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Brian Loring: Talented Winemaker & Nice Guy

Posted by admin | Posted in California Wine, Clos Pepe, Culture, currentVintage, Nantucket, travel, Wine | Posted on 29-06-2010

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Brian (not the best dresser) Loring & John Albans

Brian (not the best dresser) Loring & John Albans

“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have, it depends solely upon what you drink!”—Brian Loring

“There are times when Brian Loring finds himself racing to make ends meet, juggling work as a software engineer with a career as an aspiring winemaker.”–Wine Spectator, 2003

That was then, when he still had a Software Engineer day job and hoped to someday make 3000 case of wine a year.  Now, 49 yr-old Brian Loring is one of the top Pinot-makers in the USA, famous for his Loring Wine Company label of single-vineyard Pinots and a consulting winemaker for boutique properties Pali, Twin Oaks, Golden’s, et al.  His production has grown to over 7000 cases—still tiny by most standards—but bigger than where he started and very big on quality and reputation.

According to Brian Loring, Siduri set the model for small production single-vineyard pinots, working with growers and buying by the acre.  Adventuresome winemakers, such as Brian Loring, followed suit, experimenting in defining distinctly California Pinot Noir.  A bigger, bolder pinot style was pioneering, but by 2004, they had all approached the upper boundary of ‘bigness’ and decided to dial it back to where each stylistically wanted to be, rather than continuing to test the limits or purely focusing on being different.

What does it mean to be a California pinot versus a French one?  Loring says, “Embrace your longer hangtime”.  Perhaps they will not have the same longevity as their French counterparts, but Loring believes that his Pinots can have complexity and simultaneously be appreciable at an early age.

For all of I’ve read about Brian Loring, he sure seems like a nice guy.  He is also extremely smart, a talented winemaker and a very bad dresser.  We present Brian Loring, in his own words:


My name is Brian Loring and my obsession is Pinot Noir. OK, I’m also pretty crazy about Champagne, but that’s another story. While in college, I worked at a wine shop in Hollywood (Victor’s), where one of the owners was a Burgundy fanatic. So, my very first experiences with Pinot Noir were from producers like Domaine Dujac, Henri Jayer, and DRC. Needless to say, I found subsequent tasting safaris into the domestic Pinot Noir jungle less than satisfying. It wasn’t until I literally stumbled into Calera (I tripped over a case of their wine in the store room) that I found a California Pinot Noir that I could love. But it would be quite a while before I found someone else that lived up to the standard that Josh Jensen had established. I eventually came to understand and enjoy Pinots from Williams Selyem, Chalone, and Sanford, but I really got excited about California Pinot Noir when I met Norm Beko from Cottonwood Canyon at an Orange County Wine Society tasting.

I made about 3 trips around the booths at the tasting without finding a single good Pinot Noir. So, being the open minded person that I am (remember I passed him up 3 times), I stopped at the Cottonwood booth. I was BLOWN away by Norman’s 1990 Santa Maria Pinot Noir. After a few years of attending every Cottonwood event and asking Norm 10,000 questions about winemaking, he offered to let come learn the process during the ’97 crush. I checked sugar levels, picked, crushed, punched down, pressed, filled barrels, and generally moved a bunch of stuff around with fork lifts and pallet jacks! It was the time of my life… I was totally hooked. And even though I hadn’t planned it, I ended up making two barrels of Pinot Noir. That was the start of the Loring Wine Company. What had started out as a dream 15 years earlier was now a reality – I was a winemaker!


My philosophy on making wine is that the fruit is EVERYTHING. What happens in the vineyard determines the quality of the wine – I can’t make it better – I can only screw it up! That’s why I’m extremely picky when choosing vineyards to buy grapes from. Not only am I looking for the right soil, micro-climate, and clones, I’m also looking for a grower with the same passion and dedication to producing great wine that I have. In other words, a total Pinot Freak! My part in the vineyard equation is to throw heaping piles of money at the vineyard owners (so that they can limit yields and still make a profit) and then stay out of the way! Since most, if not all of the growers keep some fruit to make their own wine, I tell them to farm my acre(s) the same way they do theirs – since they’ll obviously be doing whatever is necessary to get the best possible fruit. One of the most important decisions made in the vineyard is when to pick. Some people go by the numbers (brix, pH, TA, etc) and some go by taste. Once again, I trust the decision to the vineyard people. The day they pick the fruit for their wine is the day I’m there with a truck to pick mine. Given this approach, the wine that I produce is as much a reflection of the vineyard owner as it is of my winemaking skills. I figure that I’m extending the concept of terroir a bit to include the vineyard owner/manager… but it seems to make sense to me. The added benefit is that I’ll be producing a wide variety of Pinots. It’d be boring if everything I made tasted the same.


