Podcast Episode #59 – Behind the Vines: Tom Caruso’s Pray Tell Wines – Unveiling an Oregon Hidden Gem

Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines

Embark on a journey to the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where the vines are more than just plants – they are the storytellers of the earth, the sun, and the seasons. In this episode of the Weinnotes podcast, I sit down with Tom Caruso, the visionary behind Pray Tell Wines. Our conversation is like uncorking a bottle of his finest – it unfolds with layers of passion, history, and a deep connection to the land.

Key Moments in my interview with Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines

Tom’s story is a tapestry woven from threads of memory, tradition, and innovation. As the grandson of a wine enthusiast, his roots run deep, tracing back to childhood days spent with his grandfather. This connection to his past is not just nostalgic; it’s the bedrock of his philosophy. Tom’s approach to winemaking is a dance between honoring tradition and embracing modernity – a harmonious blend that is evident in every bottle of Pray Tell.

Our discussion dives into the unique challenges and triumphs of the 2023 harvest. Tom recounts the whirlwind of picking grapes in just four days, a testament to his adaptability and commitment to capturing the essence of each Harvest. His description of this process is like poetry, with words painting a picture of the vineyard bustling with activity, the air filled with anticipation and the earthy scent of ripe grapes.

The beauty of Pray Tell Wines isn’t just in the bottles but also in the stories behind them. Tom shares his creative process, where each label is an artwork reflecting the wine’s character and his personal journey. His Gamay and Pinot Noir blend, inspired by childhood memories of capturing fireflies, symbolizes the magic trapped in each bottle, waiting to be released with every pour.

As we taste his wines, Tom’s descriptions are vivid and evocative. He speaks of color, not just in the wine but in its flavors, painting a sensory canvas that tantalizes the imagination. His wines are a symphony of taste, with each varietal contributing its unique note to create a harmonious blend.

Our conversation is more than an interview; it’s a voyage into the soul of Pray Tell Wines. It’s about the connection of family, the passion for the craft, and the love for the land that gives life to the vineyard. So pour yourself a glass, sit back, and join us on this journey through the world of Pray Tell Wines, where every sip tells a story.

Be sure to also checkout other winemaker interviews!

Transcription of interview with Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines in Oregon’s Willamette Valley

[00:00:00] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Cheers to another episode of

[00:00:06] A.J. Weinzettel: the Wine Notes podcast. I’m your guide, AJ Winesuttle, on this journey of stories showcasing the people behind the wonderful world of wine, where we dive into conversations ranging from terroir, viticulture, to favorite music, superpowers and more. Please enjoy this episode of the Wine Notes podcast.

[00:00:24] A.J. Weinzettel: Tom, thank you so much for being on the podcast today. I really

[00:00:26] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: appreciate you taking the time.

[00:00:29] A.J. Weinzettel: Uh, wow. It got cold out there quick. It did. I’m, I just kind of got used to the idea of fall, but then like 30 some odd degree temperatures, I’m like,

[00:00:39] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I’ll take it with the sunshine though. I will definitely take that.

[00:00:42] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, it’s better than the alternative, I think.

[00:00:44] A.J. Weinzettel: Yes. Yes. Um, Harvest. Yes. It’s kind

[00:00:47] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: of wrapping up and yeah. How was it for you? It was great. It was fast and furious this year. So we picked everything in four days. Uh, so that was about the fastest I’ve ever, you know, moved. It’s an interesting thing. Someone asked me during harvest, do I like it this way?

[00:01:06] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And it’s interesting because it’s the first time where I feel like I’ve really gotten to compartmentalize every step of the process where it’s like primary fermentation, you know, Dealing with all of that in one go, you know, pressing things all in one go, barreling down all in one go. And so. It lets your brain kind of do things very sequentially, which is really cool.

[00:01:25] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But the alternative is that you have to have those moments where you take a beat and you’re like, let’s slow it down for a second. Let’s, you know, taste things. Let’s really try to connect with these things because right now we’re looking at, you know, 10 tons of fruit that just showed up and that’s a lot for a small producer like me.

[00:01:41] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That’s a third of the production. You know, and to do that, you know, in a day was, was really, um, it was cool, you know, it was, but it was, it was fast and furious. So qualitatively though, you know, I think I’m, I’m really excited about the diversity and dimensionality in the cellar. So it was, uh, I want to say we had about eight different varietals this year.

[00:02:01] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So every year we’re kind of in that, that kind of realm, but just seeing, you know, the flavor development. So early on in all of these wines is really exciting. So very hopeful. Yeah, I can imagine. Well, congratulations. Thank you. Appreciate it. Shall I pour us a little bit of a blind wine? Please. Yeah. Okay.

[00:02:17] A.J. Weinzettel: As, as always, I tell everybody, whatever you want to say, it’s totally up to you. Okay. Um, I always try to find something that might, you know, have a connection, might be something that you like, uh, you know, and, you know, again, whatever you want to say, it is completely up

[00:02:33] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: to you. Cool. Do we jump right in on that?

[00:02:36] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah, go ahead and jump in. Let’s see what we got here.

[00:02:43] A.J. Weinzettel: You know, it was, uh, It was funny. I blinded Andrew from Audeant on one of your lines. And that was just, it was so fun to hear his

[00:02:53] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: reaction. Yeah, he’s a, he’s a good pal and, and I think a very talented winemaker, so to have him speak positively or at least, you know, crack a smile when he’s, he’s tasting through something that you make is always a, kind of a fun moment.

[00:03:07] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But, um, that’s interesting. I’m going to unpack this for a little while. I have ideas already. Okay. Um, but I’m going to try to, um, You know, when you’re blind tasting, you’re always like, sometimes one of the pitfalls is that you try to play the player versus play the line. And so understanding that there might be some semblance of a connection on this one, my brain’s already like firing on those synapses, but I just want to take it at face value.

[00:03:31] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So we’ll kind of kind of look at it over the next couple of minutes if that’s all right. Of

[00:03:35] A.J. Weinzettel: course, of course, of course. Oh, Earliest memories, you know, you were out, you know, with your grandfather making wine in Pennsylvania on Oregon Avenue. That’s

[00:03:46] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: kind of crazy. It is, um, it’s one of those, like, cool life moments where you start to connect some of those dots, and I don’t know if it’s, like, self fulfilling prophecy or not, but, um, it was such a neat experience to grow up in that environment and to feel like that was the norm.

[00:04:01] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, to see the community building and the camaraderie around that, just the level of connection that I got to have with my grandfather around it all was so special. And it’s, you know, I, uh, he passed, uh, about 15, 16 years ago now. So he never really got to see. Me in this realm or have, you know, one of one of my wines, but, you know, it certainly informs my love and joy of this whole thing, you know, so it’s, you know, stylistically, it’s interesting.

[00:04:29] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, I can vaguely recall some of the wines, you know, he really liked to work with Merlot, which I thought was funny. He called it Merlot because, you know, he, uh, his, uh, he learned English here in the States, but It’s funny that now I make Merlot in my own cellar, which is kind of a cool thing. And, and I, um, what’s really neat about it all, and I’ve been toying around with this idea for a little while, but I, my family still has some of the wines that he made.

[00:04:54] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And, um, you know, they’re still in like, uh, you know, kind of one gallon jugs and stuff like that. And then idea that kind of crossed my mind was to see if I could take that wine and in the future, blend it with a wine that I make. Um, and just see if. There’s something, something there, you know, just kind of the, the collaboration that took, you know, 20 years to come together or something like that.

[00:05:17] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That would be amazing. Yeah. I mean, we’ll see, you know, so I actually checked in on it, uh, two years ago. I was home for the holidays back in Philadelphia and we pulled, uh, pulled a cork on a bottle and surprisingly, you know, it was like, it was still like very approachable. It certainly had, you know, development to it.

[00:05:33] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Don’t get me wrong. You know, it had the pieces and I think in that moment, I was like, okay, I think I could work around this and build something that, you know, allows us to have something that will continue to, to age, you know, and, and kind of push the, the finish line on that wine down, you know, much further down the road.

[00:05:49] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So most

[00:05:50] A.J. Weinzettel: definitely. And what I really liked about, you know, the re your grandfather didn’t make wine to like sell it. Yeah. Like it was house

[00:05:57] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: wine for sure. Yeah. It was house like truly like my concept of wine. And I think even his to a certain point was like, There was, like, his wine was the wine. Like, that was it.

[00:06:06] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, I wasn’t gonna go shop for wine or anything like that. I think it was that, like, old world mentality, too, that was kind of fun. It is, it is fun.

[00:06:13] A.J. Weinzettel: I was over in Italy and Croatia, you know, this year. And, you know, that whole mentality of, like, oh, there is a yard and it has vines in it. And it’s for the house wine.

[00:06:24] A.J. Weinzettel: I,

[00:06:25] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I just adore that. Yeah. It’s kind of a cool thing to think about. Like, I like the idea of just, it makes it feel a little more like sustenance versus just like, just alcohol. You know, it’s like it gives it this, you know, kind of meaning and, and not to, you know, make it feel you know, more important than it is, but it’s like it is, it is so special when you have those connections like that where you realize it’s not commoditized.

[00:06:47] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s about the people who are part of the process. You know, I always joke that, like, if, you know, I, I locked the door tomorrow and, and said, Hey, I’m done making Praetel wines, at least I have a lot of wine that I’d be happy drinking, you know? Right. And, and that’s kind of, I think, why You know, this whole thing feels special to me is that I’m making wines that I enjoy making, like want to drink and hopefully find like minded people that, you know, share those sensibilities or at least like a style of winemaking, basically.

[00:07:15] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah, and your sense of family, I have adored so many little pieces and parts of your story of family. So growing up in Pennsylvania, you attended

[00:07:26] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: the Haverford School. Haverford School, yeah. Haverford

[00:07:29] A.J. Weinzettel: School, sorry about that. And, uh You know, so you had a couple teachers that, uh, your dad, you know, also had, you know, they were teachers for your dad as well.

