Looking for a steady acid level in your favorite glass of Pinot Noir, possibly served up by one of the most eligible bachelors in the Russian River Valley? Hit the Wine Road and make Thomas George Estates your first stop. There, a team led by President Jeremy Baker along with Winemaker Chris Russi are producing wines that are made by hand in small batches. Their reds are made using a basket press, and Baker opted for Bordeaux-style concrete eggs instead of barrel fermentation for Thomas George Estates’ Chardonnay and Grenache wines.
Part of the fun of drinking wine is learning about who makes it and how and why they do it. Bonus if you are chillaxing in a setting that includes a wine cave with antiques and comfortable yet stylish furniture. On a recent group visit to Thomas George Estates with other writers, I noticed that most of us became prone to smiling and giggling. As he led a tour, Jeremy Baker seemed to intrigue us all: the Toronto (Canada) native and his family have spent 25 million dollars to build a successful wine business. Jeremy’s dad is the attorney Thomas Baker and the winery name is an homage to him and Jeremy’s grandfather. Jeremy Baker is single and admittedly easy on the eyes. All the more so because he gives off a mellow and decidedly humble vibe.
On our Wine Road tour, one San Francisco female writer whispered, “What can’t he do?!” after we discovered Baker’s background included working in wine marketing, creating a successful restaurant group with nine locations, and before a back injury, did extreme heli-skiing. Oh yes, he also knows his way around the kitchen and garden. Add event cook and fruit preserve maker to his list of redeemable qualities. Baker is also a longtime vegetarian who happens to adore the sheep and animals that populate Thomas George Estates. Bay Area Bites interviewed Baker in person and via phone interview.
Tell us about the concrete eggs you use for Chardonnay and Grenache.
Concrete has been used for centuries in the old world. A lot of wineries in the mid-1900s have gone a long way in putting them back. It’s an old technique. Concrete gets micro-oxidation without any oak influence. Because there aren’t any corners, and you get a very thorough and tight, precise fermentation. Wines show a little more maturity and there are heightened aromatics. We were the first in the area to take possession of those eggs from Sonoma Cast Stone. A similar version is used in France but it’s roughly a fifth the size. We wanted to add another layer to our Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs and started to bottle in 2010 fifty cases of “concrete only” Chardonnay. In 2011, we did 250 cases.