What’s the difference between aroma and bouquet in wine? How does “bright acidity” taste? Why does Pinot Noir from different regions in California taste dramatically different?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Kerith Overstreet, the winemaker at Bruliam Wines in Sonoma, California and a former medical doctor.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
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- How do different areas in Sonoma and Monterey counties express themselves in Bruliam Pinot Noir?
- Which decisions can winemakers make to influence how a Pinot Noir ends up?
- Where is the Petaluma Gap AVA and how does the climate impact grapes?
- What does bright acidity mean for your tasting experience?
- How does the topography of the Mayacamas Mountain Range impact the weather pattern in surrounding grape-growing regions?
- Why is oxygenation desirable but oxidation to be avoided when it comes to winemaking?
- What’s the difference between aromas and bouquet in wine?
- How does Kerith use humour to bring a human element to her wine writing?
- Which embarrassing encounter led to Kerith’s sourcing her dream Santa Lucia Highlands fruit?
- What characteristics does Kerith look for when tasting wines?
- What’s the tasting experience like with 2019 Torrey Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir?
- Which foods should you try with your next glass of Pinot Noir?
- How would you describe tasting 2018 Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir?
- What’s Kerith’s favourite childhood scent memory?
- Which childhood favourite would Kerith pair with Champagne as an adult?
- What are Kerith’s favourite wine book and wine gadget?
- Which wine world celebrities would Kerith love to share a glass of wine with?
- Kerith’s distinction of the differences between aroma and bouquet in wine was helpful, especially that bouquet is anything beyond the grape varietal character.
- I liked her definition of how “bright acidity” tastes.
- She gave us a great overview of how and why Pinot Noir from different regions in California taste dramatically different.
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It’s all Pinot Noir but where it’s from brings out a different part of the grape’s personality. - Kerith Overstreet Click to tweet
Nobody wants to drink something that’s a monolith. You want to have components working together to make it interesting. - Kerith Overstreet Click to tweet
About Kerith Overstreet
Kerith Overstreet is the winemaker at Bruliam Wines. When she was small, her dad used to say, “You can be whatever you want after medical school.” So she did. After completing medical school (U. of Rochester), residency, and two fellowships (UCSD), she thought winemaking sounded more fun. So she enrolled at UC Davis to study enology and catapulted into the 2008 harvest.
Starting with a single barrel, Kerith has grown Bruliam Wines to 1200 cases a year (plus/minus). It’s mostly single vineyard pinot noir with a smidgen of Rockpile zinfandel. With delight and an “OK” from the CF-NO (aka the hubby), she added chardonnay in 2017. Cherishing her grower relationships, Kerith has aligned herself with top vineyards and growers to supply her fruit. Today she cherry picks her fruit from the top vineyards in Sonoma County, Santa Lucia Highlands, and her own Torrey Hill vineyard in the Russian River Valley.
- Connect with Kerith Overstreet & Bruliam Wines
- 2019 Torrey Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
- 2018 Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
- Dorothy J. Gaiter & John Brecher’s Book | Love by the Glass: Tasting Notes from a Marriage
- Marq de Villiers’ Book | The Heartbreak Grape: The Search for the Perfect Pinot Noir
Jay McInerney’s Book | A Hedonist in the Cellar: Adventures in Wine
- Coravin Wine Preservation System
- Dorothy J. Gaiter & John Brecher’s Website | The Grape Collective
- Kerith Overstreet’s Biscotti Recipe
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 116: Open That Bottle Night with Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher
- Diary of a Book Launch: An Insider Peek from Idea to Publication
- My Books:
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 85: How Did the Mega-Hit Movie Sideways Change Pinot Noir (and Merlot)?
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
2019 Torrey Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Art Label:
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Thirsty for more?
- Sign up for my free online wine video class where I’ll walk you through The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
- You’ll find my books here, including Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines and Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass.
- The new audio edition of Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is now available on Amazon.ca, Amazon.com and other country-specific Amazon sites; iTunes.ca, iTunes.com and other country-specific iTunes sites; Audible.ca and Audible.com.
Kerith Overstreet 0:00
Aromas are what we get from the grape during fermentation. In the conversion of sugar to alcohol, the yeast made different compounds, and they smell really good. We then as winemakers layer that with aromatic notes that comes from things like barrels, oxygen through the barrel that helps create the bouquet. Those are additional aromatic notes.
Natalie MacLean 0:25
Do you associate secondary aromas with bouquet .Yes, I do. So and then tertiary is on its own for ageing.
Kerith Overstreet 0:32
Right. You know, when you start to get those Sherry notes that come with wine that’s had a good long life. So aroma comes from the grape and bouquet is everything else.
