While attending college in New Orleans in the early 1970s, Peter took a job as a waiter in a French restaurant and became infatuated with classic French wines and food. His wines of preference were those from Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley. He pursued a career in the restaurant industry and served as manager and wine buyer at several restaurants before realizing that he belonged solely in the wine business. He ventured into wine retail, then into wholesale distribution, and then started a wine marketing and sales company. These pursuits took Peter to his favorite wine regions of Europe to learn what the best properties did to make their wines special. These also led him to California during the wine renaissance of the late 1970s to meet the new small, artisan producers. After working crush at two different wineries, Peter decided that he wanted his own small winery to make unique wines to add to the wine world. In 2000, he finally moved to northern California to take a position with a wine importing company and the temptation was too great. He bought his vineyard in Glen Ellen and Spann Vineyards was born.

 


Most people in this industry can trace their love of wine to a specific wine that ignited their passion. Do you have a wine like that? If not, how did you get interested in the industry?

I started college with no idea what I would do for a career and took a summer job waiting tables at a French restaurant with an aggressive wine program. This was my first exposure to fine wine and food and it transformed my life. It fascinated and intrigued me and at age 19 I decided I would spend the rest of my life involved with wine and food.

 

 

The hardest thing about owning your own winery is…

Taking time off. My wife and I are the only employees and we enjoy every aspect from farming to crushing to blending, bottling, branding and selling so we tend to work seven days a week.

 

 

What’s it like running the winery as a husband and wife team? Do you think that gives you an advantage that other winery teams may not have?

We know each others’ strengths, weaknesses, and tolerances very well so it’s easy to divide up responsibilities and to know when the other person needs help and when to leave them on their own.

 

 

What’s been the most rewarding thing about your career?

Bringing joy to other people through something we created.

 

 

Who are the people in your industry that your most admire?

For the wines they’ve made and the things they’ve taught me: André Tchelistcheff, former winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyards, and Gary Andrus, founder/winemaker at Pine Ridge Winery. I also admire wine shop owners and restaurateurs who seek out lesser-known great wines to offer their customers rather than rely on wine writer’s recommendations and ratings.

 

 

If you weren’t making wine, what career would you have?

I would love to be a sculptor because I admire people who can take what seems like nothing and create something beautiful out of it that people could enjoy for hundreds or thousands of years. Unfortunately, I have no talent in this regard so I had to settle for winemaking for my artistic expression.

 

 

What advice would you give to people who wanted to get into the industry?

Surround yourself with people who know a lot more than you do about whatever aspect of the business you want to be part of. I managed to do that at an early age and it served me well.

 

 

When hand selling your wines, we’ve been able to introduce our customers to grape varieties they aren’t used to seeing (like Viognier, Semillon, Cinsault). Overall, you’ve come up with some unique blends. Was it your original goal to focus on blends? If not, how did that come about?

We started our winery during the 2001/2002 recession. The dot-com bust happened, followed by the 9-11 attacks and wine consumption dropped dramatically. Many highly regarded wineries were closing out Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots at half price so we decided it would be foolish to make the same wines that the market already had too much of. Betsy and I grew up on French wines, most of which were blends so we simply made the style of wines we knew and enjoyed.

 

 

If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one drink (not your own brand), what would it be?

Chateau Latour, preferably between 20 and 40 years old and hopefully many bottles of it.

 

 

Where do you see yourself and your brand in 5 years?

Currently, we sell our wines in 19 states. I’d like to maintain our current volume but reduce the number of states by one-third to one-half. This would simplify my life, allow me to focus on the markets where we have the best response to our efforts and spend more time in these markets. Arkansas will definitely be one of those.

Want to try some of Kristin's wines? You can now buy them online and pick them up in store!



 

While attending UC Davis, Kristin Belair serendipitously stumbled upon an answer to a daunting career puzzle – for someone unable to choose between a multitude of disciplines, winemaking was an elegant solution.

