Six Questions With...

Six Questions with... Tim Knappstein September 08 2015

With a family history in winemaking going back to 1895, Tim became a third generation vigneron when he started his career in the family company, Stanley Wines, in the early 1960s. He made his first wine in 1966 and over the years became one of the most awarded winemakers. In 1976 after the selling of the family company, he started Tim Knappstein Wines, innovating and pioneering winemaking - introducing Fume Blanc and becoming a Clare Valley legend.

He sold all of the Clare interests in the mid 1990s, and in 2006, after getting a tad miffed that he was unable to use his own name on his wines, he launched Riposte with his wife, Dale, and son Nick. The concept is to produce outstanding wine from Adelaide Hills, and their Pinot Noirs are some of the best in Australia.

If you weren't a winemaker, what job would you do? Formula One driver

Describe yourself in three words. Innovative, meticulous, adventurous

Aside from your own wines, what do you drink at home? Hunter valley Semillon, cool climate Shiraz, Clare Valley Riesling and a Gin & Tonic at 6pm.

What is the best, and worst, wine you have ever made? Worst was an Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc that was horribly green. The best, I haven't made it yet.

What is your most prized posession? A 1969 Datsun 240Z Rally Car.

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be your ideal dining companions and what would you be drinking? Niki Lauda, Winston Churchill and Napoleon. We'd be drinking 2002 Arras Ed Carr, 2005 Tyrrell's VAT 69 Semillon, 2006 Peter Lehman Wigan Riesling, 2010 Riposte 'The Sabre' Pinot Noir, 2009 Shaw & Smith Shiraz, 2010 Wynns Alex 88 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 DeBortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon and we might need a Cognac for Winston!

Click here to see Tim's Wines

Six Questions with.... Michael Kerrigan September 08 2015

Michael Kerrigan realised a dream of buying some coveted vineyards in the Willyabrup Valley in Margaret river, and founded Hayshed Hill.  Kerrigan made his name at Madfish and Howard Park, but at Hayshed Hill he wanted to make a style of wine that he wanted to make.

Launched in 2006, he is still getting to know his vineyards and looking after its old vines. High scoring from the likes of James Halliday, the company is named after the century old hay shed that has stood on the property from when it was a dairy farm.  The Pitchfork range are entry level wines that are really wonderful value for money, and the winery named wines add complexity and even more finesse that Margaret River is well known for.  Michael is involved with the Nick Stacy's Vinaceous project... basically, he never stops but did to answer six questions...

If you weren't a winemaker, what job would you do?

Notwithstanding the small difficulty of a complete lack of talent, I'd be a fiction novelist and play cricket for Australia in my spare time.

Describe yourself in three words

Un-cool, passionate, stubborn

Aside from your own wines, what do you drink at home?

Hunter Valley Semillon, love it.... steely, mineral and just a great drink.

What is the best, and worst, wines you have ever made?

The best - A few very elegant yet powerful Cabernet Sauvignons over the years, wines from truly old vine Margaret River vines, wines that would stand up in any company from anywhere in the world. And worst - definitely some totally unlovable Margaret River Pinot Noir, the wrong grape in the wrong vineyard in the wrong region.

What is your most prized possession

My hand carved Chinese chess set, the scene of many battles with my teenage son.

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be your ideal dinner party guests and what would you be drinking?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he would probably want Mezcal, Liv Tyler (wearing the elf ears from Lord of the Rings), she would drink light white wine, Emma Watson (because she is Hermione Granger... enough said) and although she seems a bit sober, she might indulge in a Champagne. I would drink a great German Riesling. Bloody Marquez would make off with the girls...

Click here to see Michael's wines

Six Questions with... Yann Chave, owner and winemaker of Domaine Yann Chave January 17 2015

After completing his studies and compulsory military service, Yann Chave joined his parents domaine in 1996 and refocused the production to one of quality, rather than quantity.  Making all 20 hectares biodynamic, and producing Crozes Hermitage and Hermitage, this Rhone producer is one of the greats in his field.  We asked him six questions....

If you weren't a winemaker, what job would you do 

I don't know, I like my job.... maybe a soldier.

Describe yourself in three words

Honest, fidelity and pub!

An often asked question is 'what is the best wine you have ever made', so what is the worst?

The best was 2004 (it isn't the best, but the one I'm most proud of) and the worst was 2002.

Aside from your own wines, what do you drink at home?

I try to not drink my own wines at home, I love Volnay, and Beaujolais - often French wines, but not powerful ones.

