Thursday, August 18, 2005
Winemakers Hugh Reimers and Sam Burton moved from Australia to the Monterey area several years ago, but their relationship with California still sounds like a heady new love affair. Listening to them rhapsodize about the friendly people, Mexican cultural influences, surfing and snowboarding, golfing, and grape-friendly climate makes me want to grab a Frisbee and run to the nearest beach.
“[California’s] everything I thought it would be, and more,” Burton says.
Reimers, 33, graduated from high school in Australia at age 16, and at age 19, he became the youngest graduate ever of the University of Adelaide, with a degree in winemaking. In his twenties, he played professional Aussie rules football player (a blend of rugby, American football and soccer, played without helmets or padding), and worked for Australian wineries.
Reimers came to Monterey three years ago to work for a division of Constellation Wines US: Pacific Wine Partners, based in Gonzales. Now group general manager, coastal regions, for Constellation Wines US, Reimers manages three of the company’s California wineries.
Burton, 32, whose only real complaint about California is the cold water, surfs most mornings at Asilomar. A viticulturist since 1999, Burton is now manager of vineyard operations for Constellation Wines US. Burton oversees some 5,500 acres of vineyards on the Central Coast, and more across California.
Good friends since meeting each other in Monterey, Burton and Reimers recently put Burton’s skills as a viticulturist together with Reimers’ skills as a winemaker. The two launched Twin Fin in early February, a wine brand that pays homage to the California culture they are so fond of.
“We wanted to create a California brand,” Reimers says. “In Australia there are a lot of brands [that tell of the place]—Yellow Tail has a kangaroo on the label. There was nothing that captured the essence of California.”
The Twin Fin label sports a red ’68 Plymouth Valiant with a classic double-finned surfboard sticking out of the back (hence the name). A percentage of the proceeds from the wine sales benefits the Surfrider Foundation, the international nonprofit that fights for environmental protection of coastal areas.
Reimers and Burton say it is only fitting to help protect the place they are borrowing so much from.
“We took some of the California image; we want to give something back,” Reimers says.
“Pro surfer [and Surfrider spokesperson] Pat O’Connell drinks Twin Fin straight out of the bottle,” he laughs.
The Twin Fin tagline—“wines that prefer sunny days to dark cellars” aims to resonate with a younger generation—around ages 25 to 35. Reimers describes the whites as “crisp, lively, fresh and fruit driven,” and the reds as “smooth, rich, full-bodied with soft tannins.”
“They are user-friendly, but not overpowered by food,” Reimers says.
“They are really smooth,” Burton says. “It makes them a real quaffer.”
All the wines, which are priced at around $10, have a screwcap closure. Reimers says the screwcap is popular in Australia and makes for a better product.
“It prevents cork taint—which tastes like a moldy tea bag or a wet sheep,” he says. “Kind of smells like me when I don’t wash my clothes.”
“Or when you’ve been out in the vineyard all day,” Burton adds.
There are other selling points to the screwcap, including no pieces of cork floating around in the wine and the ease of cracking open a bottle.
“This makes wine not intimidating,” Burton says. “Plus I hate looking for a bloody corkscrew.”
“But people still have trouble opening it,” Reimers says, grabbing a bottle of Cabernet, and demonstrating. “Hold the top in one hand and twist the bottle in the other hand—that’s the key.”
Screwcaps also keep wine from aging as quickly as cork, making resealing an unfinished bottle of wine easy.
While the wines are sold at a friendly price point—not to mention easy to drink—they also have good varietal definition, Burton says.
“We are over-delivering on quality at this price point,” he says. “Robert Cook, winemaker from Estancia, tried Twin Fin, and when we told him it was $10, he said, ‘You’re joking.’ He said we should be charging $20.”
The warm reception to Twin Fin isn’t limited to one winemaker.
Of the six wines—a Merlot, a Shiraz, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Grigio and a Pinot Noir—all but the Shiraz were rated Best Buys by Wine Enthusiast.
The magazine describes the 2004 Twin Fin Pinot Grigio as “easy drinking here, a crisp, dry wine with citrus and apple flavors, and a pleasing scour of spice. Will go well with a variety of food. Finishes with palate-stimulating acids.”
“We are just wondering why the Shiraz didn’t get it,” Reimers says. “We’re supposed to be the best at Shiraz.”
But the two console themselves with the warm reception they got at a recent promotion in Boston.
“People were climbing over tables to get the wine,” Reimers says. “And we were thinking, ‘We hope they like it.’”
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON TWIN FIN, GO TO WWW.TWINFINWINES.COM.