Are you curious about how a wine brand breaks through in a new market? Why is the wine category one of the most difficult to offer a great price/quality ratio? What unique challenges do women winemakers face in the industry?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Beth Liston, a rebel winemaker from California who’s just launched a new wine called Longshot.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
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- How did Beth’s interest in restoring vintage cars get started?
- When did Beth realize she wanted to become a winemaker?
- Which valuable lessons did Beth learn from working a harvest in South Australia?
- What’s the most exciting aspect of being a winemaker?
- What does it mean to find your voice as a winemaker?
- What was the concept behind the creation of Longshot/Dark Horse wine?
- Why is it particularly difficult to maximize wine’s price-quality ratio?
- How do the techniques used in making Longshot/Dark Horse help them to stand out in their category?
- What has Beth learned from her experimentation with blending grapes?
- How does Beth translate inspiration from trends in cocktails and beer into winemaking?
- What are the biggest trends currently dominating the drink industry?
- How can you identify thiols when tasting wine?
- What tasting experience can you expect from Longshot/Dark Horse Pinot Noir and Chardonnay?
- Which food pairings should you try with Longshot/Dark Horse Pinot Noir?
- What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a winemaker?
- How does Beth navigate the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated field?
- My MBA brain loves the back story of how a new wine brand breaks into a new market. So many factors are at play from the product itself and packaging to getting consumers to try the wine and building loyalty through repeat purchases.
- The wine category is one of the most difficult to offer a great price/quality ratio given the vagaries of weather from year to year. As Beth notes, it’s an agricultural product, unlike say breakfast cereal where you can control production. It’s also capital intensive, from having to age wine so you’re tying up your cash flow, to the substantial investment in equipment, from presses to bottling lines.
- And finally, I admire her approach to building credibility in the industry as a woman and as a winemaker, regardless of gender. It takes perseverance, a love of change and adaptability and a willingness to get down in the trenches, or should we say the cellar, and learn the job from the ground up.
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Building credibility is still a challenge in the wine industry as a woman. - Beth Liston Click to tweet
Coming out of that harvest after working 84 hour weeks, still wanting to make wine. It was kind of that aha moment for me. - Beth Liston Click to tweet
I think creating your style as a winemaker, finding your place in a company without losing your identity, can be challenging. - Beth Liston Click to tweet
We try to take different winemaking techniques, things that would traditionally be used at higher-end wineries and apply them at our scale so that we can add some complexity. - Beth Liston Click to tweet
With all the Longshot wines, they’re made in a style that’s supposed to be elegant and very food-friendly and I think they’re very versatile. - Beth Liston Click to tweet
About Beth Liston
Beth Liston discovered her interest in wine while growing up on California’s Central Coast. During college, she worked in a local tasting room, developing a fascination for both the art and science that goes into making great wines.
Beth earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a minor in Wine and Viticulture from California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. After graduating, she completed graduate work in oenology and worked in wine sales in Austin, Texas before setting her sights on winemaking.
With more than a decade of harvests behind her, Beth has acquired diverse winemaking experiences from the Limestone Coast of South Australia to Napa Valley.
She’s now the Director of Winemaking for Dark Horse wines in Modesto, in California’s Central Valley. Outside of work, Beth enjoys spending time with her husband, Daniel, and their two sons, relaxing with yoga and travelling to explore new cultures through food and wine. She joins us now from Modesto, California.
- Connect with Beth Liston
- Diary of a Book Launch: An Insider Peek from Idea to Publication
- My Books:
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 53: Festive Wines with the Globe & Mail’s Christine Sismondo
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
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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.
Beth Liston 0:00
perseverance was a big thing for me coming out of that harvest after working 84 hour weeks, being physically drained, emotionally drained, mentally drained and still wanting to make wine. So wanting to be a winemaker, it was kind of that aha moment of this is the career for me,
Natalie MacLean 0:16
despite it being gruelling, you still loved it. And what was it about winemaking that you just loved.
Beth Liston 0:22
I am a type of person that has always thrived under pressure, every harvest, it’s a high pressure point in production, you have a limited time to bring in the fruit and then you have to make very quick decisions. These are decisions that you’re gonna have to live with for the next 12 to 24 or longer months. As you’re working with that wine and getting it prepared to go to bottle every harvest is going to be different. So I think that’s exciting. You can prepare as much as you want, but things are never going to go the way they were planned.
