Adelaida Vineyards & Winery has always been my favorite winery in Paso Robles, CA. They work with a wide range of Rhône, Burgundian, and Bordeaux varieties. Notably, the wines are consistently expressive, balanced, and in a word – exceptional. When I decided to pursue my passion for wine professionally, I moved to Paso Robles in 2018. Adelaida was the first winery I applied to. Luckily for me, I got the job. But selling wine in the tasting room wasn’t enough. I had to experience winemaking first hand. So, I joined the winemaking crew in the cellar for harvest. I will be forever grateful for all that I learned over that 2018 vintage.
Adelaida Vineyards & Winery farms 135 acres of vineyards in west side Paso Robles. Winemaker Jeremy Weintraub obtained his MS in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. He went on to intern at Tenuta Tignanello in Italy followed by wineries in Central Otago and Marlborough, New Zealand. Upon his return to the United States, Jeremy became the winemaker at Seavey Vineyard in Napa. Then he made his way to Adelaida in Paso Robles.
After a brief stint working in the film industry, Assistant Winemaker Ryan Bosc decided to pursue her passion for wine. She obtained her degree in viticulture and enology from Allan Hancock College. Ryan went on to work several harvests in Paso Robles and Margaret River, Australia before joining the team at Adelaida.
Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for Wine Folly on What Winemakers Don’t Tell You About Making Wine. I interviewed Ryan and Jeremy for the article to get their take on what it’s really like to be a winemaker. Since one Wine Folly article can only hold so many insights, I wanted to share the full interviews with you here.
Can you please describe you’re average work day At Adelaida During…
JW: First thing I do is read the weather. Then I read it again. Then again and again. Next, I walk the vineyards, looking at plant and berry health and tasting the fruit. When the fruit is in the fermenter, I taste it every day as long as it’s in there.
RB: My typical harvest day consists of the following: Vineyard sampling and analyzing the juice to track fruit ripeness. Fermentation and cap management – print the pump over program and analyze tanks for sugar and temperature after the morning and afternoon program. All other fermentation analysis as needed. Write and distribute work orders to be completed. Track juice, must and wine movement in Vintrace (online database). Train, supervise and assist in daily cellar activities such as receiving fruit, fruit processing, fermentation additions, cap management, pressing, barreling down, and, of course, cleaning.
JW: I look at weekly reports that track the progress of malolactic fermentation and then we begin tasting the previous year’s wines for bottling in January.
RB: We analyze and track all wine lots through the final stages of alcoholic and malolactic fermentation. We’re also doing winemaking and blending trials for finished wines and for up coming bottling. We compose bulk wine reports reflecting tons for the vintage from each block of the vineyard and take this time to reflect on the vintage. We’re also finishing barreling down and get in a vacation when possible. 😉
JW: Tasting every barrel that we have from the previous year’s vintage and making blends for the next bottling.
RB: We bottle three times a year – Janurary, April, and June. Spring is spent composing blends and wines that will be bottled at the end of April and starting the search for interns for the next harvest! I also spend some time in the vineyard looking for bud break and signs of growth.
JW: I’m walking the vineyard every day and paying attention to plant health.
RB: We’ll do blending trials for the June bottling. I’m also doing cluster counts in the vineyards to get crop estimates. The interns start in July/August depending on growing season. We’ll start cleaning and preparing for harvest and calibrating lab and analysis equipment. The fruit and vineyard sampling starts at completion of veraison.
What is one unusual winemaking practice you’ve encountered in your career and its purpose?
JW: Biodynamics is easily the most unusual. I grew up in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and I don’t recall reading anywhere in the bible or the Talmud anything about “dynamism” or “solar forces.” Yet I adopted this practice both as an intern and as a vineyard manager one year. I wouldn’t do it again, however, because—while compelling in a quasi-scientific/romantic kind of way—it’s hard enough to understand how plants work with the soil and water on our planet without worrying about the relationship between astronomical influences on organisms. Plus, the idea of stripping a cow of its horns or a gopher of its skin seems cruel.
RB: Extended Maceration… I still think it is unusual. Its purpose is to increase color, tannin, and maybe flavor by leaving the cap (skins and seeds) in contact with the wine for an extended amount of time. I have seen it work and be successful, but I have also seen it fail horribly.
What is something you have experienced in the cellar or the vineyard throughout your winemaking career that you could have never previously imagined?
JW: I’d read about pigeage—the process of stripping down to one’s undies and getting into a cold tank to gently break berries—but until l actually did it I thought it was purely romantic, impractical, and useless. What I learned in doing it is the value: you can break the berries without breaking the seeds, you can feel the health of the fermentation by the heat being generated, and you keep your feet in tradition.
Can you give an example of a difficult challenge you’ve encountered in the winemaking process and how you overcame it?
RB: Coming into this business I had an Associates Degree in Enology and Viticulture, but I didn’t have the experience and education most of the people in the business my age did. I always wished that I had found this career path and passion much earlier in life. I felt like maybe I was behind because I was older than the interns I was working with that had already had multiple harvests under their belt. To stand out, I knew that I would have to work harder and faster. It is easy to overcome this challenge in the wine industry because of the amazing camaraderie it creates and the ability to learn on the job. I always retained information and learned better with hands on experience!
What are your considerations when making decisions throughout the winemaking process?
