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Steve McIntyre from Monterey Pacific Growers


Wine maker and farmer, Steve Mcintyre, from Monterey Pacific Growers, speaks with us, Wine of the Month Club, about the day in the life of being a wine farmer.


Paul: Well welcome to the continuing winemaker series here at Wine of the month club. And we have, well he is a winemaker but he's really a farmer and he grows incredible grapes that make some incredible wines. And we are here with Steve McIntyre today. So nice you came in to see us.

Steve: Thank you Paul.

Paul: We have not had what would have been just a pure farmer here.

Steve: Oh really?!

Paul: So this is interesting for us because you started when?

Steve: I started and 83 growing grapes in Carmel Valley at Gulati.

Paul: So is that right out of college that you got this job?

Steve: Yes. My professor got me the job.

Paul: Really? Was it an internship or they paid you?

Steve: No. They actually paid.

Paul: Well, that's pretty good. They paid you what, like six bucks an hour?

Steve: It was about 1100 a month.

Paul: Well, wow! You can retire on that! So what part of town was that?

Steve: That was in Carmel Valley.

Paul: Kind of where you stayed home that way?

Steve: Yeah, exactly. I wasn't sure I was staying in Monterey County but it's home now.

Paul: Is beautiful and it's God's country right?

Steve: Yes.

Paul: So you have now 11,000 acres under your control?

Steve: That we farm, yes. Our parent company Monterey Pacific we are the fifth largest grape grower in the United States.

Paul: Wow! Wine grapes?

Steve: Always wine grapes, all that is in Monterey County

Paul: I am coming up to see you on August… When is the Concours

Steve: Oh yeah, like the 20th this year.

Paul: Yeah, some event so we are going to come see it. So we stop by and say hi…

Steve: Absolutely!

Paul: Taste some grapes?

Steve: The tasting room will be at the crossroads shopping center.

Paul: That's August so there might be some grapes hanging on there.

Steve: Definitely. That will be a little target.

Paul: We could do that. So we have… It looks like you buy it mostly, I see you have a Merlot here, burgundy varietals because that does well there.

Steve: It does. We have the perfect climate. Little did we know…

Paul: Yes.

Steve: …serendipity but…

Paul: Because of the cool nights or because they are finicky grapes

Steve: Yeah, it's really the wind which brings the maritime influence roaring in about noon so we reach our high temperature at noon and by 4 o'clock we are back down in the 60s.

Paul: Really?

Steve: Yeah. So most areas aren't like that .

Paul: Wise that good for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Steve: Good question. So there are two things that are happening during ripening; one is accumulation of sugar and that's rate and time-dependent. Everything else that we are looking for; colors, aromas, all of that kind of material is time-dependent, not rate. So as the temperature goes up, the rate of sugar accumulation goes up over time.

Paul: I see.

Steve: Everything else has taken its sweet time and when you're in a climate that has limited daytime temperature, you allow enough time for everything else to accumulate that you are really looking for because sugar is just alcohol.

Paul: That's right. And so the Pinot Noir particularly everybody says it's such a finicky grape. We have so many Pinot Noirs that have no Pinot Noir character.

Steve: Yeah, true.

Paul: You know that right?

Steve: That's right. We see that.

Paul: Tell us about this Rosé.

Steve: This is 100% Pinot. It's from 40-year-old grapevines. We have the oldest block of Pinot Noir in the islands now that the Talberts have pulled out theirs and we don't know what clone it is, it's unrooted but it's a great shade and it produces some pretty nice wine.

Paul: That's some root, it's pretty aromatic and wonderful Pinot Noir flavors in it. Off camera when I first tasted it, it's got some depth too for a Rosé.

Steve: It does. It suppresses most people.

Paul: Really fun! So you went to Fresno state you said?

Steve: I did!

Paul: So you have much Armenian friends over there?

Steve: I do! Are you in the X club or the…

Paul: The triple X?

Steve: Yeah?

Paul: Yeah. I did not formally belong, went to the golf tournaments, went to the parties all the time, hereto

Steve: I went to their parties.

Paul: Did you really?

Steve: They invited me

Paul: That's so funny.

Steve: Nick

Paul: He is a farmer too do?

Steve: He is one of the knowledgeable authorities on wine grapes in the world. He was Prof. Davis, he now works for

Paul: Well that's amazing!

Steve: He is amazing!

Paul: Was he a Fresno state guy?

Steve: He was. He went up to Davis to get his doctorate.

Paul: Wow! I've got to find who this guy is.

Steve: Nick

Paul: Lots of Armenians in the wine business, they are very few and far in between.

Steve: You'd love this guy!

Paul: And traditionally Armenian guy being a merchant guy he will dry the fruits and sell them. I was impressed with the Chardonnay because, and you brought it out earlier, it tastes like the grape… So many Chardonnays is got are just too roped or they are too bright, this is a wonderful balance.

