Today we sit down with our #CraftWineLA partner and winemaker Keith Saarloos from Saarloos & Sons Winery. Keith is a winemaker, farmer, craftsman, father, son, and all around amazing guy. His family’s tasting room located in Los Olivos, is a must stop on any trip through Santa Barbara wine country. He talks craft wine, family, wine making tips and his vision for the future.
There are many terms flying around in the wine business to describe craft wine. Small production, artisan, boutique, garage wine makers, et al. How would you describe what defines craft wine?
I like craftsmanship much more than I like Artisan. When you are an artist you are moved to create based upon your whims, fancy, and emotions. When you are a craftsman, you are driven to create in the pursuit of your craft. You have respect for your tools, the laborers of others and the pursuit of perfection. I find that I constantly still feel like a beginner and that it really doesn’t matter how I feel on any given day. The work needs to be done and I am there to do it. I am a craftsman, I happened to make wine.
Who inspires you when you make wine?
I think my grandfather would love to have done what I am doing now. I am sure my children will love farming because of me. I am a placeholder in the creation of our vineyards and winery for my great-great grandchildren.
With social media and younger drinkers, are most wineries forces to “reinvent” themselves?
Personally I’m tired of big companies trying to act like they’re small. If you have to reinvent yourself just to please people, are you really authentic? I like small wineries that have remained true to who they are the last hundred years. I vote with my money, I vote for them!
What can wineries take away from the ever growing craft beer scene?
Collaboration. Unfortunately we’ll pick our grapes at the same time and it doesn’t really leave much time for collaboration. But as a farmer who sells his fruit to other wineries, I feel like that’s my form of collaboration. I get to be this songwriter and they get to perform my song. But once they perform it usually becomes theirs with little mention of us.
Kind of like when Johnny Cash sang “boy named Sue” no one really mentions that Shel Silverstein wrote it.
To still be producing Estate Grown wines that are not available in stores or restaurants in 250 years. Currently we are in year 15 of that 250 Year experiment. You can read about it here. Last time someone asked me about it took about 20 minutes to answer.
What do you love most about winemaking?
Not screwing up the farming.
Who else is making some really great craft wines?
We know you can’t always be drinking wine, so what’s your alternate adult beverage of choice?
In Los Olivos, mugs of Figueroa Mountain. A cold beer. Then I can walk home. At home my wife makes mean cocktails. Sundays before noon on the beach it’s Modello and limes. Maybe some Scotch when I am smoking. Cans of Firestone /Walker 805 have become a staple in the cooler in the vineyard. Water is for the vines.
Any words of wisdom for those would be craft wine makers out there?
The wine is decided the moment you harvest. A job you hate destroys who you are. Points are bullshit. The moment you make anything in order to make someone else happy you should quit. Basically, you better have the same commitment and lust to create something beautiful as a graffiti artist. If you don’t know what I mean by that, you should probably go brew beer.Tweet