Ever since Yellow Tail landed stateside I’ve seen a lot more young wine
drinkers stepping up to the tasting plate. Now, before you stick up your
nose and bad mouth the Aussie juice as some sort of unsophisticated entry-level
slop, think twice.
It’s having a profound effect on consumption patterns amongst new drinkers,
functioning as a starter wine for lots of folks who were previously swilling
just beer and booze. And, as is true for all things entry-level, there’s
only one way to go from here: up.
Once they’re in the door, newbie wine lovers are moving quickly beyond
the black and yellow to more complex wines. And what better way to introduce
them to a bunch of awesome examples than through a live tasting featuring
some of most dynamic movers and shakers on the wine scene under the age
A bunch of these new winemakers – including a skater, a past Peace
Corps volunteer and a ukulele player - came together recently at my HIP
TASTES: Young Guns wine tasting in San Francisco, where their delicious
wines flowed freely and their eclectic personalities underscored the exciting
new talent taking root on the local wine scene.
So that you can partake vicariously in the Young Guns festivities I’ve
included profiles of a few of these stand-out wine personalities below.
Their backgrounds are diverse but they all share a common thread: they make
truly outstanding wine.
And we’re expecting still better things to come.
Ames Morison spent time volunteering for the Peace Corps and teaching
English in the Bronx before settling on winemaking as a career. A formal
education at UC Davis prepared him for his duties as winemaker at critically
acclaimed startup winery Medlock Ames, but it’s his passion for environmental
sustainability that has fueled his drive to operate the winery on solar
power and to eschew all chemicals in his vineyards. Besides their focus
on green production methods, Ames and co-owner/partner Christopher Medlock
James are also committed to the production of premier quality wine. Ames
employs gentle gravity flow techniques and native yeast fermentation in
the winery, ensuring that the wines come out as pure and expressive as
possible. Extremely limited, Ames’ wines are a total treat.
Try his: 2002 Bell Mountain Ranch “Red” Alexander Valley, California
Kenny Likitprakong is one very cool young winemaker. When the guy
isn’t making graphically striking silk screen t-shirts with his buddies
he’s churning out top-caliber wine from two labels: his very own Hobo
Wine Company and Banyan Wines, an operation he owns with his father, Somchai.
Taking a cue from his Thai heritage, Kenny specializes in refreshing whites
from diverse California appellations. The common thread between all of
his whites? They’re all dynamite with Thai food and other spicy cuisine,
a rarity amongst California’s usually full-bodied whites. Where his own
label is concerned, the name Hobo comes from the fact that Kenny doesn’t
have a permanent facility in which to make his wine. With his wry sense
of humor, Kenny explains on the Hobo site that if you’re looking for estate
bottled wines, “you have come to the wrong place.” But, if you’re looking
for great spirit and crisp, cool climate whites, you’re in just the right
Try his: 2005 Banyan Riesling Santa Lucia Highlands, California
banyanwines.com & hobowines.com
Growing up in the heart of Napa Valley didn’t dull Judd Finkelstein’s
excitement about wine. Since he could stand on two feet, he’s
been stomping grapes for his family’s wine operation, Judd’s Hill, where
as a bona fide adult he’s grown into the role of winemaker. Since he’s
been in this role Judd’s racked up some impressive accomplishments including
top placements in prestigious wine competitions. But the coolest thing
about Judd is what he does outside his family’s winery, including, among
other things (he’s also involved with very cool custom crush facility
Micro Crush, where regular folks like you and me can make wine in the
good ole’ Napa Valley), playing the ukulele in his band, The Maikai Gents
Featuring the Mysterious Miss Mauna Loa. Watch for Judd and the group
at nightclubs and luaus across the country. No joke.
Try his: 2002 Judd’s
Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California