Saturday, July 28, 2012

Brilliant Mercenary Winemaker Claude Gros

Do you ever wonder how a new winery can suddenly open their doors and have all of their wines be absolutely fantastic right off the starting line? Even more, you look at the winemaker’s name and know that you’ve never heard that name used before. Doesn’t it make you wonder just a bit?

Also, have you ever wondered how some wineries just seem to get it right every time? Year after year, that brand wins awards and sells out just in time. They are the ones who get 95 + scores consecutively even though the year may not have been that great in every other tasting room in the region.

As Clint Eastwood said, “A man has got to know his limitations.” In every business there are owners and managers savvy enough to own up to their weaknesses. They may have a passion and a certain level of expertise to do their craft reasonably well, but without someone behind them to provide guidance that takes them to greatness. Think of any great athelete. I don’t know of a single one who didn’t get coached to the top.

That is where a man like Claude Gros comes in. Considered to be one of the great Oneologists of this generation, Gros not only makes his own wine, but hires himself out all over the world as a consultant winemaker for those who want to win at the wine business.

Gros hails from Languedoc-Roussillon, the southern most tip of France that adjoins to Spain. His winery, Chateau Negly, is famous for its 96-100 scores. Little did I know about this area other than they grow a huge amount of France’s volume of wine grapes. I learned that the area has been one of the most politically embattled parts of Western Europe for centuries.

I consider myself to be lucky to have gotten the chance to meet Claude at a recent tasting at Sun River Winery in Kennewick last week. He consults for the owners and Greg, the full-time winemaker to ensure that their wines are the best they can be.

As we tasted through a Semillon-Sauv Blanc blend, Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, and the winery’s fantastic Port style wines one thing that held true, as they had in past tastings, was that the wines were consistently elegant and beautiful.

I spent a lot of time listening to the conversations in the room. Most importantly I wanted to hear what this brilliant but quiet man had to say about wines in this region as well as wines throughout the world.

A few things fell out of the conversation that I think you, my dear readers, might find interesting. First, and foremost, “great wines come from the vineyard”. It happens so often that poor growing conditions, poor soil, and poor watering practices make juice that has to be fixed. Gros, and other top winemakers want it right in the vineyard so they don’t have to use oak and sulfites to fix the wines.
Also, one of Gros’ biggest criticisms is the making of Rose’, my favorite summertime beverage. Claude says, which I know to be true, that most regions make Rose’ as a fallout from extra red grapes in the press. They treat it as a red until it is on the crush pad. “Really great Rose”, says Gros, “comes from growing the grapes specifically for that purpose.” Hmmm...something to contemplate.

To taste local wines by Claude Gros, you won’t have to go far. His local wineries are Bookwalter and Sun River. You should check them out!

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