The Tasting Panel magazine

JULY 2011

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Page 114 of 120

INTRO-VINOUS WHEN BIG HOUSE WINEMAKER GEORGETTA DANE, AKA “THE WARDEN,” CAME TO VISIT US, WE STEPPED AWAY FROM OUR COMPUTERS AND TOOK AN ENJOYABLE Prison Break I t was a choice between working in a Romanian meat factory or becoming a winemaker. Although Georgetta Dane comes from Suceava, an area of Eastern Europe steeped in history and surrounded by vino-centric culture, jobs there were mandated by the government. This wasn’t a difficult decision for the Romanian with a Master in Food Science. And working with hundreds of different varieties and winemaking styles during her training as a young winemaker in her homeland helped her develop her current palate and blending style. Georgetta Dane. A twist of fate allowed Georgetta and her husband to immigrate to America. They landed in the Monterey area, where Georgetta’s winemaking talents were quickly noticed. Before long, she worked her way up the ladder to her current position as Chief Winemaker (aka “Warden”) for all of the Big House wines. With a winery situated close to the Soledad Correctional Facility, the prison was inspiration for some cleverly-named labels, which are now under the umbrella of The Wine Group’s Underdog Wine & Spirits. Over the years, Georgetta has earned a solid reputation for her perfumey wine blends that rely on eclectic varietals and imaginative varietal combinations. Most recently, she has been hankering to craft some single-varietal wines that are different from the more typical California offerings. Dane has already debuted two brand new wines from the Big House: “Unchained” Naked Chardonnay, a bright, crisp, un-oaked offering, and “The Usual Suspect” Cabernet, a mouthful of fruit without the confines of heavy oak and tannin and blended with a touch of Grenache for greater vibrancy and approachability. She also brought two of her legendary and unique blends, the Big House Red and White, with her, along with the classic “Cardinal Zin” Zinfandel. Big House 2010 Unchained Naked Chardonnay (SRP $10) is a clean and glowing stunner (no oak and no ML) with a shiny, minerally boatload of tropical pineapple and white flowers that does indeed translate to a perfumed charm. Winemaker Georgetta Dane tells us that she can sense the essential oils in every grape. “My strategy is to blend the middle and top notes from the wonderful fruit I source from Paso Robles (the tropical characteristics) and Monterey (the citrus and apple).” 114 / the tasting panel / july 2011 PHOTO: RAMON C. PURCELL PHOTOGRAPHY

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