Ask a Winemaker: Muiris Griffin of Round Pond Estate

  • Wine
  • by WC STAFF
  • on JULY 23, 2015
  • 106
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With around 400 wineries in Napa Valley, it can be difficult for winemakers to stand out. Muiris Griffin has more than overcome that challenge with his work at Round Pond Estate. In addition to utilizing new techniques to get the absolute best yield from their soil, Muiris has developed innovative winemaking techniques that allow for the production of single-berry wines—a longtime goal for many winemakers—which has the potential to significantly impact in the wine industry.

In this interview, Muiris provides an insider perspective on what it takes to run one of the leading wineries in Napa Valley. In addition to discussing micro sites and the production of his single-berry wine, he explains to us why visitors to his winery are so important to his long-term success, along with some of the steps he and his staff take to ensure that everyone has a memorable and fun time while visiting Round Pond Estate.

If you’re interested in getting an inside look into the mind of a leading winemaker, then read on.

1. What’s your favorite spot in Rutherford?

My favorite spot in Rutherford is without a doubt the gravel streaks running through the Eastern section of our site. The whole Round Pond vineyard is producing amazing wines, and those streaks are consistently putting out what I think are some of the best wines in the world.

2. Aside from your own, is there a winery you are currently impressed by/enjoy? What makes it special?

There are so many wineries that are putting out amazing wines up and down the Valley, and around California, it’s impossible to pick out one. Obviously Thomas Rivers Brown is one of the top, and I’m always impressed by the wines he touches. And Michael Silacci at Opus One is always inspiring me to go farther in using every tool possible to get the best out of the vineyard and to optimize everything in the cellar to make absolutely incredible wines.

3. What are your top three favorite local wines? International wines?

Top three local wines are definitely Montebello from Ridge, Opus One, and Smai. Top international are Chateau Pape Clement, Vieux Telegraphe, and Jean Luc Columbo.

4. If you’re going out after work, where can you be found?

I’ll frequently stop at The Rutherford Grill after work—it’s kind of my hang out spot just down the road. But sitting out on our Terrace has to be one of the best places to be in the Valley!

5. What is one aspect of wine you wish people knew more about?

I would say balance of structure and acidity. I think getting that tannin/acid balance right is the biggest qualitative factor in making Rutherford Cab. Also sweet fruit flavors vs. sugar, a lot of people equate a sweet fruit profile with residual sugar, like on our Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc which has tons of rich sweet fruit notes but is totally dry.

6. What is your favorite wine & food pairing?

My favorite pairings right now are sparkling with sushi, or our Sauvignon Blanc with some slightly spicy curry (can’t do it too spicy, I’m Irish!).

7. What winemaking trend are you most excited about? Least excited about?

The thing I’m most excited about is locating micro sites within vineyard blocks to get the absolute best out of your various soil profiles. We have so many tools now to identify different soil types in the vineyard and such a better understanding of how those differences can be optimized for the best possible quality. The wines better represent the sites from which they come, and we have much better options during blending. They’re aren’t really any trends that I’m negative on. I think the more crazy, random things people do in the vineyard or in the winery, the more we all learn based on the results.

8. How did you come to wine as a profession?

Wine as a profession was actually proposed to me after taking an aptitude test in middle school. I thought nothing of it at the time, but after studying in France after high school I had grown rather fond of wine (mostly very cheap Rosé) and I was thrilled to rediscover the wine country where I’d grown up. I started with a family friend in their tiny vineyard and I was hooked!

9. What’s the best part about your job?

There are so many great things about my job, least favorite is probably all the spreadsheeting, most favorite is probably the artistic expression it allows me. This is not a perfect science. I do the things I do because I believe those techniques to be the best to extract all of the potential quality from the grapes we grow here, but someone else would surely do something different. Even though I want to be as hands off as possible in the cellar, I still feel like I get to express myself through these wines.

10. Finish this sentence: “Wine should be…”

Wine should be enjoyed! Every wine, every time. It should be enjoyed for what it is, regardless of what it is. If you don’t like a particular wine you may be served at a dinner party for instance, don’t just choke it down to move on, try to enjoy every sip for what it is in that moment.

11. What’s the most exciting thing about Round Pond?

We’re doing a lot of exciting things both with our winemaking as well as the visitor experience. I think the way we’re dividing up each block into tiny micro sites based on the specific profile of the soil is yielding awesome results! It takes a huge amount of work to farm these micro sites differently within the blocks, but it allows us to hone in practices based on the performance of each vine.

Whether you come for a short olive oil or wine tasting or one of our in-depth, all day experiences, we aim to share a piece of the Napa Valley lifestyle with you. Our estate is nearly 400 acres and includes 12 acres of olive trees, six acres of organic gardens from which we source fruits, vegetables, and eggs for our pairing menus. I’m a fan of our Terrace Lounge tastings on Friday evenings in the summer (April – October at 6 – 8 p.m. by appointment only). As most wineries are closing up for the day, our guests are enjoying the fantastic Napa Valley sunset and views of the iconic Mayacamas Mountains paired with wines and special bites inspired by the garden produce. It’s just heaven.

Excited to explore Round Pound Estate and nearby wineries? Discover Oakville-Rutherford wineries and start planning your trip today!