Betts wagering on grapes |

Betts wagering on grapes

Chad Abraham
Sommelier Richard Betts is preparing to release a syrah under the label Betts and Scholl. (Aspen Times file)

Richard Betts’ luggage has gotten a workout lately.His recent itinerary included numerous trips to France and California, where Montagna’s master sommelier put the finishing touches on a new syrah, his wine label’s first addition. Betts and venture capitalist Dennis Scholl started the label Betts and Scholl in 2004 with a grenache from Down Under.While their attention recently has focused on California and France’s northern Rhone Valley, the Australian grenache is not disappearing, Betts said.

“The Australian project is alive and well – and thriving, actually,” he said. “We’ve been very lucky.”Betts, The Little Nell’s wine program director, flew in from France on Monday and continued preparations for this weekend’s Food and Wine Classic. He will host several reserve tastings at the event.The first vintage of the California syrah is tiny at just two barrels, or the equivalent of 50 traditional cases. Nevertheless, Betts said he is intimately familiar with the vintage, which was bottled last week and will be ready in the fall.Artist Raymond Pettibone created the syrah’s label, which features a ’59 Chevy. Pettibone is a past winner of the Buxbaum Award from the Whitney Biennial, a renowned showcase of recent art. His resume also includes album and poster designs for the bands Black Flag and Sonic Youth.

“He gave us just a kick-ass label; we’re very excited about it,” Betts said.The busy winemakers have also added two hermitage vintages, a red and white, from France. These offerings will also be ready by the time the flakes fly.”Right now, we feel like we’re making wine on three different continents, all of which we really love,” Betts said.

The Australian grenache is “fruit forward,” while its Californian counterpart offers “more grip and grit … which doesn’t make it better or worse, just different,” Betts said. The hermitage vintages, meanwhile, are simply region-specific, having a taste that speaks to their origins, he said.The three wines provide an ideal equilibrium, a significant trait in winemaking.”It’s all about balance,” he said. “Without balance, you’ve got nothing.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is

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