From the Badge to the Glass
Pam and I spent much of Saturday at the winery conducting preliminary blending trials for the 2010 Von Holt Wines Single Vineyard Designate Pinot Noir and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Winemaker extraordinaire John Fones set up a long series of tastings for each of the two wines. Two of the factors in the Single Vineyard Designate that may interest you are the number of "free run" barrels to use vs. "pressed wine" barrels, and new oak barrels vs. neutral oak barrels. The RRV Blend has those factors but multiplied over different vineyards. The objective is simple - make great wines! The process is complex - narrow down the numerous combinations by taste, "nose", color, etc. to create those wines! John, his wife Katie, Pam, and I all bring different skill sets to the tasting table. John, as a winemaker, has a great sense of not just what is here now, but what will evolve; Katie has experienced fine French Burgundys - which is what Von Holt Wines emulates; Pam is what's called a "super taster" with the ability to discern nuanced aromas and tastes, and I - well, I know what I like (lower alcohol content, good acidity so the wines pair well with food, and nice minerality). We had a few slight differences, but amazingly enough the four of us agreed on where we are headed. Next month is round two. I'll keep you updated!
Pam and I inadvertently found ourselves at dinner a few nights ago with a winemaker who was born in Chile. We greatly enjoyed his company, and not just because he had good things to say about Von Holt Wines 09 Suacci Vineyard Pinot Noir! We chatted about Chilean and American wine making philosophy, but eventually the conversation turned away from wine to general stories about the two countries. I told him my favorite story about when I went to Chile as a US Secret Service Agent.
A few days before the President visited Chile many years ago, about 20 of us flew there on what is commonly referred to as a "Car Plane". That's a US Air Force cargo plane that is used to shuttle the armored Caddy limos and Chevy Suburbans to the cities that the President will visit. The President and the accompanying Secret Service Agents always ride in Secret Service vehicles for obvious reasons - armor, bullet resistant glass, audio-countermeasures, and a few other things better left unsaid. The "Car Plane" also shuttles equipment such as magnetometers and USSS personnel - but believe me, its the cars that are the issue. They are treated better than the Agents - perhaps because they cost more!
After work every night, we enjoyed a delicious steak, perfectly cooked pomme frites, and fantastic red wine. Each restaurant was better than the previous night's. After the President's visit was completed without incident, we loaded up the cars, equipment and about 200 cases of incredible and very inexpensive red wine. We landed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, right outside Washington DC at about 3am, which was a common occurrence due to time changes and flight patterns. A US Customs Agent in full uniform boards the plane before the "Load Sergeant" who actually runs the plane despite with the Captain pilots think, could get the cargo doors open. He passed out the US Customs Forms - just like you get on every commercial flight coming into the US. We all checked the "Nothing to Declare" box - as he stood directly in front of what must have appeared to be a wall at one end of the plane to him, but of course was 200 cases of Chilean wine. I suppose even the normally staunch supporters of truth, justice, and the American Way don't like paying Custom's fees any more than you do! We loaded everybody's personal vehicle with as many cases as it could hold. The married guys with minivans and Suburbans made out the best. I had my 5.0 liter, 5 speed, stick shift Mustang at the time, so I got a smaller share, but I was still one happy Agent driving home. So, when you drink that next bottle of Chilean wine (or Von Holt Wine) toast US Customs!
Pam and I just took a three day weekend trip to "Sea Ranch", which is a development of very esoteric and architecturally interesting houses for rent at the extreme north end of Sonoma County, right on the coast. The Surf Market in Gualala agreed to stock Von Holt Wines Old Lakeville 2008 Syrah. If you get a chance to stay at "Sea Ranch", after you take a long walk on the bluff above the Pacific, stop in at The Surf and see their wine buyer, Rolf. For a small grocery store in a very small town, The Surf has an outstanding selection of local wines. Rolf will recommend a Sonoma Coast or Russian River Valley wine that will complement what you are planning to cook for dinner back at the house. If you tell him you are planing to cook a juicy steak, lamb kabobs or a spicy pasta, he may very well recommend Von Holt WInes Old Lakeville 2008 Syrah!
