Every once in a while in life you are surprised by a chance meeting. Russell received a call one afternoon while exploring Wine Country to meet with Frank Pastori. Who is Frank Pastori?
Frank is a legend. Many up and coming winemakers look up to Frank. He is what is known as “old school”. With 85 acres in Sonoma County near Cloverdale he sells most of his grapes, yet produces 500 cases annually under the Pastori label. There is no modern machine that bottles, corks, foils and labels in one pass. Each paper label that proudly displays the Pastori family name is hand glued onto each individual bottle… Old School.
His father founded Pastori winery in 1914. At nearly 90 years of age, you’ll still find Frank in the vineyard driving the tractor, in the winery caring for wines and if you see his truck in the parking lot that means the tasting room is open.
You’ll find many winemakers consulting Frank. All the “big guys” still come around for his advice and a grondino of Petite Sirah. He’s seen it all in his years at Pastori Winery. The 2010 season presented challenges not unfamiliar to Frank, but conditions not seen by many winemakers: cool temperatures, heavy rain and then an unexpected spike of intense heat. He seemed to know the weather pattern and what to do, while many were taken by surprise with what Mother Nature had in store for the season.
Beyond the respect of the wine community, I was so taken by how much this man accomplishes with his traditional approach. The tasting room is open when he is there. It is not the modern, upscale, beautiful tasting room that many have become accustomed to in Wine Country. This is the real deal. He makes the wine, he tells you how he made it, the history of the vines and the soil from which they come.
Frank had much wisdom to pass along to Russell throughout the day that we spent with him, but I came away with a few simple lessons: Most importantly, small production = quality and letting the grapes and soil take precedence over barrel flavors and letting the wine “make itself”. So much of what he had to share was so different from what you hear from “modern” winemakers. I had to stop myself, actually more like pinch myself.
He learned from his father and his father learned from his father… For the Pastori family, there was no education at UC Davis or another enology program. This family learned by doing and passing the knowledge on to the next generation… there is a lot to be said for that (And we know that Frank has passed his incredible wealth of knowledge on to the next generation of his family and to us here at Stone’s Throw as well).
We dedicate this issue to Edith Pauline Pastori, the love of Frank’s life, who passed away on February 8th, 2010 after nearly 70 years of marriage.