Natalie MacLean 0:57
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the 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 160. Are you curious about how a wine brand breaks through in a new market? Why is the wine category one of the most difficult to offer a great price quality ratio? And what unique challenges do women winemakers face in the industry? You’ll hear those stories and more during our chat with Beth Liston, a rebel winemaker from California who’s just launched a new wine called long shot. Now on a personal note, before we dive into the show, so many of you have emailed me to say that you’re actually interested in the journey from book baby to publishing my new wine memoir. So I’m going to give you a little update each week. Not interested. Then fast forward a couple minutes. No idea what I’m talking about. You’ll find a link to a new running blog post I’m calling Diary of a book launch in the shownotes at Natalie Maclean comm forward slash 160. I’m going to take you behind the scenes in the making of a book, from writing and editing it, to selling it to a publisher and ultimately to launching it in the marketplace. I’ll share with you the emotional highs and lows, as there have been many of those already. Sure more to come. memoir is such a personal piece of writing. It’s really as naked as you get on the page. As of this podcast, my agent and I are in negotiations with several publishers who are interested in publishing it. How will this end down in flames? Up on a bestseller list? I really have no idea. But you’ll find out as I do. I’ll share a few more terribly, awfully kind rejections from UK editors aka the literary cloaked version of mean tweets. Last week, I talked about how your platform the audience you bring to the book is so incredibly important. And I just don’t have that in the UK compared to the US and Canada. So here we go. On publisher told my agent quote, McLean is a badass. I like her verve and style. That said I wasn’t sure of the best way to position her in the market for this aspect of her career and life journey. And quote, another said, quote, Natalie relays her tale of devastation and betrayal with a voice that’s approachable, funny and warm. There’s a fearlessness about her that’s appealing. I’m just not sure how to break it out in a big enough way. These books can be tough, even with a notable platform, and quote, and a third quote, I love the exposome element of Natalie’s book and found her to be an incredibly engaging character, however, and blah, blah, blah, and quote. So one more odd thing about memoir as the author, you’re considered a character in your own book, sometimes called the narrator memoir shares many techniques with fiction writing from character and plot development to the narrative arc and climax. One humongous difference, of course, is that memoir needs to be true and based on your own story. That said, I really don’t mind being described as a fearless badass, even though I’ve never ever felt that way. Maybe it just comes out in my writing. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know if you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at this manuscript, email me at Natalie, at Natalie Maclean comm I’d also love to hear from you if you’ve discovered a fabulous new wine we should all know about a tip that would help us enjoy wine more, or a question for me that’s unrelated to my complete book obsession right now. In the shownotes, you’ll find my email contact and that blog post Diary of a book launch the full transcript of our conversation with Beth Liston. I’ll link to her website and where you can buy her wines, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find the live stream of the video version of this conversation on Facebook and Youtube every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie Maclean comm forward slash 160. Okay, on with the show
Natalie MacLean 6:04
Beth Liston discovered her interest in wine while she was growing up in California’s Central Coast. During college she worked in a winery tasting room and that’s where she says she developed her fascination with wine both for his art and science. I’m going to ask her about that. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a minor in wine and viticulture from the California Polytechnic University at St. Louis Obispo. And then after graduating she completed more graduate work focusing on enology. Then after that she worked in wine sales in Austin, Texas. She’s had more than a decade of harvests behind her she’s worked and acquired diverse winemaking experiences from the lime coast in South Australia to Napa Valley to where she is today. She is now the Director of winemaking for Darkhorse wines in Modesto in California Central Coast. And outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Daniel, their two sons relaxing with yoga, travelling to new cultures through food and wine. And she joins us in Modesto. Now. Welcome, Beth. We’re so glad you’re here.
Beth Liston 7:11
Hi, Natalie. Thanks so much for having me today. I’m excited to join you guys.
Natalie MacLean 7:14
Awesome. Let’s paint a picture of where you are. Are you in your corporate office? Are you joining us from home? Where are you? What’s it like?
Beth Liston 7:21
I’m in my corporate office. So I’m responsible for wines made at a couple of different wineries. But this is my home office. So during harvest, obviously, I’m down at the site winery right where all the wines are made. Harvest wrapped up the end of October. And so this is where I spend quite a few of my days a week.
Natalie MacLean 7:38
So now you get a bit of a breather, because your office must move down downstairs quite a bit when harvest is going on. Definitely. Can you see any vines from your windows? Or what’s your view like
Beth Liston 7:50
the bottling rooms are outside of my office, I can’t quite see the lines themselves. I can see the building. But the vineyards are a little bit further south from where this winery is situated in the Central Valley.
Natalie MacLean 8:02
Right? So if you’re still in the heart of things, definitely. So before we dive into wine, which is going to be the majority of our conversation, we always love to get to know the person who makes it. You have a fascinating hobby passion. I’m not sure how you describe it, but you restore vintage cars. Tell us about that.
Beth Liston 8:20
So when I was 11, my dad asked, you know, would you like a new car when you turn 16? Or would you like to buy an old car and we can restore it together? And so obviously I said I wanted to restore a car with him. And so we spent some time going to cursos and deciding what car I wanted. And so we settled on a 1964 and a half Mustang convertible. We bought a car that needed a lot of work. We bought a sandblaster we bought a compressor. We watched videos, we read manuals, we did almost everything ourselves. So we sandblasted it in the front yard. I’m sure the neighbours must have hated us. We did everything two or three times because you know the first time this was obviously before YouTube the first time it was not done correctly. And then we had to do it again. But it was an incredible experience for the two of us to get to do together. So I still have the car. I will not make the same mistake. My parents said we will not be giving a 16 year old a restored sports car. So we’ve told our oldest that maybe you know when he’s 30 years so he can he can have it
Natalie MacLean 9:24
after he calms down. No revving to high school or whatever.
Beth Liston 9:28
Exactly. My husband hasn’t even driven it yet. So
Natalie MacLean 9:31
that’s great. So did you always have a mechanical fascination? Did that lead you to it as well?
Beth Liston 9:36
I always love getting my hands dirty, right? I always loved kind of digging in and understanding how things worked. And obviously now looking at the career path I’ve gone down I think it makes sense, right? I spent a lot of time with my dad growing up. I played a troubled softball. I was a pitcher he caught me right so we had a lot of hobbies together.
