Showing up…

I was browsing through some old photos in a recently discovered file on my laptop when I came across this one. At face value its a fun picture to look at and obviously depicts a relatively familiar scenario for any winemaker during harvest. So why is the photo plastered across this blog post? There is a deeper meaning behind the scene presented here and a connection that I think our readers and customers will appreciate.

It was pitch black and freezing cold, perched a few thousand feet up a mountain on the crush pad. There was no one around except for us, it felt like we were the only people left on earth. There was a quite moment shared as we leaned over this small bin of Syrah.

The moment captured was a silent one. We both knew what this meant and what it represented. A thousand images moved through our heads, flashes of what might lie ahead for us and this wine. Though the challenge presented was great and still is, there is one thing that can never be disputed. This image shows two men who “showed up”, men who had an idea and a dream, when it came down to it they “showed up”. There are many ways to succeed, the only way I know to ensure that success is impossible, is by not showing up.

The wine that was made from these grapes is our 2009 Betty “reserve” Syrah. This wine is everything we knew it could be. I look a this photo and then look at a bottle of Betty, and I believe that everything is possible. No matter the odds, show up.


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The “Why” to our “What”

The Holidays bring about a host of emotions for most people. As a winemaker, The start of the holidays represents the end of harvest. This is always a time of reflection for me, time to check myself and assess the big picture. This harvest was challenging and rewarding, with some close attention to detail the vintage turned out to be a promising one for Carlotta Cellars. Part of my reflection this year was centered around the “why”. The “why” represents why we do what we do, why we make wine.

It’s no surprise to Aran and I that our “why” is just as important as our “what”. In other words, the reason we make our wines is just as important to us as the product itself. Our first newsletter we sent out years ago was essentially a statement of why, we spoke very little about the wines and went into depth about why we started Carlotta Cellars. The pursuit of happiness and the American dream is central to our cause. We wholeheartedly believe in exercising the right we have as Americans to pursue happiness by building Carlotta Cellars from the ground up, with purpose. We believe in knowing the boundaries and pushing past them, we constantly strive for perfection, cutting corners is never allowed. We believe that wine is as much about the people who consume it as the product itself. The Greatest wines in the world are only great if they make an impact on the lives of those who enjoy them. Great wines should inspire thought and facilitate conversation. Our wines should reflect our passion, hope and relentless pursuit of unique world class wines. We believe in all these ideas, collectively they are the “Why” to our “what”.

If your beliefs are in line with ours I encourage you to seek out our wines a belief becomes a reality when it is acted upon, when it is shared and understood. I invite you to share ours with friends and family. Cheers!

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The vineyard at night

I’m camping out at our vineyard site in Lake County tonight. The vineyard runs right up to the lake so the view is amazing. While I miss sleeping in my own bed with my wife, there is something peaceful and calming about this place. Being at the vineyard site overnight allows me to reconnect with it. As winemakers we tend to forget that our grapes are truly a part of nature, we sometimes see them through the lense of production or even sales and forget the most amazing part of all. We are a privileged few who take a piece of nature and capture its beauty in bottle. I don’t mean to sound over dramatic but it’s refreshing to re-visit why we choose this path. The connection between people and nature is at the heart of the winemakers journey, it defines us and gives a real sense of purpose. Goodnight

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Cheers to a great harvest!

Each year around the second week of September, we lock down picking dates for the first fruit of the season. It’s around this time that winemakers go through a series of emotional phases. There is hope, anxiety, joy and worry all rolled into one. There is a vision of what we want to accomplish, of course things never work out exactly according to that plan but the same goes for anything in life. The human aspect of winemaking is born here, at the harvest. Choices are made, sweat pours down the brows of those who have the courage to stand in the arena and put it all on the line for a product they believe in. Harvest is poetry in motion one minute and pure chaos the next. The worst part is always the week before the first fruit. The week we examine ourselves and look inward for guidance and strength. This goes out to my fellow winemakers who find themselves facing harvest with excitement and anticipation. Keep your head down, put a smile across your face, make the best wine you can possibly make and feel honored to be apart of this great ancient tradition. Cheers!

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Rose review!

Check out this review of our 2010AD Rose from the wine buyer at Jonathan Waxmen’s restaurant “Barbuto” in New York!