What is your most prized moment?

I am a rugby coach, and when my son's team won the French Rugby Championship in 2012.

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be guests at your dream dinner party.

Winston Churchill, Johnny Wilkinson and Hadrian.

Click here to see Yann's wines


Six Questions with... Peter Franus, all round nice chap and really talented winemaker January 17 2015

Despite starting off with a degree in journalism, Peter Franus, from Connecticut, was drawn from his possible career as a scribe to the enology and viticulture program at Cal State Fresno in 1978.  Inspired by his time working for Mount Veeder Winery, he launched his first wine, a Zinfandel, in 1987.  Buying grapes from the best growers, Franus and his assistant winemaker Jeff Keene, make outstanding wines, of which I think the Mourvedre is a must try.  We asked him six questions...

What would you do if you weren't in the wine trade?
So many possibilities that I haven't a clue

Aside from your own wines, what do you like drinking on a regular basis?
Aromatic white wines

What is the best, and worst, wine you have ever made?
It is impossible to answer!

Describe yourself in three words
Engaging, Elusive, Romantic

What is the best wine you have ever tried?
I haven't had it yet

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be your dream dinner party guests.
Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Vonnegut, Sir Patrick Stewart

Click here to see Peter's wines

Six Questions with... Dirk Niepoort, owner and winemaker of Niepoort January 17 2015

Since the formal retirement of his father in 2005, Dirk Niepoort has run the family's wine business that he joined in 1987. Dirk, with his sister Verena, are the fifth generation of this Dutch family that produce, not only some of the finest ports - try their 20 year old Tawny, it is the best I have ever tried - but some benchmark Douro wines as well. We asked him six questions...

What would you do if you hadn't joined your family company in the wine trade?

I would start working in a restaurant cleaning dishes……and would by now own my restaurant

What is the best wine you have ever made and what is the worst?

The best I believe is the vintage 2005. The worst……probably a few that were never bottled..

Describe yourself in three words.

Stubborn, naive, in love with good wine

Aside from Portugal, what countries wines do you like drinking on a regular basis? Burgundy, Burgundy, Burgundy, Rhone, Riesling from Germany, Riesling from Austria ………….

What is your most prized possession?

My health and a fantastic family

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would make your ideal dinner party guests, and what would you be drinking?

Nina, Luis, and I leave a third person open because there would be too many to choose from. In fact the ideal number would be 6 people. (he would be drinking) 1964 Krug, 1990 Chablis from Raveneau, 1995 Meursault Coche Dury, 1990 Cote Rotie Jamet, 1991 DRC La Tache, 1948 Taylors Vintage Port & 1975 Fritz Haag Auslese Goldkapsel.

(Originally posted on The Tasting Note, 2010)

Six Questions with... Rob Dolan, Aussie Rules Football legend and owner/winemaker at Rob Dolan Wines January 17 2015

Making wine in the Yarra Valley for over 20 years has made Rob Dolan one of the great characters of the region, and is one of the people who has influenced what the Yarra Valley has become.  In 2012 he released the first wines to bare his name, a range that we love, and we wanted to know a bit more about this very very good winemaker.  We asked him six questions....

If you weren't a winemaker, what job would you like to do?

Own a large undercover car park next to the airport - you can't get out without paying!  Or a pro golfer.

Describe yourself in three words.

Glass half full

An often asked question is 'what is the best wine you have ever made?', so what is the worst you have ever made?

A 1987 Grenache when I was working in Hunter Valley in New South Wales

Aside from your own wines, what do you drink at home?

Orange Juice or Chablis

What is you most prized possession?

My three kids - Tess, Ben & Max

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be guests at your ideal dinner party and what would you be drinkIng?

Audrey Hepburn, Tom Hanks & The Goodies and we'd be drinking Yarra Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Click here to see Rob's wines


Six Questions with... Angelo Gaja, Piedmontese legend January 17 2015

Angelo Gaja is a living legend!  The current owner and president of his family company, Gaja is credited with revolutionising Italian winemaking and is known as "the man who dragged Piedmont into the modern world"! 

Born in 1940, he started working for the company at the age of 21.  He immediately got to work, experimenting with green harvesting in his first year, single vineyard production half a dozen years later and introducing malolactic fermentation in the 1970s.  He planted Cabernet Sauvignon as he reasoned that Italy would only be taken seriously internationally if they produced world class Cabernet.  His attention to detail has made Gaja one of the most highly acclaimed Italian wines and their Barbaresco is one of the world's truly great wines.

