How do you pair wine with burgers? What is it about California that gives us such a wide variety of wine? How is the Napa Valley food scene? What restaurant industry lessons help Joel make better wine?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Joel Gott, owner and winemaker at Joel Gott Wines.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- When will you see the most “action” at a winery?
- What facts might you be surprised to learn about Napa Valley?
- Which highly-acclaimed restaurants should you visit on your next trip to Napa Valley?
- How did in-bottle refermentation create the worst moment of Joel’s career?
- What exciting moment did Joel experience while flying over the Pacific?
- What makes Three Thieves Wines unique?
- Who are the people you need to know behind Three Thieves Wines?
- How does the growing environment translate into what you taste in Three Thieves Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon?
- What tasting notes will you encounter with Three Thieves Wines?
- Why does Joel Gott describe his restaurants as “the low end of the high end or the high end of the low end”?
- Can you pair Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon with a burger?
- Which wine can you pair with a kimchi burger?
- Why is Zinfandel a safe bet to pair with many foods?
- Which of Joel Gott’s wines would you find to be the most complicated?
- What French influence might you notice in Joel Gott Wines Unoaked Chardonnay?
- Which Gott’s Roadside burgers should you pair with Joel Gott Wines Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot?
- Is Joel Gott Wines Cabernet Sauvignon a good addition to your cellar?
- Why should you shop by vintage instead of by brands?
- What advantages do women winemakers bring to the table?
- Why do you find such a wide variety of wine styles out of California alone?
- What are Joel’s top tips for improving your wine experience this week?
- Shop for great vintages first rather than brands. You can find so many gems this way, often underpriced too.
- The excitement of the harvest is often the spark that ignites a passion to make wine. So much of an entire year’s work depends on just a few weeks — it’s nerve-wracking and exhilarating.
- Pairing ideas for gourmet burgers from Cabernet with a classic cheeseburger to Zinfandel for racier burgs like kimchi with pickled veggies and spicy aioli or green chili and jack cheese. The sweet fruit and spice of the zin is a great match for the spice and salt in the burgers and fixin’s.
- Corked wine can ruin the reputation of a winery with a customer for good and a screw cap is able to seal a moment in time, especially the freshness of a sauvignon blanc.
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With the spice in Zinfandel, usually maybe a little teeny bit of residual sugar or a lot of sweet fruit, it stands up to all the flavours and the fats and salts in food. - Joel Gott Click to tweet
That’s why I love shopping in wine stores because I look for vintages more than I look for name brands. - Joel Gott Click to tweet
With the Sauvignon Blanc, I put it in the screwcap because I want to capture the moment of time at the winery. - Joel Gott Click to tweet
About Joel Gott
While running Palisades Market in Calistoga in the early 1990s, Joel Gott noticed a growing need for quality, value wines. Having worked at Kenwood Winery in Sonoma County, and with a family history in the business, Joel felt sure he could fill this void in the marketplace.
In 1996, Joel purchased a few tons of Zinfandel from family friend and grape grower Tom Dillian. With the help of then-girlfriend—and winemaker at Joseph Phelps—Sarah, Joel produced his first vintage of Dillian Ranch Amador County Zinfandel. The wine received praise from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, which was all the encouragement Joel needed to produce additional varietals.
A Sauvignon Blanc followed in 1998, and the year after he and Sarah produced California appellation Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon by shopping the entire state for the best fruit, creating a wine shaped by various regions instead of a single estate. This style and commitment to quality wines blended from hand-selected vineyards helped guide the direction of Joel Gott Wines.
In 2003, 815 was added to the California Cabernet Sauvignon label to celebrate the birth of Joel and his wife Sarah’s first daughter Lucy on August 15th. That same year, Alisa Jacobson was hired as the assistant winemaker, and the following year Sarah left her position as winemaker at Quintessa to focus on a growing family and winemaking at Joel Gott Wines.
- Connect with Joel Gott
- My video interview with Joel which includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast
- Unreserved Wine Talk | Episode 15: What to Ask the Sommelier with Lesley Brown, Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers
- Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake Holiday Initiative | Taste the Season at Home
- Niagara-on-the-Lake Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- Ontario Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- Nova Scotia Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- British Columbia Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- Join me LIVE on Facebook every second Wednesday at 7pm Eastern
- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
- Joel Gott Wines Unoaked Chardonnay 2016
- Joel Gott Wines Sauvignon Blanc 2016
- Joel Gott Wines Merlot 2015
- Joel Gott Wines 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
- Rebel Wine Three Thieves Pinot Grigio 2017
- Rebel Wine Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
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Natalie MacLean 0:00
Zinfadel just seems to be the ultimate classic hamburger wine. I completely agree, he said, reaching for a wine I think, but why do you think it works so well with burgers.
Joel Gott 0:11
I mean honestly it’s a great food wine, it’s very similar to how Sauvignon Blanc is a great food wine. So with Zinfandel, what I find is it has this spice to it. Most of the time food overpowers wine. And so with the spice in Zinfandel, usually maybe a little teeny bit of residual sugar, or a lot of sweet fruit, it stands up to all the flavours and the fats and salts and food.
