Q & A With Winemaker Greg La Follette, Part 2: What 6 Kids Will Do To Your Pinot Noir
When we first spoke with Greg La Follette, winemaker at his namesake La Follette Wines, he was telling us how making wine isn't all that different from playing the bagpipes. And why getting to know Pinot Noir isn't all that different from taking on a new lover ("Pinot Noir actually caresses your tongue -- it loves your tongue"). Turn the page for part two of our interview, where La Follette shares why going Tandem isn't always the best decision on the winemaking trail, and how his wife convinced him to focus solely on his own path.
lafollettewines.com Greg LaFollette's True Love
Squid Ink: You were telling us about the mouth feel of Pinot Noir, a wine you clearly love making. After you left Flowers in 2001, you were making wine under the Tandem label, as a partial owner, until it dissolved last year. Let's back up and talk about Tandem.
Greg La Follette: Well, I had made wine for other people for years. Then Tandem came along. Tandem appeared to be kind of a one horse deal, just myself and [Linda] Villagomez making the wine, but I still wasn't exactly getting paid to just make my own wine. I was getting paid to make someone else's wine during the day, then I'd make my own wine [at Tandem] when I could fit it in.
SI: Because you were still consulting on other wineries at the time.
GLF: Yes. I was working evening and weekends, all the time. It was killing me. I'd work for 14 or 16 hours during harvest making other people's wine, then spend most of the rest of the hours making mine [for Tandem], and see my wife and kids for a brief moment in the evening. Plus I was kind of doing everything at Tandem, wearing all hats -- the business side, marketing, accounting. That's time consuming.
And there was another big problem. My wife and I have six kids. There's a saying, bigger kids equal bigger problems, and most of my kids were teenagers at the time. So you can imagine. My kids starting calling me Uncle Dad. My wife put them up to it. But I got the message.
SI: So now you are focused on just one thing -- making the wines at La Follette.
GLF: Yes, isn't that great? I've never known that feeling until now. How to just be a winemaker. Tandem was really built on the back of my wife and children. Free spousal and child labor [laughs]. Now, I've got real professional crush help, a fabulous crew who does sales and marketing. I mean, there are actually people who handle things like accounting? For finance, I've actually got a CFO. Can you imagine? I don't have to worry about making calls begging for money. I can just make wine.
SI Note: Pete Kight, owner of Quivira Vineyards, purchased Greg La Follette's shares of Tandem Winery early last year, in essence making Greg simply the winemaker, no longer part-owner of the winery.
SI: You think it will be different this time?