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20 Not So Penetrating “Getting to Know You” Questions for a Wine Craftsman

Winemaker Interview –Kent Fortner – Road 31 Wine Company

I regret to inform you that in the likely event you missed the 2006 allocation offering for Road 31 Pinot Noir, formerly Green Truck Pinot Noir, it is now sold out.

You can try your luck at some restaurants, but it will not be for the relative bargain price from the mailing list.

So it goes when you produce just 700 cases of delicious and beautifully seductive handcrafted wine that is consumer allocated and quickly gaining widespread, national attention. 

In my humblest of opinions, if you want in on the next Kosta Browne-like cult Pinot, I would head over to the web site and sign up for the mailing list.

It turns out that Kent changed the name with this release to Road 31, from Green Truck, because, well, there are a couple of other “trucks” on the wine road, and this one is decidedly different.

It also turns out that Kent just celebrated an addition to his family, welcoming a little girl to the Fortner house in the last two weeks.  So, congratulations are in order, as well.

I caught up with Kent, owner, winemaker and one-man-band when I took advantage of my allocation offering a couple of weeks ago.  Kent is the kind of guy that makes his wine project personal, injects life and love into his business and keeps things “authentic.”  I knew he would be a good interview subject.  And, anybody that likes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Star Wars and Fletch is a-okay in my book.  Be sure to read to the end and take a guess in the comments section at which one of his three truths is really a bit of fabricated fun.

Which of the Seven Deadly Sins are you most guilty of committing?

Kent: Ah, so this obviously isn’t the typical winemaker interview. I like it.  Who decided that gluttony was a sin anyway? All things in moderation, including moderation itself.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

Kent: When making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, one should always put Peanut Butter on BOTH sides of the bread. That way the peanut butter insulates the bread from the jelly, preventing mushiness. These and other definitive policies of my wine company and life can be found here:

What is on your nightstand?

Kent: Well, we just had a baby 10 days ago, so I’ve sort of been sleeping on the couch a lot. That “nightstand” has a remote control, a rather old issue of Newsweek (I believe Romney is on the cover), and my son’s Lightening McQueen racecar. The nightstand by our actual bed holds “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, as well as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy books. Somehow managed to get through life without having actually read about young Frodo, and I want to read them before I see the movie.

What is in your refrigerator or pantry that you wouldn’t openly admit?

Kent: A gourmet rotisserie chicken I bought for my dog. There, I admit it.

What do you drink when you’re not drinking wine?

Kent: Beer. Preferably Pilsner Urquel. I’ll take Sierra Nevada in a pinch.

What type of music or radio station is played most often in the Green Truck?

Kent: Well, actually, the truck doesn’t have a radio. So, I sing. It’s not quite shower-quality acoustics, but it’s not bad.

In what era would you live if you transport yourself?

Kent: The truck is a 66, and it would have been interesting to be around then (I wasn’t born until 1969). Given the music of that time, I would have definitely paid up for the option radio on the truck.

What is the best wine-related book you’ve read?

Kent: I just finished The House of Mondavi. It’s an intriguing look at not only a family business, but the wine business in general. Although certainly the Mondavi story is on a grander scale than most, the family-owned winery in Napa is in the midst of some serious transition. It is fascinating for me—who came into the industry in awe of the Winiarski’s (Stag’s Leap), Duckhorns, Cakebreads, Phelps, and Grgich’s of the world—to watch as these institutions of Napa face the challenges of succession.

And, although not directly wine-related, I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan in the past year, and I’m desperately trying to get all my friends to read it. It sums up an attitude towards food that I believe should be applied to wine as well.

What is your favorite movie genre? 

Kent: Hmm…how about I just list what is on my Tivo right now:

Waking Ned Devine
Raising Arizona
Terminator 1, 2, and 3 (Doing a little policy research on the Governor)
The Man Who Skied Everest
Into the Wild (pay per view)
High Fidelity
Friends and Seinfeld (10 episodes recorded for my wife while she’s nursing our child)
1968 with Tom Brokaw (last two installments)
The Usual Suspects
Curious George (for our three-year-old son)
Falling Down (one of my favorites)
Planet Earth (last three installments)
Sleepless in Seattle
Being John Malcovich
Lethal Weapon
The Truman Show
Fletch Lives
Star Wars (the original, of course)
The Royal Tennenbaums
Capote
Dodgeball

I myself don’t see any unifying theme here.

Is your desk messy or organized?

Kent: Tuesday through Thursday: messy. On Friday and Monday I do OK. I’m sort of a “beginning and end” of work guy. In between I don’t like to have to be too rigid.

Are you always early or terminally late?

Kent: Depends on if you are asking me, or my wife.

Do you read the comics in the newspaper?  If so, what’s your favorite comic?

Kent: Big Doonsbury fan. Used to laugh my head off at “Far Side” when it was in print. But most of my news is done online, and now that you mention it, I have been missing out on the comics because of it.

Who would you want to play you in the movie about your life?

Kent:
Keanu. Because there is a Matrix, and I will be the one to end it.

What super-power would you most like to have, and why?

Kent: This is a good question. A good question. I always felt like Green Lantern had all the skills that I myself would enjoy putting to use as a super-hero. He had that ring that allowed him to read minds, render himself invisible, go faster than the speed of light, create force-fields, and even radiate kryptonite to keep that pesky Superman away. All those would come in handy in winemaking and life.

You are moving and can only take three or four articles with you. What would you grab?

Kent: I’d grab that ring that allows me to be Green Lantern. With super-powers like those, who needs anything else?

What do you do if you have a spare hour?

Kent: I spend that hour lamenting my lack of spare hours. But, seriously, outside of trying to teach my son to kick a soccer ball (and not the cat), I love to play soccer myself. When I have lots of hours I climb mountains.

What was the last great restaurant you ate at?

Kent: I Was on a fly-fishing trip on the McCloud in Northern California last fall with some childhood friends, and we struck out in search of grub. Stumbled across this little place in the town of Dunsmuir called Café Maddelena.  Little fifteen seat restaurant. Food was insane (I highly recommend the Osso Bucco), they had a full-blown espresso machine, and the wine list was one of those lists that just makes you smile. It was a highly personal list: one where the owner, who has a great palate, sat down, tasted, and chose wines that are super-delicious and great values, regardless of brand, label, scores, or what anyone might think of the list. We started with three wines that I love that are incredibly obscure. Then, and after we drank those, the waiter told us we should try some others that I—a winemaker—hadn’t even heard of, and they were equally fantastic. And, the bill didn’t kill us. It was just one of those magical nights.

Considering that was last fall, that gives you an idea of how often we go out to eat now that we have two kids…

What is your favorite ice cream flavor? 

Kent: Chocolate chip. I haven’t ordered anything but for 10 years. Sometimes you can’t improve on perfection.

What is the best compliment you have ever received?

Kent: I provided my wine and my presence at a Tsunami relief fundraiser at Spago a few years back. Wolfgang Puck came out after the first course and told me he loved my Pinot.  It was like Bono giving you a compliment on your sunglasses.

“2 Truths And a Lie” – Share 3 unique things about yourself and your life, 2 of them true, 1 false

Kent:
1) I have run four marathons.
2) I’m a big fan of musical theater.
3) I have British royalty in my blood.

Please take a guess and leave a comment.  Thanks to Kent for having some fun with the questions and being a good guy!



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Posted in, Tasting Safari: Wines You Can Buy Online. Permalink | Comments (49) |


Comments

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