Natalie MacLean 0:48
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? Oh, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 195. What’s the difference between aroma and bouquet in wine? How does bright acidity taste? And why does Pinot Noir from different regions in California taste dramatically different? You’ll hear those tips and stories in Part Two of our chat with Kerith Overstreet, a winemaker at Bruliam Wines in Sonoma, California, and a former medical doctor. You don’t need to have listened to Part One from last week first. But I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finish this one. Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show with the continuing story of publishing my new wine memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation and Drinking Too Much. So I’m looking forward to the next editing phase for the book. I’m going through it to check for the following. Number one, that the first sentence of every chapter draws you in. And the last one keeps you going. Two, each scene is evocative enough to make you feel like you’re there. So this could be through small sensory details like the smell of freshly baked bread or the stormy blue of someone’s eyes. I don’t paint a complete picture because the magic of reading is that when you’re given just a few details, your imagination will fill in the rest. Three, varying sentence rhythm for variety and pacing. Short sentences make you feel like you’re moving quickly through the narrative. Longer ones are better for reflection. Four, getting rid of dialogue tags like he said and she asked when it’s already clear who’s speaking. Another way to do this is to include a character action instead. So for example, do you think I’m a fool, George asked angrily. You can change this to, do you think I’m a fool. George slammed his fist on the table. See how the action is the dialogue tag identifying who said what. Anyway, I’ll share more of these next week. How do you improve your writing? Let me know. I’ve posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at NatalieMacLean.com/195. This is also where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know that you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at the manuscript. Email me at [email protected] Okay, on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 4:13
Let’s get back into Pinot Noir. So you make it in a number of different spots within Sonoma and Monterey Counties. Let’s talk about the differences. I don’t know where you want to start. You’ve got Petaluma Gap, the Russian River, the Mayacamas. I read it more than I say it out loud.
Kerith Overstreet 4:28
Right. I know you’re right. We’re still in the Mayacamas Ridge neighbourhood.
Natalie MacLean 4:32
There we go. Where would you like to start? How do these different regions express themselves in a style of Pinot Noir for you?
Kerith Overstreet 4:39
You bet. So I think we should start with sort of a bird’s eye view and the idea that Pinot tastes like where it’s grown. I will probably get hate mail on your website if I were to postulate that I believe, you know, Napa Cabernets. Okay, I’ll just say it. Let’s just say all Napa Cabernet is taste the same. They all taste like you know 80% sexy new French oak. They all taste the same. So let’s put it out there as a hypothesis. And let’s compare that to Pinot Noir where I’d argue that Pinot really, really tastes like where it’s grown. So the same grape grown in different soil with different exposure to sun with different exposure to wind and to fog is going to taste very different from Pinot grown in a vineyard under different circumstances. And of course, as a winemaker, we can shepherd that wine through the winemaking process with an eye to the finish line, where do we want that wine to end up. How do we want the personality of that wine to express the vineyard? The farming culture of that site? the weather? The vintage? And we can make decisions that will nudge the wine in that direction. And those decisions can be things like, when do we pick the Pinot Noir? Are we picking it at a slightly lower sugar level or a slightly higher sugar level, right? Because that will impact the flavour, the final alcohol, and the body. We can make decisions like what kind of yeast am I going to use? Am I going to use a yeast that’s tends to be more Burgundian with some earthier that that highlights some earthier notes? Or am I going to choose a yeast that has a really clean fruit character to it? We can say am I going to ferment at a higher temperature or a lower temperature? Am I going to age my wine in 40% new oak or 80% new oak that’d be very unusual or 20% new oak? And where’s that oak going to come from? Which forests? And all of those choices have impact on the final wine and where it’s going to go. So when I choose a specific vineyard, it’s because that vineyard has something to say. And every choice I make throughout the life of that wine nudges it in that direction. So we can start in the Russian River Valley, which is our estate fruit. So all of the wines I make, I buy fruit from famous vineyards with grape growers who know a lot more about viticulture than I do, with the exception of the little vineyard where we live, which sits in the Russian River Valley. For people who don’t live in California, the Russian River Valley sits in Sonoma County, which is north of San Francisco, and west of Napa. So when we think about Sonoma County, we’re thinking about the fact that we have the influence of the coastline and the ocean bringing to bear on everything that we do. And for me making a Pinot from Russian River Valley I think about, okay, what are all of the adjectives that Master Sommeliers shout out when they’re swirling a glass of Russian River Valley Pinot. And, you know, they’re swirling and they’re saying, cola, red fruit, red candy, violet, potpourri, warm baking spices, and I’m like aha, that’s the kind of Russian River Pinot that I want to make, one that’s really classic to the zip code where I live. So indeed, the Russian River Pinot that I make has loads of charm. It’s easy drinking and smooth. It’s bursting with cinnamon stick, red candy, cola. People who are charitable call it sasperrlla, people who are not fans of Russian River Valley call it cherry throat lozenges. That doesn’t sounds good. No, I know that’s what I said it’s uncharitable.
Natalie MacLean 8:29
But even cola and the other descriptor is cinnamon stick just sounds like it’s a sweet gloopy. And yet I love Russian River Pinot. Like, I guess it’s just if you’ve got to assign some adjectives to it that those don’t sound very nice. It sounds too sweet.