Natalie MacLean 0:35
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? 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 106. How do you pair wine with different types of burgers from green chile and jack cheese to pickled veggies with spicy aoli? What is it about Napa Valley that gives us such a wide variety of styles of wine? And why does harvest time often ignite a passion for wine and a career in wine? That’s exactly what you’ll discover in this episode of “The Unreserved Wine Talk podcast”. I’m chatting with winemaker Joel Gott who joins me from his winery and home in Napa Valley. This conversation took place on my Facebook Live video show several years ago. So please keep that in mind as the context for Joel’s comments. In the show notes, you’ll find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm and how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes at nataliemaclean.com/106.
Now on a personal note before we dive into the show, when I was four years old, I lived with my cousin Michael, Mikey, who was three. His mother and mine (sisters) rented a row house together in Kitchener. Our moms worked full time, so we had a sitter named Mrs. Karen. She would fall asleep on the sofa every afternoon watching a soap opera called the Edge of Night that allowed Mikey and me to get up to monkey business, including nipping into extra pieces of bread. She discovered our crime one day and threatened to call the cops. The next day the undeterred recidivists did it again. But this time she picked up the phone and started talking to Santa. Well, it was one thing to do hard time for bread, but a whole other world of hurt if Santa wasn’t going to come that year. We gave up on the bread until December 26. Those are my heartwarming holiday memories. Do you have a holiday memory? Let me know.
Okay, on with the show.
Our guest purchased a few tonnes of Zinfandel in 1996 with the help of his then girlfriend, now wife, and winemaker at Joseph Phelps winery. Her name is Sarah. And they produced their first vintage of wine. It received wide praise from critics, which was enough encouragement, all the encouragement in fact he needed to produce additional varietals. Our guest and his brother also own seven gourmet burger restaurants in California that have now become famous among foodies. And our guest is Joel Gott wine maker who joins me live now from his winery in California.
Joel Gott 4:34
Natalie MacLean 4:37
I’m great. Thank you. Okay, let’s give it a start here. Before we sort of take the deep dive, can you remember your favourite childhood moment on the family vineyard because you grew up in a wine family, right?
Joel Gott 4:50
Yeah, I grew up on a ranch where my dad had a winery and we had 100 and some acres of vineyard, you know, and being a little boy on a ranch like that the favourite memory is probably going to be something about a tractor, probably in a vineyard.
Natalie MacLean 5:02
Okay, so you were always drawn to like the tractors and the vehicles. Exactly. Okay, perfect. And then do you remember the moment when you wanted to become a winemaker yourself; like you realised I really want to make wine
Joel Gott 5:18
Not a moment; it was more along the lines of you know, as a late teenager getting summertime jobs working in wineries. It was working for my father, and then working at a winery called Kenwood vineyards when I was 19. It was really the moment in which I really enjoyed it. So I always found it fascinating. And I love harvest time. To me it was always the action time of the year and that’s what drew me in and kept me there.
Natalie MacLean 5:41
Okay, perfect. We know that Napa Valley has great soils and climate but maybe you could share with us something we don’t know when it comes to Napa Valley and wine. I could
Joel Gott 5:52
I could go a million different directions. But I would say that your first comment though, the climate in Napa is really what makes Napa Valley this ideal viticulture area. And so that drives everything. And you know, the thing that we’re experiencing now in Napa is it’s become such a heavy tourist destination and people that are wealthier having their second or third or fourth home there. And so there’s quite a bit of development there. And actually, it’s really fascinating wineries being built. Architecturally it’s incredible. And also for the guests experience. I mean, some of the things that have been built in the last 10 years are just mind boggling. You know, wineries, all within caves, unbelievable sized wineries, that have architects from all over the world working on them, and it’s almost as if you’re in a museum,
Natalie MacLean 6:38
huh? Wow. That is amazing. And I suppose there’s lots of great restaurants too? Like winery restaurants?
Joel Gott 6:45
Yeah, I know. The restaurant scene in Napa Valley is amazing. You know, we’re lucky. You know, we’re really spread out over four towns : town of Napa, then the town of Saint Helena and Calistoga and Yountville. Yountville is the most famous of the towns for food where the French Laundry is ; where Thomas Keller has three restaurants, French Laundry, Bouchon, and Ad Hoc, and it’s really an idealistic town. And in that town, there’s several other great restaurants. The food scene in Saint Helena even just got better. That’s where we’re based. There’s a new restaurant there called Charter Oak, which is the casual restaurant of a three star Michelin chef named Christopher Kostow. And it’s really it’s a fascinating place to go. I mean, it’s theatrical. It’s fun.
Natalie MacLean 7:25
What do you mean by theatrical?
Joel Gott 7:27
There’s no silverware on the table, you have your own drawer as if your house for each guest that has all of your silverware and extra napkins in it. All the drinks come in big shared pitchers. It’s really neat. I mean, it’s just fun, it’s a much different dining experience than you would expect when you go into this place that has this super famous chef cooking in it, and an amazing old brick building that was built in the 1800s. Just fun. It’s a much livelier, different environment.
