Q&A With Windy Oaks Winemaker Jim Schultze
What's your favorite part about being involved in the upcoming Pinot Paradise?
We love the fact that Pinot Paradise is a showcase for pinot noir grown only in the unique Santa Cruz Mountains appellation, and we always enjoy tasting other pinots from around our appellation. Also, many of the event attendees seem to have a real appreciation for terroir-driven pinot noir.
Tell us about your winery and what visitors can expect to see and taste when they arrive?
We are at the southern end of the appellation on a ridge 1,000 feet up overlooking the Monterey Bay. During our long growing season, we get the nice cooling fog in the early evening rolling in, and then it rolls out by 9am, with sunny, day time temperatures in the low 70s. It’s a perfect site for pinot noir. When visitors come to see our vineyards and winery, they can expect to taste four of our current release pinot noirs that ideally reflect this unique terroir and microclimate: restrained, elegant, no fruit bombs, layered and structured, due also in part to our all-gravity winery, French barrel aging of a minimum of 18 months, and bottling our pinots without filtering or fining. Visitors can view our barrel room and bottling area, walk through our vineyards and have a picnic on our ridge.
What's a pro-tip you can offer our readers about picking out a delicious Pinot Noir?
Look for wines that are grown in a cooler part of the mountains; that have been barrel aged for no less than 18 months; high elevation helps as well.
What's your perfect meal paired with Pinot Noir?
A perfect meal would be smoked salmon appetizer, a mushroom risotto, and grilled lamb chops.
What does the Santa Cruz Mountains region offer that other wine-growing regions might not?
Our elevations and our ocean/bay cooling influence, as well as a wide variety of microclimates. What is your wine-making goal for 2015 and beyond? To continue to produce premium pinot noir, maintaining the consistent high quality that we and our customers have enjoyed—despite some yield and weather issues in certain years—for the past 15 years.
Anything else we should know?
We produce 11 different estate pinot noirs from 19 acres, and four of those are distinguished by the fermentation process: native yeast, whole cluster, wood tank, and co-fermentation of two heritage clones. Also, we take great care in managing our estate vineyard. From our three-phase pruning program in the late winter, to selective leaf pulling and shoot thinning in the summer, to netting and water management in late summer, we are constantly involved in the vineyard, and we live on the premises, so we’re easily able to monitor the vineyard during all phases of the year.