It is our great pleasure to have the opportunity of publishing the following interview, which we have conducted with Vahe Baloulian, Partner at DiVine and Partners. The topic of the interview is “The passion for wine-making”.
Although, Wikipedia explains that wine-making or vinification is the production of wine which starts with the selection of the fruit and later go through its fermentation into alcohol, and the bottling of the finished liquid. We think that wine-making is more than that!
The history of wine-making stretches over millennia and it is continuously bringing new producers to the scene. Whenever if it’s their passion for it or art, the subject is still debated, however there is certainly some bug that catches these producers which drives them to start venturing into the the science which is known as oenology.
So, without taking more time, here is our interview with Vahe Baloulian about his passion for wine-making.
Thank you for taking your time and answering our questions! It is always nice to get a glimpse into the activities of different verticals and while wine-making is not an ordinary activity, we appreciate the guidance that you are laying out for our readers.
I remember we had a wine tasting of Hungarian wines in Budapest a couple of years ago and your eyes were shining when the wine steward was sharing the stories. When did you first fell in love with wine-making?
VB: Initially, it was not about love. My friends and I just needed good local wine for The Club, our first restaurant in Yerevan, Armenia, and 15 years ago it was hard to come by. We bought a small vineyard in Vayots Dzor, close to where the world’s most ancient (6100 years old) winery was found in Areni-1 cave, hired an experienced crew of winemakers and tasked them with creating a wine worthy of the food we were serving. That didn’t work out well and we ended up diving into wine-making on our own. As we were establishing the Trinity Canyon Vineyards, I essentially started to realize how spiritual, intricate, intelligent, boundless and unrestrained the world of wine is. And it was hard not to fall in love with that world.
As far as we know, your group operates and owns six restaurants and a vineyard in Armenia, France, and the USA. What is the main product that is selling across all these restaurants and how does having your own wine contribute to branding and marketing?
VB: The main products at all restaurants is good food and good wine 😊 Our restaurants do not replicate each other in any way. In France, we pay homage to French Provencal cooking, in Armenia we offer modern takes on the Armenian cuisine and in the US, it is all about California Fusion. It’s only our wine that you will find in all six restaurants.
I’m always attracted to restaurants that grow their own food and make their own wine. For me, wine is an otherworldly liquid that connects people. Being part of the enchanting process of bringing wine to life, surrounds one with an aura of a positive influence. I think we pass our admiration for wine to our guests and we certainly don’t hide it in our branding and marketing.
What’s amusing is that when a winery has a restaurant, it’s perfectly expected. However, when a restaurant makes its own wine, it always prompts admiration and adds another dimension to the entire experience.
In an older interview, you stated about Armenia that: “We are a wine country, which now drinks vodka. Wine is not a way to get drunk. Wine is history, philosophy, a way to bring people together and have an interesting conversation, etc.” The interview was some 5 years ago. Have things changed since then? Are Armenians embracing their lost wine culture better these days?
VB: Everything is different in Armenia now. In 2012 we opened In Vino, the first wine bar in Yerevan, and since then the wine culture developed in ways unimaginable before that. A year earlier, in 2011, an international team of archaeologists discovered a 6100 year old winery in Armenia. As I already mentioned, it is the world’s oldest. The same cave also held the world’s oldest skirt and leather shoe.
Today you will find many wine restaurants and bars in Armenia. Most of them in Yerevan, the capital, but also along the wine routes.
The young generation, whose drinking habits are not informed by the Soviet times, embrace wine as not only a drink of choice but also as a way to absorb the rich history and culture of wine-making.
Also, during these years many new wineries sprang up in different regions of Armenia, crafting wines that are gaining global recognition and boosting the wine tourism. Several global wine industry luminaries placed Armenia on their maps by starting their own production or getting involved with local producers.
As you can see, for a mere 5 years, the changes are profound.
There is no doubt a rising trend of owning a microbrewery, which sometimes outranks the local beers and there is a rising trend of small vineyard exploitation for wine-making. However, as in any industry, the lack of passion always kills the evolution. How extensive viticulture does it take to create a good wine or is it the innovation in the taste that makes it popular?
VB: When it comes to wines, I am a traditionalist. I don’t fall for fake flavors, colors, etc. The best wines for me are typically not crafted at the winery. They are crafted in the vineyard. How you treat the grapes, the vines, the land around it, the people who work in your vineyard, everything reflects in the quality of wine you make. At the Trinity Canyon Vineyards, we have always believed that whatever is in the winemaker’s heart, ends up under the cork. Bad people can’t make good wines. This sounds over sentimental, especially coming from a down-to-earth person like me, but I truly believe it.
In general, I know it is possible to make quality wines in large quantities. However, I don’t think it is possible to make remarkable wines in industrial settings.
The best wines for me are typically not crafted at the winery. They are crafted in the vineyard. How you treat the grapes, the vines, the land around it, the people who work in your vineyard, everything reflects in the quality of wine you make.
Robert Mondavi said, “Wine has been a part of civilized life for some seven thousand years. It is the only beverage that feeds the body, soul, and spirit of man and at the same time stimulates the mind…”
As a passionate winemaker, what would you add to that?
VB: While I wholeheartedly agree with great Robert Mondavi, for me wine is also a great connector. It’s a beverage that introduced me to so many incredible people. Wine also is a great storyteller and educator. It encouraged me to discover things I would not imagine existed.
I would like to ask a stereotype questions for our closing sentence. Besides your own wine, what is the wine that you recommend for rare moments in life?
VB: There are different rare moments in life and each one of them calls for a different wine. For example, when you meet the love of your life, you’d want a wine that makes both of you happy. I always like to explore and be surprised, but for the most rare moments in life, I turn to our wine.
If you would like to dive into the experiences of wine-making or if you are visiting Armenia, France or the USA, make sure you pop by one of the restaurants which are owned and operated by Vahe the partners at DiVine and Partners.