There is an exciting new generation of winemakers who want to introduce their millennial peers to the joys of wine. Sarah Garrett of Serrano Wine is up to the challenge. Sarah and her husband Brice are producing premiums wines in Paso Robles on California's Central Coast. We think their mix of old world techniques, pristine grapes, and youthful exuberance will win over young and old alike!
Here are some of Sarah's thoughts on how to make great wine, what you should know before you start making wine and how we can improve access to boutique wines in this country.
CWA - What interests you about wine?
Sarah Garrett - We got started in the industry working as cellar rats at Rabbit Ridge. My stepdad is the winemaker there. He lured us across the country to try our hand at winemaking.
There is such a large scale of involvement with wine. It literally can be applicable to any trade. Farming, sales, law, welding, etc. Our industry is not limited to just makers and growers. It is exciting to know just how many different aspects one can contribute with.
CWA - What can you tell us about your winemaking style?
SG - We like big oak. Our reds are crafted with big body and complexity, and even our whites are barrel aged and fermented for a full mouthfeel. We make wine that tastes good to us because if we can't sell it we have to drink it!
CWA – What is the most important factor in making a great wine?
SG - Grapes are by and large the most important factor in a great wine. With subpar fruit, a maker is very limited, but true creative brilliance is available with pristine grape quality.
CWA - Is there any advice you wish you got before you started making wine?
SG - We wish someone had stressed the importance of patience. New vines take 4 years before producing good yields. Most reds require at least 18 months in barrel, and about 6 months more in the bottle. Time is crucial in development, and it takes great patience to not rush your product.
CWA - Which wine law/regulation would you change if it were up to you?
SG - If possible, we would love to change the shipping and distribution laws. Large companies monopolize distribution and eliminate the smaller wineries from ever reaching retailers. If each state allowed direct purchases then the field would be a bit more even. Additionally, there are some states that won't allow for any wine to be shipped to the consumer's home. It is a policy that we feel needs revision.
CWA – Is there any newer winemaking technology you are excited about?
SG - While it isn't new to the world, the vineyard techniques we employ are new to the states. Currently, we have our Viognier planted on tepees like is common in Condrieu and Cote Rotie. We have had great success in producing concentrated, small lots that make the best wines. This has led us to plant all of our Rhone grapes in this manner.
CWA - Do you have any favorite wine publications/websites/social media sites you follow?
SG - We follow several publications, but the millennial driven platforms are what excites us most. Blue Lifestyle and Millenial Drinkers are both aimed at the newest "drinking" generation. This excites us as we too are millennials aiming to bring our peers into the fold.
CWA - How do you feel about the current wine rating system? Do you feel it helps consumers with their wine buying decisions?
SG - The wine rating system can be tricky. A wine may receive a 95 or higher, but this score is useless if you don't share the palate of the judge. The rating can be great, however, if you share tastes.
CWA - What were the last two truly memorable wines (that weren’t your own) you tasted?
SG - The past two wines that have struck us most recently are
CWA – Which of your current wines are you the most excited about?
SG - We just released the first of our 2016 wines. We are really excited about our Viognier. It was barrel aged and fermented on the lees for 12 months. Additionally, we just bottled our 2016 Horcrux blend which is co-fermented Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre.
CWA - Is there a winemaker that you modeled yourself after or just appreciate their skill?
SG - Paso Robles is a Rhone grape hub, and we too share this fandom. We try to emulate Guigal in several of our wines. They share with us the notions of big oak and fruit in their winemaking style.
CWA - Where can people taste your wine?
SG - Currently, we pour out of Rabbit Ridge Winery on the weekends until we build a facility of our own. We do private tasting appointments and tours of our vineyard during the week.
CWA – Do you have any wine tasting dos and don’ts for our readers?
SG - Do have an open mind. Winemaking is an art, and not everyone will craft their wines the same. And don't be intimidated. Many say that wine must be drunk in a certain manner alongside only a select listing of pairings. Wine was made to be consumed for enjoyment, enjoy it as you wish!
CWA - Where can people buy your wine?
SG - Outside of tasting appointments you can find most of our wines on our website, serranowine.com. We hold a few special bottling back for our club members though.
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