SACC SF caught up by phone with a busy Katarina Bonde of West Wines who, at the time, was in a snowed-in Stockholm for the banquet.

by: Michael Strom

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Hi Katarina, congratulations are in order. How unexpected was this great accolade?
"Thank you! Well, when we first got a call in the middle of the October harvest, informing us of how the Nobel Committee’s sommeliers had chosen our 2005 wine as the official wine for the banquet, we were of course thrilled and stunned."

And you had to keep it a big secret until …?
"Yes, we had to be very hush-hush about it, not many people knew about it and we managed to keep it a secret until the very night before the actual announcement when we sent it out to our customers."

How was it finally decided that is was this wine over all others?
"The wine tasters initially have many more wines that come recommended to them from various sources, for example fine dining establishments. In the first culling, only 30 wines make it through. These 30 wines are then each tasted individually with the intended main course, and it is based on how well each wine is paired with the main course that in the end decides the winner."

And your wine was paired very well with the main course. Any chance that we will see repeat success?
"That chance is usually pretty small since the wine would have to be the best wine with next year’s dinner as well―it has happened, but it is very rare for a wine to be that versatile."

What was it that set your West Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 apart from the rest of the competition?
"I can only speak for our own wines and grapes, which are of the utmost quality and are grown on the west side of The Dry Creek Valley. The conditions are such that the grapes get sweet from the sunny California weather, but are also tempered by the nightly fog rolling in from the San Francisco Bay."

So is it fair to say that the quality of your wine is at the behest of the weather?
"The way it works is that the California weather and climate is definitely stable enough to allow you to aim for a certain consistency in quality each year. The cold fog from the Pacific sweeps in like a cold blanket which gives balance to the hot California sun, thereby prolonging the season and allowing the flavors more time to mature. And 2005 happened to be a particularly long season, extending into November."

So was it a team effort?
"Yes it was. Bengt and I, our winemaker Phyllis Zouzounis, and everybody else, we all had a part in it."

And how has the response been from your customers?
"We have received a lot of attention, and while our wines have always been in the cellars of certain Michelin star restaurants in Stockholm and Göteborg, this really puts us on the map. And the order for the festivities was a pretty big one in and of itself. Our cooperation with Winefinder in Denmark—a to-the-doorstep wine delivery company catering to Swedish customers—also picked up significant pace. Swedes are more aware of it, but when you explain the significance to Americans they, too, appreciate it for the great achievement that it really is."

What was behind the decision to move to California in the first place?
"Bengt and I moved to Seattle in 1992 to work in the IT-industry and in 1998 bought a 60 acre vineyard in Sonoma County as our vacation retreat. Eventually, we started to get more interested in the whole industry and in 2002 we decided to start our own very brand. At first we only produced Cabernet Sauvignon, later on we expanded into Chardonnay, Viognier and Crest Cuvee, a Bordeaux-style blend."

What are your benefits from being member of the SACC SF/SV network?
"We benefit a lot from being a part of such a diverse network, where help with whatever you need is just a phone call away. And the network works as a stamp of quality; you know you can rely on the network to help get out the word about an event, for example, and everybody shares this common interest in all things Swedish."

The West Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 served at the Nobel Banquet, along with West Wines’ assortment of Chardonnays, Viogniers and Crest Cruvees can be found and ordered from http://www.westwines.com/