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"Driven by Nature"
with winemaker Jeremy Leffert
Interview By Lisa Gmur, CSW

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.

Tooth & Nail Winery, winemaker, Jeremy Leffert
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The Interview

The Mark Wine Group

Hi Jeremy thanks for joining us! Let's start with the basics... Where did you grow up and what was special about it?

Jeremy Leffert

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.

The Mark Wine Group

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?

Jeremy Leffert

My Father, Mark is a psychoanalyst, My mother, Nancy was a graduate student and a professor of developmental psychology.

The Mark Wine Group

That’s a lot of analysis in the family! Did you ever want to follow in their footsteps?

Jeremy Leffert

I wanted to be an expedition leader.

The Mark Wine Group

So yeah, no. Where did you study wine?

Jeremy Leffert

I studied Crop Science/Viticulture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

The Mark Wine Group

Do you have a spouse/partner?

Jeremy Leffert

My wife, Melissa.

The Mark Wine Group

And how did you meet?

Jeremy Leffert

We met while we were both working at Trader Joes in Santa Barbara, CA.

The Mark Wine Group

Ooh a workplace romance. Love it. Do you have a favorite “date” activity?

Jeremy Leffert

Taking the dogs to the beach or going out to dinner just the two of us.

The Mark Wine Group

Tell us more about your dogs?

Jeremy Leffert

We have two Havanese dogs. Ernesto and Paco.

continued...

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.

continued...

The Mark Wine Group

What great names!  Do you have any hobbies?

Jeremy Leffert

I have been playing guitar since age 10 and mandolin since my early 20’s.

The Mark Wine Group

Very cool.  Do you have a favorite getaway spot?

Jeremy Leffert

Belize!

The Mark Wine Group

I have never been but it looks pretty breathtaking.  Do you have a favorite cuisine?

Jeremy Leffert

All things Mediterranean. I also love Cajun.

The Mark Wine Group

Do you have a favorite food & wine pairing?

Jeremy Leffert

Champagne and French fries.

The Mark Wine Group

You had me at Champagne. Do you have a favorite grape varietal?

Jeremy Leffert

Grenache!

Grenache or Garnacha is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world.

The Mark Wine Group

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?

A uniquely expressive cool-climate Grenache, crafted to excite all of your senses.

Jeremy Leffert

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.

The Mark Wine Group

What’s the most interesting thing about you?

Jeremy Leffert

By the time I was 25 I had over 300 days in the backcountry/wilderness.  Not car camping!

The Mark Wine Group

Wow. That’s impressive. What’s your favorite part of your job?

Jeremy Leffert

Leadership and the fact that the product of our work enriches people’s lives and brings them together.

The Mark Wine Group

What’s the most interesting and unique part of your job?

Jeremy Leffert

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.

Jeremy Leffert in the vineyards

The Mark Wine Group

Love that. How do feel about Stelvin to seal your wines? Or are you a traditionalist?

Jeremy Leffert

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.

DIAM cork

The Mark Wine Group

How do you feel about wine kegs?

Jeremy Leffert

I’m indifferent. For BTG programs, they make total sense for a busy restaurant/bar environment.

The Mark Wine Group

Do you have a favorite grape you like to work with?

Jeremy Leffert

Grenache again!

The Mark Wine Group

I am seeing a pattern here. How often do you barrel taste your wines?

Jeremy Leffert

I taste all of my lots/batches monthly to check in on development and quality.

The Mark Wine Group

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!

Amor Fati
“A once in a lifetime wine”
Stasis
“The elegance of the elements”
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