Vintage Flows: Wine-Slingers of the New West

“So lets just stay in the moment
Smoke some weed, drink some wine
Reminisce, talk some shit, forever young is in your mind
Leave a mark that can’t erase, neither space nor time
So when the director yells cut we’ll be fine”
Jay-Z, Forever young

In the 12 years I’ve been in the restaurant & wine industry, I have watched wine as we know it start to change its shape. What once was a very square image is beginning to smooth out. Wine is taking on a new identity, and it’s in thanks to young, passionate winemakers that are willing to take chances and “toe the line” of tradition. We all remember the TV show, “Family Matters.” And i know we all remember when Steve invented the transformation chamber that turned him into the cooler, more stylish and suave Stefan Urquelle alter ego. I’m not saying wines transformation is that drastic, but give with some time it and it definitely will be. There are a few winemakers that paint a picture of how I truly see the future of wine developing. How it will be more marketable, more popular and appealing to completely different crowds. They give a reason to be excited about the future of wine being passed on to the next generation, and I am 100% here for it.

The first winemaker I want to mention is Andre Hueston Mack. Andre chose to leave a promising and lucrative career in finance to pursue his passion for wine. As he worked as a Sommelier for some very prestigious restaurants and chefs, he continued to study wine diligently. His efforts paid of and he became a highly decorated, award winning Sommelier who is highly touted throughout the industry. He has been featured in many publications, and is sought out for wine education and menu consultation across the world. As he made a name for himself, he decided to take a leap and try his hand at winemaking. He set up shop in Williamette Valley, Oregon. A region being occupied by new, innovative winemakers, and wines that are recognized on a global scale. His vineyard is called Maison Noir Wines where he produces not only great wines, but has also taken a fun approach to his wine’s names and labels. Names such as Love Drunk, Bottoms up, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, and my personal favorite O.P.P. (Other People’s Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir). An homage to the legendary Jersey hip hop group, “Naughty by Nature”. Andre is a true force pushing forward wine culture with branding that is fun, innovative, and compelling while also creating a taste that’ll keep anyone that drinks it coming back for more. His wines offer more value than what’s in the glass as well. They make you ask questions that inspire conversation, debate, and emotion. I believe his name will be graffiti’d in the walls of wine history as someone who through his wine, spoke to a group of people that had been left out of the wine conversation for far too long. Cheers to you Andre Hueston Mack and I personally thank and salute you for your work.

The next culture shifting Wine-Slingers I would like to recognize are the Beckett brothers out of Paso Robles, California. Josh and Jake grew up in a wine family which meant a lot of their upbringing led to the skills needed to eventually build a successful winery themselves. In 2004, Josh and Jake started Chronic Collars. A psychedelic, peace & love vibe to wine that had yet to be embraced by the wine community. They brought a very laid back, groovy style to wine that I’m sure rubbed many people the wrong way initially. With their very bright and colorful, ‘Nightmare Before Christmas” style labels and promiscuous names like Love Machine, Dead Nuts and Kindly Swallows, they push the envelope in a very buttoned up, and at times stiff culture. They come off as guys that don’t take themselves to seriously, yet are extremely passionate about the next generation of wine drinkers feeling welcome and comfortable in being themselves while enjoying very good wine. This is one of the things I like about them most. Wine has not always been welcoming and with Jake and Josh looking to do that with everything they do, it’s truly impressive. I definitely plan to keep a close eye on the moves and avenues the journey on in the future, and you should too!

To these Mavericks of Merlot, Captains of Cab, Czars of Chardonnay, rock on with your bad selves. Continue to bridge the gap with your great wines and fun approach. Thank you for your contributions to the culture. Know a glass is being raised in your honor, Salúd!

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