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Andrew Wisniewski is the new winemaker at Orfila Vineyards
Andrew Wisniewski is the new winemaker at Orfila Vineyards. Photyo courtesy of Orfila Vineyards
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Meet Orfila’s newish winemaker Andrew Wisniewski

Frank and I were excited to meet Orfila Vineyards’ new winemaker, Andrew Wisniewski, who has been on board at the winery since April 2021.

However, in terms of winemaking, Wisniewski just finished last year’s cycle of overseeing the viticulture of the estate along with sourcing fruit and is still in the process of finishing the 2021 wines making him “new.”

Wisniewski shared he was grateful and appreciative for the solid framework of Orfila’s former winemaker and general manager Justin Mund.

When asked how Wisniewski got into the wine business, he said, “After attending the Univ. of Central Florida for Biochemistry, I was at a crossroads of being a chemist or (?) …  influenced by my mom who was a manager at a fine wine shop in my youth and completion of a wine internship, I was hooked on wine and chose the winemaker route.”

In between Florida and Escondido’s Orfila, Wisniewski traveled the world building his career in Australia, New Zealand, Oregon (Dundee Hills), Washington (Columbia Valley), and California (Central Coast). He also attended Chemeketa’s Northwest Wine Studies Center for Enology & Viticulture training.

During the interview, Wisniewski appreciated hearing Mangio’s history of walking the Orfila vineyard fields with original winemaker Leon Santoro. Santoro is largely credited for putting San Diego County on the international wine map and the first in the region to recognize the potential for Rhone style wines.

Currently, more than 40 acres of the Orfila’s estate is planted with the following Rhone varietals — syrah, sangiovese, merlot, montepulciano, viognier, marsanne and roussanne. To date, Orfila has been recognized with over 1,300 awards including international competitions where Santoro represented Orfila.

Based on Wisniewski’s winemaking methodology with a minimalistic style of letting the vines express themselves, I suspect that Orfila will continue to rack up awards under his leadership.

“I intentionally make wines to work with food,” he said. “Wine must have soul, characteristics, texture, and aromatics that make the bouquet and palate memorable as well as authentic to the vineyard.”

Part of Wisniewski’s transparent approach is the use of native yeast, a process where a small number of grapes are picked, crushed and allowed to grow into yeast for inoculation into the same varietals for the fermentation process.

Wisniewski likes to use native yeasts for Rhone varietals that have a cooler, longer fermentation versus Bordeaux varietals, such as cabernet sauvignon, where he typically uses commercial yeast strains for a warmer, shorter inoculation to create more structure and tannins.

His goal is to be “attentive to the consumer market making wines that are accessible young, but structured such that aficionados and collectors can keep cellared for years.”

When I asked what is new and upcoming at Orfila, Wisniewski shared that he was excited about the new water sensing system. Using probes in each block with depth sensors at various depths, they will be able to use less water and have more control over the vines, especially at the end of the season when stressing the vines can lead to better results for sugars and physiological ripeness.

The other was the release of library wines to Orfila Wine Lovers, or OWLs, as they like to call their club members. This will include some 2000 and 2008 vintages.

Like most winemakers, Wisniewski was grateful and appreciative of his team including cellarmaster, Christian Eckar. This is in line with Wisniewski’s flat organization philosophy: “It is not me, it is us. This avoids winemaker fixation and being too close to the wines.”

Eckar had several positions at Orfila before a short hiatus at a Temecula Valley winery where he conducted an internship. He returned in May 2021 as Wisniewski’s right-hand person and was busy the day of our visit in the clarification stage for the 2021 vintage, consisting of racking and siphoning from tanks and barrels to leave unwanted precipitates at the bottom before barreling.

Soon last year’s vintage will be going into French and American oak for aging. Mangio and I look forward to future visits to barrel sample Wisniewski and Eckar’s 2021 wines! More information at Orfila.com.

Wine Bytes

— La Fleur’s Winery in San Marcos welcomes Alan Iglesias “Semi-Plugged” from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29. Armed with his Guild 12-string, Martin 6-string, and Lanikai uke, Iglesias will play and sing his (and almost everyone’s) fave rock hits from the ’60s,’70s and ’80s. Covers include America, Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, Neil Young, Tom Petty, the Eagles, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash and many more. Details at lafleurswinery.com/events.

— Celebrate Valentine’s Day with dinner at Temecula Valley’s Lorimar Vineyards and Winery at 7 p.m. on Feb 14. Guests will enjoy a romantic four-course prix fixe dinner for two featuring a duet of Beef tenderloin medallions and Shrimp skewers along with a bottle of Lorimar wine. $150 per couple/$135 for WC. (21+, tax and tip not included). See shop.lorimarwinery.com/reservation-events.

Frank and Rico are two of the leading commentators on the web. Reach them at [email protected].

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