Outside Lands is all about celebrating the best of the Bay Area - and what would Northern California culture be without wine? Whether you’re a master sommelier or just in the mood for something bubbly, there’s a bottle with your name on it at Wine Lands. Wine Lands uncorks 125 different wines, bringing together the most interesting, diverse and small production California wineries, presented by the very people who make them.
To celebrate the announcement of the 2019 Wine Lands lineup, we sat down with wine director Peter Eastlake, who has been curating Wine Lands since the very first year of Outside Lands, to learn more about how he chooses the wineries, who he is, and his insight on the wine industry and community. Check out the lineup here and read on below!
How do you go about selecting wineries to host at Wine Lands? What is the process like?
Wineries typically want to return each year which is a good problem to have when putting together Wine Lands! But I try to have a fresh look lineup each year with a mix of new wineries and old favorites. It’s a year round conversation. I keep a list of wineries who ask me about participating, and come January I start building the lineup. Each year I go into Outside Lands feeling excited and inspired by the Wine Lands lineup. It’s a fun challenge.
Walk us through a perfect day in Wine Lands. What’s the best way to pace out our tastings to make the most of our weekend?
My first move of the day is always drinking a fresh coconut from the Eco Lands market! Invariably, Scharffenberger Brut or one of the many great Rosés of Wine Lands with a Del Popolo pizza happens by 1pm. The proper festival foundation! I spend a lot of my day steering people to wines and wineries that I think they’ll like based on a little Q&A session. I enjoy turning people onto new wines. With over 120 wines available at Wine Lands, it can be a bit daunting to choose just one wine. That’s why all wines are offered in a taste size portion right up to an 8oz pour (a third of a bottle!) My suggestion is to roam the tent, look at what each winery is pouring and start by tasting a few that look intriguing. Before long, you’ll find something that hits the spot.
What makes Wine Lands unique? How is it different from wine offerings at other music festivals?
My goal with Wine Lands has always been to bring the winemaker / winery directly to the audience. 12 years ago when Wine Lands launched, wine simply wasn’t available at music festivals. Michelin star restaurants didn’t serve food at festivals either! This all started at Outside Lands. The experience of talking to winemakers and learning about their wine when tasting the wine is the relatively simple secret sauce of Wine Lands. I believe that Wine Lands proved a thesis that high quality wine and food work in the space. It has grown every year. Instead of having one wine brand sponsor the entire wine offering, it’s important to the experience to showcase many wineries.
Other than Wine Lands, what is your favorite thing about Outside Lands?
The food is awesome…I eat so well during the weekend! Golden Gate Park is cellar temperature. I’m also excited that cannabis is now part of the festival experience. Being in San Francisco, Outside Lands has always been at the intersection of music, food, wine, technology, art, and environmental issues. There’s no better setting for this confluence to play out in such a fantastic way. The collective experience of so many people having a great time together is always inspiring to me. Dreams are made here. I always feel a bit sad on Monday, with that “take me back” feeling. It’s tremendous lift of humanity.
What are you excited about in the wine industry - particularly in Northern CA?
Organic wine has come a long way. Pioneers like Fetzer and Preston have been at it for decades, but we live in a time now when consumer awareness of organic wine has reached a point that a wineries environmental stewardship can be a key selling point. I live in Sonoma County and don’t want my kids looking for frogs in a stream next to a vineyard that sprays nasty stuff. Wineries need to be accountable for their impact on the earth.
What new trends and techniques are rising in the world of wine?
These are experimental times for wine! Wines fermented in concrete eggs, red wines that look like dark Rosés, bottle fermented sparkling wines, natural wines, cans of wine. Winemaking techniques have traditionally been the talk of the wine trade, but now consumers have latched onto the conversation. In a way, wine is becoming more like craft beer where experimentation is encouraged. There’s an audience for everything now.
Have you tasted every wine we pour at Wine Lands?
By the time Wine Lands opens at 11am on Friday, yes. I taste and buy wine for a living…I know…I know…terrible job.
What are you up to when you’re not curating Wine Lands?
I own three wine stores in Berkeley, but moved to Healdsburg to focus on buying wines directly from wineries for email offers to online audiences. It’s kind of the best job ever. 365 days a year. I never stop buying and selling wine! I love telling the stories of wine. I have always felt that the wine industry is its own worst enemy, and that the real story tends to hide behind layers of distribution that kills the story-telling aspect. My calling is to tell the stories and make suggestions to the audience whether that’s one person in my shop, or one million people receiving an email offer.
How did you get started in the wine industry?
I grew up in Philadelphia and my neighbor was a French wine importer. I became fascinated by the diversity of regions, grapes, and the taste. I lived in South Africa in 1994 studying wine, which led me to pursue becoming a wine merchant in NYC. That’s around the time that I met Chris Sampson of Superfly!
What’s your favorite wine, or type of wine?
I love drinking California wines made by friends. When you know the vineyard and winemaker…it just tastes better! French and Italian wines are my first loves, but CA is getting better in every way each vintage. Barolo is my kryptonite!
Do you have a “white whale” wine? Something you’re dying to taste that is rare or hard to find?
Good Burgundy has become so damn expensive and scarce that it’s now in that category for me. Why is a wine that I sold in 1995 for $25 now $250? It seems crazy to me, but great Burgundy now falls into that once in a lifetime type experience.