Wine of the Month Club – Interview with Morgan Twain-Peterson

Paul:                      Welcome to the Wine of the Month Club continuing winemakers series.  It’s a pleasure to have Morgan Twain-Peterson here from Bedrock Wines.  And I know we have some family history in the wine business.

Morgan:               Yeah.

Paul:                      That would be..?

Morgan:               My father who founded the Ravenswood Winery back in 1976 was Joel Peterson.

Paul:                      Oh, another 70’s winery.

Morgan:               Another 70’s winery.  Yeah.  He started in ’74 with Joe Swan and then started his own winery in ’76.

Paul:                      That’s very interesting.  So a lot happened in the wine business in the 70’s.

Morgan:               A lot, yeah.  I mean you see the foundation that the founding wineries really taking shape in the 70’s.  You see Ridge started actually in ’68 but then you see Swan’s first vintages, you see the early sort of great vintages of [inaudible 0:51].  Mondovi was around before that but there’s wines that they really sort of started to hit were ’72, ’74, so it sort of when the first sort of inklings of momentum sort of occurred in the wine industry.

Paul:                      Yeah.

Morgan:               Yeah.

Paul:                      Now, I’m going to embarrass you a little bit because looking at your biography, I don’t know when this picture but there’s a picture I think when you were 5, standing on a barrel with your boots.

Morgan:               Yup, with my [inaudible 1:16] up to my knees.

Paul:                      You had a glass.   Is that wine on your hand or something?

Morgan:               Yeah.  I think that’s actually my first vintage of Pinot Noir.

Paul:                      You’re kidding.

Morgan:               Yeah, back in 1986.  That was fruit from the Sangiacomo vineyard.

Paul:                      So now we know.  See, ’86, he was probably 5 years old.  Now, we got it figured out.

Morgan:               Yeah, exactly.  So I didn’t have any of it.  I swear, I didn’t drink it.

Paul:                      Okay, sure, right.

Morgan:               I wasn’t allowed to taste.

Paul:                      Well I got trouble out in Facebook because I posted my daughter’s 20th birthday and my daughter and her friends were getting into the wine.  We do a little tasting in my house.  And somebody wrote, “Well she’s only 20.”  I’m like, “Well.”  You’re only 5.

Morgan:               Right.  So you got to start really and teach responsibility early at the same time.

Paul:                      That’s right.  We’re going to taste a Bedrock wine today.  I just flipped over these wines.  We tasted them about six or seven wines.  They’re all gorgeous.

Morgan:               Awesome.

Paul:                      We picked three for this video.  And we start with this Sauvignon Blanc.  And this is the 2009.

Morgan:               Yeah.

Paul:                      And [inaudible 2:06] and I just love it because it was so atypical.  There are just so many things going on in this wine.  Tell me about it.

Morgan:               Well, I think that all good wine starts in the vineyard and I think that adage is very, very true.  With this vineyard, [inaudible 2:20] is on the back side of Spring Mountain and it’s basically planted in pure block.  Sauvignon Blanc has a tendency to be really high vigor varietal.  Also, it’s really easy typically to get six or seven tons per acre.  It makes sort of innocuous wine with it.  But when you plant it in these really, really, really sparse soils like this crop are under two tons per acre.

Paul:                      Wow!

Morgan:               So you get this really great fruit concentration.  And then on top of it, I think that Sauvignon Blanc benefits from a little bit of wood, a little bit of oxygen so a barrel from [inaudible 2:49] from 1, 2, and 3 year old [inaudible 2:51] barrels and a little bit of stainless steel barrel as well.  I stir the least but then I also don’t put it through [inaudible 2:59].

Paul:                      Okay.

Morgan:               So I want to retain all that brightness and freshness and exuberance, but I also want to have a little bit more fat, a little spice, a little bit of those sort of vanilla notes that you get from the wood.

Paul:                      It’s gorgeous.  And the layers, the flavor layers in the mid pallet is gorgeous.  Unplug that phone.

Morgan:               So.

Paul:                      Just unplug the back of it.

Morgan:               It’s the BAT calling about the underage drinking.

Paul:                      Yes.  There you go.  Okay, that’s [inaudible 3:25].  Now I see this slight cloud.  You barrel feed this.  Filtering, refining, what do you do with it?

Morgan:               So basically, before I came down here, to LA on Monday, I’ve racked all these wines up, put them in tank, and then pulled tank samples off.  So these are the blends that are there.  Right now, it’s just cold settling.  It’ll get sterile filtration because since it doesn’t go through [inaudible 3:47], you need to prevent it from going through ML so you have to give it sterile filtration at that point.  But before that, the wine is fermented with native yeast in it so you know, try to keep sulfur levels to a minimum and sort of be as hands off as I can.

Paul:                      Yes.

Morgan:               But fortunately, any wine that you don’t put through ML, you have to sterile filter.

Paul:                      It’s a gorgeous wine and looking forward to have this in stock.  I need a case of that too.  Okay, now this one really blew me away.

