Winemaker, Jeff Gaffner, that is. Never wanting for passion, enthusiasm or energy, Jeff’s eyes were especially aglow yesterday over the proclaimed superlative beauty of the Grenache we received from Ulises Valdez’ Diablo Vineyard. “Perfectly round and firm marbles,” he beamed like a pajama-ed tot on Christmas. This being the second year we’ve received Grenache, and with the 2011 vintage still aging in oak barrels, Gaffner and Assistant Winemaker, Jesse Fox have yet to decide whether or not they will blend the Grenache with Syrah for a classic Rhône combo of varietals, or create a single varietal, single vineyard Grenache for Ram’s Gate’s White Label. Blending and bottling of the 2011 Grenache will begin in March (of 2013). In a world/society where instant gratification is a near human right, it’s kind of nice to have to exercise patience and sustain curiosity for the delicious surprise at the end of the years-long rainbow. Yet another aspect of wine, which makes it so enchanting.

Ulises Valdez, the grower of this fine fruit, is one of the several esteemed growers from whom we are lucky to source our grapes at Ram’s Gate Winery. Like the Sangiacomo grape-growing family (another legendary source for our fruit) who came over from Italy in the early 1900’s to create a better life for themselves, it was with drive, passion and courage that Ulises Valdez came over from the tiny town of Michoacán, Mexico in 1985 at just 15 years old. Now, 41, he manages 1,000 acres of some of the best grape-growing property in Sonoma County and has had his own wine served at the White House. A font of positive energy and a meticulously hard worker, Valdez is an extraordinary grower and person. Banal but true- you can’t make great wine from mediocre fruit. We are lucky to work with some of Sonoma County’s most masterful growers and their extraordinary vineyard sites to be able to produce wines with the complexity, balance and elegance you taste.

Yesterday, Jeff Gaffner likened his role as a winemaker to that of a storyteller. The story exists in the fruit itself; it’s his job to take the content and express it eloquently.

For more of Ulises Valdez’ story, check out this article from the San Francisco Chronicle online here.

In Fine Wine!
Britt Starr

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