Natalie MacLean 9:56
That’s fabulous. And is there an aspirational car you’d like to restore?
Beth Liston 10:00
You know, the the car that I’ve always loved but is definitely out of reach would be a 427 Cobra. But I’ll just admire them from afar.
Natalie MacLean 10:11
Cool. Wow, you are such a well rounded woman. You’re also a certified dermatologist. How did you get that accreditation? And what does it mean?
Beth Liston 10:20
There was a small stretch of time about a year in between doing wine sales in Austin, and moved back to California. So before I went back to grad school, I ended up in a sales shop down in Southern California working at an engagement ring store, and then became a certified dermatologist. So lots of learnings around right relationships, things that do and do not work as you’re selling impeachment rings to couples. It was an interesting year, I was pretty miserable. By the end of that year in sales, which I think is good. It definitely forced me to make some decisions. And I think was one of the reasons I was like, I’m done doing this, I need to go back to grad school, I really want to become a winemaker. So you know, I had spent like you had mentioned and spent some time on the Central Coast while I was an undergrad working in tasting rooms. And that was really where I fell in love with the industry. You know, that combination of art and science. I love that, you know, every day had the potential to be different. And that was very exciting to me. And so after I graduated, I wanted to get out of California for a little bit, kind of threw a dart out an app and ended up in Austin doing on premise sales, which was an incredibly cool job. I had a very large portfolio I learned a tonne. So you liked
Natalie MacLean 11:26
wine sales, but not diamond sales. Correct. Okay, you’re narrowing your field. That’s good.
Beth Liston 11:32
Exactly. But anyway, so then I went back to Cal Poly into a food science programme focusing on medical terminology. And I was very lucky to get connected to some people from Gallo early on and so I did a harvest in the research winery in Modesto Gallo. And then I took about a year and a half off of my grad programme. So I did not harvest I did a harvest, like you mentioned on the Limestone Coast and South Australia. I did a harvest up at Rutherford Hill and Napa and then I finished my programme.
Natalie MacLean 12:01
Okay. And when you’re in South Australia, what did you learn there that you now bring to your current winemaking position?
Beth Liston 12:08
That was a really hard harvests. You kind of touched on what are some of the struggles as a female winemaker, I think especially in the mid 2000s. In Australia, the wine industry was very male dominated, building credibility, I think there’s still a challenge in the wine industry as a woman. And so I think that was especially true there. But I think the thing that I really took away was, it was a hard harvest. It was a hard harvest mentally, emotionally, physically, just doing a lot of physical work. But I really learned the ins and outs of a seller, which I think as a winemaker, especially in a bigger winery with a union workforce where you don’t necessarily have the opportunity to go out and do the work. Having done it before, I think does help you to relate and build credibility, right, which is so important. I think perseverance was a big thing. And I think for me coming out of that harvest after working like 84 hour weeks, just being physically drained, emotionally drained, mentally drained, and still wanting to make wine. So wanting to be a winemaker, it was kind of that aha moment of like, this is the career for me, right? This is what I want to do,
Natalie MacLean 13:09
despite it being gruelling, you still love to and what was it about winemaking that you just loved, it’s exhausting. You’re still having all these other issues. What said, Oh, my God, I love doing this. What was it specifically,
Beth Liston 13:21
I am a type of person that has always thrived under pressure, every harvest, it’s a high pressure point in production, you have a limited amount of time to bring in the fruit. And then you have to make very quick decisions. These are decisions that you’re gonna have to live with for the next 12 to 24 or longer months, as you’re working with that wine and getting it prepared to go to bottle. You never know what every harvest is going to throw at you. Right, every harvest is going to be different. So I think that’s exciting. You don’t know what the challenges are, you can prepare as much as you want. But things are never going to go the way they were planned. And so I think having that sense of urgency, being really adaptable, you know, having opportunity. Some days, you’re in the office, and you know, you’re in a lot of meetings, you’re writing work orders, you’re dealing with spreadsheets, and other days you’re out in the vineyards and you’re tasting fruit, you’re looking at vineyards, other days, you’re in the winery, you’re walking tanks, you’re tasting your wines, you’re making decisions. And so the ability to have I think that variability is pretty exciting, and something that I really love and have always looked for in a career.
Natalie MacLean 14:25
Awesome. And when you first started out in winemaking, was there anything you were nervous about in terms of your career choice?
Beth Liston 14:32
I think especially going to a big production environment again, building that credibility finding your voice.
Natalie MacLean 14:38
What does that mean for you finding your voice? Because that’s intriguing for me as a writer, so I just can’t let that one go. Yeah,
Beth Liston 14:45
you know, I think creating your style as a winemaker finding your place in a company without losing your identity, I think can be challenging. And I think I’ve always tried to just be who I am and not London and maybe fall The status quo. But I think that can be hard because it’s also kind of scary to be different. I know just even Ray likes your tattoos. Being a female tattooed winemaker and working for a pretty conservative company. You know, for a long time, I tried to hide them.
Natalie MacLean 15:15
Did you have them before you joined Gallo?
Beth Liston 15:17
I had some before I joined Gallo. And then I think, you know, over the years, obviously, I added to them, but I tried to hide them for a while. And then obviously with long shot with our course, they’ve been using photographs. And so then it just right. It’s like, This is who I am. You know, everyone is accepting of that. Right. And so I think it’s very liberating.
