500 episodes

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.

Contact info-

Email leviopenswine@gmail.com for advertising, consulting, speaking, or guest inquiries

Instagram @leviopenswine

Website illdrinktothatpod.com

I'll Drink to That! Wine Talk Levi Dalton

    • Arts
    • 4.8 • 979 Ratings

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.

Contact info-

Email leviopenswine@gmail.com for advertising, consulting, speaking, or guest inquiries

Instagram @leviopenswine

Website illdrinktothatpod.com

    David Rafanelli on Four Generations Making Wine in California

    David Rafanelli on Four Generations Making Wine in California

    David Rafanelli and his family own the A. Rafanelli Winery in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, California.




    David relates the story of his Italian grandmother arriving in California in 1903, and beginning to make homemade wine in San Francisco. He explains how the family bought farm land in the Dry Creek Valley in the 1920s, thus beginning a 100 year stretch of working with vines within a 3 mile radius, something which continues today. The current winery housing A. Rafanelli was founded in 1973.




    David took agronomy and crop science courses in Oregon in the late 1960s, and also went to school for viticulture in California. He has throughout his career compared and combined the wisdom that was passed on to him by his family members with the teachings he learned in school. David went to work for the Lambert Bridge Winery in the 1970s, allowing him the opportunity to contrast the situation of another winery with that of his own family. David’s dad, who passed away in 1987, typically worked with Zinfandel and complementary grape varieties at the Rafanelli winery. David convinced him to also plant Cabernet Sauvignon. David discusses the introduction of heat treated vines in the 1970s, and the prevalence of leaf roll virus prior to their introduction. He speaks about the failure of the AxR1 rootstock in California, and how that shaped the replanting of vines later on in the state. David emphasizes working a piece of land and the importance of being familiar with it.




    The process of achieving an appellation for the Dry Creek Valley started in 1982, and David speaks about that, as well as the characteristics of the Dry Creek Valley in terms of climate, soils, and geography. He also talks about the challenges to Zinfandel presented by cooler and hotter years, and how he approaches blending from different sites within Dry Creek to achieve consistency. He further talks about the difference between making a wine just from Zinfandel versus blending other grape varieties into a wine that is mostly Zinfandel.




    The A. Rafanelli winery began using new French oak barrels for Zinfandel in the mid-1980s, and David talks about the significance of that, as well as what the unfined and unfiltered approach implies for his Zinfandel based wines. David sums up the challenges that were associated with marketing Zinfandel outside of California in the 1980s, and the stylistic divergence of different types of Zinfandel: light Zin, white Zin, table wine, and the late harvest style. He talks about being in on “the ground breaking of premium wines” in California and points to a “big change” between the 1960s and 1990s. He recalls how fruit crops were removed from California and replaced with vines, whereas previously there had been more demand for those fruit crops.




    David speaks at length about winery sales and production size, and points out that the job isn’t just making wine. It is also dealing with what nature gives, and then marketing bottles of wine. He explains why he focused on selling direct to consumers, instead of having someone else market and sell all the wine. He talks about patterning his marketing efforts on wineries like Stony Hill that sold direct through a mailing list. David suggests asking what the goal of a winery entering the wine business should be, and that the answer is “all on what you perceive as success.” He suggests avoiding a production size that ties a winery into permanent growth, and also having a plan for the wine that will be made before it is produced.




    David is frank about the pressures on wineries in California to sell the winery instead of retaining a family business for generations. “Everything is working against that family winery,” says David, and he specifically warns against the hazards of increasing bottle production. “What is the definition of success?" asks David. "Success is happiness, success is making what you need to make.” David speaks about the significan

    • 1 hr 20 min
    A Rush of Blood to the Wine Glass from Dan Keeling

    A Rush of Blood to the Wine Glass from Dan Keeling

    Dan Keeling is a co-founder and partner in the Noble Rot restaurants and Shrine to the Vine retail shops in London, "Noble Rot" Magazine, and Keeling Andrew and Co., an importer of wine into the United Kingdom. He co-authored "The Noble Rot Book: Wine From Another Galaxy".




    Dan admits to some of his obsessions, namely food and music. He describes how a friend's accident allowed him the chance to start a nightclub in Manchester. He talks about his early jobs writing about music, and then progressing to working in A&R for record labels. He signed Coldplay to Parlophone Records, marking a huge win, but admits that at first he wasn't that taken with the band. He then succinctly breaks down the elements that contributed to Coldplay's massive success. That success propelled Dan to a Managing Director job at Island Records, but eventually that career high gave way to a career transition, as Dan found himself without a job and wondering what to do next.




