Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk | AspenTimes.com

Kelly J. Hayes: WineInk

Kelly J. Hayes
Aspen Times Weekly

In a valley full of educated and passionate wine folk, Steve Humble stands tall. As director of wine for Basalt’s Roaring Fork Club he has built, from scratch, one of the most impressive wine programs at any resort in the country.

And this past Monday he proudly poured the first offering from a new venture called 32 Winds, a name that will surely receive frequent and fawning mention in the national wine press as 2009 unfolds. Steve poured the 2006 bottlings of 32 Winds Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, all of which were made by the talented and precocious winemaker Ehren Jordan.

The new company, 32 Winds Wine LLC, was created by Jim Chaffin, Jim Light and David Wilhelm, partners in the Roaring Fork Club and Sonoma County’s Mayacama Club. All three have an appreciation for fine wines, so they turned to Steve for advice on how best to create a wine label that they could offer to members of their clubs and, ultimately, the general public.

Steve, who is CEO of 32 Winds Wine, knew that, more often than not, people pour more money than sense into these kinds of projects. Frequently you will find well-endowed novices purchasing questionable vineyards, throwing cash at consultants who have long resumes and too little time to devote to day-to-day operations, and building wineries that are more testaments to themselves than functioning facilities for winemaking.

Rather than create a large splash and then drown in potential losses, Steve decided to find the best winemaker he could, buy the best fruit available and make small batches of quality wine at someone else’s winery. He knew exactly where to turn.

In the winter of 1989, just 20 years ago, Ehren Jordan was buying wine for Il Poggio in Snowmass Village. He got bit by the wine bug and headed out to the Napa Valley where he took a job as tour guide at the Joseph Phelps Winery.

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Soon, he began making wine and left to work, first for Neyers and then Turley. Eventually he started his own label, Failla. This year, less than two decades after this ex-ski bum wine buyer decided to actually make wine, he was named the 2008 Winemaker of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle. To top it off, his own wine, the 2006 Failla Phoenix Ranch Syrah was named the wine of the year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

It turns out that Steve and Ehren have been friends for years, so it was not only with great business acumen but also with an eye toward working with a buddy that Steve called Ehren and asked if he was interested in taking on a new project. As his relationship with Neyers was coming to a happy conclusion, the time was right and Ehren signed on.

The goal of 32 Winds Wines was to make great California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in a Burgundian style, elegant, well rounded and very food-friendly. They also wanted to make a Cabernet Sauvignon that was emblematic of Napa, where Ehren’s winery is based on the Silverado Trail at the valley’s north end.

Ehren owns land on the Sonoma Coast, which is currently home to many of the hottest Chardonnay vineyards in the world, largely because of the region’s climate. He sourced the Chardonnay from prominent vineyards in the area and the Pinot Noir from nearby vineyards. The Cabernet hails from the Diamond Mountain District appellation in Napa Valley.

While the 2006 Cabernet is still young and tight, it showed extremely well. Deep and rich, this is a wine that will be a treat in a decade. The 2006 Chardonnay tasted like a California Montrachet. Thick and viscous, with a hearty weight and a beautiful golden straw color, the wine has both finesse and style.

But my personal favorite was the 2006 Pinot Noir. The fruit, while not overwhelming, was profound. Think of the most beautiful basket of berries, raspberries, cherries and blackberries. The wine is beautiful in the glass, clear with violet shading. In the mouth there is a soft, round feel. It too is a wine that will be better in a few years, but at the initial tasting there was the excitement that comes when you taste something special for the first time.

While only 600 cases were made and the members of the Club have first dibs, Steve told me that he would be happy sell wine to interested locals. If you’re interested contact Steve at steve@rfclub.com.

It is a ground-floor opportunity.

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