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SLO Down Wines Winemaker Brandon Allen

Sticking to Your Creative Guns with Winemaker Brandon Allen

california montana rae podcast winemaking Feb 08, 2022

We’re back this week to introduce you to the wonderfully creative California winemaker, Brandon Allen of SLO Down Wines. Brandon’s wine story began as a freshman at Cal Poly when he and his buddies decided to make a barrel of wine in their backyard. That batch became the first vintage of SLO Down’s flagship wine, Sexual Chocolate (if you’re thinking Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, you’re not wrong). Today, Brandon’s winemaking technique has come a long way but the energy and personality that inspired the start of his career in wine still hold firm.

I met Brandon in 2016 at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic. It was his first time in town and let’s just say he made the experience his own, speedo and furry beer koozie in hand. Like his wines, my impression of Brandon has always been that there’s more going on than meets the eye. He stands out in a crowd with a handlebar mustache and Hawiaan shirt or a set of handmade leather holsters for his wines so he can walk around a tasting instead of being quarantined to his booth like this other miserable suckers in attendance. I’ve known a lot of winemakers and suppliers in my career and this guy is just one of those people who is unapologetically himself. No matter that the wine business, in general, can be entirely too uptight at times.

As for the wines, the first thing you’ll notice is the labels. That flagship I mentioned, Sexual Chocolate, still bears the OG label from that backyard batch. A handwritten note from Brandon himself describing it as a “full bodied red that pairs well /w Wednesday nights and pizza” and that it should be “drank immediately and shared with girls”. The message finishes with simple instructions to call him when you want more and his phone number. Beyond Sexual Chocolate, Brandon’s portfolio has expanded to include such gems as Broken Dreams Chardonnay (a personal favorite for Valentine’s), SLO Jams Sauvignon BlancLove Hammer Cabernet Sauvignon, and the beloved Send Nudes Rosé and new Send Nudes Pinot Noir.

The inside of the front label on Send Nudes Rosé features another handwritten message: “beauty lies within”. This is where we loop back to that comment about there being more going on with the wines than meets the eye. As much as the lineup will make you blush or giggle, or both, the wines are serious. The execution of the lineup is mature and done very well. The prices are what you want them to be and each is ready to drink when it hits your glass. There’s a range of styles from the bold, robust Sexual Chocolate to the high-altitude Love Hammer with excellent acid and finesse to the Send Nudes Pinot, which drinks light and fresh and can take a little chill. The Sauv Blanc is the only wine not coming from California. The reason? Brandon found better fruit at a better value in Washington State and he wanted to pass that on to you and me. For Chardonnay, the Broken Dreams is a stand-out. I’ve poured it for consumers and industry people alike and the reaction is constantly, “I don’t even like Chardonnay but that is freaking awesome”. Send Nudes Rosé? That’s just something everyone should drink multiple times a year at $20.00 a bottle.

During this discussion, Brandon gave some of the best advice I’ve received as a business owner: “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and listen to them.” I think a lot of us know to surround ourselves with people we trust and respect. It’s the listening part that can get in our way sometimes.

I hope you enjoy this introduction to Brandon and the SLO Down portfolio as much as I loved catching up with him in this format. For me, the conversation was a great reminder of how important it is to stay true to oneself even if the approach you take doesn’t fit the mold of what people around us are expecting.

Big thanks to Brandon and Betsy and the whole SLO Down team for bringing these wonderful wines to the world! And thanks to The Wine Ship community for listening, supporting, and for loving great wine as much as I do!

Cheers, Montana Rae

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