Enkidu Enkidu
Enkidu Wines Enkidu Wines Enkidu Wines Enkidu Wines
Enkidu

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Listen to Enkidu owners Catherine and Matt Francis share their story.

Welcome To Enkidu

I was invited up to Sonoma but my friends Catherine and Matt Francis, who recently became the new owners of a small winery called Enkidu Wines. It seemed like Kismet. You see, before I was born, my parents influenced by the times where their love of mythology, we’re going to name me Enkidu after the forest came from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Luckily, I guess they change their mind. Still, I couldn’t shake the coincidence of this winery which shared my prenatal name.

Hi, I’m Dana Elmquist. And I’m going up to Sonoma to learn more about what makes Enkidu Wines different how Kathryn and Matt got involved. And of course, to takes some wine.

It’s an unusually hot October day here in Sonoma and walking up to the tasting room of Enkidu wines to meet Rebecca cough.

Hi Dana, nice to meet you. How up to the bar right here. Everything will be closest there should be nice and comfy. Welcome to Enkidu and get you some water to start. All right, we get started with our classic tasting menu. got five different wines on here. We start with the Rosé and then we just build and body and intensity till we hit Humbaba, which is a big, big round gland. First thing first though, is water. I push a lot of opportunism, but I’m here right you don’t have to drink all the wine I pour you but I recommend you. You drink all the water that I’ve worked. All right, we have a just in case bucket. There’s never any offense you need to dump something whether there’s too much or if it’s not to your taste. There’s no questions asked on these. It is helpful if you’d let me know like I don’t like this one. Or we get to you like I don’t like these two, I can switch directions. So I’m happy to customize it so we can figure out what you like.

You don’t have to worry about feedback.

It’s always welcome to get under my feelings. I didn’t I didn’t make it. I didn’t make any other wine. And we pass along good compliments. Good comments. The winemaker.

So folks, this winemaker she’s talking about. That’s Phil Staley. He’s the founder of Enkidu Wines and the winemaker to this day. I got to talk to him about the origin of Enkidu and how you got started.

I’d love to hear your journey. Phil from college to working in the restaurant buying wine if I’m getting this. Oh, you got going on nearly far back enough.

It started in ancient Sumerian

He was seven years old.

When I was a simmering Am I Am I my 30 generations ago when I was in Samaria. Yeah, I came on wine really organically the journey I’ve really been interested in wine. And I was born in Berkeley. But we moved when I was really, really young age, I’ve been to a very rural area. And it’s all about bad beer and bad whiskey. And it was not about wine and sophistication at all. But it was really my sister, older sister of 10 years. She was coming home from college and along with her boyfriend the time they were bringing bottles had quirks in them. And so there was this mystery behind these bottles. I quickly started accumulating the collection. Well before I was 21 years old, worked in a liquor store. When I was 1819 years old was going to Davis I had just started going to UC Davis. I was there not for wine. I was there actually to play baseball, just try and get through the college. So but I did take classes when I was there political science, pre law, foreign policy. But really my collection started before that. And so when I was 1718 years old, I started collecting these bottles of wine. And by the time I got to Davis, I had 50 bottles in my collection. So quite sizable for a young age man at 19 years old, right? So being an athlete, I was in a house of five of us all together tremendous appetites. So we’re polishing up two bottles, a night, a chicken and a couple of loaves of bread, or spaghetti. And so needless to say my collection was absolutely just wiped out within about two or three months. And I had no money at that point as a college student. So there was a dearth of wine for a period of time as I graduated, and I started working in restaurants and became a bartender and a wine buyer for the restaurant. And being a wine buyer, you are exposed to a good 50 tastings a week. And so you really start training that muscle three in your mind from our appreciation of the aesthetics of wine shortly after, like in 1987 Amstar was having a party and Pam started and she was a sorority sister and my wife’s she is a very big winemaker. She has Crocker star winery, appearance cinema. And so we were talking and talking he said, Well, if you’re really serious about wine coming up here apply for job seeker as a bartender, I have all kinds of freedom and all this kind of stuff. But you know, it’s like yeah, do I want to take a cut of pay of like $15,000 and have no freedom? Sure, let’s do it. And that basically was what launched my career in winemaking learning the craft of making wine. I started off as a cellar rat and eventually I’ll add myself to assist winemaker at carbon a then eventually started my own brand in Enkidu in 2004. We’re now in 2023. We’ve done 20 finishes now to start 20th finish for Enkidu.

