From Film School to the Vineyards With James Phillips of Madrigal Family Winery


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Nov 17, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Last Updated on November 17, 2022 by rise25

James Phillips
From Film School to the Vineyards With James Phillips of Madrigal Family Winery 11

James Phillips is the Winemaker at the Madrigal Family Winery. He started in the filmmaking industry but eventually gravitated towards winemaking. While in film school, James took a part-time job at a small winery. This experience sparked his interest in and love for winemaking. Aside from bringing his expertise to the Madrigal Family Winery, James is also a consulting winemaker for seven different wineries.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • James Phillips shares how he jumped from filmmaking to winemaking
  • How would James describe himself as a winemaker in movie terms?
  • The parallels between filmmaking and winemaking
  • How the Madrigal Family Winery creates experiences through wine
  • The difference between winemaking in New Zealand and California
  • James shares his experience consulting for seven wineries
  • James talks about the Madrigal Family Winery  
  • What excites James the most about the next 10 years?

In this episode with James Phillips

Film and wine both tell stories to people. You share your viewpoint, communicate your message, and evoke different experiences in people.

A bottle of wine can transport people to faraway places. The Madrigal Family Winery invites people to the vineyards and tells the story of how it all started. People recognize that the beauty of wine is in its history and that it is more than what is in the glass. 

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon welcome James Phillips, Winemaker at the Madrigal Family Winery, to talk about the parallels between filmmaking and winemaking. James also shares his experience working with wine from different places and the challenges that come with it.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit barrelsahead.com or email us at hello@barrelsahead.com to schedule a strategy call.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks here I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. One that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. Today, Bianca Harmon is joining us again it’s she’s our direct to consumer marketing specialist. How’s it gone? Bianca?

Bianca Harmon  0:55  

On really good drew excited to be back. Haven’t been on for a couple episodes and talk with James today.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  1:03  

Yeah, what do we have James Phillips James. James is the Winemaker at Madrigal Family Winery in Napa. Welcome to the show, James.

James Phillips  1:12  

Thanks for Thanks for letting me be here. Drew, and Bianca. Nice to talk to you.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  1:17  

Said James look at looking at you’re looking at your bio looks like you got your start in filmmaking. How did you make the the jump from filmmaking? To winery?

James Phillips  1:26  

Yeah, that’s, uh, you know, I don’t know, there was a, a moment that really made that that change. Because I had always been involved or been around wine growing up. And so being in film school, I actually just got a side job, part time working in a winery, and kind of just fell in love, I got to it was a small enough winery where I got to really do all aspects in terms of what needed to be done around, working in the vineyard working in the winery, working in the tasting room. So it really gave me a nice overview of what the industry really is, and how we make wine, you know, all the way from start a to, you know, to kind of the bottle sales and interacting with everybody. So it’s just it felt really good. And

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:33  

you grew up in the wine industry or wine area.

James Phillips  2:36  

I didn’t grow up in the industry itself, but I had been just around wine making, you know, hobby wine with my father from a young age. And from a young age as well.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:48  

Where was that?

James Phillips  2:49  

That was in the Hudson Valley?

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:51  

Hudson Valley? Okay.

James Phillips  2:52  

Yeah. The eastern part of New York.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  2:55  

Okay. And that’s kind of, I guess what led you to the Fingerlakes?

James Phillips  3:00  

Yeah, I didn’t. I went all the way to Western New York originally. But then I did. I got started in wine in the long, long way. But then I did eventually get into the Fingerlakes and then go back to school for right making their way

Drew Thomas Hendricks  3:20  

what was what was it about wine just grew up in it. But what about wine? Why wine.

James Phillips  3:29  

I think wine is so universal. It’s, it’s just this community. It is, you know, it’ll enhance your day, it’s part of the meal, it’s part of celebrating, it’s part of just being around everybody, a friends and family. And it’s also so culturally, I think that is a it’s a big draw. But it’s also you know, really just interesting how it’s made with all of the science and the art that you can also bring into it. It’s, it’s really the full package. So it’s a lot of fun to work with and to be involved in and is in an industry, also where people are just as passionate as you are about what what you’re doing.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  4:23  

You know, the, the creation aspect of oneness, and it’s always, always fascinating. I love to talk to winemakers about that, because you’re given that set of raw materials, but each year those raw materials changed based on the weather based on the different composition of the grapes. How do you and I see a parallel to that in filmmaking? In that you’ve got different lighting, how do you how do you see any parallels between those and how do you deal with the different ever changing the it’s still static medium?

