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The experience is everything

Long after a trip, an event, a tasting or dinner, it’s the experience you remember. It’s why companies like Airbnb offer “experiences,” why tasting rooms are switching to seated engagement and chefs engineer your flow the moment you walk in the door. The stakes are high to get your attention, serve up a lasting experience and retain your engagement.

The tourism industry that supports these experiences is one of the largest industries in the world. Here in Sonoma County, CA it’s $2.175 billion opportunity.

At Harvest Summit you’ll have the rare opportunity to share a one-of-a-kind experience  with chefs and winemakers and hear their cutting edge philosophies on engineering experiences.

These guys are legends.

About winemaker Jesse Katz, Aperture Cellars

“This is my life, It’ not just a job. It’s an obsession, a passion, a hobby and I love it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I love creating experiences for people.”

Katz is a founding Harvest Summit advisor and happens to be the winemaker who crafted the world’s most expensive 750 ml bottle of wine (the bottle Katz produced was called “The Setting” and it sold for $350,000 at the Carnivale du Vin’s charity auction in New Orleans in 2017). He’s the 35-year-old boy genius winemaker behind notable people and organizations – from producing Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s wedding cuvee to over seeing the wine growing and making program at the new Montage Healdsburg. For his own label, Aperture Cellars, he’s opening a 23,000-square-foot winery state-of-art winery this fall and upscale 6,500-square-foot hospitality center in the spring of 2020. “The hospitality area will be by appointment only, and we want it to be an experience, not a bar.”

The goal, says Katz, is to make guests feel as pampered as they would be at high end restaurant.

“I worked with top chefs, including Dustin Valette, to help us plan the tasting room,” Katz said. “We’re treating it as a high-end wine experience. It will be comparable to a fine-dining experience.”

Pouring rare bottlings of the Aperture brand in the tasting room will be a draw, Katz said. This hospitality center has three private rooms for food and wine pairings and intimate, small groups. These rooms can also open to a larger space.

Aperture refers to the opening of a camera lens and the amount of light passing through it. It’s a nod to the winemaker’s father –– Andy Katz –– who’s a well-known photographer in Wine Country. His photographs grace the label of every bottle of Aperture.

The theme of photography is carried through in the tasting room with the centerpiece design of an Aperture lens in 3D. Natural light streams in from above, and when the Aperture is “open” there’s magic in play. Some of the walls fold in and the glass opens up, creating a large indoor/outdoor space for larger events.

Katz said the design will pique the interest of those who are fond of his brand and his line-up of wines. He’s convinced his property is uniquely suited for his specialty –– Bordeaux varietals.

“A strip of blue clay runs through the middle of the property,” he said. “Blue clay is famously found through Pomerol, (the esteemed wine region in Bordeaux, France) It encompasses the entire property of Petrus.”

About winemaker Bob Cabral, Three Sticks

“Bob Cabral is quite the character and his wines also have outstanding character. Which do I prefer? Well I’ve always said “it’s better to have character than to be one” I will take Bob’s wine anytime!”- Sammy Hagar, aka The Red Rocker

There is good reason Bob Cabral’s name is synonymous with great Pinot Noir. With decades of

experience in Sonoma County, Bob’s passion, experience and the following for his work with the

varietal is second to none. Bob’s winemaking philosophy has remained constant throughout his career—to source and farm the best fruit possible, with minimal intervention in the cellar. 

His unique perspective

“REALLY, THERE’S SUCH AN OVERLAP FOR ME BETWEEN MUSIC AND WINE. I want to craft wines that touch a person’s soul, much like a favorite song can. Everybody has a song they like to crank up and listen to—a song that just engulfs all of the senses. For some people it’s Elton John, for others it’s Frank Sinatra or Bach. For me, it’s Petty and Zeppelin.

And that’s important, because winemaking is about an awakening of the five senses. Sight, touch, smell, and taste are relatively easy to accomplish. The bottle and packaging piques your interest. The color of the wine in your glass intensifies your curiosity as the aromas begin to fill the air. You taste the wine and your palate explodes with sensory information. The one thing wine can’t really do is appeal to your sense of hearing. I think that’s where music comes in, by hearing a song that touches your soul in the same way the wine does. In an attempt to connect more deeply with my wines, I correlate each label to an important song in my life. I challenge you to drink the wine and do the same. If you do, I guarantee the experience will be better every time.”