Kerith Overstreet 8:44
Yeah, you know, but I think you’re right. And those do connote a sweetness that isn’t necessarily on the palate as residual sugar. But as a sense of sort of I call it a confectionery kind of fruit, right. So it’s like Luxardo cherries that you find in a Manhattan. Or the sensation of cherry that you get in like those cherry hard candies that you’d get at like a restaurant in a bowl. Or COVID, I suppose. So sort of the quality of the fruit, which stands in contrast to a vineyard like San Giacomo in the Petaluma Gap, which also has red fruit but have a different quality. When I’m talking about the red fruit from San Giacomo, in contrast, I’m talking about sort of what I call a crunchy red fruit. And to me, those are things like pomegranate, cranberry, maybe sour cherries, and you know what I mean, right? Foods that are inherently less sweet, right? Inherently brighter acidity. And like, if you eat a pomegranate, it’s got some snap to it. If you pop the cherry from your Manhattan into your mouth, it just it’s like, you know, obviously mush. It’s like a textural thing. But, you know, those are both they’re all red fruit, right? They’re all going to give you red fruit juice, and they all sit on a spectrum. But there’s a different quality to that red fruit, right? So maybe one could think about it like granny smith apple versus I don’t know, like a Red Delicious, right. So it’s all Pinot Noir, but it brings a different personality of the grape, depending on where it’s grown.
Natalie MacLean 10:22
Sure. And where’s the Petaluma gap in relation to Russian River?
Kerith Overstreet 10:25
That’s a great question. So I used to be able to say Petaluma Gap is the newest AVA in California. But just 10 days ago, we were usurped by West Sonoma County. But the Petaluma Gap is the western southern edge of the coast of Sonoma County. So it starts in Marin and it snakes its way up into Sonoma County. It includes all of the land from the Pacific Ocean pushing eastward towards the Mayacamas Mountains. And that’s because it’s a region that’s defined by the wind. When the folks putting together this AVA proposal set about to create the Petaluma Gap as a specific region, they have little anemometers which measure wind, and they put them out on what was going to be the boundary line of the territory. And if the wind didn’t hit a certain threshold, they moved the line. So a piece of territory that is the Petaluma Gap includes areas where you can’t even plant grapes. But that’s because it’s following the wind pattern. So it’s defined by fog in the morning and wind in the afternoon that are all driven by the coastal influence of the Pacific Ocean, right. And everybody knows the funny line about like the coldest winter I ever spent with summer in San Francisco, right. So everybody knows that Northern California is foggy and damp. And the Petaluma Gap sort of speaks to that weather pattern.
Natalie MacLean 11:55
And so the wind pushes out the fog, right. Otherwise, the fog would sit there all day on the grapes. If there are grapes.
Kerith Overstreet 12:03
Yeah, you’re absolutely right. So the fog comes in in the morning and then it comes back at night. And then around three, four o’clock as the sun heats everything up, the wind comes off the bay. And you’re totally right, it pushes the fog out. And in pushing the fog out, it does a bunch of important things. It mitigates botrytius pressure which is a fancy way to say it dries things up. So what lessens the potential for rot. The second thing it does is it opens up the grapes, especially the skin so you’re going to be able to extract more colour and flavour out of the skins than you might expect for something that’s a cool climate site.
Natalie MacLean 12:39
And so the grapes are thickening because they’re protecting themselves from the wind? It’s just a response from the grapes.
Kerith Overstreet 12:45
Yes, it’s just a response from the grapes and the windier it is, they just tend to have a thicker skin more of like the waxy cuticle on it. And as I said, you know when you are trying to extract colour and flavour from Pinot, which is always the challenge in the job of us Pinot winemakers. Pinots generally is a thin skinned grape, which is why we’re always having to coax things out of it. But in the Petaluma Gap, if those skins are inherently a little thicker, you’re gonna find sort of more body and more colour from Pinots produced in that region. And the acidity. So instead of sweating, grapes respire off their malic acid. But having it be cool, allows the grapes to keep their acid intact.
Natalie MacLean 13:29
I was wondering how that worked, because you’re getting more extraction of flavour. And yet, you’re talking about the Petaluma Gap having more of the higher acidity. So those were the two effects of the wind counteracting each other, which is interesting. I imagine does that make a more complex wine in your estimation at the Petaluma Gap because of that?
Kerith Overstreet 13:48
I wouldn’t say so. But I think what it really does is it sort of gives you some of the flavour and concentration that you expect from California Pinot Noirs. But it keeps acid and lift underneath it so that they don’t get flabby. So you know, you need acid to keep things bright so that wines can age well, so it can balance out those fruit forward characters. Because nobody wants to drink something that’s a monolith. That’s totally not interesting, right. So you want to have all of these components working together. Because there’s areas of Sonoma Coast that are very, very cool, just like the Petaluma Gap and those wines and those Pinots have really high racy, racy acidity, but they don’t always have the same amount of body, colour, or texture because they don’t benefit from that wind influence thickening up the skin. Again, which brings us back to grapes tastes like where they’re grown, especially Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir tastes like where it lives.
Natalie MacLean 14:48
You know, it’s such a reactive little grape. And by bright acidity, do you mean just higher acidity or is there another aspect to bright? I’ve heard it often but I always thought, well, what does that mean?
Kerith Overstreet 14:58
I just think that it means that prominent acidity, but prominent in a way that it’s still integrated into the wine, not like a pokey elbow. When I think about bright acidity, I think about sipping a wine and then your salivary glands immediately react. And you get more saliva in your mouth and you think, oh, I want to have a bite of food. And everything balances out together. And you’re like, oh, I want another sip of wine to elevate and sort of cut through that creamy risotto or whatever you have to be eating.
