In between our conversations about their record collection, podcasts, and the accessibility of wine, I learned to taste the difference. The education was dispensed in such a way that I remembered words like ‘rich’ and ‘creamy’ and was completely comfortable admitting — in an environment so laid-back — that I couldn’t detect the hints of baked lemon or vanilla.
As we tasted and chatted, Ridings went on to share more about the story behind the wine. I learned that wines produced exclusively from Napa Valley vineyards vary from year to year. Napa Valley exists in a unique microclimate, and fluctuations in that microclimate affect that season’s crops. And since wine designated from a certain Napa Valley appellation means that wine is exclusively grown, harvested, aged, and bottled in Napa Valley, the sum of all those microclimate changes are compounded in that end product — the bottle of wine. The result can sometimes be devastating when Napa Valley suffers unseasonable weather or a natural disaster, but when things go well, as they do more often than not, wines produced in Napa Valley can be more vibrant and aromatic than those from elsewhere in California.
Not all vintners can source from some of the best growers in Napa Valley, but the team behind JaM Cellars has a long history here in Wine Country. The owners, husband-and-wife team John and Michele Truchard (the ‘J’ and ‘M’ of JaM Cellars), are second-generation Napa Valley vintners. With the success of their high-end John Anthony Vineyards already under their belt, John wanted to create great wine for the everyday drinker. I was surprised to learn that the JaM label was created during the recession in the aughts, but I shouldn’t have been — people always want quality, affordable wine. John relies on his long-standing relationships with growers to control the entire vertical process of winemaking, creating a quality wine at a reasonable price, then distributes through popular markets and grocery stores. (I’ve since found JaM’s handy WineFinder on their website, JaMCellars.com, that shows you everywhere you can find their wines around the country).
We moved onto the California Candy Dry Rosé. Named for its eye-candy appeal, this wine is as pretty as it is delicious — perfectly crisp and clean on a warm spring morning in Wine Country. Next, Ridings poured the Napa and California JaM Cabernets while I asked him about the studio itself. What’s it like to work in this space? A part shop, part live music venue where the owners have consciously moved away from what can sometimes be the sterile grandeur of tasting rooms of yore.