Download &
print (pdf)


It is the Holidays and I want to end this article on a cheerful note. Many Williams Selyem customers wrote humorous poems about the winery and submitted them for publication in the fall and spring W&S News mailers sent to those on the mailing list. This clever poem was submitted by David Fish of Phoenix, Arizona, and appeared in the fall 1996 release mailer.

Twas the night before harvest
And all through the chai
Not a vintner was sleeping
Especially Burt & Ed, nay

The clusters were hung
Double cordon with care
In hopes St. Brix (24)
Would be there

When out from the fields
There arose such a screaming
That all within miles
Discontinued their dreaming

The sirens were blaring
“Warning: Temperature drop!”
Don’t let them freeze
Or else lose the whole crop!

The smudge pots were fired
The windmills on high
And both Ed and Burt
Let out passionate cries

“On Summa, on Olivet,
Drive now: save Cohn
Alert Rochioli, and
Warn Ferrington!”

The battle was fought
Nearly freezing ’til dawn
The sun lifted spirits
By degrees, they had won!

The harvest was perfect
The crush was A-1
Total production was
Up by a ton

When wines were all bundled
Up snug in tonneau
Bungs tapped in tightly
Fermentation quite slow

All panic subsided
The pair took deep breaths
And furtively looked at
Their much-cluttered desks

Allocation Discussion
And sales point of view
“What do we sell?
Who gets one? Who gets two?”

“We’ll wait until morning
We’ve earned a respite
A short glass of Zin
and to both a “Good Night’”

View the 2007 James Beard award-winning video, 'Stewards of the Land Russian River Valley,' filmed by the Grape Radio crew that includes Burt Williams being interviewed: Since this issue was published, I have had a few communications worthy of noting. Mel Knox, who supplied Burt with Francois Fréres barrels for many years wrote the following. Unfortunately, he destroyed many records of his business when he retired. Knox was the one who took Becky and Russell to Williams Selyem. He remembers that Gerard and Francoise Potel of Pousse d' Or might have been there as well, along with Clive Coates, Michel and Noelle Lafarge, and a British guy who was planting grapes near Cambridge. Earlier Mel had taken Dominique Lafon there but he did not like the wine. Russell really loved the Jackass Hill Zinfandel, a wine Mel would not have expected a European to admire but may have been related to Russell's love of Port. As Mel recalls, Burt and Ed bought barrels from him when they were Hacienda Del Rio. Mel also pointed out that Jim Clendenen used to wait for Kistler to get tired of their equipment then adapting them for his use. He also started with used dairy tanks for fermentation. Bob Travers of Mayacamas made fermentation tanks from plywood covered with Verithane. Burt's friend, Blake Brown, reports that he had a bottle of 1997 Williams Selyem Riverblock Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir to commemorate his recent birthday. His notes: "Fill was at bottom of the capsule. Color was an unadulterated red-purple. I have had many a bottle of this and was surprised and delighted to discover there is now a huge dose of blueberry that has joined the red raspberry and red and black cherry fruit. In fact, this was the perfect expression of blueberry at its best. Seamless, full-bodied and long at the back end. Accents of spice, cinnamon and a hint of clove added to the overall stellar experience. We kept marveling about how good this was throughout the entire evening while toasting Burt on his new journey to the heavens. I had the feeling he may have been present and performed a miraculous shift in the fruit profile blending in the blueberries. Thanks Burt." Ron Marshall writes: "I still remember being on a wine trip in the early eighties and someone telling me I should check out a winery in Sonoma called Williams Selyem. I followed up and discovered what became my benchmark New World Pinot Noir. One whiff of this wine and you were hooked for life. I kept a 1986 bottle of Pinot Noir in my cellar forever until you implored me to drink it. Needless to say, it did not disappoint. I am proud to say that I am number 33 on the Williams Selyem mailing list and was told 5 years ago that there is only one active member with a lower number." Greg Peterson writes: "Love these wines and felt I had won the lottery when I moved from the waitlist to the allocation list. And, truly love the history you shared in this issue."

Print entire newsletter

Wineries in this Article