Clay Selkirk
July 5, 2015 | Acolytes of the Elliptical | Clay Selkirk

Introducing Le Cuvier's

Hello Elliptical Society members, friends, and fans of Le Cuvier!  Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Clay, and I am Co-Winemaker here at Le Cuvier. I work alongside my mentor, Mr. John Munch. If you an avid reader of our Winemaker Blog, you may already know me to some extent through John’s prior postings.

I like to refer to myself as ‘The Strong Back With The Weak Mind.” I run the day-to-day operations here at the winery, allowing John to pursue the finer points of his artistic inclinations; including—but not limited to—meditating on all wine-related philosophical topics, contemplating his navel, writing a novel about roach races, perfecting the grind for his morning espresso, recording guitar riffs, and embarking on culinary adventures. 

John and I will be sharing blog-writing duties going forward, with the ambitious goal of posting weekly (if at all possible).  We will alternate our posts to bring you our own unique and individual musings on those topics we deem worthy of your attention.  In this first post, I will do my best to bore you with information about myself, my background in winemaking, and how I ended up here at Le Cuvier. 

In order to do that, I better start at the beginning.  I am a local yokel by birth, having been coerced into existence by Stuart and Laura Selkirk (hermits) in a hospital in SLO. I was subsequently rushed out into the hills beyond Cayucos for my upbringing on the family ranch.  My father, probably inspired by that wondrous day in March, decided to try his hand in winemaking.  Though I can’t claim to remember his initial vintages, he assures me the wines were quite wretched.  As he discovered techniques such as topping-up his barrels, racking, extended barrel-aging (procrastination), and the use of native yeast ferments (spurred by his miserly habits and inability to fork over the dough for commercial yeast), his wines slowly began to improve.  A number of years later, he met John, who was looking for a contractor to do some work on his home.  My father was a general contractor by trade for some thirty odd years, with winemaking remaining a hobby at that time.  Finding themselves kindred spirits, my father preyed upon John for any advice (whisky) as he continued to perfect his winemaking craft.  

Here is where I come in… My first memory of John takes place at Adelaida Cellars.  My brother and I were both in tow wherever my dad went, much like the short half-dog (Corgi) he ports about currently.  We all came to visit (harass) John and Neil Collins (his relatively new employee) at Adelaida. Finding wine-in-process, my brother and I were tasked with jumping about in an open top tank full of recently crushed grapes.  Tiny human stir sticks, we were.  Our just reward for our efforts happened to be our pick of lava lamps: a blue one for me, and a red one for my brother.

Let’s fast-forward a few years to avoid excessive doldrums.  With my father’s continued interest in winemaking prompting a volume production approaching illegality, my parents decided to legitimize their operation and go into business.  Thus, Cayucos Cellars was born.  The year was 1996 and wines were produced, hoarded, and some little sold, until our family winery tasting room was opened in downtown Cayucos in 2003.  At this point I was pursing my undergraduate degree in the Classics, from the University of the Pacific.  As I had had my fair share of compulsory labor in my young life, I believed the last thing I wanted to do was pursue an education in winemaking.  Though I still helped out throughout the years—especially over the summer months when my scholarly duties were on hiatus—I had no inkling that winemaking was in my future. 

I blame it all on my brother, Ross!  He was studying at California Polytechnic State University, in a major much more closely related to the wine world, and had the unfortunate luck to be readily accessible when my dad needed help in the winery.  While I as studying abroad in Greece, tromping around archeological ruins, drinking Ouzo, and communing with the Greek gods, my brother hugged a tree while snowboarding and broke his femur in half.  Though he will tell you otherwise, I almost think it was intentional.  Upon graduation in May 2005, my dream of exploring the world and digging through the trash and bones of those long dead was dashed.  My dad informed me that I would be working for the family business, as he needed help during the upcoming harvest, and that any pursuit of other educational fancies or worldwide gallivanting would have to be postponed.  I came kicking and screaming, certainly.  For the first few years I tried to escape, though my parents wouldn’t let me.  Soon I became too integral a part of the business to let go, and to my greater surprise I found that I had fallen in love with winemaking.

Eight and a half years flew by.  Working up from Slave to eventual Assistant Winemaker and Tasting Room Manager, I was involved in all aspects of the business at Cayucos Cellars.  I worked in our small Estate Pinot Noir vineyard, helped to plant a couple more in the coastal mountains, managed the tasting room and wine club, supervised marketing and bookkeeping, maintained the website, picked and processed during harvest, managed winemaking duties throughout the year and much more.  In the winter of 2012 John approached my dad and inquired about my availability.  I’m still not sure entirely what went on behind my back, but seems to me some kind of trade was agreed to, hands shook, whisky was drunk, and there I was, shipped off from Cayucos and over the hill to Le Cuvier.  In all honesty and joking aside, I can’t say how grateful I am for the opportunity to work for and learn from John.  His influence on my father’s winemaking style was huge, and I fully subscribe to the same school of thought and winemaking philosophy.

As the chance to learn directly from the maestro himself was something I couldn’t consciously pass up, it was with great anticipation that I began my journey here at Le Cuvier in February 2013.  For the past two and a half years, John has been mentoring and grooming me (beating me into submission).  Somehow, he seems to be happy with my efforts. In January, I was promoted to from Assistant Winemaker to Winemaker.  John and I continue to work closely all year long, from harvest to bottling, to bring you the absolute best wine Le Cuvier, and Paso Robles for that matter, has to offer. 

I hope you enjoyed my ramblings.  Please tune in next week for John’s rebuttal.




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