‘2010AD rosé’ carlotta cellars ’10 north coast ~ grenache, mourvedre                                

I have a complex where I’m constantly analyzing what I have accomplished in my life in comparison to others at that same age. Perhaps this neurosis stems from my brother, who calls me every year on my birthday to remind me what Paul McCartney had accomplished by that same age. (This year, on the big 3-0, it was news that Sir Paul had already composed the theme to Live and Let Die.) As a result of this hyper-sensitivity I’ve developed to others’ achievements and my own mortality, I should completely hate David Grega and Aran Healy. They are three years younger than me, and have already produced two vintages of wine. But I can’t hate them, because it is some of the most unique and complex Rhône-style wine I’ve ever tasted from California. Their rosé in particular has this intense tangerine and grapefruit aroma that is a bit jolting at first sniff, then unbelievably satisfying at first gulp. There is also some real richness and body here, thanks to unusual techniques used in fermenting the wine (Wine geeks, if you must know, I’ll swing by your table to explain…) Just when you think you get a lock on what “Californian” wine should taste like, something like the 2010AD rosé comes along and challenges all your preconceived notions. Very little of this was made, and I was fortunate to snag a case. So, in these final days of Summer, order up a bottle of rosé and let these two precocious, overachieving, little punks show you a good time. (Okay, so maybe I hate them just a little…)

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Two things a REAL man must have

I can assure you this article will disappoint if pushups, cigars, guns and business suits are the kind of things that come to mind when thinking of being a man. I enjoy a fine cigars, a well tailored suit, a day at the shooting range and a nice workout like the next guy. The truth is that these are all nice supplements to a real man, but they do not MAKE a real man. One of the easiest things to do is put on the disguise of a rough gritty man by day and James bond like debonaire gentleman by night. The difficult task is actually becoming a real man.

What makes a real man, and who am I to know what that is? The best way to lead is by example. I’ve been fortunate enough to have many real men teach me through example. I’ve been smart enough to observe, take note and make attempts to copy what I see. Any sense I might have about what it means to be a real man is simply a reflection of what I have witnessed in real men. There are two main characteristics I find to be the core of every real man.

Lesson #1: Love

One of the manliest acts I’ve ever seen is an act of pure love. To show your love for another, to not hide it or be ashamed of it, to be cautious but generous with it, this is the ultimate act of a real man. My father is a great example of this. Here is a man who never waivers in his attempts to show how much he loves his family though his actions. He does not do this to show off or look good in front of others. His acts are numerous and they span a life time. He has simply never allowed himself not to love his family. This unwaivering dedication set the standard for me. My father works in the medical profession, he has taught me what it means to love others not just those you know. I can see that no matter how stressful or long the day, he is comforted by the fact that he was able to make a difference in peoples lives. Love is a slefless act. My father worked double the hours most men would call a normal work week and he did this as long as I can remember,up to present time. My family always had more than we needed. We never worried where our next meal would come from or if we could go on vacation. Dad always took care of things. My father could have sent me to public school, but he insisted on a private education. I attended top private schools including Jesuit High School in Carmichael California.

At the age of 50 my father suffered a heart attack. His sacrafice was a real one, it nearly cost him his life. He played the hand he was delt and never complained. A real man loves without limits, he loves with purpose and intention. My father taught me that a real man knows real love.

Lesson #2:Integrity

A real man can be counted on to do what is right when no one is looking. One of my platoon Sergeants, Sergent First Class Bradford, taught me that a man must have integrety. SFC Bradford was a strickt and fair man, he preached only the values he practiced. No matter what the scenario he never waivered in his standards. I remeber one afternoon in Kuwait while we were preparing to run a convoy security mission into Iraq I peeked out the back side of our tent and saw SFC Bradford walking between our tent and the one next to us. There was no one around, things were completly silent. Suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks, turned to his left and reached down by his boot. I couldn’t see what he was reaching for until he brought it up and placed it in his pocket. SFC Bradford had picked up a small wrapper that was half burried in the white Kuwaiti sand. Some would argue that this was not a monumental moment in world history and while I would agree I can say without a doubt this small action made a monumental impression on me. SFC Bradford had always taught us to take pride in ourselves and the places around us, to go out of the way to make things better when you left than they were when you arrived. Seeing him pick up that tiny peice of trash in the middle of a God forsaken dessert while assuming no one was watching helped me realize that he didn’t just talk about these moral and ethical standards, he practiced them. Without fail weather he was being watched or not he practiced what he preached. SFC Bradford would go on to prove time and time again that INTEGRETY, no matter what the circumstance, is a real mans obligation.

Over the course of my life I have been blessed with many “Real Men” as mentors. There is often confusion in the world as to what a real man is or does. A real man is above all else a man of passion and principal, a man who makes a real effort to give two fold what he receives. Love and integrity are his foundation in life.

A real man does not give speaches, he inspires them.


