Larry and I are excited to head to Washington state today for our first wine trip of 2012. We fly into Seattle and start visiting wineries and vineyards tomorrow. We have a full agenda planned so check back in the coming days as I keep you posted on who we visit, what we taste, and what wines we will be bringing to Nashville!
Larry and I spent the first week of February in sunny Chile, visiting a number of the vineyards we represent. We flew into Santiago and had the afternoon free. We walked around and enjoyed the architecture and mostly the weather! We quickly realized we were not going to be able to see everything on foot, so we signed up for one of those cheesy tourist bus tours. Wouldn’t normally go that route, but it let us see the highlights of the city in a few hours. I was amazed at how clean and modern Santiago is.
That night we met up with the rest of our group. They were sales reps for other distributors across the country and an employeed of Global Vineyards. We were also joined by Ricardo Rivadeneira-Hurtado, the owner of Global, Maquis Winery, and Calcu and his lovely wife. We enjoyed dinner at Tiramisu, an Italian cafe, and picked Ricardo’s brain about the wine industry in Chile. After dinner we found a little Irish Pub that was carrying the Super Bowl via satellite, so we actually got to watch the game!
The next day began the real journey. We loaded onto a mini bus and headed outside of Santiago to visit the Antiyal and Kuyen vineyards. We met with Alvaro Espinoza who is a rockstar of the biodynamic, organic wine world. I learned so much about how intricate the biodynamic farming process is. His vineyards are small and beatiful. They go to great lengths to get the biodynamic certification. Every vintage of his Antiyal wine has gotten 90 points or better from Wine Spectator. We tasted through a number of vintages and then enjoyed a wonderful lunch in his yard which is also the location of his Antiyal vineyard. After lunch he took us out to some of the vineyards he consults on as well. The Chilean countryside was just stunning.
The next day we drove 15 minutes outside of Santiago to the Domus Aurea Vineyard. The latest release of this Cabernet just got 94 points in Spectator, so I knew we were in for a treat. We met John Pascaul, the winemaker for Domus Aurea and Penalolen at the winery and got to hear first hand his aproach to the winemaking process. I was amazed at how close the vineyard is to downtown Santiago. You can actually see the city from the vineyard.
After touring the vineyard and the winery, we headed over to the home of Ricardo Pena for lunch. We tasted through all of the Penalolen wines and then on to Domus Aurea. All of these wines are amazing and it was incredible to taste them with John and hear his story and what he was trying to achieve with each vintage. After tasting, we sat down to the only vegetarian meal we would have in Chile - salad with fresh lemon juice and corn tamales.
We left there and drove through the Maipo Valley to a stunning estate owned by the owners of Apaltagua Vineyards. The Estate was a late 1800’s farmhouse whose property used to extend from the Maipo River all the way to Argentina. The home had 40 foot ceilings and a huge wrap around porch. Gorgeous! We walked around the property and relaxed for most of the afternoon. That evening we had empanadas and Apaltagua Chardonnay and then got ready for the real feast. We had dinner outside that night. They had taken a goat and a lamb and cut them down and skewered them gaucho style and roasted them on an open pit. They served potato salad, beets, cheeses, and other veggies as well. The assistant winemaker joined us for dinner. I was amazed that she was female and only 28 years old. We drank Envero carmenere, Apaltagua cabernet, and apaltagua carmenere with dinner.
The next morning we drove to the Apalta region and toured the Apaltagua winery and vineyards. They are doing some really cool things with trellising the carmenere grapes. This trip is the first time Larry and I have ever visited vineyards when there were actually grapes on the vine, so we were like kids in a candy shop, tasting the grapes off the vine. You can really get the flavor profile of the carmenere from the grape. The Apaltagua vineyard bottles on sight, so we got to see how they label, bottle, and then package the wines. We enjoyed lunch that day in Santa Rosa with the Apaltagua vineyard representatives and then headed out to the Maquis vineyard.
