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This week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show© I was fortunate to be able spend a little time talking to one of the wine industries top cult wine heroes, Jayson Woodbridge. Passion has a fuse and every entrepreneur has one. It is interesting to have a conversation with someone like Jayson to find out when his got ignited, and that’s just what I did.
Jayson is a great winemaker, we know that from the wines he has produced and shared with us. I personally think of Jayson as an entrepreneur because of his life, experiences, and his journey into the wine kingdom. Jayson’s work life began in a pizza parlor that his Grandparents owned. As I listened to Jayson telling his story it conjured up fond memories from the Italian neighborhood I grew up in Upstate New York, and yes back then we called it a pizza parlor. A pizza parlor back then was not just a takeout joint. There were actually places to sit so you could hang out with your friends, talk, and eat way to much great pizza. This is the picture that painted my mind as Jayson reminisced about growing up and working with his Grandparents in their establishment.
The inspiration to make great wine today comes from Jayson’s past. His Grandparents worked very hard at their pizza parlor as did the customers that frequented their place and as Jayson explained to me that this is where he was struck with his first entrepreneurial epiphany. Just like real-estate location, location, location in the business world if you have a product or service it better have value, value, and more value. Watching his Grandparents work hard, Jayson clearly understood this concept.
Every Sunday Jayson’s Grandmother would bake a beautiful Layer Cake and I could tell from the way he described this that he lived for a slice of that cake every week. Here is where the passion candle was lit for Jayson, right on that Layer Cake. When Jayson and his Grandfather would sit around waiting for the Sunday cake they would talk about food and wine. This is when Jayson’s Grandfather shared with him the secret of good wine, that just like Grandma’s Layer Cake with layers of ingredients and goodness so should a great wine be structured. Jayson who obviously has a deep admiration and love for his Grandparents listened and learned and so goes the rest of the story.
I was persistent in my efforts to have a Jayson as a guest as I have listened to and watched the way he operates, implements, and executes everything he does. Jayson is originally from Canada and had a very successful career as an investment banker. That entrepreneurial background is serving him well in the career he really loves, winemaker extraordinaire.
Jayson is known for his cult hit labels Hundred Acre and Cherry Pie, he began the Layer Cake wine series as a tribute to his grandfather, striving to make affordable wines with a luxurious taste. The Layer Cake name evokes the memory of something comforting, rich and delicious.
A unique wine brand with multiple country AVA’s, Layer Cake is handmade in some of Jayson’s favorite wine regions from around the world; he actually makes wine on 4 continents. Each Layer Cake wine is crafted implementing the same small winery techniques and quality standards for which Jayson is well known. Jayson and his winemaking team travel the globe to make all of his wines. They work with small family growers, rigorously selecting only the best fruit. Jayson not only does business with these families but he is friends with them too. He and his team enjoy joy sharing wine, food, and friendship with the families he does business with in faraway places.
Harkening back to the conversation Jayson had with his Grandfather he remembered that really good wine should be just like his Grandmother’s delicious layer cake; the layers of soils under the vines produce layers of rich flavors, aromatics, and textures in the wine. Layers of chocolate, mocha, dark berry fruit, and spices found in the Layer Cake wines rival the layers of flavors complimenting his Grandmother’s wonderful layer cake.
Jayson also shared with me his recollection of how hard his Grandparents worked and that they could not afford expensive wine. So with his current label, Layer Cake, it was significantly important to him to produce wine that consumers could afford, enjoy, and find extreme value in. And guess what that is exactly what Jayson Woodbridge has done.
The current Layer Cake offerings include Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley, a Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina, an old vine Primitivo, aka Zinfandel, from Puglia, Italy, a California Central Coast Chardonnay, and a California Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are all brilliantly done, a true delight for any person just beginning to discover wine or for the discriminating wine lover. The wines Jayson has made are super approachable in terms of style, quality, and price. Layer Cake wines are equivalent to a fifty dollar bottle that you walk up to the shelf in your market and put in your basket to take home and enjoy for only $15.00 dollars. You have got to love that and you will. Now let’s take a look at these beautiful wines.
Layer Cake Chardonnay from the Central Coast of California
The Virgin Chardonnay is so named because it never comes in contact with any oak. Layer Cake wine lovers have expressed Jayson’s shared interest in getting back to what Chardonnay used to be: Clean, crisp, layered, refreshing fruit, a hint of summer, with none of the overbearing heaviness of oak.
