Wine X Online Edition
Wine X Note: Pride is one of our short-list bottles & and destinations. Hands-down. Cool people, cool place, and phenomenal bottles. Wine X’s Dutch Simmons caught up with Tim Bouchet several months ago to see how things are going in their post-COVID world and get some inside skinny on the most recent bottles. Cheers!
I have had the benefit of knowing Tim Bouchet, the Director of Sales, Hospitality, Estate Management and Facilities at Pride Mountain Vineyards for almost as long as he has been there, which is 22 years. Located at the enviable location straddling the Napa and Sonoma border at the summit of Spring Mountain. For the uninitiated, the ride to get to the winery itself can be a white knuckled endeavor before a tasting; it is Death Race 3000 after. Tim was kind enough to indulge me and share a few stories about Pride.
Tim, let’s talk about that ride up and back to the winery itself. You’ve been doing it for over 20 years. I’m assuming you can do it in your sleep now?
TB: In fairness, I actually live in the caves and don’t have to drive anymore. Actually, I have never had a problem, but we have had a bottling truck completely underestimate a turn and it nearly flipped over. Luckily, we didn’t lose too much. We have a new driver now.
DS: Speaking of the caves, they are a pretty spectacular layout. How often have you had to send in search parties to find stragglers?
TB: The good news is we have an excellent track record, and nobody has ever had to resort to cannibalism. Occasionally, in some of the larger parties, folks get separated, or linger at a previous station, and then get lost. Oddly, they never seem to be far from any of the tasting stations in the cave.
During one tasting, there was a loud “hissing’ sound coming from behind one of the barrels. The couple thought it may have been an air hose, but I knew there weren’t any there. In my calmest voice possible, I asked her to VERY slowly walk towards me. She didn’t believe me initially when I said there was a snake behind her, but when she saw that I turned paler than the viognier, she knew I wasn’t kidding. Sure enough, a rattlesnake joined the tasting. We were able to scoop him out with a rake and a bucket. I think I was more scared than she was!
DS: Ok, so snakes aside, the caves have been relatively tame. What about those scenic grounds of yours. I’ll have you know that it’s in my will to have my ashes scattered there. Hopefully I make it into a great vintage. Way down the road.
TB: Yeah, the vineyards are a different story. They are sort of magical. I would like to say I’m kidding, but I have had numerous guests mention that they conceived a child in the vineyard.
DS: Let’s see… Magical setting, plus excellent wine equals… yeah, that makes perfect sense!
TB: You wouldn’t be the first to have your ashes spread here. It all does lend to the beauty of the place. It’s spectacular. Although I’m not sure what I’m more comfortable with as far as the circle of life goes in the vineyards, ashes scattered or babies made.
DS: I know you guys really enjoy entertaining at the winery and are known for some pretty spectacular dinners.
TB: It doesn’t hurt when you have someone like Chef Emeril Lagasse who is a great friend of the winery. We have had some amazing dinners with him, and he has participated in numerous charity dinners with us here. Cindy Pawlcyn and Charlie Palmer have done some stellar meals here. One of my favorites was a dinner for the vineyard workers by Pablo Jacinto. He wanted to do an elevated Mexican dinner that was paired with the wines. It was really one of the best meals I ever had.
DS: Speaking of amazing meals, if I remember correctly, you guys have had your wine served at the White House? How did that come about? You just go up and knock on the door and ask them to try the wine?
TB: Believe it or not, the White House has served Pride Mountain Wines at 32 events, over several administrations. It started with the 50th anniversary dinner of NATO, when they needed 18 cases of wine to go with the Bison course. We had a great friend that made the connection, and we’ve been on the official White House menu ever since. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for my Secret Service clearance to participate in a meal there. Someone needs to be able to talk about the wine!
DS: Speaking of your wine, you guys are known for that wonderfully robust Spring Mountain fruit. Unfortunately the winery is on fire. What are you running in and saving?
TB: The Reserve Claret. It’s a testament to an incredibly noble grape that just thrives up here. I’d save it and then tuck it away for at least five years, but not twenty five. You have to get that burst of Spring Mountain fruit. Nothing else is like it.
DS; Got it. So let everything else just burn.
TB: You’re killing me. The viognier is really special. I think it’s the closest to a real Condrieu in California. And the Sangiovese? I know people think it’s a vanity play, but man the conditions are so great for that grape. It really is completely underrated. And the Syrah is so technically sound. It’s a beautiful wine. I can’t get tired of any of them.
DS: So basically, if you aren’t tired of drinking Pride wines, what do you drink when you’re not working? Given the number of tastings and samplings in a given day, your liver must be destined for the Hall of Fame!
TB: Some days you just can’t beat an Anchor Steam Ale, especially if it’s on tap. It’s basic, but it is a favorite.
DS: How has everyone held up during the quarantine? You guys are like a huge family there. Who gets on your nerves the most? It’s got to be Wendy! (Wendy Brooks Director of Marketing)
TB: Man we are a family, and every week it’s someone else’s turn to get piled on. Wendy is awesome for sure. We try to make sure everyone gets picked on equally.
Pride’s guest experience is one the best in Napa, and that says a lot. They’re back open and seeing guests, following the state and local safety policies of course. Spots on the tour are by appointment, but don’t wig out and assume that means its impossible to get in. I’ve always had a lot of success making it happen on a jaunt through the valley, so don’t be bashful, just call.
Pro-tip #1: The winery grouds have an amazing tasting room, and they pour the reserve on most days. The tour usually starts on there in the tasting room… so arrive early and have a glass before the fun begins
Pro-tip #2: Let the sane driver take the wheel on the drive up. Don’t let Dutch’s description just fly past you. Make a good, early decision .lolololo (so says the crazy driver)