Okay, okay, so you want to know about The Game of Thrones wine. 

Cabral partnered with Santa Rosa’s Vintage Wine Estates to produce official ‘Game of Thrones’ wines for HBO “The wines kind of represent the show — there are kingdoms represented in those wines,” Cabral says. “That’s what gives me the creative spark to be able to translate that to the show itself, those (real life) appellations to kingdoms in the show.”

abral started with The North, which he envisioned as a rough, cold land with not a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, a place where preserved food and hunted meats are the staple. With that in mind, Cabral began putting together a red blend from the Paso Robles area, using varieties like petite syrah, tempranillo, malbec and a little bit of nebbiolo.

“Then, to kind of bring out the fruit a little bit, we found some Lodi Zinfandel,” he said, adding that as you moved south in the story’s setting of Westeros, toward the middle of the kingdom, the weather gets nicer — offering more fresh fruits and vegetables and opportunities for lighter wines.

For King’s Landing, the site of the fabled Iron Throne, Cabral said he went for a noble wine.

“You want something worthy of the Iron Throne and that’s how we kinda came up with the Napa cabernet — Napa cab being king,” he said.

Cabral said Vintage Wine Estates gave him access to some lots from exceptional vineyards in the Napa Valley through the company’s portfolio. The Game of Thrones Cabernet, which was made at the Clos Pegase winery, was priced at $50 a bottle “because of location and the cost of the fruit going into the bottle.”

From there, Cabral’s imaginary wine tour took him to the lands of Essos, to the Bay of Dragons — known as Slaver’s Bay before Daenerys Targaryen’s young dragons baked noble slave masters. The sea climate there called for a chardonnay.

“I thought about chardonnay mainly from the Central Coast — the Monterey, Santa Barbara area, something with some vibrancy, verve, a nice fruit, clean finishes, and that’s pretty much what we got from the fruit down there,” he said.

The Napa cabernet received a rating of 91 from Wine Spectator, and he said his other Game of Thrones wines also have been well received by fans.

The newest addition to the Game of Thrones lineup is a pinot noir, conceived by Cabral about a year ago and which uses grapes from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The wine is made at the Vintage Winery Estates winery in Oregon but bottled at the company’s winery in Hopland.

“We had some really nice fruit from the Firesteed vineyard — again, I kind of envisioned more toward where the Iron Throne is down to the south — a less tannic wine, easier to drink, something that’s going to go well with a myriad of food, nice cherry fruits, good acidity, nice clean finish, what a pinot should have,” he said.

Vintage Winery Estates said it will continue to make the Game of Thrones wines after Sunday’s epic finale, since it doesn’t expect interest in the show to end anytime soon.

For those looking for a bottle, there are still a couple of cases each of pinot noir and chardonnay at Vintage’s The Flight Deck tasting room in Healdsburg.

More About Bob Cabral

Cabral was awarded the 2011 Wine Star Award from the Wine Enthusiast as “Winemaker of the Year.”Bob’s interest in wine and farming began in childhood, helping his grandfather make wine in a barn. Growing up pruning grapes, irrigating vineyards and harvesting grapes became routine on his family’s 70-acre ranch near Escalon, CA. A fourth generation farmer and grape grower from the great San Joaquin Valley, he took all he learned at the family farm and applied it to his degrees at Fresno State University. While in college, his passion for Pinot Noir became evident as he spent every spare dime, and a good chunk of his student loans, on buying wines from all over the world—mostly Burgundy and Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs. After graduating in the early-1980s, Bob knew that Sonoma County was where he could best hone his skills and make wines to rival the best in the world. He spent 33 vintages in various winemaking positions: Associate Winemaker at DeLoach Vineyards, custom crush Winemaker at Kunde Family Estate, Winemaker at Alderbrook Vineyards and Winemaker at Hartford Court Winery, before taking his seminal position at Williams Selyem.

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