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The Freewheel line with a couple of English friends.

It takes a lot of beer to keep the wine business running smoothly. Here in Redwood City, we are very fortunate to have a great English style ale producer right in our backyard: Freewheel Brewing Company. The staff of K&L are fictures at our local pub, and it is a rare moment when one of us isn't there having a pint and a bite of their excellent food. We are also lucky enough to be the first place to offer their bottled beer for sale. If you have never had it, the Freewheel Brewing "FSB" Freewheel Special Bitter, California (500ml) is the benchmark in fresh, balanced, smashable ale. We will do our best to keep some in stock for you, the customer too!

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Winemaker Interview: Rodolphe "Rudi" de Pins


Name: Rodolphe de Pins (known as Rudi in US, Australia, and abroad)

Winery: Château de Montfaucon, Rhône Valley

Number of years in business: My first experience in winemaking was in 1991 at Vieux Télégraphe, then Henschke in Australia in 1992, and others in France 'til 1995, the year that I rebuilt Montfaucon. So to resume, 4 years to learn and practice my winemaking skills and now this is my 14th year at Montfaucon. So in total 18 years already! Time flies...

How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?

This is a quite complex question, because the philosophy of my work is linked to my personal experiences and thinking. Wine to me is not just a simple beverage, but has a very important historical and cultural aspect in addition to the viticulture's influence in the local civilisations. My view of winemaking is influenced by my experiences around the world to understand and respect the diversity, the difficulties and the different approaches to vinegrowing. And all of this is always linked to the local culture of food and beverage and social life. In my case, my winemaking philosophy tries to integrate the region, Rhône, with respect to its long wine history; I am attached to the over 2,000 years of wine history in this region. Over that time there has been a natural selection of the different grapes that are specific to this area and express this terroir best. This is what I want to continue. The influence of the climate and the soil I have, and the way to grow the vineyard the most organic way to have the best and purest fruit possible. As I have good fruit from the vineyard, the winemaking will be done with respect and to express the best of it combined with my personal taste and idea of the Rhône wines today. I also consider that wine is a beverage that should be refreshing but also match well with food, and bring you some pleasure and happiness. I like the wine to be balanced and have harmony and I look for elegance and finesse in my wines. I fight against over-extraction, over-maturation of flavors (very jammy). And the same with wood, over-oaked is not my taste because it generally kills the fruit's flavours that are naturally in the wine that come from the natural grapes. In essence, I try to express the natural potential of the fruit of my vineyard combined with my own personal taste and conception of wine. I am sorry but as you may understand we can talk for hours on this subject because it's a passion and has driven a lot from my travels and experienced in life.

What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?

I think that in the beginning I was influenced by all the wines I could taste in the world (!) as I was interested in understanding the relation between the different area, the vineyard, the climate and the local cuisine that generally match well with the natural production from the area. And what is interesting is to learn how the wine is linked to the social life and manners of each region. It means that I have a lot of respect for any wine in the world as long as the vineyards are well integrated in the landscape and produce nice delicious wines that match well with the local food and cuisine. As I like all styles of wine, I am very open and can appreciate wines from all over the world as long as it is well-made and doesn't betray or try to hide its natural local characteristics. In general I'm very attached to a vineyard where you have the historical and cultural dimension. Sometimes, time helps to understand the vineyards and go further in the winemaking. Winemakers who have understood this and are able to express their region, terroir, in their wine have my respect and inspire me to learn more. More concretely I have been influenced by the wineries where I have worked and others where I have had the chance to visit often and have a true exchange with the vigneron: Daniel et Frederique Brunier, Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape,Stephen and Prue Henschke, Keyneton South Australia, Jacques Reynaud, Château Rayas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and lots of visits to vignerons in the Rhône Valley (South and North). Also a very important influence comes from Burgundy, as I love the wines for their finesse and the region. I have been around quite a lot with some producers from Givrey, as Jean Marc Joblot (to understand the barrel work), François Lump... and many others visits in this area.

How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?

To be honest, I don't prune anymore, but I'm very involved in the grape growing. I make all decisions about the growing and the vineyard, as I think that the only way to make good wine is to ensure the quality of the fruit. So all the decisions are made in this way and taking in account the respect of environment and the beauty of landscape. Vineyards are also a part of scenery and it has to be beautiful, because often beautiful is good... This is very hedonist thinking, I believe. For example I am very attached to my 90-year-old goblet pruned vineyard (bushvines in Australia), even if it is not economic as you can't do any work mechanically. But all those old goblets are so beautiful! And give such good fruit! I don't want them to disappear. With them you are obliged to work by hand and that ensures the best quality of fruit. I hope I can value my wines well and keep this way of working; it's good for the vines, for the vineyards, for the landscape, for the scenery and for the wines... so all good!

How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that's influenced your wines?

My palate has definitely evolved towards more finesse and elegance. And I think that a good wine is definitely a wine that is a pleasure to drink. For me a good criteria is an empty bottle. Compared to those big, over-extracted and over-oaked wines that are definitely complex but quite difficult to drink. After two glasses you have enough. This has a big influence in my winemaking, as I wish to make wines that are a pleasure to drink and don't just saturate the palate. So I will look for balance and harmony, concentration but not over-extraction and more elegance and finesse. I will also look for purity in the fruit, and the true expression from our vineyards.

What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?

Whites : Grilled fish or in sauce, scallops, lobster, crabs, Bouillabaisse and even some fresh goat cheese). Reds: They are quite easy to match with poultry, duck (magret de canard), but I also like meat like lamb (roasted), beef and even game for the Baron Louis.

What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?

Yes, we have "a new baby" coming soon! This new wine is a result of a philosophical and historical reflexion (and hedonism, I should add) about winemaking. I have attached an information sheet about this wine... Vin de Mr le Baron de Montfaucon. I really love it and I hope you have a chance to taste soon!

Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?

I will say that referring to my natural approach the "over-too-much" not natural wines do not get my understanding. When you want to make super good wine, but you force everything, you lose the balance and the purity.

What do you drink when you are not drinking your own wine?

I'm often drinking others wines; it is important for the palate. From everywhere, other regions of France, Europe and New World! I just regret not to live close to a K&L shop as you have an incredible selection! Living in France is sometimes hard for finding wines from other countries. Luckily I have the chance to travel a bit and that way I find more wines. I also get together with some other winemakers from time to time and during those evenings everyone brings fantastic bottles from their cellars. Tasting and sharing opinions and ideas with others is always important and interesting.

Do you collect wine? If so, what's in your cellar?

Of course I have wines from the Rhône (North and South), but also other regions like Burgundy, though, unfortunately, not a lot of Bordeaux as they are too expensive. I also have quite bit of wine from elsewhere, like Italy, Spain, Austria, Australia, US. The problem for me is to find them. Again, I think K&L should definitely open a shop in Avignon! This is a serious suggestion for Clyde....

What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?

For some regions it is the lack of water resources and the global warming problem. For small producers it is not to be forgotten or lost in the sea of all the offerings there are nowadays! It is tough to exist on the side of "the big players" (company) that have an industrial approach to winemaking and marketing and advertising budgets that follow. They also can be very powerful in their distribution leaving little space to artisan vignerons. I think the sun should rise for everybody, and I like diversity and plurality. Drinking the same wine everyday would be so boring... There are so many different wines and always an occasion for all of them. We need to maintain this heritage of biodiversity. We need to fight against the standardization of the common good taste!!!

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