...a moveable feast...
When I was a teen my Dutch father moved our American family of six to Paris and immediately I saw bottles of wine on dinner tables, not bottles of milk or soda. By the age of 15 I had already tasted my first Côtes du Rhône in a smoky, Parisian café.
I live mostly in California now, but the decades living, working, studying le vin, and traveling in France shaped my life in myriad ways and today it is my second home. Hemingway’s iconic quote resonates deeply in me; “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
tasting, tasting, tasting…and getting legit
Back in the states, I earned my B.S. degree in Agronomy and cut my teeth in all things “Grands Vins de France” working at the venerable French importer Kobrand, tasting Chambertin, Pommard and Morgon Cru.
bom dia Portugal…e…Napa Valley!
A few years later I led a unique winery joint venture in Portugal’s remote Douro Valley working with indigenous grape varieties. Later I learned “all things Napa Valley Cabernet” working directly with Tim, Michael and “Mister” Robert Mondavi.”
the entrepreneurial bug bites us
My late wife Susan and I started farming a decrepit vineyard in chilly west Marin planted to Merlot, calling our wine “Mt Tamalpais Merlot”. Susan had studied & worked in Italy, later earning her B.A. and was a highly respected Wine Director for a prestigious restaurant group. Susan had an amazing palate, earned significant industry recognition and brought amazing insight to our wines. Later, after grafting the Marin vineyard to Pinot Noir, we helped establish chilly west Marin as a serious place to make terrific, marginal-climate Pinot Noir with our “Pey-Marin” label. We also created the first dry Riesling and local fav “MARIN WATER” dry rosé from Marin-grown grapes.
We didn’t have deep pockets, inherit a winery, take money from investors, or have relatives fund the winery. Instead, we bootstrapped it, worked our asses off, juggled credit cards and delivered our wines out of the back of our SUV in between coaching our daughters' soccer teams. We preferred balanced, textured, low intervention wines that were not overpowered by high alcohol, sugar or oak. Over the years we honed our “European sensibility” winemaking style which persists today. Unfortunately, the dry-farmed west Marin vineyard succumbed to the devastating California drought in 2019, showing how difficult it is running a small, family agricultural business.
that's a “textbook” Cabernet Sauvignon
We founded TEXTBOOK in Napa Valley in 2004 with 300 cases of impeccably balanced Cabernet Sauvignon from an Oakville vineyard next door to the iconic Screaming Eagle. It immediately garnered critical acclaim and an enthusiastic following of wonderful devotees. In 2019, when TEXTBOOK production hit 25,000 cases, it became too onerous to manage so I sold it to a respected international wine group and still advise them today.
After decades of tasting wines from around the world and researching French soils and climate I purchased two historic vineyards in France’s "Cru" areas of Morgon and Fleurie. I am lucky and grateful. I believe this region has the greatest potential for winemaking renaissance in all of Europe. And with one foot planted in my 70-year-old-vine Gamay Noir vineyards south of Burgundy and the other in Sonoma & Oregon vineyards, I bring the summation of my life’s experiences, education, and relationships to my craft.
While there are hundreds of French winemakers on the west coast, a Californian making wine in France and in California makes me a unicorn, but it’s invigorating. My farming and winemaking habits are regularly challenged by how things are done “over there”. My willingness to shed the status quo or ego on both sides of “the pond” make my wines better each season. Very few vintners live these words. Mais un Californien en France? Ça a l’air tellement fou!