Now in his seventies, he has handed over the routine running of the company to his daughters, but still works full days. I asked him six questions...

Describe yourself in three words.

A wine artisan

What is the best, and worst, wine you have ever made?

A wine quality depends in a large part on the vintage's weather conditions.  If they are awful, like in Piedmont in 1960, 1972, 1980 and 1992, it would be very difficult to produce a good quality wine.  If they are perfect, such as 1961, 1978, 1989, 1997 and 2004, then there is the possibility to produce a wine of great elegance.  The elegant wines are those which are best at matching with food and making your table guests happy.  

If you weren't in the wine trade, is there any other job you would like to do?

I would have been a photographer, to catch the reality which is surrounding us, to focus on only one aspect of it through the lens.

What is your first memory of drinking wine?

I was told that when I was six years old, I drunk a drop of Barbaresco and I was disgusted.  I was expecting a sweet and creamy taste, instead dry and austere.  I improved a lot with age!

What is your favourite book?

I do not own a TV and purchase ten daily newspapers to read the articles of the journalists which I follow - spread throughout 10 to 12 hours of work each day.  Only during the short holiday periods I have do I get to read, I usually choose from the classics, not looking at the top ten bestsellers list.

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be guests at your dream dinner party and what would you be drinking?

Winston Churchill for the pleasure of smelling his cigar's perfume at the end of the meal.  Mahatma Gandi to suggest he enjoy the Gaja Barbaresco as a way of returning after his long fasts.  Finally, I would pick a poor unknown man, taken randomly from the street to see how it feels to him.  

We'd drink Dolcetto d'Alba, Barbaresco and Barolo (all served at 14-15°C), a Moscato d'Asti (at a cooler temperature) combined with authentic, old fashioned, seasonal food without a waiter near to reveal the mystery of how it is made or what the ingredients are. 

Click here to see Angelo's wines

Six Questions with... Jarno Trulli, Racing driver & vineyard owner January 17 2015

The Monaco Grand Prix is magical.  Two dozen Formula 1 cars dancing around the streets of Monte Carlo, millimetres away from metal guardrails that are just waiting to take off your wheel if you hit them.  It takes a special skill to win at Monaco, a 110% effort for the entire race, never making a mistake.  Senna won there, as has Schumacher, Fangio and Stewart, and in 2004, Jarno Trulli joined the list of those famous names that conquered the principality’s race, by dominating the Grand Prix and cementing his name in the history of the sport.

The biography on Jarno Trulli’s webite states the he “admits he is not a 'typical Italian'.  He arrives early for appointments, does not care for football… and even has a Finnish name”.  But this former Formula One driver, driving in the new Formula E series, has one passion that makes him a true Italian.  He loves wine!

Jarno Trulli is one of five partners in Podere Castorani, a winery in his native Abruzzo.  Resisting all urges to ask him about motor racing, I asked him six questions…

Who or what got you interested in wine?

 Wine has always been a passion of mine and has been in my family for generations and both my father and grand father made wine. So in 2000  my father, manager and I decided to invest in a winery in my native region of Abruzzo in a place called Alanno, 20 minutes from Pescara where I was born.

Our castle is on top of the propriety and from there we have a beautiful view of the region with the sea on one side and the mountains on the other.  When I am home between races I love to ride my bicycle from my house to the winery and back. I spend most of my free time working with Lucio Cavuto my Formula One manager and partner in the winery on the development of new wines and the expansion and promotion of our winery.  I am very fortunate to be travelling the world and use the time in other countries to talk about my wines and have as many people as possible interested in my wines.

Outside of Abruzzo, what are your favourite wine regions?

This is a difficult question because I love wines from Italy and with the winery and my winemaker, we have worked hard to produce wines from other regions outside of Abruzzo.  I produce wines from Piemonte, Puglia and Sicily. I like the richness of the different soils and climates and what it brings to wines and I love the stories behind the regions of my country.

What is the best wine you have ever drunk, when and where did you drink it?

My favourite wine is not specifically from one producer. I am an Amarone fan and when I started the winery my winemaker was always making me try different wines and I liked them but nothing resembled Amarone.  One day he asked me what I would like and I said I like Amarone and this is when we started producing the wine you now know as Jarno.  It is made with 100% Montepulciano d’Abruzzo but made Amarone style with the drying of the grapes. Being in Formula one I was fortunate to be able to use the School of La Tuscia of Viterbo and engineers from Toyota and we developed a special room to dry the grapes with humidity control and avoid any boytritis. When the first vintage was produced we had no idea how to name the wine.  My friends all said we should call it Jarno since it was made to please my taste.