James Phillips  4:53  

Yeah, huge parallels and I think that’s what felt made it for me feel like such a natural transition, because with filmmaking, and with winemaking, you’re working with, like you said, this raw medium, and the way that you present it or work with it can really change the outcome and what you’re really showing people. So, in that aspect, it really is so similar. And that’s, that’s kind of also what’s really fun about it. You’re bringing in, you know, different experiences and, and your own viewpoint. I’m trying to share your message.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  5:40  

Yeah, honey, I’m thinking I mean, I’m immediately picturing a soundtrack, any of the same video playing the two different soundtracks and it looks like two different movies.

James Phillips  5:51  

Absolutely, yeah. And

Drew Thomas Hendricks  5:54  

that can be anything that you do to, like, enhance the wine. So if you’re just going to beat this movie reference to the death here. So as a winemaker, how would you paint yourself as a winemaker in movie terms? blockbusters, are you?

James Phillips  6:11  

Oh, that’s a good question. Um, I don’t know. I never thought about that. What about indie, indie filmmaker? Okay. Just trying to. Really, I think, the way that I think about movies, and the way that I think about when I’m working with wine is, I know, it’s beating a dead horse saying this because everybody does. But we’re really trying to just show the vineyard and really, and show the unique characteristics of where we are. And so just trying to put that at the forefront of what we’re doing here. When we’re working with the grapes, and we’re working with the wine, I think, would definitely draw some parallels to some indie filmmakers, and how they also approach trying to create something as well.

Bianca Harmon  7:08  

So are you still into the movie side of things as much as you were? Or is it just strictly wine now?

James Phillips  7:15  

No, I’m definitely a movie buff. I really enjoy watching movies. And I haven’t done anything. I haven’t made anything lately. But But yeah, definitely still love movies.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  7:35  

Like the thing, you’re just expressing the vineyard, you’re in your winemaking style, there’s been a theme over the last few episodes of the show where I believe it was Jenifer Freebairn at Lasseter, called her called the winery, a travel company. And it really dawned on me that it’s not just bringing people to the vineyards. But when you’re producing the wine, you’re taking them to the vineyards when they open the bottle, and you’re suddenly transporting them to another place through what you’re doing.

James Phillips  8:06  

Yeah, and I think that when, especially when guests come out to the property and do a tasting it, it’s absolutely we’re trying to show them the vineyard. But we’re also, we also want to share our story of, you know, how did the wineries start? Where have we come since then, and what changes have been made? So it really, we really try and create a much bigger experience than just if you’re enjoying the wine or if you’re not. And I think that, again, it’s kind of the beauty in wine is that it can it can become a, a thing more than just what’s in the glass. But, but a lot bigger than now we can talk about, you know, the history of it. And the land. And all of that really comes into play. When we when we can talk about what we’re doing.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  8:59  

Yeah, you and you’ve been all around the world making wine. How so? As far as the different start from Fingerlakes is spent some time in New Zealand. It’s kind of take us on your journey, like their time from moving from Finger Lakes over to New Zealand. How is New Zealand doing it differently? What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong?

James Phillips  9:21  

You know, I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong. It’s just different. And I think, you know, like I mentioned, I’ve worked in the Finger Lakes. I spent a number of years in Virginia, New Zealand and now I’m here in Napa. And what’s really interesting and fun about being able to work in different places is that all of these little details and these little changes that you see I mean, we’re all making wine. We’re all fermenting grapes. And that is, you know, that is the kind of baseline of what we’re doing. But it’s all the little things the chemists It’s different, the way that we grow the grapes, it’s different. And, you know, everything else is kind of similar in a lot of ways, of course, but being able to see how to best Express, your wines might change from location to location, just based on the potential of what you’re working. And so it’s just a lot about a lot of adaptability, moving from place to place and seeing, there’s a lot of challenges that that are specific to where you’re working, as well as the Finger Lakes has a lot of potential, and we have to really work in the vineyard about protecting the grapes as much as possible. In Virginia, it’s humidity is the problem. And so yeah, a lot of mold. You know, hail for us. They’ve got, they’ve got it all. And then, you know, California, we got wildfires, we have high heat, that’ll change the chemistry as well. So it’s really wherever you go.

