An Interview with David Rossi, Fulcrum Wines

You may not have heard of Fulcrum Wines, but their inaugural 2006 Pinot Noir release delivers a captivating wine that represents Anderson Valley at its finest. David Rossi, the founder of Fulcrum, is gravitating towards a more restrained style of California Pinot Noir, producing a wine that is complex and genuinely elegant.

Fulcrum Wines - David Rossi
Watch the Fulcrum Video – David Rossi from Fulcrum discusses his brand
The ’06 is a blend of three Anderson Valley vineyard sources, which equally contribute distinctive characteristics to the mix. Fifty percent of the grapes come from Akins Vineyard, which produces high-quality fruit in the classic Pinot Noir style. Twenty-five percent of the fruit comes from the organically farmed Hein Family Vineyard, where the fruit has finely grained tannin structure and carries black cherry and earthy notes. Rossi sourced the other twenty-five percent from the 10-acre organically

farmed Wentzel Vineyards, which overlooks Goldeneye in Anderson Valley. Its fruit produces great color extraction and yields wines that have great structure and depth.

It’s amazing how the uniqueness of each vineyard shines through in Fulcrum’s final product, which produces a classic style Pinot with divinely scented pomegranate and violet aromas. Intense cinnamon and spice flavors compliment the opulent cherry flavors that dominate the palette. It’s a well-balanced wine with a complex, earthy, spicy finish with a beautifully integrated tannin structure; simply a superb representation of what the Anderson Valley fruit can produce.

In this interview, Rossi answers questions about his new brand as he shares his passion for his endeavor.

What was the first “great” bottle of wine you tasted? Your epiphany?

A 2001 Foppiano Reserve Petite Syrah.

When did you start in the wine business and what was your motivation?

Ten years ago, I started making wine as a hobby after growing up in the restaurant and food marketing business in Pittsburgh, PA. Although I had cooked my whole life, winemaking had always intrigued me. One day I passed by a home winemaking store and decided to start making wine in my basement. I began learning more

and more about winemaking, entered amateur competitions, and won a number of metals and from there I was hooked! In 2005, I decided winemaking was something I wanted to purse professionally, so I put together a business plan and created my first inaugural release. Now I am contracting with growers on my third vintage professionally. Fulcrum

 

We understand your inaugural Pinot Noir release was harvested from Anderson Valley fruit. Why Pinot Noir and why Anderson Valley?

From a business standpoint, we all know there is a rising tide with Pinot Noir but I had to ask myself why does the world need another Pinot Noir, and why does the world need Fulcrum. I think that people have gravitated to a more restrained

People have gravitated to a more restrained style of California Pinot and Fulcrum is about bringing a more balanced Pinot to market.”
style of California Pinot and Fulcrum is about bringing a more balanced Pinot to market while still utilizing ripe fruit from lightly cropped vines. We see the pendulum swinging back a little from the highly extracted high-alcohol wines that have commanded people’s attention

in the recent past. Wine lovers want depth and complexity, but want to be able to enjoy the wine with food, which really means we want to keep the natural acidity firm and the alcohol at a more modest level. So I felt that this was the role that I could play in Pinot which was to bring some finesse and a little bit of restraint back to California.

Wentzel Vineyards
Wentzel Vineyards, overlooking Goldeneye in Anderson Valley. Photo credit: Alan Baker, the Cellar Rat

Why did I select Anderson Valley? The region, due to its cool climate makes Pinot that is more restrained and more elegant; you have a better chance of making a restrained Anderson Valley wine than you do making a restrained Santa Rita hills wine.

Did the first bottle of wine you made match your expectations? Is there anything you would change for future releases?

It did! I made the kind of wine I wanted to make and the style I wanted to make and I was pleased with the ’06 vintage. Is there anything I would do differently? Maybe extract a little more tannin build, which is what I will focus on for the next vintage.

For those who have not tasted your wines, how would you describe them?

There are many great producers out there making wonderful Pinots, but the trend seems to be going towards a heavier, lower acid style that is ready to drink upon release.