Natalie MacLean 7:54
Okay, so I do want to get to the burgers because we’ve just done the food thing. But let me talk a little bit more about the wine before we dive into that. So can you take us maybe to the worst moment of your career like something where it didn’t go right, but you learned from it or whatever you want to touch on there
Joel Gott 8:11
It would have been 1996 Zinfandel, we bottled it and we got probably the best review ever from Robert Parker, shipped all the wine out, and within a month it refermented in the bottle. We had to call all our distributors or agents and say listen, this wine is going to start leaking out of the top and foaming like a soda and and they said no, no, no, no, we’re not shipping it back to you, just got this incredible review and I was like trust me. You don’t want this. Oh, they just thought for sure I wanted it back to sell to somebody else. That was a low point.
Natalie MacLean 8:44
Yeah, well, I’m sure you learned from that. Was there just leftover yeast or what was happening there?
Joel Gott 8:50
There was a little crack in the bowl, which the wine sits in as it fills into the bottles. It’s called a filler bowl on a bottling line. And in there, a little bit of a refermentation, it started, so we just basically we started fermenting the wine as we put it in the bottles. So then it would sit there until somewhere along the shipping route it gets warm and then it turned into a foaming grape soda. It was, trust me, it was special. We had another one one time where we had wine, you know we make tetrapack wine called Bandit. They are one litre tetra packs. My two partners Charles Bieler and Roger Scommegna and I we shipped a load of this off to the east coast. And somewhere along the line they discovered that the glue; because remember these are like what you’d buy soy milk in a tetra pack, right? Soft box. Yeah, the glue didn’t work with the wine because the wine was too acidic.
We knew we were shipping this truck across the country in 1000 cases and it was a time bomb because eventually the wine would eat through the cap. So sure enough, he got hold of the distributor, they turn the truck around, we couldn’t get rid of the wine. Nobody would let us dump it. So we had to ship it all the way back to California to find a place to get rid of it. It was a disaster.
Natalie MacLean 10:01
Oh my gosh, wow. But a great story. All right, so now take us to the best moment of your wine career so far. I’m sure there’ll be more to come, Joel. But what’s been the sort of the highlight so far,
Joel Gott 10:16
You know, so many along the years, we’ve been so fortunate, I would say that back in 2003, those two same partners, Charles Bieler, Roger Scommegna, and I started making jug wine. I mean, it was just for fun. There were one litre jugs of Zinfandel, Cabernet from Napa. And we were just having a great time and we couldn’t believe it. I call it the one hit wonder. Everybody wanted it. And we went from zero to 100,000 cases within one year, we couldn’t even make enough. I mean, people wanted more than that. It was like; almost like a collector’s item. And that was a really a wild experience. I’ve never seen anything like that in the wine industry, you know, it is the high end to the low end or low end to the high end. And, you know, it was this funny little juxtaposition. That was a great moment. Another one was I was with my wife, Sarah, and we were at the Oakland airport, flying to Hawaii for vacation. And I picked up a New York Times to read on the flight; it’s like a four and a half hour five hour flight. About halfway over the Pacific I was paging through the New York Times. And there was a picture of me and a wine review. There was the best wine review we’ve probably ever had. And a New York Times has so much power. Yeah, you know, no cell phones, no, nothing, no connectivity. So I couldn’t tell anybody. That was pretty exciting moment.
Natalie MacLean 11:32
That’s fantastic. Joel, is that why that you just talked about the story before the last one. Is that connected with the three themes or correct that is the three themes. Okay. And is there anything else you want to say about the three themes? I have the Pinot Grigio here
Joel Gott 11:43
Oh good. Our partner Charles describes it the best. There’s this theory out there that no matter where you are – it’s not a theory. It’s a proven fact. But wherever you are, right, depending on what Mother Nature has in the weather, strawberries might be better, right? Just like the perfect ripening season. We have that same thing in grapes. So not every year each vineyard ripens the same way. And so the way that we make the three thieves wine one is we’re allowed have access to Trinchero. They are 20 million case winery in Napa Valley. And we’re allowed to select different vineyards from throughout their whole programme that spans the state of California for these, as we would call the angel share lots, when we put together small blends like the Pinot Grigio and the Chardonnay and the Cabernet. And for their price point because they’re fairly inexpensive wines- I don’t know the conversion in the Canadian retail- but they really are exceptional wines, especially for the price point.
Natalie MacLean 12:45
That’s great. Steven Andrews, who are the Three Thieves and what did they steal, Joel?
