Meet the Winemaker
• 20 years in the wine and grape industry
• Flagler Beachfront Winery, Owner/Winemaker, 2012 – present
• Tarsitano Winery & Vineyard, Owner/ Winemaker/ Vineyard Manager. 1998 – present
• Adjunct Professor, Kent State University, Viticulture/Enology 2008 – 2012
• Vineyard Consultant and Lecturer, certified organic grape production 2001 – present
• Wine Judge, AWS and State Fairs since 1998
1. I like to start with an easy one (in this case maybe not that easy)… what is YOUR go-to wine of choice?
I get asked this question a lot. It is a difficult one to address because there are over 5,000 different wine grapes and countless ways to make and blend them. Red, white, sweet or dry, I drink them all! Though I am a dry red wine drinker in my heart, lately champagne is my go to wine. After I opened my second winery with my wife Kelly, I made her a promise to share a glass of champagne every night. There is something inherent about the bubbles that uplifts and celebrates the fact that we are realizing our dream together.
2. What is your background that got you into winemaking?
If it bubbled, bottled, pickled or brewed, my grandfather did it in his home basement. Growing up, my grandparents instilled the love of growing, making and eating things. I had no idea that later in life I'd end up making wine on the beach. I have degrees in psychology, philosophy, art, and art education. I even worked in an advertising firm for five years. I saved every red cent I made, and one day I gave it all up and bought my great grandfather's vacant farm. Looking for a way to survive, I walked into a local research station to ask about growing grapes and walked out with a research assistant job. I planted my first grapes in 1998, opened Tarsitano winery in 2000, started lecturing and consulting on organic grape production in 2002, opened a restaurant at the winery in 2004, married Kelly in 2005, started having kids in 2006, started teaching viticulture at Kent state in 2008, moved to Flagler and open Flagler Beachfront Winery in 2013. Now, I have two wineries and three kids... My goal is to give them each a winery instead of a college fund. Sometimes the dream finds you as much as you find the dream!
3. Where do you draw inspiration from when developing your wines?
Making wine is part agriculture, part science, part artistry, and part luck. Making wine on the commercial level requires you to make lots of choices. In the vineyards I make choices like leaf removing, cluster thinning, seed ripeness, chemical analysis of grapes, harvest intervals... In the winemaking, I make choices like crushing, de-stemming, whole berry pressing, maceration, yeast selection, fermentation techniques... In the cellar, I make choices like oak barrels, stainless steel, blending, bottling... Not unlike an artist, I use my tools, experience and knowledge to bring out the good qualities. Inspiration comes from unlocking the potential of the grape over time.
4. If any one person in the world could walk in and try your wine, who would it be?
I wish my grandfather had a chance to walk through my doors. We shared similar dreams, just lived in different generations. Every bottle of wine I open I can almost hear him say "that a boy!"
5. What is the most challenging task in your wine making process?
Bottling! Not that it is difficult, but once the wine is in the bottle there is no going back.
6. Where did the concept for your wine slushies come from?
I owe that on to my wife. It all started when Kelly borrowed her parents slushy machine and put wine in it. We instantly knew it would be a hit. As a serious grape grower and wine maker, I had issues with overcoming my ideal or image of wine and my ego. But thanks to my wife, our wine slushies taught me that "wine" isn't about the French or Napa, it's about enjoying it. Our slushies are 100% wine, simply frozen! No ice, no additives, just wine put in a machine. Now we have 8 different types of wine slushies and countless ways to mix them. We all need to get slushed on the beach.
7. Bucket list travel destination?
Remote Caribbean island with my wife and three kids.
8. Favorite snack/meal to pair with your wines?
Southwest Steak topped with bacon, and Gorgonzola, with Chipotle Raviolis in a heavy cream sauce paired with Petit Verdot
9. What are your visions/goals for the future of the winery?
A monster wine slushy truck that we can drive to festivals and parties
10. What is one thing you want people to know about Flagler Beachfront Winery?
To come on down to Flagler Beach and grab a bottle of your favorite wine or tumbler of slushy and discover a new type of beach paradise.