Thursday, May 7, 2015

Winemakers of West of West pt. 2

Q & A with Noah Dorrance

How did you get into wine and winemaking?  The first time I made wine was when i worked at Crushpad in San Francisco.  I had been really "into wine" for a long time but hadn't really touched any grapes prior to 2005.

Is there a varietal you wish you could grow in the west sonoma coast?  I think there are lots of things that would be cool to grow on the Sonoma Coast like Nebbiolo and Riesling.  The basic problem is that the price potential for planting Pinot doesn't inspire many growers to take a chance on anything else, which I understand.  It would be an expensive experiment. 

What do you think would be successful in the west sonoma coast that has not been planted yet?  David Hirsch originally had plans to plant some riesling and maybe he even did at first.  I think it could be really interesting. There is a small plot at Platt Vineyard made by Radio Couteau that I really like.

How do you make wine more accessible? In our tasting room in Healdsburg we went away from the norm.  We tried to create an environment like a big living room with comfortable seating, table service and great music on vinyl.  This warm space enables people to enjoy wine in a more "natural habitat" that automatically relaxes them.  They can do tastings or just order glasses or bottles and hang out.  I think there are lots of settings where wine is presented in an unnatural way that forces people into thinking about it in a super reductive manner.  That's not how I get the most of wine either.  I like to drink it with friends and have fun.  

Why is pinot noir worth the price tag?  It of course is not always worth it, but when it is, it reflects the cost to grow and make it.  To create distinctive Pinot from an area like the Sonoma Coast is expensive.  Pinot very quickly turns boring when overcropped even slightly.  If grown in the wrong place it can also turn pedestrian.  However in cool climate, lower yielding places it can make truly special wine that competes with all the best Pinot in the world. 

Do you find your region more difficult to farm than others, like Russian River? 
I think most of our vineyards on the Sonoma Coast are definitely a bit more finicky.  We have some vineyards we source from that have never gotten more than 2 tons/acre.

What is the role of the sommelier to you? Do they inform your process? 
I think great Somms have really become an integral extension for us a winery.  They are many times the champion of our wines and connect us to consumers.  A huge number of people who visit us or buy Banshee, first found us at a restaurant.  I mentioned that there are many unnatural settings where wine is presented, well great restaurants and their Somms are an extremely elevated setting for wines.  We definitely consider Somms as a key audience when creating our wines.  

What would you like sommeliers to know in Chicago?
Come out and visit us.  There are many of us who would love to show you around. 
That and you guys live in amazing food city that rivals almost anywhere Ive been.

What are your favorite things to do in Chicago?
Don't hold this against me but Wrigley Field if my beloved Cardinals are in town.

What's your desert island wine?  If Ive got refrigeration or ice, it's definitely Salon or Larmandier-Bernier VV.  toss up.

What's the single best bottling that you have done?
Id have to say, if I have to pick just one, it would be the 2013 Coastlands. It has not been released yet but it's a stunner.  Start to finish just epic.

What’s your favorite single vineyard that you make? 

If you could get a drink or drunk with one person living or dead who would that be and why?  Michael Jordan.  Growing up a sports fanatic there's really no other possible answer.  Greatest of all time.

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