A former sommelier interviews incredibly famous and knowledgeable wine personalities in his tiny apartment. He gets them to talk candidly about their lives and work, and then shares the conversations with you. To see new episodes sooner and to see all of the hundreds of back episodes in your feed, it is important to FOLLOW or SUBSCRIBE the show. It is free to do either, the show is free.
IDTT Wine 490: Patrick Campbell Pruned Mountain Vines on Crutches
Patrick Campbell was the owner of Laurel Glen Vineyard on Sonoma Mountain in California, a winery he sold in 2011. He began the Tierra Divina Vineyards company, which encompasses the Terra Rosa, REDS, !ZaZin, and Tierra Divina wine labels, among others. The Tierra Divina Vineyards brands include wine labels from Lodi in California, from Argentina, and previously from Chile.
Patrick talks about growing up in Southern California in the 1950s and 60s, and his early experiences drinking wine with his family as a teenager. He talks about visiting wineries in the Cucamonga Valley of California during the period of the time when that was a prominent appellation for California wine production. And he sums up the kind of wines that were being made in the Cucamonga Valley area at that time.
Patrick talks about his increasing engagement with his religious feelings, which would eventually lead him to study the Philosophy of Religion at Harvard University, and to then join a Zen Buddhist Center in Sonoma, California. He makes a connection between religious feeling and farming, and talks about his work pruning old vine Palomino at the Zen Center. When a vineyard then came up for sale near the Zen Center on Sonoma Mountain, Patrick bought it and expanded the acreage. In the process he learned about the history of immigration to Sonoma Mountain, spoke with many of the interesting characters who called the Mountain home, and took an increasing interest in wines from the area.
Patrick describes the vine growing conditions of Sonoma Mountain, and discusses his early days as a grape grower in the late 1970s. He talks about learning how to prune. He contrasts his business experiences with Chateau St. Jean with the more positive outcome he had selling grapes to Kenwood Vineyards. He discusses the vintages of the 1970s and 1980s on Sonoma Mountain, some of which were more successful than others. And he details his shift from just selling grapes to then making wine and selling it under his own label.
The grape material at Laurel Glen and the Laurel Glen clone are discussed, and so are the market preferences for California wine in the 1980s. Patrick talks about the setup of his winery in the early days, and details his use of punching down to maximize contact between juice and skins. He also stresses the importance of tannin management when dealing with Mountain Cabernet. He emphasizes that he is not a university trained winemaker, and talks about winemaking as a process of controlled spoilage. He explains facets of his technique, such as his approach to maceration, pressing, and cooperage at the time. And then the conversation takes a turn, as Patrick describes his increasing interest in bulk wine, in marketing bulk wine from California, and then subsequently developing projects in Chile, followed after that by a long period of working with wine from Argentina.
Patrick talks about Argentina as a relatively little known wine region at the time he first visited it, and shares his experience of first trying a wine from Malbec. He then covers the situation for winemaking in Argentina during that period, and the social, economic, and political realities that he witnessed as well. Patrick contrasts the wine culture and society of Chile at that time with what he witnessed in Argentina, and then describes the boom period for Argentinian Malbec in the global wine market, as well as what happened next. Patrick enunciates a philosophy in step with and taking cues from local winemaking traditions, while also being frank about his embrace of modern winemaking techniques and methods. He further discusses the market for the wines.
Patrick's involvement with the push for expanded direct shipping of wine in the United States comes into the discussion, and he talks about the numerous strategy sessions, the different partnerships, and the approaches that were developed in the run up to a United States Supreme Court verdict on the question of
IDTT Wine 489: Sylvain Pataille and the New Old Style
Sylvain Pataille is the owner and winemaker at Domaine Sylvain Pataille, which is located in the Marsannay area of Burgundy, within France.
Sylvain discusses the impact in Burgundy of economic changes over the last one hundred years, and notes the special situation of Marsannay, which is near the city of Dijon in France. He does into some depth about the the vine planting history of the Marsannay area, and the commercial success of rosé wine from Marsannay. Sylvain then relates the more recent history of his own family's wine domaine, including its association with the Aligoté grape. This leads him to contrast the region's older viticultural practices - which he has identified from reading older books - with more recent norms. He also gives an overview of the different areas of the Marsannay appellation, and its top crus.