The nose is like walking through a blossoming Meyer lemon orchard, a spring stream running over wet cobblestones in the background, and a hint of lemon meringue pie baking inside the cottage nearby. Fresh and vibrant, the wine builds in body and texture as it sits in your mouth. Kaffir lime, guava, pineapple and a note of flint flow in first, then the light creamy texture of lemon curd fills in the flavor palette. The finish is clean and crisp, lingering enough to make you want another sip.
Layer Cake Malbec from Mendoza Argentina
The fruit for Layer Cake Malbec comes from a vineyard that is flanking the Mendoza River in Argentina; a rocky terrain, strikingly similar to that of Chateauneuf du Pape in the Rhône Valley. Clay and gravel make up the subsoil under the larger cobble forcing each vine to compete for nutrition; the result is a wine profoundly concentrated and rich, “always rich”.
This wine is pure, rich and very elegant; a powerhouse of lush black fruit, silky cocoa, black spice and cream, wrapped around blackberry, cherry and ripe plum. This Malbec is layered and complex with a nose to linger over, a finish that never ends. Sweet anise, hints of tobacco, black chocolate, more cherries and exotic spices, layers of jam. This wine will stand and perform anytime you think of a Cabernet and want something just a little more exotic. Born at the base of the Andes and fed by the purest spring waters.
Layer Cake Shiraz from the Barossa Valley in South Australia
Layer Cake Shiraz is produced in South Australia which is arguably one of the top shiraz-growing regions of the world. Within SA, the McLaren Vale is the most diverse and historic sub-region with vines dating back to the 1830’s. The microclimates within McLaren Vale are what give Layer Cake Shiraz its complexity. For our Shiraz, we pull from vineyards all over McLaren Vale; from the full-clustered, sandy soiled blocks on the sea coast of Gulf St. Vincent, to the Terra Rosa based, tiny-berried wind- blown hills across the Vale. The vineyards are all within a few miles of each other, yet give us a broad array of flavors to blend into a complete wine.
This incredible Shiraz is dark, dense and creamy, complex aromas of black plum, Bing cherry, blackberry and pepper merge with licorice, tobacco, mocha and dark chocolate. This is one inky Shiraz; an explosion of dark, super ripe, wild blackberry, with a touch of cigar box finishing with a mélange of exotic spices. A pure fruit bomb…complete from attack through a long, lingering finish. Chefs will save this cake for themselves.
Layer Cake Primitivo from Puglia in Southern Italy
The fruit for Layer Cake Primitivo a.k.a. Zinfandel comes from head-trained old vines and is harvested in early September. This is truly remarkable plant material in very old vineyards; some dating to Roman times. The soils in Manduria are red iron-rich clays with large calcareous rocks, shells and coral from ancient sea beds. We’re talking ancient, gnarled baskets hugging the ground and the rocks around them.
This Layer Cake wine is a great balance of elegance and power; inky black fruit, spice and white pepper, jammy black cherries, plums, blackberry fruit, truffles, tar, and espresso. Warm and rich in the mouth with a creamy texture; the ripe fruit is well supported by the deep structure of the wine. Sit back and travel through time…Relax on a hot summer evening, the fountain in the background, church-bells in the distance.
Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon from California
Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon was made from select vineyard sites in California combining richness and big fruit flavors with classic structure and tannic power. This wonderful Cabernet was fermented using hand punch downs and gentle pumpovers; then transferring some to French oak for aging. The biggest structured, most powerful lots were put into new French oak for aging to balance the tannins and extract the rich flavors from the barrique. Some lots that would benefit from the softening effect of time in oak were put into French barrels that were used to age. By carefully blending the different lots, varying oak types and different vineyard lots, Jayson has created a balanced and complex wine. This is what is known as a beautiful Layer Cake.
This wine is visually beautiful, displaying a deep garnet color in your glass. There are aromas of blackberry, cassis, violets, cedar, tobacco, and hints of minerals and graphite on the nose. This Cabernet is sweet, densely packed and creamy in the mouth, but with firm, underlying structure that gives lift to the dark berry, chocolate, and coffee flavors, yum. Enjoy this very lush, soft, complex wine that coats the palate and spreads out on the long, lingering finish.
Jayson has really hit a homerun with these interesting, complex wines that offer amazing value for the wine consumer. Great price, $15.00, and great value I recommend each of these wines. I endorse this entire series of Layer Cake wines with the WineGuyMike™ Seal of Approval® If you haven’t seen Jayson Woodbridge on YouTube I suggest you watch a few while enjoying your wine. Here is my favorite YouTube video from Jayson; http://youtu.be/nlH40IRhNb8
A special shout out and thanks to Jayson for taking time to join me this week on the WineGuyMike™ Radio Show©. I look forward to sharing a glass of wine Jayson, Salute.