    Dan met his now business partner Mark Andrew at a wine shop near the Island Records office, and they quickly established that they shared a sense of humor and a fascination for the same wines. They went on to begin a wine magazine (er, fanzine) titled "Noble Rot" in 2012, working together on Mark's old computer. Writing for the magazine led to introductions to vigneron, some of whom joined the import portfolio of Keeling Andrew and Co. The magazine also led to the start of a wine focused restaurant group, today encompassing three Noble Rot restaurants in London. Dan talks about being a restauranteur who is not a chef, and about the emphasis of the restaurants on wine.




    Dan discusses how the writing and graphics in the "Noble Rot" magazine are designed to stand out from other publications about wine. He talks about contextualizing wine amongst other aspects of culture, such as food and music. He rejects the idea of trying to be objective or encyclopedic about wine. Instead, Dan emphasizes the importance placed on humor in his wine magazine, as well as finding insights. He further describes how he developed an interest in certain kinds of wines, favoring idiosyncratic and different wines over corporate, homogenized examples.




    Dan talks about wine tasting trips to Burgundy, to the Jura, and to Spain, sharing some of what he learned along the way. He discusses the pricing situation for Burgundy wines today. He also discusses the wines of Bordeaux, and of Greece. Dan stresses the importance of finding the characters in wine for his own work, and then shares some advice that he would give to the next generation.




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    • 1 hr 27 min
    Robert Drouhin Is From A Good Vintage

    Robert Drouhin Is From A Good Vintage

    Robert Drouhin and his family own Maison Joseph Drouhin in the Burgundy region of France, as well as Domaine Drouhin in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.




    Robert describes moving to Burgundy as a child, and his experiences around Beaune during World War 2. His adoptive father, Maurice Drouhin, owned the Maison Joseph Drouhin winery, and began instructing Robert in the specifics of wine. Maurice was a wine producer, making wines from vineyards near Beaune. Robert remembers Maurice also as a sales agent for the wines of the Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, and a Vice President of the Hospices de Beaune. Robert recalls Maurice hiding from arrest by the Nazis during the war years, taking shelter for months in the Hospices de Beaune. When Maurice had a medical emergency, Robert assumed control of the Maison Joseph Drouhin winery.




    Robert discusses the notable Burgundy vintages of the 20th century, from the 1930s through the 1990s. He also talks about his decision making after taking control of Maison Joseph Drouhin at the age of 24. He recalls traveling to California and meeting Robert Mondavi. He then describes the development of enology and new techniques for wine in the 1950s, his experiments, and eventual response to the wines produced with new methods. Robert talks about the wave of vine replantings that took hold in Burgundy after World War 2, and what that meant for the wines. He expanded the Drouhin vineyard holdings in the Cote d’Or and in Chablis, and Robert talks about the characteristics of famous vineyards like Le Montrachet, the Clos des Mouches, Griotte-Chambertin, Musigny, Bonnes-Mares, Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses, and Vosne-Romanee Les Petits Monts.




    Robert talks about his children, and their roles in the Drouhin businesses today. He remembers hiring Laurence Jobard at Drouhin in the 1970s. He talks about the style of the Drouhin wines, and takes up the question of tannins and extraction in red Burgundy wines. He also speaks about the changes in the Drouhin winemaking in Burgundy since the 1960s, touching on topics like temperature control, filtering, fining, new oak, and the timing of bottling. Robert experimented in the 1980s with vinifying wine by hand destemming and natural fermentation, utilizing a sixteenth century press and adding sulphur in the old way. He compares the results of those methods to the Drouhin wines made in the contemporary way. He shares his reflections about what makes for a good wine, and at what stage it may be drunk at its best.




    In the 1980s, Robert Drouhin purchased vineyard land in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and he speaks about what led up to that purchase and the formation of Domaine Drouhin in Oregon. He talks about exchanging experiences and ideas with grape growers in Oregon, and divulges what he learned there. He also recalls the blind tastings that launched his interest in Pinot Noir from Oregon. He then describes the differences of the wines from the divergent vineyard parcels Drouhin owns in Oregon today, and mentions that further knowledge of the different growing areas of Oregon is something that is still in development. Robert contends that organic farming is easier in Oregon than it is in Burgundy, because of the different weather patterns in those places. He also speaks about the introduction of organic practices in some Drouhin vineyards in Burgundy. He gives an overview of the vineyard practices of Drouhin in Burgundy.




