Andrew Jones got his start in the wine business while he was still in college, not merely drinking wine or picking up spending money as a “cellar rat” but by driving the back roads of California’s central coast selling vines for the state’s largest wholesale nursery. He was so good at his job—a day job he still holds, by the way—that whenever he noted grapes he felt were “underutilized,” the growers asked if he wanted the grapes to make wine.
Seldom has the name of a winery—in this case, Field Recordings—sounded less like it came from a marketing department and more like it came from daily reality. Like the “field recordings” of decades past, when sociologists and others reeled off hours of taping furniture being made or cows being milked, Jones is gathering an idiosyncratic record of the grapes grown within a drive of his Paso Robles winery. And, he’s quick to add, of the men and women who grow them.
“These wines are the story of those people and this dirt, captured in a bottle,” Jones says of his Field Recordings and his second label Wonderwall during a market visit to Texas. “For me, it’s about making wines that are representative of the vineyards. I always think wines are made in the vineyard, and it’s my job not to screw it up. I get a good chuckle whenever a winemaker thinks of himself as an artist. I think that’s a little bogus.”
Of course Jones would think that, having come onto the scene not via tasting rooms, wine dinners and wine auctions but by pickup trucks, dusty roads and, invariably, faded overalls. His allegiance is to the farmers, first and foremost, more than to the doctors, lawyers, hedge-funders and software creators who have transformed the industry with their money in recent years. Since 2007, he has made a name for Field Recordings via solid wines—exciting wines even—that speak of his own heart and that of the central coast, from Paso Robles and the larger San Luis Obispo County in the north down through the Edna Valley to Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara.
In his travels to markets around the country, Jones continues to stress that, while zinfandel may be the region’s “heritage grape,” the large area incorporates so many microclimates that virtually all the popular grapes are grown here. These include the cabernet sauvignon and merlot associated with Bordeaux, the pinot noir and chardonnay famous in Burgundy and the syrah and viognier showcased in the Rhone Valley, not to mention nebbiolo and sangiovese from Italy and both tempranillo and albarino from Spain.
“There’s so much diversity here,” says Jones, leading a visitor through a tasting of Field Recordings and Wonderwall that proves his point dramatically. “The central coast can sometimes be clumped together as ‘that stuff that’s south of Napa.’ I like showing the amazing diversity we have.”
Santa Maria Tri-Tip Pairs With Wonderwall Pinot Noir
- 1 cup black pepper
- 1 cup sea salt
- 1 cup garlic powder
- 3-4 pounds tri-tip
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
Making the Rub
In a bowl mix the black pepper, sea salt and garlic powder. In a large zip-close bag place the tri-tip then add the orange juice, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and half of the salt, pepper and garlic mix. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature, turning the bag over after 15 minutes. At 30 minutes, pull the meat from the bag and pat dry.
While the meat marinates, start up the grill. It is best to use red oak if available, but charcoal grilling is fine. Grill 10-15 minutes per side depending on the meat and fire. Remove from the grill at 135 F and let stand for 15 minutes before slicing. Slice thin and top with your favorite fresh salsa.