We spent the afternoon touring some new projects that the Maquis vineyard owner, Ricardo, has started. We then took a tour of the Maquis winery. Really modern and sleek with lots of sunlight coming into the winery, unlike most wineries I have seen. We then went to the farmhouse on the vinyeard and did a vertical tasting of every vintage of the Maquis wines including the yet to be released 2006 vintage. Very good wines! We enjoyed hearing Ricardo talk about the different vintages and the different blends he chose for each. Some local cheeses were then set out for us to enjoy before dinner and we all sat around and enjoyed some more Maquis and pisco sours. Dinner was a feast again!
Maquis was the last vineyard we would visit for the trip. The next day we visited with Ricardo and his family at their home and then drove 3 hours south to La Esparanza, Ricardo’s family’s Estate home. It is in the middle of the Andes and the home itself will sleep 25 people. There is a 9 hole golf course on the Estate, so after another huge lunch, Larry and I set out to teach Ricardo how to play golf. It took us four hours to play nine holes, but it was worth every minute of it! I took great satisfaction in knowing that I could leave a little something with Ricardo when I’m gone after all of the hospitality he had shown us. The ranch hands had put an entire lamb on an open flame that afternoon and roasted it for hours. So after golfing, we enjoyed a few piscos and coke and then sat down for our last Chilean dinner. The lamb was so tender, it almost melted in your mouth. It paired great with the 2005 Maquis.
The next morning half of our group went horseback riding, but Larry and I were not going to miss our last chance to play golf. We played another nine holes and were joined on the last two by Ricardo. He hit one shot within an inch of the hole and he was estatic. We then packed up for the road trip back to Santiago. We sat down for one last lunch, enjoyed our last taste of vino for the trip and then said our farewells to La Esparanza.
Overall, I would say this was the trip of my lifetime, and as many of you know, I have traveled quite a bit in my 34 years. Words do not do the scenery justice and the hospitality of the Chileans we visited with was a bit overwhelming. I can certainly sell these wines so much more effectively after walking the vineyards and meeting the winemakers. I look forward to my next visit.
Larry and I had the opportunity to visit CA wine country again last month and it was quite the trip! We started out in San Jose with a meeting of the head of Global Vineyards. We discussed goals for this year and new products and then headed over for a bit of shopping at the North Face outlet. We spent the remainder of our day with Lorenzo Scarpone, owner of Villa Italia. We had a wonderful lunch at a little Italian cafe and tasted some great wines. We then got a tour of the Villa Italia operation and tasted a few new products. The remainder of the day was spent touring around San Francisco. What a great city!
The next morning we met with Clark Smith of GrapeCraft. This guy is doing amazing things with wines! We tasted some of his wines and then had lunch at a French Bistro. We had his Faux Chablis and Crucible Cabernet with lunch. These are outstanding wines. But the most exciting wines we tasted were his Cheap Skate and Penny Farthing labels. Amazing juice for the price point. The labels are whimsical and the wines are outstanding. We then visited Balletto Vineyards and met with their assistant winemaker. Really nice wines, great family behind them as well. Just the kind of product we like to have in our portfolio. We then headed back south to meet with the winemakers and owners of Starry Night Winery. We barrel tasted with Wayne Hansen, the winemaker of Keesha Pinot Grigio, Starfire Zinfandel, Bruce Wayne Syrah, and Cottage Road Caberenet, just to name a few. After that meeting, we headed to Napa for a quite evening of rest.
On Friday morning we met with Madonna Estate Vineyards. We got to tour the vineyards and see the winery operation. What a beautiful property they have. We met the vineyard owners daughter and then tasted their wines with the winemaker. We then headed up the Silverado Trail to Corison vineyards. What an experience! We got to see the Kronos vineyard firsthand and learned all about the winemaker, Cathy Corison’s history. She was the first female winemaker in Napa. We then did a vertical tasting of her cabs and were treated to lunch on the second floor of the winery overlooking the Kronos vineyard. We drank a bottle of the 2005 Cabernet and the 2004 Kronos Cabernet - What a treat!
We then drove north up Howell Mountain on one of the curviest roads I’ve ever been on in my life. We visited the Clark Claudon Vineyard with Laurie Claudon. It is in the Pope Valley and I had no idea how beatiful it was. We took a bottle of their Three Stones Cabernet with us to taste once we got back to Nashville. From there we headed back into Napa and met with the National Sales Manager of Myers Family Vineyard. They only make Syrah, Port, and Bonny’s Vineyard Cabernet, but the quality is outstanding. We decided we definitely want their wines in our portfolio. After a full day of tasting, we went to the hotel to relax.
