Owner: Brian Chinnock
Tell us about the wine side of your business.
Chinnock Cellars is a winery that’s been around for 39 years. We make Cabernets and Merlots from our small Napa Valley winery. The cave where we store the wine is at my house in Atlas Peak in Napa Valley.
What was your path into the wine business?
Back in college I was making wine with a chemistry professor at Texas Tech University. Texas Tech is in a dry county, so making wine in a dry county at a dry school is an excellent thing as a college student. In my freshman year I got into it working with him at the lab for different wineries that were emerging in the Lubbock area. I fell in love with it. After college, some of the other guys in that group at the wine lab decided to start a little winery north of Dallas in the Red River area. Did that for about four years and failed miserably, then decided to go to Napa Valley to make some good wine out of good grapes instead of really crappy wine out of crappy grapes.
What was your first move when you got to Napa and how did you end up in cigars?
Just getting to know people in the area. Asking winemaker friends what I should try to grow and getting the connections going. And then aging wine is a very long process. You’re talking about at least three years, especially in red wine.
I got into the cigar business because of the uncanny parallels. Ten years ago, I met my buddy Carlito Fuente and he invited me to go down to Bonao and see the fields. On our way to the Dominican, we had to go through Miami. We were on Calle Ocho and I walked into this little shop called El Titan de Bronze and met Sandy Cobas, the owner. Delightful lady. We sat for probably eight hours and I was just astonished. I said, “I’ve got the bug. I want to make my own cigars.”
At the time, Willy Herrera was working for Sandy. He helped me blend our very first cigar. We were drinking wine with Sandy and once we started going we found tobaccos with a white pepper note that really went well with Cabernet.
The flagship cigar in your portfolio now is Terroir, which has a lot of those characteristics.
Terroir was a special cigar I asked Willy to help me with before he left ETB when Drew Estate stole him away from me and made him a superstar. I said, “I want something that transitions. I don’t want this white pepper spice all the way through. I want it to change on you.” It starts with this big white pepper spice in the beginning and transitions to these creamy, nutty notes in the middle, then a white pepper spice bomb at the end. It was a hit right away.
So where does Pressoir fit into the Chinnock lineup?
Pressoir was designed to go with a port wine or coffee. I know a lot of people smoke it with coffee in the morning. In the beginning, it was back then a much stronger cigar. We have since tweaked the blend over the years and made it not as full bodied. It’s still our highest strength cigar, even more so than the Terroir.
So there’s Terroir, Cremoir and Pressoir. Clearly these are all French brand names. Where does Pressoir come from?
I don’t speak French. I wanted to do a box-pressed cigar and it turns out that the device that winemakers in France use to press the grapes is called a pressoir. I asked my French buddy and that was that.