Get the Dirt About Metrick Wines with winemaker Alex Russan

7 Mar

metrickcorks1. What was your first vintage year? Commercially in 2015, but started making wine at home in 2010 and 2011.

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? 200 the past two years, perhaps doubling that in 2017.

3. How did you get your start in the winemaking business? I started with my label of barrel selected sherries, Alexander Jules, in 2012. In 2014 when I started importing wine from other producers around Spain, visiting the vineyards and getting to know so many wines so intimately, I started to have more questions than I could find answers. I figured if I started making wine again (after having made at home for a couple years) that I’d be able to answer them all, so decided to start producing commercially. A gross miscalculation, as every answer I find leads to another ten questions!

4. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? More all the wines that are out there than any particular wine. So much to explore and know, endless differing variables between grapes, viticulture practices, regions and winemaking methods, vintages. There is too much to know, and not enough years in a life to get close to a full understanding.

metrickgrapes5. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? Currently only Mourvedre and Chardonnay, but hoping to add another two or three varietals this year. I’m really interested in unique and rare varieties—there are so many amazing grapes in the world, many of which would likely make wonderful wines in our AVA’s, but we mostly only see the same big names.

I started producing Mourvedre as I wanted a red grape that would be more herbal and earthy than fruit-driven, and I imagined it would be a good fit in the volcanic soils in El Dorado.

Chard as it’s the white grape that has most impressed me in California, and I wanted to make a wine that would have good acid, precision and transparency of flavor, and be stony/mineral, and Chard can do that.

6. What vineyards do you source from? Why? My Mourvedre comes from the Futernick vineyard in El Dorado (just up slope from the better known Fennaughty Vineyard). I initially wanted to work with Gamay (I’m still on the waiting list!), but really liked Ron Mansfield, “the man” for grapes in El Dorado, and the area itself. Deep volcanic soils that they’re able to dry farm in most years, Tablas clones, north facing slope (to mitigate the warm climate some), all sounded great to me.

My Chard is from the historic Sierra Madre Vineyard in Santa Maria, it’s been around since the 70’s. I first called Doug Circle looking for some of the old Melon plantings that were thought to be Pinot Blanc in California, and although his Pinot Blanc is really Pinot Blanc, I enjoyed our conversation and the site sounded interesting (close to the sea, constant ocean winds, planted by the great Ken Brown), so when I decided to work with Chard, I gave him a call.

7. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? I don’t currently own any oak. I want my whites to be as austere as possible, so use only stainless. I use concrete for my Mourvedre, giving some oxygen, like wood, but not giving any oak character to interfere with what the grape brings. I’ll likely start using some neutral oak barrels this year, probably very neutral American oak as they have wider grains and will give a bit more oxygen, which interests me.

8. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? El Dorado has amazing soils and is just stunning. It seems way off the beaten path, although it’s only an hour from Sacramento. Santa Maria has a great, cool climate, and I have a soft spot for Santa Barbara, as it was the first wine region I really explored in person.

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9. What’s the story behind your name/label? Metrick is my maternal grandmother’s maiden name, she lived to be 102, we were very close. The personality of the family is really associated with the Metrick name. Also, I get anxious thinking of names, so a family name is an easy way out!

10. Most importantly, what’s so great about being small?
Perhaps not the most romantic answer, but less wine to rack from tank to tank (I rack really slowly/gently, and it gets boring!). It’s also a lot easier to stay on top of cleanliness when you have less tanks, hoses, fittings, etc, to clean. It is also easier to know each deposit of wine you have (I essentially have one large concrete piece and four stainless drums for my two wines), so easy to keep track of their development and progress.

11. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? It seems like consumers are getting more and more interested in smaller, “niche” producers, I hope that this continues. It’s not easy for any winery, particularly a small one, to make a name for themselves, and I think, unfortunately, this depends more on trends, marketing and hustling than on the inherent quality of the wine. I think it is important for a winery to get creative in their marketing to make a home for themselves in the segment of the market they feel their wines fit into. Although it seems there is more interest in smaller, new producers, there also seems to be more and more of them, and I have a feeling that will continue for a bit, so “getting out there” may become more difficult than ever, despite the increase in interest.

12. If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? I’m interested in Coastal central California and Santa Cruz—anywhere cool/cold with interesting soils, which is rare in California (great soils are usually in warmer areas). I’d like to see folks plant more grapes in these areas than the typical Pinot and Chard. I’m also very interested in Western Oregon and Puget Sound in Washington, but don’t think I’ll ever leave California.

To learn more about Metrick Wines, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK.

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