Sylvain describes his own progression in oenology, from a more technical lab background to his very different focus today. He talks about working with "the best and the worst wine growers" in Burgundy as an oenological consultant, and what feelings led him to leave that sort of business in the lab behind, with a shift of focus to his own wine domaine. At his own domaine he has explored no sulphur vinifications and low sulphur bottlings, as well as non-filtered bottlings, which he sums up as "new old style." He has also attempted to use less sulphur and copper treatments in his vineyards, and experimented with Biodynamic applications.
Sylvain summarizes what is particular about the native yeasts and bacteria of Burgundy. He also details how the shift in vintage conditions from year to year, alternating between hot and cold years, has implications for both the vineyard work and the winemaking. He further contrasts the draining ability of different types of soils he works with, and what that means for the work in the vines. Realizations about yields, and what they imply for the finished wines, are also shared, as well as key times for decisions about yields. Guyot Poussard pruning, which is concerned with sap flow pathways in the vine wood, is something that Sylvain has embraced, and he explains why in this interview. He gives a summary of some of the advantages of Guyot Poussard, and what he values in his vineyard work. Sylvain gives an overview of the differences between Aligoté, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir in the vineyard, as well.
Stem inclusion is something that Sylvain prefers in both white and red wines, and he explains why, as well as what stems bring to the final wines in terms of color, alcohol level, and acidity. He also discusses why he prefers to crush fruit, and what crushing promotes in a fermentation and in a finished wine. When it comes to pressing, Sylvain also has his preferences, and he explains the benefits of vertical pressing. Further, he addresses topics likes the timing of malolactic conversion, lees stirring, oxidation, and reduction, specifically enunciating multiple causes of reduction. Sylvain also gives his thoughts on the topic of premature oxidation (premox) of Chardonnay in Burgundy in general.
This episode also features commentary from:
Bruno Clair (translated by Peter Wasserman), Domaine Bruno Clair
John Kongsgaard, Kongsgaard Wine
Becky Wasserman, Becky Wasserman & Co.
IDTT Wine 488: Erin and the Volcano
Erin Scala explores the wines of Pico Island, a part of the Portuguese Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.
Erin puts on sturdy boots and ventures to the Azores to explore mysterious vineyards and ancient lava stone walls in view of the giant volcano on Pico Island. She explores grape varieties grown on Pico, such as Arinto dos Açores, Terrantez do Pico, and Verdelho, and describes the wines made from them. She also details local traditions associated with winemaking on the island, as well as the geography of the place and its history.
Erin speaks with several different people who live and work on Pico today, leading a tour to many of the top wine producer addresses on the island. In the process, she also goes into specifics about what some of the top producers are up to in regards to topics like oxidation, reduction, pressing, and wine aging, touching on the wide range of wines on made on the island. Erin finds out about some of the distinctive vineyard practices on the island. She also gives a sense of some of the different personalities amongst the winemakers and vine growers. In the process, Erin reveals the renaissance of winemaking that has occurred in recent years on the island, as well as explaining what occurred to send vine growing into decline there many decades ago.
Across this episode, Erin interweaves the culture, context, and history of this area of Portugal into the survey of the wines there. Listeners will hear about the distinct cheese of the island, the spiritual significance of the soups there, the effects of the vineyard walls, the impact of the whaling industry on Pico, and "The Year of the Noise". More than a sense of place, Erin also conveys a sense of the sublime. She takes you to some of the hardest vineyards to farm on Planet Earth, and gives you a fantastic sense of why it is important to do so.
This episode features commentary from (listed in order of appearance):
Vanda Supa, Director of Environment and Climate Change of Pico
Monica Silva Goulart, Architectural Expert of the Pico Island Vineyards
Paulo Machado, Insula and Azores Wine Company
Dr. Joy Ting, Enologist at the Winemaker's Research Exchange
António Maçanita, Azores Wine Company
Catia Laranjo, Etnom
André Ribeiro and Ricardo Pinto, Entre Pedras
Lucas Lopez Amaral (translated by Paulo Machado), Adega Vitivinícola Lucas Amaral
Tito Silva (translated by Fortunato Garcia), Cerca dos Frades
Jose Eduardo and Luisa Terra, Pocinho Bay
Fortunato Garcia, Czar Winery
Bernardo Cabral, Picowines Co-op
Filipe Rocha, Azores Wine Company
Christina Cunha (for her uncle Leonardo da Silva), Santo Antonio Carcarita
Marco Faria, Curral Atlantis Winery
IDTT Wine 487: Dominik Sona and a Conception of Kabinett
Dominik Sona is the General Manager of the Koehler-Ruprecht winery, which is located in the Pfalz region of Germany.