Sounds pretty straight forward, last name Loring, therefore Loring Wine Company. Ahhh, but what about the “Wine Company” part? That is an hommage to Josh Jensen at Calera… which is actually Calera Wine Company. Since he was the guy who showed me that great Pinot Noir could be made in California, I decided to name my winery Loring Wine Company to “honor” him. Hopefully, Josh sees it for what it is and doesn’t want to sue me for trademark infringement!

Brian goes on to thanks the folks at Cottonwood Canyon and Adam Lee of Siduri on his website, AS WELL AS recommend dozens and dozens of his favorite California Pinot-producers and Champagne houses.  What a nice guy.

LWC Clos Pinot proof

The thoughtful and distinctive Loring Wine Company labels…

2005 LWC Clos Pepe Vineyard

Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills

800 Cases

This photo shows an end-post for one of our rows. The PN-667 tells you it’s a row of Pinot Noir 667 clone. 101-14 is the rootstock. And it’s row number 8. Not many vineyards list this type of detail on the end-posts.

LWC Gary proof2005 LWC Garys’ Vineyard

Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands

825 cases

Good shot showing the rocky soil showing through under the vines. Santa Lucia Highlands

The 15th Nantucket Film Festival

Posted by admin | Posted in Culture, currentVintage, Events, Fashion, Food, Nantucket, travel | Posted on 23-06-2010

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nff Between 2 ferns

"Between Two Ferns" sketch with Brian Wiliiams (!) and Zach Galifianakis

NFF Comedy Roundtable w/ Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, Andy Stamberg, Zach G & Brian Williams

NFF Comedy Roundtable w/ Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman, Andy Stamberg, Zach G & Brian Williams

The Nantucket Film Festival celebrated it’s 15th birthday this year.  Wow.  15.  I say wow, NOT just because I was a Co-Producer of a Festival film, but because A.  I was at Opening Night in 1996 (and have been ever since) and B.  Because it was the Best Ever!

From the Opening night film, The Extra Man, to the unbelievably fascinating docs on Bill Cunningham and Ron Galella to the Brian Williams monologue at the Screenwriter’s Tribute to Chris Matthews’ interview with Barry Levinson, it was amazing.  I am still running into like-minded Film enthusiasts on the street, exclaiming how extraordinary one film or another was this past week…Nevermind the thrill of seeing my name on the big screen in a producing credit for Mister Rogers & Me!  (When independent film makers need cash, those credits can go pretty cheap.)

My name, Elisabeth English, on the silver screen at Mr. Rogers

My name, Elisabeth English (10th from top), on the silver screen at Mister Rogers

Chris and Ben Wagner, Creators of "Mr. Rogers & Me", with Elisabeth English, "Producer"

Chris and Ben Wagner, Creators of "Mister Rogers & Me", with Elisabeth English, "Producer"

Truthfully, I regularly think the festival is ‘the best ever’.  Losing Chase was the 1996 inaugural film and also Kevin Bacon’s directorial debut.  I was so enthused by the experience that I returned to Provisions, my sandwich shop on Straight Wharf, and re-named our BLT as “Kevin Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato” on the blackboard, provoking confusion and the occasional smile for years to come.

There have been many inspiring opening films (14, to be exact), including “The Full Monty”, “American Splendor” and “Trans-Siberian”, but it is the rest of the festival slate that delights me most.  There are always quiet gems that may never see the green light of distribution and the only opportunity to see them (for me) rests with the fest.  And so, I venture forth with the zeal of an ingénue, in an effort to take in the best the fest has to offer…

Each day goes something like:  “Morning Coffee w/ a Writer” at the Crown, Film, work, Film, snack, Film, change of outfit, Evening Event (Party/Storytelling/Tribute), After-Party…while popping my Wellness Formula vitamins and ignoring my employees’ pleas for communication day after day.

NFF "Morning Coffee with a Writer" series

NFF "Morning Coffee with a Writer" series

Here are some of the quotable highlights…

“Literally, you just turn on your camera and beautiful stuff gets inside  it”—Lynn True on filming Summer Pasture in remote Eastern-Tibet

‘Deep & simple is better than shallow & complex any day’—Fred Rogers (as told to Benjamin Wagner, co-creator of Mister Rogers & Me)

“We worked out the licensing last night.”—Benjamin Wagner re the process of trust and determination in making Mister Rogers & Me.