Natalie MacLean 15:27
Sure. Oh, that’s great. And then the Mayacamas Mountains, they pull the fog in from the east in the morning, and then the wind comes in the afternoon. Is there something about those mountains that is special in terms of their effect on Pinot?
Kerith Overstreet 15:42
Yeah, that’s a great question. So the Mayacamas mountains for the most part separates Sonoma from Napa. But in the lower southern part of the range, they shift orientation and they create almost a notch. If you were to fly over in a low plane, you’d actually see sort of a rivet like a divot, I suppose, for lack of a better word, and that that part of the mountain range. And what that knotch does is it drives that weather pattern. So the fog gets pulled towards that notch and hit to the Mayacamas mountains, and it shoots out to San Pablo Bay, And again that knotch creates that churning wind pattern that pulls that coastal wind which is coming off the bay off the Pacific Ocean and pulls it east towards the mountain range. So even though the Petaluma Gap includes vineyards that are 20, 30, 40 miles from the ocean, the grapes totally think they’re at the ocean. They’re like, wow, this is awesome. It’s so nice and cool. I get this nice ocean breeze even though they’re sitting, you know, east of the 101 freeway. So it’s really the topography of the Mayacamas mountains that drives this weather pattern.
Natalie MacLean 16:51
Fantastic. All righty. I love the way you can put things into such understandable language. What is the difference to you between oxidation and oxygenation when it comes to winemaking?
Kerith Overstreet 17:04
That’s a great question. So oxidation is when you cut a banana, and you go to make your coffee, and then you go take a shower, and you come back and the banana that you cut to go in your cereal has already turned brown, right. You’ve opened up an avocado, you’ve chopped the onions, and you’ve chopped the tomato to make guacamole and much to your dismay you go to scoop out that avocado and it’s already turned brown. That is the best, easy example of oxidation. And you know, it can happen via enzymes, it can happen via chemical reactions, but the same thing can happen in grapes. So if you were to take a bunch of white grapes like call it Chardonnay grapes and you were to smoosh them into a glass with your hands, and you took that glass and you left it on your counter. If you came back the next day and instead of having nice clear green grape juice, it would be brown. And that is the effect of enzymes and oxygen on the grape juice. And it’s the exact same reaction that happens to a banana that turns brown or an apple or your avocado.
Natalie MacLean 18:11
And wine made that’s oxidized will taste stale. And I don’t know if it tastes brown, but it will taste tired or is that right?
Kerith Overstreet 18:19
You’re absolutely right. So I was talking about oxidation in grape juice. And it can also happen in wine. So if you were to open a glass of wine and leave it out on your counter and come back to it in five or six days, it’s going to probably start to smell like red wine vinegar. It’s not going to smell good because it’s the effect of oxygen. All of that oxygen at once on the wine and the conversion of alcohol to the components of volatile acidity. But basically it just means it’s turning things into vinegar and it doesn’t smell or taste good, which is the same reason that people ask oh if I’m only going to drink half a bottle of wine what’s the best way to store it, right? Because we all know that that headspace, that ingress of oxygen all at once can have a detrimental effect on the wine. So like easy enough put it in your refrigerator that slows down enzymes and will slow down that process, right. So we do not want oxidation that is unpleasant. However, oxygenation is the slow, careful, and intentional use of oxygen over the course of winemaking to make the wine better. So for example, during fermentation yeast need oxygen. They need oxygen to make their cell walls strong so they can withstand that rising tsunami of alcohol as sugar gets converted into wine. We need oxygen to help tame the tannins in wines, especially wines like Cabernet or Barolos from Piedmonte. Wines that have these huge tannic structures that gum up our mouths. By adding small amounts of oxygen and oxygenation during barrel ageing, those tannins can smooth out. And the oxygen via oxygenation coming in through the barrel staves allows those tannins to stick together. And instead of being like little, short, round globs, it lengthens into them out into these longer tannin chains that are less abrasive in our mouth when we drink them.
Natalie MacLean 20:37
Right, because they don’t find the little crevices in your mouth. They just sort of glide over like when lacy chain or whatever. Literally smooth.
Kerith Overstreet 20:45
Exactly. And they do that a lot better when they’re longer.
Natalie MacLean 20:49
Right. Oka. Cool. And what’s the difference between aromas and bouquet for you? Because we also get three primary, secondary, tertiary flavours. So I just wondered how all of those things work together from your perspective.
Kerith Overstreet 21:01
Sure. So aroma and I think primary flavours are sort of synonymous and aromas are what we get from the grape during fermentation. So in the conversion of sugar to alcohol, the yeast have all these additional things that they make. Different esters, different compounds, and they smell really good, and that is the primary aroma of the grape. We then as winemakers are lucky enough to layer that with other aromatic and flavour notes that comes from things like barrels and barrel ageing. Again, we can talk about the ingress of oxygen through the barrel and how that helps age the barrel. And those things create the bouquet. Those are additional organoleptic or aromatic notes that we can blend in just the same way that a chef will take a piece of chicken and they can saute that piece of chicken and everybody knows what chicken tastes like. But what if you were to add salt? What if you were to add cumin? What if you were to add ginger? What if you were adding oregano and rosemary, right? The resulting sauteed chicken breasts would taste very different. Whether you were adding garam masala and doing something that was Indian flavour inspired, or whether you are adding herbs de provence and making something that was very French herb inspired. In the same way, we can create that bouquet and a wine by ageing the wine in different vessels, in different kinds of oak or not using oak at all, right. Say you wanted to just keep it in stainless steel.
