Tupaq, Bob Marley and Rotie's Sean Boyd
A significant number of wine customers as well as critics believe that winemakers just plain take themselves too seriously. It's not like winemakers are navy seals trying to capture ISIS leadership or emergency room doctors trying to save a child victim of a drive by shooting. Customers are starting to want to know more about who made the wine. So, what we try to do in Unfiltered is reach the real winemaker, to go beyond the wine tech talk and website dry goods, and let you know who made the wine.
A winemaker is, in the prurist form, a farmer, and then an agricultural chemist and finally a marketer. Tonight we meet Sean Boyd, owner and winemaker for Rotie in Walla Walla, Washington, who has his hand in every step of the process.
While both the appearance and demeanor of Sean Boyd might surprise you, his wines will delight and engage you. Sean was @MetroWines to discuss his wines with a group of about 40 very interested customers. Before Sean introduced his wines, we tried to get inside the real Sean Boyd. Here we go...........
John Oliver did a piece on his HBO show last week joking that "Americans are so casual and they prove it by drinking wine out of a box." Will there ever be a day when Rotie is in a box? "No. The wines are my babies. My babies get the best. The best is a cork."
OK but what about selling to restaurants? "I do offer kegs to restaurants but this is high quality, fresh and straight from the barrel."
I share with Sean our philosophy @MetroWines that wine is about food, family, friends and community. He agrees but puts it a little differenty.
Sean: "Wine is secondary to people. What I mean is that a wine can taste bad to you but that same bottle shared with friends will taste great. So the wine hierarchy is friends, food, wine - and we are the stewards of the wine."
Before being a steward of wine, you were a geologist working in oil and gas exploration. Do these two endeavors have anything in common. Here, I am expecting Sean to say something about the soil but....
Sean: "I need action. I need to be constantly working. Chasing big projects. Constantly learning." (Sean does address the soil later in his presentation. Very interesting about that "glacial lake," the "volcanic soil", the "good drainage" but back to our search for Sean..)
OK. As stewards of the wine, I ask if we should label wine bottles to indicate if there are any additives or any substances used in the processing.
"Yes. Label it." Sean says making wine is a long process from planting to bottle and can sometimes, often, maybe always be "a money pit."
Noticing the bottle of Three Legged Red from Dunham Cellars, another Walla Walla Winery, Sean says: "Eric Dunham was one of the biggest influences on me as a winemaker." This makes me smile as we here @MetroWines had Eric Dunham on skype from his cellar for nearly an hour and felt like we knew him. "Eric was one of the most awesome dudes in the world." More smiles. "He was always helping people. He was really about people."
It's pretty obvious that Eric had more than just a professional influence on Sean, it's personal too. "Sometimes I think," says Sean, "I am going to pull an Eric. And by that I mean...you know how you are at the airport set for a business trip that you need to take to Boston or wherever but your mind wanders and you start thinking maybe I will just go to Costa Rica today instead. Well, Eric really would go to Costa Rica!" Now Sean smiles.
Who else had a real impact on your winemaking? "Claude Gros. I was working as an assistant winemaker and the winery owner brought in Claude Gros to consult. I took copious notes for 3 years! Claude still consults with Sean at Rotie. "He is almost a therapist." (About Claude Gros from Jancis Robinson: http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/claude-gros-chameleon-consultant)
"Definitely. Rich Funk of Savaia." (http://www.saviahcellars.com/)
Your wines are in the Rhone Style. Do you speak French? "Maybe I should. When I was a kid, my father worked in Libya and he and my mother, who was French Canadian, took me on trips to the south of France quite often." The red table wine there, as it is throughout most of France and Italy, was great. It's a reflection on the chef so it's usually great." So, you became used to the good stuff at an early age? "Yes"
You can have dinner with anyone past or present? Who? What wine?
"Bob Marley and Tupaq. These are the leaders of our time." What wine? "I would start with a White Burgundy and then whatever Bob wants."
If a film was to be made of my chaotic life, I see Kristin Wiig playing me. Who plays Sean Boyd in "The Washington Wine Story?" "No one would be interested in that story." OK, but let's just say someone did make the movie, who plays you? "Someone dead hot sexy." Sean laughs but I think he means it.
We can find out the details about your wines on your website and, as you said, you will talk wine tech in your presentation so let's take a quick step off the farm to get a better picture of Sean Boyd. I like blue but it is too sedative to really catch my attention. Orange is nice but it screams. What color highlighter do you use? "I only read manuals." OK. But if you wanted to highlight parts of the manual what color highlighter would you use? "I don't use one."
Ok. How about this one...Which one of your wines works with Chicken McNuggets? "Oh come on."
OK. You just gotta laugh. You really do.