Get the Dirt about Cavaletti Vineyards from winemaker Patrick Kelley

15 Jan

CabalettiGrapes1. What was your first vintage year? 2016

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? In 2016 we produced 110 cases split evenly between our 109 Mile Syrah and 109 Mile Grenache. We increased our volume with the 2017 harvest to approximately 370 cases.

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? If Yes/Hours? We keep a small stock of our wines in the tasting room at the Camarillo Custom Crush Winery in Camarillo. It is open from Sat 12pm-5pm and Sun 1pm-5pm. Tastings can also be arranged by appointment.

4. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? A restaurant owner in a little village outside of Milan poured me a homemade Sangiovese out of a simple jug and then gave me a tour of his vineyard where he grew the grapes. I’d had plenty of wine before, but that experience sparked my interest in growing grapes and making wine.

5. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Alicante Bouschet. I should say that I love all varieties equally, but some might be more equal than others. Grenache and Syrah are probably my two favorites. I like Grenache because of its sensuous aromatics and Syrah because it can express itself in wildly different ways depending upon where it is grown.

CavalettiVineyard6. What vineyards do you source from? Why? I focus on making wines from interesting vineyards within an hour and a half drive of the winery. In 2016 I started with two vineyards that I’d worked with before and knew the profiles of the wines from those sites. The Syrah was from the Lewis Vineyard, which I farm myself. This is a cool-climate hillside vineyard in coastal Ventura County. The Syrah from this site ripens late and has great natural acidity due to its proximity to the coast. The 2016 Grenache came from the Swayze Vineyard in northern Los Angeles County which is a warm climate that is moderated by sitting at 3000 feet of altitude in the high desert. In 2017 I added an additional three other cool climate vineyards in Ventura County and also ventured north to Estelle Vineyard in Santa Ynez for some amazing Sangiovese.

7. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? Philosophically, I prefer neutral barrels but there are some times where a little new oak can go a long way towards improving a wine.

8. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? Our region (and California overall) is a winemaker’s dream. We have everything from cool climate coastal sites, 10,000 foot mountains, high deserts, and sheltered valley floors. They all come with abundant sunshine and absolutely no rain near harvest.

9. What’s the story behind your winery name / label? Cavaletti is derived from the Italian word for ‘easel.’ It reminds me that the winemaker only supports the artwork that nature provides.

cavalettibottle10. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery?
That you’ll pay for at least two vintages and probably three before you sell one.

11. Most importantly, what’s so great about being small? What can you do as a small winemaker, that wouldn’t be possible for larger wineries? You have the flexibility to make the best wine possible from a vintage and expressing natural variation from year to year without having to worry about maintaining a specific profile.

12. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? The future is bright for small lot winemakers. Small lot winemakers have the opportunity to craft unique wines that speak to people in an authentic way that big brands try to mimic with marketing, but can’t. Passion and enthusiasm come through loud and clear when small winemakers talk and customers feel it. We also live in a time where anyone can connect with millions of potential customers. This was impossible for a craft producer of any kind at any other period in history. These things give every small lot producer a shot to be successful.

13. If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? Spain. They have old vines of every variety you could want and the food is amazing.

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