Morgan:               Yeah, it’s the Rebecca’s Vineyard Pinot Noir.  This is a really, really cool vineyard, and there’s a great story attached to it.  This is a 14-year-old Pinot vineyard from DRC suitcase close in [inaudible 4:25].  And the vineyard is right across the street from Joe Swan, where, as I mentioned earlier, my dad learned how to make wine.  And back in 1974 when he was 27, he made his first wine with Swan.  And in ’07 which was my first vintage, I was 27 and it was the first fruit to come in.  And it was like I was looking at the winery that my dad and Joe basically built back in 1974-75.

Paul:                      Great story.

Morgan:               So it’s very cool.  The vineyard is essentially dry farmed so I mean you just get tiny clusters, really concentrated fruit, came in at 0.9 tons per acre so I mean just obscenely low crop levels.  I have a very unhappy grower about that.

Paul:                      Yeah, of course, yeah.

Morgan:               And like all of my wines, very small production under 200 cases.  And all the wines are handmade essentially by me so I manually pitchfork the fruit into the destemmer, manually punch it down in open top redwood fermenters, manually basket press it a little bit at a time in old Italian basket press.

Paul:                      So chief bottle washer, the whole thing.

Morgan:               Everything, toiler cleaner, the whole thing.

Paul:                      Wow!  That’s great.

Morgan:               Everything, floor scrubber.

Paul:                      Well the extraction of this is what jumped out of the glass for me but it’s all Pinot.  I mean it’s really fun because sometimes, you get Pinot Noir nowadays.

Morgan:               Yeah.

Paul:                      You can’t really tell it’s Pinot Noir.

Morgan:               Yeah.  It’s a little too like [inaudible 5:37].  And what’s cool about this thing too is I don’t really believe in cold soaking because I use all native yeast and takes four or five days for those yeast to build up in the fermenter so I sort of get this natural cold soak period anyways.  But you know, this Pinot is notoriously fast in fermentation.  And so this is actually off of its skins in 9 days.

Paul:                      Wow.

Morgan:               And it still has this type of color.

Paul:                      And typically, what would happen?

Morgan:               Typically, it would be closer to 15 to 18 days.

Paul:                      Wow!

Morgan:               Yeah.

Paul:                      Wow.  Gorgeous wine.  You were saying earlier you send some of this wines in for evaluation.  And the post of your cell phone number.  Can we give your cell phone number out now or..?

Morgan:               You can get my email address now.  Yes, that was one of those [inaudible 6:19] and I was like “Oh!  The score’s great!” and I’m like “Wow!  They put my cell phone number down there.”

Paul:                      That’s very funny.

Morgan:               That’s a rookie mistake right there.

Paul:                      Well here’s one of your heirloom wines.  This is the Sonoma Valley Bedrock.

Morgan:               Yeah.

Paul:                      Heirloom.  And you said Zinfandel and some other things?

Morgan:               Zinfandel.  It’s 120 year old vine field one so this vineyard was planted in 1888 by Senator George Hearst who is the father of William Randolph Hearst.  And it’s actually in these old, old vineyards you see all these varietals inter-planted because back before you had these modern winemaking facilities where you could say [inaudible 6:55] right here, the [inaudible 6:55] right here, the Zinfandel finder blend.

Paul:                      Right.

Morgan:               You had to do the blending out in the field.  So this is a field blend, a co-fermentation of 19 different varietals.  It’s about 40% Zinfandel, 30% Carignan, the rest is all of those other really, really cool stuff that’s out there like Serra, Mont Du, and [inaudible 7:13].

Paul:                      It’s such an opulent wine.  And I get raspberries and blueberries and a field blend is that whatever’s in the vineyard, you pick it and you put them altogether and you ferment them that way.

Morgan:               Exactly.  And I think that what these wines, I think that these are sort of the truly Californian wines in a way because these are unique combination of varietals that you only find in California.  Zinfandel’s sort of California’s great.  It’s not really grown any place else in the world.  This sort of collection of blending grapes is very much Californian in the same way that Grenache and Morvet and Sirah is [inaudible 7:47].  These are sort of our sort of Californian [inaudible 7:52].

Paul:                      That’s right.  Its gorgeous extraction and color and character, and how many months did you say?

Morgan:               13 months and 35% new French oak and a variety of punch in so larger barrels and smaller barrels were used.

Paul:                      Really fun.

Morgan:               And yeah, and I’m really pleased.  [Inaudible 8:12] here and so you really get this, we got 1.1 tons per acre and so it’s just like you just got these massively big black.

Paul:                      It’s good.

Morgan:               Quite fun actually.

Paul:                      I need a case of this too, gents.  [Inaudible 8:26].

Morgan:               Cool.

Paul:                      Well it’s such a pleasure having you here.

Morgan:               Oh, it’s my pleasure.  It’s great.

Paul:                      And if you’re really serious, we’ll come up, we’ll pick some grapes for you, we’ll pitchfork for you.  What else can we do?

Morgan:               Punch down press [inaudible 8:35].

Paul:                      Punch down press [inaudible 8:35]. Okay.

Morgan:               Yeah.  The best is when you’re waist deep inside the redwood fermenters bucketing stuff out.

Paul:                      Boy!  That sounds like a ton of fun!

Morgan:               It’s fun for the first two times.

Paul:                      That’s right.  It’s becomes work, right?

Morgan:               It becomes work by November when it’s about 30 degrees.

Paul:                      Pleasure having you, Morgan.

Morgan:               Thanks so much.  Yeah, it’s great.


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