For the last few months, master sommelier Brian McClintic has been making his wine recommendations available through a new project he calls Viticole, the French word for wine-growing. Until now these wines have been solely offered through real-time Instagram posts with the winemaker available to answer questions from buyers. Now, McClintic is ready to make the 12 offerings a year (six domestic and six imported) available through his wine club, as he launches a fuller Viticole experience.
McClintic was working at Morton’s Steak House in 2004 when he first heard the word “sommelier.” Later he met master sommelier Michael Jordan, who invited him to his training ground, Napa Rose at Disneyland. Watching blind tastings and hearing descriptors that were all new to McClintic led him to take on the challenge. He eventually passed the master sommelier exam, which is documented in the film “Somm.” He went on to work in Aspen, open Les Marchands Wine Bar in Santa Barbara, and later be part of the globetrotting adventure on a second documentary “Somm Into the Bottle.”
One thing he had not done is travel extensively to wine regions around the world. So when the travel bug bit hard, McCintic realized it was again time to reinvent himself. A trip to France, visiting more that 57 wine producers, sealed the deal and Viticole was born. He set up a plan to travel around the US and the globe searching down his favorite wines for Viticole. He would source the wines he loves: elegant, restrained ones that show off their organic terroir. Then he would connect the subscribers to the winemakers with social media forums, educational videos, and eventually a podcast. The story of the travels for sourcing wines for Viticole also serve as a guide to visiting wine country areas around the globe.
McClintic focuses on sourcing wines made with organic grapes. He visits the wineries to see the grapes for himself and spend time with the winemakers to see their process in action. “This is an agricultural product,” he says. He looks at how the grapes are being grown and treated in the cellar. He is approaching sourcing from the idea of being aware of what we put in our bodies and the environmental impact. “When you walk the vineyard, you can tell very quickly whether it has been sprayed or not,” says McClintic. “And to see the cellar and to talk to the winemaker puts you in a more informative position. That’s the starting point. From there, the wine has to be free of flaws and it has to be special,” he continues.
“On the domestic side, with Les Marchands and visiting vineyards, I met so many people. At the beginning everything radiated from Santa Barbara County,” he says. Now McClintic lives in Northern California and has been taking more time to get to know what is happening in Napa and Sonoma. Through these relationships he has been pointed to places in the Pacific Northwest (where he offered a chardonnay from the Eola-Amity Hills as part of his Viticole series).
I love the fact that the geekiest wine geek and the novice can break bread at a table together and enjoy it
Wines from the US and France will anchor the collection with plans to add some from Austria, Italy, Spain and Patagonia. For this month’s wine McClintic is heading to the Loire Valley to experience Autumn and announce his wine for October. “I want Viticole to be an interactive real-time experience that links together all the aspects that wine intersects that we already know: people, places, culture, history, food. I hope that I can make wine less intimidating and inspire people to want to go to these places and enjoy all of the things that wine touches,” he tells us. “I love the fact that the geekiest wine geek and the novice can break bread at a table together and enjoy it.”
Follow along on Instagram and the newly expanded website filled with wine education and inspiration. Viticole offers are announced on the first day of every month.
Images courtesy of Viticole