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Dan Karlsen Launches 1000 Bottle Project

7905e13a-3f7d-42b1-8506-d1beaf7f2d8bDecember  20, 2016 – When you’re Dan Karlsen—a veritable legend in the wine industry, with stints at Domaine Carneros, Dehlinger, Chalone and Talbott Vineyards in your repertoire—what do you do for a post-Talbott act? Make more wine, of course, but perhaps, make less, also.

With just one thousand bottles —that’s just 83 cases—planned per offering, the next chapter in the life of Dan is being written with the assistance of his longtime business colleague Matt Viotto. Called the 1000 Bottle Project, this latest installment in a stellar career teams Karlsen with Viotto, himself a 30-year wine industry veteran, whose resume includes buying, distributor management and sales and marketing for Henry Wine Group, Chalone, Diageo and Talbott Vineyards.

The two have known each other for over 20 years, beginning at Chalone, where they became fast friends. After that storied property was sold to Diageo, the two of them worked together to help restore Talbott’s reputation as one of the most acclaimed producers in California. When that fairy tale run ended with the sale of Talbott to Gallo in 2015, it was time to think about the next chapter. Whatever it would be, they knew they wanted to collaborate once more.

Having experienced the unparalleled beauty of classic vineyards like Chalone, Diamond T and Sleepy Hollow, Karlsen and Viotto longed to create a line of wines that were essentially perfect snapshots of sites celebrated for their signature flavor profiles.

Karlsen and Viotto in the winery
Karlsen and Viotto in the winery

With a label that simply says KARLSEN on the front, the 1000 Bottle Project has already kicked off, with the first year’s production, vintage 2015, coming from Karlsen’s estate Chock Rock property in Arroyo Seco. Plans are in place to acquire grapes from premier vineyards throughout California and other grape-blessed places on other continents. They plan to make only Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, focusing on the clean and pure expressions of each vineyard site.

Says Viotto, “We’re really excited to be working with some of the best possible vineyards and growers, like Mark Pisoni and Gary Franscioni. We’re planning to work with Fiddlestix and with Bill Price of 3 Sticks as well, along with vineyards in Central Otago and Tasmania.” Central Otago is in New Zealand and Tasmania is part of Australia.

Viotto says that although they were only able to source Chock Rock fruit in 2016, they plan to have 6 different Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sources for vintage 2017. He mentions, a bit wistfully, the thought of working with Chalone again, or Sleepy Hollow, or even Diamond T, adding how beautiful the 2015 Talbott vintage truly turned out. “The 2015’s were insane,” says Viotto. “We never got to sell them.”

As of now, there are no plans for a tasting room. The wines will be available by allocation and interested parties are encouraged to sign up for the mailing list on the website: karlsenwines.com

Says Viotto, “Our goal is purity of expression. You can’t buy that kind of purity. You have to grow it.”

As Karlsen says on the website, “Our philosophy is to create wines that produce conversations and excite passions. Our wines are not for everyone…but for those who seek something different, something true, something rare, and something perfect…welcome.”

We all want perfection, and we applaud those who make it their mission to seek it, in their own unique fashion, whatever it takes.

And yet, neither Karlsen nor Viotto is going into this venture unaware: they’ve been to a few of these rodeos before.

Says Viotto with a knowing chuckle, “We know we’re not going to make any money!”

About the author

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Laura Ness is a longtime wine journalist, columnist and judge who contributes regularly to Edible Monterey Bay, Spirited, WineOh.Tv, Los Gatos Magazine and Wine Industry Network, and a variety of consumer publications. Her passion is telling stories about the intriguing characters who inhabit the fascinating world of wine and food.