Joel Gott 12:51
So we started that in 2002, was when we formed that little company, we started making wine in 2003 out of the 2002 vintage. Charles Bieler is a French wine producer. He actually lives in Manhattan and produces wine in France, California and the state of Washington, as well as in Spain. He’s most known for Bieler family rosé, which I’m sure you can find in most places, as well as he makes wine in the state of Washington under the Charles and Charles label. And then we make Three Thieves wines together and the show wines together as well. Roger Scommegna is originally from Wisconsin, but now lives in Boonville, California, which is a Pinot Noir growing region in Mendocino County, north of Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. He has several labels, most notably Signal Ridge label, and makes a lot of wine as well in Europe and imports it into the US. And so the three of us were just three wine friends, and thought it would be fun to make some inexpensive wine and we couldn’t think of a better name than Three Thieves because it was inexpensive wine as if we were almost stealing it. We started off with jug wine, and then we moved to tetrapack wine, which both are still around. Well the jugs are not anymore. The jugs are now in the 750s and tetrapack wine and the show wines which are from California and from Argentina.
Natalie MacLean 14:12
Awesome. So while we’re on that theme, then since this is a steal of a wine, I’m going to start with the Three Thieves Pinot Grigio. Are there any sort of other tasting notes or anything else you want to say about this one Joel?
Joel Gott 14:26
I find the ratio is really interesting because it’s from the Delta region. So if you were to look at a California map, it’s between San Francisco and town of Napa, if you head directly east, that’s where the Delta area is. So it’s the wind passage between the Central Valley and the coastline. So lowest point there’s no mountains. So what you end up with is is a much cooler temperature especially in the evenings, so it elongates the ripening process, we get more fully ripe and mature fruit.
Natalie MacLean 14:58
Yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s so fresh and crisp. Nice racy acidity for seafood, shellfish, vegetarian a whole lot of things. And of course an aperitif would be great. All right, so let’s go on to the other Three Thieves. While we’re on that subject, I’ve got the Cabernet Sauvignon Joel. Oh, great. Good to talk a little bit about that one.
Joel Gott 15:21
Yeah, the Cabernet is great. Again, you know, it’s a few unique growing regions. So Paso Robles, out in an area called Borden, which is east of the Central Valley in the lower foothills, Mendocino County. So we work with multiple counties to be able to blend them together to try to get the complexity, the concentration together, because that’s really what we’re looking for is the balance of acid, tannins, sweet fruit.
Natalie MacLean 15:49
Okay, cool. And we should segue in. I want to start pairing these with burgers. Tell us a bit about the background of your burger restaurants.
Joel Gott 15:59
Sure, in 1999, my brother and I leased an old defunct hamburger stand in Saint Helena called Taylor’s Refresher, we tore it to the ground, rebuilt it like it never looked before, brought it back up. And from 1999 to 2010 it was called Village Refresher. And then we had somebody that wanted the Taylors name more than we did. So there was a legal issue with them wanting the name; so we let them go with the name and we changed the name to Gott’s Roadside. How do I describe it? We’re kind of like that term I use before where we are the low end of the high end or the high end of the low end. And so we’re this funny little hamburger stand. We have seven of them just in San Francisco Bay Area, all with the same menu. We’re known for fish. We’re known for salads. We’re known for burgers. It’s just this great casual fast service, if you would; fresh food place. It’s great. I mean, you can go there and one person has a salad. The next person has poké tacos. Somebody has Mahi Mahi tacos or something like that. And two of us have hamburgers.
Natalie MacLean 17:04
Yeah, I was reading a bit about these restaurants. It’s all sustainable. And the ingredients are really important. And it’s Niman Ranch beef,
Joel Gott 17:13
something like that. Out of Colorado. Yes.
Natalie MacLean 17:16
Okay. All right. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing what you’re doing with the ingredients themselves. And I imagine you have a pretty extensive California wine list.
Joel Gott 17:25
Yes, we have one German wine right now; Riesling. Our number one by the glass wine is actually Charles’s Provençal Rosé. We sell more of that than any other wine. So and then number two, of course, is Sauvignon Blanc.
Natalie MacLean 17:39
There you go. That’s a good pairing. And when I saw pictures of this restaurant, it reminded me of like that sitcom Happy Days, like the takeout with the gals on rollerskates. And I don’t know or Dairy Queen, whatever. It really has that old retro vibe. In a cool way.
Joel Gott 17:57
Yeah, the one in Saint Helena is the one that has the old patio. That’s the original one. The other ones it’s much more modern. Like an Earl’s
Natalie MacLean 18:06
Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. So of your burgers. Well the Cabernet I’m sure is an easy match to a lot of the burgers you have on the menu but is there a specific burger you put this three thieves Cabernet Sauvignon with?
Joel Gott 18:21
I would say we’ll be conservative, we’ll say because you know there’s other ones that are more Zinfandel type burgers, Cabernet might just be perfect for just a plain cheeseburger. Nothing too exotic, not too much acid in it so the wine will be a good balance to it.
Unknown Speaker 18:36
Joel Gott 18:37
Now if you want to talk Zinfandel, then maybe like Kimchi burgers. Zinfandel can stand up to some fermented cabbage and kimchi
Natalie MacLean 18:45
Kimchi. Oh, wow, what else is on that Kimchi burger?
Joel Gott 18:48
There are some pickled vegetables, kimchi, and this spicy aioli that’s right out of this world.