In 1981, degree in Enology in hand, Kristin began her first of two California harvests, as an intern at Trefethen. It was there that she perfected forklift driving, cleaning tanks, and topping barrels while learning a lot about small winery operations. A southern hemisphere harvest experience in Australia taught her even more. Kristin’s first full winemaking position began in 1985, making Cabernet and Chardonnay at Johnson-Turnbull (which later became Turnbull Wine Cellars). In 1998, after working at one facility for nearly 13 years, she joined Honig as Winemaker. Kristin says that “being able to craft award-winning, nationally recognized Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon and being part of the dynamic Honig team has been nothing but rewarding. For me, what is most satisfying is knowing that I play a part in creating something that people are enjoying in many different settings, with family and friends. Wine has an extraordinary way of connecting together people, places, and experiences.”

When she’s not feeding her passion for winemaking and growing grapes, Kristin can generally be found engaging in some kind of outdoor activity. Her current favorites are skiing, running, mountain biking, and climbing.

 


Most people in this industry can trace their love of wine to a specific wine that ignited their passion. Do you have a wine like that? If not, how did you get interested in the industry?

I don’t have a particular wine that got me interested in the wine industry. It was rather a synchronous crossing paths with a classmate at UC Davis, who had just switched his major to Winemaking. I was in biochem at the time and contemplating how on earth I would pass a year of upper division physical chemistry. His enthusiasm inspired me to investigate the winemaking path and the rest is history.

 

The hardest thing about winemaking is…

Bottling! While it mostly goes smoothly it can get tedious and be fraught with complications, even with lots of prior planning.

 

What’s the most rewarding thing about your career?

The people I work with and the places I work in. Early mornings in a vineyard are so beautiful. And, the stories people share about the wine they enjoyed.

 

 

What advice would you give to people who wanted to get into the industry?

Patience, persistence, passion.

 

As a winemaker, have you ever made a mistake in a vintage?

There are new things to learn from every vintage. What we initially may think of as a mistake becomes a window to refining our methods.

 

What your most listened to Spotify/Pandora/Sirius station?

Usually, some form of rock, but I’ll switch it up to jazz or classical pretty regularly.

 

If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one drink (not your own brand), what would it be?

Beer! A nice hoppy IPA.

Want to try some of Kristin's wines? You can now buy them online and pick them up in store!


My first ever wine-buying experience wasn’t a great one. In fact, it wasn’t even a good one. Shortly after I turned 21, I went to my local liquor store and began browsing the shelves of wine waiting for something to catch my eye. I was very new to wine, so much so that I still didn’t know how to tell the differences between the grapes aside from the fact that they were either red or white. In the end, I settled on a chilled bottle of white wine that had a map of New Zealand on it. I chose it based solely on the fact that I had liked the Lord of the Rings movies and thought I might like a wine from the same country in which they were filmed.

Once I tried the wine I was almost instantly disgusted.  It smelled and tasted like cat urine, and it made my mouth feel strange and tingly. It was even worse than the anything-but-the-kitchen-sink punch that I was used to drinking at parties. Needless to say, I poured the bottle out and decided to stay away from anything called sauvignon blanc again.

Flash forward almost nine years and my opinions have certainly changed. I’m now at a better place to understand what sauvignon blanc is all about. Granted, there are still a few bottles that have that “cat pee” smell, but I’m now at a better place to know what other aromas and flavors are in the wine. Likewise, I now know that tingly feeling that first bothered me was actually the wine’s natural acidity, and it’s become one of the aspects of the wine that I like most.

So for those of you who have had a problem with sauvignon blanc in the past, or if you’re familiar with the grape, but haven’t tried many styles yet, this post is for you!

A sauvignon blanc vineyard in New Zealand

Whats in a name?

Well, a lot, actually. Literally translated, sauvignon blanc means “savage white,” which, given the wine’s unabashed acidity, is a fitting name. Interestingly enough, sauvignon blanc once crossed with cabernet franc to produce cabernet sauvignon, hence the shared name combination.

