Tamber Bey Winemaker Andy Jones
Winemaker Andy Jones, now in his 5th year at Tamber Bey winery in Calistoga, stresses that patience is the key to making great wine.
Quality grapes, facilities and technical knowledge doesn’t hurt either, but Jones, 32, has learned to slow down and wait for it.
“You always get eager at the beginning of harvest,” he said. “And you have to remember to slow down in order to make the wines you want.”
The cool August weather has pushed back Tamber Bey’s harvest by about 10 days, he said, but he’s excited about the 2018 vintage.
“We had a good growing season,” he said, and he’s looking forward to getting into production of those grapes. He’s also looking forward to putting the 2017 vintage behind him. That year was witness to the Tubbs Fire, on record as the most destructive wildfire in California history.
The fire ignited about ¾ of a mile behind Tamber Bey on the night of October 8, 2017. The winery was spared, but it lost power for almost a week. Harvest had been completed, Jones said, and the staff was able to maintain the fermentations going on by “going back to old-school techniques.” The hard part, Jones said, was the loss of some employees who were displaced by the fire.
“That was the biggest challenged I’ve faced,” he said. “The people are the most important thing about the winemaking process.”
For Jones, a native of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the 2018 harvest is looking to be very productive. It will be the third year Tamber Bey has worked with varietals from Lake County for its rosé, which they create in a Provence style. They are also trying out different barrels from different coopers.
Jones, who went to culinary school in San Francisco before becoming a winemaker, loves Pinot Noir and Grenache. Following culinary school, he moved to Calistoga to help open the Solage resort and acted as the assistant food and beverage manager (he was in charge of creating the wine list). At Solage, Jones met his mentor, Tamber Bey’s founding winemaker Thomas Brown, and the rest is history.
Like with food, Jones says, there’s a seasonal quality to wine and he enjoys the cycle of the seasons. He sees his role as winemaker as ensuring quality in the wine from vineyard to bottle. And while he’s maintaining quality, he’s teaching the cellar staff and learning himself, as well.
“Every year is different, every vintage is different, and you learn from every single one,” he said.