Friday, April 21, 2006

Steve Rogstad, Cuvaison Winery

I have a special place in my heart for a winemaker with a classic Pixies concert flyer framed above his desk. It tells me a lot about the guy. For instance, I now know that while he has built a successful career, he's still in touch with his inner slacker, which in turn means to me that he's not all caught up in the silly world of ego-stroking that one can easily find in the Napa Valley. Somehow, if you're still friends with your fave band of your youth, it ensures that you won't forget why you started doing what you do in the first place.

Carneros is beautiful, especially in the fog for which it's famous. I met Steve Rogstad at his office overlooking the Cuvaison vineyard in Carneros. In stark contrast to a certain faux Chateau nearby, the Cuvaison building, which Steve designed, is sleek and functional. Even the breakroom of the offices has a breathtaking view of the vines.

Interview with Steve Rogstad, Cuvaison Winery

C&D: Can you give me the Reader’s Digest version of how you got started making wine?

Steve: Hmm…the condensed version. I studied Literature in Seattle at the University of Washington. I moved to France…I was dating a girl whose parents owned a place in Paris and that sounded like a lot of fun. While I was living there I got very very interested in wine because I’d never been introduced to it before and the French were drinking it all day long, and it seemed like a good idea. So I started off getting to know the guy downstairs, he had a wine shop down there, and I got a good introduction to the wines of France. And I decided then that’s what I wanted to do, get into winemaking. And I’d gone to school in London with some people from the University of Washington as an exchange student and one of their families owned vineyards in Washington State, and he was going to go to UC Davis and study winemaking. So I found out through him all about the program at Davis, and I moved to California, and that’s what I’ve done.

Do you like the ‘Old World’ style of wine, or the ‘New World’ style better?

I was introduced to wines from the wines of France and I still love the wines of Burgundy and the Loire… I will say I’m not a huge fan of the wines of Bordeaux. But most of the other regions of France I like, and of Spain and Italy. But I’ve also come to appreciate the New World wines, not just California, but New Zealand and Oregon, I think, are really terrific.

What are the characteristics you appreciate in a wine, whether it’s one you make or enjoy yourself?

For me, I like wines that are aromatic, and that have what I call ‘tension’. They seem to have a nice sense of both tannin and acid, and even white wines that can have a kind of nerve or something about them that makes them not flabby, a little more structured and interesting in that way.

What was the most successful wine that you’ve made?

Well, I’d say…prior to Cuvaison, I was making some vineyard designated wines when I was at Clos Pegase called Graveyard Hill and Palasaides that were both successful commercially and I thought they were wines that got that winery out of the necessity of always having to blend wines and make some wines that were really unique and individual, and I like wines like that most, because I think what’s intellectually interesting about drinking wines is that you can drink them over several years and it’s always the same place that you’re drinking from. And I think that’s one area where the New World is catching up, but has kind of lost out, especially to Burgundy where you have that sense of drinking from, you know, the same vineyard every year. And I’ve always been attracted to working at estate wineries that have their own vineyards, because I really want to be part of the growing of the grapes and making wines from the same property every year.

What’s the Cuvaison production level right now?

We’re at about 55,000 cases, and it’s all estate grown. We actually grow more grapes than we use. We sell grapes to a few other wineries as well.


Next up: a couple who find a special spot in the bucolic Sonoma Coast just right for food-friendly Pinot....



Anonymous Japan-O-Matic! said...

HEY! Aren't you forgetting something? Where's the "terrior" question?

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