HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: Open House Fabulousness at Galante Vineyards
(NOT SO) RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: I was invited to the “open house” at the Galante Vineyards Ranch wherein new wine releases were being previewed for the public on Saturday. How do I begin to describe the brilliance of these people, opening their land and their arms to welcome friends and wayward strangers to a glorious wine-tasting experience? HERE’S HOW I DO IT … Galante Vineyards occupies 700 acres of rolling, resplendent and righteous farmland in upper Carmel Valley, only 33-ish acres of which are apportioned for cultivating top-of-the-line grapes. Horses nicker in one secret grove, while cattle fart, snort and graze free-and-easy in the upland hills that soar to an elevation of almost 2000 ft. Jack Galante’s mother, Jane, hailed from an urban artistic San Franciscan family that always maintained deep and unmovable roots in dust-and-dirt California. Jack’s mom was truly a debutante and a world-class pianist, as well as a scholar … but she was also a dyed-in-the-wool “ranch-hand” who imparted a thundering-yet-tender love of the environment to Jack.
J. Frank Devendorf (Jane’s grandfather) was the man who founded the renowned town of Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1903. Of course, our sleepy, suave and artistically endearing town was “put on the map” because Clint Eastwood ran successfully for mayor in the mid-’80s … but it was really Jack Galante’s family that established that map in the literal sense. The town’s most beloved park is in fact named for Jack’s grandfather and the first single-vineyard wine-tasting room established in Carmel was, quite wonderfully, the Galante Vineyards Tasting Room … down the magical pathway near Piccadilly Park on Dolores Street, between Ocean and Sixth.
Now, hang on … Jack Galante’s family did not simply start growing grapes in the Carmel Valley appellation just for fun, or as some sort of “trend.”
They planted small lots of the best quality grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, to start) in the mid-1980s and sold their voluptuous crop to budding vintners like Morgan Winery.
Nestled in absolute majesty like a “secret kingdom” off of Cachagua Road, their family’s glorious 700-acre spread seemed to burst with earth’s riches. They grew world-class roses on the property. They raised and rescued horses. And their grapes started attracting HUGE notice in the viticultural world … along with awards. In the early 1990s, Jack, who is a globe-trotting renaissance man and gifted cartographer/scientist, unleashed a portion of his magnificent vision upon the family property: small-batch estate wines aged in French Oak and treated with the kind of freedom that would let the zesty, brooding Carmel Valley fruit speak for itself … without any undue help, without interfering with Nature’s decisions.
Jack succeeded beyond expectations — Galante Vineyards produces an average of 1,500 cases a year and the plaudits have never ceased to tumble upon the Galante brand and team (which includes gifted oenologist Greg Vita). “Best in Show” awards from national and international panels have been awarded to Galante vintages, again and again, and their success is all the more remarkable given the very limited, exclusive production that has been their hallmark. Much of this greatness, of course, has been due to the stunning quality of the crop, but those who love Galante wines (and there are thousands across the planet!) would never have heard about the magnificence of the product had it not been for the talent and drive of Jack.
Jack Galante, all by himself, is a genuine “force of nature” — this is a “man’s man” and a Gentleman Scholar with some serious cred. In a world where small business owners have to wear multiple hats, Jack Galante towers above pretenders and posers. I have always been astonished by how hard this man works for his company, and how graceful he is when it comes to communicating the unique aspects of his estate grown vintages. I don’t care where he “came from” — one look at Jack Galante will tell you that he could conquer the world no matter where he came from. Yeah … Jack Galante is like that. Everyone who knows Jack knows this to be true about him. He possesses a “movie star” personality (the type of persona when being a cinematic genius meant something) with a heart both softened and forever hardened by his direct experience with the dirt, and the earth, right up in his face.
This is a man to be reckoned with.
If one of the calves needs branding on the ranch … Jack can get it done with strength and grit and love.
If his community needs him, Jack Galante is extravagant in his generosity. You better believe it.
I have met and worked-for and known someone who actually exemplifies the image of a “man for all seasons.” I’m very grateful.
I consider that man a living legend and I wish I were half the person he is. Seriously. I wish I were half as good. I’m working on it.
Now, let’s talk. Galante Vineyards estate wines are as bold as their creator(s). Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, and even Malbec are thrilling “tasters” at every turn. One of the things people “look for” in Monterey County vintages is the rarified, estate-grown earthiness and SULTRY, hypnotic fruit. Jack Galante’s ranch breeds fruit that wants to show-off its earthy coattails. Take a sip of Jack’s new releases and introduce yourself not only to exquisite vintages but to the earth, rock, rain, shine and PEOPLE who make the entire experience “once in a lifetime.”
Oh, gee … Jack’s wife, Dawn, is producing her own gorgeous wines — wines that reflect her particular, vivacious personality. This is the glorious thing about Jack and Dawn Galante — they are as REAL as the color in the sky, my friends … and they never let anybody down. I said a few words to describe Jack, but Dawn is a powerhouse/whirlwind/star on her own. Oh boy. I know how to describe people quickly and Dawn Galante is a blast of pure sunshine that ricocheted off a sapphire. How do ya’ like that?
If you met Dawn, you would know exactly what I am talking about.
I have also, in the past, described Dawn as a “most wonderful sunflower … that has come to life in a lady.” Yeah, that’s pretty fluffy, but there’s a reason for it. I think that’s accurate in Dawn’s regard — the kind of lady that makes you go, “That’s a helluva woman.”
These people and their extraordinary products are that good and excellent. I don’t quite know if I am worthy to be their friend … but I am mighty glad I am.
TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “Always drink upstream from the herd.” (Jack Galante’s fabulous signature-line. Think about it for a minute.)
THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: Bottle Shock
MUSICAL REHAB: I don’t know why, but snarky John Prine songs remind me (wonderfully) of the Galantes. Jack is a fine singer/picker as is his son John. He has another son who is in a very prestigious school of music on the East Coast. These men are talented!
DETOX DINNER: Yes! Jack is a killer griller (go figure). The things he can do with tri-tip are shocking. But you really want to keep an eye on Jack’s Beans That Make You Crazy. See … nobody summons-up shit this good, except him. Trust us … we are in the process of goading Jack into a cookbook. This man doesn’t have a minute to spare, but … Oh yeah, we’re trying.