The best thing about the Friday Night Blowouts at Back Room Wines in Napa is you always meet someone interesting.
One night it was a chef-turned-wine educator from Fosters who educated me that in his business, 50% travel isn't necessarily bad, because the hotels and restaurants on his expense account are not what the usual road warrior must endure. I forgot to ask him about the torture of air travel.
Last Friday I met a wine educator for the Napa Valley Wine Train who told us that for her pre-employment physical, she had to walk on a balance beam while carrying 50 lbs. After a couple gasps from her audience she allowed that the beam was on the floor. But still.
Then there was the guy in the red Stanford t-shirt standing at the end of the tasting bar."God's country...Bakersfield" was his reply when I asked him where he was from. You gotta love it. Brock (Richard) Brockmeyer grew up in Bakersfield, studied agriculture at Fresno State and at the suggestion of a professor, applied to Stanford's business school, naieve about the odds he was about to overcome. He now helps people who want to get into the wine business matched up with vineyards - or land that can be turned to vineyards. He struck me as one of those quiet guys with a normal veneer who is WAY brainy inside. He talked about the relative percentages of land up and down California that has potential for new vineyards (Napa about 0%, Sonoma about 15%). He also said that some of his clients decide after exploring a vineyard purchase, that it is not such a good idea after all and find another way to express their love for wine.
His son, Brett shared some Oregon Pinots from the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. One was Expression 44 Eola-Amity Hills 2006 (90 points, Parker). I'm not good at tasting notes but this Pinot was delish. Spicy and velvety with fruit and substance - not as slick as some Pinots, it had some heft. This wine is all about terroir, which I guess is fitting since I was tasting it courtesy of the man who was involved in acquiring that terroir.
Terroir is central in their marketing as well. Expression 44 refers to the latitude at which the grapes are grown. There is also an Expression 34° Santa Rita Hills, Expression 38° Sonoma Coast, Expression 39° Anderson Valley. This is a great way to differentiate the brand (how many stylized map coordinates do you see on a label?), express its core values and provide some cohesion as well.
Speaking of meeting interesting people at Back Room Wines, John Danby is "Mr. Friday Night" helping Dan pour and generally make people happy. He also blogs about Facebook for Wineries, talk about a niche!