[00:07:39] A.J. Weinzettel: And what really got you was, you know, them pulling out some of your dad’s artwork. Yeah. I mean, what was I mean, I don’t know. Were you proud at that moment? Were you embarrassed at that

[00:07:50] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: moment? I mean, honestly, I was impressed that people can catalog something and keep it around for that long, you know? And I think it also, again, I think just, you know, I really loved my time at that school just because it felt like there was this really lovely connection between, you know, teachers and students where it was more than just the transaction of you’re here to learn this.

[00:08:13] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, there was so much emphasis on You know, just like being a good human and, and, and, you know, all that kind of stuff and community and everything. And the fact that like people could really make a connection. Like one of my art professors, the same art professor who had that, remained a friend after me graduating.

[00:08:31] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Uh, so, you know, I’ve gone back. He’s since passed. But, um, you know, a couple years ago I was back in Philadelphia. We met up for lunch and we actually met up with other local artists in the area. And just like, it was so cool to see the world through his eyes. And just see that like, I could remain like They saw in their students, you know, they were trying to cultivate this sense of whatever it was, if it was writing or artistry or whatever and they wanted to actually see that through beyond just, you know, your time in their classroom.

[00:08:58] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And to have that with, um, with my dad’s art, you know, and, and all that, it just, it was, it was this like woodblock thing that was really neat. And I was like, I was like, wow, it, it just showed a level of care that I think, you know, was, was so surprising. So it meant a lot. I can only imagine. Yeah.

[00:09:13] A.J. Weinzettel: Uh, well you have some wines here for us today.

[00:09:15] A.J. Weinzettel: I do, yeah. Uh,

[00:09:16] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: shall we dive into one? Happy to. We can start kind of on the front end or if you kind of want something that, you know, you can kind of slowly sip on too, we can, we can jump through. But I’ve got kind of a smattering of three different vintages of things. Is that right? Maybe four different vintages actually.

[00:09:30] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, but we could start with, with some Pinot Gamay here if you’d like. So this is, um, 60 percent uh, Gamay. From some pretty young vines, and then 40 percent Pinot Noir from a site that’s a little further established down in the Yola Amity Hills. So

[00:09:46] A.J. Weinzettel: I, is it, how, uh,

[00:09:50] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: how do I put this?

[00:09:51] A.J. Weinzettel: Gamay and Pinot Noir blend.

[00:09:54] A.J. Weinzettel: That’s not pretty typical, I mean that’s not typical, is

[00:09:56] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: it? It’s, so something that, prior to really getting into Um, wine making, just being a wine, you know, appreciator and drinker and really, you know, I always joke that’s when you’re on the best side of it is right. You get to be the consumer of the of the thing.

[00:10:11] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, it’s, uh, it’s something that the past two grand, uh, AOC in France is, is where they allow that blend to happen. So it’s kind of Burgundian adjacent, um, and basically kind of, I think throttles the line between Burgundy and Beaujolais. And typically a lot of the times it’s stuff that’s kind of declassified from bigger houses that are making, you know, some of the higher end Pinos or, or focusing on Gamay.

[00:10:39] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And it was really meant I think as kind of a fun table wine for the community there. Um, so usually a little more approachable from a price point, but I always thought that there was magic in those blends. And I thought that there’s this really lovely kind of synergy and also tension between the two that makes for this vibrancy that’s so young and fresh and kind of just celebratory as a line.

[00:11:01] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so, um, I started making this blend, and it’s changed every year in terms of percentages and all that, but doing a, a Gamay Pinot blend back in 2018. And the label, so I should mention I do all the labels myself, I cut everything out of paper. But the label inspiration for this particular wine, uh, was growing up As a little kid and trying to capture fireflies in lanterns.

[00:11:24] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I always thought like, wow, it felt like magic in a, in a, uh, in a jar. And so I was thinking about lanterns and trying to capture that magic. And so every year I’ve changed what’s on the inside of the lantern, but the kind of Easter egg with this label is that if you put multiple bottles next to each other, it looks like string lights.

[00:11:41] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so. This to me is always like such a fun, you know, like table wine for um, you know, summer gatherings and all that kind of stuff, but had a cool energy to it. But yeah. Yeah. And I,

[00:11:53] A.J. Weinzettel: I am thoroughly enjoying the wine. Yeah. It’s um,

[00:11:59] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: how do

[00:11:59] A.J. Weinzettel: I? Oh, when I’m, when I’m put on the spot about talking about a wine, I’m always kind of lost for

[00:12:05] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: words.

[00:12:05] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You’re blind tasting me on camera and microphone. I love it.

[00:12:10] A.J. Weinzettel: Oh, but sometimes Gamay is this little bit of kind of hits you in the face. It’s like big, it’s not big as in like a cab. Sure. But it’s very fruity. It’s very upfront. And this is nice to me. In my preference, I like the calmness of this and be able to enjoy this, you

[00:12:31] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: know, through and through.

[00:12:32] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah, it’s a wine that, um, I mean, I agree with you, Gam. It can be a little exuberant as a young wine and I think kind of Finding the nuance there is always, is always fun. I mean, you know, you think about the caricature version of it with Beaujolais Nouveau, for example, where it’s all carbonic maceration.

[00:12:48] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s all this amplification of fruit. It’s pretty primary. You know, you look at that and then you also look at You know, other examples on the opposite end of the spectrum with, like, Crue Beaujolais that are just, like, super refined, really beautiful, and kind of, like, laser focused. And I think they, they certainly hold their own against, you know, some of their, you know, kind of counterparts in burgundy, even at, you know, typically a more approachable price point.

[00:13:11] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But I think that, um, you know, it’s, it’s a varietal that kind of takes, um, some interesting handling to, to figure out, you know, where the nuance is going to be with that. But stylistically, I’d say that that’s kind of the You know, theme across the board is trying to find that nuance and a little more elegance or prettiness.

[00:13:30] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That’s always the goal. I mean, my, my thing is like the best compliment that I could typically kind of hear about pouring the wines for someone who’s never had them is that they kind of find this through line of prettiness across all of them. And so that’s um, you know, I’m glad that you can kind of feel that that tamp down of energy here just enough to make it a little more elegant and kind of softer than than just being super, uh, Primary and, you know Right.

[00:13:52] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Violent . Well, no,

[00:13:54] A.J. Weinzettel: it’s, yeah. I, I understand what you’re saying. Yeah. And I, I, and yes, I do all of your wines that I’ve had over the years, I love the nuance. Thank you. Everything that’s done. I appreciate that. Uh, so you kind of, uh, got the wine bug a little bit at harvested, uh, Brooklyn Winery. Yeah. Yeah. Um, and after, after harvest with that, you’re like, I need more.

[00:14:17] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. So you went, uh, two, uh, two months intensive with the court of

[00:14:23] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Master Sommelier. Yeah, that was, that was like, you know, glutton for punishment, basically. You know, I worked the graveyard shift for Brooklyn Winery while I was a book editor still. And so I kept my day job from 9 to 5, and then I’d work 5.

[00:14:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: 30 p. m. until about 4 a. m. at the winery in, in Brooklyn. Um, and I did that for two months, and um, and then after that, that winter I had enrolled in this intensive sommelier program that met, Uh, I wanna say it was actually closer to like six months because I had fin finished it in the spring, um, but it was three nights a week and it was four hours every night.

[00:14:57] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So it was two hours of blind tasting, eight to 10 different wines, and every class was taught by a, a master sommelier right through the court. And then the other two hours were all theory. So it was just studying, you know, the things that you just kind of made those associations with in terms of terroir and flavor profiles and all that stuff.

[00:15:15] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, classic wines, classic regions, you know, classic producers, kind of, that’s how you kind of build those, those markers for blind tasting. But yeah, the other two hours was just kind of learning the theory behind all of that. And it’s all just, what you realize is that it’s just, it’s deductive reasoning, you know, when you’re blind tasting.

[00:15:31] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so, it opened my eyes to the world of wine. Because again, up until that point, you know, my familiarity with wine was largely familial, just in terms of what, was coming from my grandfather’s cellar, or it was through the wines that my dad was really interested in at the time. And his taste in wines has since kind of evolved and shifted as well.

[00:15:50] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, my own onboarding with wines was kind of the classic route. It was a lot of California wines, a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon and kind of heartier reds from there. And, um, and that. Was a great, you know, those are friendly wines to come on board with, you know, they’re they’re pretty juicy. They’re big They’re friendly and and I think that that’s you know I think when you kind of get into this thing you continue to kind of you know sharpen the blade and and find your focus and ironically, it’s like you kind of get to a point where you’re making things that feel so just kind of polished and lean and pretty.

[00:16:23] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Like I said, you know, it’s just like, it’s just feel felt like over the years just to kind of keep trimming and trimming until you get to that focus point, which is, you know, polishing a diamond, I should say is kind of a better, better example there. But yeah, it’s, it’s a cool onboarding I’d say. And, but, but that was certainly where it started for sure.

[00:16:40] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So the work, the court, you know, and doing the some way stuff just started to show me, Hey, there’s, you know, 85 different versions of Chardonnay you could taste in a day. Right. You know, which one do you like, you know, or which one do you anticipate, you know, people are going to like in a dining, you know, environment or that kind of stuff.

[00:16:56] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So it was, it was invaluable. Truly. I can only

[00:17:00] A.J. Weinzettel: imagine how invaluable it was, but doing all those blind tastings at, at some point, I mean, I’ve read books and memoirs and, you know, people kind of, you know, doing all the tasting groups and whatnot. They’re like, Oh my gosh, I’m in over my head. This is crazy. I mean, did you ever get to a point of like,

[00:17:16] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: What am I doing?

[00:17:17] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, I think it was like, I think when you start to put In the moment, it feels really Like it feels right there it’s exactly what’s in front of you and it’s this transaction that’s happening where you’re like I’m trying to learn this thing that’s right here in front of me. I think where it started to feel a little More stressful was when the sense of urgency around the testing portion of that was coming into play.

[00:17:44] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It was like, okay, you have to do this on the spot now. And it’s performative. That performative element to it was, was interesting because, you know, you’re doing these things during the exam and it’s like, you’re trying to open a bottle of champagne while you’re also getting asked questions about. You know, other producers or recommendations for the meal.

