A Conversation with Tom Gamble: Preserving a Family, Farming and a Legacy
It’s been about 18 months since I last had the chance to sit down with Tom Gamble, Owner of Gamble Family Cellars, yet constants remained. Tom Gamble remains a farmer first. He talked about never remembering a time when “there wasn’t dust in his nose.” And the wines remain a great deal for the consumer, but there is a little more distribution beyond the tasting room and direct, which is great news. Click here to read my original interview.
Tom Gamble and Richard Chamberlain
Three weeks ago I had a fantastic lunch with Tom, Kristin Pavlovic, Gamble Family Vineyards Sales and Marketing Manager, Michelle Williams, Rocking Red Blog (who gives a great recap of the lunch) and one of Dallas’ top Chefs Richard Chamberlain, at Chamberlain’s Fish Market. Even though Richard was knee deep in Cote du Coeur, which was scheduled for Saturday, he took the time to sit down with us and talk about food and wine.
Tom will never ever be described as the loudest voice in the room. While he is known for his innovation and history of firsts, you’d never know it unless you got him talking. He’s a third-generation Napa Valley farmer – think 100 years of farming. He talked about how his father would put him in the back of a pick-up truck and would tie him to a tree when he wanted to get work done when he was a kid.
Making wine was a conscious choice and he describes it is “being in his blood.” He and famed winemaker Mark Aubert made homemade garage wine years ago just to see if they could. Tom bought his first vineyard in college in Russian River Valley when land was under $1,000 an acre. When the interest rate went from 8 percent to 13 percent, he had to get a second mortgage and it took him six years to finish his degree while figuring out how to balance the business and vineyard.
He was the first in his family to grow grapes commercially. More than twenty years later, Gamble Family Vineyards was born in Oakville in 1981 with the goal of producing old world wines using Bordeaux varietals and low intervention winemaking techniques.
West Coast Halibut Crudo on Fried Sushi Rice
We tried the 2016 Gamble Family Sauvignon Blanc which is delicious and a grape that he takes “seriously, respecting the grape in an old world style.” When people were over planting Merlot in the 90’s, he was planting Sauvignon Blanc and pioneering this grape. He offers two – the one that we tried, and the Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc, available to members of the wine club and sold for $90 and is farmed with many Cabernet Sauvignon farming techniques.
Duck with locally farmed mushrooms and a cherry sauce paired with the Paramount Red
Black Pepper Encrusted Prime Rib Served Family Style Paired with the Cabernet Sauvignon
Chocolate Peanut Butter Heaven on a Plate (my description)
We then moved to the two Gamble Family Vineyards red wines you can get in retail and restaurants. These wines were based on his heritage of trying wines with layers of complexity in flavors and textures made to pair with food and friends. Tom continues his commitment to sustainability and taking care of the land. What I loved is that during our last conversation we weren’t certain about the future of family legacy, but his niece is stepping into the business with her internship this year and the future looks bright.
We also had a honest discussion about the fires and the impact on the winery. While there was a loss of 200 vines, the harvested Merlot and a building, Tom talked about the safety of his people and the fact that they had a risk management plan in place that saved the wine. Remember that Napa and Sonoma wineries are back – they need your business and tourism. Go! Just Go!
Tom is not a man that makes a lot of noise about his wines. Yet, he has more than 100 years of family farming, sustainability and has pioneered the way for many. Transferring a way of life to another generation through the land and winery will become his legacy.