Tagaris winemaker gets cocky with new label

Wine Press NorthwestJune 15, 2012 

Looking for an adjective for Tagaris winemaker Frank Roth, a 31-year-old Tri-City kid, who began working in wineries as a teen to support himself while he pursued fame as a rock musician?

Here, let us help you with a quote:

"We're making booze. We're making babies, not curing cancer."

Cocky comes to mind. It certainly came to the mind of Tagaris Winery owner Michael Taggares while he and Roth were on a road trip through Oregon's Willamette Valley and were discussing the concept for a third label for Tagaris.

Taggares had already found success with his namesake winery starting in 1987 and in 2006 with Elisio Silva Wines, named for its vineyard manager. Now Taggares and Roth were discussing a third label priced between Tagaris and the more affordable Silva that would also allow them to make blends that featured grapes that wine drinkers might be less familiar with, such as Tempranillo, Grenache and Mourvedre. The hope, Roth said, is that through the blends more people will take interest in the Tagaris varietals.

"People really like blends because they can approach them with a level of confidence and experience something they may not have tried before," Roth said.

Now they needed a name. Taggares had an idea on that road trip.

"He came up with name in reference to me being cocky. I am the soaring rooster," Roth said.

Soaring Rooster's first six blends, 2009 vintage Tempranillo, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Mourvedre and Syrah were released in October 2011.

Roth and label artist Joe Farmer "battled back and forth" on the label design, eventually hatching a cartoon rooster that was inspired in part by vintage Guinness beer advertisements. Charles de Coq Montant, dressed in aviator goggles and bomber jacket, looks skyward.

"We went for that vintage feel and what I would look like if I was a rooster," Roth said.

Each label also features an early flying machine, including hot air balloons that reference the story of French aeronaut brothers who chose a sheep, a duck and a rooster in 1783 as the first living crew of a hot air balloon.

The label has quickly garnered fans.

"People pick up on the sexual connotation on the label and run with it, and that's fine with me. We had some shirts made up with the cool art on the front and 'got cock?' on the back," he said. "When I wear it to all my events, people absolutely love it."

The son of former beer and wine distributor and Wine Press Northwest wine judge and columnist Coke Roth, the younger Roth grew up around winemakers and growers, including Jerry Bookwalter and the Barnard-Griffin family. A job shooting birds in Bill Preston's vineyard expanded into pumping out barrels. Roth eventually took jobs elsewhere in the industry, including in Canada after high school, and then spent 10 years as cellarmaster for Barnard Griffin. After side gigs in a band and time spent in firefighter training, Roth was hired by Taggares, initially as assistant winemaker and soon after as leader of the Tagaris winemaking team.

Roth, whose wines already are winning awards, attributes his success at a relatively young age to those years spent at the side of many other accomplished winemakers, including Rob Griffin.

"I got some valuable experience and the time to develop," Roth said. "I'm Tiger Woods without the slutty hookers."

Taggares nailed it.

Jon Bauer is Wine Press Northwest's Salish Sea correspondent. The longtime newspaperman lives near La Conner, Wash.

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