Osteria IL Centro was proud to host DuMOL Winery for an elegant evening of wine tasting and gourmet delicacies for our Wine Club members.
Founded in 1996, DuMOL produces cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from distinctive vineyards in the Russian River Valley. DuMOL also offers small-lot Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier from exceptional vineyard sites in Sonoma and Napa. DuMOL wines are released through limited allocations to our consumer mailing list and select restaurants worldwide – and IL Centro happens to be one of the hand-picked restaurants lucky enough to carry their exquisite wines.
OIC Wine Club members enjoyed a spirited presentation from Tom Pillsbury, Partner and Director of Sales, and enjoyed delectable small plates along with tastes of DuMOL’s 2016 Wester Reach Chardonnay, 2016 Wester Reach Pinot Noir, 2016 Ryan Pinot Noir, 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet and 2016 Wild Mountainside Syrah.
View the event gallery below, then scroll to read the full interview with Tom Pillsbury.
We had the chance to sit down with Tom Pillsbury and talk with him in more depth about the winery and its history.
OIC: To start off, Tom, we’re curious to hear a little bit about your background in the wine industry.
Tom: Really, I got my start in hospitality, bussing tables, washing dishes – you know. I was in the restaurant and hotel industry and then transitioned into wholesale, which is very common in our business. Then, nine years ago, I had the opportunity to take off the suit and tie and go to work for a small family operation and it’s been very enjoyable – it’s a very different culture where there are some interesting things about working in a family business. It has been great with my background as I understand what restaurants go through, so I think it makes me a little better at what I do.
OIC: You’ve been with DuMOL for nine years now – what’s it like working for a family-owned business in the wine industry?
In my prior life I was dealing with big corporate wineries where decisions are generally very often short-term, based on quarterly profits and keeping shareholders happy. There’s not a lot of long-term thinking about what you want to be and what you stand for.
When you work for a family, especially with Andy Smith in a successful operation like DuMOL, the decisions are always about quality. You know the winemaker was absolutely in charge of anything to do with farming and wine-making. Nobody argued with him when he said no you can’t you use cheaper oak or cheaper grapes. We always do what we need to do to make the best we can.
OIC: Speaking of Andy (Smith), tell us a little about him and his background. He’s originally for Edinburgh, Scotland, correct? How did he land in California?
Yes, he grew up in Edinburgh. His dad was the British Olympic swimming coach for men, so he was raised in a swimming family. Andy swam competitively in college, so if you think about what swimmers look like, they’re pretty pretty buff. He needed a summer job and started working in a wine shop in Edinburgh, primarily because he was very fit. (He never tells it that way, though.) One of the things they liked about him is he can lift two cases of wine and carry them up from the basement. I can barely do six bottles at a time! So, in that capacity, he started to learn a little bit about the wine industry and got married a little bit later and on their honeymoon, they came to Napa Valley and he had kind of an “aha” moment and decided, “this is what I want to do.” He then went to New Zealand and and studied viticulture and enology, and because the seasons are opposite there, he got an internship working for Ted Lemon, who’s the founder of Littorai, what I think is one of the worthy neighbors and competitors in the style I like. So he has been working in the Russian River off and on for over 30 years.
Up until 2013, he made all the wines at Larkmead in Napa.
OIC: Yes, we hosted Larkmead recently.
If you were interviewing Andy, you were hear him talk more about farming, but I had to ask him, “Why did you stop being a UK citizen with all the wine opportunities available?” He could have made wine in New Zealand or Australia, and he speaks French so he could have done burgundy. But he said “California’s where the cool kids were” – and that there was more freedom to experiment. I suspect, also, that it may have had to do with politics, and the ability for someone to come over and immigrate from another country and be able to be a successful owner in a winery. That opportunity doesn’t always exist in countries like Australia and New Zealand – certainly not in Europe where the properties are handed down from generation to generation. Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for Andy, I wouldn’t be here. I think he’s now one of the most intuitive farmers and winemakers and in California and doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves. It’s an immigrant success story, in my opinion.
OIC: So, how did you and Andy connect?
One of the DuMOL founders was a restaurateur, and I used to sell him a lot of very high-end burgundy. The restaurateur was sharing it with a guy who became his partner in DuMOL, which was very much a hobby that got out of control. The first vintage, they made two hundred cases and a rented space in a winery, and most of the wine was sold to friends and family, and through the restaurant. It slowly grew from there, but no one became some billionaire, buying a big estate or building a castle. We came at it in a very different way. That restaurateur introduced me to his partner, Kerry Murphy, who ended up hiring me and through Kerry and Michael, I met Andy. Actually, long before I was a partner in the winery, I was on their mailing list. I would bring their wine home and hide it from my wife – it was expensive and I didn’t want her to know how much I was spending on it. I’ve always respected the style.
OIC: What makes the Russian River Valley so ideal for your signature wines?
So, we’re about an hour and a half north of San Francisco, and when the fog rolls into the Russian River Valley at night, the temperature drops. In burns off mid-morning, and then we get sunshine. So, you know it can be a hundred degrees in Napa, but it can be 70 degrees in the Russian River. That up and down that diurnal temperature swing is one of those signatures of the area that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir like. The soil is basically depleted clay soil – Gold Ridge is what they call it – which is not a rich soil. So, we don’t want lots of tons per acre or less tons per acre – so quality, not quantity.
OIC: So, from what we’re drinking this evening, do you have a favorite?
You know, I get asked that a lot. My answer is, it depends on the vintage. The 2016 Wester Reach Chardonnay has been a big hit for the two days I’ve been here in Kansas City and happens to be one of the best values in our portfolio. There’s a tendency for people to covet the single vineyard wines, but this cuvee is a very detailed wine, comprised of some of the most prized sites in the Russian River Valley. It got 95+ points from the Wine Advocate which for us reinforces what we’ve learned about precise farming and sensitive winemaking in this beautiful region where we live. That’s going to be the wine I enjoy tonight.
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