[00:18:00] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I think that whole thing, you know, I didn’t come from a hospitality background. You know, I was editing psychology books at the same time. That was my job. And so to go into that where it felt like there was all of a sudden like this need to kind of, you know, polish things up and have presentation and all that those mechanics while you’re also, you know, talking about wines or recommendations.

[00:18:21] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That’s where I started to feel like, oh, like this feels foreign to me. This is like this new, you know, for someone who’s, Seemingly relatively introverted, you know, sitting in a cubicle editing psychology books by themselves all day to go into this, you know, theater now of performance was, was a whole new thing where I felt a little bit like a fish out of water.

[00:18:42] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But, you kind of find, you know, with all things, with practice, with all that, I mean, even just talking about my own wines, it’s like, you know, the level of comfort that you have when you make something that you’re so personally attached to, and then you have to go and share it with the world, it’s like, I could, I got to a place where I could talk about other people’s wines all day, and I was, you know, I was good at it, you know, I was doing, uh, wine sales for other wineries out here, and, and, um, you know, import wines as well.

[00:19:06] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, But when it came time for me to start talking about my own wines, I was like, you know, I was a little nervous and I’ll never forget the first time I ever showed a pray tell wine. It was, it was a Gamay. So I made, I started this whole project with just 120 cases back in 2017 and I went and I launched the brand for the first time to anyone at the, I love Gamay festivals when they used to put those on.

[00:19:29] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I’ll never forget, I put the wine on the table and I had people coming up to come taste and, you know, within the first five minutes somebody comes up to the table and they’re like, they point at the label and they go, are those boobs? And it immediately like, I felt like all the tension that I had just like completely go away.

[00:19:45] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Because at that point it was like, it doesn’t have to be So precious, you know, like it’s a reminder to have fun with this thing and you know Now every year when I make a label I do a body part check where I send it out to friends and family like does any part of this look anything like a Human body part, you know, like I need to be anatomy proof on these right?

[00:20:05] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so that’s kind of the the fun of of designing your own stuff and being so head down and in the moment with it But you know, I think it’s it’s I’ve, I’ve developed a lot more comfort around it as well too. It’s, it’s understanding that you want the wines to be divisive. You don’t want them to pander and say, you know, you get 10 reactions from 10 people at a table to say, oh, it’s fine.

[00:20:23] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, I want, you know, hopefully more than half the table to love it, but you know, you want people to really say, wow, I really love this wine or, oh, you know, it’s not for me. Cause then it makes me feel like, Hey, I’m doing my job. I’m making something that elicits a reaction out of you and not just, oh, you’re, you know, it’s fine.

[00:20:38] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, it’s the table red, you know, that kind of thing. So, yeah. Yeah, no, it’s good to have those

[00:20:43] A.J. Weinzettel: reactions for sure. Just come up. Yeah. Uh, should we move on to the next one?

[00:20:47] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Sure. Yeah, happy to. I’ve got a little, uh, a little thing here if you’d like. Thank you. I pulled something that I thought would be kind of fun and special to check in on too.

[00:20:57] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, current release Pinot Noir for me is, uh, 2021. Um, but I, uh, I made, well, I’ve made Pinot every year since 2018, but I had pulled the Shiner, but I have the bottle on the table there for you to see, but this is a 2019 Pinot Noir. Um, this was the one that was featured in, um, Bon Appetit back in 2021. So, it sold out pretty quickly from there.

[00:21:22] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, 100 percent Pinot all from the Chehalem Mountains and, um, kind of aged, you know, there’s varying degrees of whole cluster every year with Pinot just based on the ripeness. In 2019, I de stemmed everything. So really kind of, I think with the rains that came through, this feels to me very classic Oregonian in style in terms of Pinot Noir, um, but aged all in neutral oak for, um, about 14 months.

[00:21:48] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And, um, and this has been in bottle now. I just have about two cases of this left. And, uh, I think it’s showing really beautifully right now. I wish I had more of it to, to enjoy. The nose on this is quite spectacular. Thank you. Yeah. This over here.

[00:22:10] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Try not to slurp the wines on mic, you know, as I’m tasting. It’s hard not to do. This, uh, this label too, by the way. So with the Pinot every year, uh, it’s always been a, uh, A flower pot and, and a plant in there. And the idea here is that, you know, being from a major city, I’ve never had a particularly green thumb.

[00:22:31] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so I always joke that, you know, I thought keeping a houseplant alive was as simple as just watering it every day. Turns out that’s not the case. Um, and so, uh, I think, uh, ironically now I do have, uh, two houseplants that I’ve kept alive for multiple years now, so I’m rather proud of that, but I was thinking about, um, Pinot Noir and just how much level of attention that it requires, um, compared to other things.

[00:22:55] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I just think it requires the most kind of, like, delicacy and, and just kind of nuance in terms of paying attention. You know, I check in on it the most, it’s probably the thing that I will pull from barrel and taste the most regularly. Just because I find that depending on the vessel or different periods of, of the wine’s life during the maturation time, It just kind of requires you to, to be vigilant, you know, sometimes you’re like, hey, it’s starting to broaden a little too much in amphora, let’s move it to stainless steel or, you know, things like that.

[00:23:25] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, um, so I thought what better, uh, symbol of that than having the house plant on there that requires you to be a little more vigilant basically. So, um, so yeah, and every year I change the colors of, of the, you know, the, the planter and the leaves and stuff like that. But I know that that

[00:23:40] A.J. Weinzettel: is great. And, you know, like I said, the nose on this is great.

[00:23:44] A.J. Weinzettel: Uh, sipping on this, uh,

[00:23:47] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I, I

[00:23:50] A.J. Weinzettel: adore the heck out of it, right? I mean, all of your wines, I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed over the years. And this one, it has, it has this nice weight to it, a nice texture and. If you, you said it was neutral, can it just, it doesn’t seem neutral to

[00:24:07] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: me. Yeah. It seems like there’s a little more of that, like kind of underlying baking spice.

[00:24:11] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I, and I’m curious about that just in terms of, you know, Chehalem mountains fruit. Um, you know, and, and even now I’ve been primarily just kind of like bouncing back and forth every year with. with Pinot Noir from either the Chez Halem Mounds or E. O. L. Amity. Those tend to be the two that I, I mean I love Ribbon Ridge too, don’t get me wrong.

[00:24:28] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But, you know, those seem to be the two AVAs out here that I, I like the expressions of Pinot Noir, particularly from, you know, friends and peers in the industry. But, um, I think that there’s kind of this cool underlying like, like blueberry, you know, kind of element to this wine as well. Yeah, that baking space is kind of interesting, but yeah, neutral wood.

[00:24:49] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah, that’s it. It’s quite spectacular. Thank you. I appreciate that.

[00:24:52] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah So I did I was doing some more research as I kind of came up here my next question doesn’t seem All that great right now so the you Came from Pennsylvania decided to do a road trip all the way out here to California. Yeah And then your other grandfather decided to come along with you.

[00:25:16] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. And he’s like Drive in dives

[00:25:20] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: and diners, drive ins and dives. Yes. Yes. Yeah. Oh,

[00:25:25] A.J. Weinzettel: I know that you only went to one. Yep.

[00:25:28] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: We did not make guys very proud on that trip. I’ll tell you that. Unfortunately.

[00:25:33] A.J. Weinzettel: Did you, so did you, did y’all make up for it or something afterwards?

[00:25:37] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, Oh, just doing different stuff.

[00:25:39] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, you know, we were, it’s kind of a fun thing to do a road trip without a plan. I think that it’s, you know, It’s something that we’d start our days and we would just see where we would end up accordingly. And so to look at, um, you know, a map and just be like, yeah, I think we’re going to kind of shoot for here and we’ll just stop along the way.

[00:25:58] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Like we had some things that we knew we definitely wanted to do. Like we went to Graceland, we went to, um, Uh, the Grand Canyon. Um, I’m trying to think of like what other kind of big things. You went to the Jack Daniels Distillery. the Jack Daniels Distillery, that’s right. Um, you know, those are the kinds of things that we’re like, okay, we have our target points, but along the way, other than that, we just kind of, I think we’re just like Looking things up while we were going, um, and, and I think that that’s a really fun way to just kind of like, let the road take you where, you know, where it’s going to go.

[00:26:30] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And it’s, it’s, I actually just did that again this summer. Um, uh, my girlfriend and I, we did a road trip from, uh, here all the way out. To Philly to see family and it was kind of the same thing and it’s really like such a lovely way to just be like hey We’re gonna get in the car and we’re gonna make stops along the way and just see see what happens So yeah, but he was that he was a trooper for it We we kind of we made it in six days and we ended up landing In Sonoma and at the time my uncle was a chef out there his son And so it was great because we landed and immediately, you know, ate great meals and had wine waiting for us and kind of kick things off on the on the like wine journey on the West Coast.

[00:27:12] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But yeah, that that would

[00:27:13] A.J. Weinzettel: be fun. So One grandpa was into wine, the other one, sounds like he was into

[00:27:19] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: food. Very into food, very into wine as well, but, um, more of the like, you know, purchasing and, and, you know, kind of consumption side versus the, the production side of it. Okay. But, I think it’s just, you know, there’s, there’s obviously such a lovely connection between food and wine in general.

[00:27:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Of course. I mean, I really think of wine as a food product. I mean, it feels, um, I feel like when I’m making wine, I feel like, There’s these cooking sensibilities that come in and the metaphors that I typically like to use in terms of just like approach for wine is that some people make wine like baking, and some people make wine like cooking.

[00:27:54] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so it’s the baking side. Obviously, you’re following a little more of a recipe. There’s a little more kind of like just. pragmatism there of like, Hey, we have to hit these marks. Um, whereas for, you know, the cooking side, it feels a little more intuition based. And there’s like, I don’t know if reactive is the right word.

[00:28:10] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s the word I used to use. Um, but then it feels a little bit like you’re, you’re kind of letting too much happen outside of your control. Um, whereas there are proactive things that you could obviously do to ensure that, you know, fermentations are healthy with, you know, temperature management or just.

[00:28:26] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Just cleaning like crazy or making sure that you’re basically inhibiting any bad, you know, things from happening to a ferment, but, um, yeah, food and wine. I mean, it’s just, it’s, it’s like the way of life I’ve, I’ve been really fortunate to grow up in a, in a big family that most people love to cook in and do really.

