So I did this profile of Russell Bevan for Artful Living magazine (PDF here: Bevan Artful Living), but since we spent a couple of hours together and the article needed to be shortish, a lot of cool stuff didn’t make it. Such as:
• Bevan was largely self-taught, but he did have mentors and role models. “Greg La Follette [left] helped me with my first vintage; he and I had been friends for a long time. He’s a mad scientist, a genius. … If my life depended on one person making a perfect wine, it would be Helen Turley or Greg La Follette. They are the two wine gods. And Phillip Togni. His wines are never perfect, but they’re perfect for where they came from and what his intent is. Phillip and Greg were easily my two biggest influences.”
• On the Twin Cities, where he lived for the better part of the 1990s: “I love the city. What people don’t understand is that the large gay community there makes that city. Because if you had this large population of Northern Europeans without the flamboyant soul to the city, you’d be in trouble. The restaurants, theater, the arts, all those things are empowered by this fabulous gay community. It is one of the great cities.”
• He had a most unusual encounter with a guest at Chateau Boswell. “I was telling these people from Texas that the cave was 150,000 years old, and the guy looked at me and said ‘you know that’s a lie. The Lord only created the world 6,200 years ago.’ I asked him about dinosaurs, and he said ‘The Lord provided carcasses of dinosaurs to Noah, and that’s what the animals on the ark ate and they threw away the bones and that’s where the fossils come from.
“He said ‘I’m a Jeffersonian’ and I asked him what that meant. ‘Well, [Thomas] Jefferson warned that someday you’re going to have to defend yourself from the federal government.’ I said ‘dude, you can buy all the rounds you want. They have drones, missiles. You and all your employees can be shooting at those missiles all you want.’ I don’t understand these people.”
• He’s a neat freak. “I was born in Ukiah, California, which implies a certain level of white trash. My parents sent me to a military prep school for a year. I still set my clothes out every night. I have to be very intoxicated not to set my clothes out every night. … Our winery smells like a production facility. It’s scrubbed every week. Look at how clean that drain is. I don’t allow people to come and spit in my drains.”
• He has a knack for dealing with unusual vintages, such as cooler 2011 and hot-hot-hot 2013. “In ’11 we did better than everybody because I read a report based on a lunar pattern and an eclipse pattern saying we were gonna have a really early, wet year. So at every vineyard, I took half the vineyard and opened up the canopy for both the morning and afternoon side, so I got tons of pre-veraison UV sun exposure. We lost several grapes on the afternoon side to sunburn, but we had 20 people at the sorting table pulling the raisins, and everything that was left had an amazing purity to it.
As for 2013: “There’s this guy called Doc Weather [left], and he’s got a website, and people pay $2,500 a year for his service. And so he talked about how every major three- or four-year drought always followed the same eclipse pattern we were about to go through. So we totally protected the afternoon side and opened up the morning side completely, and that’s really paid off for us in the purity of fruit. This is a ’13, and that was a blistering year. This doesn’t taste like cooked fruit; it’s got fresh red and blue fruit. We were able to keep our flavors fresh, not baked.
“I think you need to buy into math and Mother Nature.”
• Some of his winemaking practices: “I pay an extra $700 a ton to have people pull out raisins, and we also have an optical sorter. … Everything is fermented in small batches. We’re 100-percent French oak. … We don’t rack our wines, so the wines get a little reductive because I don’t want to lose the verve. … I focus on textural balance, because I know that aromatically and flavor-wise, special sites are going to speak. … None of these wines are tannic. We’re not chewing on the back of our mouths right now. … I blend at night, and no one else is here. I like it when it’s me and my barrels.”