At the Penfolds Nuriootpa winery in Barossa, you can crush 22,000 tons of grapes. At Chateau Ste.-Michelle, 2.8 million cases of wine go out the door every year. If you are Peter Gago or Bob Bertheu, head winemakers at Penfolds and Ste.-Michelle, respectively, how do you even process and track so much stuff, let alone make it good?
"That's why God created Microsoft Excel, I guess," replied Bertheu. I asked four winemakers who head up large-to-massive operations that produce dozens of different cuvées in all price ranges, from $10 quaffers on up to the storied $600 Penfolds Grange. In my previous post on the subject, I gave a sense of the scale of the task and wrote about how the four keep tabs on their growers and grapes through harvest. Now I'll explain how they juggle as many as 52 different wines at once.
"Do you think it is more difficult to produce 5,000 bottles of La Mouline or 3.5 million bottles of Côtes du Rhône?" Philippe Guigal had flipped the script on me during a recent interview to pose a query of his own.
It's kind of a trick question: The Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline is a $500 bottle of wine. The reputation of the house is staked on this wine and its two single-vineyard sisters.
That is, among those lucky enough to sample them. But to most people who drink the brand, "Guigal" means a $10 Côtes du Rhône, and it has to be tasty at every party or Tuesday dinner or they'll choose something else. How do you oversee millions, or even tens of millions, of bottles, for every kind of wine drinker, year in and year out, without losing your grip on consistency and quality? I asked that of four guys whose wines you undoubtedly know: They are, in addition to Guigal in the Rhône, Corey Beck, Bob Bertheu and Peter Gago, head winemakers at Francis Ford Coppola in California, Chateau Ste.-Michelle in Washington and Penfolds in Australia.
If you were to believe everything you see in romantic comedies, you’d know that a toast is a time of extreme drama. For a screenwriter, that familiar scene—glasses raised, all eyes on the protagonist—is an easy opportunity for character and plot development: poignant success or comically bad catastrophe.
One of the funny side effects of being around wine people is that you end up hearing—and making—many toasts. Something about being in a group with glasses in hand means that, at some point, conversation will be shushed, a speech given and glasses clinked. So for this holiday season, when toasting opportunities abound, I thought it would be timely to ask some wine folks for tips on making these impromptu moments seem effortless. Share your own tip, or a particularly memorable toast, in the comments section below.
I first met vintner Achille Boroli four years ago in New York, where I was as impressed with photos of his family’s modern winery, designed by his architect brother Guido, as I was his Barolo Villero 2001. The Boroli tasting room and cellar in Castiglione Falletto is a thoroughly modern, three-level barn-inspired facility with sharp lines, shadowbox windows and, most striking, vertical clapboard siding composed of repurposed oak barrel staves that make the winery appear to shimmer and undulate in the Piedmont sun.
Boroli was back in New York this past October, hosting a small dinner to showcase three of his Barolos at Lincoln restaurant, a fitting architectural setting for a winery passionate about design. The restaurant is nestled beneath the Tisch Illumination Lawn, a hyperbolic paraboloid (think saddle-shaped) park framed by glass fins that serves as Lincoln's roof. Lincoln's Brazilian wood plank ceiling mimics the park's contours. Boroli and Lincoln served as reminders that, as with wine, there's more outstanding and accessible architecture today than ever before.
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