Natalie MacLean 18:56
God; that sounds so good. And then you have a green chile burger right
Joel Gott 19:00
yes yeah roasted Anaheim chile that’s peeled and then jack cheese melted over the top of it
Natalie MacLean 19:06
oh dear and what would you pair with that?
Joel Gott 19:09
Oh yeah no no; go back to our first guess; drink with merlot, or the chile is not spicy so go back to Zinfandel again, our by the glass Zin is totally juvenile Zin so it’s so perfect with burgers because you know it stands up to any sort of spice and heat found in the meat.
Natalie MacLean 19:29
Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah, absolutely Zinfandel: it just seems to be the ultimate classic hamburger wine.
Joel Gott 19:35
I completely agree.
Natalie MacLean 19:37
As he said reaching for a wine I think; but why do you think it works so well with burgers.
Joel Gott 19:43
I mean it honestly it’s a great food wine, it is very similar to how Sauvignon Blanc is a great food wine. So with Zinfandel, what I find is it has this spice to it. Most of the time food overpowers wine. And so with the spice in Zinfandel, usually maybe a teeny bit of residual sugar, or a lot of sweet fruit, it stands up to all the flavours and the fats and salts and food.
Natalie MacLean 20:07
Good Explanation. So, let us go on to the Joel Gott Line. Where should we start? Joel? Would it be with the Sauvignon Blanc? Or the unoaked Chardonnay?
Joel Gott 20:17
Sauvignon Blanc for sure.
Natalie MacLean 20:19
Excellent. Let’s start with that. And maybe you can give us a bit of the backstory on this one and tasting notes, that sort of thing.
Joel Gott 20:25
Well, this is by far the one that my wife Sarah and I drink the most of, we love it. It’s probably the most complicated wine we make. It’s also the expensive wine that we make. It’s a balance of acid and sweet fruit with this minerality. It’s sourced from six different counties around California, from Santa Barbara County. They’ve been there for the South Monterey County, coming up to Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Lake County. And the reason that we work in all these different areas is what we’re looking for is every vineyard contributes in a different way. And in a blend, so we take the Monterey fruit, which is very green and New Zealand like and we blend it with the Lake County that’s very mineral driven or European in style with a Napa that has the viscosity, the Sonoma fruit that has the sweet fruit, the Santa Barbara, which is just wide, broad style Sauvignon Blanc. So by blending all these different vineyards together, we end up with what we feel is a very complete wine. If you had a checklist, you’re checking off all the boxes as you go down: mouthfeel, sweet fruit, acid, balance and there’s zero residual sugar in it. So you’re not covering up any mistakes with sweetness, it’s because the wine is you know, it says great balance. It goes so well with food. It’s light, it’s alcohol is not very high on it. Again, it is by far, our favourite wine to drink.
Natalie MacLean 21:50
It’s beautiful. And there’s that sort of racy acidity but it’s not an acidic attack. It’s not green or anything. It’s just really balanced and juicy for food. You mentioned one I think, which hamburgers would you put with this one?
Joel Gott 22:05
I, you know, I’d probably go right over to fish category. Oh, the fish tacos. Baja tacos or poké tacos or a salad or something?
Unknown Speaker 22:13
That would be lovely.
Joel Gott 22:14
The burgers will pretty much wipe out Sauvignon Blanc.
Natalie MacLean 22:17
That’s true. That’s true. So we’ve done the Sauvignon Blanc. Let’s go on to the Chardonnay. The unoaked Chardonnay, another very fresh wine. Maybe you can tell us a bit about that one.
Joel Gott 22:26
Yeah, so the unoaked Chardonnay. You know, my wife Sarah was the winemaker of Joseph Phelps winery in Napa Valley,
Natalie MacLean 22:31
Which is a cult kind of wine. Yes.
Joel Gott 22:35
You know, one of the greatest wineries in Napa. Anyhow, and so, in 1999, they were making some Rhone style wines. And so they asked her to go down to Australia. So we went to Australia; I tagged along with her. We saw these unoaked Chardonnays being made on the Mornington Peninsula and just found them fascinating, and we came back and started making Napa Valley unoaked Chardonnay from Atlas peak, which didn’t sell at all, nobody wanted Napa Valley Chardonnay. Over the last, you know, 19 years we have been making it and we’ve changed the location where we’re growing grapes to find the best balance of areas to grow Chardonnay to make it more like Chablis. And now all of a sudden unoaked style Chardonnay has really caught on. Now in Canada, you guys are lucky you have a large French selection. We don’t know. Our retailers and our stores in California don’t have big French selections. So that’s what we’re trying to mimic.
Natalie MacLean 23:31
Yeah, this is beautiful. It’s got so much volume and lusciousness. It’s hard to believe, though I do believe you that it’s not; Oh, like it’s really mouthfilling and coating.
Joel Gott 23:43
Yeah, the viscosity. It’s amazing. Yes, its the Chardonnay grape on its own! Don’t mess with it. It’s pretty interesting.
