The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 16 of 128

THE MESSAGE Whether THE TASTING PANEL goes to the brand execs or the brands call us, there is an abundance of news to report, from the latest releases to behind-the-scenes experiences with some of the world's most infl uential importers, winemakers, distillers . . . well, you name it. Brief Encounters We may not have enough pages in each issue to devote as much attention as we would like to each person whose path we cross, but please note that if it's in the publication, we deem it noteworthy —Meridith May, Publisher & Executive Editor Catching up with Rajat Parr R ajat Parr is known and respected worldwide for his impeccable nose and palate, his vast knowledge of France's Burgundy region, his high profi le work overseeing the wine lists of all 19 restaurants in the Michael Mina Group, including restaurant RN74 locations in San Francisco and Seattle. Sure, Parr is a luminary in his own right, but what he really wants to do is make wine. Sandhi Wines is co-owned by Parr and his business partner, Charles Banks. Its fi rst vintage was 2009. Not surprisingly for Parr, a soft-spoken man with an easy smile, the wines of choice are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Although he has no formal training, this isn't the fi rst time Parr has ventured into winemaking. His fi rst label, Parr Selections, produced some notable vintages and was active from 2004 to 2008. Strictly hands-on, Parr travels regularly down to the "wine ghetto" in Lompoc, in Santa Barbara County's Santa Rita Hills, to oversee Sandhi Wines from the ground up, from the vines to the bottle. Sandhi means "alliance" in Sanskrit, which is how Parr characterizes the winemaking process, "a coming together from beginning to end." Parr sources most of the grapes for Sandhi Wines from the Santa Rita Hills, working with the vine- yard managers to oversee the growing season and determine the harvest dates. It's interesting to note that Parr harvests his grapes signifi cantly earlier than many vineyards in the area. Parr asserts that California wines don't have to be massive and alcoholic. When pressed on the issue, Parr simply shrugs and says he harvests his grapes "at the correct time for his wines." None of Parr's wines has more than 13.5% alcohol. In spite of his known affi nity for French wines (his two favorites are Chambolle-Musigny and Meursault), Parr insists his goal is to make a defi nitively Californian wine, a refl ection of the state and its native terroir. He laughs, "If I wanted to make a Burgundian wine, I'd go to Burgundy!" The benchmark for Sandhi Wines has been set high and Parr has a vision that's been put into motion. ─Elizabeth Kate 16 / the tasting panel / december 201 1 Rajat Parr. PHOTO: ELIZABETH KATE

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