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Wine Club Selections: An Interview With Jon Grant of Couloir Wines

Winestyr Wine Club Selection Grant Family Wines
An interview with Winestyr wine club selection: Grant Family Wines

Proprietor and winemaker at Grant Family Wines, producer of the esteemed Couloir Wines and Straight Line Wines, Jon Grant got his start at Turley Wine Cellars under the tutelage of Ehren Jordan who is now the proprietor and winemaker at Failla. His wines have received tremendous accolades (too many 90+ scores to list) and have been selected for inclusion in Winestyr's wine clubs.

What is your name and title?

 Jon Grant, Owner & Winemaker, Couloir Wines | Straight Line Wine

How did you get your start in wine? When did you know you wanted to make it a career?

My first real introduction to wine was in the mid 1990s. I landed a job at Snowbird Ski Resort in the Beverage Department and the Beverage Director, Vicky Martinez, opened up the door to the world of wine for me. She encouraged me to explore and I quickly became enamored with wine on a global level. It was at this point that I moved to Napa Valley in an effort to fully immerse myself in the domestic wine scene.    

What wine did you make that you are most proud of and why?

This is not a fair question. Each of my wines has its own intention and place in the world, and in my heart. I choose the varieties, vineyard locations, and wine-style based in part on the tradition there of. Wine is very much a continuum for me: the idea is to pay respect to tradition while at the same time craft wines for today’s global wine culture. If done well, this provides the generations behind me an opportunity to do better. I stand on the shoulders of the winemakers before me and hope to provide a stepping stone for those behind of me.

What do you strive for in the wines you produce?

For me, wine is ultimately about texture. I want my wines to taste balanced and complete. We often pontificate about aromatics in wine; but, if a wine doesn’t sit right in your mouth, you won’t drink it. Too many times I have been heartbroken by beautifully aromatic wines – perfumed and intoxicating – that fall flat on the palate. I strive for tannin / acid synergy to help keep the wines fresh and lifted, and the palate satisfied but not saturated. It’s a fine line although easily identifiable when you taste it!

What is the worst wine you’ve ever made and why was it so bad?

The worst wine I made will never be tasted! There were serious frost events in 2008 damaging one of my vineyards that spring. Secondary shoots grew subsequently (vines are smart like that), but the chemistry and balance of the fruit was incomplete. The wine ended up thin, tart and astringent… and, I later sold it on the bulk market.

What is your favorite thing about being in the wine industry? 

The wine industry is really more of a grassroots “trade” filled with characters and personalities than an “industry” – and that’s one of the things I love about it. I get to meet, work with, and partner with amazing people from varied backgrounds. It’s awesome. And, not surprisingly, the best wines I try are those that speak of the principals involved. A wine with personality and a sense of place, at any price point, can be soulful and a wonderful window into the personalities behind the wine. Ultimately, wine is about relationships.

How do you see the wine industry changing over the next 5-10 years?

As some of the newer vineyards mature and historic vineyards are rediscovered by players with out-of-the-box visions, I think the global wine scene will continue to get better and better in the next 10 years. We are able to look back to see the successes of older wine regions, take direction from their explorations, and then imagine the next possibility. These imaginations are becoming realities, rooted in quality and with an eye to the future. As long as there are passionate winegrowers and winemakers looking to plant small, site-specific (terrior-driven) vineyards and handcraft wines in small batches, the outlook is super-exciting.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

My mentor, Vicky Martinez, really helped me make the move and get into wine. She was instrumental in getting to Napa Valley. Once in wine country, I spent over a decade working for Ehren Jordan at Turley Wine Cellars. That space was amazing and has been a major influence for me, as well. Larry Turley has put together and maintained an incredible brand and is an important part of the domestic wine story.

It’s an early Fall evening, sweater weather, what are you drinking?

Straight Line Wine Tempranillo is a great go-to wine for the fall season. I like to serve the Tempranillo with a slight chill making a great stand-alone beverage or easy to pair with appetizers. It is on the one hand delicate and fruity, but also substantial tannin and weight making it easy to pair with more bold flavors of fall as the season progresses.

What’s your favorite drink other than wine?  In no particular order: beer and coffee.

What is your favorite food? Really good Indian or Thai cuisines.

Favorite food and wine pairing? Sushi and Champagne! Any way you slice it, you’re living large!

What is your favorite Hobby or pastime? Skiing, biking, running – love the adrenaline.

You can taste the very best wines from Grant Family Wines and many other acclaimed small wine producers by joining one of Winestyr's wine clubs. To learn more about our wine clubs, click here.

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