Tooth & Nail Wine Company has followed a path of true grit and determination. Paso Robles is a very tough place to grow grapes, but founder and grower Rob Murray persevered, fighting “tooth and nail” to create wines to be proud of.
Today, their brands; Tooth & Nail, Amor Fati and Stasis, speak volumes about the region and this embrace of the elements.
We talked with winemaker Jeremy Leffert about everything from his childhood in Minnesota to how he makes wines that express the energy of Paso Robles and keep true to the character of the winery.
Hi Jeremy thanks for joining us! Let's start with the basics... Where did you grow up and what was special about it?
I grew up in the suburbs around Minneapolis, Minnesota, surrounded by lakes and rivers, great for exploring. When it was warm, we would swim and fish for crappie. During the winter we would play hockey on flooded fields.
Sounds pretty idyllic. And yeah, I had to look up crappie. Hahaha. (For those who don’t know; they are a North American Fresh Water fish in the Sunfish family) What did your parents do?
My Father, Mark is a psychoanalyst, My mother, Nancy was a graduate student and a professor of developmental psychology.
That’s a lot of analysis in the family! Did you ever want to follow in their footsteps?
I wanted to be an expedition leader.
So yeah, no. Where did you study wine?
I studied Crop Science/Viticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Do you have a spouse/partner?
My wife, Melissa.
And how did you meet?
We met while we were both working at Trader Joes in Santa Barbara, CA.
Ooh a workplace romance. Love it. Do you have a favorite “date” activity?
Taking the dogs to the beach or going out to dinner just the two of us.
Tell us more about your dogs?
We have two Havanese dogs. Ernesto and Paco.
Introducing the “Squad Series”—a new line of Tooth & Nail wines, born of a transformational year and made in admiration for those who inspire us most: our loyal followers.
What great names! Do you have any hobbies?
I have been playing guitar since age 10 and mandolin since my early 20’s.
Very cool. Do you have a favorite getaway spot?
I have never been but it looks pretty breathtaking. Do you have a favorite cuisine?
All things Mediterranean. I also love Cajun.
Do you have a favorite food & wine pairing?
Champagne and French fries.
You had me at Champagne. Do you have a favorite grape varietal?
OMG! We just had the Amor Fati Grenache the other day and were completely blown away. I have always loved Grenache, but yours is a total standout. What’s the most important thing you would like us to know about Tooth & Nail?
We strive to be inclusive. This is in our DNA. From our employees to our customers. The greatest element is our ability to produce wines of remarkable quality in wide variety of price points so all consumers can experience Tooth and Nail equally.
What’s the most interesting thing about you?
By the time I was 25 I had over 300 days in the backcountry/wilderness. Not car camping!
Wow. That’s impressive. What’s your favorite part of your job?
Leadership and the fact that the product of our work enriches people’s lives and brings them together.
What’s the most interesting and unique part of your job?
Since I worked at Tooth & Nail Wine company for over 5 years, I have seen how our vineyards age and how the wine from each vintage is its own expression. This progression and subsequent wine style is fascinating for me.
Love that. How do feel about Stelvin to seal your wines? Or are you a traditionalist?
Actually I prefer DIAM, micro-agglomerated cork. There is 0% TCA issues, and the best part is that every bottle is the same, and will taste how I intended it. For my customers who age wines, DIAM ensures there are no variation with the closure that can lead to spoilage or premature aging.
How do you feel about wine kegs?
I’m indifferent. For BTG programs, they make total sense for a busy restaurant/bar environment.
Do you have a favorite grape you like to work with?
I am seeing a pattern here. How often do you barrel taste your wines?
I taste all of my lots/batches monthly to check in on development and quality.
And I am thinking, the Grenache gets tasted even more often. We are so excited to be partnered with you guys. Thanks so much for your time!