Following the French naming tradition, a sauvignon blanc wine from France will be named from the place where it was grown. Sancerre, a village in the Loire valley is probably the most famous French sauvignon blanc, but you’ll also find them labeled as Quincy, Puilly-Fume, or Bordeaux.

In the United States, you might find sauvignon blanc labeled as “Fume Blanc” which became typical in the 1970’s and 80’s when California winemakers were trying to make the grape more attractive to American consumers.

The many faces of sauvignon blanc

More than almost any other grape variety, sauvignon blanc can take on wildly different styles based on where it’s made and grown. Here, we’ll go through the primary growing regions of sauvignon blanc and point out the biggest differences between styles.

France

Sauvignon blanc in France comes from two primary areas: the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. The Loire Valley cuts through central France and is known for its lush white wines. Sauvignon blanc grown here is known for its strong acidity, green apple notes, and minerality. Loire Valley sauvignon blanc is almost always fermented in steel tanks. Sometimes you’ll find a Loire Valley wine that has undergone what’s referred to as “lees aging.” This gives the wine a slightly creamy texture and can add a subtle note of bread or yeast to the wine.

Loire Valley vineyards

Loire Valley vineyards

 

South of the Loire Valley is Bordeaux, where the grape is blended with semillon to produce Bordeaux Blanc, or white Bordeaux. These wines are generally softer than their Loire cousins. This is achieved both through barrel fermentation and the addition of the less acidic semillon. These two factors combine to give the wines a depth and character that sets it apart from the steel tank-fermented Loire wines.

New Zealand

In the 1980’s, sauvignon blanc decided to go on vacation and never really came back. It found a home in New Zealand that allowed it to show its true colors, and the world has been eating it up ever since. These wines retain the classic high levels of acidity but combine it were an array of tropical flavors like grapefruit or kiwi. Like in the  Loire Valley, these wines are fermented in steel tanks and have a unique vegetal note (think asparagus or green beans).

California

Sauvignon blanc in California has historically had to play second fiddle to the wines in France and New Zealand. In large part, this can be traced back to the popularity of California chardonnay, which caused growers to be reluctant to plant the less lucrative sauvignon blanc in their vineyards. A second reason is the lack of a definitive style for sauvignon blanc in California. California winemakers have chosen different paths in their winemaking, using both steel tank and barrel fermentation, barrel aging, blending with semillon, and a number of other tricks to produce markedly different wines.

Pairing sauvignon blanc

Sauvignon blanc’s natural acidity makes it an easy wine to pair with food. It’s ideal for any dish that contains herbs like rosemary, thyme, tarragon, basil, mint, or parsley. It’s also great for foods that are a little bit more rich in fat, such as quiche, a white sauce pizza, or hummus. It’s also great for almost any salad you could make!

From now through the end of July, we’ve got select California sauvignon blancs 25% off! Stop by today and let us find the perfect wine for you.


Rosé is a summer staple, and we couldn’t be more excited to share some of our favorites with you. We’ll be featuring 18 incredible wines from 2-4pm on Saturday, June 18. Feel free to drop in and taste these wonderful wines!

Check out a preview of each of this weekend’s wines below.

Chateau d’Astros

The Chateau d’Astros is light, juicy, and packed full of tropical fruit flavor. Enjoy it with spicy Thai food, grill pork chops or on its own while you watch the sunset. 

Secco Italian Bubbles

This sparkling rose from Italy is made from 20% pinot noir and 80% raboso piave, a blend that gives it a delightful crispness. It has a brilliant color, rich strawberry and Italian cherry a hint of red vines. 

Steele Winery Rosé of Cabernet Franc

This crisp and refreshing rose is one of the few that is made from 100% cabernet franc. It has strawberry, basil, and citrus zest on the nose, with flavors of watermelon, and tropical fruit. A bright acidic finish closes the wine on an almost tropical note. 

Cote des Roses

This wine is a soft, pale, pink with a nose of summer fruits, cassis and red currant. Floral notes of rose along with hints of grapefruit complete the picture. The finish is fresh, offering notes of candy. On the palate the impression is fresh and full, with great aromatic persistence and balance. 

Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé

Whole cluster pinot noir grapes are hand picked and pressed in a pneumatic press with a long and soft pressing, hence the coral/light pink salmon color. Cremant Rosé is made by the Champagne Methode, meaning the second fermentation takes place in the bottle. Afterwards, it stays on its lees for 9 months followed by the remuage and disgorging. The flavors display nice strawberry and wild cherry fruit, with a touch of richness on the mid palate. It’s balanced with dry, crisp acidity and complimented with a creamy texture and long finish.

Chateau de Segries Tavel

A terrific southern Rhone estate, Chateau de Segries is a perennial value that always delivers. Made from grenache, cinsault, syrah and clairette, it’s lively and fresh, with classic notes of raspberries, wild strawberries, citrus blossom, and a touch of minerality on the nose. Medium-bodied, balanced, beautifully focused and clean, it’s a classic Tavel rosé that’s worth a multi-bottle purchase. 

Chateau des Deux Rocs Cabrieres Premices

Cabrières Rosé is a rosé of character, with fleshy red fruit and floral aromas. Its intense fruit and tannic backbone will make it the perfect match for spicy Mexican or Thai food.  

Miraval Rosé

Vivid salmon-skin color, with fresh, incisive aromas of orange zest, redcurrant and white flowers, with hints of honey and lavender in the background. It’s silky and light on its feet, offering intense red berry and citrus fruit flavors that deepen and spread out with air.

Underwood Rosé

Drinkable, unpretentious and travel-ready, this is the perfect wine for poolside shindigs, outdoor music festivals, backyard BBQ’s with friends or anywhere that calls for serious lounging. Be on the lookout for notes of strawberry, watermelon, and peach. 

Teeter Totter Rosé

This is a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot with a hint of Sauvignon Blanc. It is dry but explodes in the glass with notes of red and citrus fruit. It’s a fun-drinking wine and enjoyable now. Only 224 cases were ever produced.

Hogwash Rosé

This is summertime in a glass. The 2015 Hogwash Rosé displays a pale salmon-pink color and has a beautiful and lively nose that showcases aromas of watermelon candy, red cherries, red currant and rose water. Medium bodied, it has an incredible vibrancy that combines with its great finish to create a wine that is both a very serious rosé wine but has something for everyone. 

Screen Door Cellars Rosé of Pinot Noir

Romantic pink in color, this rosé opens with a strong aromatic pairing of strawberry jam and lemon zest, followed closely by delicate notes of peach and plum. A bright acidity shines on the palate and highlights the lush flavors of sweet cherry. It’s Russian River Valley to the core and it was made for enjoying during hot summer nights.

Raptor Ridge Rosé of Pinot Noir

Raptor Ridge makes a distinctive style of pinot noir rose, marked by single vineyard selection and extended skin-contact. They harvest a one-acre block and allow the fruit to rest on the skins for 48 hours, giving the final product its rich cherry hues and rounded texture. The juice is then racked off to stainless steel tanks, and guided through a slow fermentation. The resulting wine is dry, deeply fruity, and suitable for any number of food pairings, such as roast chicken or moules frites. 

Roederer Estate Brut Rosé

The Roederer Estate Rosé is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. For color, the winemaker prepares a small portion of Pinot Noir wine with extended maceration and adds about three to five percent to the blend before secondary fermentation, imparting a subtle salmon tinge. Both the blend and addition of the small amount of red wine create a charming wine of discrete finesse.

Blackbird Arriviste

On the nose, strawberry and iris aromas meld with hints of tropical fruit. The wine showcases crisp flavors of tart cherry, red apple and cool citrus on the mid-palate, carrying clean minerality and bright acidity on to the lingering finish. The 2015 Napa Valley growing season saw near-optimal conditions, allowing for an abundance of perfectly ripe grapes with a smooth balance of acids and sugars, producing this spectacular rosé. It’s made of 34% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc, and 32% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence

This sparkling wine has a pale salmon hue with integrated aromas of fresh raspberry jam and wild strawberries on a cream covered pastry base. The flavors are layered, round, fresh, fruity and long. 

