It Takes a Village to raise a Winemaker

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bedrock_logoWe met Morgan Twain-Peterson at last October’s Wine Bloggers Conference. At Kick Ranch Vineyard, Dick Keenan had invited bloggers to sample wines by some of the wineries using his grapes.

When we started the tasting line, I was more interested in photographing the first couple guys pouring than drinking their wine. First up was Phillip Staehle, he of Enkidu Wines. And Morgan, of Bedrock Wine Co. was second. Yes, I was there to take pictures, but these guys certainly were not hard on the eyes either.

morganjugsMorgan had just run over from the winery. He had no wine bottles from which to pour, but big jugs resembling beer growlers. He was sweaty and sunburned, with purple stains under his fingernails and all over his hands. He had “proofs” of his wine labels he’d just pulled from an overnight envelope — they hadn’t even been printed yet. And I really had no idea who he was, so I was a bit suspect.

Joe had more sense. He held his glass out for a taste of first “red” jug and then the “white.” “You’ve gotta taste this,” he said. “It’s incredible.”

And so it was.

A few months later we got an e-mail announcing that the wines were finally ready from some winemaker. Since we’d started getting samples, I wrote back and said, “sure, send us some samples.” And received no response. Because I usually receive my e-mails text only, I had no idea who it was. But the name “Bedrock” was bouncing around my head; it sounded familiar yet I couldn’t place it. So I went back and hit the “display images” button on my e-mail and saw Bedrock’s logo tree. And then I remembered; it was the guy with the awesome wine in the jugs.

So I sent Morgan an e-mail back and ordered from our “allocation.”

Morgan Twain-Peterson, is the son of Joel Peterson. Growing up as “a school principal’s daughter” I know a bit about having to excel because of your dad. But not the way Morgan has. Morgan is the son of an “acknowledged leader in California wine who helped make Zinfandel the runaway phenomenon that it is today.” And Morgan, himself, is no slacker.

A graduate of Vassar with a master’s from Columbia University, Morgan was raised at his father’s Ravenswood Winery, and was exposed to wine-tasting at an early age, just as his father before him.

In David Darlington’s “Angel’s Visits,” it is noted that “Morgan, at the age of five, could distinguish between Merlot and Zinfandel.” Morgan began making small lots of Pinot Noir at 5 from fruit given to him by the Sangiacomo family. Motivated by the best wines of Domaine Dujac, he began experimenting with whole cluster fermentation, different types of French oak, and various ripeness points. Vino Bambino Pinot Noir, as the wine came to be known, was made from 1986 to 2001 and has been featured on the wine lists of Craft, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill (which featured the original 1986), Delmonico’s, Aureole, and Mesa Grill.

Perhaps the story is best told by Morgan himself.

In 1986, at the age of five, I decided to make wine. My father offered to provide me with some fruit from one of the vineyards he sourced from, but I had my sights set on other things. Earlier in the year I had been particularly beguiled by the aromas of an older vintage Gevrey-Chambertin and had developed a fascination with Pinot Noir. My father swore that he would never touch the grape, arguing that it was almost never as good as the effort it took to make it well, which I am sure only added to my resolve. Taking initiative I paid a visit to Angelo Sangiacomo, the grower on whose land Ravenswood’s shed stood, armed with a leather purse in which I had placed several thousand lira collected by mother on a trip to Italy. Angelo, after talking to my father to make sure I was for real, offered to give me a half-ton of Pinot Noir for free — something he has done every year since. ~ from “Crush: A Childhood in the California Wine Industry,” 8-16-2007

In addition to running Bedrock Wine Company, Morgan is a manager of his family’s Bedrock Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, and a member of Sunbreak Vineyard Services L.L.C, a vineyard management company. He has also passed the prestigious Master of Wine exam and upon successful completion of the dissertation will become one of few American Master Winemakers.

hotmorganMorgan gives the personal touch, it seems, to everything. He personally sent me the e-mail, and corresponded when I figured out who was e-mailing. He sent us a handwritten “Thank You” note following our first order. And when we wanted to re-order, he manually processed the order, waited until the California temperatures had cooled after record highs, and sent our wine with six little cold packs in the box to keep it cool.

