March 03: The wine industry, like most other industries has been frantically engaged in Zoom Conferences to interact with their stakeholders, as was highlighted in various Sessions of Wine Future 2021, but I was most impressed with Jean-Charles Boisset of Burgundy/Napa/Fratelli Z'NOON claiming 7 million interactions through the social media interaction during the Covid- JCBLive, writes Subhash Arora who reports his Conversation with Stephanie Putnam, the Director of Winemaking at Raymond Winey he owns, in his imitable style on 26 February, the day Wine Future 2021 concluded
I had met Stephanie Putnam during my visit in December, 2016 to the Raymond Winery which Jean Charles Boisset (JC) had bought in 2011. There was a wine tasting at the JCB Lounge where JC had also joined us. My curiosity had thus been piqued when I saw the latest addition to the JCBLive Wine Style a few days ago. Jean-Charles started perhaps the most informal Wine Conversation on YouTube I have ever seen on a video. It is actually more like a Chat with a lot of banter that keeps the audience’ interest alive and gives Jean- Charles another opportunity to be at his flamboyant and flirtatious best, charming any woman to bare her personality traits.
JC talks about the personality and human angle and chats with her about other things like her being a Gemini, before asking her about the speciality of the opened Rutherford Cabernet Reserve- one of the two red wines adorning the table, the other one being a Napa Valley Reserve. She says the typicity of the Rutherford area shows in the bottle- the clay influence, cooler and heavier soils. This gives the flavour of coco, mushrooms and the earthy character. Her description is inter-twined by JC talking incessantly about non-wine related issues, making the conversation very interesting even for a novice and giving the social media platform a new flavour.
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Stephanie’s first career choice as she finished college was to join the FBI and become a Secret Agent but the 4ft-11inch petit blonde had to settle for another career because of height. Her dad had been in the IRS and had been awarded by Ronald Reagan. She had grown up in a family where wine was served with food even though she used to drink grape juice-decanted in a Baccarat decanter earlier. ‘So when I went to Davies, I took wine classes.’ But how did you choose winemaking when the field with vineyards, sales, marketing is so diverse', asks JC? ‘I had taken a class on wine analysis and blending. I was lucky enough to have my wine chosen as the best blended wine. I decided to get into winemaking and have never looked back,’ she says.
What is her style of making wines, he asks her? ‘The tastes of American wine drinkers have changed in the last couple of decades. People don’t like heavy wines from the 1970’s and 1980’s which were full of heavy tannins and a lot of oak even though they aged well. They want to drink wines that are full bodied but can be drunk young too.' Finding perfect balance for great wines is her Mantra. ‘I want harmonious wine from beginning to finish,’ she adds.
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Two decades ago, how did she survive the made dominated wine world? ‘I worked for a year in a cellar where the guys gave me a hard time and waited for me to make a mistake as they did not feel I deserved to be alongside. ‘But then I found people who were helpful and even mentored me-like you. You won’t hire someone because of gender but want the best for the wine.’ She had been the 2-women winemaking team when JC had taken over in 2011 from the 5-generation run winery owners. Raymond Vineyards: A Luxurious Napa Experience (indianwineacademy.com)
‘My grandmother was always in the kitchen and had not studied about wines’, says JC. ‘My mother was the same. Both of them and my sister have been good tasters as is my wife (Gina Gallo). So what makes women better tasters’, asks JC. ‘Environment factors, I believe. Women are exposed more to flavours since they cook a lot. And these days they start to cook even younger’, she says.
Raymond is the largest certified winery in the State for organic and biodynamic viticulture. She says, ‘there is a lot of truth in the adage that Great wine is made in the vineyard. When there are too many herbicides and pesticides in the vines, it takes away from the taste. Besides, we are not talking about wines only today. We have to think 20 years ahead!’
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'We make only 200 cases of Rutherford and 1100 cases for Napa Valley Reserve. As a winemaker do you feel any difference in the winemaking process?' ‘Many people think it is harder to make 200 cases than 1100. But all winemakers are control freaks and would put the same efforts in making these two wines. Consistent quality and taste is what they want. Napa Valley is a blend of grapes from 13-14 vineyards and the blend is important. It should be easy drinking, soft and velvety.’
What have you learnt in 11 years? ‘I have learnt that I have a lot to learn still. Every vintage is different with its own challenges. If there were no challenges I would be bored and won’t be here! I also feel that we have still not reached the full potential of Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon.’
The 30-minute Conversation between Jean-Charles Boisset and Stephanie Putnam tells a lot about the style of wines being made by Raymond Winery and the two protagonists but in a light-hearted manner making it entertaining and educational to watch, especially for the youth. It is a perfect example of how Social Media Platform ought to be used to stay connected and informative with their audiences globally, during the Covid times and beyond. There are several other interesting videos that will keep you hooked.
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You may watch the full video here:
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