wine maker interview

Arizona Winemaker wins big in National Competition

Eric Glomski

Eric Glomski, Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold Cellars

The Jefferson Cup wine competition held this past November was a major achievement in Arizona Wine. The Jefferson Cup is an invitation only wine competition held in Kansas City. The wines were judged by some of the industries most well known Master Sommeliers and Masters of Wine from across the country, 13 in all. There are no Gold or Silver medals awarded.
Over 630 wines from all of America’s wine regions were selected to compete with just under 300 being awarded “Medals of American Merit”
52 wines won “Medals of American Excellence” and only 22 wines won Jefferson Cups.

In an Amazing feat for Arizona wine and for any winemaker, Eric Glomski (winemaker for Page Springs Cellars and Arizona Stronghold) took home 3 Medals of Merit, 2 Medals of Excellence and 2 out of only 22 Jefferson Cups awarded.

Here is an interview with Eric Glomski just after the awards were announced:

A List of Eric Glomski’s award winning wines:

Page Springs Cellars:

El Serrano 2010, Red Blend, Cochise County | Jefferson Cup

Mourvedre Colibri Vineyards 2010, Cochise County|Jefferson Cup

La Serrana 2010, White Blend, Cochise County | Medal of Excellence

Landscape Page Springs Estate Vineyard 2010, Red Blend, Yavapai County ………Medal of Excellence

Petite Sirah “Page Springs Estate Vineyard” 2010 Yavapai County | Medal of Merit

Pinot Noir “Bonita Springs”, 2010, Graham County | Medal of Merit

Arizona Stronghold Vineyards: Cabernet Sauvignon “Dala” 2009, Cochise County, Arizona | Medal of Merit

For a complete list of Jefferson Cup Competition award winners click HERE

2 Quick Video Interviews | Cellar Dwellers | Callaghan Vineyards

Flip cam interviews from the 3rd annual Arizona Wine Growers Association Festival on the Farm

Cellar Dwellers:

Callaghan Vineyards:

 

For more pictures visit facebook.com/weeklywinejournal

Scott McWilliam shares some of his new wines

I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Scott McWilliam, 6th generation Australian wine maker for McWilliam’s wines.  A quick primer on McWilliam’s: Founded in 1877,  McWilliam’s is Australia’s most awarded winery.  They won 40 trophies and 889 medals in 2009 alone! Scott has been making wine since age 14 and has spent time in Bordeaux.

We tasted several wines in this sitting including Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and a special Bordeaux blend called “Jack’s Blend”

A quick video introducing  Jack’s Blend:

A quick video introducing McWilliam’s Cabernet:

an even quicker video introducing McWilliam’s Riesling:

McWilliam’s WEBSITE

Dinner with the Craigs

As wine consumers we are accustomed to perusing wine reviews, sometimes as we are shopping for wines.  We are used to reading the flavor profiles and scanning for points.  We do this quickly and efficiently, searching for gems, or just for something decent to pair with tonight’s dinner.  But if we dig a little deeper there are the stories of the vineyards, the wine makers and the terroir.

Howell Mountain wine maker

Robert and Lynn Craig

On my recent trip to Napa Valley I was treated to an amazing dinner as the guest of Robert and Lynn Craig.  I first met the legendary Napa Valley Wine producer in Scottsdale, Arizona in September of 2010 at a wine maker dinner.  After that event, Robert and his wife Lynn invited me to visit them in Napa the following summer (2011) and to attend The Taste of Howell Mountain.

Well when the time finally came, I couldn’t have been more excited, and was happily surprised that they still knew who I was!  I guess not everyone has a sub par memory like me!

Napa tapas bar

Zuzu Tapas and Paella

We met at ZuZu tapas in downtown Napa, overlooking the banks of the Napa river.  We enjoyed a multitude of various tapas, including sautéed jumbo shrimp, and flat-iron steak.  The wine?  A bottle of the 2008 Robert Craig Affinity!

But the wine was just a back drop to the conversation.  Over our 2 hour dinner we talked about almost everything and anything that came to mind.  From my recent affliction to gluten and lactose, to their adventures in the Okavango Delta in Botswana and Alaska/Denali.