You will. And as I’ve already talked about, I have a personal connection to this name, I was almost named Enkidu, so I had to know why they named the winery Enkidu

It was one of the things we were struggling to find a name and at the time I had a dog I was a huge fan of the story, the Epic of Gilgamesh, from whence Angkor do comes from. And so it’s a Sumerian tale that dates back to about 4000 to 5000 years. And so I love this story, and I named my dog Enkidu and so my dog is literally walking around the table and we’ve got, oh, obviously it’s this. And because of what he could do, represents, I mean, He is the ruler of the good land. He’s what his name means. And he is the heat. He’s the passion. He’s the protector of animals, he came sprung from the earth. And that’s what we do. That’s who we are. And if you see us during harvest, a lot of times when my hair used to be down to my shoulders, really furry and my knuckles that were dragging on the ground, pretty much like I could do this was Yeah, to me, no brainer. This is exactly what we need to choose for our brand, this name Enkidu.

All right, so we’re starting with our chama Rosé. And this is a GSM Rosé. So it’s a ganache rom valid, which is a classic Rhone blend Rosé so it’s becoming more popular actually, I’ve seen more and more Rhone Rosé A’s so I don’t know if they copied Phil or if I just didn’t notice them before. This one we’re looking for Laurel stone fruits, you know, a little bit of peach a little bit of apricot, really, really light herbs, you know, sort of like fresh pick wildflowers.

Oh, like good luck.

So our winemakers is a sort of trademark or what he’s going for with his rosé, his white wines just to make sure they are as smooth as possible. So there’s no harshness, nothing, nothing to get in the way between smelling it and drinking it. You can barely feel him going down, which I think is a little danger.

And I see just won an award at the New York International Wine Competition.

6:46

So that was fun. So they gave us 96 points, double gold on our 2022 Vintage they also named a Sonoma County rose a winery of the year. It was a very nice compliment. We were excited about that. I know if I like a wine and I found out it’s won some awards. I just you know feel better about myself. I’m gonna call the experts agree with me a little pat on the back. Before

7:04

we get too far into this. Let’s go back to Catherine. You know, she’s the reason we’re here in the first place. And I’d like to learn a little bit more about why a winery and why now

7:14

when I started working in my first gig was in La Jolla, lots of really fancy restaurants and really good wine shops. We will go out as colleagues to these really nice restaurants with the partners and I was introduced to some really nice Napa ca and wow, I didn’t know that’s what wine could taste like. And that was 9798. And we were drinking 94 cameras and Dominus. That was my very first introduction to wine. And during the weekend, I went to a grocery store and realized I cannot afford the wine. So I was right into the deep end of lush, big fruitful were tannic have to go with steak, fancy meal. I just love the whole thing about the sharing of the people. The chemistry between the food won’t why and the history behind it. And I started to venture out to California then I learned about South America why and I started doing wine tasting with some friends we learned about French wine and Bordeaux learn about the left thing and the right thing. And I was hooked. Fast forward, I met Matt. And we used to go wine tasting up and down the coast. That was the fun time and some after. The idea of buying a winery was not something I set out to do when Matt and I started thinking about what do we want to do someday when we retire. And during the pandemic, we were daydreaming a lot like a lot of people, we did a lot of best mobile runs and zoom and we dream about what life is like when it’s outside of pandemic.

8:59

I tried starting a company in biotech a number of years ago, it was a moonshot company, we didn’t quite reach the moon. But I learned a lot from that. So I knew something about myself. I don’t necessarily want to start something from the ground because I’m really good work running operation, marketing, finance and producing a product. I’m really missing the part about being a maker, I want something physical, working the land making something is very attractive to me. So I remember first time meeting Phil very well, that first meeting, it was one of probably the most spontaneous thing I’ve done in my life, which was to bring a dog to a business meeting. I was researching about Enkidu and I liked the name, and I read about it. And I liked the history. I liked what you represents. And I thought it was interesting, but I didn’t really know what I had in common with Phil with a winemaker. What is the business Executive in Tech have in common with white makers. So I researched Joe and he has a black lab winery dog and I do some like, well, we got something in common. So I was sort of the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

10:18

Matt Katherine’s husband remembers it slightly differently.