Natalie MacLean 22:36
Yeah. So do you associate secondary aromas with bouquet? Yes, I do. And then tertiary is on its own for ageing.
Kerith Overstreet 22:44
Ageing. Right. So sort of is, you know, when you start to get those Sherry notes or those Maderized notes that come with wine that’s had a good long life and sort of the fruit and if that point in a wines life, or you get those caramel notes as well, sort of the fruit is more diminished, right. So the primary aroma from the varietal of the grape is secondary or sublimated to these new flavour and aromatic compounds that you smell when you open up an older bottle of wine. And that’s just sort of the age and evolution.
Natalie MacLean 23:17
Yeah, I totally agree. Because I’d heard bouquets associated with tertiary, but for you it’s more with the secondary flavours of what the winemaker has done to the wine.
Kerith Overstreet 23:27
Yeah it is for me. And I think you know, bouquet is anything beyond the varietals character. So bouquet can incorporate all of those things. So aroma comes from the grape and bouquet is everything else.
Natalie MacLean 23:37
Okay, cool. That’s great. Now you also write all of your own website copy. And it’s a lot of fun. It has a lot of personality. It had a lot of personality when you emailed me about being on the podcast. I couldn’t resist. So how do you infuse your blog posts on social media with humour? Like, what kinds of things do you do to make it more lively and personal?
Kerith Overstreet 24:01
I think like you, I really rely on humour to bring the human story and the human character to what I write about. And a lot of things that I write about can be pretty dry. As I said, nobody wants to talk about yeast strains or clones for two hours. So you have to sort of bring humour and metaphor to the writing to keep people engaged. And again, like you said, take something that’s a complex or maybe seems like a scary topic and break it down into little nuggets and little bites that are digestible. And using humour and using funny comparisons to pop culture are really an easy way to do that for me.
Natalie MacLean 24:43
Do you have an example from your website that has gotten a good reaction? Or social media? That’s okay if nothing comes to mind immediately. That’s okay.
Kerith Overstreet 24:55
You caught me off guard on this one. There’s nothing coming to mind immediately. But if you read through blogposts like I’ll say like a you know, I don’t know, like the yeast consume the sugar just like a hungry person at the end of a Peloton workout or something like that. Relatable to what we all do every day.
Natalie MacLean 25:14
Absolutely. Now, I don’t know if the toilet story is on your website, but I’d still like to hear it because we’d like to get the scoop on everything here, anyway.
Kerith Overstreet 25:24
So you’re gonna pass it to me? The toilet story is the story of my Santa Lucia Highlands fruit. And as you may have guessed, as a theme I have clawed my way into California’s finest vineyards with a mixture of moxie, baking, and bribery with treats, and sheer determination. So the Santa Lucia Highlands sits in Monterey County. It’s under the radar AVA. American viticultural area. In contrast to Sonoma, which is very big, it’s very, very small. It’s about 80 miles long and two miles wide. And the first Pinot Noir that I tasted and fell in love with and had that aha moment came from the Santa Lucia Highlands. So of course, when I wanted to make wine, I thought I love this Pinot. This is what I want to make. This is what I want to do. I gotta go out and get me some of those grapes from the Santa Lucia Highlands. So I called the grower Mark Zuni of the vineyard that I read about, that vineyard is called Garys’ Vineyard. If you’re a California Pinot geek, you know, it’s very, very well known. It’s Garys apostrophe because it’s owned by two guys named Gary. So I emailed Mark Pisoni with enthusiasm and ardour and say I love every Garys’ Vineyard Pinot I’ve ever tasted. I’ve been making wine for two years. You think you want to sell me some? And instead of laughing me off of email, he kindly replied, and he invited me to come down to see the vineyard. So we load the kids into the car into the minivan, and it’s about a four hour drive, probably four and a half when you account for kindergarteners and a second grader who need to stop and go to the bathroom and stretch. So we get into the minivan we finally get down there. And I know you have a son, what’s the first thing any kid needs to do when they reach the destination? Yeah, the bathroom. The bathroom. So we get there, the kids need the bathroom. So Bruno goes out to the bathroom. The girls are terrorizing Gary Franscinoi’s little Bichon trying to play with this little thing who’s like overwhelmed by twin kindergarten girls who are just in love with the fluffy puppy. I’m chatting, trying to make a good impression. I’m trying to convince Mark that despite only two years of winemaking, he wants to sell me some of these precious grapes. And Bruno was gone for a long time and we’re chatting, making small talk. We can’t go to the vineyard, we can’t go anywhere until Bruno returns. So finally, after what feels like an interminable amount of time, Bruno returns with a giant smile on his face. And he looks at me and he goes, Mom, I pooped so big I clogged the toilet.