Natalie MacLean 15:35
I’d say that’s a pretty good brand fit. Yeah. So those who are listening to podcast can’t see us. But you can find the video version of this chat. Do you mind holding up your arms again, so we can see what they are? Maybe tell us a bit about them? Because they’re wonderful.
Beth Liston 15:48
The two of my forearms are actually for both of my boys. So this is a fox with puppies for my oldest and then is that
Natalie MacLean 15:55
a favourite bedtime story or something like that?
Beth Liston 15:58
We actually almost use foxes. His middle name as nursery was full of foxes. And then the lightning bolt on this one. When I was pregnant with our youngest, we asked cool, our oldest, what do you want to name your brother? Without hesitation? He said flash. So you know, like a superhero who incorporated the lightning bolt into his nursery. And that’s what we called him before he was born not after.
Natalie MacLean 16:23
That is great, because I’ve seen some pictures. And you also have them on your upper arms too. With my MC I’m like, Are they like what’s on which tattoos there?
Beth Liston 16:31
I have my first American Bulldog. Her name was Sadie as on one arm, and then I have a piece. My husband and I have kind of matching pieces. So I have like a nautical compass with roses and that lyric from a song from our wedding.
Natalie MacLean 16:44
I love that. And last question on the tattoos. I promise we’re going to get back to why but what drew you to having tattoos in the first place? What is it about tattoos you like?
Beth Liston 16:53
I don’t know. I mean, I guess it’s another way to express yourself. Right? My first piece, my sister is an artist. And so my first piece is a pretty big piece of my back that was a piece of her artwork. So yeah, just another form of artistic expression. Right?
Natalie MacLean 17:07
Absolutely. And I do think there’s a brand fit. Now that you’re with Darkhorse long shot, rebel, right? Personal death, so it’s all good. So we should clear up for our listeners who are around the world. But many are in both Canada and the US. In Canada, your wine is known as long shot. And in the States. It’s dark horse. So why the difference? It was
Beth Liston 17:29
a trademark issue. So we weren’t able to get the trademark for Dark Horse in Canada. So Canada, it’s long, shy, and in the US, in Europe, the UK and Asian markets as well. It’s dark horse. Yeah, so same wine, same team of winemakers.
Natalie MacLean 17:47
Yeah, and same iconic logo icon. I really like it. It’s like this sort of horse, I guess, or where’s the head, and the you can see the wineglass in it. So I’ll just hold mine up to the camera so people can see it on shot. But then again, those fit Dark Horse take a long shot on a dark horse. I mean, that’s kind of the brand story, right, in terms of taking a chance on something that is a long shot.
Beth Liston 18:10
Yeah, I mean, that was really the idea when the brand first started, like the unknown winner, if you will, right. And so the brand concept when the brand team first came to us and kind of pitched the idea, they called it 24/7. And so it was making a $20 bottle wine that would sell for seven, which obviously doesn’t doesn’t quite translate. I know, in Canada, it’s a little bit more expensive. We
Natalie MacLean 18:30
just work everything out. So 30% or whatever. That’s okay. But still the price quality ratio,
Beth Liston 18:36
right, the concept was to really over deliver.
Natalie MacLean 18:39
And why is that so difficult as a wine brand, as opposed to other categories of products? Why is it so difficult to maximise that ratio?
Beth Liston 18:48
Obviously, you have a lot of invested capital, right with making wine, you have one window to make your wine and then you know, it was something that tends to be higher quality, you’re not necessarily putting it in bottle immediately, right. And so for the reds and the Chardonnay returned to spend anywhere from six to 10 months on Oh, to get some age to get some complexity and maturity before going to bottle. Even just when you look at your investment capital, you know, the amount of inventory that you’re sitting on fire. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges and then I think, of course, trying to produce that scale without losing that quality. And so I think that’s one of the things that we really have an edge on right we work with huge network of growers across Central California, right so most of the grapes that go into longshot come out of Lodi,
Natalie MacLean 19:35
which is where located for us. It’s just kind of
Beth Liston 19:39
east of like the San Francisco Bay. There’s like a delta right through Lodi, and so there’s pretty strong maritime influence right so it gets warm during the day cools down at night, which is really great for maintaining acidity as you’re ripening. It’s a region that’s really known for high quality reds so Zinfandel is kind of a great Lodi is known for but we’re able to Get really beautiful Sabina wall. The cab that Pinot Noir that we’re low on the back blenders that we use to teach rods for all to go to not things like that all that fruit comes out of it. So you’re able to get really high quality fruit without necessarily paying like, you know now for prices, but definitely works in our favour. And then, you know, we try to take some different winemaking techniques, things that would traditionally be used at higher end wineries and apply them at our scale so that we can add some complexity. And what would be examples of those, like what the Cabernet, which I know is up there, right, we do an accent and laceration, which means that we leave the wine in contact with the skins for anywhere from 25 to 35 days. Normally, reds at this price point would maybe spend anywhere from four to seven days on skins, and then you would drink the wine off, you’d pass the skins and you’d finished processing your wine. But we find that we get just really incredible mouth way we get great complexity. So instead of just being really bright and fresh, you have that you have the really nice fruit, but you also have a little bit more complexity about our mid palate weight. And so that’s something that we started to do. Gosh, I think maybe in 2017, we did a small amount. And we’ve continued to increase the production of that. And we find that it’s just really increased the quality of the Cabernet.