What is next for Podere Castorani?

Podere Castorani is a young winery and we are still everyday trying to make better wines and expand to meet our markets demands. We have yet to finish building the offices and restoring the castle that dates back to 1793.  We recently finished building the winery all underground. We have been producing our local wines all certified organic and the winery is also certified organic.  We try to improve on every level and with wine it comes over time and patience and respect of the land.

Will you retire to the vineyards after racing?

I have a few more years of racing in me before I retire but the winery is definitely the place I will continue spending a lot of time devoted to continuing the dream and passion my father, manager and I have worked so hard over the last 10 years.

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be guests at your dream dinner party, and what would you be drinking?

They would be my wife Barbara and my two sons Enzo and Marco.  The wine is easy Jarno for me and Barbara and mineral water for the boys.

Six Questions with... Robert Parker, the world's most influential wine critic January 17 2015

How do you introduce the most influential wine critic of all time?  Well, I suppose like that really.  But for those of you who don't know, Robert M Parker is the most influential wine critic of all time.  Period!  Since the mid 1970s, his opinions on wine in general, and Bordeaux specifically, have not only aided people from all over the world in choosing what wine to buy, but have influenced the pricing and styles of wine made by producers who know that a good score from Parker will do wonders for their bottom line.  He tries over 5000 wines every year, down from a peak of over double that.  I emailed him through his website, thinking that I would get an email saying that he was too busy - this being Bordeaux En Primeur season and all.

Not only did I get a reply, I got extensive answers and a very pleasant end to the email, where he thanked me for giving him a few days to answer my questions!

Ever wondered what music Robert Parker likes, well we now know as I asked him six questions...

What is your most prized possession? 

Assuming you are talking about some tangible/material item and aside from some bottles of wine from my birth year and wedding year, I would say it is the Medal of the Legion of Honor that was personally pinned on my lapel by France’s President Jacques Chirac in 1999.

What is your favorite book and why? 

Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, which I have read twice over the years, remains my favorite book. I believe she saw the dangers of collectivism, group lynch mob mentality, and the blind following of charismatic and often dangerous people.

Describe yourself in three words. 

Optimistic, fun, transparent

What sort of music do you like listening to? 

With the exception of rap, I listen to lots of different styles of music, but I tend to have a preference for songs with a message. Obviously the great Bob Dylan music from the sixties still resonates with me today, but I love the sound coming out of West Texas from songwriters and musicians such as Danny Schmidt, Gurf Morlix, and the relatively well-known songstress Lucinda Williams.

Do you have any hidden talents? 

I am actually a fairly skilled chef and I know almost as much about many of the world’s cuisines as I do about the world’s wines.

Three people real or fictional, living or dead, that would be guests at a dream dinner party and what would you be drinking?

1) Winston Churchill; 2) Jeremy Brett (the British actor famous for his role as Sherlock Holmes); 3) John F. Kennedy.  As far as wines, I would probably use a great vintage of Dom Pérignon Champagne to cut any tension among the group, followed by several of California’s finest Chardonnays, such as Marcassin or Aubert, and then a combination of a series of mature 20-25-year old red Bordeaux followed by some 5-10-year old Grenache-based wines from Châteauneuf du Pape or from such California wineries as Saxum, Alban or Sine Qua Non.

As far as after dinner, I generally do not like or drink much Cognac, but I would offer the finest  Cognac I have ever drunk, the Lot 29 Tesseron Cognac, which is supposed to be an unblended, unmanipulated, undiluted, pure Cognac from stocks of the Tesseron family all from 1929.

Six Questions with... Maximilian Riedel, glassmaker January 17 2015

There are many glass manufacturers in the world, but one stands out form all the others, and that company is Riedel.  This family company has been a manufacturer of luxury glass goods since Johann Christoph Riedel went all over Europe, trading in glass but it was Claus Josef Riedel, the ninth generation, discovered that wine tasted differently depending what sort of glass it was in.
Taking the company into the future is the 11th generation.  Joining the company at the age of 20, Maximilian Riedel has expanded the company into new markets, conceived the Restaurant series of glassware for the on trade, and the informal 'O' series of stemless wine glasses, that became the fastest selling series in Riedel's history.  Now CEO of Riedel Crystal of America, I asked him six questions.