Bianca Harmon  11:16  

Well, I mean, tell me, I know you’ve worked in both to which is worse hurricanes, or fires.

James Phillips  11:24  

Fires, honestly. Because fires me fast. At least with hurricanes, you have some warning, you know, what’s going to happen? You can kind of try and plan out making decisions based on that. But yeah, wildfires are, are terrified. They move fast. And they they cause a lot of damage.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  11:44  

Yeah. What about New Zealand? What challenges are they because I’m not too familiar with the southern cycles.

James Phillips  11:51  

So humidity can be a factor as well. It’s not as much of a you know, something to worry about, they do have a little bit of frost potential as well. I saw the very tail end of the actual growing season because I was really just there to to harvest and begin the winemaking process. So I can’t really speak to all of their challenges. But I know that humidity and frost still can be a challenge there as well. Sure.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  12:31  

Um, so there’s another side, so I’m gonna have no, I don’t even have a movie segue reference here. But I want to talk to you about consulting. In your bio, you talk about, um, you know, consulting for seven different wineries. And that has its own kind of, I would think, a very unique experience versus being in house at one winery.

James Phillips  12:54  

Yeah, so I don’t. When I first moved to Virginia, I was working with a consulting company. And I was hired on to help them with the amount of clients that they were getting, as they were expanding. And so the number of clients that we had did change. But it it was, yeah, up there around six to 10. Most of the time, so. So I worked with them for a number of years, and I worked kind of my way up. And eventually I bought the company and ran it myself for a short time. And so working with a lot of clients like that, of course brings its own challenges as well because, you know, you’re working with with a lot of different vineyards that are that have their own unique characteristics, the winemaking equipment. So different. Different sellers, different crews. So there’s the potential for things to be challenging in that aspect of it. But what’s really fun about that as well. And something that we really got to see firsthand is working with different vineyards and applying the same techniques to the vineyard and to the winemaking. We really get to see this pure expression of the vineyard and the different the different traits that they all have, because we had that full control over vineyards that were scattered across the state. And that was really fun. Being able to work with so many vineyards and really see how much different terrain different climates different microclimates really have as an effect on the outcome of the wine.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  15:00  

Yeah, this this is a fascinating kind of topic. And I haven’t had a chance to really to talk with someone that’s been in the consulting side, even though you’re now in house. I want to get to madrigal in a second. But when you’re working with for a winery that may be out there, they just started, they’ve got the vineyard, they want to start their winemaking. What is it? What are the different levels of consulting agreements look like? And what what should wineries be thinking about?

James Phillips  15:23  

Well, so the way that we operated was a little bit differently than a lot of consulting that you’ve probably been familiar with or heard about. And we would actually go in and do the physical work ourselves. So essentially, we were just traveling winemakers, working with different clients. And so So really, it it that kind of brought on also more challenges, especially during harvest when we’re, you know, running around to different wineries, we’re crushing grapes all over the place. And that’s kind of why they had to expand and bring on a little bit more crew. But, yeah, it’s a it’s a very interesting scenario, because you feel a little bit out of out of control, as opposed to being in house where you’re, you know, essentially go to the same place every day. You’re working with the same equipment, same people, you really have to be on the fly and really organized as well. I think that’s that’s one thing that is a big challenge as well working with so many different wineries.

Bianca Harmon  16:41  

How many were you working with when you were like on a regular basis when you’re a consulting winemaker?

James Phillips  16:49  

Well, like I said, it didn’t change a lot. But we Yeah, about five, five to seven wineries all over the state. But we were also not just wine makers, but we were vineyard managers as well. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, we did. We did everything. And so all over the state. It was, it was challenging.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  17:24  

No, did you help them with that? I mean, it seems you would come in with their just whatever equipment they had, or did your consulting start before and you helped them secure the equipment. So you knew it was working correctly?

James Phillips  17:34  

We did both. And we started vineyards, we started one or two wineries as well. So we really were able to come in at any point in the business, and kind of take over purchasing new equipment. Doing all of the, you know, really, every client was different. Some of them were established wineries, some of them like I said, we’re brand new, where we really built the cellar and worked with the architects to actually build the winery. And so it was it was everything a full turnkey

Drew Thomas Hendricks  18:13  

solution.