10:22

From my perspective, I knew you were going up here for the meeting, I stayed back with Ryan, our son, you called me on and you were kind of giddy about the whole thing. And a little bit about Phil, and how great Phil was. And you know, he’s an awesome person. But he actually heard about the dog. I heard every everything was about Phil’s dog, actually, for the most of it, you know, between the two, it was probably 30 minutes of stories and getting this as she’s driving back. And then finally, she’s like, and where do you try the wine.

10:49

So I may have said something about, I think there’s something special here, but I’m not gonna rush into it.

10:58

But of course, that’s what it really was. She came home I think with three or four bottles or something. And so we did a little tasting, it blew us away.

11:07

So the next one is going to be a big jump and intensity and body, we’re going through a Pinot Noir to a Seraph. And straws are big. These are big ones. This one has lovely amount of age on it. This is a 2017 single vineyard select. So it’s really a tussah vineyard in Russian River Valley. We only did two vintages with them. And it’s been really fun to see how they age sort of in tandem. So it’s going to be quite different from the Pinot Noir. It’s a little more fruit driven. But I’m curious to see what sort of food elements and things you get from this. Or if you do get a ton of fruit, everyone’s experience is always a little different. It’s

11:43

much darker, you get fruit. But then there’s a lot, a lot of kind of complexity.

11:49

If you’ve done a search. All right, there’s a lot going on. When

11:51

I when I’m looking at this 50 cases produces a tiny batch very tiny.

11:55

Yeah, most of our single vineyards are between 50 and 75 cases. So I’m in Israel a practical reason for that, too. When you do blends, you know, you can pull from multiple vineyards when you’re doing a single vineyard designate, which is what they call them. 95% of the fruit has to be from that vineyard in order for you to use the vendor name on the bottle. And so when you got one vineyard and multiple people buying from it, you know you the amount you can get as always much, much smaller. But it’s it’s really interesting to see the site specific characteristics. You’ll hear terroir, you know, people talk about that a lot while you’re in wine country. And it’s basically just tasting what the what the earth is giving to a wine versus what the bridle is versus the cone, all these other things. And it can be really interesting to see site to site what a what a Serato can be like grown in one place versus another place. So Dina, we’re at the part of the tasting where I like to give tours. Well, I love Thank you. All right, first things first, we need some wine in our glass. I’ve decided it’s bad luck to do a tour with an empty glass or with no glass. And I don’t want to test that. So let’s go we’ve got the hum Baba and the glass which should open up nicely as we walk around. Meet you on this side. And let’s head out onto the patio first.

13:04

beautiful patio. Do

13:05

you guys do private events here?

13:07

We do our pickup parties. So when we have wine club members who usually pick up their wine versus the ones who haven’t shipped we like to do parties here a couple times a year. They do weddings here at Keith De Niro’s retirement parties, all sorts of gorgeous things. It’s amazing how this space can transform. How Alright, so we’re gonna hit the gravel and head back into the production area. It’s a little busy, so we may need to sort of watch on the sideline.

13:30

And again, you said it was a shared production facility? It

13:34

is yeah, so they call it a custom crush facility. What does that mean? So for small wineries, it’s difficult to afford your own wine production facility, your own little winery. So what a lot of small brands will do is that they will work with a custom crush facility like this, that will let them use the equipment to make their mind here. There’s also a shared cellar staff. The winemakers are as involved as they as they want to be Phil is always very hands on with with every part that he can be here for their cellar staff here to implement any any directions. He has all the temperature checks and sugar checks and things like that, because some temp, lots more people get to make wine because of facilities like this. So we get a lot more expression of different wines and different winemakers through production facilities like this.

14:15

And here we are standing underneath a olive

14:18

tree. So yeah, we have all the trees all over the property here. And it’s very common to see all of trees all throughout Sonoma Valley just because same with you know, when you go to Italy, a lot of places where all of their happy grapes are happy to be part

