Posted by Tim Perr
I was very happy to read Wine Spectator’s recent reviews of California Pinot Noir. In that report, Loring, A.P. Vin, P2 and Siduri (along with a few others) received outstanding to classic ratings on a bunch of their 2007 Pinots. The proprietors of each of those labels are my friends and have had significant positive impacts on Pali Wine Company during our relatively short existence. During this holiday season, I am inspired to share some stories and thoughts about Brian Loring, Andrew Vingiello, Mike Padrick and Adam Lee.
Late in 2004, when my partners and I were finalizing a wine company business plan based upon Central Coast Cabernet (of all things), one of my partners insisted that I try a Loring Pinot. Up until that time, I had dismissed Pinot Noir wines as thin, weedy and, well, just blah. The 2003 Loring Rosella’s Vineyard changed my view forever and was my first “wow” moment from Pinot Noir. The wine was dark and dense, yet deeply nuanced and beautifully fragrant. After the Loring, I quickly sought out other “modern”-style Pinot Noirs to taste, including Siduri. These experiences confirmed to me that Pinot Noir could be just as substantial and complex as Cabernet. Our business plan was changed, and Pali was launched in 2005 based upon Pinot Noir, with none other than Brian Loring as our winemaker.
Brian is the whole package. He is an incredibly talented, technical winemaker, yet he is also an excellent communicator and marketer. He is as open and honest as they come. But the attribute I respect most in Brian is his generosity. In our inaugural vintage, though it was not part of his contracted winemaking responsibilities with Pali, Brian brokered fruit deals allowing us access to high-end vineyards such as Shea, Durell and Cargasacchi-Jalama. No doubt, Brian could have taken this fruit for his own label and made more money for himself; however, he felt it was important that Pali launch successfully with these great vineyards.
Shortly before our first release, Brian announced Pali to his mailing list, which generated significant mailing-list sign-ups and direct sales for Pali—at the potential cost of taking away direct sales from Loring. (By the way, Brian did this for Andrew Vingiello’s A. P. Vin label and Mike Padrick’s P2 label as well.) Even though Brian no longer has any financial arrangements with Pali, he can still be found in our winery often helping out with equipment issues, winemaking problems, bottling, racking or just hanging out. No agenda—it is just in his nature.
Andrew Vingiello, owner and winemaker of A.P. Vin, learned to make wine under the tutelage of Brian Loring during the 2003, 2004 and 2005 vintages. Pali overlapped at the Loring winery with A.P. Vin during the 2005 crush, and this is when I met Andrew. A.P. Vin relocated to San Francisco with the 2006 vintage, but I remain close friends with Andrew and visit with him often. While much of his winemaking technique can still be traced back to Loring, Andrew has begun to experiment with different yeast strains, stem inclusion, saignée (bleeding off juice to concentrate flavor), racking regiments and other, subtle changes in winemaking methods. Additionally, Andrew has become quite comfortable providing inputs in the vineyards.
Andrew is honest, friendly and has a great sense of humor. More than anybody I’ve met in the wine business, Andrew is consumed by the pursuit of making the perfect wine. (The flip side of that coin is that he tortures himself in the pursuit.) In his relatively short time in the wine business, Andrew’s enthusiastic sincerity for excellence has gained him the respect of dozens of California’s leading winemakers, who often share ideas with him. Andrew’s iPhone address book reads like a who’s who of these winemakers (and it’s not just for show). I would not be surprised to see a 100-point A.P. Vin Pinot Noir in the near future.
I first met Mike Padrick, owner and winemaker of P2 Wine and assistant winemaker at Loring, in 2005 when he came to work the harvest at the Loring winery. He had been working as a waiter in a restaurant in Vail, Colo., when Brian Loring met him during a marketing trip. Mike had been intrigued by the wine business and was easily recruited (or seduced) to work the harvest by Brian’s enthusiasm and optimism. Mike began making wine at the Loring winery in Lompoc under P2 with the 2006 vintage.
Mike is usually the first person at the winery in the morning and the last to leave at night. He has an incredibly strong work ethic and will gladly do any job that needs doing without hesitation—an absolutely essential quality in a winery because there are many manual (and boring) tasks that need to be done every day. He is also always willing to grab a beer with a friend and looking to have some fun. Lompoc does not have much of a nightlife. Jasper’s, a local bar that can best be described as “colorful,” is about the only choice for an alcoholic beverage past 9 p.m. In spite of Jasper’s uninspiring ambience, I’ve had many a great harvest-time night there with Mike, playing pool and philosophizing. I am very happy that Mike’s hard work is paying off, and I know that he truly appreciates the critical accolades.
Adam Lee, in my opinion, is the father of modern domestic Pinot Noir. If you were to draw a family tree of current Pinot producers, many lines would connect up to Adam (including Pali, Loring, A. P. Vin and P2). Adam proved that a Pinot Noir winery that did not include an estate vineyard could work. In fact, his success might arguably show that having access to fruit from several vineyards across many appellations, rather than a single estate vineyard, is a superior business model since it provides diverse products (and diversification with respect to nature). Additionally, Adam was one of the first winemakers to show that quality Pinot Noir could be made in a dark, concentrated and ripe style. No doubt, this style brought in many, many new Pinot Noir drinkers that, like me, had heretofore found it too austere. Finally, Adam created Siduri as a common-person’s label with no pretense or snobbery attached. Everyone is welcome to join its mailing list and buy Siduri wines, and the wines have always been reasonably priced even when they have garnered great scores. The basic Siduri business guidelines have become industry standard (if you want to be successful in the wine business).
What Brian, Andrew, Mike and Adam all share in common is their immense passion for making great wines regardless of the work involved and the risks needed to be taken. They all have left secure employment situations in pursuit of their dreams. It is very satisfying to see their success.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!