exciting things about working in the retail wine business was the ability to go to industry wine tastings.  Not only could to taste a wine variety of wine, but you often got a chance to meet cool winemakers.  At this trade event in 2010, I had the chance to interview John Skupny of Lang & Reed Wine Company.  He had a very interesting take on what was possible for Cabernet Franc in California.  **It was also the era before cell phone video and this was shot on a small jittery pocket camera.

This is Episode #12 of the Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman podcast.  Enjoy. Transcript is below the video.

Transcript:

Hi, I'm John Skupny from Lang & Reed Wine Company in Napa Valley, California. I'm the proprietor and winemaker for Lang & Reed Wine Company along with my wife, Tracy. We are one-of-the-only wineries in California that work exclusively with Cabernet Franc. That's kind of the whole story.

In California, they had been following the Bordeaux Model for a long time and a few people focused on Cabernet Franc. With Lang & Reed, in the early '90s, we decided that there was some inherent and distinctive charms about Cabernet Franc, particularly when it was expressed by themselves. The places in which we had Cabernet Franc planted and the vinification techniques all sort of favored the Bordeaux Model. We looked at some of the charming ones from the Loire Valley and decided that we were going to try and create something that expressed those inherent attributes of charm that came from Loire Valley recognizing that we had different circumstances in Napa Valley.

We moved to California 30 years ago in 1980 and at that time, as I mentioned before, it was this sort of influx of the thought of what did the Bordeaux know that we didn't know. Deconstructing the blends, I was always charmed by Cabernet Franc in its early stages. We start barrel tasting in January or February after a harvest and you'll find that of the Bordeaux grapes the Cabernet Franc expresses itself in a much more effusive way than the other varieties do in an early stage.

In the early '90s Tracy and I decided to start to look at producing wine on our own and we thought nobody was doing Cabernet Franc with that kind of intent. That might be something that we could create our own niche or market. Even in the year 2010, making and selling Cabernet Franc is a little, we call it the Rodney Dangerfield of varietals, but it's a little bit like rolling a rock up the hill and it's still in a pioneering phase.

It is a touchstone grape in sort of its volatility of acceptance. It's not unlike Sauvignon Blanc where you'll find people who really, really dig it or people who really don't. Some of it has those because it has fairly overt characteristics. We say that it lies on the green edge or the herbaceous edge. Some people like that and some people don't. It often times depends upon what you're eating with it because it is an exceedingly food-friendly variety because of that herbaceous streak to it.

Well, it is a cool climate variety. It's adaptable to both cool and warmer climates. If you look at vinifera growing in the world, it's like a pencil line going around the northern hemisphere and a pencil line in the southern hemisphere and Cabernet Franc happens to be a fairly soft pencil and covers a pretty wide swathe. If you imagine that it excels in the Loire Valley, which is a very, very northern region in France, and it also does really well in Bordeaux, which is a fairly southern region in France.

If you make that swathe across the United States, you'll find it excelling in Washington State, Napa Valley, San Ynez Valley, on the western coast. You also see Cabernet Franc doing well on the east coast in Long Island, Finger Lakes area in New York, in Pennsylvania, Ohio up near the lake, and also in Virginia. It's really actually more adaptable to come into ripeness in a lot more places than Cabernet Sauvignon will come to ripeness.

The one thing you find, because it has this wide swathe, is the cooler the climate, the more herbaceous, more green characteristics you either contend with or utilize. The warmer climate, the more you sort of rise the sugars above that stage, for good or bad. You may lose its inherent characteristics or charm in too ripe a climate.

The 2008 Vintage for Oregon Pinot Noir. Interview with James Cahill of Soter Vineyards

I always strive to create wine content that is evergreen; not tied to any one specific vintage or wine.  But in the summer of 2010, the fine wine community was buzzing about the 2008 vintage in Oregon and people wanted to talk about it.  Unlike the 2008 vintage Pinot Noirs, my interview with James Cahill, winemaker of Soter Vineyards hasn't aged very well.  It's all out the quality of the 2008 Vintage in Oregon.

This is Episode #14 of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman.  Enjoy.  Transcript is below the video.

Transcript:

I'm James Cahill and I am the winemaker for Soter Vineyards, Tony Soter's Oregon project. A certified sustainable winery producing an emphasis we'll say on estate grown and regional blends of Pinot Noir and a little bit of sparkling wine. It's just a silly habit of ours.

What we have in '08 is a long growing season and when we found ourselves in Oregon picking grapes in the middle of October, that means lots of things. Especially if we're picking at leisure like we were. It means that the grapes have been out for a good long while. They've enjoyed a good growing season.

If we're not in a hurry, it means it's been a moderate growth season, right? That there hasn't been heat and things that would force us to have to harvest because grapes are shriveling or something like that.

Of course, if we're harvesting leisurely it means it's under sunny skies. I think what we regionally look for in from '08's will be the precious and natural acidity that's found consistently in '08 Oregon Pinots. It's what our region does.

It's a beautiful level of ripeness. A complete level of ripeness without excess, right? So that the things we can do in our cool climate, which is capture fruit flavors with freshness and life rather than more confection or baked flavors are so clear and consistent I think in most quality levels as well.

Of course, the price of admission for a fine Pinot Noir is pretty steep right? You have to pay a few bucks to get a satisfying bottle of wine, but I think even on modest bottlings you'll find a good quality Pinot that will speak not just of Pinot, but of Oregon Pinot. Acidity, liveliness, structure. Again, with a thorough level of ripeness.

What is the aging potential of 2008 Oregon Pinot Noir?  And what Oregon vintage is most similar to 2008?