Natalie MacLean 21:18
And does it give it more richness and depth like I always am struggling to define what is complexity, you know, for people who are especially perhaps new to the one
Beth Liston 21:27
specifically I feel like it increases the complexity and aromatics. So I think sometimes when wine goes to bottle relatively early, right, this wine isn’t spending two years and barrel. If you’re going to bottle about a year after it was harvested, I find like it increases the complexity of aromatic. So you have not only fruit, you have the oak aromas, that some spice, there are many more layers that you get. And then it has a huge impact on the mouth weight as well helps to kind of soften the tannins and an increase on the power weight.
Natalie MacLean 21:56
So surely you also do that which wines get treated that way and just tell us what it is. For those who might not know
Beth Liston 22:03
the Chardonnay spends quite a bit of time on these letters are pretty standard practice that’s done for the most part in barrel. You know, if you’re ageing, your Chardonnay and barrel you’ll leave kind of the light fluffy leaves. This would be the yeas and after it’s done fermenting, and you’ll stir that barrel and that will help those easily so break down for least Manna proteins into the wine which is going to just increase that richness that creaminess and not that mid palate weigh in the wine and like
Natalie MacLean 22:30
freshly baked bread aromas. It’s just can taste like yes, yes. Yeah.
Beth Liston 22:35
Something similar to like, you know, if you think about like an age champagne, right, that spends quite a few years on leaves, right? That’s the same sort of process that’s happening just over an extended period of time. And so we take that practice, that’s our my done in a barrel and we do it in a tank. And so we keep the sharpening in contact with ways for almost 10 months. We’re mixing it to get those diesel’s to break down and get that just really creamy mouth Wait, like with a Pinot Noir a couple years ago, we’re trying to drive a little more complexity, a hint of spice and like a violent No, which is very characteristic for central Coast’s Pinot Noir here in California. And something that we struggled to get with Central Valley and so we actually started to crash some Gewurztraminer in with a Pinot Noir. Just a couple percent but governance is known for just having really beautiful brown spies having some rose notes and has this just lovely viscosity right almost like an oily mouth weight. And so we found that by actually bringing the cupboards in with no no are and crushing them together from NC together that we were able to build a little complexity add just a touch of that floral note and some spice
Natalie MacLean 23:45
that reminds me of the Rhone Valley where they have mostly Sarana a lot of touch a little. Yeah, a little dash maybe 2% 1% not something really like
Beth Liston 23:55
when you ferment with it versus trying to blend it in later. It’s a totally different experience more
Natalie MacLean 23:59
integrated, like the aromas and grapes. Yeah, yeah. And you do experiments like that too. With other grapes. You’re blending? Is it Cabernet and Dornfelder? Something like that. Dornfelder goes into the more low of the mirlo Okay, gotcha. So Dornfelder being a traditional red grape from Germany or low classic everywhere. What does the Dornfelder do for the mirlo?
Beth Liston 24:23
You know, it’s funny, right? So Dornfelder like you said a German grape you would not think that it would grow well in the Central Valley of California. It’s pretty, pretty warm here. We planted some close to the winery and trying to find a good home for it and so we could crush same thing just like the government’s with the piano. We’ll crush them a bit with them are low, and we find that it adds a little bit more structure. I mean, it has incredible colour. It was a perfect lens. So same thing a couple percent. We don’t like to fermented by itself. Dornfelder fermented by itself. I don’t think it adds a lot of value. The aromas aren’t great, it can almost go a little like meaty, but when you ferment it with them or low I think Just that structure and colour that it brings to them are low on a couple of percent. That was a really nice pairing.
Natalie MacLean 25:05
Wow. Wow, that’s very particular. So what kind of inspiration do you get? You’ve mentioned that you often get inspiration from, say trends in cocktails or beers. How do you bring that over into winemaking?
Beth Liston 25:22
A lot of it is just experimenting, looking at what are the trends and flavours? Obviously, cocktails, the liquor industry, the beer industry can innovate so much quicker than the wine industry can. And obviously, the rules that we have to play within are quite a bit stricter as well. But it’s more just looking for overarching trends. And it’s like, what are people gravitating towards? Now?
Natalie MacLean 25:44
What are the big trends right now that you are seeing a couple of trends?
Beth Liston 25:47
Obviously, Salters are huge. I’m not sure what they’re doing. It can Oh, yeah, huge.