Adelsheim Rosé of Pinot Noir

This delicious wine offers aromas of fresh Oregon strawberries and raspberries, apricot, and rose petal which follow through on a rich, well-textured palate that offers juicy, ripe fruit. Though a perfect summer beverage on its own, this rosé will pair with all manner of meals, from bouillabaisse and grilled shrimp, to goat cheese, ham and poultry entrees. 

Canard “Coucher de Soleil” Estate Rosé

Made entirely from whole cluster pressed Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel, this limited production blend is an elegant expression of Summertime in a glass. On the nose, a perfume of fresh wild strawberries, peaches and notes of ruby red grapefruit. A luscious mouthfeel with bright acidity and a beautifully long finish complements a wide variety of foods. This dry rosé is styled after the incredible wines of Provence, but is uniquely Napa Valley. Its soft hue is reminiscent of a pink sky at dusk which gives it the name, Coucher de Soleil, or “Sunset” in French. 


By now I’m sure you’ve probably heard that Lee Edwards of Haus Alepnz is in town and hosting some amazing events. He was at South on Main for their Manhattan dinner on Tuesday and tonight he’ll be serving up some amazing drinks at Table 28! We’ve got the skinny on all of the dishes and the drinks that will be on hand. Tonight’s dinner is sold out, but you can try a few of the cocktail by coming by our shop from 4-5:30 when Lee will be on hand to give our customers a taste of amazing creations.

Check out the cocktails (and Chef Scott Rains’ amazing food) below! Be sure to follow us on Instagram for pics from the dinner!

First Course

Rocky Mountain Oysters

pickle + cocktail + sheep’s milk dressing

Newfangled

Second Course

Yellowfin Ceviche

watermelon + tamarind + vanilla

livineasy

Third Course

Duck Fat Confit Octopus

papas + chorizo + squid ink aioli

FrancMartinez

Fourth Course

Wild Boar Chop

citrus + red onion + corn grits

QueensPark

Fifth Course

Grapefruit Cappelletti Custard Tart

Smoking Jacket

When Screen Door Cellars released their first 100 cases of Pinot Noir in 2012, it was the culmination of a decade of work for winemaker Bobby Donnell. Donnell moved from his native Texas to California in 2002 and eventually began working for St. Clement Vineyards. After living in Napa Valley for several years, he and his wife Shannon decided to move closer to her hometown of Sebastopol in the Russian River Valley.

It had long been their dream to open their own winery and the fertile soils of the Russian River Valley were the perfect place to grow the style of pinot noir that Bobby loved. The first vintage was released to wide acclaim, and the accolades have only piled on as the public has caught on to these handcrafted wines.

At tomorrow’s tasting, we’ll feature four of Screen Door Cellars’ magnificent wines. Check out a preview of each one below.

2013 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

This wine was aged for eleven months in French oak barrels. It possess a wonderful ruby color and has aromas of Bing cherry, baking spices, and toast.  Additional nuanced notes of cola, cardamom, and vanilla lead to a finish of black cherry that is lingering and poignant.

2014 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

This wine is deeper in color than the preceding vintage. Black cherry aromas joined by blackberry and vanilla are the highlights on the nose. On the palate, confirming flavors from the nose with additional wisps of black cherry mixing with baking spice and an intriguing hint of truffle. Its finish draws the perfect balance between velvety tannis and a ripe, bright acidity.

2014 Leras Family Vineyard Pinot Noir

The fruit for this wine came exclusively from the Leras Family vineyards, which give it a unique aroma of rose petal amid the Bing cherry and spice. The taste of  cola, a Russian River Valley signature in Pinot Noir, is present with the added layers of raspberry and mouthwatering acidity.

2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir

Romantic pink in color, this rosé opens with a strong aromatic pairing of strawberry jam and lemon zest, followed closely by delicate notes of peach and plum. A bright acidity shines on the palate and highlights the lush flavors of sweet cherry. It’s Russian River Valley to the core and it was made for enjoying during hot summer nights.


