Experience Counts

Experience Counts
Photo by Chris Leschinsky

Magpies and journalists are attracted to shiny things.

For our writers, that means constantly seeking out what’s new or different in the worlds of wine, beer and spirits. It means sussing out the next underground trend before it goes viral. And it means spotting the new faces that will change the way we drink in the future.

What often gets overlooked in the rush for the latest and greatest are yesterday’s pioneers, the people who would’ve made our Top 40 Under 40 list—had we been doing one—20, 30 or 40 years ago. In many instances, these folks are still actively involved in the businesses they love.

They’ve been around long enough to see it all, from drought to El Niño and back again. From rosé being dead to the current rage for the pink stuff. And they’ve seen dining trends come full circle.

Winemaker Joel Peterson, who founded Ravenswood in 1976, is a good example. Although he sold the business to Constellation Brands in 2001 and his son, Morgan Twain-Peterson, made our inaugural Top 40 Under 40 list in 2013, Peterson continues to make the brand’s top-flight single-vineyard Zinfandels.

Ridge Vineyards’ Paul Draper has an even longer track record of producing great wines. Working with the remarkable Monte Bello Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, he’s set a consistent, restrained style for Cabernet Sauvignon for 40-plus years.

Down south in Santa Barbara, Richard Sanford was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the area now known as the Sta. Rita Hills AVA. Some 45 years later, Sanford’s latest winery venture, Alma Rosa (founded in 2005), builds on his previous endeavors.

While these three are all producers, don’t overlook the other sectors of the wine world. Veteran importers, like Robert Kacher and Peter Weygandt, scour the world for wines worth drinking. Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn still works the floor at Tocqueville, but also mentors future generations of sommeliers.

These veterans have something no one can take away, and we can all profit from their experience.

Drinking Expertise

Trying any of these will give you a taste of why experience matters.

Ravenswood 2012 Old Hill Zinfandel (Sonoma Valley); $60
Old vines add another layer of experience to this wine.

Ridge 2011 Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz Mountains); $50
At less than 13% abv, this is a study in classicism.

Alma Rosa 2014 Vin Gris Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills); $30
This dry rosé is faithful to Sanford’s original version.

Mas des Bressades 2013 Cuvée Tradition (Costières de Nîmes); $14
Kacher has worked with this estate since 1985.

Tement 2012 Zieregg Sauvignon Blanc (Südsteiermark); $40
Weygandt-Metzler imports one of Austria’s greatest Sauvignons.

Tocqueville, 1 East 15th St., New York City
Each page of Dagorn’s international wine list is more mouthwatering than the last.

A Guide to California's Russian River Valley

Published on September 9, 2015
Topics: CaliforniaEditor ColumnsWine Trends