Barrel to Barrel
June 4, 2019
Paso Winemakers Share Their Stoke for Winemaking and Waves
How does surfing, which is known to be a blend of art, science, and athleticism, influence your winemaking style? Surfing is all about respecting mother nature, the elements, and navigating them to the best of your abilities. Growing great fruit and making wine is no different. Also, making great wine has a lot to do with taking risks and breaking boundaries, which is at the very core of surfing.
Fall happens to be when the harvest is upon us, but also the prospect of good surf. How do you balance the two? Simple, I don’t! Fall is both my favorite and least favorite time of year because I love making wine but I don’t surf much during harvest.
What varietal(s) that you work with could be compared to Pipeline, Trestles, Jeffrey’s Bay, and your home break?
Pipeline – Petite Sirah – raw & powerful, but under the right conditions absolutely beautiful. Not for the faint of heart!
Trestles – Cabernet – popular and easy to love but terribly overcrowded!
Jeffrey’s Bay – Pinot Noir – timeless perfection but only mastered by those who have the patience for it. And it calls out the flaws in your technique loud and clear.
Your home break – Grenache – soft and friendly sometimes, but also powerful and intense at other times.
What wine region, that has the prospect of surfing, have you traveled to and how is it like Paso Robles? I lived in Australia for two years, where I completed my Master’s in Oenology. The waves and wines were both amazing, and the laid back, country feel of the wine growing regions were very similar to Paso Robles. It’s one of those special places where they take their wines seriously but remain extremely friendly and unpretentious. And like Paso, you still get to meet many of the winemakers in the tasting rooms!
Winter sessions can be quite frigid around here. What meal and Paso wine warms the evening after a surf? 2016 Petite Sirah paired up with a rich, Basque-style seafood stew and crusty bread smothered in local olive oil.
What kind of surfboard is the Paso Robles AVA? My father and brother are both surfboards shapers, and Paso very much reminds of the boards they have made me over my lifetime. Handmade, authentic boards that not only work amazing but are made by a true craftsman who cares deeply about the product they produce and the people who ride them. It’s less about the style of the board they make (aka the varietal) that makes them special, but more about the creativity, love, and care that they put into what they do that makes them truly unique.
How does surfing, which is known to be a blend of art, science, and athleticism, influence your winemaking style? Surfing has influenced my style in a few different ways. It has taught me to be creative which coincides with our blending of wines and vineyards. Surfing has taught me to be patient. Patient while waiting for the surf to get good on the central coast is always a must. Patient in the cellar and letting the wines do what the want during harvest/fermentation is a must. Don’t rush them along and over manipulate the wines. I must stay in somewhat decent shape to keep surfing which helps for those long hours during harvest and walking all of our Estate vineyards and those we purchase fruit from.
Fall happens to be when the harvest is upon us, but also the prospect of good surf. How do you balance the two? This can be a very painful time of year. Driving by the surf during the fall to head over the hill to Paso and see the surf really good is tough. Especially when you work for yourself! To have the discipline to put the blinders on when it is an absolute must to get to the winery or vineyard can be a challenge. Lots of mornings I leave my house in the dark so I can’t see the waves. But even that warm offshore wind during the fall can get me as I head off to work. I definitely manipulate my schedule more this time of year around the surf.
What varietals that you work with could be compared to Pipeline and Trestles? Pipeline – Our D Block wine would be most comparable to Pipe for me. Not because of how gnarly, big and scary Pipeline is but they are similar in regards to the history that they have. Pipeline goes back for decades as being the mecca of surfing. It is in all the books and movies. It has made surfing legends and put no names on the map from one single wave. Our D Block is comprised of Zinfandel history. It has 18 selections of Zinfandel from the oldest Zinfandel Vineyards throughout the state of California. Cuttings from no-name vineyards to Vineyards that get the most money for Zinfandel in the state. It is a special one acre in a place that no one else in the world can replicate. Just Like that little takeoff zone at Pipeline that is one in a million.
Trestles – Our Willow wine would best compare to Trestles. Trestles is the host to what was once considered the most high-performance wave in the world. Everybody who was anybody surfed it to show what they were made of! Every surfer wanted to show what they had at Trestles since the media was always present doing photos and videos. One shot or one clip in a movie could make you lots of money. You could also show all of your peers who you were and what you could do. Our Willow is comprised of the best fruit coming from the Willow Creek District in Paso. The press has taken a liking to this area and the wine coming from some of the wineries that source fruit in this area is world class. Today it seems that if you want to put your name on the map you need to be sourcing some fruit from the Willow Creek District at some point.