In a previous life, Robert Craig was in the Coast Guard and was stationed in the Alaskan panhandle for a while, and he said very little had changed in the nearly 50 years since he had been there. It was while he was stationed in San Fransisco that he met his future wife, Lynn. In the late 1960′s San Fransisco was the epicenter of the counter culture movement. During this time the Craig’s would venture north into the relatively undiscovered Napa Valley. Robert was involved in real estate and eventually he came across a deal he couldn’t let go and he put together an investment group to acquire vineyard land on Mt. Veeder. Robert Craig was instrumental in Mt Veeder becoming an official AVA. The investment group sold the land to Donald Hess  and Robert stayed on as General manager of the Hess Collection. In 1992 Robert Craig started his own winery, sourcing grapes from a friends Howell Mountain vineyard and making wine at various facilities.  In 1998  he acquired some prime vineyard land on a steep slope right near the peak of Howell Mountain, over looking Napa Valley to the west and Pope Valley to the east. He planted right away and in 2002 the Robert Craig Winery in its current form was born, sourcing grapes from his own land, and making wine in his own premises.

As we were discussing the serious matters of mountain fruit versus valley floor fruit and Lynn was explaining how she edits the website information, I noticed Robert sniffing the cork of the bottle of Spanish Albarino he had ordered. The cork was plastic. Out of the corner of his eye he glanced at Lynn, who sensed he was looking at her. She looked at him for a second and then smiled
“Bob, stop that!” she laughed
He chuckled and his eyes twinkled.
His endearing sense of humor, often under the radar, understated and Lynn’s appreciation of that humor are some of the things that has kept them happily married after all these years!

Well the food plates kept coming and the Craig’s kept telling me to “eat, eat!” This was a familiar feeling, as my own grandparents had often said the same thing, they used to tell me I ate like a bird..peck peck. The evening finally drew to a close, and we made plans to meet the following morning at the Culinary Institute of America in St Helena where I would join the Craig’s in their vehicle for a ride up Howell Mountain and a private tour of their vineyard!

Cooks & Corks Arizona Wine Seminar

The Scottsdale Culinary Festival featured a special event called Cooks & Corks.  Guests paid $65 a ticket to be wined and dined inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing arts.  Within this special event was an even more exclusive Arizona Wine Seminar.  Seating was limited to just 65 guests who were treated to a run down on the Arizona wine industry featuring guests speakers, Pavle Milic, Todd Bostock and Kent Callaghan.  Bellow you will find 3 videos of the seminar.

Interview | Curt Dunham | Lawrence Dunham Vineyards

I took a little tour of Curt Dunham’s personal wine cellar at his home in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Lawrence Dunham Vineyards WEBSITE

How one Napa Valley producer has found success by focusing on Quality not Quantity

wine bottleRobert Craig, one of Napa Valley’s most dynamic and hard working winemakers, recently took a small break from his busy schedule to visit the Phoenix area. I was lucky enough to be invited as a guest at a wine maker dinner he was hosting at the outstanding, newly designed restaurant, Bistro Laurent Tourondel (BLT).

BLT has built a reputation for their fabulous cellar, stocked full of top tier Napa Valley and Bordeaux, valued at a cool $100,000.  As quickly as I was let in to their cellar, I was let out… I think the manager was concerned with my wandering, awestruck eyes.  You have to be careful of those blogger types, eh?
dining room

Dining room and wine cellar

Returning to the dining room, Robert Craig entered to a warm round of applause.  Craig took us on a journey of his winery’s history and experiences before delving into an important piece of his wine making philosophy.  He critically referred to the American culture of always looking out for what’s next, always trying to get bigger and bigger and bigger, especially in business.  At this point in his life, which he jokingly refers to as “getting on in years”,  he is not concerned with producing more wine as many of his neighbors are. Instead, his focus is on quality.  It became obvious that his philosophy is taken from many smaller, boutique European producers, as he continually referenced the ideals of these overseas cohorts.

scottsdale BLT

Guests enjoying champagne before dinner

The first course was a country style duck pate with brandied cherries, pistachio and arugula paired with the 2008 Robert Craig “Durrell Vineyard” Chardonnay from Sonoma Valley.  This Chardonnay is the only wine he makes outside of Napa, and the only white wine in his entire portfolio.  Aged in a mix of 10% new French oak, 65% neutral French oak and 25% Stainless steel, it is a wine that is light on oak, focused on fruit purity and a distinct sense of the Durrell Vineyard terroir. Less than 500 total cases were produced.

