Wednesdays with Winemakers – Remi Cohen
Why did you become a vintner?
I became intrigued with the wine business as I was finishing my undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley. I discovered and enrolled in the program for Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, realizing that the wine industry would combine all of my interests into one career—biology, chemistry, agriculture, craftsmanship, art, sales, branding and marketing, education, and social enjoyment.
If you weren’t a vintner what would you be and why?
I was on track to become a doctor and likely would have become a professor rather than a practicing doctor. I love education, both learning and teaching, and I found that I could engage in education while working in a professional setting in the wine business.
What is your greatest strength?
I am very passionate about what I do and I have the ability to share that passion with others in a way that gets people excited and motivated.
What is your biggest weakness?
I’m a “control freak.” I like to plan and I’m very organized, but sometimes to a fault!
What is your proudest achievement?
I’m extremely grateful for my current position as Vice President and General Manager for Lede Family Wines. I have tremendous gratitude to Cliff Lede for having the confidence in me to assume these responsibilities. We have an incredible team including our winemakers and viticulturists, and we have the opportunity to make wine from some of California’s best vineyards. It is an honor to work with these people and the vineyards, and I enjoy the wines we create and share.
What is your favorite saying?
“Good luck with that…”
What is your most prized possession?
My friends and family would say that it is my phone since I am always on it. I would say my phone and my car, since they enable me to stay in touch with work, family, and friends.
What’s the oddest thing about you?
Possibly that I study, teach and perform several different types of world music and dance.
What song best sums you up?
I asked my coworkers, and they chose a song from our “Rock Blocks.” Cliff named all of our vineyard blocks after his favorite classic rock songs, and guests of the winery can listen to great rock music while enjoying our wines. They chose “Born to Be Wild.” But really I am not that wild! If I had to choose from one of the Rock Blocks, maybe I would choose “Imagine” because I am a dreamer!
What is your favorite memory?
Simple times with my father who passed away in 1993. He was so funny and witty and he made even the most mundane days or tasks a blast. I miss him tremendously.
Which of the five senses is your strongest?
Just kidding. As a vintner, I should say smell or taste, but a nuanced palate is something I cultivate. I’m lucky to say I’m pretty balanced in the sensory department, with good vision and hearing too.
What is your biggest motivation?
I love learning. That is why the wine business is so attractive for me because you are always learning. Each day and each vintage is a new experience and it is even more enjoyable that you can tell the story of what you learned from that vintage in the wines you create.
Which bottle of wine would choose to be stranded with on a deserted island?
Champagne. Maybe Salon but really any good Champagne.
What is the difference between a good and a great wine?
A good wine is enjoyable. A great wine makes you think—about the flavors, the experience, the vintner, the vineyard, the vintage, etc.
Name three individuals you would like to have dinner with?
Howard Stern, Sasha Baron Cohen, and Jay Z.
Who is your viticultural or winemaking hero?
I admire David Abreu for his unrelenting commitment to perfection. Farming is challenging and he has an innate ability to respond to the demands of the season with meticulous viticulture that produces the best grapes possible at each site each year.
What does the concept of “balance” mean to you?
It is a state of equilibrium where different elements are in the correct proportions. It’s a constant quest in winegrowing. In the vineyard, it’s the balance between the canopy and the fruit, the balance between exposure and shade around the fruit; in the winery, it’s the balance between the reductive and oxidative state, between flavor components, etc.
What is the one thing you want people to remember about your wines?
That they enjoyed themselves when they were drinking them.
Favorite comment made about your wines? Was it by a family member, friend, consumer, trade or press?
I love that Robert Parker, influential wine critic from the Wine Advocate, called our 2012 Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Cabernet a “total intellectual and hedonistic turn-on.”