Get the Dirt from Glenna Thompson of Symbiosis Wines

11 Nov

Q. What will you be pouring at The Garagiste Festival?
A. I will be pouring 5 Reds: 2007 Grenache, 2007 Petite Sirah, 2007 Syrah, 2008 Grenache and 2008 Pangaea (crazy blend)..

Q. Tell us something about Symbiosis.
A. Symbiosis Wines is tiny. I do everything from choosing grapes and barrels, to punching down, to labwork, to label and web design, bookkeeping, marketing and sales.  The focus is on handmade, artisan wines made in as ‘green’ a way as possible.  I use recycled paper labels (color = green), source sustainably farmed grapes (would like organic, but they’re proving impossible to find) and whenever possible, gravity rack and pallet jack rather than pumping and forklifting.  Symbiosis uses grapes from both the east and west sides of Paso – what matters is the actual quality, not just the prestige associated with the area. 

Q. How did you get started making wine? What did you do before making wine? Do you still have a “day job”?
A. I was doing a Ph.D. in microbiology when my project got ‘scooped’.  I was going to have to start over after 8 years, and while I was considering what to do, I went wine tasting and thought – ‘I wonder if there’s such a thing as a wine microbiologist, and if I could just be WORKING?’  So, I moved to Paso to take a temporary job in a wine lab, and didn’t go back.  Some of the other careers I’ve had include running an upholstery factory, exhibit development for science museums, doing aquaculture, and ballet/modern dancer.  Wine seemed like the perfect blend of art and science, and I’d already spent a long time keeping living things happy in tanks.  No ‘day job’ – I sincerely hope never to have one of those again.

Q. What kind of wine do you make? Why those varietals? Why are you making wine where you are?
A. I only make reds that I like to drink.  Would love to make a rose’ (the only white I really drink), but don’t have the equipment.  I make wine at Starr Ranch, a small collective of friends, which is why I am there.  Grenache, Tempranillo, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, so far.

Q. What do you hate about making wine?
A. I don’t like getting injured, and winemaking is very physical work that involves heavy equipment. Winemaking equipment seems to have been designed by men who like big heavy loud machines, which if often feel is overkill. 

Q. Besides your own, what is your favorite wine region in the world?
A. Spain/Portugal.

Q. Old World or New World? Would it be as much fun to be a winemaker if you had to abide by the appellation laws of France or Italy?
A. I think all those rules have served a good purpose, and have resulted in identifiable styles and characters.  I’m glad I live in the New World and don’t have to follow them.

Q. What was the most important lesson you learned from your first vintage?
A. I learned that I can make really good wine!

Q. What’s the story behind the name of your winery/label?
A. I had been doing symbiosis research with microbes for quite a few years as a grad student. Early early evolution, chemical cues that allow microbes to communicate, compete for nutrients, establish symbioses.  I love that stuff, and didn’t quite choose to leave – it just  happened that way.  When I was thinking of what I should call myself it was a blank, till it occurred to me that there was really only one choice.  Besides my own history, the notion of differing things working together to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts is what wine IS, how it is made, how grapes are grown, what people are, why we have food with wine. 

Q. Any advice to offer aspiring winemakers?
A. Who am I to give advice?

For more information about Symbiosis Wines, click here.

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