Dominik speaks about his family history in the Pfalz and his winemaking work early in his career for a winery, Villa Wolf, in that area of Germany. He also discusses the situation for the Koehler-Ruprecht winery in 2010, when he began to work at that winery. He references the history of the Koehler-Ruprecht winery, and notes that the previous proprietor, Bernd Philippi, was a pioneer in the production of dry Riesling wines from the Pfalz.
Dominik speaks about the winemaking protocol for wines at Koehler-Ruprecht, and contrasts that with the winemaking at Villa Wolf. He also gives details about the handling of grapes in the winery, and the explains how the wines are aged at Koehler-Ruprecht prior to bottling. He discusses the exit of the winery from the VDP organization of German wineries in 2014, and touches on what led to the decision to leave the VDP. He also stresses what is important for the philosophy of winemaking at Koehler-Ruprecht: a focus on dry Riesling, fermented with native yeasts, aged in old wood barrels for a long period on the lees, and given a limited dose of sulphur.
Dominik refers to method of selection at Koehler-Ruprecht, and notes that choices regarding bottlings, such as determining which lots go into Kabinett Trocken versus Spatlese or Auslese Trocken, are decisions made on tasting the wines, not on analytical numbers or areas of the vineyard. He explains what he is looking for on the palate when he makes those choices, and also describes the aromatics and food pairing potential of those wines. He also speaks about the ageability of the wines, and how they might evolve in bottle. And he gives some insight into the R and RR wines, the rare wines that Koehler-Ruprecht makes in certain years. In relation to these topics, Dominik also discusses climate change, and the likelihood that the vintages in these days tend towards more ripeness than the vintages in the past.
The Saumagen is the most famous vineyard owned by Koehler-Ruprecht, and where the most prestigious wines of the winery emerge from. Dominik discusses the characteristics of that vineyard, including the exposure, the microclimate, and the presence of limestone there. He also discusses what wines from the Saumagen display that other wines of the winery might not. And he makes the connection between the flavors of the Saumagen Riesling wines and what foods they may pair well with.
Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) is also discussed, in addition to Riesling. Dominik discusses the evolution of Spätburgunder winemaking in the Pfalz, and talks about what has changed and why. He also notes the move to new types of vine material for Spätburgunder, and talks about what the ramifications of that change may be.
This interview represents an excellent opportunity to learn about the specifics of winemaking at a winery that follows its own path, and about which there is somewhat little information generally available. At the same time, the episode provides a large amount of context for understanding some of the changes in German winemaking in general.
This episode also features commentary from:
Florian Lauer, Weingut Peter Lauer
Johannes Selbach, Weingut Selbach-Oster
Egon Müller IV, Weingut Egon Müller-Scharzhof and Château Bela
Katharina Prüm, Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm
Klaus-Peter Keller, Weingut Keller
IDTT Wine 486: George Skouras and the New Old World
George Skouras is the owner and winemaker at Domaine Skouras, located in the Peloponnese of Greece.
George explains how his interest in wine first developed, and discusses his time as a student, working and living in France. He then talks about the early period of his career, making wine on the Greek island of Cephalonia. He describes a key meeting with Spyros Kosmetatos, which would lead to the founding of the Gentilini Winery on Cephalonia, and to market success for a white wine he made there. George shares some of the business philosophies that he developed at that time and which stayed with him later on.
George then discusses his return to an area near where he grew up, Nemea, to focus on the production of wines from the red Agiorgitiko and the white Moscofilero grape varieties. He talks about his first vintages of making wine at Domaine Skouras, and about the resistance he faced trying to sell Agiorgitiko wines in the international markets. This last problem was solved by the addition of some Cabernet Sauvignon into the blend of one of the Skouras wines, a wine called Megas Oenos. That blend was a market success, and led to more interest as well in the native Agiorgitiko wines from Nemea. That interest was shared by George, who spent decades examining the different areas in which Agiorgitiko was grown, and exploring the different qualities that the grape possesses. George came to several conclusions about how to grow and to handle Agiorgitiko, and he shares those thoughts in this interview. He also describes the different growing areas for the grape variety. He then touches on a key change, the recent development of virus-free clones of Agiorgitiko. Further, George gives an assessment of his own wines from Agiorgitiko, and their development over time.