14:31

of the terroir, part of the terroir Exactly. What part of the facilities this

14:37

gets called the CrashPad. Typically, sometimes the breezeway when no one’s here is how I think about it. We’re looking at a gigantic bladder press right in front of us. Yeah. So when you’re making white wines, though, the grapes will get sorted we’ll get the stems off and then they will go into this giant bladder press for white wines. Typically you are fermenting the juice on its own. You’re not leaving the skins on unless you’re making Something like orange wine. So this is fascinating to see just the huge tubs of juice that you get off of this fruit that ends up fermenting on its own for a while before it’s put into barrel or stainless steel or clay or whatever. So if you can picture exactly what happened here we had those three different grapes that came in and they were all separately pressed in this bladder press this big bladder that fills up with Aaron sites squishes all the grapes to the side. The reason Rose so light, all of the color body structure, from a red wine comes from the skins. It was quite a shock to me actually, when I started learning about wine where Rose came from, I would have assumed anything else. And then what it is basically is the juice from freshly picked red wine grapes. Because they haven’t had very much contact with the skins. There’s not a lot of color that comes in the body and the structure that would come from the skins is gone. But you get this lovely lighter, sort of eco red wine. And there’s so much fun, you can play with different varietals and the colors will change depending on how long you know the grapes have been sitting there. Alright, so we’re gonna walk all the way through Watch your step. It’s very wet right now. We can actually see in this bin, these have been pressed, this is leftover that’s going to get composted. All right, so things are a little busy inside, but what’s more fun is actually go to the vineyard, we want to take a look a little steep here. And we’re looking at vineyards right after things have been harvest. So you’re gonna see lots of fruit that’s been dropped on the ground. It’s a little dusty, but you are always welcome to try something.

16:23

And what varietals are we looking at as a Chardonnay, this looks like it may have already been picked. Right? There’s not very much left. Exactly. So

16:31

you can see a lot of it on the ground. Very, very sweet, particularly right before they’re about to be harvested or once they’ve been harvested. There’s always a very small window when I can bring people back here and we can actually try them but it’s so much fun to check in. And just to picture again you know the end product what we start with Plus it makes for lovely pictures. I love being able to come back here and clear my head and just take a stroll around everything and check in with the back and see how everything’s going. People always act like I’m doing them a huge favor by bringing them back here. I was like no, I love getting on my feet and looking at everything. Watch people comfortably say what they liked the best at the end of the tasting to order a bottle. You know, while they start talking about what they were paired with people relax and they start planning their future with this bottle.

17:15

I think it’s really important and I have always believed is that demystification of wine. Yeah, we don’t need to make it a this mystery. And the some mystified by the first thing we always want people to relax. But it’s also understand it’s a beverage, I take it seriously when I’m producing wine. But when we’re drinking wine, it’s not to get too serious about it. It’s something there to experience with people to eat, and have food and break bread. It’s something they’re to enjoy.

17:40

There was literally just a couple here yesterday. And I’m always curious about how people found in kudu basically, there are just hundreds of wineries out here, the fact that they walked in through our doors just seems like such a one in a million shot. You know, doing the tasting, getting them snacks and things. And Butch and I are sort of trading off, it was a slow day. So we’re just getting to know them and, and finally comes out. That’s their anniversary. And I was like, of all the wineries I’m so glad you came here to celebrate with us and like How touching. And so we not only got to be part of their tasting experience, the fact that they picked our winery of all the wineries to have this very, very special day. So they made a reservation while they were here for dinner based on a recommendation that we gave them. People put a lot of trust in us to as far as what they should be experiencing or what’s the best out here too. And it feels like sort of a big responsibility that I remember, I’m like we’re here, we’re here to enjoy ourselves. And like you can’t go too wrong, which is often what I tell people with restaurant recommendations, to watch them sort of take our advice and to shape the rest of their evening on this wonderful celebration was as a special thing to be a part of.

18:40

Sounds like with time, great wines open up and from what I’m hearing, everyone who comes in also opens up given the right class away. Yeah, part of

18:50

that is taking the time, I’m able to tell people to take their time and if it’s two hours that they’re sitting there enjoying that’s fine. No one wants to rush through drinking wine and the wine responds better, and the people respond better. And Sonoma is just it has a reputation for being laid back. I’ll call it slow Noma. Sometimes, we’re really spoiled here. Yeah. It is nice to give people what my experience has been with Sonoma is that we’re not in a hurry. There’s so much to enjoy here. Take your time. Becca,

19:18

thank you so much for showing me around the tasting room, the production facility and these beautiful vineyards on this incredibly warm fall day.

19:25

It’s my pleasure. I’m really glad that you found us.

19:29

Sonoma is beautiful, and I can feel myself slowing down. I got to meet Catherine, Phil, Matt and Becca and you’ll get to hear from them again. But I just got a text from Phil and it looks like the peanut grapes are going to get picked tonight. dropped off at the facility tomorrow morning. And we’ll be back here first thing in the morning to sort them and learn from Phil all about the winemaking process, literally from vine to godly. Hope you join us.