I strive to make a wine with firm acidity; a wine that begs for food; and a wine that, because of its acidity, bodes well for some aging. Although our wines are drinkable and enjoyable upon release, they have an acid structure and a tannin structure that will hopefully hold the wine so that
Our wines are balanced and they emphasize the fruit expression, elegance, and finesse”

they will continue to improve over time. Our wines are balanced and they emphasize the fruit expression, elegance, and finesse rather than just power and extraction.They also show off what Pinot is famous for – complex aromatics, a velvety mouth feel, and a food friendly style that pairs well with a variety of cuisines.

Your ’06 yielded only 99 cases. Do you intend to expand production?

Definitely. We are doubling our production this year to 200 cases and in 2008 to 400 cases, which is exciting.

Do you intend to expand into other Viticultural areas or expand on varietals?

Some day I think there is a Petite Syrah in my future, but with my production levels, what I am trying to do in the short term is to expand upon geographic regions of California’s Pinot Noir.

For our second release (2007), we have expanded upon Anderson Valley to include a Sonoma Coast and Santa Rita Hills Pinot. In ’08, we are adding a Russian River Pinot into the mix.

So in the near term, we are trying to compare and contrast Pinot from different regions of California. Once we get above a 1000 case production, we might dabble in other varietals.

Regarding your 2007 vineyard sources, we understand one of your selected sites (La Encantada Vineyard) is certified organic. Is there a particular reason why you selected this source?

La Encantada Vineyard
La Encantada Vineyard, Photo Credit, Alma Rosa
Yes, La Encantada Vineyard is a certified organic site planted by Dick Sanford – the “godfather” of Santa Ynez Pinot. Planted in 2001, La Encantada consists of a range of Dijon clones on devigorating rootstock that produces tiny clusters with yields around 2.0 tons per acre. We selected this site because the fruit produces flavors of dark cherry and

earth with mineral overtones that offer interesting contrasts compared to the Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.

We understand you worked with Crushpad to produce your inaugural ’06 Pinot Noir. Was this a good experience for you?

Crushpad
Photo credit: Crushpad
Absolutely. We made our ’06 and ’07 at Crushpad and they make it possible for small winemakers to test their ideas and learn on the job before making a million dollar investment in their own facility. They enable you to take that next step to be able to go from 100 cases to 1000 cases and beyond.

 

What were some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered during your venture?

On the winemaking end, there is an old adage that making wine is easy and selling wine is hard yet I think making great wine is hard and I think selling great wine is easy. With this in mind, the key is making something really special.

Then there are stylistic challenges we face in creating elegance in a wine using grapes from a geographic climate that tends to make the fruit riper and riper.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have challenges that every small businessperson encounters – getting your name out there and building a following with your consumers.

Where can we find your wines?

Fulcrum Wines

You can purchase our wines from our website at http://fulcrumwines.com/. We are also opening up distribution on the East Coast and we intend to expand distribution at restaurants and stores throughout the New Jersey area, which include Whole Foods.

Do you have any upcoming events where folks can go to taste your wines?

Yes, we will be at the Pinot Days event in San Francisco and Chicago:

Pinot Days, San Francisco, Fort Mason
June 27 through June 29

Pinot Days, Chicago, Navy Pier
November 14th through November 15th

 

Many thanks to David Rossi for setting aside time to conduct this interview and a big thanks for providing samples of his ’06 vintage! I highly recommend Fulcrum Pinot and with limited production, I can guarantee they will sell out fast.
~ Pamela Heiligenthal

 

2016-01-23T20:54:05+00:00

About the Author:

Editor and co-founder of Enobytes.com, Pamela is a sommelier and former restaurant manager and wine buyer with Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), Court of Master Sommeliers & Center for Wine Origins certification. She has contributed to or been quoted by various publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sommelier Journal, Vegetarian Times, VIV Magazine, UC-Berkeley Astrobiology News, The Washington Post, the Associated Press, NPR and USA Today. True to her roots, she seeks varietal and appellation integrity and is always passionate about finding the next great bottle of wine.

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