Weekly Interview: Anthony Biagi

Posted by | Posted in Interviews | Posted on 06-22-2012

Each week, as regular readers know, we pose a series of questions to a winemaker. This week, we’re featuring Anthony Biagi, who was just hired as the winemaker at Hourglass Wine Company.

Tony joined the wine industry while earning a degree in fermentation science from the UC Davis. While there, he worked at a high-end retail shop; interned at both Dry Creek Vineyard and The Hess Collection; and did a research project on grapevine clonal variations for Gloria Ferrer.

Upon graduation in 1995, Tony landed a job at Duckhorn and its then-new offshoot, Paraduxx. By 2001, he was the head winemaker at Paraduxx — but then moved onto Neal Family Vineyards, where he helped establish the company as both the winemaker and general manager. In 2003, Tony joined the Plumpjack Group, where he headed up winemaking for both Plumpjack and CADE.

Check out our fantastic interview with Tony below the fold!

What is your general winemaking philosophy?

After 20 years of working on the production side of the business, I have learned that you have to let the fruit you harvest dictate how you will proceed. There are no “nevers” or “always.”

What’s open in your kitchen right now?

We tend to drink anything that gets opened, but right now we have a bottle of the 2010 Rivers-Marie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir open.

Who are your favorite winemakers in history, through personal account, or their wines?

This differs by region. In Napa, the list includes Ric Forman, Bob Levy, Helen Turley, Josh Jensen, Paul Draper, and Tom Rinaldi. In Sonoma, Tom Rochioli, Steven Kistler, Burt Williams and Ed Selyem. In Santa Cruz, I’d say Jeffery Patterson. In Bordeaux, Stéphane Derenoncourt. In Burgundy, Henri Jayer. In Italy, Giacomo Conterno.

What new winemakers are you most excited about, and why?

I’ll name three.

Benoit Torquette, of Hartwell Winery and Realm Cellars, is very talented and on the cusp of exploding. He is extremely driven to craft wines of distinction.

Second, I love what Fredrick Johansson of Staglin Family Vineyard has done with the five vintages he has worked on there. Fredrick’s meticulousness and attention to detail in an industry full of exacting people is amazing.

Finally, Mike Smith of Myriad Cellars. He been crafting wines for more than four years and the richness of his wines is amazing. Mike does a wonderful job of tannin management.

How do you spend your days off?

I spend most of my days off golfing, gardening, and chasing my seven-year old around the house. I also love to cook and entertain at home.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever tasted? The most interesting?

“Best” is so difficult to define and new wines are added to my best list all the time. Some of my “best” wines are as follows:

The most Interesting wine is easy, but not for what you would expect. When I worked in a high-end wine shop while attending college, the owners invited me to taste the then Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ‘best of the best’ new releases from the 1992 vintage. We blind tasted 10-12 bottles of wine, all in bags so you could not see the labels. No wine critics had given any scores, but of course there were biases to the wine flights. As the bags were pulled off to reveal the wine labels, one by one it became clear that nobody would win. The first place wine had 8 firsts and 2 seconds and when the bag was pulled of the first place winning bottle, the room was shocked. Only 1-2 people even heard of the wine — the wine was in an ugly green standard bottle and the label was goofy, but the wine was sublime. To taste this wine that day, subsequently sell it retail, and then watch in amazement as all the craziness unfolded as the “cult wine” boom started, is something I can tell my grandchildren about one day.

The wine was 1992 Screaming Eagle. Oh, it was that good too.

What’s the oldest bottle in your cellar? The most expensive?

The oldest is a 1974 Villa Mt. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon. The most expensive is a 2005 Pavie Macquin.

If you had to pick one red and one white to drink for the next month with every dinner, what would you choose? 

For white, Domaine Roulot Bourgogne Blanc. For red, Pegau Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

What’s your biggest challenge as a winemaker?

First, it’s continue pushing yourself to not rest on today, but build for tomorrow. Second, it’s to find workers who are passionate and willing to put it all on the line.

What’s your favorite wine region in the world — other than your own? 

Burgundy. Very stereotypical, but stereotypes are there for a reason.

Is beer ever better than wine?

Not better, but just as interesting. Nothing refreshes me like a Tecate after a tough day in the sun.

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I love electronic music.

If you weren’t making wine for a living, what would you be doing?

I would love to choose the music for movie soundtracks.

How do you define success?

Waking up in the morning and looking forward to going to work.


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