Natalie MacLean 23:51
That’s great. Don’t mess with it. It might turn out all right. This is just a gorgeous wine. Would you still go with fish tacos and that wine
Joel Gott 23:58
or you know, that can stand up to a little bit more, you know, grilled chicken sandwich or something along those lines.
Natalie MacLean 24:05
All right, good. Anyway, let’s go into the reds. Should we start with the Cabernet or the merlot first
Joel Gott 24:10
Lets go with the Merlot because the Merlot is a little bit softer, more velvety; kind of has a slightly softer palate to it. Okay. Yep. And the nice thing is, is we’ve been making merlot for a long time but we only started bottling it in 2014 vintage because we always make it to add a little bit; 2, 3, 4 or 5% back into the Cabernet and we had so much demand for it. We started making some just so that we could have it so that we would be able to do small bottling but not take away from being able to blend it back into the Cabernet.
Unknown Speaker 24:44
Oh, that’s so supple. That is so smooth, as like liquid velvet. Very nice. Which burger that you put with this one.
Joel Gott 24:53
Well I pulled up the menu beside me because I realised I’m not fast enough to do them off the top. I honestly I’d probably do the California burger, you know, it’s fried egg and it’s got Swiss cheese and bacon and arugula and balsamic onions
Natalie MacLean 25:07
Oh, that sounds really good. Do you feature about 11 different burgers in the restaurants?
Joel Gott 25:11
Yes. But as we all know, in hamburger restaurants, everybody modifies them.
Natalie MacLean 25:17
oh right. All the special requests.
Joel Gott 25:18
I ‘ll have a kimchi burger with no kimchi but barbecue sauce. Dude. Okay. Sure. Right.
Natalie MacLean 25:24
That’s funny. Do you think running those restaurants helps you with the winemaking aspect? Does one inform the other?
Joel Gott 25:32
Yeah, you know, I mean, it’s a good learning curve, because we’re dealing with the public. And anytime you deal with the public, you know, you’re always trying to make sure you’re giving what is popular. So it helps us see trends and it helps us connect and we get to see what people drink and eat. It’s a big education.
Natalie MacLean 25:50
All right, so then maybe on to the Cabernet. What would you say about the Cabernet?
Joel Gott 25:57
It’s named after my daughter, Lucy. That’s why there’s an 815 on it. That’s when she was born? Yes, August 15. Awesome. So you know, the Cabernet is the one. It’s our largest production wine. It’s the one that we get more reviews on than anything else. We’re known for it. My wife was the Cabernet winemaker at Joseph Phelps. So the technology that we put against making this wine is dramatic. It’s made from seven counties. There’s over 40 vineyards 60 different individuals small lot fermentations, it’s blended together over a year and a half, we usually bottle age it and at this price point, nobody bottle ages wine. It probably doesn’t mean anything to everybody listening to this. But in the winemaking world, you age in a barrel to oxidise and extract a little bit of oak flavour. You age it in a stainless steel tank to let it settle and bring out some other characteristics. You run it over screens, when you drain it out of a tank to add air into it to help it age. You do all these things to age the wine and then you put it into the bottle. And when it gets into a bottle it also needs ageing process, you know? And so we age this for four, six, sometimes even longer months in a bottle before we even start shipping.
Natalie MacLean 27:11
Wow, that is fantastic. Yeah, it’s a gorgeous wine. I mean, it’s drinking well now. But it also could go the distance in the cellar, which is always nice to have that option.
Joel Gott 27:21
Yeah, but every vintage is different. So you have the 15; the 15 has more tannins and a little bit more of an edge to it. The 14 was much softer, had more volume to it or more sweet fruit up front, the 15 will age much better, as well as the 13 and 14, the 2016 vintage. It is softer, like the 14. So they’re all have their unique little way. And that’s why I love shopping in wine stores because I look for vintages more than I look for main brands.
Natalie MacLean 27:54
Hmm,that’s a good thing because you’re looking for a good year whether it’s your winery or other wineries
Joel Gott 27:59
correct. I mean, I love northern Italian white wines. And so like the 15 vintage there was incredible. So I’m always hunting out those or I’m hunting now Burgundies from the 14 vintage. I mean, any goofy stuff I read about I drink.
Natalie MacLean 28:15
That’s a good tip. That’s really good tip. Is there something that you feel that you are wrong about when it comes to making wine? something you’ve changed your mind about? Joel? Over the years?