“15 Questions with…” is an ongoing series of interviews with some of the most interesting people in our industry. 

Screen Door Cellars creates small, handcrafted lots of ultra-premium wine.  Screen Door Cellars is the result of the loving marriage between the bountiful promise of Northern California’s finest terrain and climate, with the dedication, pride and commitment that embodies the Texas spirit.  This wine is the warm and loving arms of family and friends, of bonds strengthening, of children in the yard, of belly laughter; accompanied by the inviting clap of the porch screen door as you step into the best days of your life.

Meet Bobby on Wednesday, June 1 at our tasting from 5-7pm!

1)The hardest thing about winemaking is…

The curve balls. No matter how hard you plan, forecast, and strategize for the perfect vintage for your wine, this is still 100% agriculture. The weather determines most, if not all that we do – from the growing season to the time we harvest. I guess the hardest thing for me as a winemaker is the emotional roller coaster of the vintage year. The joy of bud break, the late nights up during frost season and the warmth/heat of harvest. Keeping a cool head and an even keel is one of the hardest thing. Winemaking is not for the faint of heart.

2) How did you first get into the industry?

My wife…girlfriend at the time. She was finishing her Master’s degree from UCD in Viticulture and wanted to work a Harvest in Napa then head to New Zealand. Knowing nothing of the wine industry, besides the product, I took an Intern position at Beringer in the Lab. I really enjoyed the people and the energy of harvest and wanted to learn as much about wine and the process as possible. After harvest, I was hired for a full-time Cellar position at St. Clement. Shannon and I put down some roots, and I dove into winemaking head first.

 

3) What’s the most rewarding thing about your career? Connecting with people. Nothing makes me happier than creating a wine that people will enjoy with their friends, and the experience and emotions that are tied to Screen Door Cellars. The idea that I can make a wine from the Russian River Valley in California and friends of mine or people I don’t even know will share a bottle with their friends across the country. It’s that personal connection that’s the best and make me want to create the best.

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4) Who are the people in your industry that your most admire?

The one winemaker that gave me my start and lit my fire, Aaron Pott. The other is Ben Papapietro. I remember having a bottle of 2010 “Leras Family Vineyard” Pinot Noir from Ben. I told a friend of mine, “if I could make a wine like that for the rest of my life, I would die a happy man.”

5) What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Hunting with my father. Driving out to the Ranch and just walking and talking.

 

6) What are your favorite books or movies?  

With 3 kids, I would have to say any current Disney/Pixar flick…

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7) What your most listened to Spotify/Pandora/Sirius station?

Top 3 on the dial: Margaritaville, Underground Garage, and Outlaw Country

 

8) If you weren’t making wine, what career would you have?

Sailboat Captain

 

9) What advice would you give to people who wanted to get into the industry?

Jump in and do it! I have people every year during harvest come out and work for a few weeks and ask the same question. My answer is always the same. If it is something you really want to do, do it. Immerse yourself into wine. Passion is hard to fake.

 

10) What’s your dream vacation?

Island hopping in the Caribbean on a sailboat

 

11) What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

Cookies

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12) Hometown?

Lancaster, Texas

 

13) If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one drink (not your own brand), what would it be?

Margarita

 

14) What person has been most influential in building your career?

Aaron Pott, he started the fire.

 

15) Where do you see yourself and your brand in 5 years?

Growing. I see Screen Doors Cellars with our own tasting room in Sebastopol planting more Pinot Noir on our home ranch, ASERN. Reaching out and connection with more customers, but small enough to still have that personal connection with our fans and supporters.


“15 Questions with…” is an ongoing series of interviews with some of the most interesting people in our industry. 

James “Jim” Morrison serves as the National Sales Director for Copper Cane Wine & Provisions. He’ll be in our store on Friday on May 27, from 4-7pm.

1)Tell us a little bit about what it means to be a National Sales director and some the challenges that come with that position.

