Interview for Episode 162 of Day Drinking with Brian

Interview for Episode 162 of Day Drinking with Brian

Interview by Brian Freedman for Day Drinking with Brian

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or the transcript is below:

Brian Freedman: Hey! Welcome to Day Drinking with Brian where once a week I normally bring you into my office so I can drink in front of a camera. I am in the best office ever right now! I am at the gorgeous Memento Mori estate. Here with the co-founder of Memento Mori and El Negocio Tequila, Adam Craun. Adam, thank you. It's a pleasure to be here.

Adam Craun: Thank you for being here and what you just saw there is the anchor of our property here, the James Turrell piece that everybody notices when we acquired this property about a year ago really a stunning piece of this property.

Brian Freedman: Yeah, we actually have three of them at Chateau Freedman in Philadelphia. It's beautiful. It's a gorgeous property You really get a visceral idea of just this amazing terrain that you have here. I mean this and the wines of Memento Mori have been on fire. Justifiably so! So the question I have for you is why do we have Memento Mori 2021 Napa Cab and then three tequilas? Because, generally speaking here on Day Drinking we don't do like that sort of a thing. So, what is the connection here between all of these? And, while you're telling us a little bit about Memento Mori I'm just going to throw all of this back because it's spectacular.

Adam Craun: Thanks for being here. This has been the love of my life. I started Memento Mori with two of my best friends, childhood friends, Hayes Drumwright and Adriel Lares. We've been making these wines with for almost 15 years now with our incredible Sam Kaplan as the winemaker. This particular vintage super highly lauded in the Napa Valley. They are hundred point wines. Very, very fortunate to be drinking these and be producing these wines. I like to tell people I've always had a special relationship with alcohol.

Brian Freedman: Yeah, you and me both Adam!

Adam Craun: So after making wine, I want to make gin, I want to make Bourbon,  and this is the first project outside of the wine that I really, really wanted to do. And I call this El Negocio, our vintner's style Tequila. So it's the same way we approach the wine here in Napa Valley as we do our Tequila.

Brian Freedman: Well, I think that's a really important thing because tequila has been on a sort of interesting trajectory for the last several years. Right? I mean, its exploded in popularity and what seems to be happening now is there is this serious and significant focus on not just the quality of the spirit, but on the sourcing of the agave, the way it's being fermented and distilled, the way it's being aged. So that sort of obsessive level of attention to detail that you and your team are applying to Memento Mori... applying it to Tequila is really sort of a fascinating thing. Right? So, what is the connection here between these? So if we... it pains my soul to put this away so let's get one more taste please, because you know... work. Honestly, this is one of those wines if you're lucky enough to have a few bottles of this... and if you don't have any seek them out... because this is screamingly delicious right now. But this will continue to age brilliantly for a very long time but there's no sacrifice at all drinking this now. But I'm going to put it aside and finish it in about 11 to 12 minutes. So, what's the connection here? Which Tequila are we starting with here?

Adam Craun: So we're gonna start on your left hand side. This will be the Blanco. So for all Tequila purists this is the most important product that they make down there.

Brian Freedman: Why?

Adam Craun: Our approach is exactly how a wine maker would approach this. The quality of the agave our agave, takes 6 years to mature. So it begins really maturing at 6 to 10 years It's a vintner's approach. We wait till that agave, which we call pinas or pineapples...

Brian Freedman: Right. That heart of it after the leaves are hacked off with the coa and the jimadors taking care of that...

Adam Craun: Correct. So you know! We wait till it's fully mature just like we would a grape. It's the exact same thing. And it's kind of been lost, I think, in the art of Tequila making. So our Master Distiller, just like our wine maker, Chava Rosales, his family has been making these Tequilas or three generations.

Brian Freedman: He's a legend! You mention his name to Tequila people and the room sort of goes quiet.

Adam Craun: It's the truth and he's not well known in the United States and I think we, in terms of branding and marketing, we approach Chava just like we would a Sam Kaplan. So we're gonna promote him and he's the star here. He's the artist of this project. We're just branding guys and we love to promote these guys like a Sam Kaplan or a Chava Rosales because they're the rock stars. They really are.

Brian Freedman: Well, I mean this Blanco is... the nose on this is extraordinary. And I think you said something important that the Blanco is really the basis by which a tequila is going to be judged by a lot of people because there's nothing really to cover it up. In a perfect world there's nothing to cover it up. So there's no time spent, you know, in wood that's going to be influencing it. This is really the pure expression of the agave and of the distillers art. So let's taste this and and take me through this.

Adam Craun: So what you're smelling here, first of all on the nose, this is exactly what our distillery, NOM 1123 Cascahuin. This is exactly what the distillery is. This is cooked agave and this is the art of it. This is what you are chasing to make. And so... in a lot of ways like our discussion prior to this, I'm not sure that a lot of people actually know what this smell is in the United States. And so our job here is kind of reintroducing what the classic, real, authentic Tequilas are in the United States.

Brian Freedman: There's this beautiful sort of roasty note from that caramelized agave. There's something that reminds me a little bit of like that depth that you get with almost like corn nuts or roasted corn and I I love that! So does the palette for you is it what you expect from the nose or is there something else going on here for you?

Adam Craun: What you're going to notice is all of our fruit is actually Zona Valles. Which is the valley floor fruit. Identical to what we do at Memento Mori so that's a fascinating interchange there.

