This has been a story I've been waiting to tell. Somehow, someway Craig Jaffurs and Dave Yates have been a part of my wine career almost since the beginning. As a young wine buyer, Craig explained the concept of Brix to me. I can't even tell you how many wine dinners I've been to with Craig. I do know that for each dinner, Craig's wines have brought out the best on some of my favorite Chefs, and closest friends. When I became a sales rep, one of the wines in my portfolio was Jaffurs. I know I sold a lot of their wine because I still always hear about the good ole days from these guys. When I decided to move to Ohio, Craig and Dave put me with Walt for a lunch at La Super Rica in Santa Barbara (You have no idea how great...). Walt eventually hired me, and again I was selling Jaffurs. As I was putting together the concept for ampelography, Dave and Craig were 2 of my first phone calls. This is one of those phenomenon in this business that makes it so special. We are all members of our own mutual admiration society. And it is these types of relationships that can last a lifetime. Oh, by the way, the wines are ridiculously good. I remember back in the day when we would speculate as to why the press hadn't wised up to these wines. Now, they are famous for the huge scores. The thing is, the style of these wines has remained the same all these years. The guys make Rhone wines in Santa Barbara. They make the best examples of nearly every single vineyard bottling they produce. I have had countless winemakers tell me that Jaffurs Roussanne is the absolute best White Rhone Wine from the U.S.! Their Syrahs all have a sense of place. Each single vineyard bottling has it's own personality, but all have that commonality of of balanced structure and minerality. These wines age as well as their Rhone counterparts. I'd rather drink Jaffurs Viognier than almost any Condrieu. I could go on, but I'll just say that we are thrilled to add Jaffurs Wines Cellars to the ampelography portfolio!
I had a tremendous vist to Wine Country-South last week. I've always loved the people and wines of Santa Barbara. My opinions were further solidified. Everyone was so hospitable, and i learned a ton about each winery and personality. I also learned a few things about how to handle multiple appointments and etiquette.
1) Foxen's new winery is going to be the "Toy" that Bill always deserved. Bill Wathan has always been a great winemaker, now he will have plenty of room to maneuver in Foxen's new "green" winery that is nearing completion. Solar Panels, Low profile, native plants, Foxen has done a great job of keeping this project as environmentally friendly as spossible. Along with their Tinnaquaic and now Tinnaquaic 2 vineyards, they are expanding their organic grape growing program.
2) Dave Corey of Core is a mad scientist! Dave somehow juggles seemingly dozens of different cuvees and know intimately where everything comes from. Why so many different bottlings? Because he does them all well.Exciting things to come from Core, especially the 2007 Reds!
3) Buttonwood's indelible style comes from their micro climate and own rootstock Bordeaux varieties. We talk a lot about "House Style", it amazes me how Buttonwood has developed just that, their own house style.
4) Niner has an amazing operation coming on line in the next year. The 2 vineyards, Bootjack Ranch and Heart Hill Vineyard are going to be some of the best known vineyards in Paso within a few years. The placement of these vineyards helps to keep the breezes flow through the vineyards. No raisin flavors! It was great to spend the day with my old friend Ken Bryant.
5) Silver has a few tricks up their sleeve. Despite a few setbacks, keep an eye on Benjamin Silver, his next vintage will turn some heads. His farming and winemaking philosophies are unique, and his attention to detail and steady hand have always served him well.
6) Rebecca and Peter Work of Ampelos are some of the smartest and most resourceful winemakers I've ever met. Trading in their management consultant jobs for the familial closeness of Ampelos Vineyard and winery, they brought the most important element to the table:knowing who to ask questions of and never assuming anything.
7) The wine business has a way of keeping everyone close, and relationships separated by years and thousands of miles can continue to last a lifetime.
8) Some wineries don't want to share the stage/ It is possible to overbook your day, and it's a good way to insult some people.
9) You can't make all the people happy all of the time