Vintegrity had the opportunity to visit with Doug Frost on the launch of his Echolands wines in Missouri and Kansas through Vintegrity. Doug is one of only four in the world to achieve titles of both Master of Wine and Master Sommelier, and he is also a published author, renowned wine consultant, and vineyard owner.
Echolands Winery Releases First of Two Wines with Vintegrity
There are two highly anticipated wines from Echolands that will be distributed by Vintegrity in 2020. The Les Collines Syrah 2018 from Walla Walla Valley, and the Seven Hills Vineyard Red Blend, from one of the oldest vineyards in Washington state, Seven Hills Vineyard. The Seven Hills Vineyard wine is a Bordeaux inspired blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlo, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot. The second wine, a Red Blend, was released in the fall of 2020.
Why the name “Echolands”?
Rooted in Greek and primarily Roman mythology, the dreamy name for Echolands stems from the tale of Echo, the mythological creature who was eternally doomed to only repeat what is said to her, never to speak an original thought again.
According to Doug, “The only thing that Echo can do is repeat what is said back to her, and so the idea behind it for me is that the word itself – Echolands – could speak to the notion of the swales and gullies that exist around our vineyards – giving a sense of these wide open spaces where we’re planting the vineyards. But for me, it was also a bit of a wink to the way in which a winemaker can really not add anything.”
“The winemaker can simply repeat back what is said in the form of the grapes. All we can do is take what is given to us and repeat it – and at best, repeat it without screwing it up,” elaborates Frost. “The fun of this has been learning about each of these remarkable areas and these different grapes. I mean they each have something to offer, there’s 30 or 40,000 grapes out there for a reason. The scary part is you only get to experiment once a year,” explains Frost. Doug still views himself in the learning process – and for him, not improving each year is a failure.
Doug Frost on Becoming a Wine Connoisseur
Personable and undeniably accomplished, Frost was born on the West Coast but grew up in the Midwest. Frost holds degrees in both acting and directing, which he originally thought would be his career path before the love of wine consumed him. His introduction to wine started while visiting relatives in the Bay area, a place his family traveled often for holidays and family road trips.
It was on one of those visits when an uncle asked the then 15-year old Doug to help him pick out a bottle of wine from his small wine cellar. Frost chose a 1968 William Martini Special Select Pinot Noir because his uncle said it was more “elegant, nuanced and sophisticated” – all things the teenage Doug wanted to be associated with.
The aura of sophistication carried over into the beginning of Frost’s experiences with wine. He fondly remembers many of his early wine experiences and associates each with special memories – like Blue Nun, the first wine he ordered at a restaurant.
Frost’s introduction to wine as a profession was a natural after much personal travel and the experiences of many tasting events. “When I moved back to Kansas City after traveling and bumming around Asia for a while after college, I got a job at Plaza III, a restaurant here in Kansas City,” Frost reminisced. After a week of working at Plaza III, Frost won a wine sales contest. John Skupny, the wine steward at Plaza III at the time (and current owner of Lang and Reed Winery in Napa Valley), took notice.
Skupny invited Frost to a wine tasting event where Frost said he enjoyed the company of those, “who took wine very seriously”. One tasting event led to several other tasting events where Frost met a host of dedicated wine enthusiasts. The exposure to other wine connoisseurs not only helped lead his passion for wine into a career, along the way he also found a mentor in Skupny.
After 2 years of working in various restaurant roles, Frost was offered a position with a wine distributor in Kansas City. As time went on, Frost became more involved in facets of the liquor industry beyond wine. With the assistance of a group of spirits experts and spirits writers, Frost created a series of bartender training programs and cocktail and bar management programs that are to this day considered a benchmark of the industry.
Throughout his career Frost has learned that making and building connections is the lifeblood of a successful career as a wine expert. One small circle of Doug’s life includes the other equally rare individuals that share his coveted titles of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine Master . The first to pass both exams resides in Hungary and is a rather private person, and Frost speaks with him every four or five years to stay in touch. Frost was the second of the four to achieve both titles.
The third, Gerard Basset, was particularly close to Frost, but sadly passed away about a year and a half ago. “He was a magnificent person. He was an amazing person. I still refer to four because in my mind Gerard is still out there somewhere.” The fourth is Eric Hemer, a Florida resident and friend that Frost stays in touch with at least once a month. “He was actually a mentee of mine when he was going through the programs,” said Frost. “So, his success just makes me as happy as can be.”
Frost’s Echolands Winery was years in the making and a result of decades of passionately accumulated wine knowledge. According to Frost, “It was the logical next step.” And, given Frost’s college education in acting and directing, one might draw a parallel to the career of a successful actor in Hollywood getting behind the camera and trying a hand at directing. And, with Echolands, we’re quite certain that Doug has the equivalent of a box office hit on his hands.
Echolands Winery Meets Vintegrity
Frost met Vintegrity founder JP Gilmore during his career on the road as a wine consultant. The two officially met when JP was working with one of Frost’s business partners.
About working with JP and Vintegrity business partner Sean Ball, Frost noted, “I always try to be cognizant of the people in my market, particularly those who are having an impact upon the wine business. So, it’s always been important to me to know who they are and stay in touch with them.”
Be on the lookout for the next installment from our interview with the Doug for a more personal look into his life and what he envisions the future of the industry.