Old Vines. A Love Story.

What makes you fall in love? What is it about a particular place that pulls on your heart strings? 

I fell in love with old vineyards the year I worked my first harvest. I was lucky enough to work with winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson at Bedrock Wine Co.-who knows more about California's historic vineyards than anyone else out there. These aren't just old-many of the vineyards were planted in the 1800's. 

Waking up at dawn, steaming cup of coffee in hand, to watch grapes picked at Monte Rosso Vineyard. Driving the back roads of Mendocino, with Joni Mitchell on my car stereo, praying that my GPS would lead me to a little magic patch of old vines. Walking through Nervo Vineyard and knowing that Italian immigrants, probably a lot like my family, planted these fields over a hundred years ago. That harvest I found myself falling in love. 

Why do old vineyards matter? Old vines matter because our history matters.  They matter because treating the earth with reverence matters. They matter because, in this age of newer, faster, better-we need to remember to tune into what the past teaches us. There's a real wisdom in the old ways if we slow down enough to listen. 

Many of these historic vineyards were ripped out years ago, replanted with whatever was in fashion at the moment. A few remain, vestiges of the past, preserved by those who know what treasures they are. When you walk through 120 year old own-rooted Evangelho Vineyard in Contra Costa, sandwiched between a PG&E plant and a fast food restaurant, you are struck by what a miracle it is. There it stands-a snapshot of a bygone era-still making brilliant wines. 

Gnarled old vines yield less as they get older, but what they do yield is incredibly soulful and expressive of place. Every time I've walked through one of these ancient vineyards, I'm struck by it's individuality. Like snowflakes, no two are alike. Many have been adopted by the new guard of California winemakers-who are committed to dry-farming and minimal intervention to allow their uniqueness to shine through. 

The fact that they still exist in all their glorious uniqueness--that somehow they managed to survive wars, encroaching development and changing tastes is a small, beautiful miracle. Just like true love, these vineyards are something special and ephemeral. Just like true love, when you find it, you want to drink it in and enjoy every sip. xoxo

A Nitecap with Markus Stolz

German born Markus Stolz moved to Athens in 2003 with his Greek born wife. He fell hard for all things Greek, ditched his career in finance, and started an import firm with a dream to bring the wines he had fallen in love with to the rest of the world. Twelve years later he's now one of the top Greek wine importers in the world as well as a renowned Greek wine blogger.

We love the undiscovered gems he imports, his commitment to supporting small family run wineries and native varieties--and his true passion for all things Greek. As he says; "Only my passport keeps telling me I am German. Passports don't have a soul, my heart belongs to Greece." 

What one piece of advice would you give a wine drinker who is brand new to the wines of Greece but would like to explore and learn more? 
Just dive right in. You will never be bored with Greek wines. Know that in general, Greek wines have moderate alcohol levels, high acidity, and they are never too heavy. You can basically drink a bottle, rather than just a glass. 

What is your favorite place in Greece to visit?
Amyndeon in Florina, Macedonia. Most people think Greece consists of beaches and the sea, and that the weather is always hot and dry. Amyndeon is the coldest vine growing region in all of Greece. If you drive into the region, you might be forgiven to think that you have in fact entered Switzerland.

What three things are you most passionate about other than wine?
My four kids, Greece and the Mediterranean Diet.

What’s one quirky thing about you most people don’t know?
Whenever something interests me, I am all in. Like 1000% in. Downside is that few things are really that important to me. 

What’s your nightcap of choice?
A sweet Vinsanto from Santorini. Because one notices the acidity, not the sweetness.

You’re sipping on a glass of your favorite wine...what music is playing?
Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

What has been your favorite wine drinking experience or memory?
This is a very interesting question, as my favorite wine drinking experiences relate to the people I was sharing the wine with, rather than the wine itself. I am blessed that I have many of those moments in memory.

Last question, say you die and go to heaven. What’s in your wine glass?
Aged Xinomavro, without any doubt. It simply can’t get better than this!

A day in the life of Winemaker Nathan Kandler

One of California’s rising stars, you will soon be enamored with the wines of Nathan Kandler of Precedent Wines. His winemaking style is honest and straightforward, which allows the story the vineyard is telling to really shine through. His passion is working with old, quirky vineyards. The fact that he's such a nice guy makes us like his wines even more!

How would you describe your winemaking style in three words? Transparent. Site-driven and measured.

What three things are you most passionate about other than wine? My Family (wife, daughter and dog), travel and University of Michigan football.

What’s on your playlist for long days in the cellar? Jerry Jeff Walker, Tribe Called Quest, Black Keys, Willie Nelson, Warren Zevon, The Avett Brothers, Calexico, The Roots  - I've always loved old school hip hop and blues and have recently gotten into 'real' country. I consume music like wine - my tastes change fairly often.

What is your favorite place in the world? I try and make a backpacking trip to the eastern side of King's Canyon National Park, in the high sierra, every summer. The sheer beauty and size and scale of the mountains is humbling. The trip always recharges my spirit and re-sets my internal compass for the year. Closer to home I love the small town of Pescadero and the San Mateo Coast.  

What’s your favorite cellar snack? I'm very lucky. My wife always bakes up a storm during harvest and keeps the cellar stocked in baked goods.

What's your favorite thing about making wine?  It's very gratifying to produce something from nature, especially something that is so difficult to actually control. We are very much at the mercy of mother nature in a lot of ways. There's a certain amount of peace you have to come to terms with, especially regarding the cycles of the seasons and the challenges that are thrust upon you. Every year, and really every day are different. I also love that I can take my dog to work and be outside so often.  

What one piece of advice would you give a novice wine drinker? Don't drink the same thing twice for a year.

What’s your favorite wine-drinking experience or memory? Wow, this is tough there are a lot. The best ones are almost always more about the company and place than simply the wine. I've tasted great 'wines' at crowded stand up tasting that were not particularly enjoyable and conversely had forgettable wines in awesome spots with my wife or great friends that are experiences I'll never forget. I shared a now unknown bottle of wine with a great friend of mine from Michigan on the Sonoma Coast right after I moved there in 1999, It was awesome sharing with him what was then my new home.

Last question, say you die and go to heaven. What’s in your wine glass? If it is Pinot Grigio I will know I am in the wrong place, just kidding. I'd love to be met at St. Peters gate by Henri Jayer and/or Bartolo Mascarello.