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Rebels With a (Wine) Cause

September 27, 2017

Did you know that James Dean’s fatal car crash happened in Paso Robles Wine Country? On September 30, 1955, James Dean passed away on Highway 46 at the Highway 41 Junction – just prior to the release of his signature film, “Rebel Without a Cause.”

Today, we look into the lives of Paso Wine Country’s rebels, Jake and Josh Beckett, Chronic Cellars, Brian Benson, Brian Benson Cellars, and Christian Tietje, Rotta Winery, and learn where their rebellious spirit came from and how it transcends into their wine.

 

 

Jake Beckett, Chronic Cellars

Founder/Grower

Were you rebellious as a kid? How often were you in detention? I didn’t consider myself rebellious, detention was relatively normal though. …And I had my rights read to me before the age of 21.

What about you is considered rebellious/unconventional in Paso Wine Country or the wine industry in general? Probably our blending style and branding style.

How does this rebellious spirit come across in your wine (e.g., labels, blends, tasting notes, etc.)? My brother does the blending, so he will have a better answer. But I name the wines and the artist, Joe Kalionzes, carves the images to match the names. They usually both have hidden messages. Some people think they are edgy 🙂

If you were to write tasting notes to describe yourself, what would they say? Plays well with others but has a slight appetite for destruction.

If you had a warning label, what would it say? Don’t feed the animals

James Dean was considered a rebel. What wine do you think is appropriate to commemorate the anniversary of his death? How about a nice blend, “Unteachables.”

Josh Beckett, Chronic Cellars

Founder/Winemaker

Were you rebellious as a kid? How often were you in detention?   Does being suspended from school for fighting count as being rebellious?

What about you is considered rebellious/unconventional in Paso Wine Country or the wine industry in general?  Doing it my way.  Not following the typical blend patterns or being varietally correct.

How does this rebellious spirit come across in your wine (e.g., labels, blends, tasting notes, etc.)?  Sofa King Bueno! Love Insects! Tasting notes always have a smart ass comment or sarcastic start.

What is the most unconventional wine you’ve made? Was it by design or by accident? How’d it work out?  Blend of 25% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah, 18% Mourvedre, 16% Zinfandel, 15% Grenache, 5%, Tempranillo, 1% Tannat  By design 100%. Look where Chronic is today, and you tell me how it worked!

If you were to write tasting notes to describe yourself, what would they say?  Chill. No rules. If I like it, do it.

If there were no obstacles, what would be your next “rebellious” project?  Can’t tell you or someone will steal my idea.

Brian Benson, Brian Benson Cellars

Owner/Winemaker

Were you rebellious as a kid? How often were you in detention? I got into a fair amount of trouble as a kid. I didn’t get much detention, but I ditched class more than I care to admit.

What about you is considered rebellious/unconventional in Paso Wine Country or the wine industry in general? My wines. My blends. My labels. Me…I do have a lot of tattoo’s, but nowadays everybody’s grandma has a tattoo…

How does this rebellious spirit come across in your wine (e.g., labels, blends, tasting notes, etc.)? I use handguns and rifles to create abstract paintings that we use for our labels. The front of the bottle is just a print of the artwork, without the winery name or wine listed on the front.

What is the most unconventional wine you’ve made? Was it by design or by accident? How’d it work out? The most unconventional wine I’ve made, or wines, would be a 46-month barrel aged Merlot, a Primitivo/Syrah/Mourvedre blend named after the biggest rebel/badass I’ve ever heard of, and a Cabernet/Syrah coferment called Mr. Pickles.

If you had a warning label, what would it say? Heavily armed and likely intoxicated, proceed with caution.

James Dean was considered a rebel. What wine do you think is appropriate to commemorate the anniversary of his death? Rapid Roy, named after a moonshine running, stock car racing bank robber named Rapid Roy Hall

Christian Tietje, Rotta Winery

winemaker

Whether it was his rebellious spirit or the fact that its harvest and he was just busy, we had to track Christian down to interview him over the phone just before going to print (as he was rinsing out fermenters).

Were you rebellious as a kid? How often were you in detention? In school I was never bad, but I was never innocent, if you know what I mean? I was a great combo of good and bad, with a religious upbringing that instilled the fear of God in me, but was bad enough to piss him off.

What about you is considered rebellious/unconventional in Paso Wine Country or the wine industry in general? So, I should back it up to say, I was a kid of the 80s. I surfed, listed to punk rock, and wanted to do things my way. I entered the wine biz in the 90s and the industry was boring and stuffy, dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and the people who drank it. So when I started my own label, I wanted to be different and be myself. Which is where labels like Anarchy, Heretic, and Naked came from. I took a note out of Randall Grahm’s book and made labels that stood out. It made people think. It was art and not kitchy BS. S*@!. When I first released Naked Chardonnay, CostPlus wouldn’t even carry it. It’s not like it said G-String or thong up your butt on the label. It was unoaked Chardonnay!

What is the most unconventional wine you’ve made? Was it by design or by accident? How’d it work out? Anarchy for sure. I was Zin winemaker in Paso. Rhone came to Paso and everyone started making their GSMs. Winemakers love to chase really good vineyards, so I found some kick ass Syrah and Mourvedre, but the Grenache I had was too lean, it just wasn’t there. Well, Zin walks a similar line to Grenache, but a little more spicy, more rock star, so I dropped that in there. When Hospice du Rhone rolled around, I wanted to show that wine, but they wouldn’t let me because it wasn’t a GSM. It was still a shiner, so I made some business cards with the Anarchy symbol and taped them on the bottles, and poured it. That’s how Anarchy came to be.

If you were to write tasting notes to describe yourself, what would they say? When I describe wine I tend to swear a lot and make sexual connotations. (We were not able to use what Christian said next, but let’s just say it involved velvet gloves and submission…)

James Dean was considered a rebel. What wine do you think is appropriate to commemorate the anniversary of his death? Anarchy of course! Rebel without a cause.

If there were no obstacles, what would be your next “rebellious” project? I guess I’m doing it now in my latest project. I’m rebelling against being a rebel by working with the bordelaise right now. I’m the world’s biggest hypocrite, but I’m having fun messing around with Cab, doing what I did with Zin and making a bunch of different Cab blends – Cab with Tempranillo, Cab with Zin, and with other Bordeaux varietals. I think Merlot will be cool again and will explore working with it in the future.