Joel Gott 28:27
Oh, I’m sure there’s something that somebody has proved to me that we were wrong about. And I mean, off the top of my head, I usually try to forget all this. I’m trying to think what it could be. I mean, I’ve had disasters from tetrapack to putting screw caps on wines, to you know, the one thing that I would say that is for all of us that drink wine, the most frustrating thing are corks, because there’s a percentage.. Is it 1, 2 3 4 or 5% of all the bottles, we send out that has a cork in it, which is just a piece of bark from a cork tree; is bad, it’s flawed, it has bacteria picked up from the tree; it won’t hurt you to drink it. It just tastes mouldy and nasty and barnyard like and you know, all of us in the wine business hate it because somebody out there bought a bottle of our wine. Me, I’ve got my name on it, which is even worse, and like I’ll never drink this guy’s wine again. So people email us and tell us like, Hey, we got a funky one and then we send you more wine or gift certificate or you refund their money or so; that is how we compensate for it. But that’s the hardest thing in the business. It’s the thing that’s out of our control, corks age the wine, whereas like with the Sauvignon Blanc, I put it in the screw cap because I want to capture the moment of time at the winery. And so that seals i;t not only does it make it easy to drink, but it also seals it so that the ageing process really slows down. Whereas a cork ageing process continues to evolve.
Natalie MacLean 29:50
excellent way to put it. So tell me about your opinion on women winemaking teams.
Joel Gott 29:56
This is one man’s opinion right? So my wife’s winemaker, her head winemaker who runs all of the winemaking for Joel Gott wines – her name is Elisa Jacobson. They worked together at Joseph Phelps, Nicole Scommegna, our partner’s daughter who got a summer job with us a decade ago. And now she’s our top California wine maker. And then if you go down the line, Chelsea Barrett, another female winemaker that’s on the team go down the line more. Both lab people. Karen and Jill are both ladies. There’s one guy named Tyler on the winemaking team. So this whole winemaking team consists of two guys and the rest are all girls and all the lab interns. It’s becoming a very popular school subject to study in the States. And I’m sure up in the Okanagan Lakes where lakes where you go winemaking there on the west coast. And so it’s becoming a lady’s industry, which I think is great. You know, I believe scientists, I don’t know this for sure, but I believe is proven that ladies have a better sense of smell and taste than guys do; just the way that everybody’s made up. So to me, we’re fortunate because I have this whole ladies winemaking team. And I think it’s a great thing for the industry.
Natalie MacLean 31:08
Yeah, that’s true. Like they are coming out with more and more studies and scientific research and proof about number of taste buds and density and so on. What else do you think that women bring to the winemaking process aside from a great palette?
Joel Gott 31:24
Organisation? I think to answer that the best way, the way you ask the question is, what do they bring? They bring in this other ability to blend at a smaller percentage, a higher taste level. Also for our group, everybody in the group loves chemistries. We’re very interested in the chemistry of the wine. It’s a big deal for us.
Natalie MacLean 31:46
Yeah, absolutely. Okay. There was another question I wanted to ask you about grape sourcing. Tell us about that.
Joel Gott 31:54
Yeah, so what’s important in California is we’re, you know, Canada’s a wide state, right? We’re a very tall state.
Natalie MacLean 32:02
We’re a country, but that’s great
Joel Gott 32:06
Right. And, you know, whereas we’ve got micro climates, like, you know, in the Finger Lakes in New York, it’s a very small appellation of area where you can grow. And so it’s one climate, whereas in California, we have everything from Mendocino, all the way down the coast to Santa Barbara County. So there’s so many different areas in California to grow grapes. It’s almost like we have our little New Zealand, we have a little Bordeaux, we have a you know, we have all these little micro climates. That’s why we’re able to make so many of the wines that we believe have more concentration, better tannin structure, better sourcing, because of the diversity in the state. We also make wines up in Oregon and in the state of Washington, but it’s a much smaller footprint that we’re doing that in viticulturally,
Natalie MacLean 32:56
okay. And what do you find the challenges now you’re making wines with grapes sourced in three states, if I understand that correctly? Correct. Okay, so how do you manage all of that because they’re very different terroir, so to speak, the climate, the soils and so on. How are you bringing that all together,
Joel Gott 33:15
will really bring it together because of the team that we have; the female wine making team, the ladies; very organised and the way that we go about it. We’ve got two winemakers up in the state of Oregon that manage the Oregon and Washington production. We’ve got a winemaking office down in San Luis Obispo that manages the Paso Robles, Monterey and Santa Barbara winemaking, an office in St. Helena. The winery is where we’re, you know, managing our production from Lake County, Sonoma County and Napa County. Oh, and a little bit in Mendocino too. I’m sorry.
Natalie MacLean 33:48
Fantastic. I can’t believe how fast this is flown by Joel. Is there a piece of advice wine advice you’d like to share with people something they can act on this week? Maybe to up their wine game or whatever?
Joel Gott 34:01
I could go on there so you can just tell me when to stop. My favourite thing is decanting wines. You don’t even need a decanter, you can can use a water pitcher, you can use anything. Okay. Usually I find, especially with red wines or very acidic whites, it just really opens up the wine. It takes it from one wine to another. So decanting is a big deal. Also pay attention to vintages.
Natalie MacLean 34:25
Yes, you were saying that earlier. That’s an interesting way to shop by year not by brand specifically
Joel Gott 34:31
99% of us have a mobile phone when we are in the store. Right, you know, look up what were great vintages I mean, you know, you’d always be shocked. Like I said, I like northern Italian whites and I buy the 15’s because they’re really, great tonnes of acid.