[00:28:43] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Great jobs, uh, with that. And I even love to cook myself. And so it’s just a, um, you know, it’s part of life, I guess. It

[00:28:50] A.J. Weinzettel: is part of life. Uh, and before we started recording, you were talking about Ron at Okta. Yeah. Have you been

[00:28:57] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: to Okta yet? I have. I’ve, um, I’ve had the, the pleasure of going there and it, um, it’s a really lovely experience.

[00:29:03] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, Ron’s doing some really great stuff with the wine program there and the hospitality is, is, you know, immaculate. And um, it’s such a neat space to see this connection between, you know, things that are being grown locally when it comes to both food and, and, you know, their meats that they’re using.

[00:29:20] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And then also just the emphasis on, you know, local wines as well. I mean, you’re talking about a place that probably has, you know, unparalleled access to some really beautiful import wines. And yet, you know, the emphasis to not only have those as options for people, but to be able to do a food and wine pairing there where you’re seeing things that are made locally kind of featured alongside, you know, he’s, he’s such an in tune, um, You know wine curator for that place and and he’s um, yeah, he’s he’s doing some great work, but it’s a lovely experience there It very much is yeah Yeah So we go into the next happy to, yeah, we’re, we’re getting into, um, kind of a fun.

[00:30:02] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So we spoke a little bit about the Pino Merlot blend that I made previously, right? This is kind of the spiritual successor to that one. And it’s something that, um, I think is a really fun blend, but I think it, it’s kind of like when people ask about, you know, if I had to kind of sum up pray tell in, in a nutshell, just in terms of like, what.

[00:30:23] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: What is the kind of philosophy of this place? I think sometimes that a wine like this might do the trick. You know, if this were an elevator pitch, I think what it’s going to show you is that the thing that is kind of paramount to. The wines that are made in this building is there’s a playfulness to them.

[00:30:39] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, but there’s also the importance of the blending table. And I think that that’s something that kind of speaks to previous, you know, producers that I’ve worked for. Um, but also just kind of the, the fun of this places is not really coming in with any preconceived notions or like rules. And instead just feeling like.

[00:30:58] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: What’s the best wine that we can make on the table and what is it? And, and, and so it’ll be fun to, to see your thoughts on this one after having had the Pumé before in the past. Yeah, the, um,

[00:31:09] A.J. Weinzettel: I, I forget which one this is, but I think I saw it on your, on your milling list. Yeah. I was like, Oh, that sounds really

[00:31:15] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: interesting.

[00:31:15] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah. It’s a little different, you know, it’s something that, um, so this is, uh, just so that folks can actually kind of get an idea of what’s going on here. This is a blend of Pinot Noir, um, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. So the Pinot is from the Willamette Valley. The Syrah is from the Rocks District, which I absolutely adore for Syrah.

[00:31:36] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And then the Cabernet Sauvignon is from Walla Walla. And so you’ve got three very different and distinct AVAs that I think are all handling each of their respective varietals really beautifully and, you know, synonymous with those, those things. But these were all fermented separately. And the idea, you know, behind this, um, started a couple years ago when I was like, Hey, there are certain varietals that feel Like they’ve kind of gone into a little bit of a stale phase, at least some of the stuff that I’d seen or was tasting felt like very brown, uh, categorically, and I mean that in a way that I blend my wines based on color, like the way that I see things, when I sit down and I taste through things, I immediately start to associate colors with the flavor profiles that I’m having, um, and I kind of alluded to that a little bit with like the Shehalem and the Blue Fruit for the Pinot Noir, um, that we previously had, but it’s something that I think just It just happens that way for me.

[00:32:33] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That’s the way my brain works, I guess. And so Merlot is a varietal that I absolutely love. We talked a little bit, I think, off mic about the connection to, you know, my grandfather making Merlot. Um, and, you know, that’s a varietal that I’ll continue to make. I have more in the cellar as we speak. Um, but this was kind of the next iteration of that.

[00:32:52] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I wanted to take three varietals again that you wouldn’t think on paper necessarily are, you know, It’s supposed to go together and yet I think that there’s a really fun element here that they actually kind of have this really beautiful like connection here, which is so cool. And I agree

[00:33:09] A.J. Weinzettel: and I’m still processing here, but I have two questions.

[00:33:14] A.J. Weinzettel: So you said, uh, the three varietals and they’re feeling a little brown. Yeah. So what do you mean by brown? I haven’t

[00:33:21] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: heard that. Well, I think, I think for me, when I think about that brownness element, it’s just like this, like. It’s when a varietal feels like you’ve got a lot of extraction out of it. You’ve got a lot of power, but it’s not like you’re not getting the, the like tension that we look for in terms of like acidity and, and like that balance.

[00:33:40] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And, and, and I think the vibrancy element of color here, like you can see there’s kind of this fun zippy element to this that, you know, it’s like, it feels like it’s not a straight line on a chart. It’s kind of like, this, this peaks and valleys while you’re unpacking it. And so I’m kind of vacillating between like the blues and the reds here with this one and maybe in purple.

[00:34:00] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Like it’s just kind of this ping pong, you know, and, and it’s between the varietals. And I think it’s trying to, when I think about the freshness and the vibrancy of each of those varietals, like they inherently want to give you something that is, that is more. Emphatic than brown, but you think about like, I think of tiredness with brown.

[00:34:18] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: A lot of times you think about aging a wine for a long time. Oxidation is going to Brown the wines just in color. And you’re starting to get more of that development of kind of like you lose the freshness of it. Maybe sometimes you pick up some really beautiful secondary or tertiary characteristics that make for an absolutely lovely wine.

[00:34:36] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, but sometimes they can just get a little fall into this camp where they’re just start to get a little tired, a little muddy. And so for me, Looking at that and saying, Hey, I’d love to try my hand at this in a way that feels like we’re going to like pack it with, with like loads of energy, but like try to preserve this elegance and this tension.

[00:34:54] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so the goal with the wine like this is to have loads of energy, still have like, you know, that nice kind of. Acidity that’s keeping it fresh, but like shows you each of those varietals as well I don’t get the sense that any one of them are camping on the other two It’s kind of cool when you start to look for them You could see what they each contribute to a wine like this, which is really neat But this was aged in a combination of neutral wood and also some terracotta as well.

[00:35:19] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So in 2020 this is a 2022 Some of the Cabernet was in amphora and some of the Syrah was in amphora as well. And I think they kind of add a really interesting element as well to the wines. For flavor dimensionality, there’s some really neat elements of like this dusty kind of old world earthenware kind of element when you’re coming out of them exclusively.

[00:35:41] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I like the way that they play with things aged in wood or even in stainless. I think that they just kind of add different layers of flavor, which is super fun. So. Yeah,

[00:35:51] A.J. Weinzettel: and you’re, I loved your explanation of, you know, the, the peaks and the lows of this wine. Because, you know, it does, it kind of, you know, slowly, you know, comes in on your entry.

[00:36:01] A.J. Weinzettel: And it peaks again, and then it kind of comes down, and then on the finish, it’s like, hello, hi there. Yeah. And it’s, I, I really enjoy that analogy.

[00:36:10] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah, well thank you. I, you know, I think obviously like, you know, the way that I think about things, even with, with the colors and brown, it may seem nonsensical to most people.

[00:36:19] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s just kind of the way that, you know, it’s, it’s trying to articulate a creative process and that’s kind of my version of trying to simplify it down, but it’s, it’s, It’s a, it’s a funny thing. The best way I’ve kind of ever thought about it as a visual aid is, um, if you’ve ever seen the movie Ratatouille, it’s the Pixar one.

[00:36:37] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So there’s a scene in Ratatouille where, um, Remy, the kind of. Uh, little chef, uh, mouse is trying to describe to his cousin Emil, like a flavor pairing of like a piece of cheese and a strawberry. And he’s describing it and he’s like, you know, Emil closes his eyes and he’s like starting to see these little fireworks kind of, you know, the synapses firing and you start to think about that.

[00:37:00] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And it’s like. That’s the way that I kind of think about wines, you know, it’s like when you’re tasting and you’re doing this and it’s like, I’m like, thank goodness for Pixar for at least having a reference point that I could hopefully steer people towards. But yeah, um, yeah, I don’t know. It’s, it might be, be goofy, but that’s the way it works for me.

[00:37:16] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s not goofy at all.

[00:37:17] A.J. Weinzettel: No, no. And I’m still trying to find a way to describe this wine besides the, the peaks and the valleys. It is, it has, you know, as it comes into you, it’s, it is that I guess I get more of the pinot at first because it’s smooth and kind of elegant. And then it starts to really open up and the Syrah and the cab start to like high.

[00:37:43] A.J. Weinzettel: But it’s not a, um, it’s not like a punch

[00:37:46] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: you in the face at all. It’s like this really interesting kind of crescendo almost, you know, where you’re starting to kind of like have this build up. And I think that on the, the way that you’ve kind of put it just in terms of sequencing is interesting because I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you’re totally right.

[00:38:01] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Like it starts with the Pinot. I feel like it kind of like moves into as it’s kind of going up the hill into Saran and the finish feels very like cabernet to me a little bit. Yes. Um, but very kind of like, well integrated tannins. It’s light on the palette, which I kind of like about it. But that’s just, again, like we could talk about this more with the Syrah, but like just mitigating varietals that want to give you all this power to try to find that grace with them.

[00:38:24] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And that’s, that’s something that is kind of the, the goal with working with a lot of heavier reds. I mean, this year I brought on a little bit of Malbec and my goodness, I like that thing should have, you know, come with like, It was like a wrecking ball truly like I had maybe a couple hours of skin contact on it If that and it was coming out basically like full on red wine And so just to see it it’s the first wine that’s completely done in the building like it’s through ML at this point Like if I wanted to release it tomorrow, I’m like, oh it’s Malbec, you know But I’m like, I’ve not drank a lot of Malbec, you know, it’s it’s something, you know Spanish, you know Examples of or sometimes blended in Bordeaux.