Brian Freedman: Another connection!

Adam Craun: Right! So... that's where the most intense heat is, that's where the minerality is, and that's where the Cascahuin family has been sourcing their pinas forever. And for us, when we started this... by the way, I started this with Nicholas Lutz. He's the very first customer of Memento Mori.

Brian Freedman: Amazing! Okay! You guys are like you're just marinating in the serendipity. I love it!

Adam Craun: It's romantic in its own way.

Brian Freedman: And also, on the back here you know I love the fact that you're not going to be able to see this here, but when you go out and buy plenty of El Negocio you'll be able to see it. But on the back here, you're actually using you're extracting the juice using a Tahona! Which is the old school way of doing it! It's the giant lava stone. You're extracting more character, more flavor. Those fibers are interacting differently with the liquid. So this really is a quality focused product. It's a quality obsessed product. I love this! This is... you know a... Hold on. I'm being distracted. All right look, we've got to move on. This one here, the Reposado. Now, this is where the distinct connection with Memento Mori is coming in because you are not just aging your Reposado in any barrels. You're actually shipping down to Mexico ex-Memento Mori barrels. You're having  complete control over that. What does that do?

Adam Craun: So, you know, we like to say each bottle of El Negocio has taken 6 years to make because the barrels start in France, in Bordeaux. They house what we believe is one of the most world class, best wines you can be and then they're shipped down to Jalisco where we make these. Our Reposado has been aged 4 months in these used, Memento Mori French Oak barrels.

Brian Freedman: Look at this color! This is not a... I mean, this is like... this is like a beautiful golden amber I would call this. Right? This doesn't look like 4 months. So how are you getting that sort of deep, rich color in there? That's just because of the barrels?

Adam Craun: Correct. So what you're seeing with our... and this is really the differentiator, with our brand, is that we are treating it like a world class wine. I cannot stress enough these barrels are reserved for the A-Class Tier producers of wine in the world and we're fortunate to have access to them. And so to be able to treat a tequila with the same care and love as a world class wine and grapes... for us, we think it's pretty special.

Brian Freedman: What I love about this is, you know, you're certainly getting that wonderful influence from those Memento Mori barrels. We're getting some of those sweeter spices, those honeyed notes to it, some of those vanillinssort of getting in there. But, you're still able to fully appreciate that beautiful agave character. It's not being defined by its time in oak. It's being... I don't know, amplified by it.

Adam Craun: Exactly. So, this is what we've learned through hundreds and hundreds of years of making wine. The influence of this type of oak really brings out the character and balances out the notes of the alcohol. So what you're seeing is there's real sweetness here. There's real volume and there is... you can see even legs on the product. Right? I mean it's... It looks almost like wine in a lot of ways. But our goal is to treat this and the experience of drinking Tequila just like you would a world class Cognac or a Bourbon or Whiskey Guy.We're trying to reintroduce it to the world and I think this is the way to do it.

Brian Freedman: Well I love the word you use. There is a volume to it. There's a tactile presence to this Reposado. It's still energetic. It's still incredibly fresh but you do have that increased sense of weight on the palate. But without losing what made the Blanco so extraordinary on its own. We then have the Joven. So what is the difference here because we're going back to a Tequila that looks pretty similar to the Blanco?

Adam Craun: It's fascinating. You know the Joven, for people that don't know, it's the one product that you can make in Mexico that you can actually blend two different expressions of Tequila with. So, in this case in our case, we're blending our Blanco, our base, with just a little bit of our Reposado and it allows us to manipulate it just like a wine maker would manipulate two Cabernet Vineyards for example, and use different barrel treatments. So for us, it's super fun! We put it in a matte back bottle because it's gonna look different every time we release another vintage. By the way, we call our tequilas vintages because they're supposed to taste differently.

Brian Freedman: Spoken like a wine guy. And this to me is is its own thing. Right. It's not splitting the difference between the Blanco and the Reposado. It becomes its own liquid. That's completely different from anything I've tasted in the last several months. Which, I taste a lot! That's wonderful! So... look. I think what you're doing here with El Negocio... I think there's always pressure. Right? Like when you create a wine like Memento Mori that has gained so much justifiable attention and respect... then all of a sudden you start making a Tequila, under a different brand of course, but look, I mean there's still a connection here! We still have the Memento Mori the shaking hands with with a skeleton there. So I think there's pressure to live up to that quality level and that level of of honesty and expressiveness. And man... You guys have done that! You threaded that needle somehow! It's incredible!

Adam Craun: Thank you so much. You know we've learned that the pressure is a good thing in our business. Every year in the wine to deliver... every year. Year in and year out. And it becomes a game almost. And so, the approach is no different in the tequila. We want do the same thing. It's deliver to consumers the best quality product you can.

Brian Freedman: Well, I'm gonna end this amazing day in the best way I know how... by double fisting cheers with you with Memento Mori and Reposado! So let's go like that. Exactly. Adam, thank you. It is an honor to be here. You know this is a... I think what you're doing and your partners are doing is extraordinary and I cannot wait to see where you all go with both of these in the coming years and decades. And thank you all for joining me here on Day Drinking with Brian. This clearly is not Chateau Freedman. I'd like to say we relocated to Napa but sadly not yet. But, until next time always drink the good stuff! This is the only thing that matters! Adam, cheers.

Adam Craun: Cheers.

Brian Freedman: And cheers to you!