Flanagan Wines Proprietor Eric Flanagan Delivers Sustainable Farming
When Eric Flanagan was a boy of twelve growing up in suburban New Jersey, there were two pieces of mail he looked forward to every year: the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the Burpee seed catalog. The seed catalog was exciting for a youngster with a penchant for farming. It offered a promise of possibility – although, he admits, it was a distinctly different possibility than what a swimsuit model might suggest to the fertile pubescent imagination.
Flanagan planted his first garden at the age of ten, spent his winters laying out what he would grow the following spring, and kept his family stocked with fresh produce all summer. Today, as the owner of Flanagan Estate Vineyards in Sonoma County, California, it’s no wonder he’s into sustainable farming. In an interview for the Uncorked Monthly Podcast, Flanagan helped me understand what sustainable farming looks like in his little corner of the world.
Year-round cover crops
For starters, Flanagan Estate Vineyards uses year-round cover crops, like barley grass and clover, which protect the soil and prevent it from washing away. The cover crops also return nitrogen to the soil and host beneficial insects and microbes. Plus, they’re a thing of beauty. During a Sonoma County winter, grape vines go dormant. However, the rainy weather helps cover crops to flourish, making the land lush, green and lovely.
Flanagan has also been mindful about putting the estate’s wastewater to use. All of it is used to irrigate his 850 olive trees.
Additionally, where many wineries will run large refrigeration units hour after hour to keep their caves cool, Flanagan employs an ingenious night air-cooling system. He explained, “Any time the night air temperature outside drops below the cave temperature, the vent will open and a fan will kick on and draw in that cool night air to bring the cave temperature down.”
Sustainable farming is admirable. But for many wine lovers, the burning question may be, “What does it do for the wine?”
Well, it certainly hasn’t hurt anything. And in fact, some sustainable practices, like Flanagan’s insistence on hand-working his vines, can have a positive impact on the quality of the wine. “There are a lot of different ways to farm,” Flanagan said, such as in Australia where there’s a labor shortage, “they use a lot of mechanized farming. They prune and harvest with giant tractors. But we do everything here by hand, which lets us be a lot more specific.” In other words, Flanagan’s a nit-picker, for all the best reasons. Better fruit as judged by the educated, discerning eye will always result in better wine.
The wines of Flanagan Estate Vineyards are known for being “very expressive in the nose”, so says their website at www.FlanaganWines.com. As winemaker Cabell Coursey said of Flanagan wines, “They’re all intended to be aromatically interesting”. Specifically, Coursey says the Pinot Noir communicates “crunchy red fruits – let’s say, cranberry, pomegranate, rhubarb.” Also, “The Cabernet we make is very classic – cassis and blackcurrants. But I think probably the most fragrantly interesting thing we do is the Syrah, which has its own unique flavor.
There’s mint and white pepper and a freshness; a fresh spring scent that’s hard to explain.” Flanagan added, “Our joke is, ‘Syrah is the new black’. It goes with everything. It’s got a little spice to it. So if you have a dish that has a little spice, it tends to match up well with that, but it also goes great with lamb and duck and quail, and all those classic things people like to pair Syrah with.”
After trying your first bottle or two from Flanagan Estate Vineyards, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re moved to join their Founder’s Club. The club’s slogan is, “Friends who became customers and customers who became friends.” Among the benefits of membership there’s an annual dinner at Flanagan’s home, prepared by himself, his wife and three daughters. But lest you think that’s a deal made only for locals, you should know that membership also gets you access to Flanagan’s wine concierges for assistance with wine tours, lodging, and restaurant reservations – perfect for the out-of-town visitor.
Learn more and purchase wine at www.FlanaganWines.com.
Featured Interview Conducted and Written By: Uncorked Monthly Contributing Writer, Kim Brittingham
NEW BOTTLE EXPERIENCE RATING
Flanagan Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Bright appearance, with full aromas of black pepper , black currant and blackberry. A medium/full-bodied red. The finish is complex. An overall good/excellent Cabernet Sauvignon from Bennett Valley, Sonoma, California United States. Balance is the key to their Cabernet. Mountain fruit with great structure and concentration is the foundation of our wine. The Cabernet is beautifully delineated and has great aromatics. It is a harmonious intersection of site driven fruit, the finest new French oak, and classic wine making.
To learn about Quini and their amazing wine app, please visit https://quiniwine.com