[00:39:02] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s one thing but like to just try it purely on its own at this stage is such a Interesting learning curve and it’s why I continue to try to change, you know, I have the hallmark varietals I want to make every year they’re the things that I hope to continue to get better and better with but it’s why every year I also bring in new things because sometimes when you get so singular minded on on making something I find that you know, you start to You know, like you kind of keep your head down a little too long and there’s other lessons to be learned.

[00:39:32] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so bringing in something like that, like Malbec, I brought in some Viognier this year as well, which is a really interesting thing because I did a co ferment on that with Syrah, but then I also made some on its own. Uh, I’ve been making Riesling the last two years as well and just trying new things.

[00:39:46] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And what’s really neat about all of that is that you find that not only does it teach you A, how to make better versions of those wines from year to year, but it also informs like, maybe if I tried this with Pinot Noir. What would happen or, you know, just trying to kind of remain, you know. Like, quick on your feet, I guess.

[00:40:05] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Not feel like, okay, I’m gonna dig my heels in. This is like the house style of Pinot. Or this is like, this is what we do. And I think that it’s important just from a learning, you know, standpoint. Because every year I learn so much with this. Um, to keep diversifying and bringing in new stuff. This is, you know, this is an example of that, you know, and I hope that I could keep making wines like this that, that show, you know, the learning process, um, but also just kind of show, you know, the fun that this place, it’s, it’s founded on curiosity and, and my girlfriend and my friends make fun of me because I You know, I say earnest curiosity is kind of the tagline for this place, um, but it is, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s something that like, of course, you know, I have stuff in the building.

[00:40:45] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Like sometimes I’ll look at a barrel and I’d be like, what the hell did I put in that barrel? Why did I do it? Cause I felt it in that moment. And then I taste it. I’m like, Oh, that’s so rad. Like it worked out really cool in that, in that scenario, but it’s, it’s important to have those moments. And it’d just be like, so curious just to see, you know, how we can keep leveling up everything that comes out of this place.

[00:41:02] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, yeah.

[00:41:05] A.J. Weinzettel: And that’s one of the reasons why I, you know, I follow you and have bought your wine because they are, uh, I am always intrigued. Yeah.

[00:41:12] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Thanks. Thank

[00:41:13] A.J. Weinzettel: you. Um, all right. So we talked about, you know, you drove out to Sonoma, you spent some time in Sonoma and, you know, you ended up coming up to Oregon.

[00:41:23] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. Uh, and one of the places that you were at while you were, you know, in Oregon was that Rex Hill. Mm hmm. And, you know, you did a couple, you know, a little blog post for Rex Hill. Yeah. You

[00:41:34] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: know. Oh, wow. You went to the archives, AJ. Wow.

[00:41:38] A.J. Weinzettel: And, um, you know, which one of the things that you wrote was. On those brisk evenings, I resort back to winter mode and crave something hearty.

[00:41:47] A.J. Weinzettel: Currently daydreaming about roasted chicken with some rosemary fingerling potatoes and a kale and cannellini bean Ooh, I don’t even know how to pronounce that. Uh, couscous, to round it out.

[00:42:00] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Okay. So, my I, I think I’m just perpetually hungry is what we’re kind of figuring out. It could be.

[00:42:07] A.J. Weinzettel: I think this was like talking about Thanksgiving and what to pair with it.

[00:42:12] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Was this, um, was this for the Jacob Hart, a Piedro Noir that I was pairing with? I think so. Yeah. Okay. Yeah. That’s a, that’s a really cool wine. And it’s, um, you know, the reason I came to Oregon in the first place was it is still probably the shortest chapter in any wine textbook that you pick up. And, you know, that’s, that’s a disservice to this place, but I think that, you know, the secret’s out at this point, you know, it’s, it’s, uh, I, I hope this doesn’t sound like fighting words, but I, I feel like to, to remain, like, naive about Oregon feels like you’re almost being obtuse in the wine world, like it’s just, this is a place that has gotten so much attention and recognition internationally, um, and, you know, the wines here are, are, there are some truly exceptional wines being made in Willamette, and, and, you know, I hope that I can, You know, continue as a producer to put my wines on those same shelves, but it’s really cool to see the things that people are doing out here and, and, and seeing the recognition happening.

[00:43:09] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: across oceans at this point. Um, but you know, when I came up here, I was working at a place in California that was really, um, I think a special place that the, the owner and winemaker there, his name is Morgan Twain Peterson. He, um, has a winery called bedrock down there. And what’s really neat about. Uh, him and that place is that, you know, he is, um, he’s an MW, a master of wine, very, very smart individual.

[00:43:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: He knows his stuff and he grew up in it. I mean, his dad started Ravenswood back in the seventies and, you know, he has access to some of the oldest vines and The country, you know, throughout California. And so I feel like, you know, working there, I got this amazing history lesson. There was so much information available, which I love, but you know, again, my curiosity was like, why is it that there’s that short chapter on Oregon?

[00:43:56] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I gotta go see this place. I gotta go see this place. And so I came up here and after harvest and before I left, I put my name in for an apartment. It was just, it felt like the Wild West, it felt like, you know, there was, you know, what I loved about it was that you go into a place like Beau Frere and you’re gonna see, you know, Mike Goetzel or Grant at the time, you know, making the wine and they’re gonna come over and they’re gonna talk to you while they still are wearing their muck boots because they’re in the middle of it.

[00:44:21] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But the degree of separation between the, the producers and just people who were curious about the wines was, there, there was no separation, you know, you were just like, you’re in it, you’re in people’s living rooms tasting with them, or you’re, you know, you go taste with people who’ve been doing this forever, and they’re still just like, salt of the earth, gonna answer any question you have, and, and it’s what, you know, I think makes this place, the fabric of this place so special.

[00:44:47] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, I landed at Rex Hill because I walked into that tasting room, I moved up to Oregon, no job, It was after Harvest, so, you know, everybody had already auditioned whoever they were going to hire for three months during Harvest. So I was like, well, you know, couldn’t have picked a worse time. But, you know, I made it a point to go out and taste and, and what was so cool is that, you know, I went into Rex Hill.

[00:45:05] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I met a woman who was from the East Coast originally. We kind of hit it off and we started talking and it felt like our sensibilities around wine and our journeys were pretty similar. Shortly after that, I managed to, uh, get a job working in the tasting room there. And, um, I loved being there when I was, because there were still, I mean, it’s this beautiful new place now they’ve done all this development, there’s a new taste room and, and all that.

[00:45:28] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But what was so neat about it was that, you know, for the Willamette Valley, despite being, you know, a relatively young wine growing region. That was a place that was kind of one of the pioneers out here. You know, they were back in like the mid seventies, I think we were when they were really kind of getting their, their footing.

[00:45:45] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And, you know, that shortly after, you know, the Irish stuff and, and E Rath and all that, but, you know, they had access to some of the older vines that were out here still. And Jacob Hart, you know, is a site that’s very special to them, obviously, but, you know, they were working with some really cool things.

[00:45:59] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And, and what I found was that, you know, their model, Like most models out here was kind of emulating Burgundy. It was, you know, single varietal, single, you know, hillside or vineyard. Uh, sometimes like single clone bottlings of things. And it was their way of saying, hey, we make Pinot Noir, we make Chardonnay.

[00:46:21] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And these are the, you know, we’re trying to make a lot of different expressions of that. And I think what was so cool about that as, as like that point in my career was, hey, this is such Valuable meta metadata, basically, you know, you’re getting to see singular snapshots of a place and really get to learn what terroir looks like.

[00:46:40] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And, you know, they’ve since kind of expanded, you know, obviously, A to Z and all that, but they work with, you know, single vineyard expressions from I’d say. Most of, if not all of, the sub AVAs around the valley. So that’s like so valuable as just like a, a person who wants to learn about the region. But my sensibilities around it were like, well, I think this wine is really great, and I think that wine’s really great, but like, could we make an even better wine if we blended those together?

[00:47:06] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, and that’s where the, the blending identity of this place You know, gets to do that, but because I don’t feel that, like, need or pressure to single vineyard designate a wine, it’s like, I get to work with some really amazing fruit from lots of different sites, um, and inevitably, I mean, maybe every once in a while it all ends up being from one site, but for the most part, There’s usually components that all contribute something, but that energy and those sensibilities were really kind of amplified when I felt like I went to a place that kind of was doing that, I think to an exceptional level.

[00:47:39] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And that was Antiqua Terra. Um, you know, going into that building and seeing that, you know, Maggie’s, uh, emphasis on, you know, not making a wine because it had to be made, but more of like, what’s the most beautiful thing as she puts it. And, and so, you know, to taste that way and to see those sensibilities kind of confirmed in real life and to taste those wines was really special.

[00:48:01] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And it felt like this really kind of beautiful opportunity for me to see and unpack the ideas that I was kind of building on my own and see them done at a level like that, which is really special. But, you know, there’s some kind of, you know, other stops between those, but, but that’s kind of largely like coming to this place and seeing not only how special Special it was, but then seeing people making really beautiful expressions of that stuff as well is, is kind of what’s informed a lot of, you know, the behavior in this, in this cellar in general.

[00:48:28] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah. Yeah. No, your

[00:48:29] A.J. Weinzettel: journey has definitely taken you onto different paths and it is, uh, Having that curiosity and you know, and also that that time in Antigua Taro. Yeah, you know because you know There’s some there’s some

[00:48:42] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: weird stuff that happens there. Yeah, there are some interesting things. I’ve I’ve been driven I’ve been driving by it, you know with some regularity lately just heading up to Dundee And I love that all the lights outside are green right now, which is very funny to me I it’s a just a place that has a level of mysticism to it.

[00:48:58] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That’s really great But, um, very special people and very special place. And I’ve made, you know, fortunately some lifelong friends because of that place as well, which is really, um, you know, again, makes the human element of it even more special than just, you know, the wines, but most definitely should we turn the next one?

[00:49:13] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Sure. I’m like, you know, trying to be very careful not to digress too far off of the, uh, the questions that you’re asking, but you can’t help yourself when you’ve been lucky enough to, to work in some great spots and just enjoy the last, uh, 10 or 11 years out

[00:49:30] A.J. Weinzettel: here now. Yeah, no, you know, and this is just a conversation.

