Charles Daniel Smith is a retired American professional basketball player who played in the NBA.
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I am a former rock n' roll tour manager who spent years on the road in Europe with acts such as the Ravonettes before settling down in Walla Walla, Washington to become a self-taught winemaker and artisan in the wine world.
Last month, I was named Wine Enthusiast’s “Winemaker of the Year,” the first from the Pacific Northwest to be given the honor.
I run the largest independent, winemaker-owned winery in Washington State and in the Spring of 2015, I will be bringing the winemaking directly to the people, opening a massive urban winery in the Georgetown section of Seattle, WA.
You can see a trailer at http://www.charlessmithwines.com/.
My motto is "There's more wine in our wine."
Hey everyone, thanks for your questions. I had a blast! We're off to our company Christmas party, so you know what that means...better sign off! As always, check out our website or social handles for more info on me and our wines! Thanks again - Charles
Hi big fan of your wines and I really enjoy charles & charles rose. Do you see yourself collaborating with another vintner in the future and if so, which one?
Thats a great question. There was talk of it five years ago in Argentina, but I passed. Then there was an offer in the South of France, and I passed. And now, there is someone from the Rheingau, my favorite winemaker from the area and there is talk of collaboration - and that would be a yes.
Are you still getting fruit from Christophe Baron? Which wines?
No, that shipped has sailed. I have vineyards just down the road in "the rocks" that I take care of myself. The vineyards are River Rock, Jack's Vineyard, and Rock Garden. Same strong commitment to farming and growing the best wine possible.
How do I pronounce the word "terroir" without sounding like an asshole?
Man, I don't know. When you find out, please email me.
Being a winemaker sounds like a dream job, but what's the hardest part about it?
It is a dream job, if it is your dream. And it was mine. Not that you're asking me life advice, but everyone should really try to find their "thing" and I was personally lucky enough to find my "thing." What's the hardest part? The weather. You don't know what Mother Nature is going to give you. It can be really, really stressful. You need to ripen the grapes, not too little and not too much. And in my case, once you become a celebrated (if you will) producer, you have to continue at that level or even higher. Think about the rock and roll band who makes the amazing debut album. And it shoots them to the top. They have to follow it with another great one. Again. And again. And again. That's the hardest part.
What is your favorite wine that you produced?
For elegance, my Syrah called "The Beautiful" from the Walla Walla Valley. Also, my single-vineyard Malbec called "Broncho" - it's so bad ass it needed it's own band. That would be Broncho from Oklahoma. Although you did not ask, I believe the most important wine I make is the Kung Fu Girl Riesling. For it's quality, availability and its price, it just does everything. I feel that everyone should have access to really good wine at a good price, and that wine does it.
Where do you see yourself in 40 years?
Hopefully above ground. But in all seriousness, I'll be here in Washington state. An old guy with a bunch of mixed matched clothing but looking cool as hell with a drippy nose...making wine.
Are you a fan of Kristen Wiig?
Yes, and are you Kristen Wiig?
Whose taste demands are more intense: sommeliers or rock stars?
I can say the happier palate would be the rock stars. It's not always that important. Wine is just great to drink.
Ever met Maynard James Keenan?
No, but I was supposed to bump into him up in Jerome, Arizona (where he lives), but that weekend he had got married and it just didn't happen. Even though you didn't ask, I like his commitment to making wine of his region.
> In fact, I'm having one right now
Oh yeah? Anything interesting?
A tall boy of Stiegel. Refreshing.
what is your fave wine cheese pair?
Depends on my mood, but if its today, I'd like to be sitting in Beaune, France (but I'm not, I'm in Walla Walla) and I'd be in a cafe and drinking a big deep glass of Burgundy and a big piece of stinky Epoisses.
Why is it so hard to find Ice Wine? And why is it so expensive? And most importantly, why does my wife refuse to drink beer, opting for really expensive wine instead?
Because you have to wait til the grapes freeze and there's just not a lot of places that that happens before they simply rot and fall off the stem. Making it is easy: press it, put it in the vessel and let it happen. Now on the beer issue: I'm with you. A beer can't hurt you. In fact, I'm having one right now. And on the wine thing, maybe she just wants to bust your balls. Can't help ya, man.
What's your fave grower champagne?
One of my favorite grower champagnes is from Jose Michel. There are other great and perhaps greater producers, but I really love the Blanc de Blanc - and because it has this faint flavor of white chocolate...and I know white chocolate is not really chocolate, but it is very satisfying and sexy.
What made you make the transition from managing to wine-making?
I was living in Copenhagen and just making a living. I had been there for ten years, was having a great time, but always thinking, "Ok, what's next?" And when I was 19, I started working in restaurants. And the guy who had the wine job, seemed like he had the easiest one. He'd come in late, he'd leave early, he'd drink all night and got paid for it. So that's a great job. So I decided after Copenhagen, that I was going to take that same idea to the next level and make my own wine. The years of travel and working in hospitality with wine and honestly, just the sheer number of bottles of good wine consumed (and a few not so good) brought me to this place. So far, so good.
How did you get started making wine?
Well, first off, I just decided I was going to do it. I relied on all my wine experiences and instinct. And when I needed to know something, I googled it. No, just kidding. I would go out drinking with winemaker friends of mine, and considering I lived in Copenhagen for ten years, I became a Viking. And everyone knows Vikings can drink. So, once we were good and drunk I would start a conversation about whatever I wanted to know - and boy, do winemakers love to talk about their wines. I would take what I liked and ignored the rest and once again, trusted my instinct. I know it sounds unbelievable, but thats the truth. An honest question deserves an honest answer. Thanks.
Maybe next time! Of course it was the rocker-vintner connection I was getting at. I figured at that level, maybe everyone knew everyone.
I think at some point, everyone does.
Ok, I fully admit to not being a wine person until I went to Italy last year, where I fell in love with the white sparking wines. I couldn't find anything comparable until I found your Italian Bubbles, so thank you so much! As a still beginning wine drinker, what is the wine you always find yourself recommending?
For people, like yourself, beginner wine drinkers - I always will pick wines that are easier to find, perhaps no matter where you live. There are some really classic, solid producers. Cote du Rhone, from Guigal, you can find it nearly everywhere and for fifteen bucks! It is delicious. That's for red. And for a white, I love German Riesling. There are many good producers and you'll want to look for the labels that have the word Kabinett, which tells you its a certain level of dryness. You will not be getting a sweet wine. And for most of the time, you'll be getting a very decent bottle of wine. I always recommend asking the person at the shop where you're buying the wine. They're passionate, that's why they do that job. Just trust them. When I have a question, even though I'm a winemaker, I frequently ask.
How did your first bottle of wine come out? How long did it take you before you made something you really liked?
The first wine was one wine and that was Walla Walla Valley Syrah in 1999. A lot of people loved it. I know it might sound glib to say, but my wines were really good from the beginning. But, to be truthful, I felt with my 2007 vintage, I completely understood and had what I considered (for lack of a better word) a masterful hand. In other words, my hands were able to do what my mind was thinking. And that was with complete confidence. But apparently, I was pretty good before then because my 2006 Royal City Syrah received 100 points.
Where can I get your wine???
Depends on where you live. Send me an email to email@example.com and I'll send it on to someone who will point in the right direction.
What was your favorite group to manage while on tour?
The managing part was not always that much fun, to be honest. In fact, I was known for having more fun, imbibing than anyone I was on the road with. But I saw so many great shows and met so many great people. Not managed, but favorite band: Dead Moon.