Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Q & A | Winemaker Ed Thralls

Ed Thralls is a man of many talents. Social media savant (he taught me all I know), all-around smartypants/funny guy, and man, does he make a mean pulled pork! Leave it to Ed to follow his dream and start his own winery.  Meet the founder of Thralls Family Cellars.

What inspired your move across the country, leaving your profession, to join the wine industry?
Ultimately, it was a decision to chase my passion for wine and understanding I owed it to myself to be happy in this one life we all have. People are constantly changing, growing and eventually there was a plateau I had reached in my previous career in terms of interest and excitement. I found myself only wanting to learn more about wine, enjoy wine with friends, sharing my wine stories via my popular blog, WineTonite!, and eventually leading to actually making it myself. I started as a “garagiste” winemaker that was self-taught in the beginning and over 8 years since I have studied at UC Davis, interned at Holdredge Wines, moved to Sonoma County and launched my brand, Thralls Family Cellars in 2012.

Who are your major influencers?
There are so many influencers in all aspects of my journey it’s hard to list them all here without forgetting someone. I have to mention my good friend, Rick Bakas (Certified Sommelier and a digital wine influencer), who has supported my transition. He has gone through a similar journey and the process has helped both of us develop relationships across the industry and at a personal level. From a Pinot Noir perspective, which is my main focus at Thralls, I align my philosophies with long-time leaders as well as up-and-comers in this space like Ted Lemon at Littorai, Flowers, Jamie Kutch, Cartograph Wines and Gavin Chanin to name a few. Additionally, I find Jon Bonne’, wine writer for the SF Chronicle and author of the book “New California Wine” has his finger square on the pulse of where wine is heading. I also owe a lot to good friend, John Holdredge, of Holdredge Wines for his support and sage advice throughout this journey.

What or whom inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by wine, mother nature and my personal goals and dreams. I have worked hard to become less risk-averse in life and take the time to look within myself. Wine has the ability to transport you to a different time and place and invites introspection. I constantly learn to invite that introspection, respect it and act through the medium of wine and in the context of family and close friends old and new. That is the mission of Thralls, where I am wholly obedient to my passion.

Apart from your own, which wineries produce some of your favorites?
[Those I mentioned above as my influencers], though I am an open-minded when it comes to tasting and understanding wine from all regions and varieties of the world.  I would like to add Cathy Corison to my list as well because I love her style and approach and the fact she has stuck to her approach and philosophy for over 30 years and makes probably the best domestic Cabernet Sauvignon out there.

What is one of your best food and wine experiences to date?
A Sake and Sushi dinner at Hana Sushi in Rohnert Park. Sake Sommelier Stuart is one of only a handful in the world and the pairings he prescribes simply make your mouth water and take you to another level of time and space. I know it’s not “wine” per se but my most recent food and beverage experience that was phenomenal. Certified Sommelier, Rachel Voorhees (and my girlfriend) created some amazing food pairings for my 2012 Pinots with my favorite being Wild Mushroom Crostini paired with the 2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Roma’s Vineyard from Anderson Valley. It’s easy to make, savory and just blows you away!

What is your ultimate professional goal or dream?
My ultimate goal is to live a long and happy life. Professionally speaking, the perfect scenario would be to work on Thralls wine full-time and enjoy the life that accompanies the world of wine.

Favorite part of winemaking?
Seeking out quality and unique vineyards, walking those vineyards throughout the growing season, and working closely with growers I trust and have built a close relationships with. Knowing I have a quality fruit source and the process of intimately learning each site is paramount to making great wine.

What do you love most about the wine industry?
The best part of the wine industry are the people on both sides of the tasting table. Wine is best when enjoyed with great people, conversation and food and when those all come together the emotional connection is engrained in your being and you will always remember that amazing time.

What is the secret to your success so far?
The secret of my success is to believe in myself, chase after what I love to do and surround myself with wonderful people.

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Tasting Notes

2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
This Gold Medal winner boasts vibrant garnet color with raspberry and rose aromas. Bright acidity, medium-bodied and even on the palate. Flavors of strawberry, cranberry, and cedar expand into mouth-filling finish. A beautiful wine!

2012 Thralls Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
Another Gold Medal winner, this wine is ruby in color with strawberry and tea aromas. Good structured acidity and smooth tannins. Flavors of fresh cherries and white pepper round out the finish of this racy wine. Truly delicious!