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Clay Brock, General Manager & Director of Winemaking at Wild Horse Winery, California’s Central Coast AVA and Paso Robles, California

 

Clay went from banks to tanks, and is all the better for it. In fact, he professes to have the “coolest job on the coast” and it is hard to disagree. In his answers below he reveals, for me at least, an unexpected passion for pinot blanc (which frankly is going to make me seek out more of that grape), and a more expected love of French wines. His vinous work at Wild Horse Winery is exceptional, so I’d imagine his home brew beer must be delicious. Lets find out more about Clay now…

 

24 Questions

 

1. What were you before you were a winemaker? I worked in the trust department of a bank, but that was a long time ago.

 

2. If you were not a winemaker you would most likely be: A wine retailer.

 

3. Happiest moment(s) during the wine crafting process (besides “finishing”)? I love everything associated with harvest.

 

4. Worst moment(s)? Having to make a picking decision based on logistics, i.e. lack of tank space.

 

5. For the rest of your wine-crafting days, if you could only make wine from one red grape variety what would it be? Pinot Noir, but Grenache would be a very close second.

 

6. For the rest of your wine-crafting days, if you could only make wine from one white grape variety what would it be? Pinot Blanc, but Chardonnay would be a very close second.

 

7. First wine-related thing you think about when you wake up, monthly, during the year.

 

January = Pruning

February = Blending

March = Bottling

April = Traveling

May = Weather

June = Set

July = Veraison [Editor’s note: the “onset of ripening”]

August = Harvest

September = Harvest

October = Harvest

November = Harvest

December = Vacation

 

8. Of all the winemaking tasks you currently perform, what one do you wish you had a capable intern doing instead of you? Public speaking.

 

9. What, if any, liquor do you enjoy neat? I really don’t drink spirits.

 

10. If you had to pair a wine with a mild cigar, what grape or style would you suggest? Port.

 

11. What is your biggest gripe about the wine, and/or adult beverage, industry in general? Boom/Bust cycles.

 

12. What did you drink to ring in the new year? Bubbles.

 

13. If you somehow knew fate, and that you only had one more bottle to enjoy before you died, what wine would you pick? Chateau Rayas from a great vintage.

 

14. If you could no longer work in the AVAs you currently do, where would be your top AVA relocation choice? Alsace.

 

15. How do you define "bottleshock"? The “dumb” phase a wine goes through shortly after bottling. All oak, acid and alcohol.

 

16. How long do you let your purchased wines rest after they have been delivered? Not long. I really don’t keep a cellar. A winemaker friend of mine told me once, “If you’re drinking it tonight, age ability is a flaw.”  

 

17. Please list a few words to describe Mega Purple. Sweet, dark, and to be avoided if at all possible.   

 

18. What is your favorite beer(s), and why? Deschutes Twilight Summer Ale and Mirror Pond. Rogue Dead Guy. Becks. Guinness. Shiner Bock. My home brew. Because beer is good food.

 

19. Your favorite cocktail(s), and why? As mentioned above, I really don’t drink spirits, but I’ll say Mai Tai, because I would probably be in Hawaii.

 

20. Please choose one or more of the following to describe vacuum aerators and similar apparatus: A. Gimmicks. B. Useful, have a positive effect on the wine above and beyond what decanting can accomplish. C. Same effect as decanting, just quicker. Answer(s): C.

 

21. Please choose one or more of the following to describe metal dipping devices and similar apparatus advertised to almost instantly “age” wine: A. Gimmicks. B. Useful, have a positive effect on the wine above and beyond what decanting can accomplish. C. Same effect as decanting, just quicker. Answer(s): A.

 

22. Have any wine / food pairing(s) that seem odd, but really work well anyway? Fig reduction and Wild Horse Merlot. Brussels sprouts and an Alsatian Pinot Blanc (I don’t like Brussels sprouts, but it works).

 

23. What work do you suppose you will do after your final wine is made? I would love to work as a Winery Tour Guide/Educator.

 

24. If you could give any beginning wine drinkers one sentence of advice, what would it be? Don’t over analyze, drink what you like, and practice, practice, practice!

 

About Clay

 

Clay seemed destined for a life in wine after growing up in the Napa Valley where his father managed vineyards. He has worked in the wine industry since 1985 and now claims to have the coolest job on the Coast. He joined Wild Horse in 2008, after spending seven years as the Vice President of Winemaking at Zaca Mesa. His tenure in the industry includes winemaking positions at Edna Valley Vineyards and Byron Vineyards in Santa Maria after graduation from Cal Poly. Clay loves to explore and refines his wines. He also appreciates epic sporting events and great deli sandwiches.

 

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