Madison Life and Times Spring 2016 - Page 35

WINE and a required minimum of $100 per bottle. Oliver never paid more than $1,600 a ton before 2013. Five tons of Bien Nacido Pinot Noir grapes cost the winery $22,500 a ton. Oliver has acquired five tons a year for the past three years. The first Pinot, a 2013 vintage, was released last summer. The 2014 Pinot will be released this spring. Now, to understand the wine math: It takes a ton of grapes to produce about 70 cases of wine. Bien Nacido fruit is highly desired by the best California Pinot producers. During my 2014 visit to the area, most wineries with a Bien Nacido Pinot were charging $60 and higher per bottle. Oliver has had a longstanding relationship with the Miller family, who own a large Paso Robles vineyard, French Camp. The Millers purchased Bien Nacido in 1969 with the idea it would be great for agricultural products, including grapes. “We’ve bought fruit from them for probably 10 years,” Oliver said. “We’ve gotten to know them well. It’s been a fun and collaborative effort.” Oliver had bought many of the standard California varietals from the Millers before becoming aware that the Millers own the rock star vineyard, as well. “They’re very protective of it,” Oliver explained. “They’re very concerned that every winery that buys fruit from Bien Nacido creates wine they can be proud of. They have a brand, so selling their fruit is a big deal to them.” Oliver and Dunham have visited the Millers in California, and the vineyard owners have returned the visits. “Over time, as our relationship matured, I think they became confident that we were the kind of winemakers they wanted making wine from Bien Nacido,” Oliver recounted. “They granted us the privilege to buy their grapes.” Many Indiana wineries buy California fruit. Getting the grapes to Indiana requires significant cost, as well. The freshly picked fruit is packed into cardboard boxes with dry ice for a two-day trip to the Hoosier state. “It takes a lot of coordination,” Oliver winemaker Dunham said. “I talk to them about when they’re going to pick. If they’re picking at night (when temperatures are cool), we have a truck there the next morning. It’s amazing if you look at the grapes, other than being in a cardboard box, you wouldn’t know that the fruit didn’t come from our vineyard.” Terroir, that over-used wine word, is what makes the Bien Nacido fruit so special. “When I was in Paso Robles at French Camp visiting, it was 92 degrees,” Dunham said. “When I got back to the guest house at Bien Nacido, it was 62 degrees. Bien Nacido is, like, just over the hill, not very far at all. But it’s a magical place.” Pinot Noir, a thin-skinned grape, thrives in daytime heat and cool nights. Oliver admitted to some trepidation about taking on the challenge. “Pinot … has a r