After my first interview with Brian Ojalvo and John King at West of Temperance Winery I had the chance to sample a few of their Aglianico offerings. The 2012 is an excellent wine and I rated it 93 points. But during this time a few more questions came to mind. I reached out to them and they carved out some time from their busy schedules to accommodate me.
Dave – Where does the name West of Temperance come from? It sounds like the title to an old Western movie.
WOT – Great question. We get asked this a lot…and we very much like your old western movie reference. The name West of Temperance originally comes from a combination of the name of our vineyard, a portion of our philosophy and physical geographic location.
Previously we mentioned Aglianico planted on our family vineyard in California…the road leading up to that vineyard is named Temperance. In homage to Brian’s grandfather-in-law who was very much involved in our original Aglianico grafting project we wanted the term Temperance to be included in the winery name somehow. Temperance was also the name of the pre-Prohibition movement and means moderation or self-restraint. We are West of, or, have an alternative view of mainstream. As we don’t over process our wines the term also lightly applies to a portion of our winemaking approach.
Both Founders of West of Temperance also live in Northern California on the Western most coast. West of the family vineyard. We are West of Temperance.
Dave – I like the fact that you don’t over process your wines – allowing for tartrate crystals. Another area where you’re bucking the trend of over processed, fined and filtered wines. Why did you decide to go this route?
WOT – The idea of keeping things simple and direct is certainly what we have always done and part of our heritage. Over processing creates a wine that has its center, its soul, so to speak compromised. The mid palate and all the lovely textures delivered in that mid palate can also be tremendously compromised with over manipulated wines. Tartaric acid is a very natural and essential part of all wines. Grapes will produce their own tartrates. If a wine exhibits tartaric crystals or “wine diamonds” it is an absolute sign that this wine has not been overly manipulated or tinkered with in the cellar. We like this. We consider tartrate crystals as a badge of honor.
Dave – How do you feel about the term ‘terroir’? It gets thrown around a lot. I get the concept; the area, the soil etc. But it leaves out the winemaker.
WOT – Terroir is just one part of the puzzle in the overall winemaking process. We could not and will not deny soil plays a significant role in grape development…and we believe there is a lot more going on than just soil or just terroir, if you will. We must look at, to name just a few categories, weather, location, micro-climates, vine densities, altitude, etc., etc. This list can go on forever. West of Temperance looks at these attributes and much, much more when considering winemaking decisions.
Only then will a true more accurate picture of these wines develop once these details are scrutinized and thought about in the cellar.
Yes. The Winemaker. Some camps see the winemaker as just a medium, channeling the grapes through the fermentation process. After participating in hundreds of fermentations over the course of our wine making history we can tell you grapes do not want to turn into wine, and almost certainly will turn to vinegar or worse if not tended to by the winemaker. Wine grapes do not just magically make themselves into a beautiful finished bottle of wine, they must be shepherded by humans at least a little bit to its completion.
Let’s not discount the winemakers hand. It is very important; an analogy can be made while discussing the works of the great artist Pablo Picasso whom we all can possibly agree is arguably one of the greatest painters in human history. We know for certain Picasso went through many stylistic periods. Early Picasso work certainly inform his later works, yet the style is drastically different. We are left with his “feel” or his “touch”. In other words, the artists hand. The artist or creative mind has left his mark and can be attributed to his or her handwriting or style if you will. Through many different periods Picasso created art in many different styles. Always true to himself. Completely original. The same can possibly be said for all great groundbreaking winemakers. Just as any great artist will do while pushing his or her work as to not repeat itself but to propel itself through the desire to please and create cutting edge works of art. Works that will stand the test of time.
Dave – I think if you gave the same grapes from the same vineyard to three different winemakers, you would end up with three completely different wines. Do you agree or am I off track here?
WOT – We are in complete agreement with you on this point. This harkens back to stylistic choices the winemaker makes in the vineyard, at the fermenter, in the cellar, and at the bottling line. All the fine details and minutia in winemaking will certainly influence the outcome of the wine in a profound way. Give three different chefs the same produce grown from the same garden and have them create a dish. We would certainly see three completely different dishes presented using the same ingredients. I believe this analogy would ring true with winemakers and grapes as well. The artist hand says so much and our opinion and should not be discounted.
Dave – Is there anything that the wine consuming public should know about West of Temperance that I may not have asked?
WOT – Yes. There is. Thank you for asking… John and Brian are shameless vinyl junkies, record collectors, music lovers and audiophiles. We have vast quantities of old Blue Note, Verve and Impulse jazz recordings on vinyl, to name but just a few styles of music we enjoy. We have paired many wines in listening sessions while imbibing and can safely and emphatically say it is Aglianico that pairs supremely well with John Coltrane! Give it a try! We can even help with specific suggestions on both the music front and wine front!
Dave – When in the Napa area, where can people go to sample your wines?
WOT – Folks can visit and taste with us by appointment. We offer custom tailored wine tastings, winery tours, barrel samplings and winemaking insight. We have hosted numerous customers at our production facility in Napa and we are proud of the very positive feedback we continue to receive. Please call us on 415.342.1603 to set up an appointment while you are up in Napa! Folks can also get in touch and ask about wine tastings in your own private environment – we would love to be in touch with you.
We are pleased to be at your service and always look forward to serving new customers.
Our new ecommerce platform is under construction. We hope to have that launched sometime soon this year. In the meantime, folks to can reach us in person directly here at West of Temperance. We also encourage you to follow us on Social Media and sign up for our Mailing List:
A very big thank you to Dave at Wines of Note! We appreciate everybody’s interest in West of Temperance and have very much enjoyed speaking with you today. Let’s be in touch! Thank you!
Dave – I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about West of Temperance and your wines. I’m a huge fan of your wines. I hope everyone reading this will try something different and sample some of your Aglianico offerings. I know they won’t be disappointed.