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One in every of Pure Wine’s Largest Advocates Isn’t Into Pure Wine Anymore—Right here’s Why.

One in every of Pure Wine’s Largest Advocates Isn’t Into Pure Wine Anymore—Right here’s Why.

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In a gray knit Carhartt hat and Joe Beef sweatshirt, Patrick Cappiello appears nervous as he glances at the camera and begins to speak: “So I’m going to get to my point pretty quickly here, but last week I talked to you about being transparent and telling you everything that happens in the winery, and I spent this weekend really struggling with next steps and wanting to be honest.” Cappiello’s Instagram reel, which at the time of this writing had received over 2,900 likes and more than 400 comments, most of them supportive, went on to explain that after tasting some of the older vintages of his Monte Rio Cellars wine, the sommelier-turned-winemaker found that they were “not only not good, but undrinkable,” leading him to realize he needed to filter his wines and add sulfur to make them stable.

The former co-owner and wine director of New York City’s Pearl & Ash and Michelin-starred Rebelle, Cappiello headed to Sonoma in 2017, 40 years after beginning his first restaurant job as a dishwasher and busboy at the age of 15. Upon moving to the Big Apple, he rose quickly through the ranks of New York wine professionals, waiting tables and then becoming a sommelier at Tribeca Grill, moving on to Veritas, and then taking the role of wine director at Gilt, which earned two Michelin Stars and a Grand Award during his tenure there. Pearl & Ash, which he opened in 2013, was known for its broad wine list divided between classic listings and low-intervention wines, its raucous soundtrack, and Cappiello’s nightly climbs atop the bar to saber bottles of Champagne; Rebelle opened two years later and earned a Michelin star. And Cappiello was crowned sommelier of the year by multiple publications. He says he is “still involved” with Walnut Street Café in Philadelphia, which he opened as a partner in 2017. When his two Lower East Side restaurants closed, he headed west to work his first grape harvest, and began an apprenticeship with Pax Mahle at Pax Wines in Sebastopol. He had traded his suit for T-shirts when he left Gilt to start Pearl & Ash, and he has stuck with that uniform ever since, adding hats as the weather dictates. In a telephone interview, Cappiello describes Mahle’s winery, where he still produces Monte Rio as well as co-owned Skull Wines, as an incubator that had launched several other successful brands. He says Mahle was “driving the car” for the first two vintages of Monte Rio, but that since 2020, he has overseen all winemaking decisions at Monte Rio.

The sprawling winery.

Leigh-Ann Beverley

In his Instagram video, Cappiello says he is finally speaking out despite the “fear of dogmatic gatekeepers in the sommelier or wine merchant community, which I used to be a part of, that dictate that doing something like this makes your wine unnatural.” He explains, “I am trying to call out sommeliers who have never made a bottle of wine or risked their life and finances to start a winery. I’m not going to be beholden to them anymore.” Cappiello talked with us about Monte Rio Cellars and explained his seeming about-face on natural wine.

What was the main point you were trying to make with this video?

When I go forward and say these things, I’m saying this because the dogma about natural wines has gone so deep. There are so many things that are all about the boxes you check as a natural winemaker or as a curator of natural wine at a wine shop or bottle shop or a restaurant. You have to make sure you can say all these things that the winemaker is doing. They’re all carbonic or they’re zero-zero, [a type of natural winemaking in which nothing is added to or removed from the wine], they’re this, they’re that.

Why do you feel the need to be transparent?

As I’ve grown and I want to be an economically stable company, I had to have larger conversations with less people that were dogmatic and were more concerned about what the flavor was in the glass and having to sell it, for the stability of having a wine [that is] open and served by the glass in the restaurant. And that’s when I started to realize it was more important to me to make a wine that people could depend on than a wine that checks boxes of people who had never actually made wine or really even understand what they’re claiming natural wine is. I’ve always felt this way, but I’ve never been open about it. You know, I have been cross-flowing for a few years now. I think 2021 was the first year that I cross-flowed a white wine. And you know, I did it, and I still remember feeling so dirty after I did it, which is so fucked up. And I felt like I was doing something wrong.

A bottle of Monte Rio.

Leigh-Ann Beverley

What part of the wine community did you think was going to take the most issue with your transparency?

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My goal was to cause disruption with people who were creating a narrative about natural wine and about what people should be doing. And I think about that the influence they have on other buyers. As a buyer, knowing how intimidating that can be and how bullying that culture can be of not just what is natural wine is but what is cool wine, what is good wine. You know, sommeliers are not always nice to each other, and wine merchants are not always nice to each other. And I think that the bullying and the gatekeeping are passed down. It’s like for me growing up in a born-again Christian family, it’s like dogmatic religious approaches. These things that we hear people tell us, it’s just word of mouth. It’s something passed on, something that God wants us to look at as religion. Religion is so fucking corrupt. And it’s corrupt because people who think that they know better have gotten involved and gotten in between that and what people should be able to experience in that relationship. And I think that it’s the same thing with wine. So many people are making these calls for how things are.

Do you consider yourself a natural winemaker?

My terminology was always that I make wine naturally, not that I’m a natural winemaker. Because, first of all, I think that that word has not been defined, and to say something is natural wine is dangerous because there is no set definition of the terminology and it’s been a long-discussed thing. But also, it was a club that I did not necessarily want to be a part of. Being a natty wine producer, to really bro it down, it just didn’t feel right to me. Do I consider myself a natural winemaker? In the end, I don’t know. I don’t know if I do anymore, but I thought I was. I guess other people will have to make that decision for me.

Source: Robb Report

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