Saturday started early with a 9 am tasting at the Pina Family Vineyards. They have a cabernet that just got 94 points in Wine Spectator. While we recognize that value wines are really where the market is leaning, the Pina Cabernets are outstanding and there is still a market for these high end wines, so we decided to represent them as well. We drove to Healdsburg from there and had lunch with Lynn Chao, the winemaker for Eden Stuart wines, SO Zinfandel, and SO Cabernet. The labels are beautiful as are the wines. We enjoyed talking about the wine industry, food trends, etc. with Lynn and committed to distributing her wines as well. From there we drove even further north to Frick Vineyards. Bill Frick is a one man show. He does everything himself from harvest to winemaking to manning his tasting room. His wines are small production and there are some great values. We had dinner that evening in Napa with Vanessa Robledo who is working for a newer Cabernet producer. The dinner was great and it was wonderful to visit with her and her mom.
Overall, it was an outstanding trip. We tasted some amazing wines and we are excited about bringing them to the glasses of Middle Tennesseans.
So how did you guys get into this business? We seem to get that alot these days. Larry, Meredith and I decided to open our own distribution company last year while on a family vacation. All 3 of us have traveled extensively across the world and always came back to Middle Tennessee wishing we could enjoy the foods, wines, and beers that we enjoyed in other countries. We decided that we would bring these great things to Nashville and began doing research on just how to make it happen. We quickly found that there was no guidebook to opening your own wholesale distribution company. There are extensive federal, state, and local regulations that you have to comply with in order to get started. It was a lengthy and sometimes frustrating process, but we opened our doors in February of 2008 and haven’t looked back.
We are grateful to all of the restaurants and retailers that have embraced our concept of boutique, handcrafted, artisan style wines and spirits and look forward to sharing our experiences with you through this blog. Please let us know if you try a BooneDocks wine or spirit - we want to hear what you think! Cheers!
February 21, 2008
Left first thing this morning. I’d forgotten just how long the flight from Nashville to the West Coast is – I could almost be in Italy by now. Ran into a guy that is head of the local wine auction on our flight. Ended up talking to him for over an hour. He’s arranged a comped dinner for us in San Fran tonight and invited us to hang out with him in Sonoma.
Got to San Diego and our flight was delayed 2 hours into San Fran. Decided to enjoy the time by having a couple of adult beverages at the bar. Airport bars – not exactly a wine drinkers dream venue, but the Chardonnay was drinkable – it got me through the 2 hour delay.
Upon arrival in San Francisco, we grabbed our bags and went to the rental car station. Let the agent there talk us into the convertible, even though it is forecast to rain 4 out of the 5 days we’ll be there. Saw the most incredible rainbow over the bay on our way in – a good sign that this is going to be a great trip! Got checked into the hotel just in time for the evening wine reception (funny how free wine always tastes better.)
Had a great dinner at Fog Harbour restaurant right on the bay – Calamari, Mahi-Mahi and a nice bottle of Robledo Pinot Noir and Flora Springs Sangiovese. The only downer is that both of these lovely wines are already represented in Tennessee. Oh well, hopefully we’ll find some other great wines over te next few days. Wonderful dinner, good wine and a great first night for our trip.
February 22, 2008
Woke up early – wondering if the sun would ever come up. Went to Starubucks and watched a homeless guy struggle to buy a cup of coffee while we tried to log on to their wireless service. Ended up buying the coffee for the guy, although he passed out at his table and spilled the coffee.
Checked out the workout room and decided that we should walk around the city in spite of the rain and cold. Checked out the Pier area and ended the walk with a challenging but beautiful walk straight up Lombard Street. I’d forgotten how beautiful San Fran is from the hills in the city. It is a great way to start the day.
Headed to Berkeley in the rain to meet with one of our importers. This is one of the most interesting things in the job. We’ve built relationships with these importers, but most of them we’ve never met in person. This one meets our expectations and we enjoy discussing South American wines over a nice cup of coffee in Berkeley.