George frequently discusses how both the Greek wine business and the international markets for wine have changed over time, and he gives an account of his own developments in response. He also summarizes his work with little known native grape varieties like Mavrostifo. And George speaks in some detail about Moscofilero, specifically about a darker colored variant of Moscofilero known as Mavrofilero. George talks about his early learning curve with Moscofilero winemaking, and describes the attributes of a Moscofilero wine from the Peloponnese.
Several viticulture and winemaking topics are touched on in this interview, including irrigation, yields, elevation of vineyards, destemming, press wine, cooperage, lees contact, and aging.
If you are curious about the development of Greek wine since the 1970s, this is a key perspective to take into account. George is one of a generation of Greek winemakers who have decidedly shaped the Greek wine scene of today.
IDTT Wine 485: Robert Vifian and Stories from the Tan Dinh Wine Cellar
Robert Vifian is the chef and co-owner of Tan Dinh Restaurant, located in Paris, France.
Robert was born in Vietnam in 1948, and lived in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) as a child, experiencing the effects of the Tet Offensive firsthand. He and his family are French, and he moved to Paris, eventually joining his parents there. Robert's mother founded Tan Dinh Restaurant in 1968, and later Robert joined her in the kitchen there. Robert then took over as Chef of that restaurant in 1978. As the 1970s moved in the 1980s, the restaurant became popular with artists, actors, and other cultural types, and became both a chic spot to dine and a destination for wine aficionados.
Robert became interested in both cuisine and wine, and was soon searching out rare bottles, organizing private tastings, teaching in a wine school, and visiting cellars in Burgundy and Bordeaux. He visited producers such as Domaine Coche-Dury each year for many years, and developed a lot of familiarity with the wines of Domaine Comtes Lafon, Domaine Georges Roumier, and Domaine Hubert Lignier, tasting every vintage of each for several decades. He shares his reflections and thoughts about this producers in the interview. He also discusses Henri Jayer and Anne-Claude Leflaive, and their wines.
Robert also developed a lot of familiarity with Right Bank Bordeaux, specifically Pomerol. And Robert had close friendships with oenologists like Jean-Claude Berrouet and Michel Rolland, as well as wine critics like Robert Parker, Jr., and those friendships lended support to his experiences of Bordeaux. He recalls those relationships in the interview, and shares his views on each person. He also discusses aspects of what he learned about Pomerol over the years.
Robert had a friendship and a working relationship with the late Steven Spurrier during the time that Spurrier lived in Paris. Robert recalls the friendship and his different experiences with Spurrier in this interview. He also discusses the California wines that he learned about as a result of his acquaintance with Spurrier, dating back to The Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976.
This interview follows the Paris wine scene from the 1970s until the present, and encompasses thoughts on both benchmark wine regions of France and key producers from those places, across the same decades.
This episode also features commentary from:
Steven Spurrier, formerly a Consulting Editor for "Decanter" Magazine
Becky Wasserman-Hone, Becky Wasserman & Co.
Christian Moueix, Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix
Brilliant, thoughtful, educational
Levi Dalton is an excellent story teller. He and Erin are incredibly knowledgeable about the world of wine with out any pretension. Levi excels at getting phenomenal guests, diving deep with excellent questions.
I always learn a lot listening to this podcast. I often find myself going back in the catalog for past gems.
My favorite professor
I learn so munch from Levi’s thoughtful questions and through the connections he makes through one guest’s answers to another guest maybe dozens of interviews in the past. It really helps me connect to the regions as a whole instead of little islands of singular producers. I love to search back through his work before I explore a region myself to prepare myself to be a better participant. Keep on doing your thing, it’s an incredible body or work.
Though the shows are astronomical events, they’re worth the wait.
And finally a new show recently appeared but the overproduction with all the sound loops and fast talking Smurf voice of Erin Scala made it unbearable to listen. Instead I listen to one my favorite interviews with David Hirsch. Levi asks a question and gets out of the way allowing his great quest to answer without interrupting them. Listen and learn all you podcasters.