What has inspired your winemaking journey---the greatest hits or highlights you just can't not talk about?
LYLE: I feel blessed to have worked with greats like Kermit Lynch & other major players in Beaujolais & Provence. It's a network my brother & I lean on when approaching our winemaking. If I had to choose a highlight, it would be the yearly dance with mother nature & how bound the vineyard is to it-----its forced us to always expect the unexpected.
The unexpected can either be a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare, ha! Its also something we've come to live for in our industry. Speaking of the unexpected, tell me about what led to Railsback Freres after the success of Lieu Dit?
LYLE: Haha, yeah man. Lieu Dit was more of a project from my brother that has a huge focus of wines with a restaurant focus; wines that are food driven & elegant choices for a restauranteur's wine list. They were meant to be interpretations that, when drank side by side with french iterations, would be identical & distinctly old world. Like Lieu Dit, Railsback Freres features classic french varietals forged in California terroir. The wines have a fresher, porch pounder quality to them. More of your everyday drinking wines, for sure.
Agreed, especially that Carignan. It's the perfect partner to the summer time with a slight chill on it. Are there any varietals you don't already work with that you want to grow or have plans for in the future?
LYLE: Great question, haha! We've always been experimentive, so no grape is off the table per se. Given the climate of California we just have to be strategic in vineyard site selection. A little exclusive for you: we are currently in the process of making a private label cabernet sauvignon. Where we've been mostly pulling from the varietals of Beaujolais, Burgundy, and Provence, the next project is going to see more of a Bordeaux inspiration. A Savvy B (sauvignon blanc) & Semillon blend aged in neutral barrels out of Saint Ynez is also in the works.
That's super exciting! I'll be first in line for that white blend. Is there anything in particular that is thrilling for you to see from other winemakers?
LYLE: Definitely. I'm excited about the young producers coming out of California right now. This younger generation is producing wine with more intention & you are seeing less of the big, opulent flavor profiles we have come to attribute to the region. Jolie Laide, Pax, and Massican, to name a few, are leading this new age we are just on the cusp of.
A new age indeed. Do you have any pet peeves that maybe the new generation or old generation may have unintentionally created?
LYLE: The dogmas of buzz terms, haha! "Natural", "organic"----these terms have now created unnecessary rules in winemaking that otherwise would be followed without us having to slap that on the label for marketing purposes.
Literally a conversation I was having with a friend a couple days ago, ha! The only one I want to see more of is a denotation about vegan wines, since as a restaurant professional I feel that informing my guests of this is actually important.
LYLE: I totally agree with that & get that!
Before I let you go Lyle, tell me about a special bottle you've come across that either created an "a ha" moment about wine for you or was just damn good juice.
LYLE: The wines of Eric Minura come to mind, especially his whites that I experienced early on in my career. Honestly, I believe the special bottle is really the next one, the next wine that I haven't tasted yet & that's what keeps the thrill alive.