This was followed by roasted pork belly, ricotta gnudi, root vegetable fricassee and crispy pork skins paired with the 2007 Robert Craig “Affinity”, a Bordeaux styled blend created specifically with “the restaurant experience in mind”, as Craig explained.  The wine should not require additional aging or decanting to be enjoyed.  Each year just under 6,000 cases of Affinity are produce and every year it sells out.  With a 96 point score from Robert Parker, it’s no wonder they have no trouble selling it.  I found the wine to be smooth and supple in the way it just seemed to glide across the palate.  It screams quintessential Napa Valley, with cassis, perfume, violet and a hint of tar.  At $48 retail, this might be the steal of the century.

I just had to take this picture!

The third course was a Grouper stew featuring lobster mushrooms, chirozo and northern beans, a great but non-traditional pairing for the 2006 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder Cabernet.  A big and chewy wine with rich tannins, this is a bigger style than the Affinity, requiring a slight decant for maximum enjoyment.

The main course, a pepper-crusted NY strip with huckleberry braised beef cheek, roasted carrots and fava beans was paired with the 2006 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  With a miniscule production of  1,240 cases, this wine is simply stunning.  It is riper than the Mt. Veeder with an even longer finish. This is a serious Napa Cab with a long future ahead of it, meaning that decanting is recommended in the near future.
The fifth and final course was caramelized French butter pears with cambozola ice cream inside of a walnut crisp pastry paired with the 2007 Robert Craig Howell Mountain Zinfandel. This is where the pairings really pushed the envelope.  Cambozola ice cream tastes like ice cream made with brie and blue cheese.  However, it really worked with the sweet pears and the earthy zinfandel.  The fruit comes from the famous Black Sears vineyard on Howell Mountain, the highest vineyard on Howell Mountain. The wine is peppery with a pronounced minerality that I found to be quite interesting. Again, at only 800 cases produced, Craig’s mantra for quality and not quantity becomes evident.
Sitting next to Robert Craig throughout dinner and having deep conversation with him, you get a real feel for the winemaker.  Humble, soft spoken and gentle, but also exceptional.  More producers should take a cue from Craig and focus on their wine, not the numbers.
Edited by Jon Troutman

Interview | Nicki Pruss, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

I recently got a chance to spend a few minutes with Nicki Pruss, wine-maker at the world famous Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.

Nicki Pruss

We talked a little bit about her background and how she worked her way up into the wine-maker position at this prestigious vineyard.  Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was bought by a partnership of Marchese Piero Antinori and Chateau Ste Michelle wine estates in 2007 for a whopping $185,000,000.  Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is one of only two wines in the Smithsonian institute, based on its fantastic showing at the Judgment of Paris 1976.

Review | Arizona Wine Grower’s Festival on the Farm 2010

The 2nd annual Arizona Wine Grower’s Association Festival on the Farm was place to be in the Valley of the Sun this past weekend.  The Pecan tree groves at The Farm at South Mountain provided a beautifully serene and intimate setting for an afternoon featuring dozens of Arizona wineries and winemakers.  Over 700 guests were given the opportunity to sample award winning wine from over 20 of Arizona’s best vineyards and wineries and also meet and mingle with the wine makers themselves.

In addition to sampling wines, guests were also given the opportunity to participate in wine seminars and also judge wines in the People’s Choice wine contest.  Guests were given blind samples to rate  while listening to panelists discussions led by moderator Richard Ruelas of the Arizona Republic.  Panelists included FnB’s Pavle Milic, Dos Cabeza’s Patty Coughlin and Arizona wine broker Jim Wiskerchen. The People’s Choice winners were  Merkin Vineyards Shinola and  Arizona Stronghold Site Archive Bonita Springs Chardonnay.

The highlight of my day was a nice stroll through the Pecan groves talking with wine maker Eric Glomski.  Click here to see the videos

Check out photos from this event on The Weekly Wine Journal’s Facebook page

Complete list of Award Winners HERE

Wine Maker Interview|Eric Glomski

I had a chance to ask Arizona wine maker and Blood into Wine co-star Eric Glomski some questions while at the Arizona Wine Grower’s Festival at The Farm on Saturday November 6th, 2010.  We took a stroll through the pecan groves and chatted a while.

Part one:

Part two: