Ramblin’: to wander, roam or explore habitually.
This is the definition of how Tyler Russell of Cordant | Nelle in the Central Coast of California oversees his vineyards and winemaking production. Says Russell, “A ramblin’ winemaker is a testament to the miles that we explore to get our fruit. We’re pretty much always on the go.”
Russell got his start in the business while working at a wine shop in upstate New York. Stacking shelves and hauling heavy cases of wine only helped to cultivate his interest in wine and it eventually led him on his career path. “I figured out pretty quickly that making wine was going to be a creative outlet for me. The only way to be creative is to be making it for yourself,” noted Russell. He eventually went out to Paso Robles to start his career in wine production. He worked at multiple wineries and at each one, he learned a different lesson: At Dover Canyon Winery, not take yourself too seriously, at JUSTIN Wine, cellar work, and at Zenaida Cellars, how to be a good husband and father.
Russell started Nelle Winery and produced his first wines for the 2008 vintage. In 2014, Tyler joined forces with David Taylor, a technology entrepreneur out of San Diego and started the Cordant label. “Cordant means to work in harmony. It’s a tribute to how a wine goes from vine to bottle to table,” says Tyler. His primary focus is on pinot noir and Rhône varieties. The grapes are sourced from partner vineyards that span 300 miles of the Central Coast across four counties, and these areas include a variety of climates, soils and topography. “I would say the common thread of these sites is that the microclimate lends to hang time without over ripeness,” said Tyler.
All production is done at their urban winery in Paso Robles where everything is processed, fermented, pressed, barrel aged, and bottled. Tyler focuses on intuition and goes into fermentation without any preconceived notions. He sits back, assesses development, and makes decisions on how the fermentation is going based on patience and due diligence.
Russell sees a lot of exciting things happening in Paso Robles. “First and foremost, there are world-class wines made here but what makes Paso Robles an amazing place is the people. There is a better than average feeling of camaraderie.” As the business climate becomes more challenging with the current COVID-19 pandemic, Russell, like many, wants to stay afloat and keep the winery up and running.
2017 Nelle Grenache, Central Coast
This wine is light cherry-red in color with a fruit-forward aroma. This wine has balance and structure with black-cherry flavors and black pepper spice, with flavors of toast on the tail end. At 15.2 percent abv, this wine could be paired with braised lamb.
2017 Nelle The Bedlam, Central Coast
This wine has a lot of fruit flavors—dark plum beauty, black cherry, chocolate, and black pepper notes. This blend of 50 percent syrah; 35 percent grenache, and 15 percent petite sirah is deserving of a juicy steak.
2017 Cordant Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
This is a translucent ruby red with floral aromatics and flavors of bing cherry and violet. It has great acidity and structure. It is sourced from Escolle Vineyard located at the bottom of the Santa Lucia Mountain range on the Monterey County side.
2017 Nelle Syrah, Coastview Vineyard
This full-bodied, classic American wine is a deep violet purple with blackberry aromas and pepper spice on the backend. At 14.9 percent, drink this with a hamburger and fries. Coastview Vineyard is 2,200 feet in elevation and made up of limestone and granite soils. It is located in the Gabian Mountains on the east side of the Salinas Valley.