Pinot Noir is the heartbreaker grape. It is temperamental and finicky, indecisive and high maintenance. It is delicate, precious, and you can’t help but be drawn to it. The wines made from this variety of grape, when treated just right, are among the most magnificent in the world. They are irresistible.
But nothing good comes easy—isn’t that the saying? With each new mission comes a degree of struggle, a need for a no-holds-barred approach towards conquering whatever challenges inevitably arise. Often, with any genuine and well intentioned goal comes a little bit of serendipity. A mysterious force that helps the pieces to fall into place. A process that, even if the end result doesn’t look exactly like what was intended, produces an even more special final destination.
Much like the way that Winc as a company came to be, our first edition of Folly of the Beast was inspired by a realization, and a sense of frustration—followed by conviction. We had realized that it was impossible to find quality Pinot Noir under $20, and that most of the Pinot on the market at an accessible price point was blended with other grape varieties, and wasn’t a true expression of Pinot Noir at all. We knew we could do better. We had to do better.
Without much delay, we set out on this new mission, to produce an impossibly good Pinot Noir that was 100%, authentic Pinot Noir. Winc Chief Wine Officer Brian Smith began likening our near-obsession to the timeless story of Moby Dick—the exceptional, affordable Pinot Noir our infamous white whale. And so the idea of Folly of the Beast Pinot Noir was born. We worked with local Venice-based artist Hunter Patrick to create a label that would emulate what we were hoping to achieve: something timeless but extraordinary, much like the novel we pay tribute to, and something truly handcrafted, to capture the tenacity required to get the job done.
Brooke Matthias, Winc’s Associate Wine Director, knew from the start that the sourcing was going to be challenging: “It was going to be a culmination of all of the best bits and pieces that we could find, and we were prepared to beg, borrow and steal to get the best Pinot Noir out there, at the right price.” What followed was a voracious endeavor, one that was equal parts impassioned and thoughtful, to produce the wine. Sourcing high-quality Pinot Noir in California, cultivated in the right soil and climate, and available at the right price is hardly an easy feat. There were repeated trots through vineyard sites across Santa Barbara County and Monterey, phone calls and negotiations with growers and winemakers, and thorough analysis of what else was out there. Then came the bench trials for blending. The quest to find the supreme balance of flavor, structure, and finesse that we had all envisioned so many times that we could almost taste it.
In 2013, we humbly released a small batch of Folly of the Beast. An instant hit, we were overwhelmed by the positive feedback and really started to feel that we had created something special; “From the moment we began to sell Folly of the Beast to restaurants and retailers across the country, we knew we had an anomalous and exciting brand on our hands...the reaction from Sommeliers and wine buyers is unanimous: very high price to quality ratio, great branding, a varietally-correct wine, and everything that a Pinot Noir should be, and more” (Alex Stuempfig, Winc’s Senior Director of Sales).
With each new vintage of Folly of the Beast, we’re more prepared for the harvest. This wine is an ongoing, epic winemaking challenge that we’re excited to take on year after year, with the singular goal of making impossibly good Pinot at an impossibly good price. It’s our mission—our madness, if you will; “For there is no folly of the beast of the earth that is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men” (Herman Melville, Moby Dick).
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