Steve: Yeah. We don't let the processing get carried away. I mean, we are blessed in terms of our winemaking so it is about pure flavor. I had a professor at Present State, Vince Petrucci and he used to say, "You've got to leave a little grip in there." And I stuck to the advice.

Paul: This really… And we have tasted obviously tons of wine here, one of the most expressive Chardonnays we have seen in a long time.

Steve: Thank you.

Paul: I love the balance. Is American Oak, French Oak?

Steve: French Oak, entirely but we have only been in there very long, five months max, 40% new each year.

Paul: I think this, now I have some very picky friends, particularly with the Chardonnay and am going to bring some of this in because they will be impressed.

Steve: Thank you!

Paul: And they are going to ask me where I got it.

Steve: Yeah! Make them work for it.

Paul: Exactly! So the first Pinot we are tasting is 2012 Highlands and that is…

Steve: Thank you.

Paul: Is this colonial you're looking at or is this the blocks?

Steve: A blend of two different vineyards that I farm in the highlands; Gold Road., Vineyard and my own vineyard.

Paul: Since you are a farmer and you are not making a lot of wine, how many cases of the total production…

Steve: 456 cases we made of this particular wine.

Paul: Oh man that's great! The nose! These are wines you want to keep smelling.

Steve: Yeah, that's aromatic.

Paul: It's really great! And the finish, especially for a Pinot Noir it keeps going, I keep tasting it, I want to taste it again. I asked the question; you have 11,000 acres under vines so to speak, you have to visit it. I mean what do you visit? What do you do? You can't walk on 11,000 acres but you find parts of it? What's your…?

Steve: Well it's all about… farming grapes is all about uniformity and timing. As winemakers and grape growers, we are nothing more than glorified babysitters. We know when the kid might be drowning in the pool but we have got sixth sense. We know what the timing should be to do certain things and experience which we all gain as we get older, is this filter that we process information through. As we get older, that filter gets bigger and so what goes into the filter, what comes out should be more distilled and it's a little easier.

Paul: Right.

Steve: So I delegate things I was good at and I try and learn more and get better at things I am not and then kind of like that drift down the team if you would.

Paul: So if you walk out to the Vineyard and you see may be a leaf or two in the canopy that's not coming in right or you see something that might alarm you, your experience is going to show kind of what this is or sometimes you say, " Gee, I've got to figure out what this is."

Steve: Right. It could be something like, "Well, I'm not going to worry about that." It's not a beauty contest; fine winemaking, grape growing. By the time we harvest it people come out and go, "That's ugly!"

Paul: That's like the fish I saw, the Sunset magazine thing.

Steve: "It's been there a month ago, why didn't you pick it?!"

Paul: That's very interesting. This is the next… Is this the next level up in the line?

Steve: It is. This is actually our top-level. These are areas within the Vineyard, we call them our block wines that are small but very, very uniformed, that's what I talked about, the uniformity. And we go in and we thin them to one cluster pursuit, minimally make the wines like we do all of our and everything and wine making. And we sort the barrels and we find three or four top barrels to become or reserve. So it's a process of elimination.

Paul: So expressive, it's a little softer than the Pinot Noir, And it's got the fruit characters, completely different.

Steve: Yeah, it is. It's a little more refined, it's going to take long. We just released this...

Paul: It is really well, it tastes pretty soft.

Steve: Yeah, to open up and it has more of everything, it's very concentrated.

Paul: That would be really fun to watch.

Steve: Yeah, that's something to age.

Paul: Right, well we are going to put this in the cellar. And blow away my wine geek friends that come in there. Those are my favorite things to do.

Steve: Oh yeah, me too.

Paul: Total dorks. Now we talked about Smith and Hoke and I said Philip Hahn is coming in tomorrow to talk to us on camera as you are today and it turns out that you worked with him.

Steve: I did for nine years. His father, Nicky, he and I are partners in a small venture and I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Bordeaux Varietals and I said, "We've got to be able to grow a decent Merlot without having it tasting like asparagus. Of course Hahn gave that up. They buy Charddonnay and Merlot and they don't grow it anymore.

Paul: I will say we've featured Smith and Hoke wine and I think it was the Merlot but it was, because I'm talking about the vintage and the 80's of some sort like 84, 83 or something.

Steve: I was there.

Paul: Were you? It was a great wine. I remember it. And surprisingly as I look at the color of this wine from one area that you would not suspect a Bordeaux Varietal from and it has actually changed since it's been in this glass as we open it.

Steve: It's from an area that's out of the wind. And so the daytime temperatures are maximum reaches at about 4 PM. Nighttime temperatures are little bit lower so you get more of a dihedral shift that really favors Bordeaux Varietals.

Paul: It's great!

Steve: Thank you.

Paul: It's really fun. You've succeeded in your attempt to make sure Merlot stays in that part of town.

Steve: exactly!

Paul: When it was a real pleasure having you here today.

Steve: Absolutely Paul!

Paul: Thank you for sharing with us here your farming experience and say hi to my Armenian brothers when you visit them next.

Steve: Sure I will, thank you for having me.

Paul: Cheers!