The Scene

Winemaker finds his rhythm at Appassionata

Tim Malone adds unique notes to his creations

Tim Malone (from left) and Erni Loosen of Appassionata Estate at vineyard.

Tim Malone found the perfect match at Appassionata.

The Oregon winemaker studied at Berklee College of Music, where he played a fretless bass guitar. It allowed him to play notes based on feel, fitting for a winemaker who eschews conventions. Reductive winemaking, the act of not exposing the wine to enough oxygen in the cellar, plays a distinct role in Malone’s wines.

At Berklee, Malone wrote a blues tune in 6/8 time that fellow classmate and future rock star John Mayer loved because it “allowed him to solo freely over it.”

Tim Malone of Appassionata Estate at the winery.

As a winemaker, Malone’s wines at Appassionata stand alone in their uniqueness and age. The project, founded by German winemaker Erni Loosen, is unusual because it isn’t concerned with the bottom line or in a hurry to make money to fund the next vintage.

Appassionata can hold back the release of wines as long as 10 years. They’re released when deemed ready, and the results are fully fleshed-out wines ready to be enjoyed.

“Never erase someone’s uniqueness,” Malone said. “There’s a lot of mundane stuff out there in wine and musically, too. Great grapes will rise to the top. My goal is to recognize that and try to avoid ‘cellar palate.’”

Malone knows a palate can get worn out by the monotony of making the same product every year.

“I started in the beer industry and … got bored,” Malone said. “In the late ’90s, the goal was just to make a consistent product. But, there’s something different every year with wine. Everyone asks, ‘What’s the best vintage?’ I think they’re missing the point; the vintage variation is what should be celebrated.”

Like with his fretless guitar, Malone wants to get a feel for a vintage without being burdened by technical numbers. He finds comfort being at a winery without a huge chemistry budget.

There are wineries that harvest grapes purely on sugar and acid levels. Malone isn’t after a formula. It’s about inspiration, uniqueness and a wine that will reflect the vintage and stand the test of time.

“Plenty of wineries go simply off the numbers,” Malone said. “I’m probably right down the middle, but lean more sensory. It’s the same thing with music.

“The way I approach everything is musically,” he said. “It’s why I don’t do it professionally (music); I think I burnt myself out on it because I went so deep and killed the creative inspiration of it. Took that lesson to wine; every time near the precipice, I step back, enjoy it and not be too analytical.”

Appassionata Estate winery.

Appassionata Estate, “Adante” Pinot Noir 2017 ($135) had a briny note at first, with flavors of olive tapenade. There was a beautiful blue and red fruit combination that seamlessly met spice-rack flavors. There were well-integrated tannins with a little soy sauce flavor and note on the nose to go along with roasted mushrooms. Its mouthfeel is round yet fleshy and so unique it sends the wine-analyzing region of your brain to places it hasn’t been.

In the Appassionata Chardonnay 2019 ($75), there was a pronounced salinity that combined with lemon-rind flavors. Malone said reduction over time adds a faux minerality, and a stone-like flavor emerges.

In guessing how a wine will develop down the road, the musician in Malone comes out. There’s no time in a concert or jam with John Mayer to analyze which note comes next. There’s just time to hit it, embrace the art and move on to the next note.

“Go with your first instinct,” Malone said. “It’s not overly clinical. I haven’t sat there and let my brain get in the way. I always worry about acclimating to something too much. I’m only happy with a handful of the wines I’ve ever made. I hope to never settle on being content.”

The artist remains his own harshest critic.

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at



Cosentino Winery, Lodi “THE Zin” Zinfandel 2021 ($25): There’s dark fruit, a jammy mix of brambly fruit – raspberry and black berry – along with leather and tobacco. But the true reveal of the wine comes when paired with a dark or milk chocolate square with caramel and sea salt. It’ll cut through the jammy flavors and offer focused dark-fruit flavors.


Papapietro Perry, Pommard Clones, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2020 ($82): From the Leras, Bucher and Peters vineyards came a serious pinot with sweet tobacco pipe and Earl Grey tea on the nose. There was candied cherry, cherry, cinnamon and a deep baking spice and sassafras flavor collection that served as an undercurrent to the tart cherry and red fruit flavors that had a determinedly long finish.

Founding partner and winemaker Ben Papapietro traded a career in the newspaper business for a full-time gig as winemaker in 2003. When reached on vacation in Hawaii, he said he’ll take a small step back and become executive winemaker after calling the shots in the cellar for 25 years. The Papapietro pinot noir lineup is deep, impressive, and will have its story told in a future column.

“Back in 1998, pinot noir wasn’t known,” Papapietro said. “It was a pretty big risk. I’d worked at newspapers for 37 years, and was doing winemaking at the side. I worked at a newspaper all the way until 2003, when it looked like the winery was going to take off.”


Librandi, Ciro D.O.C. Gaglioppo 2021 ($16): With thousands of indigenous grapes, Italy offers an extensive number of affordable wines that are exciting to explore. Don’t let the pale red color fool you, there are floral aromas along with juicy cherry and raspberry flavors. It’s a medium-bodied red with a sandalwood note. It paired perfectly with halibut.


Venge, Calistoga, Napa Valley “Bone Ash Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon ($115): From what third-generation wine industry member and second-generation winemaker Kirk Venge said was “a warm, hot, fast vintage,” came a perfect cabernet. There was still juicy blackberry, a blackberry compote, cedar, hot coals and silky smooth tannins. If you’ve got a bottle in the cellar, it sure felt like the right time to be enjoyed.

“It’s ready to drink now, but could go another five years in the cellar,” Venge said.