La Philosophie du Soliste
We speak often about what Soliste means. Not because we need the reassurance; to the contrary, we are quite clear in our mission to craft the best possible wines in the new world. For us, Soliste represents a way of life. It is a humble and elusive quest for excellence based upon a shared vision rooted in deep friendship.
The journey that is Soliste reflects the passion and commitment born of old world beliefs and traditions joined in a way that transcends individual ideas. We are particularly inspired by winemakers who have challenged the status quo to elevate their region or cépage to grand cru level. Central to our philosophy is to be bold, experimental, and take risks; not arbitrarily, but with intent, diligence, and a long term vision. The rebellious voice of the Master of St Andelain, the self-taught iconoclast Didier Dagueneau, echos in our winery, “If you want to be the best, you need the methods and techniques to get you there: Your vines must bear the best grapes; your vinification must be the most rigorous. There are no recipes. It's all in the details of viticulture and all the details of winemaking, the assemblage of little things, 100 details and commitments which makes for the minute differences between a good wine and a great one.”
Our quest to create wines of great finesse and complexity requires patience, tenacity, and a singular focus on uncompromising standards. It is also a commitment to sacrifice production to trace the footsteps of the Cistercian Monks of Vougeot: to focus on a single clone from a single vineyard and age in single cooperage to craft extraordinary wine that exemplifies their identity and sense of place – Terroir – our MonoClone® pinot noir.
Vineyard selection and care is the most important responsibility we have. Knowing the vineyard – its rhythms, patterns, and energy – are essential to growing the best possible grapes. In the winery we use trusted ancestral Burgundian techniques reflecting our respect for tradition and history, blended with intelligent use of modern production equipment and resources. As Henri Jayer said, “To produce great wines, the vine has to suffer and dig deep for resources, only then can it reappear in the bottle with all the complexity and finesse that becomes a great Pinot Noir.” Minimal intervention is not a catch-phrase; it reflects a core belief that our role is to work harmoniously with nature through the cycles that have endured for the ages. As we cellar, bottle, and release our wines, there are no artificial schedules. We simply wait, listen, and respect what the wine is telling us.
Every year with each vintage release, we can barely contain our excitement to finally share our dream with you. Soliste is the conduit to memorable nights at the dinner table with close friends and family – an essential ingredient of our lives. We craft Soliste so the last taste is greater than the first; with finesse, balance, and elegantly interlaced layers that are in complete harmony with exceptional cuisine. They do not compete, they are One.
This is our long-term mission, the rootstock of our winery, and one that will hopefully outlast us. Since there is limited instant gratification in winemaking, you must have the persistence of a Zen-like singular vision to stay true to the beliefs and values passed through generations. The glass of wine you enjoy symbolizes our philosophy and the identity that is Soliste.
We thank you for joining us on this journey.
Claude Koeberle & Donald Plumley
About the name: In Burgundy, a winemaker often reserves a barrel for their family and friends. They call this special barrel Soliste. We hope you enjoy our wine with great food and in the company of those you cherish - just as we do.
2005 - Our First Vintage
Gabby and Chip - The Original Scary Dogs
When Stars Align - Brothers from Another Mother
(as told by Don)
When we first met, it was unimaginable that a couple of decades later we would be partners - no, brothers - in the grand adventure that is Soliste. This is our story.
It's because of our dogs, Gabby and Chip. They met at the vet and introduced their people, Elisabeth and Beth to one another. They began walking Gabby and Chip together and quickly became friends. Beth asked Elisabeth, as she would typically do, "Would you and your husband like to come over for dinner?" To which she replied, "That's so nice. Nobody invites us to their house for dinner." That's odd...
They came and we had a really nice time together. No, I don't remember what we cooked or what drank. They quickly reciprocated, and the food was a lot better, as was the wine. This process kept repeating and we became good friends because of the dinner table. The endless conversations, debates (he is French), laughter - the very essence of life.
One day I was in the kitchen with Claude, admiring his knife skills. I naively noted, "Claude, you seem pretty handy in the kitchen." He replied (and insert French accent here), "Well, Don. As you know, I grew up in Lyon. My father Paul Koeberle was one of the most famous bakers in France. So I decided to become a chef. I trained under Paul Bocuse, then apprenticed under Alain Chapel. I then became the youngest Three Star Michelin Chef at La Vivarois in Paris. Later I moved to the US and was the Executive Chef at Le Cirque 2000, La Orangerie, and few other places."
The breath left my body. No wonder Elisabeth said, "Nobody invites us to their house for dinner." That's so intimidating. Oh - it gets better. Elisabeth trained under Jeremiah Tower and was a Chef at Zuni Café. It's a tough household to have a culinary discussion, let me tell you.
But we bonded around the dinner table. And I make a decent open fire pit Paella that brought Claude to tears one night - "It's sooo delicious." This is a man that knows how to enjoy a meal.
I've often said that my life is a series of happy accidents. It was at the same time Beth and I started focusing on Pinot Noir. And Claude is the single most devoted lover (and historian) of Burgundy that will ever meet. He grew up and learned from the legendary winemakers of Burgundy. He was (and still is) a very patient teacher to me, and by being very generous with his deep cellar, he took us on a wine (and culinary) adventure that I could not have imagined nor experienced in any other way. I'm grateful beyond simple words.
Fast forward a few years and Beth and I moved to Sonoma County, where Beth's sister Debbie and brother-in-law Marne farmed a pristine Pinot Noir vineyard outside of Sebastopol - Sonatera. Sometimes the stars align and you don't realize it until years later.
In 2005 I learned there was a block of grapes available. I took a bottle of their first vineyard designate wine down to Claude and asked, "What do you think?" (Insert French accent here) "Well, Don. It's not my style, but it's interesting." To which I replied, "Claude, since we first met, you have maligned new world wines (oh, don't get me started on his Cabernet/Bordeaux rant or Chardonnay condemnation - stories for another day). However, you have also said that in the 1970's, California produced very elegant wines. Why don't we give it try?"
Soliste was born.
In 2005 we made 143 cases of Pinot Noir from the Family vineyard. We thought we'd drink a few (okay, more than a few), maybe sell a few to Claude's chef friends. Although we did not know much, we did realize that selling wine is hard. So we knew we had to love the wines we made, because if we could not sell, them, we'd be drinking them all. That is the brand promise of Soliste - We will only sell wines that we will share with family and close friends. If we don't love the wines, they are sold off in bulk, or even destroyed (yes, really!). Because life enjoyed around the dinner table with delicious food, great wine, and family and friends is a life well-lived.
We owe it all to Gabby and Chip, the original Scary Dogs. That's why there are two paw prints on every cork, in every bottle of Soliste. Every time we open a bottle, we remember this story.
Salut, Kampai, Cheers!