Unknown Speaker 28:01
Kerith Overstreet 28:03
I just wanted to self emulate in a moment. Like, how could I like melt into nothing like the Wicked Witch of the West and Wizard of Oz. Like I wanted to just go down to a hat and disappear. Luckily, Gary has grandkids. And you know, he had kids. Now Mark has kids of his own. And they realize that kids, they say what they say. And they do things and you know, they weren’t used to septic what can I say?
Natalie MacLean 28:31
So I guess it was all uphill from there. I mean, it just, obviously you did form the relationship despite all of that.
Kerith Overstreet 28:40
Yes, and again, it’s like the humour and the story. And the warmth and the authenticity. They’re like, well, this is a real gal. She’s making wine. She’s juggling kids. She’s, you know, working her career. She’s a good person. She’s handling the poop with aplomb. We’ll give her a try.
Natalie MacLean 28:58
That’s great. All right. So your wines. Do you have a wine or two with you?
Kerith Overstreet 29:03
I do. And I picked two that are very different. So I didn’t you know, not everybody’s watching this. But I brought the Torrey Hill vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, which is special in the label because my kids do the art that every year changes and always features our dog Dexter. It always features a rainbow. Everybody’s welcome.
Natalie MacLean 29:23
Yeah, we’ll have to put the label on the show notes so people can see it. And of course, click through to purchase. But you’ve got a nice big glass there with your Pinot. And how would you describe it and what are you looking for when you taste wines, your own or others?
Kerith Overstreet 29:38
Right. So I think I’m looking for a clean well made wine that’s without faults, right? So you’re making sure that there’s no off odours first of all, like everybody else, and then you’re looking for varetial character. So I put my nose to the wine. Does this smell like Pinot or does this smell like Amarone? It shouldn’t smell like Amarone. It should smell like Pinot Noir. And of course, you should get fruit tones and in a heavy degree or light degree, depending on the variety of the style that you should always get some fruit because grapes are fruit, right? And wine comes from fruit. So this being a Russian River Pinot, of course, I’m getting that cola. I’m getting that red cherry and getting those baking spices. It’s still, you know, eight in the morning for me.
Natalie MacLean 30:19
I know who’s gonna say. You are a wine warrior. It’s early for you.
Kerith Overstreet 30:24
Its early for me. So on the palate, of course, I’m getting that really pop of cherry of cherry candy right in the middle of my palate. It’s got a nice long finish. It’s easy going. There’s no pokey elbows. It’s really a smooth, easy drinking, charming, charming wine that speaks to the Russian River Valley.
Natalie MacLean 30:43
And what would you pair with it? What would be your ideal pairing?
Kerith Overstreet 30:46
Well gosh, so if I were doing my ideal pairing with this, since it’s summertime, I think it would be really beautiful with a salad with grilled chicken and goat cheese. And maybe you could do like some grilled peaches in there. Or like, you could do some little pieces of cherry in there. And you could do like maybe a cherry red wine vinaigrette with it. I think that would be super delicious. It’s also really great with salmon since that’s exactly what we had last night. It’s a great pairing for that. And it’s really good with pizza. Especially pizza with umami.
Natalie MacLean 31:21
Pizza with umami.
Kerith Overstreet 31:22
Any kind of umami. Yes, like mushrooms. Yeah, exactly.
Natalie MacLean 31:27
That savoury delicious character. There’s a lot of people who debate who like to debate such things between Pinot and salmon. Like, there’s some people who say it’s terrible versus those who love it. It seems to be a polarizing match. Do you know why that might be? Or is it just something you love and who knows why those people don’t like it?
Kerith Overstreet 31:48
Yeah, who knows why those people don’t like it. They’re dead to me. So I did like a plank salmon. And I did it in a marinade that had soy sauce and brown sugar and bourbon and orange juice, brown sugar, bourbon, and soy sauce. So the four things and you know it gets when you put it on the grill, the brown sugar gets it like a little bit caramelized and crispy around the edges. And the soy sauce brings that umami flavour. The bourbon gives it some depth and a hint of smokiness. And of course the orange juice again as sort of the sugar content and keep things moist. And I think that’s great with Pinot, right. It speaks to like. Sounds good. It is great with like a fattier cut of salmon like a farm raised salmon. So you get like a nice sort of fatty salmon that’s not dry. And you get Pinot which is a lighter style wine. You know, you get complimentary notes between some of the earthy notes that you can sometimes find in Pinot and some of the notes that you get from like the soy sauce. It’s like those little crispy edges. I don’t know. I’m a fan.
Natalie MacLean 32:48
I love it. It sounds like you’d like to cook as much as you’d like to make wine.
Kerith Overstreet 32:51
I like to eat as much as I like to make wine. How about that?
Natalie MacLean 32:55
That’s great. And you have another wine there with you. What wine is that?
Kerith Overstreet 32:59
I brought the Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands, which we just talked about. And you know, obviously people are listening. They’re not going to be able to see this but the colour is different, right? It comes down to Monterey County versus coming from Sonoma County. And, you know, I topped them at the same time. It’s not an oxidation problem. It just is a different colour because the grapes grow in a different location. And when I smell this, this is like a sexy dark Pinot Noir. It’s like a brooding Pinot Noir. Right. So instead of bright, lively cherry this is like brambly fruit, cardamom, a lot of earthy notes, herbal notes, You sort of get the sort of leather, some of those deeper base notes that you can get from ageing in oak barrels.
