California has been home to many cult wines over the past few decades. Typically a small production label makes a series of great wines, a few -usually connected- wine enthusiasts discover them, word then spreads through the wine community as the financially well endowed lay claim to the membership lists and clamor for the next release, driving up prices in the process. Meanwhile, the producer breathes a sigh of relief knowing that, not only will their next release sell out, but that it will sell for a premium. Napa Valley's Cult Vines, as its name not-at-all-subtly implies, has focused its efforts directly on this sub-sector of the wine market; and there is nothing modest about their strategy. They are choosing the best grapes from the most respected vineyards and endeavoring to make the finest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Roussane/Marsanne possible to sell to cult wine fans with deep pockets. And to their credit, their strategy appears to be working as planned. IntoWine caught up with Cult Vines co-founder Michael Cochran to learn more about his foray into cult winemaking.
What inspired the name Cult Vines?
We were looking to make the best wine money could buy, and wanted to focus in on those cult vineyards, such as Andy Beckstoffer's To Kalon Vineyards, in order to make the best California Cult Wine, hence Cult Vines.
How did your foray into winemaking come about?
By chance. I had just received some stock and option payments from a company that I worked at for 10 years. This company was sold, I was looking for my next great adventure, and then read about Crushpad in Fortune Magazine. I contacted Michael Brill, went out to see the facility and I was sold! Plus, I've always loved great California wines! I called up my sister Laura and said, "do you want to make wine with me"? Without hesitation, she said count me in and off we went!
Cult Vines 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was recently reviewed on IntoWineTV, watch now
Describe your winemaking philosophy:
Do not scrimp, do not rush things and for god's sake, if you are going to wait two years to release a wine, you might as well make something great, LOL!
What are your long-term goals for the brand?
To keep it small and make only fantastic wine. I do not want to sell out and start making wine for the masses, whilst diluting my brand and making mediocre wines in the process!
Why the focus on Roussanne/Marsanne and Cabernet Sauvignon?
I've focused on two wines I love, from vineyards that offer an outstanding product. Again, my goal has not beento offer wines that I can put in a box or offer to some big box chain. So, I focused on wines I love! Anything that isn't sold ends up in my cellar, LOL.
When it comes to winemaking, what's one thing you know now that you wish you had known before you started?
That it is very expensive, LOL! No matter, I'd do it all over again and wouldn't have changed a thing!
A hot topic in wine circles is the "Parkerization" of wines. Some people claim his 100 point scoring system has been an enabling factor for consumers as they navigate the endless array of brands from which they can choose. Others claim his influence has negatively impacted wine quality as producers are increasingly crafting their wines to earn a high score from Parker at the expense of making the best wine they can with the fruit and resources they have available. Given this, what are your thoughts on Parker and the 100 point scoring system?
Parker has done more for wine than almost any other critic, so I think he's great. Gary Vaynerchuk is now the new voice coming into his own. I love listening to both guys and I love trying wines they recommend, but in the end, I go with wines I love, period! Gary happens to love smooth, under stated wines, french wines, etc, and I'm more in line with Parker, since I love bold, over the top California Cabs! That's why wine is so awesome. There's a wine out there for every palet! My motto is listen to everyone and don't listen to anyone, LOL. Try 'em all and see what fits for you!
Lastly, where can your wines be purchased?
Gary Vaynerchuk bought all of our '07 Roussanne, but I'm now offering an '08 Roussanne/Marsannne and an '07 Andy Beckstoffer 100% To Kalon Cab, too. I sell these on my website at www.cultvines.com.