Natalie MacLean 25:53
So how would you say, Oh, I see that. So what could we do in response wine wise,
Beth Liston 25:59
wine wise, you can start to look at okay, can we do lower alcohol, lighter bodied, right wines that are going to play in a similar space. So if someone’s looking for you know, you’re going to be at the pool all day, and you don’t necessarily want to drink a Chardonnay that’s 13 or 14% alcohol, and we start to look at doing a lower alcohol version of that. But how can you maintain the wine cues? How can you maintain the aromatic and flavour intensity? Right. And so those are some of the things that we’re looking at. I think we also tend to take a lot of inspiration from what are really small, like super Michie producers doing right, because those are the things that aren’t necessarily going to scale, but I think are also really interesting. Maybe they’re not things that we’re going to produce on a large or in a large scale, but I think they tend to work well for us as lenders. So a few years ago, I was selling the Central Coast visiting a favourite winery of mine, and they do really beautiful dry cover strainer. So I picked up a few bottles, brought them back to the team, we tasted, it’s like we have a lot of governance. But at that point in time, we were making all of it sweet. It was just going into a blender for other things. Like let’s make some dry and see what happens. And we were just in the process of launching a Pinot Grigio, which I believe is maybe in certain parts of Canada, I’m not sure exactly where it’s at. But you know, it’s like let’s do a dry cover it’s and see what value it would bring what see what lens it could fit into. And so we made some that year, it was great because it had that spice had that floral, no, it had that, you know, that really oily texture without the sugar and actually found a really nice helmet or something on Blanca slough become one of our dominant back lenders and the sloppy on blah, we find that it doesn’t necessarily bring a floral note to it, but it does help to pop the files and the tropical notes and kind of keep them elevated throughout the year, but provided a synergistic effect that we didn’t necessarily expect. Yeah, like that term
Natalie MacLean 27:47
that blenders and just for those who don’t know what files are, what are those?
Beth Liston 27:51
There are components of your blog that are responsible for like that passion through boxwood, right some of those very like New Zealand style aromatics that you expect and solving on block. That’s the style that we’re going after for the Dark Horse longshots oblong. That’s what we’ve been working to build over the years, we actually sent one of our winemakers in New Zealand a few years ago to work with a partner winery over there and to understand some of their practices around salt management and choose and temperature management so that we could bring that back to the winery and just continue to increase the quality and drive that aromatic expression. Obviously we have a very different climate than New Zealand. It’s a very aspirational target right to say that you’re trying to make New Zealand sells on your blog from Central California grapes. But I think we’ve done a really good job getting there. We have some vineyards that are very expressive and some of those green notes right the bell pepper jalapeno, we have other vineyards that really drive this tropical passion through guava notes. You put them together and I think you end up with a really nice honourable
Natalie MacLean 28:53
Awesome, well let’s taste all of this is making me thirsty. I have the Peano Of course. Perfect I have it as well. There we go. How convenient. I love this I’ve seen some ads where this is on fire like it’s like the rebel literally a branding brand. Now I have what I call my big ask glass for Pino because Pino of course is very expressive as compared to a lot of other grapes. So just like to get a little air in it. Exactly, exactly. So you’ve got a fairly big glass too. Yeah. I would love to hear your thoughts. I’ll share mine of course as well. I’ve tasted this previously but when you’re tasting this particular phenol, the long shot Pina which is new to at least Ontario and it’s available elsewhere across the country, but it’s just brand new here. What do you get in this on the nose?
Beth Liston 29:46
The first thing I get is cherry right, which is you know, obviously very characteristic for Pinot Noir. Yeah, very ripe
Natalie MacLean 29:52
cherry. It’s beautiful, dark cherry. It’s got a wonderful mouthfeel to very like liquid silk.
Beth Liston 29:59
Yeah, I was just gonna say the same thing. I think that’s really what we strive for and Coronavirus. Like those silky tannins. There’s some really nice toasted. Oh, a little hint to cedars and spice that kind of lingers. Yeah. How much oak does this wine see, almost all of the wine that is in this one will spend probably about 10 months on a combination, mostly French, but also some American, a combination of chips and staves.
Natalie MacLean 30:26
But it’s almost like a frame around the fruit. I hardly get the oak on the nose.
Beth Liston 30:31
It’s really meant, I think to support the fruit right out some complexity, a little bit of structure, but definitely not overwhelmed, is being made in a very, I think traditional California pinot noir style, right. Obviously, there are lots of nanowires that are out these days that are that bigger, richer, bolder, darker style. And this is not self repeating the word but it’s really trying to drive that really bright sour cherry. Those silky right silky tannins.
Natalie MacLean 30:56
Absolutely, it does taste cool climate. It really does have that nervy edgy acidity which I love Pinot is my go to personal wine when I’m off so to speak, although I could never turn it off but so I love Pino because it’s wonderful on its own, but it’s got such an incredible range of food pairings. I mean, I would put this with roast chicken holiday turkey. Just so much even grilled salmon.
Beth Liston 31:21
I think it would be great with Doc doc. Yes. I got like one fee with like a blueberry reduction. Oh yeah, that would be great. It’s got
Natalie MacLean 31:33
really complementary flavours for that beautiful mouthfeel I mean just all kinds of gamebirds you know, even lighter meats like veal would be beautiful. Yeah. I always think of snacks too. So I’d also pair this maybe with pretzels, not too salty pretzels, but something like that
Beth Liston 31:50
a charcuterie board right with like some pure cured meats and cheeses I think would be really nice. I found that really with all the longshot wines. I think they’re made in a style that’s supposed to be elegant and very food friendly. And I think they’re very versatile. When it first launch two years ago and I did like a press tour across the East Coast. Every city that I was in we paired the wines with very different cuisines, spicy Chinese food, Italian, Spanish, tapa, US American food, they paired I think so beautifully with all the different cells of food. So you’re gonna film with those parents, right? You don’t have to sit with a white wine with poultry and red wine with
Natalie MacLean 32:31
meat. Oh, this would be ideal with turkey or chicken. I mean red wine and white meat for sure. And is their favourite childhood food you’ve ever had that you might pair with this one or maybe it’s another long shot line instead.
