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Raise Your Glass: Josh Cellars rose provides the perfect gateway to summer

  • Warren Johnston. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



For the Valley News
Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Josh Cellars

Rose, 2017,

California, $14.99/$12.99 on sale

Alcohol Content, 12.5%

Josh Rosé is a gateway wine, perfect for breaking away from cold-weather reds on the way to the lighter wines of summer.

The light ruby colored rosé is full of the bright aromas and flavors of strawberries, white peaches and citrus. It’s a smooth yet crisp wine that’s excellent for drinking on a coolish evening, versatile enough to have while watching a sunset on the porch or relaxing on the couch as the embers of the season’s last fire glow in the wood stove.

The wine is the handiwork of Joseph Carr, who gained the praise of critics and established his reputation with his line of higher-end eponymous wines. But it was the Josh Cellars label that made him a rockstar winemaker and spread the word of his expertise among those of us who enjoy well-crafted, affordable wines. Josh Cellars also saved Carr’s business.

Carr was born in Vermont, in a blue-collar, Rutland County family, and grew up near Albany, N.Y. After college, he landed a position as a sommelier before many were familiar with what the job entailed. He worked for a decade at high-end restaurants, resorts and hotels, and in 1995, he moved into the international corporate world of wine.

At 39, Carr became the youngest and only American president of the wine company Mildara Blass, which was acquired in 1996 by the Australia-based Foster’s Brewing Group, a 2016 article in Forbes magazine says.

Among his accomplishments were the successful launch of Greg Norman Estates wines and overseeing the $1.3 billion acquisition of Beringer. Although Carr was doing well and making a lot of money, the job wasn’t what he wanted.

“After a couple of years as president, I said to myself, ‘OK, this is a great part of my career, but is this the life I want?’ I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he told Forbes.

The attack on the World Trade Center gave Carr a new perspective, and he knew he needed to follow his dream. It also helped that his wife, Deirdre Carr, supported his plans, her 2018 obituary says.

So, at 41, Carr quit his job and self-financed his own label, Joseph Carr, based in Oakville, Calif., in a rented winery. Joseph Carr Cellars is a “negociant,” a French term for a vintner who buys another grower’s grapes. It’s a common and centuries old wine business practice. He debuted his wine in 2006 and was doing well, selling about 5,000 cases a year, the Forbes article says.

His plan was to keep overhead low, produce Bordeaux-styled Cabernet and Merlot with a high-end Napa Valley address and sell it at below-market prices. He focused on the bar and restaurant markets and caught a break when celebrity chef Bobby Flay put Carr’s wines in his restaurants.

Then 2007 hit. There was a short vintage. There were not many high-quality grapes and prices went up. Carr was caught with orders he couldn’t afford to fill. And to make matters worse, the winery he was renting was sold. Carr was kicked out.

Fortunately, a mutual friend connected him with Tom Larson, a winemaker and vineyard manager who came to the rescue. Together they produced the 2007 vintages of Joseph Carr. They also came up with a plan to fix Carr’s financial problems: Josh Cellars, a one-vintage experiment named after his father.

The first vintage, in 2009, was 1,200 cases. From there, it became one of the fastest growing wine brands in history. Sales have now topped 1 million cases, an anomaly for wines in the $13 to $20 price range, the Forbes article says, noting that the Joseph Carr brand sells about 60,000 cases a year.

It didn’t hurt that Carr worked out a partnership with Deutsch Family, a large wine distributor who took over the marketing and sales.

Josh Cellars is targeted at Generation X, and the marketing campaign features videos of Carr sharing stories about his father, who was a hard-working guy who liked to rebuild and race cars. Carr talks about hard work, entrepreneurism, perseverance and family, all qualities that resonate with Gen-Xers, according to a 2019 article in Forbes.

Joe and Deirdre Carr moved from the Albany area to Cape Cod a few years ago. In 2016, she was diagnosed with the same brain cancer that killed Ted Kennedy and John McCain. She fought it until last April. She was 70.

Deirdre was an integral part of Joseph Carr and Josh Cellars. Joseph Carr often writes poignantly about his wife on Facebook, saying he regularly pours her a glass of wine that he knows won’t be touched.

Josh Rosé is made primarily — 76 percent — from Barbera grapes, blended with Muscat, Grenache, Montepulciano and others. The wine is widely available and is a delight in the warmer months with appetizers and chilled seafood, whether you’re a Gen-Xer or not.

Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at raiseyourglassofwine@gmail.com. For past recommendations, go to raiseyourglassofwine.com.