I’m the first face, voice, messenger to our retail customer regarding the Portfolio Joe Wagner is creating. I know and love wine, but do NOT consider myself a wine Expert or Master Somm, my real expertise is consulting to navigate a highly complicated route to market. Understanding the Distributor/wholesale network, different state and often within state legalities. Championing our products in an increasingly competitive landscape. Trumpeting a voice to the gate-Keepers of the industry.

 

2) How did you first get into the industry?

Recruited off the campus of the University of Missouri to E & J Gallo Winery. Territory sales with graduating levels of responsibility starting in Oklahoma, Moving through Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, and Chicago.

 

3) What’s the most rewarding thing about your career? Selling is a simple equation – “A transfer of enthusiasm”. My father taught me this early in my career. We sell more than just grape juice in a bottle, wine is an experience for people to `enjoy with people they want to be with doing activities they enjoy. People remember their first experience with a particular wine, where they were, who they were with. It’s a great Mental Paycheck to see someone “Get it” when they experience our wines.

 

4) Who are the people in your industry that your most admire?

Joe Wagner – His passion to make something great. His Vision to build on what he was given. Chuck Wagner – The vision and discipline to start his own winery with his dad and build it into what it is today. Jim Schroeder – A manager I worked for early in my career at Gallo, he taught me how to interact with people and create relationships. Marvin Shankins – His vision for educating people about wine. Robert Mondavi – His vision for Napa, starting over after being fired from his families company and creating Napa.

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5) What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Family gatherings – Coming from a large family, my Grandmother was one of 18 children, Grandfather on of 11. Our family reunions were a festival and it was fun to see my cousins and watch my parents interact with people they loved and made time to be with. The food and drink were always at the center of every gathering. Watching my Dad tease and laugh with my uncles.

 

6) What are your favorite books or movies?

Books – Mark Twain “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” Malcolm Gladwell “David & Goliath” George Orwell “1984” Movies – Cool Hand Luke The Outlaw Josey Wales Shawshank Redemption

 

7) What your most listened to Spotify/Pandora/Serius station?

Comedy Channel, NPR, Classis Vinyl

 

8) If you weren’t making wine, what career would you have?

Tour guide – Wine Country, historic sites or interesting cities or comedian – I love to make people laugh.

 

9) What advice would you give to people who wanted to get into the industry?

Understand the business and logistics of the industry. While romantic, it’s really about making great product and figuring out the most efficient way to get it to the consumer. The first several years are labor intensive and not very romantic.

 

10) What’s your dream vacation? Traveling with my kids. We’ve been all over the world and there is still so much to see! Exploring new places, figuring out how to get around and communicate with other cultures/languages.

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11) What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

Watching TV! I love to lay back on the couch and Veg-Out! But almost never do, and when I do I feel guilty about all the things I could/should be doing. I’m getting better about this with age, the guilty part that is!

 

12) Hometown?

Rogers AR – 16 years and just now feels like home

 

13) If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one drink (not your own brand), what would it be?

Tough one – Either Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay or Jameson Irish Whiskey

 

14) What person has been most influential in building your career?

My wife Bridget. While my father taught me work ethic and several folks have influenced experience and skill sets, my wife has made me the success I am most proud of. Always supportive, collaborative. She “Get’s” me and makes me want to continuously improve.

 

15) Where do you see yourself and your brand in 5 years?

I’ve never been good at this! I believe in focusing on here and now and putting energy behind excelling at the task at hand. Competing, reacting, and growing relationships as I go. I can’t control everything, but I can control what I do, how I interact with those I come in contact with. Things happen for a reason, whatever that is, and I’ve learned that nothing is ever as good as you think or as bad as it seems. 5 years from now I hope to be doing something similar to today, loving those around me and putting energy into something that stimulates and excites me!

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“15 Questions with…” is an ongoing series of interviews with some of the most interesting people in our industry. 

