Finally! Oktoberfest is here.

As summer turns to autumn (well, a hotter version of autumn that we call fall in Florida), preferences go from pilsners and weissbier to something a little more  bold… a little more German.  As we celebrate the first day of the beeriest time of the year, the search for brews that warm us up, just as the temperature begins to fall slightly, begins. But at ABC, your search for those beloved fall amber lagers known as Oktoberfestbier ends with a pleasant “gulp.”

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But first a little history:

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Z. Alexander Brown Wine

Yep, you read that correctly. Zac Brown Band lead singer, Zac Alexander Brown combined his love for food with wine and teamed up with winemaker, John Killebrew, to make some pretty outstanding wines. We asked John just a few more questions – read on!

How did Zac and winemaker John Killebrew meet? Tell me about the first meeting and how the wines came from that meeting.

Zac is a natural creator and foodie who has always been interested in making wine. He was looking for a like-minded wine family to partner with.  Knowing this, a mutual friend suggested that he meet with Delicato Family Vineyards (my employer).

Zac flew to Napa after one of his shows and arrived at the winery just after midnight.  Zac, his Master of Wine and the Delicato Winemakers tasted through dozens of wines.  Afterwards they all enjoyed a massive dinner with family, friends and winemaking.  After tasting numerous blends (too many to count), pulling samples directly from barrels, eating like kings and playing bocce ball (very badly) until the wee hours–Zac woke up the next morning (after very little sleep) and decided he liked the winery, the family and the wines… and that was the beginning of our partnership.

As winemaking commenced, Zac and I hit it off instantly when working together.  Zac and I collaborated in tastings and blending sessions in Napa Valley and Zac’s home in Georgia until they were completely satisfied with the blends for Z. Alexander Brown wines.

You mention the winemaking term “élevage,” which means “bringing up” — nurturing and raising grapes in the vineyard and wine in the cellar using the best growing practices with little intervention and a careful touch. What best practices do you use to ensure proper élevage?

The craftsmanship starts in the vineyard, out in each block deciding what to pick. For winemaking – that is show time.   Then, during the blending process, it is critical to be thorough and deliberate. The wines’ robust style is reflective of the land and the unlimited potential that result from Zac’s passion for bringing food, people and a sense of place together through creativity. Committed to sustainable farming and winemaking practices that favor natural over man made controls, Z. Alexander Brown wines subscribe to a winemaking philosophy that allows the grapes to be honest, unrestricted expressions of vintage and origin.

John, how did you know you wanted to go Northern Cali coastal vineyards for these wines? What about those vineyards contributes to the wine?

California’s North Coast experienced its third straight year of outstanding quality. The winter months were recorded as some of the driest in recent years, but light rain showers in early spring provided a sturdy foundation for an ideal bud break and fruit set. Warm and reain-free, the dry conditions throughout the rest of the growing season produced smaller berries than usual, resulting in concentrated flavors, bright aromatics and structured tannins.

What’s a specific way that music and winemaking are tied together?

Alexander Brown wines are a result of Zac and both collaborating with a passion for bringing food, people and a sense of place together.  Zac’s creative sensibility and “homegrown” perspective pair perfectly with John’s approach to making wine.