Artisans and Vines March 2023 Newsletter

Winemaker Corner

  1. What inspired you to create your collection of wines?                                                                                 
    It started soon after I took over as winemaker at Red Newt, when the founding winemaker and owner – David Whiting – suggested it to me as a way for me to spread my wings a bit and try my hand at wine styles that were very much of interest to me, but were not part of the well established “Red Newt style” up to that point.  This gave me some creativity without confusing the message on what Red Newt’s wines were.  (There is some irony that the first release was a wine that was considered to be too obscure to be a standard Red Newt item at the time – Dry Rosé.  My how times have changed since 2013!). 
  2. What inspired the name, Red Newt?
    It is actually quite literal!  Red Newts are small (2″ long) newts that turn red during their adolescent phase, and they love the creeks and streams of the Finger Lakes.  When Dave and Deb Whiting were founding the winery in 1998 and trying to decide what to call it, they kept thinking about all the Red Newts running around a pond above the winery where they were staying.  Eventually they gave in and called it that!  But note we were well before the ‘critter wine’ craze – that has never been our style 😉
  3. What’s your favorite recipe and do you have a favorite wine to pair it with?
    My favorite recipe depends on my mood, but at the moment I’ve been really enjoying a delicious Butter Chicken Curry recipe from the New York Times.  I can’t help myself and also like to ramp up the green and dried-red chiles in it for some extra spice.  And with all that spice?  Off-dry Riesling, of course!  I could say that is our Newt Riesling or Circle Riesling, both of which would be killer with it, but at home I actually tend to prefer drinking wines from around the world rather than my own.  Keeps my palate fresh and up-to-date!
  4. Someone very special is coming over for dinner- which wine do you serve?
    Great question!  Usually we wouldn’t pull a ‘fancy’ bottle, per se.  Or at least not fancy in the expensive sense.  Rather, we love pulling bottles that are unique and have meaning to us for big moments.  Often that is a wine from one of our various trips around the wine-world, since we always travel with a shipper case or two to return home with.  Being able to tell the story of where we got the wine from and what we know about it is the ultimate act of hospitality we can think of.
  5. What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
    Off the top of my head?  The Central Otago in New Zealand – both gorgeous and phenomenal for wines.  But it may just be that it has been the place that it’s been the longest since I’ve traveled to – so it’s calling me back for an update.  I’m sure it has changed loads since 2010.
  6. If you had any advice for someone who wanted to create wine what would you tell them?
    It sounds cliche, but the number one thing is to make wines that you yourself are proud of and want to drink.  I suppose if you are trying to make a wine brand that is a huge volume, perhaps that isn’t the best advice.  But if you are a normal sized winery – make what you love!  It is so much easier telling your story genuinely that way.
  7. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
    I thought for sure I was going to be a theoretical physicist, basically until I got to college.
  8. What is your favorite part about living in the Finger Lakes region?
    The collegial atmosphere is one that is truly a Finger Lakes treasure.  So many wine regions have become competitive and erected internal-barriers over the years – the Finger Lakes is still a place where folks genuinely pull together for the greater good.  I love that about us 🙂
  9. If you weren’t in the wine industry, what would you do as your career?
    I came remarkably close to being in Orchester (arts) Management!  Had I received a job offer with Jazz at Lincoln Center back in 2009, rather than getting passed over for an internal candidate, who knows where I would be.  And no shade meant to JALC, to be clear, I made it remarkably far in that process for someone who had just graduated college and never had an official job!
  10.  What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t working?
    Cook!  Or volunteer for my beloved Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva, a real crown jewel of the Finger Lakes.  My guilty pleasure?  Golfing.  I love sneaking in 9-holes most summer mornings prior to work.

New Wines

We are happy to share a new winery we are working with! Rockmere Vineyards is a small, family owned vineyard in the southeast corner of Napa Valley, California. 

On the left is the 2019 Rockmere 728 Limited Release Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Winemaker Jeff Ames selected 5 barrels to combine for this limited release reserve. The Rockmere 728 offers a plush, predominantly black fruit foundation of blackcurrant, plumb, and blackberry. Complementing the fruit, you may detect hints of espresso bean, lavender, and nutmeg through an incredibly long finish. The result is a full bodied wine with a harmonious tannin structure.

On the right is the Rockmere 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate. Showcasing notes of both red and black fruits- layering blackcurrant and blackberry with red cherry.
Hints of sage, rosemary, and lavender complement the fruit character nicely thanks to the vineyard’s rocky soil (part of how the vineyard got its name!).

In the Press

Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently gave the Altos de Aranda 2016 Crianza Tempranillo Ribera del Duero 91 points. This wine features a deep black cherry color with a ruby red rim. On the nose, the classic profile of a mature Crianza from the Ribera del Duero, blending ripe black fruit and spiced oak aromas. It has a well-structured palate with succulent black fruit flavors, ripe tannins and a long finish of toasted oak. 

Artisans and Vines Team Member Spotlight

We caught up with president of Artisans and Vines, Eric Platt for an interview for our Team Member Spotlight. Here is what he had to say:

1. How did Artisans and Vines come to be? 
Artisans & Vines was started in 2009 by my two partners, who were former Country Vintner (now Winebow) directors, as an import/marketing company. I joined at the start of 2016.  At that point the company was re-focusing after separating in 2015 from a Virginia wholesaler as their import division. But we successfully rebuilt brick by brick.  Now Artisans & Vines has business relationships in close to 20 states as well as the DC/MD distribution business started in 2019.

2. How long have you been working in the wine industry?
I started bussing tables at Congressional Country Club at the ripe old age of 15.  I continued working in the restaurant side of the business for 8 years before I moved in to wholesale.  I guess that’s almost 44 years- yikes!

3. What is your favorite part? Most challenging part?  Meeting new customers whether on the restaurant, retail, wholesale or new winery partners and traveling to see them.  Being on time is one of the most challenging for me-ha! When you have so many balls in the air, sometimes it gets tough to juggle. I’ve gotten pretty good at it and now I just need to work on my timing- which in 2023 is spot on.

4. What advice would you give for people interested in working with wine?  Start working at a wine shop part-time.  It’s a great way to get exposed to lots of wines, lots of people and the ins and outs of the business.

5. What do you like to do when you aren’t working?  When you own a business, you’re always working.  Your mind is always on, but I find ways to live a little each day. I trail run, read, cook and travel with my wife.  Oh yeah and Pickleball!

6. What is your favorite part of living in the DC metro area?  I was born at GW hospital, moved to NYC at an early age, and then moved back to the DC area. I feel I have the best of both worlds- DC native with NY roots (Dad- was a Brooklyn guy and Mom was a Queens girl).  I really love the international flavor of the city and its culture and sophistication.  I love the museums, the restaurants and the proximity to the mountains and the ocean.  And of course….go Caps!

7. Do you enjoy cooking? If so, what is your favorite thing to make?  My Mom was a great cook and I picked up a lot from her.  I love to cook and butternut squash risotto is one of my go-to recipes.

8. Favorite place you have traveled?  It seems every new place I go to is my favorite.  Sept 2022, Linda and I went to Scotland for our 30th Anniversary. That was pretty spectacular.  New Zealand and Australia rank highly as of course does Italy.  I absolutely love to travel and can’t wait for the next adventure.  We have really gotten into the habit of not over-planning.  When you leave free time to explore, that’s when the amazement starts.