JW: I pay attention to the way that a must is tasting in the fermenter: How does it smell? Does it need air? What’s the temperature? Does it need to be raised or lowered? How does the wine taste? Should it get another punchdown or pump over? Should it be pressed sooner rather than later. I look at brix drop and temps for every fermenter every day.
What is the role and importance of lab analysis in winemaking?
RB: I am of the mindset that lab analysis is important, but not always necessary… What does that mean? Not all winemakers have the means of doing lab analysis and their wines can still be fantastic. However, at Adelaida we have a nice lab and someone who has the means to do lots of in house analysis (me, of course). Pre-harvest I am running pH, TA and brix on vineyard samples to track ripeness. Mostly these numbers are great for historical tracking and data. At Adelaida, we DO NOT pick based on numbers in a lab, but it’s always good to have these numbers for reference in the next vintages.
During harvest I am running analysis everyday. From incoming juice panels (Brix, TA, pH, Glucose/frutose, malic acid, acetic acid, and YAN) to fermentation analysis (this is mostly just Brix and temp AM/PM, but can also include Malic, Glu/fru, and acetic depending on the health of the fermentation). Post harvest I am tracking Malo-lactic fermentation by running Malic acid numbers and maybe tracking those slower alcoholic fermentations. I look at the analysis more as “guidelines”. In the end it’s all about how you feel about the wine and how it tastes and looks. Sometimes what you taste and see in a wine is not something the numbers can tell you.
Can you please provide some insights into the blending process at Adelaida?
JW: For any wine that’s blended—white or red—I taste every barrel with the assistant winemaker. That gives a deep sense of the vintage and informs which varietals are standouts and what makes them stand out. I was raised on old-world wines and I have no doubt that—while I may grow wine grapes in California—my frame of reference is still European wines. Because we grow Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Cinsaut, for example, I’ve got a model of sorts in my head for how those grapes might fit together.
The same is true with the white grapes, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Picpoul Blanc. After tasting every barrel I grade them, starting with the vineyard block that was picked right down to the barrel itself. There is no recipe, however. I want every vintage to speak for itself. I’m not trying to make the most “consistent product” every year. Quite the opposite. I don’t want the wines to be as predictable as a McDonald’s hamburger. No offense to McDonald’s.
Can you Explain the Process and Importance of the vineyard sampling process?
RB: The important thing to remember about vineyard sampling is to be random but purposeful… as confusing as that sounds. You want a good representation of the block, but you don’t want to make it too calculated that you only pick ripe fruit or underripe fruit. Good looking fruit or bad looking fruit. Achieving sugar and acid balance is the ultimate goal, but that isn’t all. Flavor and the physiological ripeness of the grapes are important too.
Has the skin softened? Are the seeds browning? Is the flesh separating from the pulp and skin? Does it taste good? Again… does it taste good? Are the plants still healthy and looking good? This can only be determined by going out into the vineyard and seeing and tasting for yourself! At Adelaida all our fruit is estate grown fruit, so we have endless access to the vineyards. During harvest one of the best parts of my day is spent in the morning grabbing samples, tasting the fruit, and understanding where the vineyard and grapes are at.
Can you talk about the process of selling fruit from the Vineyards and how you manage this side of the business, decide which fruit to part with, find buyers, etc.?
JW: We began selling fruit a few years ago to keep our production level at the boutique level. Adelaida’s vineyards grow some of the most sought-after fruit in the state, and we farm the vineyards organically and in a very respectful way. Wineries throughout the state ask us for fruit. Ridge Vineyards, one of the iconic names in California, approached us a few years ago about selling white Rhone varietals to them. We now have a long-term relationship with Ridge, and they’re vineyard-designating the wine, which we are all at Adelaida very proud of. We farm everything the same, whether we use the fruit or we sell it. That ensures that everything is kept at a very high level of quality.
What Changes Have You Seen Or Made in The Vineyards in Recent Years in Relation To Climate Change?
JW: Everyone I know has been paying attention to climate change since an Inconvenient Truth came out, and farmers – even the cranky conservative type – have observed sharp and alarming differences in the seasons compared with those of their youth. I’m planting with the recent past – insufficient rainfall and warm temperatures during the winter and spring – painfully at the front of my mind.
That means using rootstock that’s drought tolerant, in an orientation that protects the fruit as much as possible, and choosing varieties that can take the heat: Cabernet franc, Grenache and Mourvedre, for example. As damaging as heat can be, low moisture in the air is just as concerning. I began looking for solutions following the 2008 vintage in St. Helena, where we saw several days of 5% RH, which resulted in desiccated fruit. At Adelaida we’ve been installing micro-sprinklers, which we turn on during dry days to create a nice mist above the canopy. These use much less water than traditional drip-irrigation systems.
What have been the most rewarding and challenging aspects of starting your own label with Site?
JW: That’s easy: Selling the wine is by far the hardest part. But the whole process is very expensive, from getting a lawyer to draw up papers to become an official “company,” to purchasing the best fruit to purchasing barrels and labels and corks. I make about 400 cases of wine a year. But I don’t have a sales staff (or any staff, for that matter) and truthfully there’s a lot of very good wine out there.
I’m grateful that seven of the 14 Michelin 3-stars in the U.S. have Site on their wine lists and I’m grateful for the people who buy my wine. The best part is having an intimate connection to the people who buy Site: I can name every restaurant that carries the wine and every customer on the mailing list. I don’t want to ever make so much wine that I can’t do those things.