Faces in the Wine Industry
Q & A with Addison Rex, Jurassic Wines
Addison Rex is a familiar young face to many in our community. He grew up in Marin, took courses in enology at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and moved to Kenwood in 2009 to work the harvest at his uncle Robert Rex's Deerfield Ranch Winery. While living at the winery in a rustic yurt he built by hand, he learned the industry and eventually rose to general manager. Last fall, he left Deerfield to live the long-held dream of launching his own business, Jurassic Wines. Rex offers winemaking strategy services, and, acting as a negociant, has just released three new wines under a new label, Torn.
Q: So, what is a negociant?
A lot of people aren't familiar with the term, but it's actually a very old business model from France. My job is to seek out delicious lots of bulk wine, blend and create the wine, then bottle it and bring it to market. The bulk wine market is huge and not really understood. There are local boards and websites where people post bulk wine for sale, but the challenge is that a lot of the good deals get picked through quickly. The best way to find high quality wine is by word of mouth, through the community.
Q: Why would a winery sell bulk wine?
The shortest way to explain it is that a lot of things can change in the time between when a winery crushes its grapes and the time they put a finished wine in the bottle. Sometimes, the winery will realize it makes more sense to sell a wine without bottling it. A really common example is that a winery might not have sold through all of a previous vintage before they've got the next year's wine in the barrel. They'll put the wine in the barrel on the bulk market so they can catch up on selling the inventory they've already bottled. It's also a great opportunity for a winery to monetize its assets. All of a winery's wine, both in the bottle and in the barrel, is an asset. For cash flow purposes, sometimes you want those assets to be liquid, so to speak - a different type of liquid. It can make sense from a business perspective. It comes up all the time.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to work in the wine industry?
I had such a wonderful college and career counselor at my high school. She was asking the standard questions, like, do you know what you want to do; are you thinking about college? And, typical teenager, I had no idea. I told her one of my uncles was a winemaker, and she said, “Did you know you can go to school for that?” And I said, “Oh, what? I'll do that!” It was just like that, right away; it was so obvious.
Q: How does Jurassic Wines reflect your point of view?
I really want to push back on the pretense that sometimes can go along with wine. Often wine is put on a pedestal and treated with a level of seriousness that can take some of the fun out of it. I'm a fun-loving person, and I want to communicate that through the wines I create. I want to make wines that are consistently delicious and that people find approachable and enjoyable, but also are complex enough to be exciting. The blends I'm putting together are really interesting, like the Blanc Y Blanc, which is Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, with some Gewürztraminer added in. It's supposed to be a super-approachable, super-refreshing summer wine that's got a lot of character going on from those different varietals.
Q: Can you give us a sense of the behind-the-scenes life of a “cellar rat,” where people often start out?
It's a hard job, man. It's a hard, repetitive job. The number-one job is just cleaning. You're either on the sorting table, you're working on a pump, you're topping off barrels, or you're cleaning. On one hand, in the most literal sense, you are the person that is making the wine. And on the other hand, in the big picture, you don't yet understand all of why you're doing what you're doing.
Q: You've been in the wine industry for over a decade. What's changed?
In the past ten years, what's been really interesting is that there's been a huge shift towards homogeneity, such as those big red blends that are very popular and very consistent from year to year. And at the same time, there's the natural wine movement and a huge shift towards authenticity and realness. And both these things can exist at opposite ends of the wine spectrum. Each trend is getting more powerful and more distinct. It's going to be really interesting and fun to watch. Who knows where it goes?
Q: What do you love most about the scene here in Kenwood and Glen Ellen specifically?
There's something magic about the heart of the Sonoma Valley. There really is a special bond in this immediate area, a lot of friendships within the industry, and that spreads out into the broader community. We're so lucky with what we have here.
Q: What does Sonoma Valley need more of?
I would love more restaurants that cater to locals. That would be great. There should be some place where I can go get lunch and it's not going to cost me tourist prices, you know? Like Tacos Jalisco - that place is pretty amazing. It's packed every day, with all kinds of people. And we need a place that stays open past 10 p.m. for takeout!
Q: You have a wide variety of outside interests, including theater and circus arts. (Ed note: Addison has famously showed off his stiltwalking skills in the Kenwood 4th of July parade.) How have those interests made you a better wine professional?
My personal mantra for my life is “jack of all trades.” Humans have an incredible capacity for acquiring generalist knowledge. I think there's a lot to be said for learning a little bit about a lot of different things, and that's certainly how I like to live my life. I love to pick up new skills. I'm constantly learning.
For more information about Jurassic Wines, visit www.jurassic.wine.
Abby Peterson is a freelance writer who lives in Kenwood with her family. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.