Distant Cellars, a family-owned winery in Fiddletown, California, will support the work of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation through the sale of a new wine aptly titled “Tribute Wine”. The wine will be available in April.
I took a minute to ask the President of Distant Cellars, Drew Gaiser, a few questions about the new wine, the winery, his role in the fire service, and why Distant Cellars believes in the work of the NFFF. Not only is Drew the President of Distant Cellars, he is also a Lt. in Colorado.
Tribute is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Alicante Bouschet grapes that were harvested in 2010 and carefully aged for more than 24 months. Only 300 cases of this full-bodied wine were bottled on February 26 and will be available for sale in early April for $28 per bottle on the winery’s Web site, www.distantcellars.com/nfff. Thirty percent of the sales will be donated to the NFFF.
We purchased the property in 2007 and started as a winery in 2009. Before restoring the property to a functioning winery, we worked to bring the vines back to health and fix up the facilities. This also gave my brother who is the wine maker, time to complete more formal wine making training at UC Davis. Prior to purchasing the property, we had been traveling to the county for several years and he had been helping another winery during their crush. But after our purchase, we wanted a more formal approach to our wine and he volunteered to attend classes to become our winemaker. After the vineyard was at a level we were happy with, we transitioned into the wine making operations. This will be our second release of wine and we are very happy with the quality and direction of our wines. Since we age all of our wine for over 24 months, patience has been a large part of our start up plan. Now that the wine is out we are looking forward to improving the property to have an on site tasting room and be able to host events at the winery, but for now this will be a ways out.
How long have you been a firefighter? Where are you a firefighter?
I work as a Lieutenant at West Metro Fire Rescue in Lakewood, CO and have been there since August of 2001. Prior to that I volunteered locally and first received my firefighter I in high school at age 16. The fire service has always been a passion of mine and to be able to do it full time is a dream come true.
It’s not. Lucky for me it is a family affair and I have a large family. It has gotten a lot easier over the last couple of years with my father moving out to be on site full time as a “pseudo-retirement”. Also each of my three brothers are involved and that really helps. We started the winery because of how different a path each of us took in our careers, and the winery has allowed all of us to come back together to use our different skills in a central purpose. For example my older brother works at Microsoft and handles all of our IT, my younger brother is our winemaker, and then my youngest is in the military and is getting his masters in Entrepreneurship. Each of us bring these aspects to table and then try to stay in our own lanes as we work. For me, my experiences as a fire officer has played a much larger role in this than I originally thought it would. Just like at the fire house we write SOP’s for our operation, organize the winery like the engine, and then delegate tasks like on the fire ground and trust that they happen. I guess the short answer would be that I have a great crew and we work well together, which makes gaping the distance and scheduling challenges easier.
I see that the Tribute Wine is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Alicante Bouschet grapes. Can you tell us what this wine will taste like in laymans terms?
I love wine descriptions. They can be really off the wall and make wine a very unapproachable subject. An older vintner from our valley once told me that it doesn’t matter what someone else tells you it tastes like, just drink it and if it tastes good to you than you are drinking the right wine. So we have set up Distant Cellars to try and be as approachable as possible. With all that said, the industry does require a tasting notes section so I can tell you what we taste, but again try it and just focus on whether or not you like it. We try and make our wines represent where we make them. We don’t want to make a french or Italian wine we want it to be from Fiddletown, CA and have its own identity. This would be similar to embracing your department instead of trying to be like the neighbors or the one across the country. We look at and learn from these regions, but ultimately we want our own identity and wine.
Tasting Notes from the Winemaker: Tribute is a dry red wine (meaning that there are no sugars left in it) that has the aroma of red berries with subtle earth notes. The flavor is smooth and the first thing you’ll notice are cherry and raspberry notes that turn into hints of oak and leather. The after taste is smooth and ends with a good lingering finish.
I was very lucky to be at a station where some of the guys were organizing one of the CO stair climbs and I really grew to admire the work and support that they developed through just an idea. I would participate with them in the climbs each year and would see how much this event brought the public to an awareness of the sacrifices that a select few pay while remembering a truly horrific day. As the years went on, I learned more about the foundation and what they did. The fact that they offer support for the surviving families was what really hit home to both my family and me. So as we started talking about a way to give back as a business and family, the NFFF made perfect sense. Our family could help the NFFF, in a small way, to keep the surviving families embraced in the fire service community while they tried to rebuild their lives.
In addition to being able to help the NFFF it has been an amazing experience to watch two completely different passions come together and work for a great cause.