Natalie MacLean 34:44
Okay, so it’s worth knowing some good vintages for particular regions.
Joel Gott 34:48
Yeah. And you know, I mean, literally, you just Google it on your phone and it comes up instantly. What were the great vintages in northern Italy for whites? Boom. And then you know, the other one is I’m a big believer in that price doesn’t matter with everyone. So you know, having friends over for dinner or however you all get together to drink wine, but 10 people that bring over a bottle of red wine under you know name that I and I won’t have a right in Canadian dollars, but say under 30 Canadian, right and wrap it in tinfoil and pull the cork out and let everybody drink it and put funny numbers on the tin foil. You know, you put your numbers 313 and yours is A and then at the end of the night everybody writes down which one they like the most. Nobody knows what they are. And then you kind of unveil them all and it’s a great way to not be stuck in a price point. I love that stuff. It just makes it fun for everybody.
Natalie MacLean 35:40
Absolutely. I love the way you de-stress and make it all informal the way it should be with wine
Joel Gott 35:46
Usually I find that people worry too much about wine
Natalie MacLean 35:49
Joel Gott 35:51
It’s why I love how busy and crazy it’s going ? Rosé is so fun and light and low alcohol and fun to drink and people on to worried about it.
Natalie MacLean 36:02
But the industry put an ice cube in it. I was just reading something the other day that said an ice cube two or even three does not change the chemical composition enough that you won’t get the same flavours and aromas; like you’d have to water that wine down so much people should stop worrying about ice cubes.
Joel Gott 36:19
I had a frozé ; you know what’s that? Oh, you remember those slushie machines. You’ve seen the convenience store? Yep. They now sell in bars, right? And they just pour rosé; pour a glass of your favourite Provençal Rosé and you pour it in the slushie machine. It gets so cold, it turns it into slushy. And then you get this great slightly frozen glass of rosé on a hot day. I mean, would you say it was 30 degrees where you are right? Yeah, it is. It’s and so I mean, if you’d have a frozé today it would be pretty good.
Natalie MacLean 36:47
That sounds fantastic. Wow. That sounds also like a great place to wrap up. Joel, thank you so much for spending your time here. This has been so much fun. We’ve dispensed so many great little wine tips and juicy nuggets along the way. I appreciate you spending your time with us.
Joel Gott 37:03
Thanks for having me. It’s been great,
Natalie MacLean 37:05
Joel. Until next time, I wish you all the best with all of your different projects. We’ve got a lot on the go. And we look forward to keeping up with you and your wines as they come on our liquor store shelves.
Joel Gott 37:15
I love it. Thank you very much for the support having me on the show.
Natalie MacLean 37:18
All right. Cheers, Joe. Oh, bye. Bye bye.
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Joel Gott here my takeaways.
Number one, I like Joel’s advice to shop for great vintages first, rather than for brands. You can find so many gems this way, often under price to
Two: the excitement of harvest is often the spark that ignites a passion to make wine. So much of an entire year’s worth depends on just a few weeks. It’s nerve wracking, and exhilarating.
Three, I love Joel’s pairing ideas for gourmet burgers from Cabernet with a classic cheeseburger to Zinfandel for racier burgers like kimchi with pickled veggies and spicy aioli, or green chile and jack cheese. The sweet fruit and spice of the Zin is a great match for the spice and salt in the burgers and the fixings.
Four, I can empathise with Joel how corked wine can ruin the reputation of a winery with a customer for good. And I like how he describes a screwcap as being able to seal in a moment in time, especially the freshness of Sauvignon Blanc.
In the shownotes you’ll find links to the wines we tasted, the video version of this chat, where you can find me on Facebook Live every second Wednesday at 7pm. And how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class. That’s all in the show notes @nataliemaclean.com/106 and you won’t want to miss next week when I chat with Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner about Canada’s best sommelier competition, what it takes to compete and win the title, as well as insider tips to help you choose better wines from a restaurant list. He joins me from Toronto next week. In the meantime, if you missed Episode 15 with Leslie Brown, the president of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers go back and take a listen. We chat about which questions to ask the sommelier so that you get a great bottle every time. These are also the same questions you can ask in liquor stores too. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Unknown Speaker 39:48
As always comes to top of my five most embarrassing stories. And I was with a colleague and we were fortunate enough to visit Graham’s Port House at the time and the owner himself Rupert Symington was showing us around. And we had stepped into the old lagares where they hand stomped the grapes back in the day in order to extract the colour and make an optimum port. And in these cement lagares, which are big troughs, they had these windows. So my colleague and I thought it would be really fun to take photos of each other through these little holes in the wall until Rupert Symington informed us that’s where the men would pee during their break. So that quickly ended our giggling and fun and we took things a little more seriously.
Unknown Speaker 40:37
Two embarrassing stories right off the bat. Excellent.
Unknown Speaker 40:40
You are one of us, Leslie.
Natalie MacLean 40:47
If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wine tips that Joel got shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a robust California Cabernet that pairs perfectly with a cheeseburger.
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. May be here next week. Cheers