Whether it was building a garden with his brother in the alley behind their house or riding the tractor through the fields with his grandfather, there has always been something peaceful about growing things for Jim Dyke, owner of Mira Winery. He still wonders at the beauty of the cycle that produces grapes each season and is amazed at the process that evolves the grapes into wine. One of his first jobs after a stint at the Senate Parking Lot upon graduating from the University of Arkansas was as Assistant Brewmaster at one of the first Microbreweries in the country, Capital City Brewing Company. Here, Jim answers our questions in advance of his tasting on May 18, 2016, from 5-7pm.

1)The hardest thing about winemaking is…

Working with nature and all the uncertainty that it brings.

 

2) How did you first get into the industry?

Making beer in WDC when I graduated from college. A number of years later I met world renowned winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez and we both thought it was an incredible opportunity to partner and do something special.

 

3) What’s the most rewarding thing about your career?

The people. The people I work with every day who are so dedicated to being exceptional. The people I meet who try/drink our product. Its never dull and so many people are so interesting.

 

4) Who are the people in your industry that your most admire?

Steve Schweizer who owns a 40-acre vineyard in the heart of the Stags Leap District of Napa. Every year he produces exceptional grapes and every year he has different weather. And he is always calm as a cucumber.

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5) What’s your favorite childhood memory?

Playing soccer in Razorback Stadium for the U11 state championship.

 

6) What are your favorite books or movies?

Wedding Crashers just above the classics (Caddy Shack, Stripes, Animal House) and Unbroken (the book).

 

7) What your most listened to Spotify/Pandora/Serius station?

Y2kountry

 

8) If you weren’t making wine, what career would you have?

Politics

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9) What advice would you give to people who wanted to get into the industry?

If you don’t have 30 years – don’t start. It’s a long haul and you have to find rewards in small sometimes hidden places.

 

10) What’s your dream vacation?

A beach, preferably pink sand but I am not too picky.

 

11) What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?

Cigars

 

12) Hometown?

Charleston, SC but I was born and raised in Little Rock and went to the U of A so I still consider it home.

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13) If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one drink (not your own brand), what would it be?

Grey Goose Vodka

 

14) What person has been most influential in building your career?

Gustavo Gonzalez, Mira Co-founder

 

15) Where do you see yourself and your brand in 5 years?

Widely acclaimed as one of the premier producers in the world.


We’ve all heard the term “oak” used to describe wine, and at some point in all of our wine-drinking lives, we’ve internally asked ourselves what that actually means. We’ve also all been at a party in which someone mentions oak in wine and everyone will nod along like they completely understand the concept. But how many of us actually know what oak means for winemaking and can recognize the taste of it wine?

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When we say a wine is oaky we are referring to the flavors from the barrels it was aged in. New barrels impart flavors of vanilla, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, dill, and smoke resulting from the toasting process that allows the barrels to be shaped. As barrels are used over and over again they lose these flavors and become more neutral. The age of the tree the barrel is made from can be very important because as the tree ages, its grains become more tightly packed. The younger tree with more loosely packed grains will impart more flavor into a wine.

You can think of oak in a similarly to salt – a chef will use more or less salt depending upon the flavors he desires in his dishes. The same is true with a winemaker and their desired flavors for their wine.

This French Chablis is completely unoaked

This French Chablis is completely unoaked


This California chardonnay spent 9 months in oak barrles

This California chardonnay spent 9 months in oak barrels

Most people are familiar with oak through drinking chardonnay. Below, we have two examples of chardonnays, both at the opposite ends of the “oak” spectrum.

 

The first of these is the Christian Moreau Chablis, a chardonnay that is completely unoaked and was made using stainless steel tanks. Because it was never exposed to oak, you’ll get the full, natural flavors of chardonnay: apple, lemon, and a flint-like minerality. It’s color can range from light yellow to hay.

Our second wine, a chardonnay from Rombauer Vineyards, spend nine months in oak barrels and is known for its rich aroma of lemon curd, butterscotch, and vanilla.

 

 

 

As you can, oak plays an important part our industry. Hopefully, next time you’re shopping for wine or tasting with friends, you’ll have a little more insight into what it is you’re drinking.