I love wine. This probably will not come as a surprise to any of you. Why else would I author a wine blog right? Spend my nights drinking and studying this elixir of life? What I love about wine is the journey of discovery, meeting the people, finding new and unique wines, and sharing both with you, the reader of this blog. On Monday of this week my journey of discovery took me to an event hosted by Paul Mabray of Vintank in Napa. Paul is the godfather of all things tech and wine on the west coast, but more than that, he has the ability to get some pretty amazing people in the same room and let them get to know each other and make connections.
Some of the blogger attendees that I recommend you follow:
In this particular instance, he also threw some pretty amazing small wine producers into the mix. I came to this event knowing that I would meet some pretty cool people; see old friends, but did not expect to make so many great wine discoveries.
Not your normal winery Modus Operandi
As much as I am a fan of wine, I am also a fan of the everyman that makes good; the American dream of if you want something enough you can make it happen. So imagine my pleasure in meeting Jason Moore, the owner and winemaker of Modus Operandi Wines. Not only does he craft amazingly unique wines, but also has one of the most unique stories of how he got into the biz. This is not another story of tech billionaire sells company and starts hobby winery that produces $200 cab. You see Jason came at this from the exact opposite angle. “My path started in Dallas where by day I was a real estate agent and by night I was a waiter.” He, perhaps like the tech billionaire, was not happy with the direction his life was taking, “I was visibly unhappy with the direction of my life…my wife helped me realize that I needed to make a change and work with something that I truly loved.” So what did he do? He put all of his stuff up for sale and moved to California of course. Isn’t that what you would do? Trade security for the unknown and unproven?
“I had the ambitious aspirations of becoming a winemaker.” So in 2002 he arrived in Davis, CA with the intention of attending the UC Davis’ Enology and Viticulture program, which he ended up not enrolling in because, “…after digging deeper I learned that Davis was just too theory based for my learning style so plan B was to basically educate myself thru my own self study and thru the tutelage of winemaker mentors.” He ended up moving to Napa and worked at high-end restaurants to make ends meet, all the while making contacts and pursuing his dream of making his own wine. In 2006 he retired his waiters apron for good to concentrate on his wine project Modus Operandi with his business partners. And what a project it is.
The wine that truly defines just how unique Jason’s story is and the fresh perspective he brings to making wine, is Antithesis. In Jason’s own words “… I almost named the wine Serendipity because I discovered the technique which produces this wine by pure accident. In 2006 I had a little problem with one of my fermentations… the yeast stopped fermenting which left me with about two brix of sugar to ferment… SO, I learned a trick from Phillipe Melka which has the ability to solve the fermentation problem while still retaining as much wine quality as possible. Consider this: you have 2 tanks fermenting, one sticks and the other rocks through perfectly. What you can do is take the wine from the good tank and barrel it down without pressing the skins (skins remain in the tank). You take the stuck wine, press the skins and toss them, then transfer all of the stuck wine into the tank that has the good skins. The yeast that are in and around the skins in the good tank are ready to go… they are viable, and alcohol acclimatized and can (usually) ferment the last little bit of sugar that remains to be fermented in the stuck wine.”
Innovative to say the least right? Kind of similar to what they do in the Veneto region of Italy where they pass regular Valpolicella wine over the skins of Amarone wines allowing it to re-ferment (aka Ripasso method) resulting in a fuller richer, more textured wine. Ok sorry back to you Jason…
“WELL… classically and historically, you would pass Cabernet over Cabernet skins, Merlot over Merlot skins… like wine over like skins. BUT, I didn’t have another tank of like wine/skins available at the time that my little problem occurred. SO, even though it wasn’t ideal… I did what I had to do… I passed my stuck Merlot over my Petite Sirah skins. I initially kind of wrote the wine off … four months later …when I came across those barrels, I literally said to myself, ‘holy shit, that is good!’ and from then on I knew that my original thought that I would some day have a high end Bordeaux blend as my “special wine” was no longer the plan. Everybody has a high end Bordeaux blend… this wine is special and its unique on several different levels… and it really speaks to me … I have asked a countless number of very knowledgeable people if they have ever heard of a wine being produced in this manner and the answer is a resounding NO. The varieties that are used, the passing over for the last quarter of fermentation, the dependence on timing to make it work is the antithesis of traditional Vinification.”
As you can see this is a man not afraid to take chances and do things against the norm.
2007 Antithesis Red Wine (900 BOTTLES produced) $95
Tasting Note: the initial aromatic impression was of ripe black fruit jam, dried dates, mocha and vanilla. On the palate; macerated blueberries, blackberry jam, nice helping of vanilla suggestive of French oak. As can be expected from a wine of this ripeness level the acid is on the low side and the tannins are well integrated and balance the fruit. Not a shy wine by any means. A long, silky and enjoyable finish. The wine is evocative of Gisele Bündchen in a string bikini laying on a Rio de Janeiro beach, in other words not subtle but highly enjoyable and worth a second, third and fourth look! Now my wife pointed out that I still may have some female readers, and to reward them sticking with me even though I have used so many sexist analogies in the past, I should balance it by providing a female-centric analogy.
So here it goes: the wine is akin to you taking George Clooney, dressed in an Armani tux, to your high school reunion. Not subtle but none the less rewarding and exciting. Ok happy wife?
This wine is not cheap but then again neither is flying to Brazil to see Gisele Bündchen on a beach or hiring George Clooney to attend your high school reunion! Is it worth owning at $95 per bottle? Yes and No! Yes for no other reason then it helps support the creativite effort of one passionate, risk taking and talented winemaker. No, because in this economic climate we currently live in you can find wines of this caliber at a fraction of the price. If money is no object to you then this is your wine!
Other wines that Jason and Modus Operandi make:
2008 RUTHERFORD SAUVIGNON BLANC $33.50 Rated A+
Incidentally this wine was poured as the first course wine at President Obama’s first State Dinner
2008 VICARIOUS NAPA VALLEY ROSE $17.00 Did not try
2007 PETITE SIRAH $45 Did not try
2007 NAPA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON $65 Did not try
2007 VICARIOUS RED WINE $45 Rated B+
Follow Jason on twitter @moduswines
Stay tuned for part two of this post featuring the wines of
James David Cellars