Get the Dirt about Torch Cellars from winemaker Mark Welch

11 Jan

TorchWinemaker1. What was your first vintage year? 2012 Zinfandel Willow Creek District.

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? 125-250 cases.

3. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? Chardonnay from the famous Bien Nacido Vineyard, 1993 working the crush pad.


4. What varietals do you work with?
Chardonnay, Muscat Blanc, Tempranillo, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Tannat, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel.

5. Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Why? My favorite is Tempranillo. The wines are dark, full of tannins, and surprisingly acidic. When young they are fresh and fruity yet when aged have connotations of tobacco and leather. It’s great for blending. It’s very versatile variety and it ripens early!

6. What vineyards do you source from? Majority of my fruit is sourced from the Willow Creek, El Pomar, and Templeton Gap districts: Midnight Cellars Township Vineyard, Jack Creek, Red Soles, Premier Pacific (Santa Barbara), Pomar Junction, Docé Robles, and French Camp to name a few.

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7. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? 25-35% Torch wine production is new French oak. Primarily, 225L oak barrels and I will use oak bung inserts into neutral barrels when required. I’ve briefly listed below:
• American: Zinfandel
• American/French hybrid: Tempranillo
• French: Chardonnay, Bordeaux, and Burgundy style wines
Oak Tannins add to the bouquet of the wine, this in turn makes the wine softer, well balanced, and more complex.

8. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? The variety of grapes grown and wines that are produced. There is room for the small producer. Mediterranean climate, array of soils and fluctuation of diurnal temperature. Plus. it’s a fun place to live.

TorchBottle9. What’s the story behind your winery name / label? Torch was the nickname given to me by Kenny Volk of Wild Horse Winery in the early 1990’s. I use to have longer blonder hair that reminded him of a flashlight or lighter after being in the sun all day. The “torch” symbol was a gift from my grandmother; she was very talented artist living in Santa Cruz, CA. The original artwork is made of corral, seashell, and coin inlayed and covered with resin and was used as a serving tray when she would entertain guests.

10. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? Fortunately I asked those questions before I got into this.

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 can make wine with-in your means to do so. You can devote more time to manage your business and wine quality or not. You can actually do all the jobs yourself i.e., lab work, racking, filtering, blending etc…Being small is more personable, intimate than a large winery. It’s fun to meet everyone.

12. How do you view the future in the wine industry for small-lot winemakers? I believe many wine enthusiasts are looking for those “diamonds in the rough.” If you are creative and have solid wines you will always have niche. Not all wines are alike. Everyone has a special way they make wines. There is a market for everyone but can everyone market?

13. If you had to choose another wine region to work in what would it be? Santa Barbara and New Zealand.

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