Natalie MacLean 33:48
Sounds like your Heathcliff versus your Katherine. I think you’ve used that before. So I’m borrowing from you.
Kerith Overstreet 33:54
This is Heathcliff. Let’s we can call Torrey Hill Mr. Darcy, but this is definitely Heathcliff.
Natalie MacLean 34:01
Oh I like Mr. Darcy.
Kerith Overstreet 34:03
There’s only one Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth.
Natalie MacLean 34:07
Exactly. Exactly. Especially with the white shirt and coming out of the pond or whatever it was.
Kerith Overstreet 34:13
Yes, he’s the only Mr. Darcy for me. Absolutely. But this is, you know, a layered, complex, intellectual. It continues to open up in the glass. The best description I had was from someone who was tasting with me. And they said, this is the one that you want to open on like a wintry night when you and your beloved are like sprawled out on like a bear skin rug in front of a roaring fire. This is a dark and sexy Pinot. Sounds loves that. Yeah, that’s all take it. I’ll take it.
Natalie MacLean 34:46
That sounds great. Oh, wow. Terrific. Let us go into the lightning round. Now. We will link to those wines on the show notes so that people can take a closer look at them and of course buy them if they like. But what is something that you believe about wine that some people might disagree?
Kerith Overstreet 35:03
That there is a place for wine. Like there is an occasion for wine. There is no bad wine.
Natalie MacLean 35:09
No bad wine. Wow. But there’s faulted wine, but just
Kerith Overstreet 35:12
There’s faulted wine but not bad. As opposed to this one’s good and this one’s bad.
Natalie MacLean 35:17
Oh I see like perfect pairings and so on. Right. Gotcha. Gotcha. Okay. Do you remember any favourite smells or foods from your childhood?
Kerith Overstreet 35:26
Yes. So I grew up in Southern California. So I always think about beach smells and ocean smells, and chlorine. You know, being by the pool in the summer, which I think informs my tasting note every year when I say this Rosé pairs well with chlorine. And what I mean is, it’s fun, it’s outdoors. Enjoy the summer. Uncork that bottle whatever you’re doing that’s fun and summery.
Natalie MacLean 35:50
Lovely. Do you have a favourite childhood food that you could pair with wine today as an adult?
Kerith Overstreet 35:55
Okay, so I love bagels. And I will tell you that when I go to Toronto and our family is like where do you want to go to eat? And they mentioned all of these wonderful, delicious gastronomica restaurants. I tell them I want to go to Bagel World and get a bagel. I love Bagel World
Natalie MacLean 36:12
Bagel World. Oh yeah, I’m in Ottawa, but I haven’t visited Bagel World in Toronto. but I’m heading there to Toronto.
Kerith Overstreet 36:19
It’s kind of a hole in the wall. Like it’s not fancy, but darn they have good bagels and bagels do not pair with wine at all.
Natalie MacLean 36:26
Okay. Why not? What happens in that combo?
Kerith Overstreet 36:30
I don’t know. I think there’s probably something about like a bagel with like a scallion cream cheese that just does not scream wine. That screams coffee.
Natalie MacLean 36:41
All that dough we gluten.
Kerith Overstreet 36:42
Yeah, doughy gluten. But I have always been a sushi fan, even as a young kid. So I’ll give it sushi and bubbles, sushi and champagne at any day. I’ll take that.
Natalie MacLean 36:52
That’s fun. All right. Do you have a favourite wine book?
Kerith Overstreet 36:56
I think one of them is Tasting Notes from a Marriage by John and Dottie.
Natalie MacLean 37:02
The Wall Street journalists.
Kerith Overstreet 37:03
The Wall Street journalists. And I was looking for my copy so I could show it to the viewers. And I couldn’t find it because I think I moved it from my pile of wine books to general books and then it’s lost forever. But other ones that I’ve loved are Heartbreak Grape, of course, Pinot Noir and Josh Jensen and Calera. That’s right. And then A Hedonist in the Cellar.
Natalie MacLean 37:24
Jay McInerney. Yeah, Jay McInerney. That’s great.
Kerith Overstreet 37:28
Which are fun ones, too.
Natalie MacLean 37:29
Yeah, I interviewed John and Dottie. So we’ll link to their book as well. And these books that you’re mentioning in the show notes, But yeah, they had that long running column and did so much for wine culture, I think not just in the US, but around the world with their open that bottle night, stop saving your wines for special occasion. Make it a special occasion by opening them.
Kerith Overstreet 37:50
Absolutely. And making wine inclusive and positive and easy to understand and accessible. I love John and Dottie. I’m like a super fan.
Natalie MacLean 37:59
Yeah, yeah, no, they’re still going strong, though. They’re writing elsewhere. They have their own website, I think the Grape Collective now.
Unknown Speaker 38:05
Grape Collective, you bet.
Natalie MacLean 38:07
Is there a useful wine gadget that you’ve come across.