[00:49:32] A.J. Weinzettel: So, I mean, just, you know, conversations in general have nice little

[00:49:36] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: tangents. For sure. So we’re going to move into 100 percent Seurat from the rocks district. Okay. Um, this one is, um, I think really starting to come into its own, I, what, something that I’ve, I’ve kind of realized, you know, as being a small producers that obviously you have to release the wines and keep the lights on.

[00:49:57] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, it’s just the way it works around here. But what’s really beautiful is, is that seeing these wines kind of develop, uh, You know, I’m starting to now build in, you know, my own increased sellering time. So I can start to release things really when I feel like they’re starting to hit their stride. But, you know, that takes you a couple of years, you know, the first three years or so of, of making this thing, I really, you know, I sold every bottle, you know, just cause you have to, right.

[00:50:22] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And now it’s like every year I try to hold a little more back and a little more back, just not only for my own continued, just education and having a library to pull from. But, you know, it’s, I think it’s going to be really cool in the future to be like, Hey, here’s the five year vertical of this. Or here’s, you know, I think those are important things and elements to show you.

[00:50:39] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: They just feel more special that way. They’re educational, but I think there’s some really fun enjoyment in them as well. Um, but this is all from the ROCKS, and I first learned about the ROCKS, uh, district back in 2015. They did a big presentation at the Oregon Wine Symposium. So my understanding at the time was that it was the most researched AVA in the country.

[00:51:00] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I’m sure it’s been surpassed at least in, in some capacity at this point, because the level of kind of like land surveying and all that stuff continues to just get more and more involved. But what’s so exceptional about this region is that I think it’s still like, I mean, there’s the, the, you know, sky’s the limit when it comes to, I think this region, but, um, there’s really very little topsoil.

[00:51:22] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That’s why it’s called the rocks district is just, it’s fields of like cobblestones rocks. Right. And so because of that, you’re, you’re retaining all this warmth from the day because it keeps those vines warmer throughout the night. You can really kind of just ripen, you know, bigger reds out that way, Syrah, Cabernet, that kind of stuff, Merlot.

[00:51:41] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, so I’ve been working with it since 21, so this is the third year now that I’ve made, 21, 22, yeah. So this is the third year now that I’ve made Syrah from out there that’s currently in barrel. Um, but. The name of the game with this is trying to kind of like, again, just for, for my own style and the ways that I like to think about, you know, my sensibilities around Seurat is that I like to look to, you know, Northern Rhone expressions.

[00:52:05] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I think they’re very pretty, you know, when they’re blended with Viognier, or if they’re done in a way where it exhibits more of that, like, pepper spice and violet floral elements versus kind of the more meaty savory expressions of it. And so this region wants to just like hit the weight room. It is like, you know, the gun show basically.

[00:52:22] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so trying to mitigate that means, you know, kind of limiting skin maceration periods, picking things a little fresher, you know, what you age it in. You know, stem inclusion or not, you know, I tend to de stem a lot of the Sarawak. Uh, and so I just, again, I’m looking for that elegance from that region that wants to give you so much kind of commanding power.

[00:52:40] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so I’ve made just about 130 cases, uh, per year, the last couple of years of this, just as a really special little kind of nod to like, Hey, I think Sarawak works really beautifully up here. Again, you know, we’re not just the Willamette Valley. It’s, it’s a state that is doing some exceptional things, you know, Southern Oregon.

[00:52:59] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: They’re, you know, Columbia River Gorge, you know, you look at guys like Graham at Buonanotte doing some really fun stuff with Italian varietals or Nate, uh, from how you out there and Sincline and core and all these really great producers doing some fun things. So I think it’s, it’s poised to really become another fantastic growing region that kind of gets that same, same pedigree.

[00:53:20] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I

[00:53:21] A.J. Weinzettel: agree. And I had a couple of months ago, I had a Syrah and the winemaker was telling me I get hints of bacon, and I’m like, I’ve never heard Saral have like hints of bacon. And sure enough, I’m like, there’s bacon. Uh, so, I mean, I’m always amazed by what Saral can bring to the table and show. And I’ve had your Saral before, and I’ve adored it, and I love it.

[00:53:50] A.J. Weinzettel: Thank you. And seeing it today. Yeah. Um. Again, you, we find that constant note, that constant theme of an elegance and just bringing it all together to bring a nice little nuance that is, is, that is

[00:54:05] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: really nice. Thank you for saying that. Yeah. It’s um, it’s a, it’s an interesting varietal to work with. And again, I think, you know, sometimes I look at stuff like that and I’m like, well, you know, I love that.

[00:54:15] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, the Pinot Noir sensibilities kind of worked their way into that, you know, and it’s, it’s a two way street, you know, in the same way that like working with that and seeing how it informs the other things as I was kind of talking about it before, you know, this was, uh, this was, you know, kind of like that same same style.

[00:54:30] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And there are, there are people, you know, I obviously made surround down in California. I made some while I was at antique guitar for the Lillian projects that were there. Um, um, You know, there was even some sarah being made at Rex Hill for the Francis Tannehill label that they had from Southern Oregon.

[00:54:46] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, you know, there is sarah bound. I mean, you know, I know that Josh makes them for Bergstrom with the gargantua stuff and it exists here in the Valley as well. Um, but seeing the rocks kind of come into its own has been a really fun thing. And, and I count it as a privilege to be someone who gets to work with that stuff and just kind of build some diversity in the cellar.

[00:55:04] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, yeah, no, it is a gorgeous one. Thank you. Appreciate that.

[00:55:10] A.J. Weinzettel: So, I’m going to mispronounce the other wine that has the peacock on it, it’s Piume?

[00:55:18] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s Piume. Pume. Yeah. Okay, sorry about that. No, it’s all good. It’s, you’d be surprised. Most of my distributors have, um, called it Plume instead of Pume, and it’s why I’ve actually changed the name, um, on the sequel to that wine, the Bresa here, it’s Italian for breeze, um, but Plume for me for some reason just makes me think of a fart, and so I had to, I had to change the name, and so I was like, I’m gonna make it as easy as possible.

[00:55:42] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: There we are with body parts again. Exactly. Can’t escape them.

[00:55:46] A.J. Weinzettel: Yes. Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh. And I love the story behind you creating the label on this, right? Uh, you described it as, you know, it’s the label art is massive in real life. Uh, and it was something that, uh, you worked with your mom over like the, a week of

[00:56:03] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: the, of the holidays.

[00:56:04] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah, it’s true. I, uh, you know, I attribute a lot of. My creativity to just my upbringing. My mom is a very creative person, you know, and that stems from just like, she’ll send me, you know, label and spell all the time. She has a few minutes at work. She just cuts a couple of things out and she’s like, Hey, I thought this looked really cool, you know?

[00:56:20] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I’ve, they’ve been pushing a, uh, a pug label on me cause I have a pug, uh, for the last couple of years. And I’m like, I don’t know if the world’s ready for that one yet, but, um, you know, they’ve been, my mom’s been, you know, so integral in. My own creative path in life. I mean, I love to write, you know, I love reading.

[00:56:37] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s, it’s why I got into being a book editor. It’s because my mom and I would read all the time together. You know, we’d paint all the time. My childhood bedroom, I’ll never forget. I must have been, you know, four or five at the time and my mom basically took the The, uh, what are the, the roller pans like for, um, painting like the, you know, and she set them out and they were all the primary colors and, you know, she was like, okay, dip your hands and just start putting handprints on the walls.

[00:57:04] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so we had a really cool, like she had done a mural. I remember she painted like Winnie the Pooh and, um, you know, Peter Pan and all these characters from my childhood on the walls. Herself by hand and then she we had one wall that was just our handprints in every different color And you know, it’s stuff like that that I’ll remember forever But it’s why you know Like it’s so cool that at 35 I go home and I pour, you know Two big Negroni’s at a Christmas table and my mom and I will cut construction paper out, you know And that’s it’s such a cool thing to have that type of relationship, you know with a parent And, and, also someone who just continues to kind of foster that creativity.

[00:57:40] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And she’s doing the same thing, you know, I have a sister who’s much younger, um, and she does the same thing with her, and it just feels like, it’s so cool to see, you know, the creativity that comes from, from family, and in all different ways. My dad’s that way, he’s very creative, but with cooking. You know, and, and, and so it’s, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s fun to do these, these labels.

[00:57:58] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But the Pume label is truly massive, and it’s, you know, I, I gave my parents the, as a thank you, my, my mom loves the Pino and, um, I gave her the, the original Pino label framed a couple of years ago for Christmas, just as a, you know, thank you. And hey, I love you, all that kind of stuff. But, um, the, the Puma label, I would like to get framed at some point, but it’s going to have to be a kind of a wall piece in my house.

[00:58:23] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, so

[00:58:25] A.J. Weinzettel: being a technology person, I’m curious, what is the process to get it from like, Your construction paper cutouts

[00:58:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: to digital. Yeah, well, it’s um, it’s funny. The Pume label and the original Gamay label were really the only two labels that I had done in those colors. So that was all, like, you know, with so many different layers of the peacock feathers and all that, it was just layers of all different colors.

[00:58:55] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, whereas a lot of the other labels I’ve done in black and white, and that’s just for higher contrast. So ultimately all I do is I have these, you know, paper collages, and I’ll take a photo of them, and then what I’ll do is convert the photo to digital, and then a lot of times I’ll go in and I’ll just digitally color everything.

[00:59:14] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So that I could change, and I’m By no means. An expert with Photoshop. I would say that I’m, I’m like, you know, pretty, uh, rudimentary at that. I know how to save a file basically. Um, so I go in and I color every pixel. It’s very tedious. Um, and there’s probably a much faster way to do it. Uh, but that’s just kind of the process that I know.

[00:59:37] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And in a pinch it’s, it’s, you know, gotten me this far. Um, but yeah, it’s basically taking a photo, importing it into Photoshop, and then just with the little paintbrush going in and zooming in and trying to get as, you know, Sharp of a line as I can. And then from there I exported as a, as a. You know, file and send it over to my printer and they, you know, kind of printed it and that’s that.

[00:59:58] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Well, that’s,

[00:59:59] A.J. Weinzettel: that’s cool that you go. That you yourself take it from physical

[01:00:03] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: to digital to label. Yeah, it’s, uh, it’s something that, you know, I really, I mean, I wanted to own every part of this process. And, and, you know, I have a lot of farming input. Obviously, I work with growers now for, for, you know, longstanding relationships.

