By guest Wine Chix Barbara McCabe
Barbara McCabe is a freelance writer and public relations professional who lives in San Diego. After discovering all the fine wines being made in her own back yard in Southern California, she became an ardent fan of South Coast wines and an enthusiastic supporter of the region’s winegrowing industry. Barbara has no commercial ties to the industry at present, but she is optimistic that her passion for promoting wines from the South Coast appellation will eventually bring some business her way. You can read more of her work here at South Coast Vintage Press.
Thornton Winemaker David Vergari brought his winemaking skills to Thornton in 2010 making quite an impression on the critics
Despite the fact that he and his winemaking team have won seven medals in the last 3 months, David Vergari, winemaker at Thornton Winery in Temecula, is not a wine snob.
“Wine snobs can be a huge pain,” says Vergari, whose first experience with wine dates back to the “Dago Red” he tasted as a child in his great uncle’s cellar in San Francisco. Through his Italian family, Vergari came to view wine as something that was part of a daily routine. “Wine is simply a part of the daily ritual of breaking bread with family,” he says. “It’s not something to be glorified and made into something that it really isn’t. If you enjoy a particular wine, that’s good enough for me. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.”
Nonetheless, the wines Vergari has produced since bringing his winemaking skills to Thornton in 2010 have made quite an impression on the critics. Thornton’s 2010 Cabernet-Merlot blend won a Silver Medal at the 2012 Monterey Wine Competition; a Gold Medal at the 2012 Riverside International Competition and a Silver Medal at the 2012 San Diego International Wine Competition. Thornton’s 2010 Estate Petite Sirah was awarded a Gold Medal at Monterey and a Silver Medal at Riverside. The judges at Monterey also gave a Gold Medal to Thornton’s 2010 Tempranillo and Thornton’s 2010 Cabernet Franc earned a Silver Medal in the competition at San Diego.
These wines – all vinted from grapes grown in the Temecula Valley – demonstrate the considerable skill Vergari has acquired since he studied Enology and Viticulture at UC Davis in the late 1980s. After working abroad for wineries in Australia and Spain, the Sonoma County native returned to California and began producing “new world” wines for wineries in Napa, Sonoma and Paso Robles before launching his own label, Vergari Wines, in 2003.
Yet, success does not seem to have spoiled the veteran winemaker who says he remains “humbled” by the lessons learned in the winemaking process. “When you are in this business for a living, get ready to be taken down a peg or two because you will be,” he says. “After a while, you realize that the more you learn, the less you know.”
The makings of a good wine begin in the vineyard which Vergari calls his “source material.” “My philosophy is to spend a lot of time in the vineyard,” he says. “You need to hit the right window for picking the fruit. You have to be intuitive about it.” Vergari also uses his intuition to integrate the fruit with the right barrel during the fermentation process. “The barrels are my lambs,” he says. “I talk to them. I say, ‘how ‘ya doin’? Take care of my wine. C’mon, c’mon. It’s got to be good.’”
When he and his team succeed in producing an outstanding wine, Vergari attributes the success to Mother Nature. “It can really test your mettle when things don’t go according to plan,” he says. “Nature bats last. It is going to have the final call. So, when I end up with an incredible vintage, I feel gratitude. I feel very lucky.”