any of us have a romantic notion of what it would be like to own a
vineyard. Sitting on the covered porch of the chateau, watching the sun set over endless rows of heirloomquality vines heavy with grapes that will soon be turned into casks of wine, all the while sipping on a glass of the fruits of our labors. That image is due in no small part to some of the offerings from Hollywood, some of which feature scenes describing that exact sort of life for those dedicated to the ancient art of wine creation. The problem is, though, itâ€™s not all just glasses of Pinot and Italian supermodels. They tell me thereâ€™s work involved, too.
Winemaking is more than a job to Ehren. It’s his raison d'être; the wines he creates are his children.
requisite funds to purchase a 40-acre spread of land, which
given that they - the husband-and-wife team - were the brains,
he envisioned as 40 acres of grape vines, no doubt a plot of
the brawn and the talent behind the wine label. The folks in
land he’d been spying from beneath a covered porch as the
the legal department at Jordan Wines didn’t share their
brilliant California sunset lit up the sky.
sentiment, however, and Ehren and Anne-Marie decided to
By this time, Ehren had increased the size of his household by
drawn-out legal proceeding. And, as Ehren pointed out, the
change the name to Failla Wines, so as to avoid a wine, with his marriage to Anne-Marie Failla. But a funny
topography of the area didn’t really lend itself to any sort of
thing happened on the way to winemaking Nirvana, though.
romantic names. He briefly contemplated – but quickly
Of those 40 acres, approximately four of them were
discarded – the thought of naming the nascent vineyard after a
actually able to support the growing of grapes. But Ehren was
regional landmark, something along the lines of “Stag’s Leap”
not to be put off. He meticulously planted and continues to
or “Goose Ridge” or even “Columbia Crest.” But such
maintain small plots of different varietals, including Syrah and
enticingly named vistas were in short supply near his
Chardonnay grapes. The parcel of land is also off the power
vineyard, and apparently the name “Hell Hole” (a crescent-
grid, so solar energy is the main power source, which powers
shaped reservoir near the vineyard) didn’t do well in
water pumps that bring water 200 feet up to water the grapes,
wine-oriented marketing focus groups.
which are grown using strictly organic methods. And the thing about winemaking is that you need a lot of On top of that, he’d begun marketing his own wine under the
grapes. “It takes about a ton of grapes to make 60 cases of
label of Failla Jordan Wines. It seemed like a perfect name,
wine,” Ehren told me. “And a case is 12 bottles of wine.” So
I want to make wines that inspire me.
one ton of grapes – what strikes me as an astronomical amount of fruit – makes about the equivalent of 720 bottles of wine. And the math doesn’t end there. One acre of grapes can grow approximately two or three tons of grapes. In other words, you’re looking at 1440 to 2160 bottles of wine per acre. “We grow about 20 percent of the fruit that we use in our wine,” Ehren told me, further tormenting my mathematically challenged brain. “The rest we buy from other vineyards.” It’s enough to make your head spin, both in terms of the wine and the math. As a side-note, for an art history major, the man can do math. Seriously. Numbers games aside, Ehren loves it. He loves everything about the process of making wine. “My career has been making wine, and it continues to be today,” he said. “It’s got a fair amount of inherent risk, though. It is agriculture, after all, and agricultural endeavors have risk associated with them.” By purchasing the majority of the grapes that go into his wines, Ehren manages to spread the risk around. And he still maintains what he calls his “day job,” which means serving as a winemaker for other wineries. In addition to the original 40 acres, Ehren and his wife have since purchased a second plot, which has approximately 11 planted acres, and there are plans to acquire a third plot of land, which is approximately 15 acres. But bigger isn’t necessarily better in Ehren’s world. “Our business is small enough to keep it simple,” he said. “I don’t aspire to be that big. I want to make wines that inspire me.” Just don’t ask him which one is his favorite. He’s been asked that before, and you’re not going to get the answer you’re looking for. Trust me.