Beth Liston 32:46
My mom said the family is Italian and so for us Christmas Eve my mom was just here this weekend one of my son’s birthdays were planning for Christmas Eve we make ravioli is from scratch we do like a big salad, you know, with all the pasta, and I feel like this would be really beautiful to start the meal off to go with like the soup and then a pasta before maybe you get into something a little heavier to go with the red sauce. Oh, yeah.
Natalie MacLean 33:09
Oh, that’d be great. Maybe bring on the Cabernet after that. Yeah. And are there particular cheeses you think this Pino would do? Well, with?
Beth Liston 33:18
You know, I feel like I would do great with maybe something a little more aged versus a soft I don’t I would put it with something harder and age, you know, like a Gouda like an H Gouda something with like some nice kind of crystals, some of that nuttiness, and I think that would be really nice with it. What would you put it with? Well, I
Natalie MacLean 33:35
like the age Gouda, the nuttiness that can come through because it just would sort of dovetail with a little bit of smokiness but also, the cherry is so bright, it would be so nice with the smoky cheese actually, or a nutty cheese. I think you know, they play off each other. Are there any particular sort of odd pairings you’ve had with this and you thought, Oh, this is never gonna work. But
Beth Liston 33:59
I think my favourite odd pairing wasn’t necessarily with the Pinot Noir, but it was Rosae with fried chicken sandwiches. Oh, wow. That was great. I think just like the acidity really cut through like the richness and the fattiness of the fried chicken primer as a as another very, I think a personal line.
Natalie MacLean 34:17
It is and I’ve had Dr. Rosae with ketchup chips, which is a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. And it surprised me Rosae did work because the ketchup chips they’re not as sweet as ketchup itself, which is really sweet. But anyway, it all worked. And what would you pair them with your Chardonnay what is a favourite pairing for that
Beth Liston 34:38
wine? Chardonnay is so versatile. I mean obviously you could do it with all the kind of normal things full tree I think seafood. I think it has enough structure. You could even do it with like, we’re chatha or something that you would know like but a red wine with I think with the richness, the fruit that oak that you have in it. I think that wine could go either direction.
Natalie MacLean 35:00
Yeah, that sounds great. So dark horse has performed extremely well. So it’s long shot up here. But Dark Horse performed extremely well in the US market. I mean, out of the gate. Pun intended, I guess? I don’t know. Sorry. It was a blockbuster success in terms of sales and growth and everything else growing even faster than the premium wine category, which How is that defined? Is it like nine to 50? I guess it would be different between the two countries because of exchange
Beth Liston 35:27
in the US, I believe it’s under 10.
Natalie MacLean 35:29
Okay. So I would definitely be more up to the maybe the $15 range or something like that, but it hasn’t been here long in Ontario. But how is it doing so far? Do you have any early indicators?
Beth Liston 35:40
You know, unfortunately, I don’t I don’t have visibility to sales up there. So I’m, I’m sorry.
Natalie MacLean 35:46
Yeah, no, that’s okay. That’s all right. You stick to the winemaking, and the marketing folks will stick to the sales. And what’s the most interesting thing anyone’s ever said about a wine that you’ve made? Oh, gosh,
Beth Liston 35:57
I don’t know that. I can remember an individual comment. But I think as a winemaker, I think for most of us, the most rewarding aspect of our job is being able to share something that we’ve poured our like, love our tears or sweat into with friends and family, right? And to see, you know, how you can enjoy that at a party or over dinner. I think that’s when you ask the winemaker, like, what’s motivating to you what’s most rewarding? I think that’s the most common answer. And it really is true, right? How a bottle of wine can bring people together and how celebratory it can be. And I think that’s a pretty incredible feeling, right? It’s about to share something like that with the people in your life.
Natalie MacLean 36:34
Yeah, seeing their enjoyment of something you actually made. Is there anything in retrospect that you would have done differently in terms of your career.
Beth Liston 36:43
So I actually started my undergrad at UC Davis. It’s funny, because I had no exposure to the wine industry. At that point in time, I had no interest in it, right? Just no knowledge of it. I was a freshman up there. And my roommate was taking a wine tasting class was taking a wine tasting class. And it’s so unfortunate that I was at Davis, right? Like, hey, this famous California. Oh, wow. Winemaking was not on my radar at all. So obviously, it would have been great if I had known that was where I should and you know, wanted to be at that point in my career. It took me a little while to figure it out, eventually got there. Exactly, exactly. Now I’m, I think really fortunate that I figured out what I wanted to do and that I have something that I’d love to do. I love coming to work every day, right? I love my job. I love my team. And I don’t take that for granted, I realised that’s not something that everybody has. So I am very fortunate in that. Yeah. And you
Natalie MacLean 37:39
mentioned the challenges that women face in the industry. Are there particular things you do to help younger women? Are you on the lookout for them within the company or the industry? Or?
