The Five Questions: Natalie West, Foppiano Wines
One of my first wine drinking memories- of California wine that is- surrounds a bottle of Foppiano. I remember being in private school- at Morristown-Beard in New Jersey. There were many kids like myself- their parents had incredible wine cellars and we were all encouraged to taste wine with dinner or by itself.
This was the 1970’s, things were a bit freer then.
I was raised around fine wine and artisan food, for those who don’t know me, I grew up on a gentleman’s farm that belonged to my grandparents and partially my parents. Today, this farm is certified Organic and Biodynamic.
At that time in the 1960’s and 70’s most European food that we came across on our journey was artisan in nature. Travel for Americans was always popular, sure- yet regional cuisine flourished unhindered until the explosion of fast food and faster tastes that came with Americans visiting Europe.
I traveled through most of Europe, the Ivory Coast of Africa and some of Brazil with my parents in the 60’s and 70’s. I was never was denied the fruit of the grape, nor beer, nor the local spirits. Was this good? Bad? Who knows. Sure makes for a good story.
As memory serves me the first California wine that I remember drinking with my friends, at a party was a Foppiano Petite Sirah. This wine, in my palate’s memory will always be with me. It was just different than the French wines that graced our dinner table.
The Foppiano wine was explosive in the glass and it woke up my young sensibilities. The only wines I knew at this point were from Europe- and they were pretty good in my memory…
With all the brands of interesting wines available to my young palate- most were French, so when I tasted something so unfamiliar to me- I had to take notice!
Fast forward to present day.
I go back to California for wine on Twitter. Some of my friends are in the wine biz. Still others would like to read more of my “serious” wine writing.
I used to only write about travel, then food, then wine… Now, cocktails but who knows? One thing is for certain- I love the wines of Foppiano. They taste authentic. Not manipulated or forced. There is passion in the depth of the flavors in the offerings.
Is there a difference in style between their wines? I leave that for you to decide. I know enough about wine not to assign a score (other than my personal opinion) to anything. Your palate should be your guide, not someone who is not you!
Until then, may I present Natalie West, Foppiano Wines.
WRR: 1. Where are you from? Who taught you to cook? Mother? Father? Grandparents? What are your earliest memories of food?
I am from Healdsburg, I have been here since I was four years old.
My mother taught me to cook.
My earliest memory of food goes back to when I was a kid. For as long as I can remember we were always very active with the grape harvest, we’d pick the grapes and would bring them to the winery. After a long hard day in the field, night fall would come and we’d have a massive feast that had been prepared lovingly by my mom and aunts. Of course it was my dad who was in charge of barbecuing the chicken and steak. But what I remember most are the desserts, the most I’ve seen in my life. And, my favorite was the blueberry cheese cake that my mom would make. I am a total sugar person!
WRR: 2. What do you have in your freezer right now? Any cocktail ingredients in your fridge? Do you cure your own cherries?
What a great question. In my freezer right now I have frozen strawberries, tomato sauce, frozen green beans picked from my garden, Ben & Jerry’s Willie Nelson’s Country Peach Cobbler and Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream. Plus I always keep puff pastry around for an apple or a cherry tart or for something savory like a goat cheese, thyme and caramelized onion tart.
As for cocktail ingredients, I have a fairly well-stocked bar including Bombay Sapphire Gin, Bulleit Bourbon, a few brandies from Germain-Robain from the Redwood Valley, vermouth, dark rum and tequila—with which I am just getting reacquainted. I always keep on hand simple syrup, citrus, bitters, and olives. I store the alcohol in decanters because it looks pretty. Like serving wine in the proper glass, I am a big believer in doing the same with cocktails. For instance I have collection of mint julep cups that I absolutely adore. I can’t imagine drinking one in anything else.
No, I do not cure my own cherries but I always have a stash of Amarena Italian wild cherries, which are absolutely perfect in an old fashioned or a Manhattan.
WRR: 3. Is there anything that you prepare (or eat) that brings a tear to your eye when you eat (or smell) it? Why? Who does this remind you of?
Aside from onions, Cioppino brings a tear to my eye, my mother makes it every year for my birthday.
WRR: 4. If you could be anywhere in the world at this very moment, where would that be and why?
Italy because of the great food, wine and beautiful landscape. It’s reminiscent of home but also different. And the people are so friendly. It is just a good all-around lovely place to be.
WRR: 5. Social media brought us together… (thank you!!!!) Do you use a Smart Phone? Twitter? (will need link) Facebook? (will need link) LinkedIN? Anything you want to say about the Real Time Internet and how it’s helped your career?
I have an iPhone, I do not Tweet and I am on Facebook and Linked-In. What I love about social media is the fact that you can reach more people, more palates, and get more opinions. I think it has really helped the wine industry. I know for me, I have gotten to know more colleagues throughout Napa and Sonoma and beyond.
WRR: 5.5. Tell us a little bit about your role at Foppiano
A lot of the reason I came to Foppiano is because I have total freedom to do what I think is best—no set recipe. I have been encouraged to continue to add to the wine program and try fun things like port, rose, and smaller bottles of petite sirah. I try to let the wine speak for itself, respect the fruit, and not intervene too much—I think this makes the best wine. During my tenure here, I have gotten close to my colleagues who really take pride in their work.
We have a good time.
Some days after work, we sit down and share a bottle of J Sparkling wine together.
Thank you Natalie for participating in the Five Questions! wb
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
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