Q:  “How will the Lady Gaga generation receive the message of Mr. Rogers?”—audience member at “Morning Coffee”
A.  “Twinkies have their short-term value, but in the end everyone needs a  slice of whole wheat.”—Benjamin Wagner, Mister Rogers & Me

“I was trying to capture the beauty/horror/absurdity of family.”—Festival honoree Michael Arndt on the writing of Little Miss Sunshine

“Families are inherently funny in that you have a group of people with nothing in common except the fact they are related.”– Michael Arndt on the writing of Little Miss Sunshine

“I wanted to start a riot of happiness.”– Michael Arndt on the ending of Little Miss Sunshine

Barry Levinson, Honoree

Barry Levinson, Honoree

Must-See Films of the 2010 NFF:

Bill Cunningham New York—A documentary on the charming, elegant 80-year-old New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham. With the singular goal of capturing the beauty that crosses his path, Cunningham has created a poignant and ongoing chronicle of the intersection of fashion and society in New York for over 50 years—in effect, a portrait of New York City itself—while living in a tiny studio apartment above Carnegie Hall and riding a bike.

Smash His Camera—A fascinating look at the surprisingly endearing Ron Galella—the original despised Paparazzo for whom Jackie Onassis obtained a restraining order.  His archives are an exhausting journey through pop culture over the last 40+ years, from Pia Zadora & John Gotti to Jacki O & Liz Taylor.

Cairo Time—A beautiful, seductive story set in exotic Cairo, starring the always-magnificent Patricia Clarkson and sexy, sexy Alexander Siddig

Winter’s Bone—A riveting tale of a 17-yr old the lawless Ozarks, caring for her little brother and sister, while trying to find her crack-dealing Father who put up their home for his bail bond and disappeared. 

The Concert & Freedom Writers—Definitely two of the most-talked about films at the fest

Mister Rogers & Me—A lovely portrait of Nantucket summer resident and pioneering children’s television host Fred Rogers.  Created by the Wagner brothers through a long, meaningful journey of their own.

Nowhere Boy—A darling film about the teenage John Lennon and the heartbreak and angst that shaped his life and music (by Sam Taylor-Wood).

The Extra Man—A story of friendship between an older New York gentleman (Kevin Kline) and a young man (Paul Dano) with a a few sexual identity issues.  Written by (and based on) the brilliant Jonathan Ames.

The Wagner Bros with NFF Founder, Jonathan Burkhart

The Wagner Bros with NFF Founder, Jonathan Burkhart

NFF 2010 Opening Film "The Extra Man"

NFF 2010 Opening Film "The Extra Man" w/ Jonathan Ames, writer

Do you know what you were really drinking last night?

Posted by admin | Posted in Culture, currentVintage, Food, Nantucket, Napa/Sonoma, Wine | Posted on 09-06-2010

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Pinot Noir vine CobbThis article ran in The Daily Beast last August and is required reading for anyone shopping in the “2 for $10″ bins.  Most of us can occasionally indulge in a hot dog and conveniently compartmentalize the knowledge that they are made of all sorts of mystery meats and fillers long enough to enjoy a few bites.  Well, you may also be able to do that quaffing the cheap wines, but somewhere in your brain, you should have the facts on what’s really going down the hatch…

Do you know what you were really drinking last night?

The dirty secret about wine is that it frequently contains wood chips, chemicals, and something called Mega Purple…

Most wine bought in the United States cost less than $10 a bottle. Of that price, the winery makes less than $2. A large chunk of that goes to pay for the glass, the labels, and the corks. Another chunk goes to paying for the winery staff, another goes toward taxes… you get the idea. To make any sort of profit, the winemaker has to buy low-quality grapes in bulk and mass-produce the stuff.

Sign at Cobb Vineyards re winemaking--could also refer to wine drinking

Sign at Cobb Vineyards re winemaking--could also refer to wine drinking

Beware what’s in your glass…

If you don’t have time to read the whole article by writer Keith Wallace, founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia,  the moral of the story is this:  If you want to stay away from overly manipulated wine, you may have to change your buying habits.

First, keep your hands out of the bargain bins: Those bottles are there for a reason.

Second, start buying more European wines. Despite the few horror stories, Europeans have much stricter regulations on wine additives than the U.S. or Australia.

food242Ironically, some of the best retail wine bargains are from France and Italy.  The standards of agriculture, quality of viticulture and generations of experience often yield a superior product at a given price point than their international counterparts.  Not insignificantly, many old producers farm organically and biodynamically.  Do you want mystery meat or a grass-fed all-beef frank?  Do you want a $10 bottle of organic Pecorino or a $5 wood-chip flavored chardonnay?  You decide.