Beth Liston 37:49
Yeah, you know, like I mentioned, I feel like building credibility. That was a really big challenge for me early on my career. And I still see that as a hurdle. And a challenge. It feels like sometimes it takes longer and takes more work to build credibility that maybe male peers are able to build seems like much easier. So I have quite a few winemakers, female winemakers on my team. And so focusing trying to make sure that like, obviously, that everyone has equal opportunities for growth, but also providing them opportunities for that exposure and to build that credibility with our male dominated cross functional partners. Right. So if you look on the seller, you look at our operations teams, obviously very much male dominated, same thing with the vineyards, right? And so how are there ways that we can make sure that that they have the exposure that they need, that they feel confident in their decision making, and then just make sure that they’re being set up for success and don’t feel like things are taking them so much longer to build them together? So definitely a focus since I’ve been a director and trying to make sure that everyone has the resources they need, and they don’t feel like they’re being held back.
Natalie MacLean 38:54
That’s great. So just a couple of questions as we wrap up. If you could share a bottle with any person in the world living or dead, who would that be? What wine would you share?
Beth Liston 39:06
Okay, so I love champagne. If I’m going to drink anything, that is my drink of choice. The year before my husband and I got married. We spent a couple of weeks in Europe and we were in the cellar and what and Chandon. And I was like, just leave me here. Like, my happy place.
Natalie MacLean 39:24
It smells so fresh down there. I’ve been there too. Oh, beautiful.
Beth Liston 39:27
Amazing. Yeah. So amazing. I think it was a vintage Rosae right there Imperial Rosae is I think it’s just lovely. Maybe it would be that.
Natalie MacLean 39:37
Okay. All right. So you wouldn’t share it with anyone. You just drink it yourself.
Beth Liston 39:41
In the cellar.
Natalie MacLean 39:42
Okay. Yes, that’s fine. Maybe you could go back in time, you could talk to Dom Perignon, or the Clico is just part of that portfolio. Yeah. Some of those famous people. And is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention?
Beth Liston 39:57
Well, I think we’ve covered a lot today. Thank you. You so much for having me for sharing a glass of wine with me today. I really appreciate your time.
Natalie MacLean 40:06
Well, I hope we can do it in person next time, Beth. Yeah, that
Beth Liston 40:09
would be great. Awesome. So
Natalie MacLean 40:10
people can find your wines in liquor stores, of course, depending on the availability, but it’s definitely here in Ontario, it’s throughout the states, it’s going to be Darkhorse, but up here, it’s long shot. And there are a couple different variables or grapes depending on where you live. It’s exciting to have this wine out. Congratulations on its launch. I’m sure it’ll do just as well in Canada, as it did in the States. So yeah, cheers. I raise my glass to you and Jake, you Beth for chatting with us and giving some really great insights behind what makes for a successful brand.
Beth Liston 40:38
Thank you, Natalie. I appreciate it. All right. Have a good one.
Natalie MacLean 40:41
You too. Bye for now. Okay, bye. Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed our chat with Beth. Here my takeaways. Number one, my MBA brain loves the backstory of how a new wine brand breaks into a new market. There are just so many factors at play from the product itself. Of course, the wine has to be good and compelling packaging, to getting consumers to try the wine. And ultimately, building loyalty through repeat purchases. To the wine category is one of the most difficult to offer a great price quality ratio given the vagaries of weather from year to year. As best notes, it’s an agricultural product, unlike, say, breakfast cereal, where you can really control most if not all the factors of production. It’s also capital intensive from having to age wine, so you’re tying up your cash flow to the substantial investment in equipment on the presses and bottling lines. And finally, I admire her approach to building credibility in the industry. As a woman and as a winemaker regardless of gender. It takes perseverance, a love of change and adaptability, and a willingness to get down in the trenches or should we say in the cellar, and learn the job from the ground up. In the show notes, you’ll find my email contact and the blog post Diary of a book launch a full transcript of our conversation with Beth a link to her website and where you can buy her wines. How you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find the live stream of the video version of this conversation on Facebook and Youtube every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the shownotes at Natalie Maclean comm forward slash 160 Email me if you have a sip, tip question or want to be a beta reader of my new memoir at Natalie, at Natalie Maclean comm you won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Tanisha Townsend, who’s based in Paris and gives fabulous wine bar tours there in that city. I’m actually chatting with her on her podcast and she’s interviewing me, we have lots of stories and wines to share with you. In the meantime, if you missed episode 53 go back and take a listen. I chat about festive wines with the globe mills. Christine says Mondo I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Christine Sismondo 43:15
The flavour of French Quarter again drives me right to it every single time. I think it’s just a really elegant, you know, I don’t want to compare it to champagne because I believe that they should be all judged according to their own standards. But of course it is in that direction and that it’s dry, the bubbles are really fine. The flavour is really elegant and perfect to end. The Glera grape to me has a little bit of sweetness that I find a little less palatable than the grape fix that’s being used for French Quarter
Natalie MacLean 43:46
and Glera being the grape use for Prosecco. So why is Frankie quartet then more expensive? you’re alluding to it but are there some core things that they do making Francie quarter that do add cost to the process?
Christine Sismondo 44:01
So as I understand it, not all Prosecco is Charmat method but the vast majority of it is so there are some exceptions to that. Whereas with the French Quarter there is no Sharma being used whatsoever
Natalie MacLean 44:20
if you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who be interested in the wines we discussed. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your class this week. Perhaps a long shot Pinot Noir
Natalie MacLean 44:43
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 Natalie Maclean comm forward slash subscribe, maybe here Next week cheers