James Phillips  18:14  

Yeah. And I think in that way, working with so many different wineries at so many different levels, as well, really is such a crash course in not only winemaking, but you know winery organization all just experience with different equipment with different vineyards and understanding everything that can go wrong. It’s a great experience, but exhausted. So I did choose to get out of it. Kind of for that reason to be honest, I It’s a really fun thing to do. It’s really great working with so many different clients who you know, who you enjoy, and you can watch their brand develop and work with them to do that. But once you get burnt out

Drew Thomas Hendricks  19:08  

like I can imagine though, like working with so many we always tend to concentrate on the differences. But I would think like in my business we run a marketing agency and I see so many different clients and then all have very unique ideas, but I tend to see all the similarities over the last 20 years versus the differences the more clients I work with the more similar the challenges are. Is that something that was you or was it everything was unique?

James Phillips  19:36  

It was both every property is unique in itself but again we’re you know when we’re working say in the cellar, or in the vineyard a pump is a pump okay it’s gonna pump wine press is gonna squeeze grapes you know we have the even though they’re different brands and different little little ticks to them. It’s all the same, you know, at the end of the day, but what what, of course makes them unique is, is the is the vineyard themselves, it’s the property. And it’s the story behind that. But the advantage, one of the big advantages of the way that we worked as well was being able to lend equipment, you know, if I had a pump down, okay, I’ll go grab it from the other winery, there was this really great exchange that we had, because we’re working with so many different wineries, that if a problem came up, we were able to remedy it really quickly, because of our other resources that we had at other wineries nearby. So that was, was really great. As an advantage.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  20:51  

Imagine the camaraderie and especially being a consultant, you’re used to asking you need to kind of come in and he may, he might be a little more apt to talk to the neighbors than maybe someone that’s, like, ingrained and just used to go into their desk every day.

James Phillips  21:06  

Yeah, it’s a great way to just get yourself out into the industry in general, and really create this community.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  21:17  

Yeah, so flash flash forward to madrigal in Napa. Talk to me about the Napa community.

James Phillips  21:23  

Napa? Well, so I had, I came at a very bad time I came in the middle of COVID Oh, so the, you know, everything shut down, I wasn’t really able to get out. Because people weren’t snowing out. I didn’t. So the people that I’ve met in Napa I have good relationships with with a number of winemakers close by? Absolutely. But I think in the app, or math of COVID, things are not as close as they would have been with me arriving. But we’ve definitely asked for some favors of neighbors and, you know, been received very openly in welcoming. So I think that that is something that is still really prevalent, even though you know, people aren’t getting together as much.

Bianca Harmon  22:26  

Well, and then you also moved. I think that’s well, actually, I don’t think I know that same year, there was a fire too.

James Phillips  22:34  

There was a fire Yes, actually. And so for a quick example, of kind of that community is we’ve lost power here at the winery during that fire. And we had wines that we needed to press at the end of their fermentation. And so we didn’t have any power, we had no capabilities. And so we actually asked the neighbor, if we could come over and use their press and, and they were, you know, very welcoming. So we brought our, our her students over there and press them out on on their press. And it was yeah, it was really nice to have that just welcoming situation happening, and being able to make that, that connection with them.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  23:23  

About the talk to me about the Madrigal Family Winery.

James Phillips  23:26  

So yeah, so it’s been here for quite a while about 30 years almost. And I think one of the really nice things about the property here is that we are all a state grown. So all of the fruit is right here on the property. And being able to walk out into the vineyard and really see how everything is growing. And changing is a huge advantage. And being really at one location. It’s kind of a huge change, which is a great change because it’s you know, of course, there’s a lot of challenges here but it’s it’s just so nice to be able to really focus and really be present with what’s happening here in the property. But kind of unique and fun aspect of madrigal is that we’re working with a couple of varieties here that are really widely grown in Napa like temper Nino gotta NACHA Zinfandel petite sir raw, and it’s really fun to work with these and see the public come in and it’s almost like refreshing. So to come in and be able to try some new fun varieties and the the winery itself is Chris Madrigal who is the owner and founder of the winery itself. His he has a lot of really nice history where his grandfather worked in vineyards in Napa his father or had a consulting company vineyard company. And so he has this nice rich history here in Napa. And they have a connection back to Spain that they can track. And so the winery here is a little bit Spanish influence. And that’s why we’re working with some of those Spanish varieties as well. So just not your cookie cutter Napa winery. And that’s what really makes us unique, kind of a fun destination for some people.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  25:33  

I love to see the fact I love to see actual Napa Valley non Cabernet varietals. It’s so it’s so many wineries, it’s hard to resist that temptation of ripping out all the vines just playing Cabernet. So that’s what you get the top dollar for.