[01:00:16] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And that’s great. And so you really get kind of the, you know, you get to own that part of the process. Obviously, owning a vineyard is a little cost prohibitive at this stage. But, you know, getting to work with places the same blocks year after year and getting to know your sites is, is great. And that’s like, I’m lucky to work with such fantastic people.

[01:00:34] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But really, I wanted it to be something that, like, the full kind of connection of from grapes to ultimately what’s in the bottle and what’s in your glass feel like a creative expression coming from me. And so it’s why I’ve been very, um, you know, reluctant to hand over any part of this to anyone else.

[01:00:53] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And, you know, I’d love to be able to collaborate on, you know, Labels and that kind of stuff in the future just knowing that there’s so many talented artists out there in the world and hopefully as I Continue to grow this thing, you know, that’s that’s an upgraded problem to have is hey, it’s so busy I’d love for another artist to take on some but to me this is so personal and every one of these has It’s such a personal story to the label or the story behind it, you know, and we could talk a little bit about the Chardonnay, um, next, but, you know, for the Seurat, it’s a little bit of this kind of secret garden motif of like, hey, there is still prettiness behind this big brooding door that we anticipate as, you know, I thought of like a big wrought iron fence that was kind of overgrown and kind of scary, you know, as kind of a gate.

[01:01:34] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Keeping thing with Sarah sometimes and I think behind that there can be really beautiful light, you know levity And so that’s what the sparks of color are But everything, you know, it’s it’s so funny. I was working with a friend down the hall here They have this really beautiful kind of just like simple white background for photographing products for their website And she was kind enough to offer to take photos of the lineup of things the other day And so, you know rarely do I get to put all the bottles on display and at this point, you know In making wine for the last seven years.

[01:02:07] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, you’re looking at probably close to 40 different wines, all with different labels. And so it was really cool to see like just that array of color and thematically, like there’s always, again, like, you know, kind of the beige background is kind of across the board, but just seeing the evolution of, you know, my color preferences or, or all that stuff is so fascinating.

[01:02:26] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And it’s really just like fun and pretty. Like I was, I was so stoked to see everything together at one time. Yeah, it was, it was cool. That is cool. So.

[01:02:36] A.J. Weinzettel: So we move on

[01:02:36] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: to the Chardonnay? Sure, yeah, happy to.

[01:02:44] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I’ll give you a little rinse here as well. Alright, thank you. The funny thing about the Chardonnay label is that, um, in doing this, you know, in being in this industry for as long as I have, I’ve never met anyone who’s had More of a, kind of, I don’t know, like an acronym than, than someone who’s not a Chardonnay drinker.

[01:03:07] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I’ve met people who’ve said, I’m an ABC drinker, anything but Chardonnay. And I always think it’s funny to meet people like that in a tasting when you’re like, well you paid the tasting fee, like you might as well just try it and then dump it out if you want. Um, it’s, it’s not economical to skip a wine. Um, but, you know, I, I think that Chardonnay is a really interesting varietal because, It is, I think, and you might have heard me say this before, it’s not the first time I’ll use this, but I think it’s the best storyteller varietal.

[01:03:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It really shows you, you know, where it’s coming from, it shows you, you know, the decisions you make, how hard you press it. It shows you what you aged in. I mean, it’s, it’s got this level of transparency, unlike other varietals that I think makes it kind of like you ask a lot of winemakers, their go to. And I think Chardonnay kind of inevitably comes up as like a varietal that you’re like, it’s just one that’s going to be so.

[01:03:59] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Uniquely different in the hands of whoever created it or where it’s coming from, right? And so for me, you know with Chardonnay, I think you know The Willamette Valley has rightfully so been so synonymous with Pinot Noir But I’m loving the fact that we’re getting to see this region become associated with Chardonnay.

[01:04:15] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s it’s such a special varietal here It’s handled in such a unique and different way than other places And with a level of just like, you know, kind of respect for the varietal and showcasing what it can do here that I think allows us to start to tell a little bit of a different story than Pinot Noir or other things.

[01:04:33] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, this is all from a single hillside in the Chehalem Mountains. Um, it is aged in that 500 liter barrel right there. That was the first brand new barrel that I ever bought for Pray Tell. And, uh, this was aged for 18 months in that barrel and then it was aged for an additional 6 months in stainless steel.

[01:04:51] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: The beauty of working with something like this is that it kind of kicks your ass in the process, too. Um, I press everything in that basket press over there, which I realize the cameras are all pointing away from. It is a very simple, rudimentary, kind of Italian basket press that is stainless steel. Um, it’s fantastic for red wines.

[01:05:09] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Super, super gentle. It basically just feels like everything is free run out of there. So you’re not, you know, breaking seeds or pushing too hard on skins or you’re going to get any bitter, you know, extraction or phenolics. With whole berry, you know, non macerated white grapes like Chardonnay. Putting them in there is an absolute nightmare because it means that you have to get in and out and keep foot treading it You know try otherwise you’re gonna leave a lot of liquid on the table because it just can’t press hard enough, right?

[01:05:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Whereas, you know, obviously a bladder press, in these scenarios, you could rotate the bladder press, you know, it could press a lot harder because it’s got this pneumatic airbag inside of there. Um, but, you know, those things are, uh, are, you know, minimum 40, 000, 50, 000 a year, or not a year, uh, you know, to buy one of those.

[01:05:51] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Right. So, you know, for me, what I ended up doing, I’ve been pressing Chardonnay and other white varietals in there now. I’ve been playing around with some more skin contact, some maceration periods that just help with the yields. And I think what I’ve learned in 2020, I made two different Chardonnays. Um, kind of these bookends to see What that decision making process looks like.

[01:06:10] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And so this was all direct press. Whereas its counterpart was, uh, skin contact Chardonnay. And what I found in doing skin contact on the Chardonnay was it’s not a particularly phenolic grape varietal the way that Pinot Gris is. You know, it’s like, I have Pinot Gris in tank right here that looks like a full on red wine.

[01:06:28] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And it’s really amazing to see the pigmentation, but also just the tannin profile on a wine like that can be really coarse chardonnay. There’s a very steep cliff. So I found that after about 48 hours, the difference between things that were left on his skin. I did a 48 hour lot and I did a seven day lot.

[01:06:43] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: The difference in terms of tannin profile was pretty negligible at that point. So I decided to press it after that. And just kind of see, okay, it’s a little more golden hue just from a little bit of skin pigmentation working its way in. Had a little more richness on the palate, but really, like, it didn’t feel like it went off the rails.

[01:06:59] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I thought it was a really beautiful wine, but it made me not fear skin contact on Chardonnay, so to speak. Um, this here took about eight hours in a press. Um, I don’t use any pre programmed press cycles or anything like that, and I pressed it in a bladder press the same way. I would a basket press so I didn’t rotate it.

[01:07:16] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I didn’t want to get any bitter extraction And so, you know, I had friends who were kind enough to let me use their press that uh that day and I know I I kind of um, you know kind of hogged the press at eight hours in there, but Um, I think it ultimately yielded a really beautiful wine. This is something that Um, I did a lot of barrel, uh, Lee’s stirring just to try to build richness.

[01:07:36] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But I think there’s this really lovely, um, kind of freshness of acidity in there as well and kind of creaminess to it that, that makes for something. But the label, uh, back to the ABC thing and, and, uh, you know, kind of preconceived notions about Chardonnay is that I wanted people to feel like it was an open door.

[01:07:51] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: You know, it’s an invitation to try something that is hopefully going to change your mind if you’ve already got things working against your enjoyment of Chardonnay, or at least open things up to, to, you know, trying something different. So, yeah, again, you know, a little storytelling with everything in the labels, but, um,

[01:08:07] A.J. Weinzettel: yeah, yeah, no, the storytelling is, is always good and I love it.

[01:08:10] A.J. Weinzettel: The, um, the Chardonnay, I think is the first wine that I bought from you and I was trying to tell everybody about it. Try this. Thanks. Yeah. And, uh, You know, today I just had it just down here. I didn’t even have my nose in the glass. I was like, oh. I mean, I was just getting it just from there.

[01:08:29] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah, it’s really aromatic.

[01:08:32] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: It’s a, it’s a cool wine. I’m quite proud of these, um, you know, the Chardonnay that has come out of the cellar. I, I will say I’m pretty exacting when it comes to Chardonnay, just in terms of what level I want it to be. Um, you know, I’ve made Chardonnay every, since 2018, but I’ve not released Chardonnay every year.

[01:08:50] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So I made it 18, 19, 20, um, in 21, I used it in a, in a blend that it worked really well in. Um, 22, uh, was kind of the same thing. Use it in a blend, trying different sites out. And then this year for the first time, I feel really, um, like I’ve got a voice on, on a skin contact Chardonnay that I’m quite excited about in the cellar so far.

[01:09:12] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So it’s just something that like, I think about, you know, where, when I. put things out there. I want them to feel special. And, and, you know, I know that there’s, you know, more Chardonnay in the world than, than we can consume, but I want, you know, the little bit that I do send out there to feel like, um, something different and something special.

[01:09:30] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So yeah, most definitely.

[01:09:32] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. We’ll have some rapid fire questions. Let’s do it. All right. Your favorite artist to listen to during Harvest? Ooh,

[01:09:40] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: um, depends on the time of the day. I’d say in the morning, I like to listen to jazz. Uh, and usually, like, if it’s a day that I really have to focus, I’ll kick things off with, um, uh, Miles Davis Kind of Blue, or maybe jump into some Coltrane.

[01:09:56] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Uh, if it’s a later part of the day, Uh, I’ll probably jump into, I mean, I’ll look, the reality is it’s hollow notes. Hollow notes is the answer to everything, but to dignify it, jazz in the morning, hollow notes, the rest of the time,

[01:10:11] A.J. Weinzettel: your favorite indulgent

[01:10:12] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: food. Ooh, uh, well, I’m from a, you know, I’m from the sandwich town.

