Make : Raen Wine
Film : Vita Brevis Films
In 25 words or less describe who you are, where you’re located and what you make.
I am Kent Fortner; originally from Kansas. I now craft an annual batch of Road 31 Pinot Noir in Napa, CA. I’m a one man band.
What made you want to be a maker?
My grandparents were Kansas farmers. My dad makes frames. My mother paints. My sister is a woodworker. I like to work with my hands. Science, math, and storytelling were very much a part of my upbringing. I suffer from extreme wanderlust. Wine is an awesome intersection of culture, adventure, story, science, craft, my heritage, and driving a tractor. It’s a dream to make a living this way.
Why should people support your business/products?
The beauty of wine, particularly Pinot Noir, is that it tells a story. It speaks of soil, climate, vintage, fermentation, cellar and barrel. But, it also tells the story of farmer and winemaker. In a world trending towards increased industrial production, I spend time confirming there is an artist behind the art, and I hope others do the same.
Favorite product that you make?
For a guy who only makes one wine a year, the answer is pretty obvious. I guess each vintage is different, but the wines are alive and change over the years, so I have shifting favorites depending on how any one vintage is developing. If I had to pick one vintage experience, it would be 2011, which was such a tough harvest that it was basically the Judgement Day (but I feel like the wine I made got invited to the pearly gates).
List five of your favorite tools.
1. My Green ‘66 F100 Twin I-Beam Ford Truck : it was willed to me by my grandparents, who lived on Road 31 in Kansas. It’s on the label, and it is indispensable to my work and identity.
2. Refractometer : pulling it out of the drawer, cleaning it, calibrating it, and putting it on the dash of my truck signals the beginning of the excitement of harvest….
3. Bulldog’s Pup : an ingenious way to gently and quietly move wine out of a barrel. It requires a calm hand to monitor and takes about 4 minutes per barrel, which is very zen.
4. Leatherman Wingman Multitool : 90% of life’s problems can be solved with it and a roll of duct tape.
5. A Kadar Oak Barrel from the Tokaj Forest of Hungary : not only is it very important for the flavor of my Pinot Noir, but it’s inspiring to craft using a “tool” that is itself an incredible work of craftsmanship and heritage.
(photographs from Kent Fortner)