Describe yourself in three words.
Particular, detail-oriented and creative
If you were not in the wine glass trade, what would you like to do for a living?
I would like to be a wine-maker
What is the greatest wine you have ever tried?
Any wine shared with my family
When you are at home, what wines do you like to drink on a regular basis?
Champagne and Pinot Noir, both chilled, and both from the same glass.
What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced?
I have yet to find it!
Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be guests at your dream dinner party, and what would you be drinking?
Mozart, Michael Schumacher and Gianni Versace.  We would start with 2007 Emmerich Knoll Gruner Veltliner, followed by some Krug Champagne, Romanee-Conti Pinot Noir, Kistler Chardonnay and ending with a Chateay d'Yquem from the 19th century.

Six Questions with... Paul Draper, CEO & winemaker of Ridge Vineyards January 17 2015

Paul Draper (second from right)

Paul Draper (second from right), CEO and winemaker at Ridge Vineyards, is an American icon. His wines are considered by many to be some of the best America has to offer with Jancis Robinson being just one of his legions of fans. He went to Ridge in 1969 and became a co-owner half a decade later, and there he remains to this day, despite the company being bought out in 1986. In fact one of the conditions of the sale was that Draper stay on to make the wine!

But as usual, we want to take a look at Paul Draper's personal wine passion. We asked him six questions...

What do you like to drink on a regular basis?

At home, small producer champagne. Current vintages of Monte Bello Chardonnay and Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Chardonnay, Geyserville and Lytton Springs Zinfandels. Less often at home, Piedmont wines made in the traditional style. Fifteen to twenty-five year old Monte Bello, Old Bordeaux (occasionally too old).

When dining out I never drink my own wines if at all possible, but rather I typically try Spanish reds, Rhones, Austrian Rieslings and many others.

If you weren’t a winemaker, what job would you like to do?

Early on I worked in foreign affairs and enjoyed it very much. I like to teach but at age thirty-three I found my life’s work in winegrowing and can’t imagine anything I would enjoy more. Each year I am in some way a beginner all over again, despite my experience.

What is your most prized possession?

Being alive.

An often asked question is “what is the best wine you have ever made”, so what is the worst wine you have ever made?

A wine that Dave Bennion and I made in 1969 called Tawny Rose. It was oxidized and tasted like a strange version of vermouth.

Describe yourself in three words.

Warm, Garrulous, Obsessed.

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would make your ideal dinner party guests, and what would you be drinking?

Ales Kristancic, Samuel Johnson and Fielding’s Tom Jones. We would be drinking 1864 Lafite from the Queen Mother’s Castle in Scotland when the wine was 100 years old and in its prime.

Six Questions with... Kevin Judd, owner & winemaker of Greywacke Wines January 17 2015

Try and write any article about Kevin Judd and not mention his former employer.  It isn't easy, as he was one of the winemakers who defined New Zealand wine, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, and made the style it is today.  If it wasn't for people like Judd, we may still be offered Kiwi Muller Thurgau, Pinotage or other such dire grape.

Judd's company has gone from strength to strength, making the wines at the Dog Point winery, all the wines he makes are of the highest quality and have a delicacy and finesse that those of his former employer now lack.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

David Hohnen and Mick Rock

Is there any job you would have liked to have done if you weren't a winemaker?

Photographer for Victoria's Secret

If you could make wine anywhere outside of New Zealand, where would it be?


What do you like drinking aside from your own wines?

Coopers Beer

What would you like to be remembered for?

Being an integral part of the establishment of the modern Kiwi wine industry and capturing its beauty on film.

Name three people, real or fictional, living or dead, that would be the guests at your dream dinner party?

Ansel Adams, Bob Carlos Clarke and Jeanloup Sieff

Click here to see Kevin's wines


Six Questions With... Jewel Staite, actress and gastronomic blogger January 17 2015

Canadian actress Jewel Staite is best known for her roles in Sci-Fi television series including Firefly and Stargate Atlantis.  She writes a blog called Happy Opu where she describes her gastronomic journey.

5 Questions With... Dan Aykroyd of Crystal Head Vodka & The Blues Brothers! January 17 2015

One of America's most famous comedians, Dan Aykroyd made is name in Saturday Night Live, and then went on to write, act in or direct some of the highest grossing films of the 1980s, including, of course, Ghostbusters.  He has his own vineyard and the Crystal Head Vodka company.