A Wine Fit for a King... of Rock n' Roll
One of the most difficult decisions in attempting to tell the story of Jory Winery is deciding on exactly where to begin.
Stillman Brown, 43, founded Jory some fifteen years ago, and describes himself alternately as either the Mad Genius or the Loose Cannon. It you think that’s a bit unusual, you haven’t seen anything yet.
The winery’s beginnings were innocuous enough, and came about when Brown developed the idea for a winery after producing a proprietary wine in 1984 for a restaurant aptly named Fiasco that was located in Marina del Rey. Brown credits well-known winemaker Dave Gehrs, the founder of Congress Springs and more recently of Zaca Mesa fame, with a helping hand during Jory’s formative period. For the record, Jory was the middle name of one of Stillman Brown’s uncles and Brown was sufficiently enamored with the name as to use it for his winery.
Jory’s first releases were small and well received and the winery has slowly grown to its present 6,000 case volume with long term potential to reach the 10,000 case level. Sounds pretty normal right? Maybe you better read this before answering.
“Without intending disrespect to those who adhere to somewhat more traditional creeds, I assert that a mondo-materialistic culture, in which individuals strive to become powerful, wealthy and charismatic (or just worship those who are) should, indeed must have as its saint, its holy martyr, its sacrificial lamb and golden calf, none other than Elvis Presley. This is a dogma fit for a king.”——Stillman Brown
Why Elvis? Stillman Brown is happy to provide an answer.
He feels that Elvis had it all, charisma, money, power…everything. Elvis’ basic fault was that he couldn’t moderate his intake and subsequently lost everything and became a lesson to us all. A secondary consideration was that The King didn’t drink wine and therefore Brown’s incredible censure to the long gone hero of American music lore.
To this end, Stillman Brown searched out an artist to paint a picture that would be called “Resurrection of the Death of the King” that can be viewed on the winery’s website, jorywinery.com. Please note bottles of Jory Chardonnay on the shelf behind the mirror.
The huge painting had its debut at San Francisco’s London Wine Bar (where else?) and an annual Elvis lunacy was initiated. From the small crowd (25) that first attended, successive parties and venues have attracted larger crowds including this past year’s gathering of over 400. Luminaries attend the functions including Dread Zeppelin, Haight Paste and many notables from the wine industry who wish to remain anonymous.
Through all this, Stillman Brown and Jory Winery have made some really incredible wines and garnered a great number of accolades. Most of their wines are sold out before their release and the waiting list for future offerings is growing. A particular wine, this month’s Platinum Selection, is considered among the most prestigious Chardonnays produced in California. It is made from a specific clone of Chardonnay named after storied Corton-Charlemagne. It traces its ancestry back to Burgundian notable Louis Latour who brought his old friend Paul Masson some clippings around the turn of the last century. Later, around Saratoga, California, Martin Ray became involved and planted the clone at nearby Mount Eden. Only a few sites still exist that are undeniably the Corton-Charlemagne Clone and one is the Lion Oaks Ranch that provides the fruit for the marvelous Jory Winery Chardonnay.
Stillman Brown is not a man given to portentousness, but he firmly believes the 1999 Jory Chardonnay is the best single bottle of wine he has ever produced, which says it all for someone like Stillman Brown.
Both Stillman Brown and Jory Winery provide the basis for great prose, but the success of each can be attributed to the exacting quality and taste experience of the wines that bear their names. We know each of you will truly enjoy this month’s Platinum Series Wine of the month club selection.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members
Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Stillman Brown, winemaker and part owner of Jory Winery, and I've been making Chardonnay for fifteen years. For the last half of that period I've used only the very rare Corton-Charlemagne clone fruit from Lion Oaks Ranch in the southwestern corner of Santa Clara County, a cool pocket in the coastal mountains about ten miles from Monterey Bay.
The vast majority of Chardonnay vines are made from very productive clones and grown in large vineyards; these vines produce enough grapes to make six to twelve bottles of wine, per vine. At Lion Oaks Ranch we average two bottles of wine per vine, the natural production of this authentic clone in the soils at the ranch.
The year 1999 was a classic year for coastal California viticulture: cool and dry, with a few warm spells but no devastating heat waves or harvest rains. It produced what is probably the best white wine I have ever made, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Thank you very much!