Bottleology – Winemaker Jamie Brown of Waters Winery
March 16, 2010 by Dave Bender
“Forgetaboutit is like if you agree with someone, you know, like Raquel Welch is one great piece of ass, forgetaboutit. But then, if you disagree, like a Lincoln is better than a Cadillac? Forgetaboutit! You know? But then, it’s also like if something’s the greatest thing in the world, like mingia those peppers, forgetaboutit. But it’s also like saying Go to hell! too. Like, you know, like “Hey Paulie, you got a one inch…?” And Paulie says, “Forgetaboutit!” Sometimes it just means forgetaboutit.”—Donnie Brasco
The Forgotten Hills in Walla Walla Washington, is an estate vineyard to Waters Winery, and it had me thinking “Donnie Brasco.” When I tasted the Syrah produced from this vineyard, I searched to find the boss who was making this stuff. Come to find out, he’s a friend of ours and he goes by the name Jamie Brown.
Stand-up guy: Jamie was exposed to handcrafted, boutique and international wines while working in restaurants, which gave him the ability to finance his enjoyment for playing music. He said, “At the same time, a wine movement was budding in my hometown of Walla Walla, so it only seemed natural to move home and pursue wine.” Jamie commented about wine and music’s unique relationship to one another and of the creative process found in both. For me, the relationship is as complimentary as spaghetti and meatballs—that’s amore!
The Commission: Jamie said, “I had friends from high school involved in wine, so I made some calls and got my foot in the door through these relationships. I worked at several local wineries as a jack of all trades. After a few years of gaining experience, two respected winemakers [who he vouches for] Eric Dunam and Christophe Baron, encouraged me to make my own wine. So I started James Leigh Cellars and soon the opportunity arose to start Waters.” Both Eric and Christophe have been referred to as “capo di tutti capi,” which literally means boss of bosses–no wonder Jamie’s vino is so good.
The books: When referencing the operation Jamie said, “I value the creative process in the wine industry just as much as the business side of winemaking and sales.” Jamie is clearly leaving a paper trail of successful economics: quality = quantity ($).
The arm: In the world of the modern day mobster, I imagine that sometimes you’d find yourself traveling abroad to make new contacts, or to make an “exchange,” or even perhaps tell somebody that their “number’s up.” That’s the arm of the Sicilian underground.
In Jamie’s world, he “[likes] to travel, build relationships and fulfill [his] artistic needs.” He also said, “business partnerships are hard” and to “trust your gut.” Jamie passes these pieces of information down to anyone aspiring to do what he does—and that’s the arm of the wine business. Good lookin’ out.
Forgetaboutit- Jamie was drawn to a life in wine, because “I like to drink,” he says. His forgetaboutit moment was when he bought a bottle of Joseph Phelps in 1995 and realized that this wine was similar to music. He said, “You aren’t exposed in masses to the good stuff–you gotta search for it.” Kinda like real Cuban cigars.
Friend of mine: Few in this business could survive if it wasn’t for the efforts of the entire community. I asked Jamie who he respected most and he said, “Abeja, Cayuse, Buty, Rulo, Gramercy.” I would say those are definitely some heavy hitters and have my respect as well.
Big earner: I asked Jamie if he ever had a celebrity status moment doing what he does. Jamie whispered to me, “Hearing that the juice I made was being drank by actress Charlize Theron at Spago in Beverly Hills (she is a loyal customer of 21 Grams).” Now that’s one sexy broad.
A Mouth Full: Waters, Forgotten Hills, Walla Walla, Syrah, 2007 $40
For Jamie this is the first wine that gave him confidence to realize that not every vineyard site needed to be ripe. He told me that this site was especially aromatic due to the restraint. Jamie considers the Forgotten Hills vineyard the most distinct Syrah site he has ever found in the country.
On the nose this Syrah was quite earthy and reminded me of some California Pinot Noir I’ve come across. What I smelled came from both its Syrah typicity and also some elements from the oak. I smelled warm notes of summer mulch, mushroom and dare I say truffle. The oak played with my senses and led me to believe that it was once formerly used. Additionally, I noted dark strawberry and current. On the palate, I was pleased to be reminded that not all Washington Syrah has to be an obese beast. I thought about the future and how one day wineries like Waters will be example leaders for restrained Syrah production. This wine was mostly balanced and pleasant. Upfront, I enjoyed its creamy fruit character and on the mid-palate its acidity and light tannin. I did notice a small void to its short ended finish, but nothing another sip wouldn’t solve. This wine had medium complexity and fulfilled my craving for proper Washington Syrah. It is ready to drink now and for proper pleasure, go gangster and pop in a mobster movie. Forgetaboutit!
1825 JB George Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362
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