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james laube's wine flights

Curran Departs Sea Smoke for New Pinot Venture

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jan 18, 2008 8:41pm ET

Kris Curran called late today with more news than typically comes this time of day on a Friday, just as I prepared to shut down my computer and head out of town for a couple of weeks.

Curran said she is leaving Sea Smoke, the Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir estate where she’s worked the past seven years and helped shape into one of the area’s defining wineries, to join a new venture headed by William Foley, owner of Foley winery, also in Santa Rita Hills.

She also said that she and her longtime companion, Bruno D'Alfonso, had married in December, after being together for 17 years. He makes wine under di Bruno and Badge labels, after leaving Sanford, where he worked for two decades.

"So 2008 is pretty weird so far," Curran laughed.

The Foley project is the transformation of the former Ashley’s Vineyard, in Santa Rita Hills, into Las Hermanas. Foley purchased the property last year and renamed it after his daughters, Lindsay and Courtney, with plans to produce a wine, perhaps from 2007. He had talked about calling one brand Two Sisters. LinCourt, another of his labels, is named after his daughters.

In December, Foley announced that he had also purchased Merus, the Napa Valley Cabernet producer, and last year he also acquired Firestone.

She said most of the plans are still in the development phases and she would know more as she became acquainted with the project.

“Everyone at Sea Smoke has been great and I’m looking forward to a new opportunity,” she said. She will still make wine under her Curran label, which she started several years ago, focusing on Syrah.

Sea Smoke, a spectacular vineyard in the heart of Santa Rita Hills where Pinot Noir thrives, is owned by Bob David. He produces three separate Sea Smoke bottlings: Botella, Southing and Ten. All of the Sea Smoke Pinots I’ve reviewed to date since the debut 2001 vintage have earned outstanding marks.

Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  January 19, 2008 1:31am ET
I had heard that she was planning on parting ways with Seasmoke. I wonder if Don will take over winemaking.

Congratulations to Bruno and Kris!!

FWIW - I love Curran Grenache Blanc.
Don R Wagner
Illinois —  January 19, 2008 12:09pm ET
Jim,Is it safe to assume that the 2007 Sea Smoke will be the last vintage that will be under Kris' "hand"? Do you expect that the wine will go through stylistic changes in future vintages?DRW
Sandy Fitzgerald
Centennial, CO —  January 19, 2008 12:48pm ET
Don't know anything about Ashley's Vineyard. Does the terrior for pinot come anywhere close to Seasmoke? Or is that where she's planning to put her talents?
Larry Schaffer
Central Coast —  January 19, 2008 4:04pm ET
James,

All I can say is wow! I knew Foley was looking for a new head winemaker - just didn't have any inkling Kris was thinking of leaving where she was at! Congrats to her - sounds like a fun challenge for her to take on - and succeed with, of course!

But I'm a bit confused - will she be the new winemaker for Foley and Lincourt and the new 'Two Sisters' project, or just the new project?

Also, Sandy, the vineyard formerly known as Ashleys was planted by Fess Parker in the late 90's - at about the same time as Sea Smoke's vineards were planted. It is north and, I believe, west of Sea Smoke and is an excellent site for both Pinot and Chardonnay. Very cool climate, lots of different hills / aspects leading to different fruit profiles. Lots of different pinot clones as well.

James - have not heard yet, but will you still be covering the Wine Cask Futures event coming up in a few months? Curious to hear . . .

Cheers!
Michael Vickery
Texas —  January 20, 2008 2:36pm ET
I like Chris Lavin said above love the Curran Grenache Blanc!I'm also curious is Kris will part with her work with the Melis label in Spain. I hope not!
Peter Cargasacchi
Sta. Rita Hills —  January 20, 2008 8:00pm ET
A bird whispered in my ear today that Sea Smoke will promote from within and that Don Schroeder will be the new winemaker. The Melis is actually Victor Gallegos' Priorat project. Victor is the Sea Smoke vineyard and general manager. He is the key player, (but very modest behind the scenes guy,) who passes on the credit to those around him.) Sea Smoke won't miss a beat.
Chris Lavin
Long Beach, CA —  January 20, 2008 10:57pm ET
Peter - your bird whispered correctly. Congratulations to Don. Peter and Rebecca are very proud to be sure!
Larry Schaffer
Central Coast —  January 21, 2008 9:23am ET
Congrats to Don are certainly in order! This is a great opportunity to show what he will be able to do with the wonderful Sea Smoke fruit! I know that Kris is incredibly happy for him and proud that he has been made the offer and accepted!Can't wait to see what happens with both Kris and Don in the coming years! Cheers!
Larry Schaffer
Central Coast —  January 21, 2008 9:23am ET
Congrats to Don are certainly in order! This is a great opportunity to show what he will be able to do with the wonderful Sea Smoke fruit! I know that Kris is incredibly happy for him and proud that he has been made the offer and accepted!Can't wait to see what happens with both Kris and Don in the coming years! Cheers!
Dorothy Thornton
Atlanta Georgia —  January 22, 2008 11:31am ET
Having had the pleasure to meet Ms. Curran a few years before the Sideways hysteria. my wife and I are very happy for her and Bruno, whom we also met on the same trip while visiting Sanford. Both real people with a real passion for quality and not quantity or image. Two great role models for the wine business.

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