It's a great question. Of course the aging potential is always how you enjoy wine, right? I think what we always qualified is that the wines will get better, you know? I think that there's structure in the wine and enough depth and volume in the quality of fruit that they will age gracefully, and in balance, and that you will be rewarded by waiting both in the near term as the wine's relaxed. Waiting a year or so you'll be rewarded with a better picture of what the young wine is.

Then of course as it unfolds, in its old age I think one of the things we'll look for is that the wine's made mature like many other vintages at seven, eight, nine years old, but they'll probably hold for quite a long time where other wines may have less ability for a plateau.

2002 is a vintage we often look back on as controversial for some, but for many right-thinking folks in our region, I think 2002 is kind of a perfect year because there was good ripeness. There was not a lot of drama to harvest. The harvest conditions and the wines had muscle.

If people didn't go to far in terms of manipulations or excessive hang time. I mean, beautifully balanced wines that will age elegantly. '98 and '99, '99 would probably be more like '08 in that it was a miracle vintage at the time because we were harvesting well into October. A vintage that looked like it might be tough to get the grapes in, you know?

There were three challenging vintages in the 90's. '95/6/7 people were pretty gun shy that if you're waiting to October puts you at risk of course for the winter rains that are going to arrive. So yeah, I think referencing '02 and '99 might be benchmarks, but the level of ripeness in '08, while complete, the alcohol potentials might be a little lower perhaps than in other vintages.

Half-bottles, Restaurants, and the Meaning of Wine. Elizabeth Pressler of Elizabeth Spencer Winery: The Complete Interview

My interview with Elizabeth Pressler of Elizabeth Spencer Winery was a pleasant wine conversation with a pleasant lady who makes very good wine.  What really makes this a turning point was that I asked her "What Does Wine Mean to You?"  It was a question I had asked of Dirk Richter and would soon become a motif in later interviews as well.  Enjoy!  Parts of this video were released as separate episodes of Understanding Wine with Austin Beeman and are collected here for the first time.

Transcript:

My name's Elizabeth Pressler, and I am the Elizabeth of Elizabeth Spencer. My husband Spencer is of course the Spencer. We put our first names together to make the brand name. People often mistake the name Elizabeth Spencer as being one single person, and of course it's not. It's the unification of the two of us.

Part One:  What Does Wine Mean to You?

That's a really hard question. It's interesting, because wine is a passion of mine. Wine is my business. Wine is something that stimulates my mind and thinking, and it's a lifelong pursuit. Once you get hooked by wine, you learn about it every time you open a bottle of wine and taste, and it's a lifelong growing experience because you're always experiencing new tastes when you're interested in wines. I also love the way wines bring together the culinary arts. When you begin to love wine, you also appreciate food, and you think about how flavors go together.

Spencer and I cook at home. I love how we will come home and pour a bottle, pour from a bottle, have a glass of wine while we're making our dinner, and we talk a lot about wine.

We have a side board at home in the kitchen, a marble top table, and we have zillions of bottles open, where we're always tasting and sampling. What we'll do is we'll open a bottle of wine and watch it over the course of five to seven days to see how it changes over time, and on that side board, you'll find wines from Napa, Sonoma, France, Italy, Australia. We're always looking at what our friends and colleagues are doing around the world, because we think it's very important to know about wines from other regions.

What else does wine mean to me? I love the way it brings people together. Once you open a bottle of wine and share it with friends or family, suddenly the conversation flows. The conversation moves to interesting things. You talk about art, politics, what movies you've just seen. It just is an added enjoyment to life and to living.

Part Two: On Cooking and a Little History

Oh, gosh. I was raised by a mother who loved to grow organic gardens back in Pennsylvania, and we always had fresh corn, and tomatoes, and lettuces, and my favorite, the strawberries. I got to learn what great, good food tasted like, so that was part of my interest. I always liked cooking, and we always cooked at home as kids with my mother. When I met Spencer, we loved cooking as well, and both of us have spent much time in the restaurant business before we got into the wine industry.

I started out as a waiter, which I think is some of the best training that anybody can ever, ever have for life, because you really learn how to think on your feet, but you also get to appreciate and enjoy fine wine and fine food. I also worked in front of house as a maitre d, and I organized all of the waiters, and I seated our customers. I was even a sommelier in a restaurant, where I went from table to table and really increased wine sales, so I love restaurants, and love food and wine, and putting it all together.

Part Three:  What are the Characteristics of a Good Wine Restaurant?

A restaurant where you get an opportunity to taste wines from around the world, and I love the idea of having different size pours. For instance, I think it's great to have a two ounce pour, so you can really have a sampling or a taste of wine, and then maybe a five to six ounce pour so you can actually enjoy it with a meal, and then I like the idea of having a variety of wines that you can enjoy throughout the course of a meal.

You and I were talking earlier about the beauty of half bottles. My husband and I often like picking those off of the wine list so that we can select a wine that goes well with each course, so it would be fun to have a white wine with our first course, and then move into a red for the second. Of course, I can't forget sparkling wine. We love having champagne as a cocktail, so it's great to have a half bottle or a split of champagne to begin.

Oh, yeah. Spencer and I are committed to bottling in all different formats. This is primarily for our Cabernets. Cabernets are wines that can age very well, and classically in France, the French have always bottled in many different sizes.

When you come to our tasting room, you'll see that we have a display. Everything from the 375, which is the half bottle, to the 750, which is this normal size bottle, to 1.5, which is the magnum. We do a three liter, six liter, 12 liter, 18 liter, and recently Spencer even has done a 27 liter.

Don't ask me what that's called.

I have to read the names to know what it's called.