About Our Sponsor: Winestyr

As soon as we opened one of the beautifully boxed wine sets from Winestyr this summer, we knew that this purveyor would be the perfect partner to help bring you Season 1 of The Food Lens Podcast. If you know TFL, you know we love to discover a new bottle. And we also care about where our wine comes from—so we were thrilled to find out that Winestyr’s carefully curated selections come from some of the best small producers in the country.

Founder Bob Wilson got his start working inside a wholesaler in Chicago, representing the portfolios of some of the world’s largest wine and spirits suppliers. We asked the CEO—who’s also a Certified Specialist of Wine accredited by the Society of Wine Educators—why he entered the realm of wine startups, where to find hidden gems, and what wine trends we should get excited about.

TFL: When you say your wines come from small producers, what exactly does that mean?

Bob Wilson: It actually means a couple of things. First, to be a “small producer,” you have to be a real wine producer, not a created brand or label—so the “producer” part speaks to the authenticity of our portfolio. Second, with many ubiquitous wine brands producing hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of cases per year, the industry tends to call producers making less than 50,000 total cases of wine per year small. The vast majority of our portfolio produces well under 10,000 total cases of wine per year, and many of the wines we work with are 500 cases or less. Small-production wines are usually terroir-driven, truly representing a sense of place, whereas mass-produced wines tend to be generic and consistent from one vintage to the next.

TFL: Can you tell us a bit more about one of your favorite producers, to paint a picture of whose grapes we are getting when we order through Winestyr?

BW: One of my favorite producers right now is Halcyon Wines. It’s an ambitious husband-and-wife team who set out to explore what cabernet franc (one of my favorite [grape] varietals) can achieve in California. They make some stunning single-vineyard cabernet francs from revered vineyards such as Alder Springs Vineyard and the Barsotti Vineyard. They make a blanc of cabernet franc (a delicious white wine made from the cabernet franc grape), a rosé of cabernet franc, and even a blanc de franc which is a sparkling white wine made from the same grape. As with all of our producers, there’s a dose of artistry and renegade creativity in what they’re doing and the wines are stunning.

TFL: What if I’m totally intimidated by picking out wines—what’s the best way to start figuring out what I’ll like?

BW: I hope this doesn’t come across as salesy, but our wine clubs are absolutely the best way to explore a vast variety of the bottles our team deems the best and most exciting in our portfolio and at the lowest prices authorized by our wineries. We designed the clubs to expose adventurous wine drinkers to a large variety of wines and allow customers to reorder their favorites. It’s a great way to try a bunch of wines from some of America’s best small producers at better prices than you can get anywhere else.

TFL: What’s your favorite wine memory?

BW: I had a chance to visit Burgundy with my wife, my two-year-old daughter, and my brother-in-law this past spring. Being able to walk up to and around [wine estate] Domaine de la Romanée-Conti was a very humbling experience.

TFL: What wine trends are you excited about?

BW: There is a new group of wine producers that is insistent upon taking care of the land where the grapes are grown. This group is at the forefront of domestic wine and behind the natural wine trend. But even deeper than that, they care about sustainability and stewardship of the land. This focus on farming not only results in better, more interesting wines, but also ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy the fruit and wines from these vineyards for years to come.

TFL: What’s one of the most underrated bottles in the Winestyr portfolio?

BW: The member price for the 2015 Terra de Promissio Vineyard Pinot Noir from Fera Mena is probably the best value I’ve ever seen on any wine. We’re lucky to have built a strong relationship with the winemaker and have an exclusive on this wine.

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