#VINO4: Ryan Zepaltas of Zepaltas Wines

Cool People. 4 Questions. 1 Bottle of Wine.

The world of wine is one made up of a plethora of varying stories; the houses that have been in existence from the 18th Century to those in our age that are using new methods to create wine in new territories. The story behind the winemaker is one that truly tickles our fancy, so in this edition of #VINO4, we share the story of skateboarder turned winemaker, Ryan Zepaltas of Zepaltas Wines. His story is a unique one, that is filled with great passion and inspiration.

To start your winery, you engaged in an interesting financial frame in which you utilized the spaces of more established wineries and farmers – particularly Siduri. Do you think this is framework that other novice winemakers can employ?

“Custom crushing” is very common in the industry, but I was very lucky that Adam and Dianna Lee allowed me to use their space to start my winery. It is VERY rare for a winemaker to encourage and incubate their assistant’s own brand while working for them. Most bosses would say “You want your own brand? You got it. Good luck, Take a hike!”

You’ve recently served as a wine sponsor for Mayer Hawthorne’s ‘Man About Town’ listening party in Chicago. What similarities do you see in your wine paired with his music?

Mayer is a pretty fresh dude with and old-school vibe. I think of Zepaltas wines as old school California, but they have great brightness, acidity and nerve.

2014 Risueña Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014 Risueña Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Other than your unique background, what specific qualities or methods separate Zepaltas wine from comparable products?

I think I am an old soul. My favorite California wines are the iconic Williams Selyem wines made by Burt and Ed from the 80’s-90s.They bridged the gap perfectly between Burgundy and the New World. The wines aged incredibly well, yet still harbored the bright, delicious fruit that we get in California.

What commonalities do you find in both skateboarding and wine making?

Good question. They are both creative endeavors and they rely on one person’s vision. In skateboarding (the act of, the sub-culture and the brands in the industry) aesthetics are super important. You might be able to land the hardest tricks, but if there is no style it basically sucks. In wine, any goober can ferment some grapes and make a basic, delicious wine. The real challenge is to make a wine that is compelling and stays in someone’s head after the fact. Also, when it comes to branding, if your label and branding is terrible your delicious wine may go unnoticed. How may records have I bought because the cover was badass?? How many great wines have I skipped over in a wine shop because the packaging didn’t catch my eye? The answer to both is…hundreds.

BONUS Question:

You’ve upped your palate from ‘general scumbag’, to ‘general foodie’ AND you’re from Wisconsin – what sort of cheese do you love or loathe? What advice could you give for people who know nothing about cheese or even gourmet food in general?

I pretty much love it all unless its government cheese! I love aged cheeses. The sharper the better! The word “foodie” had become this lifestyle thing so it’s kinda silly if you ask me. We ALL eat-right? Two simple rules: 1. Food doesn’t need to be expensive to be life changing. 2. Learn to cook and garden. Learning how classic dishes come together will blow your mind when you realize how simple many dishes are. Anyone can make a caprese. It is as easy as tying your shoes. Just make sure and use good ingredients.

Reporting by Moeima Dukuly & Zaher Samnani