Spanish varietals, California soil, a Philosopher Winemaker – Ferdinand

We always love it when we not only get to introduce you to new wines, but we really love it when the people associated with those wines are able to visit in person. This week, we have such a visitor! Evan Frazier of Ferdinand, a winemaker focusing exclusively on Spanish varietals grown in California.


Evan Frazier. Photo via winemag.com.

A philosophy graduate of Brown University, Evan had no intention of getting into wine. A onetime cheesemonger at Cowgirl Creamery, Frazier was living in San Francisco studying for his accreditation as a “green” builder so he could satisfy his urge to create something tangible. In 2010, he launched Ferdinand. His Napa wine contacts, namely winemaker Tegan Passalacqua (Turley Wine Cellars), led him to Markus Bokisch in the Lodi AVA (American Viticultural Area), the guy for Spanish and Portuguese varieties, who put in bud wood from Spain. That first year began with one ton of Albariño from Bokisch’s Vista Luna Vineyard.

We’re starting at the tipping point, when Evan made his commitment to the world of wine, but how did this journey begin? Well, in the fall of 2006 he flew to France to witness his first harvest. He spent the next few months working in the small Roussillon village of Maury picking grapes, hauling boxes, processing fruit and learning cellar work. The experience he had there with old vines, steep schist slopes and getting up to my elbows in fermentations convinced him to move to Napa on his return to continue an apprenticeship in winemaking.

Since 2008 Evan has worked for the Kongsgaard family to continue to learn winemaking and the business of wine. It was with their encouragement and support he started Ferdinand. Kongsgaard is itself quite a story.

The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker has said of the winery, “John Kongsgaard is in search of the Holy Grail, and these are the most interesting, naturally made wines one will find on Planet Earth.” Even the New York Times’ Eric Asimov has weighed in, saying “Kongsgaard consistently makes the best Chardonnay in California today.”

The Kongsgaard family is today comprised of fifth-generation Napa natives. The family began its winemaking work in the ’70s planting The Judge vineyard on the Kongsgaard family land. The inaugural Kongsgaard wines came in 1996. They now produce The Judge, Chardonnay, VioRous, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon in their underground winery—a cave dug into the volcanic rock, high on the eastern rim of the Napa Valley where they have planted a spectacular mountain vineyard. Their production is limited to what they can make with their own hands.

It’s from this tradition Evan learned his more formal skills. Still, in regards to Evan’s wine education, Europe is owed its due. As he says on his site: “Though my first experience in winemaking was in France, it was in the Cathar and Catalan country just across the Pyrenees from Spain. There, in Maury, the grapes are Grenache and Carignan, known in Spanish as Garnacha and Mazuelo. Setting out to make my own wines, I looked again towards Spain and was fortunate to be introduced to two great growers of Spanish varieties. My first vintage I started with just one ton of Albariño (a white variety indigenous to Galicia in Northwest Spain) from Markus Bokisch’s Vista Luna Vineyard. In 2011, I began to make Tempranillo (another of the great Spanish varieties) from Ann Kraemer’s Shake Ridge Vineyard. As a young winemaker, my philosophy has to be to surround myself with great mentors and to try to work with great growers. I am very fortunate to have been able to find both.”

There’s some great press on Evan out there. He’s been labeled an “Innovative New Guard Winemaker” by Wine Enthusiast, and there’s a great, quick interview with him up at daily wine blog Terroirist. Our favorite quote from that interview? When asked what he feels is biggest challenge is as a winemaker, Frazier replied that “[t]he big challenge I’m focused on right now is getting the pick right. It’s such a simple thing, but everything in the winery stems from that one moment. I rely on a couple of great growers who spend all year putting all this energy and potential into the grapes—so deciding when to take over and arrest that process—it’s a big decision.”

We say time and again here it’s the little things that matter. When you have a winemaker obsessed over the pick, then you know you have a winemaker who truly cares about the right “little” things. ¡Salud!

Now, the wines:

Ferdinand, Lodi CA, Albarino :: $22 sale $20

The flagship of the Ferdinand project; this 2015 Albariño honors its Galician heritage with varietal aromatics of lime zest and a distinct salinity. Respecting its Californian origins, the wine is barrel fermented and rests on lees for eight months, giving the wine savoriness and providing a rounded balance to its natural acidity and freshness.

Ferdinand, Amador County CA, Tempranillo :: $32 sale $28

This 2014 Tempranillo is a savory wine with suggestions of smoke and leather. It possesses a visceral stoniness inherent to its origins in the Sierra Foothils. Located near the gold rush town of Sutter Creek, at an altitude around 1750 feet, this rocky vineyard is made up of ancient, red volcanic soils full of chunks of quartz. This ideal location balances easy ripening hot summer days and cool nights from the high elevation mimicking conditions in Spain’s Ribera del Duero, the source of the vine’s budwood.

These prices are good through Tuesday, February 21.


This Saturday we will be joined by Denver indie-craft giant Great Divide Brewing! We don’t sell a bad bottle, and they don’t make a bad beer! Come on down and join us in sampling their wares. 

We start sippin’ and tastin’ at 4 pm. Hope you can make it!

Tag your pics #pickitupatpearl so we can CHEERS! 

Discover why 5280 Magazine Readers and Editors voted Pearl Wine Company Denver’s BEST BOTTLE SHOP. PWC takes pride in being Denver’s best wine shop–a craft liquor specialty store. Conveniently located on South Pearl Street in Denver’s Platt Park neighborhood.