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Celebrate the artisan

Today I stopped by the spoonbar at H2 Hotel in Healdsburg to have a few cocktails made by Scott Beattie, a master mixologist who literally wrote the book on seasonal farm to table cocktails. I consider myself to be a classic cocktail nerd, a sort of junkie if you will. Normally I have a line up of cocktails that must be ordered when I’m in a great bar or cocktail lounge. Every time I make it to spoonbar I take whatever I think I want, like a classic sazerac or negroni, and ask Scott to make me something that is fresh and in season. More often than not I take the traditionalist approach to cocktails, the classics are always the best. Scott has a way of integrating fresh seasonal ingredients into classic cocktails without disrespecting tradition.

Every move is calculated when Scott whips up a cocktail, he doesn’t do a sloppy job or cut corners ever. There is somthing I respect about a man who takes pride in the process as well as the product. This is the mark of a true artisan. Scott, I salute you for fighting the good fight, for never compromising. Let’s all be more aware of those around us striving to be the best, to offer the best. Let us celebrate the artisan!

Below is a basil gimlet Scott made that was as tasty as it looks, a perfect Sazerac and a view of the many herbs, fruits and flowers used at Spoonbar.

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Serious in moderation

I recently read Steve Heimoff’s blog about James Suckling and how, essentially, Mr. Suckling and those like him are everything that is wrong with the public image of wine. Mr. Heimoff is much more enthusiastic about expressing his frustrations than I am but we can agree on quite a few points. There has been a trend or dare I say “Renaissance” in the wine business towards a less pretentious more open source relationship between the industry and the public. The Gary Vaynerchuk hosted winelibrary tv show is a great example of this. I too have embraced this refreshing approach to wine, I’ve already noted a much more adventurous and educated wine consuming public just in the past 3-5 years. Unfortunately because of this folks become confused with taking wine seriously and taking wine to seriously. If no one ever took mathematics seriously, where would we be? What about art and poetry? Approaching the study of wine with focus and intention is a good thing as long as it is balanced with some simple fun. You do not have to be pretentious or alienate the public to take a serious approach to wine. Yes, let’s all have fun enjoying wine and celebrating it but let’s also be sure to admire its depth, complexity and integration into who we are as people. Cheers!

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Why we do it

The majority of entrepreneurs who decide that winemaking is their passion ultimately fail.  The nature of this business is not for the weak of heart or mind. We live and work in a cyclical, unpredictable industry. There are more wines for consumers to choose from than can possibly be consumed. We must absorb production costs and fixed costs for sometimes two or more years before selling our product. I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you the pain. Run these scenarios through any MBA business program and people are likely to run screaming for mercy.

Why do we do it?

Simply put, it’s all about people. Winemaking is an attempt to explore the bond we all share.

Fighting in Iraq I learned quite a few lessons; many truths were unveiled before me. War helped me see the worst of mankind and the best, sometimes in the same instance, the very same moment. I learned the greatest thing we can stand for is each other. I witnessed dedication and selflessness like I never could have imagined. How can a man, whose very DNA has been shaped by the need for survival and self preservation, willingly lay his life down for another?  This is an act that we are hardwired to avoid; it simply goes beyond our nature. The answer is something that I don’t believe we can ever fully understand; the concept is a powerful one. We are all connected in some way. There is something other than flesh and blood that transcends the tangible world we live in.

How can winemaking possibly tie into this idea?

I believe that through the process of making wine, through the struggles and triumphs, the blood sweat and tears, we are able to move closer to that which binds us all together. Wine crosses all cultural, religious, and geographic boundaries. Wine helps to facilitate a connection of people to each other, an ideal, and a sense of place. The entrepreneur who, despite the odds puts forth his/her heart and soul, and leaves it all on the line year in and year out is the real hero of our world. The winemaker is a true soldier of our era.

I don’t know what the future holds for me or the wine industry. I can’t tell you one way or the other. The only thing I can promise is that I will never give up on you, the wine lover. I won’t let you down. I won’t stop, because it’s the pursuit that counts; it’s the journey that makes it so special, and people are at the very core of it all.

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Bottling, new web site, new wines!

A lot has happened at Carlotta Cellars recently. I have to admit, it has been an emotional, fun and passion filled experience for me. We will be releasing three wines in the weeks to come and I couldn’t be more proud of them. 50 cases of Alder Springs Marsanne that is hedonistic and delicious…75 cases of a beautiful Eagle Point Ranch Grenache Rose and 190 cases of our second label Red Wine  (2008 AD)  that is a pleasure to drink and easy on the pocket book. Our web site has a completely new look and design so we hope you enjoy.

Thank you to all the friends and family that helped make this a reality! Below is a photo of Aran and I having a little fun on bottling day…cheers!!!

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