James Phillips  25:46  

Yeah, we’re really not. I mean, of course, we grow cab and we’re working with it and making a couple of different labels. But it’s really not our flagship variety, we really don’t focus on it, even though it’s it is a beautiful wine, we really derive on that. There’s other varieties that I mentioned, and especially the Petite Syrah, which is has always been made medical, kind of known for that. And so that’s kind of funny, it’s nice to be able to, to work with those varieties. Apart from just the typical calves,

Bianca Harmon  26:27  

is it been different for you from, say, the winds that you were making when you were in New York or Virginia or New Zealand? Is it a lot? Are you kind of going off some off pattern not something you were used to making? Or kind of staying on? Course?

James Phillips  26:47  

Well, of course, like I kind of mentioned, every, everywhere you go, you have to adjust a little bit to, to the fruit. And so here in California, you know, we have I have to be considered of high sugar, and then how big these wines can naturally be. Whereas in Virginia, and New York, you know, we don’t get fruit that right. So it’s kind of the opposite problem. You know, sometimes we have really low sugar, really high acidity, whereas here, it’s a little bit of the opposite problem. So adjusting to that. There is a little bit of an adjustment, but when we’re talking about winemaking, the chemistry is all pretty much the same. We’re working with sugars, we’re working with acids and tannins, and, and of course, it’s going to be different from variety to variety and from region to region. But adjusting to that doesn’t take too much effort, really. And so. And also talking to people in the community and seeing what they do, and small little things that they’ve done over the years and things to notice, that really helps as well. Just get an understanding so that you’re not going in completely blind. But it was yeah, it was not too hard of a transition, to be honest. Yeah.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  28:23  

Like the expression of temper kneel in petite Serrano Napa. I mean, I can especially temporarily I taste a lot of it worldwide and we down and sent the Southern California it’s a really popular bridal like in the Via de Guadalupe and Mexico. There’s that’s one of the biggest things planted, and also here in Temecula in the remote area. There’s a lot of different expressions, how would you characterize what you’re doing up in Madrigal?

James Phillips  28:47  

So the temporary Mio, it’s an interesting variety. I love working with it. It’s really, really fun. It definitely has this nice kind of violet character that I’ve noticed that really comes out the end a really nice kind of smooth profile. So we’re working with two different two different blocks of temperature. One of them is about 20 years old, the other is only about 10 years old. And so the difference there is as well, where we we have this one, this one lot of it that’s just really rich and expressive and the other is a little bit wider, more fruity, and character. We can kind of play with that a little bit and, you know, over the past few years as well, and working with the vintages that I came in on that we’re not bottled yet. We’ve been able to play around with barrels and try and understand the best way to to express the temperature do I And it’s it’s a beautiful, beautiful wine here.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  30:03  

Yeah. Coming in with like, his minor was such a long history as matagal. And how style? How do you come in as a new winemaker can is it I mean, it’s like a new chef in a restaurant. So it’s a whole new menu or you’re trying to keep up the legacy.

James Phillips  30:20  

It’s both, really, because I think when I, you know, kind of philosophically, when I think about winemaking, I can have a lot of ideas, and there’s a lot of things that I might want to do. But at the end of the day, I have to also consider not only the, what the grapes are going to give us in terms of stylistically, but also the style and the reputation of the winery as well. And so trying to fit in, what the vineyard wants to do, what the winery style is, and then kind of my own personal touch, that all has to fit in the same box. And so coming in, you know, really the first thing is just trying to understand the brands. Yeah, and, and seeing the style, and how far really, that that, that they want to go with it. And then you know, tasting back then to do is tasting what’s in the barrel, trying to understand just the general gist of what we’re doing here. Before even thinking about what I want to do. And that really is the first I think vintage that you work with at a new winery is keeping things a little bit just general, really seeing what the fruit wants to do, where we can go, little experiments here and there with different fermentations just to try and understand what we’re doing. And then from there, the real fun begins. You can really see what you’re working with, and and see maybe how I don’t want to say how far you can push the graves, but really the direction that they want to go. Yeah, and just trying to understand that and push them in that direction, the best that you can. That’s really the fun thing.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  32:27  

