The Season 1 WINEMAKERS: Where They Are Now
Also inside: a sample "crossfire" quiz.
Chefs and cheaters, models and moguls, foodies and fatties have staked out turf on reality TV. Now vintners are getting their turn in the spotlight. The Winemakers, a public television series that debuted on 134 stations in September and October, is a job-search elimination contest à la Project Runway. In case you've missed it, here's the premise: In six episodes, twelve contestants duke it out in Paso Robles for the chance to launch their own wine brand. The winner gets to make 12,000 cases at Crushpad in San Francisco, which will be distributed nationally with help from the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers Association and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.
The top dog will be revealed on the final episode this week, airing on Halloween. But other contenders are walking away with their own brand of success. Seven of the twelve competitors came from unrelated fields like law, education, chemical engineering, and archaeology, and half have already reinvented themselves as wine professionals. Here's a look at a few runner-up contestants who have, since the show's production ended in 2008, carved out a career in the world of wine.
Allan Bass made a smooth transition from restaurateur and jazz club owner to wine salesman in Macon, Georgia. "I was interested in getting into the wine world, and the logical step, living far away from vineyards, was to move into wine distribution," he says. Bass now works for the Atlanta-based wholesaler Quality Wine & Spirits. His takeaway from the series was the value of hands-on winery experience—something he recommends to fellow sales people: "It just changes everything. Now when I conduct wine tastings, I have such a better background. I've been there, done that, and can share that with people and get them excited."
Taylor Senatore once toiled on trusts and estates at his law office in Washington DC, but since November 2008, he's proud co-owner of California Wine Merchants [http://cawinemerchants.com/] in Manhattan. Senatore credits his extended trips to California for the television production with establishing his wine shop's focus on boutique California labels: "The show solidified my perception that California is making amazing wine, and a lot of it isn't getting to the East Coast market." Senatore may yet realize his winemaking ambitions; he plans to launch a store label by 2011.
Viral Hazari has already cut to the chase. After getting eliminated, the India native, a former strategic marketer for semiconductors in San Jose, bought 15 acres in the Western Ghats, a mountainous grape-growing region northeast of Mumbai, and founded Saravino Vineyards [www.saravinovineyards.com]. He recently finished ripping out existing vines and replanting with Cabernet, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and R&D plots. "I took getting eliminated as a challenge," Hazari admits with a laugh. "I thought they were wrong, so I wanted to prove that I could do this." A bootstrap Indian winery just might do the trick.
THE CROSSFIRE CHALLENGE
Think you've got the right stuff? Try this sample of questions from episode 3's Crossfire Challenge. If you're hungry for more, you can participant in one of the Crossfire Challenge events taking place in thirteen cities across the country from November 6 to 18. See http://thewinemakers.tv/crossfire_challenge for dates and locations.
1. Pinotage is the crossing of two grapes. Which two?
2. What's the key difference between how Port and sherry are fortified?
3. What is the term for adding sugar to wine during fermentation?
4. What grape is in Sancerre Rouge?
5. What's the key difference between the French AOC system and the American AVA system?
6. What does the term "sur lie" refer to?
7. Which three grapes can be used in sherry?
8. What's noble rot?
9. What is the minimum percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in a bottle that is labeled "Cabernet Sauvignon" in the United States?
Scoll down for answers.
1. Pinot Noir and Cinsault
2. In Port wines, a distilled spirit is added before fermentation is complete, producing a sweet wine. Distilled alcohol is added to sherries after fermentation, typically producing a dry wine.
3. Chaptalization, named for French chemist Jean-Antoine-Claude Chaptal.
4. Pinot Noir
5. The American AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation refers to the geographical location in which the grapes were grown. At least 85% of the grapes must come from a particular AVA for its name to be used on a wine label. For example, York Mountain or Stags Leap. The French AOC (Appelation D'origine Controle) system regulates not only geography, but also winemaking processes. AOC rules are meant to assure the particular, recognizable style of a wine region, for example, Cotes du Rhone or Hermitage.
6: Sur Lie is French for "on the lees," referring to an unfiltered wine (included the yeast).
7. Palomino, Pedro Ximénez, and Moscatel
8. Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that may appear on grapes in cool, humid conditions, causing the grapes to shrivel, which can cause crop losses or lend itself to the production of a concentrated, sweet wine, such as trockenbeerenauslese.