Wine & Conversation: Dominique DaCruz, Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn
Driving from Los Angeles to Big Sur is always a “Life Awaking” experience and this drive was truly about “Terroir”. Once outside the city, I ingested terroir and experienced nature’s undisturbed beauty. When the superlatives and mind jarring descriptors leave you wondering how is it possible to find “that” in wine, moments in nature bring clarification and understanding. Spending hours on highway one can be somewhat challenging if you’re not prepared to relax and unwind. I’d driven this stretch of highway many times before and was prepared to let nature, be nurturing. Once I arrived at Post Ranch Inn: my how the years have flown, nature was more clear and pristine than any photograph or painting could capture. I’d been coming to Post Ranch Inn over the past fifteen years and I’ve always been amazed by its timelessness, it seemed as if time had stood still and the Inn waited for my return. In all its rustic, but elegant, opulence, I found that sense of peace and serenity one comes to know when absence of disturbance is present. It is here where I sat down with Dominique for wine and conversation.
TM: Dominique, it is great to be back. With each return there is a newness discovered, complexity pondered, and a lasting intangible experience unlike any I’ve ever known. Fifteen years ago I had no clue that I would be out of the music business and in the wine business but, here we are and I’m grateful to make it back again. I know the story but, for those who are not familiar with you, Post Ranch Inn and Sierra Mar, please fill them in.
DD: Terrance as always, it’s great to see you and to welcome you back. I started my exposure to wine at a very young age in Grenoble, France where I attended culinary and hotel management school attached with Oenology and Sommelier studies. Shortly after I started, it was evident through grades and personal appeal that Oenology was my forte. I stayed with it for the 2 years of studies and ended it with a diploma. As far as the Sierra Mar story goes, I first came to the US via Ann Arbor, Michigan. There, I met a restaurateur Tony Perault, for whom I worked. His restaurant “Escoffier” was a recipient of the Wine Spectator’s Grand Award at that time. Tony was given the chance to come out to California to open a restaurant at a soon to be built resort, Post Ranch Inn, it sounded like a wild idea then. Tony as been a great guy, managed to bring a lot of key people-friends with him for this adventure. I was lucky to be one of them, the rest is history.
TM: The clientele at Post Ranch Inn and Sierra Mar possess very discriminating palates, to ensure no palate is unsatisfied, what level of stock do you maintain?
DD: Indeed our clientele possess very discriminating palates, but there is a wide spectrum of guests and therefore needs. The goal is to respond to each palate appropriately and independently. One must be ready at all levels, we stock 14,000 bottles and 2,700 selections – – just in case.
TM: With new wine lovers emerging do you see a definitive profile developing or is there more open-mindedness involved?
DD: I couldn’t give you a definitive new wine lover’s profile but, thankfully there is a diversity of them out there. All wine lovers shop around to discover new wines but, I tend to see true lovers of wine keeping an open mind with a distinct set of preferences.
TM: What’s your take on the current influx of wine in the market, its affect on the industry and necessary factors for survival.
DD: Basic economics, supply and demand. The problem with wine production, unlike other products, the adjustment has to be projected. Some of the wines coming into the market today were produced during good economical times. As the wineries correct their production and financial targets, they must take into consideration further possible economical swings, and the reality attached to unsold inventories. There is a major shift still happening, and it is going to take, “outside the box” thinking and a revamp in marketing for wineries, distributors, and importers to stay afloat. Things could get very competitive, which means a lot of happy wine buyers. One would hope that, there is some good coming out of hard times. If the industry, at all levels, is forced to loose some players, I would hope, that quality and the integrity to the craft remain factors for survival.
TM: With over production being an issue and certain wines possessing no definitive geographical origin, what’s your take on the use of terroir for marketing purposes?
DD: I know, good modern marketing is prime, but don’t be fooled. The word terroir has been used widely for marketing purposes – – but not always applied or understood. To serve us well one should look it up and know its true meaning and why it is a key factor in winemaking – – please look it up!
TM: Be it First Growths, Grand Crus, or Cult wines what moves you?
DD: When the word “Grand” regardless of the status of the wine, and the word “Good” as in goodness-sake applies, I’m moved. Old wines are what always move me the most. It is when, I’m not telling a story about the wine but when the wine itself tells me a story.
TM: Before I arrive, I spent time in Los Angeles for a private tasting of the 2007 vintage. What are your thoughts on this vintage and the future of wine in California?
DD: 2007 so far is a blessing. The media is behind it, the quality, from what I have tasted, shows through. It is a must needed boost for the industry in general. I’m hoping for long lasting effects. I would like to say that the future of the California wine industry is here, the shift has happened, it is all about adjustments and a new evolution. There will be expensive Cults but more of them in the market, there will be better priced top shelves, and the bargain bin has never looked so good. But I believe that quality will become more than ever, the bottom line of prosperity. “There is still room at the top.”
TM: Dominique, thank you so much for taking a moment to share your thoughts and for doing it here at Sierra Marr and for the incredible bottle of ‘04 Clos Rougeard, Saumur Champigny.
I’ve been quite fortunate to experience Post Ranch Inn in all seasons but, I must say the Indian summers are by far my favorite time, unless I’m escaping the cold winter in Washington DC.
Once I returned to Washington, I found it extremely serendipitous to have experienced the very best in refined wine and opulent retreating. The 2007 vintage has all the makings of greatness – of a great wine to be enjoyed now or over time. With immediate or delayed gratification, there’s something unique and rewarding about this vintage that must not be ignored.
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You can find additional information on Post Ranch Inn & Sierra Mar at: www.postranchinn.com
Until the next glass,