That’s excellent advice, like the nuances is where you’re going to excel in, you got to get the you got to get the general move already there. Because I guess there’s two ways the winery could hire you to come in guns blazing and just fix the ship. But if the ship is already running correctly, you do have to kind of sit there and figure it out. So is it it’s learning the vision from the family. It’s tasting through a bunch of bottles. It’s kind of seeing what’s going on before you just make rapid changes.

James Phillips  32:54  

Absolutely. Yeah. And also, you know, going back and records and in the, you know, in the office here and seeing what the previous winemakers have done. And just trying to understand the gist of Yeah, what we’re doing and the direction that we might want to go.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  33:13  

That’s, that’s fascinating. What does your team look like?

James Phillips  33:18  

It’s just me and cellarmaster Oh, well, and then we’ll, we’ll hire somebody on for harvest, but we’re not producing too much wine. Only about 6000 cases.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  33:29  

Sure. So you’re carrying on this legacy. Right. That’s awesome. So talking about this year, how are we shaping up?

James Phillips  33:39  

The crop looks great. We had a little bit of a lighter crop last year. But it looks like we’re rebounding a little bit from that. The other fruit looks great. The only thing is, you know, hopefully we don’t get too many days of high temperatures. So that you know as we’re getting closer to harvest everything hopefully it’s it’s it’s on track but other than that the vineyard looks looks beautiful. I guess it has been hot. Yeah. As hopefully that continues to be a trend.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  34:16  

Yeah, it’s where would the GL the geography because like the Northwest is an extremely cold. They’re like two months behind right now. In there in Washington and Oregon. Yeah. Do you have crops? So you’re I guess in Napa or you’re just about entering the finger crossings? Part of the season?

James Phillips  34:35  

Yeah, I’m starting to get my anxiety is starting to get get up there. It’s definitely that time of year.

Bianca Harmon  34:41  

I mean it does it affect you when they are shutting the power off in Calistoga. I presume you guys have generators. But I mean, because it’s been so hot lately up here we’ve been. I personally have it in Santolina. But Calistoga loses power every single time that you It’s above a certain temperature, which has been a lot lately.

James Phillips  35:03  

Yes, we do lose power. Unfortunately, we do not have a generator, but I’m attempting to get one for this year’s harvest. Because yes, when the temperatures get too high, when the wind picks up the energy company, they’ll happily just shut the power of. And the, of course, the equipment that we’re working with a normal home generator is not going to. So that can definitely come with some challenges. And that was one of the problems that we had with the 2020 harvests. When the fires were so close, and we lost power for such a long time. We couldn’t use any of our equipment. So when it came to pump overs and taking care of our fermentations, the only thing that we really could use was, was to go old school and use gravity to drain to try and just take care of those wines.

Bianca Harmon  36:06  

Yeah, luckily you’re not at you’re not at one making harvest time yet. But I can’t tell you the last time they started shutting power off in May in June. So

James Phillips  36:19  

yeah, yeah. Last week, we lost power. Yeah. Almost the whole day.

Bianca Harmon  36:25  

And the week before that, actually. Well,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  36:31  

yeah, hopefully generators, that’s nice capital expenditure, I’d probably advocate talking about just more it going forward. So you’ve been in the industry for a while, what excites you most, for the next 510 years that you see coming up on the horizon?

James Phillips  36:52  

What I think is really interesting, that I love seeing is that people are really experimenting with wine, and with with certain styles and new styles. And, you know, there’s a lot of misses. But I think that’s fine, because we can really see what not only what we want to drink and kind of in that direction. But the experimentation that people are doing is really exciting, it kind of reinvigorating, I think, because I think a lot of the younger generation and people kind of coming into wine, their palates are different, a little bit. And so you’ve been talking with with other winemakers and people in the industries as well, you know, a lot of people are dialing back things like their percentage of the vote with wines and being more aware of alcohol percentages. And so, I think that there’s this really great movement and wine where people are kind of pushing the boundaries of what has been the standard for so long. And so that’s, that’s exciting. To really see people do a lot of that, and there’s a number of wineries just around here and also in Sonoma County that are kind of pioneering you know, no apologies. This is what we’re doing this is where we’re going to try just come in and have fun and and enjoy what we’re doing.