Greetings from Belmont!
My name is Pamela Miller, co-proprietor of Von Holt Wines, and I'm thrilled to be writing my first blog entry. We have a lot of exciting news coming down the pipeline, so be sure to check back for more updates, but for now I'd like to use this opportunity to introduce myself to you.
From a very young age, I found myself drawn to the arts. Primarily a dancer and visual artist, but with a deep and lasting passion for music and the theatre, it always seemed to me that art allowed us to communicate our thoughts and feelings to one another on a deeper, more essential level than words alone. A dancer may be moving onstage in an abstracted way, not seeming to tell any particular story, and yet these abstracted movements have the power to elicit sympathy, or joy, or fear from a roomful of strangers who were not there when that dance was choreographed. A painting created by a great artist, can contain far deeper truths than the actual images may seem to warrant. Sometimes I go to see a musical, and after four notes of the overture, knowing nothing yet of the characters or story, I find my eyes welling up with tears, purely due to the essential power of the music. It is my belief that a beautiful glass of wine, and the magic that happens when it is paired with just the right bite of food, contains this same essence of truth; this ability to communicate passion without words. It's that kind of passion and magic that brings me to the world of wine.
Another of the great joys of being involved in the arts, which I've experienced even more powerfully as I've entered the wine business, is the tight-knit, talented, knowledgeable, and friendly community of people that surrounds it. Perhaps it is because people doing what they love are generally happier, and thus nicer, but the people I've met in the wine world -- from growers to wine-makers, entrepreneurs to aficionados -- have been some of the most fun, passionate, and all-around extraordinary people I've ever encountered. It's truly been a joy to be welcomed so heartily into this community, and to meet so many wonderful new people.
This is not to say that there aren't challenges to entering a new, quite complex field, but the excitement of the new venture, combined with the necessity of continually learning and growing on a personal, as well as professional level, has great meaning for me. Like wine from the tiniest vine to the most exquisite bottle of wine, our lives can be a constant ever-changing process. One of the greatest benefits of Von Holt Wines to me was the concrete recognition of that truth.
Ultimately, though, the joy of winemaking is really about you, the customer. Wine is meant to be tasted, and while there are numerous pleasures involved in this business, I truly gain the most happiness knowing that what I've helped create has given delight to others. So thank you so much for visiting our site, enjoy the delicate character of our cool climate wines, and please feel welcome to add your comments to this blog; we sincerely look forward to hearing your experiences with Von Holt Wines.
Hello everybody, and welcome to the Von Holt Wines website!
This is my first blog. I'm glad it will be about something close to my heart.
I'm a retired US Secret Service Agent and two diverse things come to mind when I think about special feelings from my old career. Those of you with law enforcement backgrounds will especially relate. First is that feeling when you get home from a midnight shift and immediately dive into bed, and get that first 4 hours of unbelievably deep sleep. The second is watching Air Force II take off with the Vice President, from a country that you barely knew existed two weeks ago, after you have conducted a successful "advance". They are special, warm feelings that create a place of comfort in their own way deep inside.
In August last year, I experienced a similar feeling of special comfort when I watched the first bottle of Von Holt Wines roll off the bottling assembly line. It's a crazy process if you haven't been involved with it before - much like the old "I Love Lucy" TV show where she can't put the candy in the boxes fast enough. Seeing my dad's name on the bottle was another special, warm feeling that hit a place inside me that's hard to describe. Obviously, it's my name too, but I always associate it with dad. He was the first person on either side of my family to be born in the US, worked two jobs his whole married life to support my mother, brother and me, and, everybody loved him. He would have enjoyed reading about your experiences with Von Holt Wines.
So, this venture, Von Holt Wines, is as much about my dad as it is about me. I wish he was here to see it. He also missed seeing me marry Pam, who he would have greatly loved. So, everybody, here's to my dad, Fred Von Holt!
I hope you will share your Von Holt Wines experiences here on our blog. Thanks for reading and enjoy your warm memories with the wine!
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