We left there and headed back over the bay to downtown San Francisco and the Financial District. We had about an hour to kill before the next meeting with our importers, so we walked around and enjoyed the scenery. After struggling to check our e-mail at a little café, we headed on to lunch at Café Tiramisu with Lorenzo Scarpone, owner of Villa Italia. The quintessential Italian lunch follows with amazing appetizers that include Buffalo Mozzarella, blackened risotto with scallops, mussels that are the biggest I’ve ever seen, and prosciutto with cheese. We had the privilege to taste through a number of their wines and really enjoyed the lunch.
Following lunch we went to an Irish pub to meet with a Tequila importer (a little bit outside the box for us, but we have a client in Nashville that requested the product). We tasted Clase Azul Tequila and while I am not a tequila drinker, this is by far the best tequila I’ve ever tasted. Very smooth – I could sip it like wine. We left there a little tipsy but still able to really enjoy the drive over the Golden Gate bridge as we headed north for San Rafael where we’d spend our evening.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Up early on Saturday morning. Checked out the workout room, but it was packed, so we decided to explore San Rafael on foot - Very quaint town with great sidewalks and coffee shops. The highlight of the walk was all of the orange and lemon trees as well as the daffodils that are blooming. Makes me look forward to spring in Nashville.
After some really bad hotel coffee, we headed north to Novato to meet with the makers of Starry Night wines – Bruce Walker and Wayne Hansen. Spent an hour getting to know them, then got down to the real business – barrel tasting. These guys are doing fascinating things when it comes to blending different juice to come up with a great wine. While the number of wines we tasted was a bit overwhelming, you can tell that the next year’s vintage is going to be brilliant.
Left Novato and headed to Sonoma. It was invigorating to drive by all of the vineyards – some obscure and some familiar. Grabbed lunch at Sonoma and then headed to one of the most amazing wine tastings I’ve ever experienced. We drove to an elevation of 1147 feet to a series of caves that are in the development phase. We tasted pre-release Cabernet Sauvignon from the Montagne Vineyard.
Left there and went to the home of Sandra and John Fletcher, owners of Fog Harbour restaurant in San Francisco. Tasted the group through 5 of our South American wines and then the heavy hitter arrived. Todd Anderson of Conn Valley Vineyards arrived with 2 bottles of the legendary Ghost Horse wine. Retail on these wines is $1,000 a bottle. I have to admit, the wine was a bit wasted on me after tasting all day, but it was still great wine. We left there and grabbed a bite at a Mexican restaurant and headed back to San Rafael to grab a few hours sleep.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Slept in a bit and then decided to head up to St. Helena in spite of the rain. I’ m still amazed at the number of vineyards in this region. On a side note, the weather has been pretty nasty the whole time we’ve been here, but I’ve seen more rainbows in the last 3 days than I’ve seen in the last 3 years – always a bright spot if you look for it.
Met with a local producer at a coffee shop then headed out to stop in on some other producers. Tasted at 3 other wineries, then headed to San Francisco to drop Meredith off at the airport and then head on to Monterrey. The drive down was beautiful – crossing through Silicon Valley and then further south on highway 1. I’ve never seen so many artichoke farms in my life.
We headed into downtown Monterrey to look for a hotel. Happened upon the Marriott and they had rooms available. Checked in and then walked around the town to get a feel for the city. I was amazed at the number of ethnic restaurants within just a few miles. Monterrey is definitely a diverse and pretty upscale city. Headed out of town to the home of Lucio Gomero, one of the Italian wine importers we met a few weeks ago at VinItaly Miami. We have only spent 15 minutes with this gentleman, yet he has invited us into his home for dinner with his family. The food was amazing – tuna tartare, salami, cheese and bread to start. Then we sat down for dinner – homemade ravioli with sautéed radicchio. It turns out that he is one of the top Radicchio producers in California. He sells over $25 million of radicchio annually – not a bad income off of a bitter lettuce.
We enjoyed the remainder of the evening hearing stories of how Lucio helped launch a number of vineyards in the area. The highlight of the evening was when he went to his private cellar to pour us a glass of his garage port called – “CarPort”. Really yummy wine that he actually made in his garage. Doesn’t get much better than that.
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