Bianca Harmon  38:32  

What are you planning on pushing the boundaries with?

James Phillips  38:37  

Well, like I said, it’s all about understanding the brand you’re working for. And so there’s some fun things that we can do here but we’re not going to push anything too too far here. Yeah, yeah, not Yeah, I might I might be able to convince them

Drew Thomas Hendricks  38:54  

gotta get a couple of years under your belt there. Go past the nuances. Just across the board, though, I couldn’t agree more with the pushing with the what is considered normal for wine because grew up being I’m in my 50s now and when I started in 93, with the wine industry, it was everything was about the area everything was about the wine that should be from this area. Did it taste like this area if it didn’t, it wasn’t good. And I’m so I’m still talking to people in Virginia, all across the east in Texas, up in Minnesota, and some of the stuff they’re doing with wine, even here in California with a lot of the canned and the sparkling wines. And the CO fermented with fruit is really super exciting.

James Phillips  39:37  

And, yeah, going along that it’s, you know, for the longest time, when you talk about wine in in the States, it was always Napa, you know that big, bold Cabernet Sauvignons that is kind of what represented American wine for the most part, but as this experiment tuition. And as these trends are starting to change a little bit, people are being a lot more aware of these smaller wineries that are that are doing things very differently stylistically than what they might be used to. But really being able to find those wines enjoyable. With a different mindset, of course, I mean, you can never compare a Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon to a Napa

Drew Thomas Hendricks  40:26  

Teresa. Yeah,

James Phillips  40:28  

but don’t try to do that. That’s not the point. It’s And so really, that understanding of quality can mean so many different things. That is what is changing the wine industry, I think, across across the country. And that’s what’s really fun to see as well as people, especially when I was in Virginia, just watching people change their mind about what they thought about Virginia wine, or what a Cabernet from could be. Or low 10 B. That’s what’s really fun to see. And kind of help people see that and change their minds as well.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  41:17  

To the end winemaking. sucks about port. Have you made a lot of ports?

Bianca Harmon  41:26  

I was gonna ask you that. That’s

James Phillips  41:29  

not a lot. But yes, I’ve made one. I’ve made a few. We do one here with Petite Syrah. I have made a few in Virginia, as well, actually a white port with the cheap end saying as well, which is a really fun, fun thing to work with. Made some blueberry poured in the Finger Lakes, which was wonderful. No,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  41:52  

don’t get me talking about blueberry ones. It’s my favorite. Some of my favorite wines had been dried blueberry wines that we’ve actually aged like three, four years, and they are reminiscent of a great piano. Yeah.

Bianca Harmon  42:04  

Then we tried to find buy one from a guest that was on ER, and she was going to send us some and apparently they can’t ship us to California, which was the first time I’d heard about that.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  42:15  

New Hampshire can’t ship to California. Yeah.

James Phillips  42:19  

Yeah. But honestly, blueberry wine is incredibly surprising by how amazing and complex it can be.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  42:27  

To look at the skins and you look at the grape skins, it makes a lot of sense. But the thing is, you can’t expect it to taste like

James Phillips  42:36  

blueberries. No, yeah, that’s always the weirdest part about it.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  42:42  

Just like a grape wine doesn’t really taste like a grape.

James Phillips  42:46  

Right? Well, and so just kind of speaking about blueberries a little bit more, the winery that I worked for in New York and the Finger Lakes we worked with, we made so many different fruit lines along with grapes as well. So that is really fun as well being able to see and work with all those different products and fruits and really see how diverse winemaking can be. It’s really funny.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  43:20  

Yeah, I came in as far as port. So like the secret to a port now? Are you distilling the juice from the is it Oh, is there 100% holistic type port where you distill the actual juice that you’re making the port with? Or is it just great neutral spirits, or

James Phillips  43:38  

the way that I’ve worked is working with neutral spirits from local distilleries. That is how we do the port here. Just using that neutral spirit to hold the fermentation, about halfway through. So that is kind of the also traditional way of producing or but No, I’ve never, never had the actual juice distilled as kind

Drew Thomas Hendricks  44:10  

of as kind of one. I’ve always wondered about that. Because I think oftentimes, like in Portugal, it’s kind of distilled from the same area. So it’s all kind of part of it. Here it can be a little, you just don’t know. So to talk about, though, about this petite syrup port. I know a lot of people when I bring friends to wineries, the last thing they want to try that because they say they don’t like it. What’s one thing you wish people would understand about some of these sweeter wines.