    This episode features commentary from:




    Jason Lett, The Eyrie Vineyards

    Steve Doerner, Cristom Vineyards




    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    • 1 hr 43 min
    Sandy Block's Shot at Redemption

    Sandy Block's Shot at Redemption

    Sandy Block was a Master of Wine who was also the Vice President of Beverage at the Legal Sea Foods group of restaurants, and an Adjunct Professor at Boston University in Massachusetts. Sandy passed away in November of 2021.




    Sandy talks about his rollercoaster relationship with academics: doing very well in school during some periods of his life, and almost flunking out of school during others. Sandy explains that he began working at a restaurant while working on his PhD dissertation. He would eventually abandon his dissertation, but pursue his interest in wine at the restaurant. He explains how he was given his first wine job in 1981. The only French speaker on the waitstaff, he was promoted to the sommelier role, although he did not know anything about wine. He looked for answers about wine in books that he would consult during his shifts. He found that the subject of wine encompassed many of the fields of study that he already had an interest in, such as geology and history.




    During his first wine tasting trip to Europe in the 1980s, Sandy discovered that wine was made by farmers, and that those farmers didn't always live in elaborate palaces or chateaux. He came back to the States more energized about wine at the same time that there was a greater shift towards wine in the wider American culture. Customers were beginning to show more interest in wine at the restaurants, with the rise of varietal wines by the glass and an increase in interest in opting for wine instead of a cocktail. In the interview, Sandy discusses the character of the Boston wine trade in the 1980s and later.




    Sandy talks about his experiences taking the Master of Wine exam. Having obtained his MW in 1992, Sandy was one of the first Americans to achieve that distinction. He talks about learning to pass the test, writing essays under time pressure, and honing his blind tasting skills. He remembers being tasked with describing one particular set of blind wines, which turned out to be Bulgarian. And Sandy discloses how he approached studying for the test in secret, among a small group of friends who divided the study responsibilities. He then discusses how that study regime was eventually developed into a curriculum that he taught about wine with some of his fellow test takers - Alex Murray and Bill Nesto - at Boston University in Massachusetts. Sandy divulges the typical student profile of a wine class. He speaks about having the context to understand what a good wine is, an emphasis on value wines, and having some resistance to the winemaking trends of the 1990s. Sandy describes a cultural history of wine where wine has been understood as a food much longer than it has been viewed as a connoisseur's beverage.




    He discusses the rise of countries like Chile, Argentina, and Australia on the global wine market, the importation of Portuguese wines into the United States, and the difference between working in restaurants and working in wine distribution or import. He also addresses what qualities he used to evaluate potential hires at the restaurant group where he oversaw the beverage program. And he answers the questions frequently asked by his students, including "How does one get into the wine business?" and "How does one succeed in the wine business?" He also contrasts the interest shown in wine by young Americans today with that of their parents.




    This episode features commentary from:




    David Wrigley, MW




    See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

    • 1 hr 21 min
    Steve Doerner and the Burgundian Bicyclists

    Steve Doerner and the Burgundian Bicyclists

    Steve Doerner is Winemaker Emeritus at Cristom Vineyards in Oregon.




    Steve discusses his shift from being a Biochemistry Major at UC Davis in the mid-1970s to his first Job working for Josh Jensen at Calera Wine Company. Steve arrived at Calera for the 1978 harvest, the first vintage for Pinot Noir at Calera. Josh had begun making wine at Calera in 1975, first planting a Pinot Noir vineyard in 1974. Josh hired Steve after a blind tasting test that included tasting a La Tâche. Steve worked at Calera for a total of 14 years. During that period of time, Steve met some of Josh's peer/friend group in Burgundy, a circle of people that included Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac.




    Steve recalls his early years working at Calera in its limited facilities, working highly physical harvests that left him questioning if this was really the career path for him. He talks about his early days tasting wine, mostly Zinfandel from California. He also talks about utilizing different fermenting techniques in response to certain winemaking tools, and his growing knowledge of the techniques being implemented in Burgundy by the likes of Jacques Seysses and others. Steve comes to the conclusion that in California in the 1980s, Pinot Noir was often treated like Cabernet in the wineries. He also concluded that this was problematic, and began teasing out the nuances of practical meaning from adages he heard in Burgundy.