Kerith Overstreet 38:11
So I resisted buying a Coravin for a very, very, very long time because they’re expensive and a little bit fussy. But I have to say, since I’ve bought one, it gets used all the time in the tasting room, because tastings with me are by appointment only. And sometimes we’ll have two in a day. But I’m certainly not a giant packed tasting room where we’re going through bottles and bottles day after day. So if I use a Coravin, I can use the same bottle probably two or three tastings over the course of a week. And that makes a big difference for me.
Natalie MacLean 38:41
And for those who haven’t heard of it, it’s the brand name of a device where it has a needle goes through the cork and extract small bits of wine. So it’s not getting oxidized, as we just asked about.
Kerith Overstreet 38:51
Exactly. It replaces it with aragon. It’s got this little these little canisters of argon inert gas and it, you know, displaces the oxygen and puts argon there instead.
Natalie MacLean 39:00
Yeah, if you could share a bottle of wine with anyone in or outside the wine world living or dead. Who would that be?
Kerith Overstreet 39:07
Oh boy, why don’t I say John and Dottie. I’ve never gotten to share a glass of wine with them. I’ve met them before. And their early writings in the Wall Street Journal really informed my interest in wine. All of those wonderful articles and all of those stories made me realize that like your work, wine connects us all.
Natalie MacLean 39:30
It does. And they came from very different beats. I mean, the wine column was kind of a side gig for a while because I think she was covering race issues. He was an editor. But then they were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for their wine columns. So they brought life into it, their family, the whole very human experience into their column. So yeah, wouldn’t they be great dinner guests? That would be amazing.
Kerith Overstreet 39:53
So many stories, and they’re warm and generous, right? Like you feel like you’re their best friend after you’ve read one column. Exactly. On yeah my best friend Dottie.
Natalie MacLean 40:01
Yeah, I was talking to Dottie. What why would you like served at your funeral? Not to be morbid, but do you have a wine that you’d like everybody to celebrate your life with?
Kerith Overstreet 40:10
Oh boy. So I’ve always had a soft spot for my 2014 San Jacamo Vineyard Pinot Noir. And I would say, even if I bottled that in a methuselah, I’m not sure it would make it to the end of life without being oxidized. But I don’t know, I suppose it would be nice to sort of have a panoply of the wines that I’ve made over the years.
Natalie MacLean 40:29
That’s true. Yeah, almost like having an art gallery. Like the way they put up pictures at funerals and so on. Again, not to get too macabre here, but to have your bottles around and your life’s work.
Kerith Overstreet 40:40
Exactly. So people can celebrate with something delicious.
Natalie MacLean 40:43
Exactly. This has been wonderful. Kerith. Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention before we get to where people can find you online?
Kerith Overstreet 40:53
Oh, boy, just to say thank you to you, Natalie, for inviting me here today. It’s such a joy. It’s such an honour. You know, your writing is so fine. You are kind to speak to my blog post. But you know, I’m a dabbler and you’re a writer. And it’s just such a treat to have an opportunity to chat with you today. So thank you so, so much.
Natalie MacLean 41:13
Oh, my pleasure. You’re a great storyteller. And that is the basis of writing. Don’t short cut yourself on the writing aspect there, Kerith. So but I vow to stay out of winemaking for sure. Like no crossing over there for me. But where can we find you online to visit your winery to buy your wines, all that sort of thing.
Kerith Overstreet 41:33
Thank you for asking. We’re pretty easy on social media. Everything is at Bruliam Wines, b r u l i a m wines whether it’s Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. And then of course, the winery is just www.bruliamwines.com
Natalie MacLean 41:49
Terrific. Terrific. And I advise listeners to go there just even to read the website copy. It’s a lot of fun. Thank you. Absolutely. So Kerith, I hope we can chat again some time. But thank you for your time here today. It’s been wonderful, and I look forward to staying in touch.
Kerith Overstreet 42:05
Thank you indeed. Cheers to you.
Natalie MacLean 42:07
Cheers. Okay, bye for now. Bye. Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Kerith. Here are my takeaways. Number one, Kerith’s outlining of the differences between aroma and bouquet in wine was super helpful. And that it really comes down to bouquet being anything beyond the grape varietal character. Two, I liked her definition of how bright acidity tastes. And three, she gave us a great overview of how and why Pinot Noir from different regions in California can taste dramatically different. In the shownotes, you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with Kerith, links to her wines and website, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a link to my free Ultimate Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com /195. Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or want to be a beta reader of my new memoir at [email protected] You won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Lori Budd. The host of the podcast Exploring The Wineglass. Laura is actually going to interview me this time. In the meantime, if you missed episode 85 go back and take a listen. A chat about tasting Pinot Noir and tips for writers with sideways author Rex Pickett. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Unknown Speaker 43:45
To want to like wine to want to understand it on an educational level or even be erudite about it, I don’t find that to be snobbery. I think that’s just like being passionate about anything and wanting much as you can. And the wonderful thing about wine is it’s a bottomless ocean of mystery. Sommeliers can’t even master it and then every year is different, Natalie, and you can’t master it and I love that fact about it.
Natalie MacLean 44:16
If you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wines and stories we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a silky cool climate California Pinot Noir.
Natalie MacLean 44:41
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMacLean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.