Another eagerly awaited seminar from the 2011 HdR was this in-depth look at the Central Coast wines of Joey Tensley (Tensley Wines) and the Sonoma County wines of Morgan Twain-Peterson (Bedrock Wine Co.). Many of the attendees were probably already familiar with Tensley’s wines, but this was a chance to get the seemingly taciturn winemaker talking about his methods. Although Twain-Peterson’s Bedrock wines have been a fairly hot topic on the internet boards of late, this was something of an introduction to his wines. The avatar/icon of both wineries is eerily similar – featuring a grayscale sketch of a vine and its root system.
Joey Tensley began his career in the wine business in 1993. After serving stints as cellar-rat at Fess Parker and assistant winemaker at Babcock, Joey was then hired in 1998 as assistant winemaker at Beckmen Vineyards. It was a fortuitous move, since it introduced him to Beckmen’s speciality – Rhone varietals. Steve Beckmen also offered him space to launch his own label, and Joey began Tensley Wines. Three years later, after growth from 100 cases to 700 cases, he decided to move into his own winery and devote all of his time to his eponymous label.
From the beginning, Joey decided to produce only vineyard-designated Syrahs. He also decided that those Syrahs would all be priced the same and made in the same fashion. He used 30% whole cluster fermentation, three times daily hand punch-downs, and very little or no new oak.
But, never say never, and Tensley finally introduced a white Rhone blend, the Tensley Blanc (65% Grenache Blanc; 35% Roussanne). He also introduced a Grenache-Syrah blend named for his niece. But otherwise, the line-up remains the same: only vineyard-designated Syrahs, made in exactly the same way and all priced the same. Original production of 100 cases has steadily moved up to the current 4,000 cases.
It could easily be said that Morgan Twain-Peterson was literally born into the wine business. In fact, he was born at home in Sonoma, Ca. to parents Joel Peterson and Kate Twain. Largely raised at his father’s Ravenswood Winery, Morgan was obviously exposed to wine and wine tasting from the get-go. In fact, Morgan began making small lots of Pinot Noir when he was 5 years old, from lots given to him by the Sangiacomo family. Yes, implausible as it may seem, he made his first wine at the age of five!
After going off to school as an undergraduate at Vassar and a graduate student at Columbia University, Morgan returned home to Sonoma County in 2005 to work harvest at Ravenswood. Afterward, he spent time as a visiting winemaker at Hardy’s Tintara Winery in McLaren Vale, also spending a few highly educational days with Drew and Rae Noon at Noon Winery. In the fall of 2006, he was a visiting winemaker at Chateau Lynch-Bages in Pauillac.
When not making his own wine, Morgan is a manager of his family’s Bedrock Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, and a part of Sunbreak Vineyard Services L.L.C, a vineyard management company run by Diane Kenworthy and Robert Burney. He has also passed the Master of Wine exam and upon successful completion of the dissertation will become one of less than thirty American M.W.’s – and, probably one of the youngest, too.
Sponsor: Wine Berserkers: On-Line Wine Community: www.wineberserkers.com
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