Anyone who knows anything about wine will tell you that there’s an experience to be found in wine that you really can’t get anywhere else. The right wine paired with the right food can outdo a can of beer or Coca-Cola every time. But why is that? And what makes the difference between the right wine and the wrong one?
Charles B. Mitchell, winemaker and owner of Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards, located in Fair Play, has spent most of his adult life in the winemaking business. His daughter was educated in Paris, and over the years he has spent a lot of time in France, or, the winemaking capital of the world. Here, he learned about the French concept En Primeur, which limits the amount of the wine produces and allows customers to purchase the wine before it’s even been bottled.
“The idea is that it’s limited,” said Mitchell. “If it’s limited, that means it’s also more valuable.”
Mitchell says he began buying and selling wineries as “something of a midlife crisis” many years ago, and that these experiences alongside his time in France have given him the knowledge to know how to create not just good wines, but great ones.
“The winemaking process requires artistry, technical expertise and magic,” said Mitchell. “It starts with focus. Everything I do is very focused. It starts with an idea inspired by something I’ve seen or heard, and then takes shape exactly as I plan. Nothing is by chance.”
One style of French wine that Mitchell likes in particular is the Bordeaux style. Because of this preference, he has chosen to craft many of his own Bordeaux wines, as well as to create the Zin Zone and Grand Cru and other French-style wine clubs. Members of the clubs receive shipments of three different zinfandels quarterly, as well as get special access to the winery’s tasting bar and Mitchell’s, “A Flight of Wines”— a theatrical sampling of 12 different zinfandels held at the winery. In addition, Mitchell holds a Pizza and Lobster Night every Friday at the winery where customers can get unlimited pizza, pasta, lobster and salad for just $10. Zin Zone members receive four tokens each year to attend these events for free.
“One of the cool things about Charles is that he makes everything so experience-oriented,” said Tim Harris, marketing director for Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards. “He’s really hands-on and has fun and wants his customers’ experience to be the same.”
This fact can also be seen in the number of events — such as “Bottle Your Own” where customers come to the winery and get to bottle their own wine — that Mitchell holds throughout the year. Mitchell also likes to take customers for rides in his plane or Bentley at his events and hopes everyone who attends has a good time.
Another thing that differentiates Charles B. Mitchell Winery from others is his philosophy of direct to consumer. Customers will never see a bottle of Charles B. Mitchell Winery in a Raley’s or other grocery store. The only way to get a bottle of Charles B. Mitchell wine is straight from him. Also significant, Charles has also been very influential in helping Fairplay achieve status as an American Viticultural Area, or AVA, which signifies the high pedigree of the wine created in that area and is a system based on the French appellation d’origine controlee, or AOC.
Currently, Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards is working on updating its Web site as well as on developing an online wine sales department. When he is not hard at work at his winery, Charles is usually in France giving wine tours or visiting his daughter, who still lives there. “I really enjoy traveling because it enables me to essentially bring Europe here. Everything we do here is inspired by the old world, and it’s exciting to see what’s new and what’s going on. Wine really is a lot of fun.”
For more information about Charles B. Mitchell Vineyards, please visit www.charlesbmitchell.com or call (530) 620-3467.