Get the Dirt about Montemaggiore Wines from winemaker Lise Ciolino

2 Apr

MontemaggiorePeople1. What was your first vintage year? 2002

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? ~600

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? Not at this time.

4. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? I’ve always loved Syrah, in fact my “epiphany wine” was a Chapoutier Hermitage. I tasted it in France at the age of 16 when I was traveling with my father. It was my first Syrah, and the first red wine I ever liked.

5. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? I work with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier. My favorite varietal is Syrah because of it’s expressiveness of its terrior, where and how its grown. I like the balance of fruit and spice characteristics, the sweet and the savory. Syrah is a very versatile grape, it makes a great rosé, a good sparkling wine, a delicious dessert wine. It’s very long-lived, and appeals to both wine novices and wine experts. What’s not to love about Syrah?


6. What vineyards do you source from? If Estate, why do you choose your location? Most of our fruit comes from estate vineyards at the south end of Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County. As you know, Dry Creek Valley has a fairly warm climate. But this estate vineyard is at a 750 ft elevation, which in combination with it’s proximity to the Russian River Valley means that the grapes come from a unique “Goldilocks” area which is not too warm, and not too cool.

7. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? All my wines are aged in French oak barrels, typically around 30% new. I like the structure and depth that oak gives the wines, along with the subtle flavors that French oak imparts. I don’t want the oak flavors to overshadow the natural flavors from the grapes, so I like to keep the amount of new oak to a minimum.

8. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? Dry Creek Valley is a wonderful wine community centered on the town of Healdsburg. 95% of the wineries are family owned, and most are family operated also. Many different types of grapes are grown here at the northern part of Sonoma County which makes it not only a wine lovers dream, but also a winemakers candy store! It’s a diverse agricultural community with many fruit orchards, vegetable farms, and grape growers. This makes for a wonderful community of growers, winemakers, and wine enthusiasts who work together to preserve our natural heritage.

MontemaggioreBottle9. What’s the story behind your winery name / label? Montemaggiore is an Italian word pronounced “mohn ta ma JOHR ray”. Translated into English, the name means great mountain—”monte” means mountain and “maggiore” means great, or major. Montemaggiore is also the name of the town in southern Italy that is our ancestral home. We thought the name was fitting because it reflects the steep mountainside of our estate vineyards while paying homage to our Italian heritage (along with the Italian heritage of California wine industry).

10. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? I feel like I was fairly informed when starting our business. I had worked at other wineries and asked for advice from other small winemakers. I knew how difficult it would be.

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? Smaller is almost always better when it comes to quality! Thinking small means that we focus on one varietal, Syrah—we can research, experiment, learn and perfect the growing and vinification of Syrah. We prefer working with mountainside grapes—the steep slopes of mountain vineyards naturally yield small grapes in small quantities but with big flavors—and mountainside vineyards are never large. Working with small lots of wine that are vinified separately, means that we can focus on quality by doing hand punch-downs during fermentation and spend that extra time to ensure optimal flavors.

12. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? In general, the future is bright although marketing and shipping are always issues. Just like the craft brewing movement, I think there is a bright future for small-lot winemakers. Marketing one’s wines amongst the sea of labels is always difficult, and of course ease of shipping is a roller coaster.

13. If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? If I had to work in another wine region, I would probably go a bit cooler and head to the Sonoma Coast. This would offer me insurance against global warming!

For more information about Montemaggiore Wines, please visit their website or follow them on FACEBOOK.

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