Tyler Russell crafting two brands with one mindset
Tyler Russell is among those maverick Paso winemakers who likes to go the distance. For starters he’s launched two wine brands, Nelle & Cordant, crafting Rhöne style wines and pinot noir respectively. Secondly, he’s sourcing fruit from some 16 prized vineyards up and down the Central Coast.
When I met him at his Ramada Drive tasting room adjacent to Tin City, Paso’s hip enclave, he told me these vineyards ranged from “the most northeastern vineyard in Monterey to the most southeastern in Santa Rita Hills.”
From cool coastal appellations of Edna Valley, Santa Rita Hills and Santa Lucia range to the limestone-rich vineyards of Paso Robles, Russell is creating an ambitious program of two distinctively different brands. The Cordant portfolio offers five pinot noirs including a rosé while the Nelle program is focused on Rhöne style wines, bottlings of single varietals as well as blends. Total annual production for his two brands is about 2,500 cases.
Russell’s interest in the wine industry began in a wine shop in upstate New York where he worked his way up to wine buyer. But the California native followed his passion for winemaking which took him back west to settle in Paso. “I apprenticed my way up,” he said of his experiences starting in Dover Canyon winery’s tasting room. Soon he was honing his cellar rat and winemaking skills at wineries such as Justin, Zenaida and Calcareous.
Along the way Russell produced his first wine, Nelle, in 2008 and later acquired a partner, joining forces with David Taylor.
“We have a collaborative partnership,” Russell remarked of the business that was set up in 2014. Both the Cordant and Nelle brands are produced under the Tyler David Wine Works company.
Russell is crafting distinctive wines that show the complexity of the regions in his blends and singular expressions in the vineyard-designate wine. We savor a few of his wines in his barrel room: the 2017 Nelle Pinwheel, is a deliciously aromatic white Rhône blend produced from Paso’s westside vineyards; a 2105 Cordant Central Coast pinot noir, awash with strawberry and cherry notes, sourced from three prestigious vineyards, the Santa Lucia Highland’s Escolle and Santa Rita Hills’ Kessler Haak and Radian;
and, finally, the vibrant Nelle 2015 grenache, labeled as California appellation, a mix of grapes from Paso Robles, Edna Valley and Santa Ynez.
“Grenache is becoming our flagship wine,” Russell mused.
Russell’s wines reflect his attention to detail and the artistic labels (done by a friend) have a personal significance. The piano on the grenache bottle, for instance,
is from Russell’s home and the bluff on the Pinwheel bottle is the site where the winemaker and his wife Kate got married.
Cordant and Nelle wines will be featured at Tent City After Dark celebration Oct. 6 in Sunken Gardens, Atascadero.
Visit colonydays.org for more info about the weekend events.