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Unreserved Wine Talk

236 EpisodesProduced by Natalie MacLeanWebsite

The Unreserved Wine Talk podcast features candid conversations with the most fascinating people in the wine world. Your host, award-winning journalist Natalie MacLean, dives into how it feels to compete in the nerve-wracking World's Best Sommelier Competition, the shadowy underground of wine forgery… read more


106: Pairing California Wine and Gourmet Burgers with Winemaker Joel Gott

How do you pair wine with burgers? What is it about California that gives us such a wide variety of wine? How is the Napa Valley food scene? What restaurant industry lessons help Joel make better wine?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I'm chatting with Joel Gott, owner and winemaker at Joel Gott Wines.

You can find the wines we discussed at


  • When will you see the most "action" at a winery?
  • What facts might you be surprised to learn about Napa Valley?
  • Which highly-acclaimed restaurants should you visit on your next trip to Napa Valley?
  • How did in-bottle refermentation create the worst moment of Joel's career?
  • What exciting moment did Joel experience while flying over the Pacific?
  • What makes Three Thieves Wines unique?
  • Who are the people you need to know behind Three Thieves Wines?
  • How does the growing environment translate into what you taste in Three Thieves Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon?
  • What tasting notes will you encounter with Three Thieves Wines?
  • Why does Joel Gott describe his restaurants as "the low end of the high end or the high end of the low end"?
  • Can you pair Three Thieves Cabernet Sauvignon with a burger?
  • Which wine can you pair with a kimchi burger?
  • Why is Zinfandel a safe bet to pair with many foods?
  • Which of Joel Gott's wines would you find to be the most complicated?
  • What French influence might you notice in Joel Gott Wines Unoaked Chardonnay?
  • Which Gott's Roadside burgers should you pair with Joel Gott Wines Unoaked Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Merlot?
  • Is Joel Gott Wines Cabernet Sauvignon a good addition to your cellar?
  • Why should you shop by vintage instead of by brands?
  • What advantages do women winemakers bring to the table?
  • Why do you find such a wide variety of wine styles out of California alone?
  • What are Joel's top tips for improving your wine experience this week?


Key Takeaways
  • Shop for great vintages first rather than brands. You can find so many gems this way, often underpriced too.
  • The excitement of the harvest is often the spark that ignites a passion to make wine. So much of an entire year’s work depends on just a few weeks -- it’s nerve-wracking and exhilarating.
  • Pairing ideas for gourmet burgers from Cabernet with a classic cheeseburger to Zinfandel for racier burgs like kimchi with pickled veggies and spicy aioli or green chili and jack cheese. The sweet fruit and spice of the zin is a great match for the spice and salt in the burgers and fixin's.
  • Corked wine can ruin the reputation of a winery with a customer for good and a screw cap is able to seal a moment in time, especially the freshness of a sauvignon blanc.
  About Joel Gott

While running Palisades Market in Calistoga in the early 1990s, Joel Gott noticed a growing need for quality, value wines. Having worked at Kenwood Winery in Sonoma County, and with a family history in the business, Joel felt sure he could fill this void in the marketplace.

In 1996, Joel purchased a few tons of Zinfandel from family friend and grape grower Tom Dillian. With the help of then-girlfriend—and winemaker at Joseph Phelps—Sarah, Joel produced his first vintage of Dillian Ranch Amador County Zinfandel. The wine received praise from Robert Parker and Wine Spectator, which was all the encouragement Joel needed to produce additional varietals.

A Sauvignon Blanc followed in 1998, and the year after he and Sarah produced California appellation Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon by shopping the entire state for the best fruit, creating a wine shaped by various regions instead of a single estate. This style and commitment to quality wines blended from hand-selected vineyards helped guide the direction of Joel Gott Wines.

In 2003, 815 was added to the California Cabernet Sauvignon label to celebrate the birth of Joel and his wife Sarah’s first daughter Lucy on August 15th. That same year, Alisa Jacobson was hired as the assistant winemaker, and the following year Sarah left her position as winemaker at Quintessa to focus on a growing family and winemaking at Joel Gott Wines.



To learn more about the resources mentioned in this episode, visit the

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