[01:10:17] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So I would say, um, I mean, I love a cheesesteak as cliche as that is or an Italian hoagie, um, pizza. It’s pizza. Yeah. I’m just rapid fire. It’s pizza. Yeah. Uh, if you could

[01:10:29] A.J. Weinzettel: choose a superpower,

[01:10:32] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: um, I’m terrified of flying, but I feel like flying would be pretty cool. Um, just cause you could get everywhere and maybe it would.

[01:10:42] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I’d be less fearful of it. Let’s say flying, that’s fine.

[01:10:45] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. Uh, Harvest Notes, are they digital or handwritten? Um,

[01:10:49] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: that assumes that they exist, AJ. Oh, okay. No, they are a mix of the two. I will say, um, I had my girlfriend out here for Harvest this year, and it was fun because she was very diligent about taking notes.

[01:11:03] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Uh, and so we have a winery notebook here, and she’s She’s kind of kept track of things or I’d be like, hey, would you mind writing this down? So she kind of keeps me, uh, keeps me honest that way with notes. In the past, it’s been, you know, the first year I’ll never forget when I started Pray Tell in 2017, I had a notebook.

[01:11:18] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I was fastidiously taking notes with every decision that I made or like a feeling I had around a barrel. Since then it’s kind of turned into like, if it’s written on a piece of scrap paper or on an iPhone note app, that feels good. Last year, I really didn’t take any notes. It just was like, shoot from the hip and it felt I didn’t run any labs last year either, which was very fascinating.

[01:11:40] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: So, I ran one chemistry panel. You know, typically you get fruit in, you know, you work with, there’s a great, uh, place in town called Coronology and they could run, you know, everything, uh, and tell you the health of the fruit and the, you know, initial bricks and all that kind of stuff. I did that for one lot last year of Syrah, because it was the first thing in.

[01:11:57] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And after that I was like, I just want to kind of, you know, feel the vibe of this vintage. And I truly did not run a lab until I was going to put things to bottle. And what was amazing about that was, like, I felt this, like, real sense of connection to the, to the fermenters because I was just, like, putting my face in them every day, and, and, you know, you’re smelling and you’re tasting constantly, and I felt this level of connection, and I It’s like wild.

[01:12:20] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: But like I went and I looked at the labs that I ran right before bottling because you have to know the ABV for the TTV and all that kind of stuff. Um, and I was like, God, these like, they all kind of hit their mark. And that was such a cool feeling. I ran more labs this year. Um, but you know, it was something that I think is a really, you know, to have that kind of.

[01:12:38] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Snapshot of like, hey, this is, and I do it because this year I worked with some new sites and I want to know what, what we’re looking at here. I need a baseline, but you know, it’s cool to interact with things in a way. And, and I joke, but during harvest, like all of your senses feel heightened. And for some reason, my memory feels like it’s like locked in.

[01:12:56] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Like I remember certain days, I remember what I do on them, you know, it’s that kind of stuff. And, uh, yeah, anyway, it’s, it’s a long way of saying that. It’s, I’m back to taking notes again, because it’s just, you know, made over 2, 000 cases this year of wine. It’s hard to keep it all in your head. I gotta take some notes.

[01:13:10] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I gotta take notes, but yeah. Uh, last book you read? Uh, the last book I read was, I believe it was Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. Okay. Um, it’s, uh, it’s a book about, um, these folks who were video game designers, and there’s kind of a love story wrapped in there, and friendship, and all that stuff too.

[01:13:32] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Okay. That was, I think that was the last book. Yeah, it’s cute. Very

[01:13:36] A.J. Weinzettel: nice. Yeah. Well, shall I reveal the the

[01:13:38] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: blind wine? Oh, yeah, we gotta we gotta do that, huh? And

[01:13:42] A.J. Weinzettel: then I’ll get you

[01:13:42] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: out of here. I gotta stay. Oh, well Yes, yes

[01:13:55] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Well, it’s a rosé We know that yes, it’s a rosé So, I mean look my my inclination is to say that it’s something that is Uh, kind of uniquely tied to the philosophies around age worthy rosés that are, you know, I kind of learned about and really started to explore in the cellar at Antiqua Terra. Angelical was, um, Something that I think, you know, is, is really fascinating when it comes to skin contact time.

[01:14:30] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Uh, the same lesson, I think, can be kind of observed as, observed as well with, with Pinot Gris, too. And just looking at the color of this, it is orange in nature, it feels like. Um, and so because of that, I’m kind of vacillating between, you know, an orange wine of, uh, of an origin I’ve not pegged yet, or of, of a lighter, Kind of read like Pinot Noir as well.

[01:14:54] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Okay, um age worthy roses to me whether they’re you know of I’m gonna take this fruit fly out of here if they’re of you know kind of Showing you that hey, it doesn’t need to be Like, the shelf life on this doesn’t need to be so quick. You know, you can see some really beautiful development, whether it’s, you know, even in orange wines, kind of as well, seeing that there’s, there’s longevity to them, and they are so versatile, and, and, kind of these complex creatures as they age, too, which is, is really fascinating.

[01:15:27] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, And you don’t have

[01:15:29] A.J. Weinzettel: to guess, I mean, I’m, I’m just kind of leaving the door open to whatever you want to say whenever you’re done.

[01:15:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Will you give me a skosh more if you don’t mind? From your sample bottle there. It’s pretty tannic. Um,

[01:15:51] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Do you like it? I do like it. Yeah. Is this something you’ve had before? It is something

[01:15:56] A.J. Weinzettel: I’ve had before, and I will say the first time that I had it, it was January of 2020, and I was meeting with the winemaker, and Uh, on the barrel was all the wines, and, you know, I think this was the first one that he, you know, that he poured for me, and I, as I saw it come out of the bottle, I’m like, what in the heck is this?

[01:16:15] A.J. Weinzettel: Yeah. Uh, and, you know, then he told me, and I’m like, oh, wow.

[01:16:21] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah. That’s neat. I think what’s, what’s kind of cool about this is that there’s kind of this, like, it, it moves between, like, sweet and savory a little bit, you know, it’s got kind of this, I mean, I feel like there’s, some difference in, in kind of aging vessels here too, maybe, but the skin contact on it is such a lovely color, but the tannin profiles is pretty distinctive.

[01:16:48] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: I mean, I, I mean, look, I, my inclination, just if we’re feeling like we’re going in the route of a wine made in Oregon from grapes out here, I mean, you know, it’s, it’s, I have some guesses, but I don’t know if, if, uh, Well, I mean, if I can call it,

[01:17:06] A.J. Weinzettel: okay, well, I mean, it’s up to you. If you want to try to call it, you can try to call it.

[01:17:09] A.J. Weinzettel: It’s, it’s, there is zero pressure, whatever pressure you want to put on yourself. That’s

[01:17:15] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: let’s keep it zero pressure, zero pressure. Let’s do a reveal.

[01:17:18] A.J. Weinzettel: So I think you should call this like a Rose of Gamay Noir just to get

[01:17:21] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: back at it. And there he is. Yeah. Is this a Rose of Gamay Noir? No, it’s a Rose of Pinot Noir.

[01:17:28] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Um, I mean the, the Antigua Terra angelical sensibilities, I mean, obviously there’s. Uh, a, um, connection there. Um, Andrew’s a fantastic winemaker. I mean, I think he’s doing some really special stuff. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve actually maybe had one or two of the wines from, from this new project from them.

[01:17:48] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And I’ve loved everything I’ve had. Very cool. Um, I’m glad he’s, uh, I’m glad he got me with this one. Yeah.

[01:17:56] A.J. Weinzettel: No, it is a good one. And they just came out with a new one this fall that I haven’t had yet. So, um, I’m trying to hook up with Andrew and like, Hey, I gotta, I gotta taste this.

[01:18:07] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: That’s a cool wine. Thank you for sharing.

[01:18:08] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah. No. Yeah.

[01:18:09] A.J. Weinzettel: Thank you. I appreciate your

[01:18:11] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: time today. Of course. Yeah. This was a lot of fun. You know, it’s, I realized I probably went off, uh, and digressed, uh, on, on some of those answers, but it was happy to, happy to share the story here. So. Yeah. Yeah. All right. We’ve got to do in the future. I want to, you’ve got to do a role reversal.

[01:18:26] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Somebody’s got to interview you. We’ve got to hear, hear the full story as well. Oh yeah. Maybe, maybe we’ll have a panel of winemakers rapid fire questions. Yeah. Why don’t we do that in the future?

[01:18:36] A.J. Weinzettel: Oh, that would be interesting. That’d be fun. And then they’re like all, then we’re going to bring like blind wines for retaliation.

[01:18:41] A.J. Weinzettel: We’re going to put you on the spot. Yeah. That sounds

[01:18:44] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: great. Yeah. That’s um, that’s. That’s going to be the next time we get together we’ll do that. Well, we can get together for other stuff between now and then, but we should do that. That would, that would be fun. Cool. AJ, I appreciate your time. This is fun.

[01:18:53] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: Yeah, no, I thank you. Yeah, of course. Already. for joining me on this flavorful voyage through the world of wine on the White Notes podcast. I’ve been your host and

[01:19:03] A.J. Weinzettel: guide, A. J. Weinzell, and it’s been an absolute pleasure sharing these captivating stories with you. But

[01:19:09] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: alas, like the last sip of a fine vintage,

[01:19:12] A.J. Weinzettel: our time together must end.

[01:19:15] A.J. Weinzettel: But don’t fret, my wine loving friend. The cellar doors of the Wine Notes podcast will always remain open. Waiting for you to return and explore

[01:19:23] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: new conversations, stories, and musings from the captivating people

[01:19:27] A.J. Weinzettel: behind the magical world of wine. Before you go, hit that subscribe button on YouTube, Apple Podcasts,

[01:19:34] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: and Spotify.

[01:19:35] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: And don’t forget to leave a sparkly

[01:19:36] A.J. Weinzettel: 5 star review to help spread the word. And to our glasses clink again, remember to savor the light’s moment

[01:19:42] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: and let the spirit of wine

[01:19:47] A.J. Weinzettel: Cheers and as always, may your wine glass be full,

[01:19:49] Tom Caruso of Pray Tell Wines: your heart be light, and your journey

[01:19:52] A.J. Weinzettel: be delighted.

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