You’ll find yourself wishing you were back. Winemaker and Owner, David A. Jeffrey, took me around the property early Tuesday morning a couple weeks ago. Driving up to his property, atop some bluffs in the Chalk Hill AVA, more poignantly on Brooks Road, I was smitten by my surroundings, finally somewhere where I’d never before cruised through. Was pretty sure I wasn’t going to taste anything that morning, just wanted to meet Mr. Jeffrey and haunt around his estate. Which we did. He told me about his love of Bordeaux, the winemaking style there and the freeness of expression in Bordeaux, how not so much a manipulation is needed nut moreover an understanding of what you grow. Thew entire time David spoke to me and told me about his wife and children, and his time in France studying winemaking styles and the general expression that region, I could only think of how this is what wine is. The attainment of dreams and visions, from his Colonel’s Vineyard Cabernet, to each of the blends I bought, and his Merlot which I only tasted last night but this nuit very much planning on exploring and recording my interaction.
David will tell you that he set out to make wine that could be in a sequence of wines regarded as the ‘best in the world’. After not only hearing his stories but tasting though his set, he’s there. He’s met his aim, his desired character. But he still charges with that earlier intensity. And listening to him talk and explain his life’s work he has no sign or insertion of stopping. His intent was to craft wine that could stand with all the mammoths, all the bastions, all those wines that people ‘oooh’ and aaaah’ over. He has, most musically the Cuvée, only bringing with it a tag of $33, then the “Calluna Estate”, $75 (which could easily be estimated at a stratospherically higher priced point), which I felt I had to ring in and I’m elated I did as that showed to be the most-Me of the three, fitting my personality and love of how wine and literature, writing, intermingle and lovingly eclipse each other when an intersection materializes.
This meeting showed genuine adoration of the vineyard, well before buds break, before grapes, before the wine, before what’s on that table next to all the other kings and queens of wined adage. Jeffrey demonstrates wine’s epicenter intent, its material and metaphysical nuclei with his story, the bottles he’s brought to fruition— Truth. This winemaking style is more than a style, more than a “lifestyle”, or even ‘way’ of life. It’s Life. Love. Family. Newness… that exploration of wine’s atmosphere and galaxy, something a book and certainly not this piece can you teach. He put himself through oenological studies and did so with eagerness and humility. He doesn’t fit my winemaker paradigm, whatever that is but I’ve many times seen winemakers as people not often mentioning or crediting their studies, who they’ve learned from. Mr. Jeffrey does, and just as eagerly as I imagine him traveling through a winemaking curriculum. He told me that his approach to making wine is partially academic. Tasting through the bottles you understand the intensity of his study, studies, explorations and travel and demand of being close to the vineyards.
I find myself wanting to go back but I feel like I was just there. Well, a couple weeks prior. Sitting here in this office I smell that fog, that morning, wishing I was sitting in one of those chairs, with him, talking about wine and winemaking, his property, his time making wine and studying in France. Why the literary approach to wine, for me— people like David, how his narration actuates what he’s always seen for himself. He did it. He IS ‘it’. Winemaker and vineyard lover, sharing his ardor and elevated amour with those sipping everything from the Cuvée, to the Estate, Merlot, Cabernet. Reviewing my notes for the Colonel’s that I the other night popped, after a long day at work selling and writing about wines from Chalk Hill and elsewhere in Sonoma County, “…a Coltrane-esque composition and rhythm to its immediacy and sensory geography— placid and prominent, pervasively pleasing, telekinetic like it read my mind and learned what I’ve wanted a Cab to say— intrepid and intricate…” The notes go on and on, tirelessly but I won’t bore you with them. This is what my mind visually musters when I think ‘Sonoma County’. Sonoma to me translates as “small, home, passion, TRUTH.”
I went there to experience, see, feel, Newness… like a Beatnik writer direly parched for a story, a real wine story… something not just relatable but encouraging. Even for those never drinking wine you sense the devotion intricately interwoven in the visual circuitry of Calluna, which is the Botanical name for the plant Heather. That same name, belonging to a young girl and close family friend who passed away, hence enlivening Jeffrey and his wife, Marla, to name the property and winery such. Being the writer and professor I at times be, can only see the accentuation of Life, Death, an urgency for us to not only chase our dreams and ultimate, apexing aims, but grab them. The beauty of that property inoculated me with new life. The wines, the like. I’m a more free and electric writer since driving up and down that long, celestial driveway, speaking with Mr. David, then ultimately coming home and tasting through my flight.
Jeffrey was, is, a character seeing what he sees and making it his own, his family’s. You learn from this story to not only live but live truthfully— True to YOU, and to those close to you, the ones you love be they family or close, close friends. Everything epitomizes there on that Brooks Road summit. I can only think of going back, or ordering more wine from him. You learn wine from a more diverse passion, framework. Calluna’s song, a reassuring octave. That wineries like it are still out there, that wines with such enrapturing characters and flavor arrangements can be located. You just have to look.