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the glow of rubissow Print
Written by Nikitas Magel   

Rubissow Vineyard (Photo Credit: Afsoon Razavi)TM: These are the things you do when you're a small producer. At a ten-thousand-case winery, you can afford a single vineyard manager [whereas we can't]. But all those things layer on our ability to succeed; it really is about Ariel's connections.

PR: Ariel used to be the chairperson of the Mount Veeder Appellation Council. At [the Napa Valley with Altitude] event where you first met us and we met you, that was the latest generation of events that we're trying to do with the appellation. And it was a brilliant idea proposed by one of the wineries up in Spring Mountain, to do that. Back in the day, I remember that when Ariel was chairperson of the council, during the Wine Spectator California Wine Experience, there was a Mount Veeder dinner hosted by Donald Hess in San Francisco. And I think because of that, and all the work she did to help launch the appellation, (and because there's a lot of family wineries here, even from back then) Ariel still gets the respect and the residual goodwill of the mountain.

AR: However, I have noticed the change. I've noticed there's a new group of farmers on this mountain who've bought in, and who are much more private and competitive. I'm not complaining; I think it's a classic way that people start businesses. There's much more of, 'I'm not sharing my secrets!' Whereas in the old days we were all new to it and learning on the job and experimenting on the mountain, so there was more [sharing and dialogue] like, 'Well, what grows best on Mount Veeder? Tell me about that clone!' etc.

"Some people make what they do seem more mysterious. People who are confident in the quality of their work and the land that they farm don't have secrets."

TM: That's always been bizarre to me. Because there are no secrets in this business — that's absurd — yet some people make what they do seem more mysterious and important. People who are confident in the quality of their work and the land that they farm don't have secrets.

AR: I believe in 'paying it forward.' You get out what you put in.

PR: We learned that from our dad; dad was very collegial. He and Tony Sargent were PhDs, brainy guys from UC Berkeley, guys who loved to sit around and talk about ideas…

AR: 'Rootstocks! Phylloxera!'

PR: ... and what's the best of those ideas, what's going to work best. One thing I was thinking, listening to both of you guys, is that I think our greatest teacher here has been the vineyard. All through the years that we've had this, through the school of hard knocks and farming, which is a tough thing to do anywhere, this vineyard is constantly teaching us how to make the best wine. I really mean that physically; in a harsh reality every year, the results that we harvest tell us what we have or haven't done right. During the time of Tony Sargent as the winemaker, we were all figuring it out ourselves. We're a fairly intelligent group of people, but we had really good advisors — André Tchelistcheff was our original mentor… I remember my first day meeting him. It was during the time I managed the vineyard and we were building all the systems: irrigation, trellis, drainage and such. I was pretty nervous. He drove up in his bright, lime-green Nissan 240Z, with the license plate frame that read 'Things Go Better With Wine,' and out gets this very sexy guy in his late 60s. He's a rather small guy, but with a massive personality you know, he was very self confident: "Oh, Peter, what a beautiful place you have here; it's going to make some great Chardonnay!" Um... little did he know our plans were to plant Merlot and Cabernet and maybe Sauvignon Blanc. But my dad - I was pretty young at that point — coached me to not prompt André in any way about what our real plans were. All I knew was that I had a meeting with a celebrated wine consultant and that we wanted to see what André thought about this land and what we should plant here. And that was the first thing he said: "Oh! Incredible place for Chardonnay!" Rubissow Ranch House (Photo Credit: Afsoon Razavi) Again, when we went over the hill: "Great Chardonnay! Maybe some Pinot over here!" Then I told him of my father's plans to plant the classic Bordeaux red and white varietals. {long pause} By the end of the meeting, he assured me, "You're going to make the best Merlot in Napa Valley, you'll see!" Once he heard our plan, or my bumbling version of it, I think he really got it. And through the years Andre became a close family friend of my father's. He really helped us learn from our land and pay attention to what it is teaching us...



 

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