What wine region, that has the prospect of surfing, have you traveled to and how is it like Paso Robles? Margaret River! The open-minded and friendly vibe from the wineries is very similar to Paso. The public can meet winemakers and vineyard professionals and learn all about the respective regions while they are visiting. World Class wines from small producers and larger houses alike. The industry professionals gathered and shared stories and ideas as we do as well. Surf is like the Central Coast is many ways. They both can be raw and unruly. Mysto Slabs and solo sessions are a given. Lots of big sea creatures in the water from both of these parts of the world.
Winter sessions can be quite frigid around here. What meal and Paso wine warms the evening after a surf? The Odd One (GSM Blend from Estate Dry Farmed fruit) to drink with flank steak, grilled veggies, and goat cheese over butter lettuce with homemade balsamic lemon and honey dressing.
What kind of surfboard is the Paso Robles AVA? High-Performance Fun Shape. A board that is fun in all conditions but is high performance enough to rip the shit out of any wave!
WINEMAKER, LAW ESTATE WINES
How does surfing, which is known to be a blend of art, science, and athleticism, influence your winemaking style? I think that surfing influences my winemaking style in the same way that it influences my life in general. Surfing forces you to live in the present without any thought of what has been and what will be. Every wave is different, which forces you to approach every single wave like a blank canvas.
The lines you decide to draw on that canvas depend on what that particular wave and moment in time offers. In a very similar way every vintage is different and every day throughout harvest requires a fresh and clear approach, though in winemaking and especially viticulture it is important to be aware of what has happened in the past and what could happen in the future, I still believe that it is most important to live in the moment treating each decision you make in the vineyards and winery the same way you would approach the next wave.
Fall happens to be when the harvest is upon us, but also the prospect of good surf. How do you balance the two? When Fall comes around the wind goes offshore and more often than not the swell is pumping, at the same time it’s all happening in the vineyards, things are getting ripe and I tend to have less and less time to actually make it out to the coast for a surf. I usually try and get as much surfing in during spring and summer when we get some fun South swells and then make it out for dawn patrol sessions during the fall if I have the time.
I’m usually pretty hungry by the end of harvest having not surfed for a month or two so I treat myself to a little surf trip to get the gills wet again. This year I will probably head to New Zealand for a few weeks to surf.
What varietals that you work with could be compared to Pipeline and Trestles? This is an interesting question, if I had to compare a variety we grow on the property to Pipeline it would probably be Syrah, it grows with lots of vigor just like the open ocean swells that roll across the second reef at Pipe and then detonate on the inside, Syrah can also be a bit unpredictable just like pipe and here at Law specifically it can produce a massive brooding and powerful wine.
Trestles is a wave that I have actually surfed quite a bit unlike Pipeline and it is a perfect high-performance wave that seems to elevate your surfing every time you pop up. The wave is not too steep or intense but rather reliable, almost predictable soft and forgiving. In some ways I would liken it to the Tempranillo on our property, which is not too intense in any direction, being very balanced and soft as far as acidity goes. Tempranillo’s broad palate weight and big velvety tannins remind me somehow of the rippable walls that Trestles often offers up during a nice south swell, though I’ll be honest this one is a bit of a stretch.
What wine region, that has the prospect of surfing, have you traveled to and how is it like Paso Robles? The great thing about wine for a surfer is that the best wine regions in the world are often some of the best-surfing destinations of the world as well. New Zealand, Australia, France, California, Chile, and South Africa all have both incredible waves and wine.
I spent the better part of 8 years living in New Zealand where I split my time between the cellar and the ocean in Gisborne, Martinborough, Auckland, and the South Island. I would say my favorite surf/wine destination where I have made wine in New Zealand is Martinborough, which is very similar to Paso in a way, completely different varietals grown, but the coast is isolated the water is cold and sharky and the waves can be incredible and uncrowded.
I was also lucky enough to spend three years in Bordeaux at Chateau Angelus, where I would always manage to sneak away for a few sessions in Hossegor, considered to be one of the best beach breaks in the world.
Winter sessions can be quite frigid around here. What meal and Paso wine warms the evening after a surf? For me the perfect winter meal and wine after a cold evening session on the coast is a slow braised lamb shank with a rich red wine reduction, garlic mash, and some fresh steamed veggies, which goes perfectly with Law’s Aspire a beautiful bold blend of 86% Syrah and 14% Grenache that tends to warm you up nicely.
What kind of surfboard is the Paso Robles AVA? If the Paso Robles AVA was a surfboard it would probably be a high-performance retro pin tail twin fin, with maybe a few channels running through the bottom. It’s a board that means business just like Paso wines, can handle big juicy surf but is also cruisy loose and all about a good time, without taking things to seriously.