And let me say his wine is, indeed, fabulous. And he takes a pretty damned good picture. I showed some of the ladies at work a picture I’d found of him crushing grapes. Let me just say, their interest probably went a bit further than just wine. And I’d asked him if I could use that picture when we talked about Bedrock Wine Co., telling him, “that picture alone would probably move some wine, especially to some of my women friends.” (Check out the picture and judge for yourself)

But cool me down from “the vapors,” and let’s talk about the wine.

Our initial order was for one of the wine’s we had tasted at Kick Ranch, the 2007 Lorzeno’s Heirloom Wine, from Dry Creek Valley. Here are the winemaker’s notes:

If the Bedrock Heirloom Wine is all about perfume and brightness, Lorenzo’s expresses all the black, dark-fruited, power of Dry Creek Valley. In 2007 I cofermented 100 year old vine Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Sirah from a vineyard (which must go unnamed for the time being) on the bench of Dry Creek Valley. The powerful, black, wine was placed in 75% new French wood coopered by Tonnelleries Nadalie and Remond from the Allier and Nievre forests. The higher percentage of new wood, along with the choice to use the heavier impact coopers of Nadalie and Remond, was pretty much decided for me by the wine; if the wine wants to be brash and high-impact I rather work with it than try to tame it. However, to try and temper some of the tannins I racked the wine once in May of 2008 before its final racking and bottling on November 25th of the same year, something I normally avoid but was demanded by the raw power of this youngster. The resulting wine is enormous— rich in black fruits, crushed espresso beans, freshly milled pepper, and staining but supple tannin. This promises to have a long life ahead of it.

Sadly for our readers, the Lorenzo’s is sold out. We have two or three bottles left in our stash, and perhaps, if you’re nice, we’ll share them one day. But we’re pretty sure we can expect equally fabulous reds from Bedrock in a future release.

Currently available, and equally scrumptious and perfect for summer, is the 2008 Cuvee Caritas White Wine from Sonoma County, named after, of all things, Morgan’s dog. He writes:

Caritas, “Tas” for short, came to us the same summer that Bedrock Wine Co. was prepping for first harvest. The name in the Latin as it is spelled means charity; the Greek, spelled “karatas” means “to build a community.” The name seemed appropriate for a dog that would age with the winery—an undertaking that needs both the charity of mother nature (not to mention the bank!) but also a solid community around it.

A blend of a blend of 55% semillon and 45% sauvignon musque, this is the other wine we had from Morgan’s “jugs.” The Sauvignon Musque (a particularly exotic and aromatic clone of Sauvignon Blanc) is grown on a steep hillside high up on Keenan’s Kick Ranch. The Semillon comes from 100-year old vines in the Monte Rosso vineyard, growing at 1800 feet above Sonoma Valley.

Golden, sensuous and fruitful, the wine has aromas of smoked meat, oranges, figs and truffle, accompanied by a delicate bouquet of flowers. 14.5% alcohol by volume, this is not a shy shrinking violet, but an intense blend of sunlight and shadows. And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, a percentage of profits from the wine will be donated to local charities.

And if that weren’t enough, Morgan plays piano, hikes and has a garden of heirloom vegetables. Both his dog, and his girlfriend, are extremely lucky! The rest of us, may be content to drink his wine!

The moral of the story, at least for me, is to forego any sort of preconceived impressions of a wine, simply because a guy shows up with grape-stained hands and a jug-full of juice. It’s a good bet that the guy who presses the grapes, has a pretty good idea of how to make his wine.

Cheers!

Amy Corron Power, the WineWonkette~Amy Corron Power,
aka WineWonkette

About Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and nearly 10,000 twitter fans. Amy holds certifications through the International Sommelier Guild, and is also certified, with honors, as a California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). She is a member of the Guild of Sommeliers, The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events.