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The Wines from The Calling

logoIt’s no secret that I would, if I could pick anything for a profession, own a winery.  While it is probably not in my future, it is always interesting to learn about people who do make that dream come true, frequently arriving at winemaking from completely different professions and careers.  Such is the story with The Calling.  One of the owners, Jim Nantz, is a familiar face and voice, and I can fondly remember years of Masters tournaments and green jacket moments, all accompanied by Jim’s commentary.  You can put together a long list of special moments in sports that he has covered.  So what does someone do for fun when they are not at Augusta National or Churchill Downs?  Why, make some great wine of course!

It was serendipity that brought Emmy Award winning sports commentator Jim Nantz and wine industry entrepreneur Peter jim-peterDeutsch together at a restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut where they were each having dinner with friends. Peter had recently read Jim’s book about his father, Always By My Side, and it resonated with him, reminding him of his own relationship with his father. Peter introduced himself that evening.

Jim was at the restaurant having dinner with a friend who had contacts in the wine industry and was working on an idea that had been in development for years. Jim had long held a passion for wine and was exploring how to take the next step in becoming involved in the wine business when Peter stopped by the table. As fate would have it, that chance meeting would spawn a friendship and partnership, the Deutsch Nantz Alliance (DNA).  I love the acronym, sort of signifying that wine is stamped into their DNA.

Theirs has been a hands-on collaboration. Jim and Peter traveled together to California and worked closely with renowned winemaker Marco DiGiulio on every step of the winemaking process, from vineyard to bottle. They also poured themselves into the packaging process, working to capture the essence of the brand in the label design. For Jim and Peter, The Calling is about pursuing a passion, inspiring others, and truly making a great wine.

Let’s meet the owners:

Jim Nantz

As an Emmy Award winning commentator and a five-time National Sportscaster of the Year, Jim has been calling everything from the Masters Tournament, to the Final Four, to the Super Bowl, since joining the CBS Television Network in 1985.

He is the youngest broadcaster ever recognized by both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 2008 he co-authored the New York Times bestseller Always By My Side. The book chronicled his father’s long struggles with Alzheimers disease. On January 19th, 2011, as a response to the enormous following of the book and as a tribute to his dad, Jim opened the Nantz National Alzheimer Center (NNAC) with The Methodist Hospital in Houston. The NNAC is a cutting-edge, world-renowned research and treatment center that hopes to one day find a cure.

Now Jim is following another “calling”. For years he had been fine-tuning a concept to create a wine brand that would pride itself on its high quality and great value. He had searched for a business partner who shared his vision and passion and found that person in Peter.

Peter Deutsch

untitledPeter has more than 27 years of leadership experience building brands and directing corporate strategy for W. J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd, a leading wine & spirits company in the US. An accomplished marketer, Peter’s vision has driven growth not only for his company, but in the wine industry as a whole. Offering a rare blend of creative and operational strengths, Peter built Georges Duboeuf into the #1 French brand in the US and successfully established Yellow Tail as the #1 Imported brand in the US.

Founded in 1981 by his father Bill Deutsch, Peter joined the family wine company in 1985. Over the years, Peter held various positions in sales and senior management before eventually being appointed CEO in 2007.  This year, the Deutsches announced that they were changing their company name to “Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits” to reflect their guiding principles and their family-to-family approach to business.

In conjunction with this change, Peter wanted to honor his father by creating a wine bearing the Deutsch family name, as a tribute to all the impact his father has had on his life. Peter found a great partner in Jim, who also wanted to create a wine in honor of his dad. They immediately connected in this new “calling”.

The Calling’s mission to make great wine requires, of course, great grapes.  They source their fruit from some of the finest vineyards in Sonoma County.  The Russian River Valley provides the raw material for their Chardonnay and Pinot Nori, while the Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the Alexander Valley.  The wines are made to reflect the character of their terroir.

The Wines

We have three wines from The Calling to review, and they represent the latest releases.  Last month we also tried the 2013 version of the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and it was one of our favorite wines at the New Britain Museum of American Art event (read about here).  So we were very much expecting good things here.  Let’s see what happened.

2013 The Calling Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley in Sonomaimg_0866 County, the grapes here are hand sorted and gently crushed.  Native yeast fermentation was used in barrel, and the wine also saw an extended maceration period.  It was aged for 18 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered.  In general the 2013 vintage in the North Coast is considered equal in quality to the great 2012s, although some we have talked to consider the 2013 version to be more complex and age worthy.  What we thought:

The wine is a dark, vibrant purple.  The nose has berry fruit along with bramble, a touch of menthol, hints of caramel and a strong herbal note.  It is full bodied with dark berry fruit on the palate.  Brisk tannins present right out of the bottle, although these would smooth out considerably with some time.  There is a nice balance to this wine, with the acid keeping it fresh.  After a bit of time to open in the glass it seemed to be even darker, and more opaque, with currant and black plum aromas and flavors.  It really smoothed out, and the second day was seamless, long and thoroughly enjoyable.  This has a different profile than your typical Napa or Sonoma Cab.  We really liked it.  $37

2014 The Calling Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – the fruit here is sourced from several locations within the Russian River img_0867Valley, with each selected for its unique aspect.  Warmer vineyards bring ripe fruit, cooler ones minerality.  Higher elevation vineyards contribute complexity and structure.  This all sounds like a good recipe to us.  Here the wine was fermented in open top tanks with frequent punch downs.  In 2014 the harvest was early, with small berries and good concentration.  Our impressions:

A beautiful, dark cherry red, the wine is brilliant and utterly transparent.  Visually this is a gorgeous wine.  On the nose dark cherry presents, along with complex notes of herbs, tea and orange.  It is very fresh on the palate, with ripe fruit, spice, cherry and oak notes.  It is medium bodied.  Everything about this wine says quality, and anyone who likes a higher end, fruity Pinot Noir should enjoy it.  $37

2014 The Calling Dutton Ranch Chardonnay – Dutton Ranch covers 1,100 acres in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley.  Fruit here img_0868comes from several locations within the ranch.  It is 100% Chardonnay.  This was fermented with native yeast in French oak barrels, and then underwent 100% malolactic fermentation.  Sur lie aging for eleven months in barrel followed.  Our opinion:

Light golden yellow in color, the wine brings an aromatic profile typical of an oaked Chardonnay.  There is some butter, some ripe fruit (with apricot and apple) and some lemony notes.  It is not overdone, however, and on the palate the wine is rich yet bright.  The oak plays off the brisk acid beautifully, and the wine finishes very long in a final triumph of lemon custard.  This is quite delicious, very high quality and a Chardonnay both the oak fans and the oak avoiders might agree on.  $32

Clearly there is a commitment to quality winemaking here, and to do so at a price which is still affordable.  Yet as with most people in the wine business, these two gentlemen also pursue a charitable endeavor which benefits from the wine’s success.  The Calling’s co-owner’s, Jim Nantz and Peter Deutsch, are committed to helping find a cure for Alzheimer’s.  Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds and 16 million Americans are expected to be affected by the disease by 2050. To learn more, visit nantzfriends.org.  The Calling donated 20% of all wine sales in the month of November, 2016 to this cause.

If you’re in the mood for a very good wine without breaking the bank these will fit the bill nicely.  We recommend them all.

You can read more about The Calling, its owners and its wines at https://www.thecallingwine.com/, which is where much of the background material used in this article originated.

A votre santé!

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