    A serious accident left Steve questioning his relationship to his job, but his perception of his worked changed after his first trip to Burgundy. Steve encountered Jacques Seysses as an outsider to Burgundy who was actively experimenting with different ways of doing things with his winemaking. Steve developed a friendship with Christophe Morin, who eventually worked for many years at Domaine Dujac, and who later died in a motorcycle accident 




    Although Calera was in an isolated location, Steve tasted fairly regularly with other top American vintners, including Dick Graff of Chalone, Jeffrey Patterson of Mount Eden Vineyards, and Ken Wright. Eventually Josh and Steve began to make white wine at Calera, including from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier. Josh brought back Viognier from France to the United States. And Steve recalls going to France to speak with vigneron in the Rhône Valley about Viognier. For the red wine from Pinot Noir, they contended with very low yields from the Calera vineyards, with limited access to water.

     

    Steve leaves Calera and transitions to working at Cristom Vineyards in Oregon from 1992, encountering a supportive winemaking community in Oregon. He recalls his early days at Cristom, and his first harvests there. He talks about planting vineyards at Cristom, and how they went about it. He also shares his realization that over the years the ripeness levels in the vineyards have changed, and that he has been rethinking vineyard planting decisions that were made in the 1990s. He also believes it is now possible to achieve ripeness at higher elevations in their vineyards. He further asserts that keeping the vineyard yields low, with a lot of thinning, is less necessary than it once was.




    Steve discusses where Cristom is located in the Willamette Valley, inside what is now the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. He talks about the influence of wind from the Van Duzer Corridor, and also the Columbia Gorge. He asserts that lower humidity in the area implies lower disease pressure, and points out that due to the wind, fruit typically gets dry on the vine after rainfall in the vineyards. Steve notes that the soils at Cristom are primarily volcanic, and that they retain water due to their clay content. He contrasts this situation with the sedimentary soils that are found elsewhere in the Willamette Valley. Steve goes into detail about the ripeness levels in the vineyards, and how they have changed since the 1990s. He notes that more extreme vintages have occurred more recently. He talks about the difference

    • 2 hr 19 min
    Alicia Towns Franken's Wine Life

    Alicia Towns Franken's Wine Life

    Alicia Towns Franken is a Co-Founder of Towns Wine Co. and the Executive Director of Wine Unify.




    Alicia discusses her upbringing in Chicago and her introduction to wine in college. She then segways into describing her role as the Head Sommelier at Grill 23 & Bar in Boston, Massachusetts during the 1990s and early 2000s. Alicia talks about the bigger themes of her career, including inclusion, mentorship, building community, being hospitable, building long term relationships, and being a woman supportive of other women. She also talks about the differences between the 1990s and now in the wine world.




    Alicia details how the experiences in her life affected and shaped her work, and how she organized her life as a parent raising two children. She identifies the connecting thread of her mentorship in the wine world and the parenting in her personal life. She discusses what makes a good mentor, and what support and scaffolding can achieve for mentees. She further addresses the challenges and rewards of personal and work transitions. Alicia stresses the importance of education, as well as the need to welcome more people into the wine world.
















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    • 1 hr 9 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
979 Ratings

979 Ratings

Hillcapper ,

Excellent Interviewer

I listen to a lot of podcasts across quite a few interests. I mean big variety; history, bowhunting, biblical, and a couple others. Having said that Levi is the best interviewer I’ve ever heard. Don’t know how much of that is editing but it doesn’t come across as heavily edited. Levi has a great voice, he doesn’t interrupt, he’s all about getting the most out of the guest without talking anymore than he has too. If you have even a casual interest in wine you’ll enjoy this.

HJHancock ,

This is the best.

I love this podcast so much. It has been with me through pruning vineyards in the cold, pressing fruit in the heat, topping barrels, labeling bottles… I owe a lot to the education I’ve received through this podcast, and the inspiration, entertainment and joy! Thank you!

B.T. Hand ,

Simply the best wine podcast available.

The best episodes (Ehren Jordan, John Kongsgaard, etc) can be re-listened to almost without limit. I hope there are more Oregon episodes in the near future!

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