James Phillips  44:38  

So across the board, so we’re wines like for its late harvest iced wines. I think it’s all about the mentality that you go into it with and understanding the right time to enjoy them and you know, pairing them with a meal with dessert I think it’s, there’s a, there is very much an appropriate time for them. And understanding how to enjoy that. But, but I think that is the thing that people lack is, is we will pour a little tasting of the port here, and people will drink it and immediately say, That’s too sweet. I don’t want this. I don’t want to buy this. And it’s really not until you explain that. You know how that will fit into your dinner party or your evening. It’s that connection that needs to be made with people. Instead of just assuming this can replace my dinner wine. It’s if you do that. I don’t know if you’ll finish the meal. But yeah, I think I think that’s, that’s really what it is. It’s just helping people to understand the placement for those kind of those kinds of wines.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  46:05  

It’s great advice. Yeah, you’re not gonna open it at lunch on a 99 degree day. That’s oftentimes oftentimes I do find that that’s where people have their one taste of it. And they realized that they didn’t want sweet wine

and so it’s we’re, so what did your own personal drinking preference? What do you like to drink when you’re not making wine? You know,

James Phillips  46:37  

that’s such a hard question to answer because there’s so many fun things to try and I really enjoy trying different things and things that I hadn’t never tried before. So if I’m, if I’m drinking wine, I really enjoy I really enjoy German and Austrian whites. Oh, yeah. Northern Italian reds. French reds. And if not that then maybe it’d be some cider, some hard cider.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  47:13  

I’m a big cider fan. It’s some of your favorites right now.

James Phillips  47:17  

So there is this one. The brand is called Stem. And they need a guava Chile. cider and it is the greatest cider I’ve ever tried.

Bianca Harmon  47:30  

Guava is my favorite worry getting this chains. This is from calamari and COMAR. Okay, I’m gonna have to Yes, I’m gonna have to take home art.

James Phillips  47:39  

I guess it is. I’m telling you. It is phenomenal. It just has that really beautiful juiciness and flavor of guava. And then it has a really nice kind of spicy kick to it as well. Wow, heck,

Bianca Harmon  47:53  

okay. Sounds great.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  47:58  

Sounds fantastic.

James Phillips  48:00  

During the summer as well, because it’s so refreshing. Yeah.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  48:07  

Yeah, I’m a big fan of the 10 city ciders that a pass.

James Phillips  48:10  

So those are good. Yeah, I’ve

Drew Thomas Hendricks  48:12  

had a few pretty interest I think they did have a guava one a few. A few shipments back that I really liked. So James, is we’re kind of wrapping down here. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to talk about?

James Phillips  48:28  

Um, you know, it was it was fun talking a little bit about like blueberry wine and different varieties and, and I think it’s always nice to really try and help people enjoy something new for the first time. And I really take a lot of enjoyment in that. And we kind of talked a little bit about stigma versus really, you know, being able to show somebody how enjoyable something can be once you enter it with a little bit of a different mindset. So I’m a big believer in that aspect of consuming wine in general. But yeah, I would

Drew Thomas Hendricks  49:16  

say get out there and experiment and just don’t worry about the norms.

James Phillips  49:21  

Yeah, just try new things. I think try try everything. Even if it sounds weird.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  49:28  

To James, where can people find out more about you and Madrigal Family Wines?

James Phillips  49:32  

So yeah, you can just jump on our website. madrigalfamilywinery.com to see the the our story and all the wines that we offer a little bit about our history as well. And just stop by just come to the winery and say hi, you know, the the tasting room is always it’s connected right to the physical winery. So walking all about Around everyday, it’s just just come in and say hi.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  50:03  

Sounds fantastic. James, thank you so much for joining us today.

James Phillips  50:07  

It’s been my pleasure. I really enjoyed this. Thank you

Outro  50:17  

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