CWA - What interests you about wine?
Keith Rolle - Ultimately, it is something that is enjoyed most when it is shared. Wine is often the one thing that brings people together, but it can also play the role of supporting actor. It has played these roles successfully for many generations. You can either create a dish that you think will pair perfectly with your wine or vice-versa: you can select a wine that will pair with the dish.
CWA - What can you tell us about your winemaking style?
KR - I just really try to remain vigilant to good, proven, fundamental winemaking techniques I learned in school and from other winemakers. I'm mostly going for a very clean, fruit driven wine. I do not fine and do not filter. I'm not afraid to rack. Amazing things can happen when you source great fruit, maintain a strict sanitation protocol, meticulous barrel management and maybe use little "Pixie Dust".
CWA – What is the most important factor in making a great wine?
KR - Of course, it’s the fruit. I have yet to taste great wine made from inferior grapes. I value the close relationships I have with my growers so there are no surprises. I know what to expect from them each year.
CWA - Is there any advice you wish you got before you started making wine?
KR - I wish someone would have told me about how little time I'd be able to spend making wine and how much time I'd be spending on marketing, sales, taxes, compliance, employees, and promotion.
CWA - Which wine law/regulation would you change if it were up to you?
KR - Make shipping/sales laws more consistent from state to state. Eliminate mandatory three-tier distribution in some states. It makes no sense (unless you own a distributorship).
CWA - Do you have any favorite wine publications/websites/social media sites you follow?
KR - Wines and Vines and Wine Business Monthly. I also read the HoseMaster of Wine from time to time. Satire is important in this business that sometimes seems to be overflowing with the self-important.
CWA - How do you feel about the current wine rating system? Do you feel it helps consumers with their wine buying decisions?
KR - Clearly, it helps consumers make decisions. But they aren’t necessarily good decisions. So few critics/reviewers are doing blind tastings. Before the bottle is opened they already know that the score will be between 92 and 96 points. It's not that big of a world. They are not going to give marginal scores to wineries that comp them to fancy dinners and trips. Imagine how different the scores would be if the critic/reviewer had purchased the wine with their own money. It would be very revealing if they had to buy the wine themselves and then taste them blind.
CWA – How do you introduce your wine to new people? What’s the most effective way to get the word out?
KR - People are fascinated with the Blaufränkisch I make. Most haven’t ever experienced a flavor profile quite like it. The same goes for my Charbono. They are fascinated. I'm pretty sure I'm the only winemaker in the US that does both a Blaufränkisch and a Charbono. We might the only winery in the world that produces them both.
CWA - What were the last two truly memorable wines (that weren’t your own) you tasted?
KR - 2009 Cornas
Opulent. More of a cocktail wine….at least that is the way we drank it. It could probably have rested for another 10 years.
2013 Lava Cap Cabernet Franc Sierra Foothills AVA
The quality caught me by surprise. It was my first visit to the winery and I was really impressed with a number of their wines. Particularly their Cab Franc.
CWA – Which of your current wines are you the most excited about?
KR - My 2014 Charbono made from grapes sourced from El Dorado County near Placerville. It is brightly acidic, yet has dark fruit notes and assertive tannins. Most everyone who tastes it at the winery walks out with some. I only made 75 cases so its almost gone.
CWA - Is there a winemaker that you modeled yourself after or just appreciate their skill?
KR - I got to meet a lot of great winemakers in Washington at Long Shadows. Australian John Duval was a favorite of mine. I got to help make his Columbia Valley Syrah. Gilles Nicault at Long Shadows was really helpful (and continues to be) when I have winemaking questions.
CWA - Where can people taste your wine? What’s fun about a visit to your tasting room?
KR - My wine is only served at the tasting room, at a couple of local restaurants and at private events. The winery and tasting room is just two blocks from the beach so it certainly isn’t a stuffy atmosphere. We’re dog-friendly. We get a great mix of tourists, folks from the greater San Diego area and locals.
CWA – What are the advantages being an urban winery? Are there any drawbacks?
KR - It's great being able to live just 5 blocks from the winery. I can show up at moment’s notice. Guests can walk to the winery or take their bikes. And taking a cab, UBER or public transportation to the winery is easy. Due to cost, the biggest drawback is the cost of space. We need to find alternative locations for our bins and bigger equipment. It's just too expensive to keep them on-site. Another disadvantage is that locals think they have to travel hundreds of miles to taste great wine. That is not the case. Some of us are bringing in super premium grapes and making great wine just a few miles from where they live.
CWA – Is there a San Diego wine scene? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
KR - I hesitate to say that there is really a wine scene in San Diego. I look forward to the day when tastes and views on wine will change here. There certainly are great wine lovers in San Diego. Many of them have been to my tasting room and joined my wine club. But right now it seems every other new shop that opens is a brewery or a beer tasting room.
CWA - Where can people buy your wine?
Wines are available at the Winery and Tasting Room
4836 Newport Ave
San Diego CA 92017 and
Online at http://www.GBVintners.com
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