Living in Pismo Beach – Josh Klapper

Living in Pismo Beach, where we connect you with some of our favorite people who live and work on the Central Coast. Those community and business leaders who make living on the Coast such a unique and diverse experience.

Episode #8

Josh Klapper
Winemaker & Owner of Timbre Winery in Arroyo Grande, CA

Josh Klapper Winemaker & Owner of Timbre Winery, joins Ashlea Foster Boyer, Shannon Bowdey & Jordan Hamm on Living In Pismo Beach.

Ashlea Boyer:

Hey.

Shannon Bowdey:

Hi, everybody.

Ashlea Boyer:

Hey, everybody.

Jordan Hamm:

Hey.

Shannon Bowdey:

Good to see your faces.

Jordan Hamm:

I know.

Ashlea Boyer:

Good to see your faces. It’s Wednesday already. How’d that happen?

Shannon Bowdey:

Yes. Wow. I have no idea.

Ashlea Boyer:

Nope, Back it up. It’s Friday, when this comes out and they think it’s live.

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh yeah.

Jordan Hamm:

Oh yeah.

Ashlea Boyer:

Okay. Hey ladies. Good to see your faces.

Jordan Hamm:

Hey. Good to see you. It’s Friday.

Shannon Bowdey:

Hey. Good to see you too.

Ashlea Boyer:

It’s Friday. Well, I’m excited for this guest. So Shannon, why don’t you kick us off?

Shannon Bowdey:

Sounds good. Today, we’re getting together with Josh Klapper, winemaker and owner of TIMBRE Winery. Josh’s love for wine led him first into a career as sommelier, which led to a Wine Spectator Grand Award for the wine list at Sona restaurant in Los Angeles in 2004.

Ashlea Boyer:

After working closely with some of the Central Coast’s trailblazing winemakers, including Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist, Josh founded La Fenêtre Wines in Santa Barbara County, which in 2016 became TIMBRE Winery.

Jordan Hamm:

Crafting modern wines in a variety of styles, Josh is constantly honing his winemaking technique to produce wines that better express terroir year after year. Klapper lives in Arroyo Grande, California with his wife, Chiasa, and two children, Lily and Alex. Let’s welcome, Josh.

Ashlea Boyer:

Yay.

Shannon Bowdey:

Yay. Hey, there.

Jordan Hamm:

Hi.

Shannon Bowdey:

How are you?

Josh Klapper:

Hello, sorry. This is a new desk set up for me. Is that too bright behind me?

Jordan Hamm:

No.

Shannon Bowdey:

No, it’s fine. How are you doing?

Josh Klapper:

Well, I certainly don’t work for Keller Williams.

Shannon Bowdey:

Oh my gosh.

Josh Klapper:

I’m good.

Shannon Bowdey:

I see. You’re originally from Manhattan.

Josh Klapper:

Yes.

Shannon Bowdey:

It’s a two part question. What brought you to the Central Coast and what inspired you to go from sommelier to a winemaker?

Josh Klapper:

Okay. So just so you know, I am terrible at even one part questions, so I will try to stay focused all the way through. So what brought me to the Central Coast was while I was living in New York, I met my girlfriend who became my wife, currently my wife still fortunately. I met her in New York. And she was from California. And in the early 2000s, I think we were living in New York and looking for a change and she wanted to go back to California. And so I was willing and so we moved actually to LA where her family was living at the time.

And in 2005, I made the transition from sommelier to winemaker. At the time, there was actually a number of soms who were making that leap. Probably the most famous at the time was a guy by the name of Mike Bonaccorsi. He has since passed away, but very influential sommelier. And he inspired me to think about making wine. I started doing it for fun.

And I started in ’05 and by 2010, I was totally hooked. I’d really grown the winery a reasonable size. And I realized I couldn’t do it from LA anymore. And that’s what actually brought me up to the Central Coast.

So I’ve been commuting for years between LA and Santa Maria. And then I realized that as I’d go north, I would get more and more excited. And then I’d go back south and I would get more and more depressed as the lights became more and the concrete. Sorry, my dog is hunting flies in the house right now.

Jordan Hamm:

That’s a good dog to have.

Josh Klapper:

She’s running around. If you see a fly and then a Chihuahua go flying.

Shannon Bowdey:

Thank you. Okay.

Ashlea Boyer:

Okay. So I see you were mentored by some of the most well known wine makers in the area, including Jim Clendenen, Bob Lindquist and Jim Adelman. Adelman is right, right? The pronunciation?

Josh Klapper:

Yeah.

Ashlea Boyer:

What are one or two of the most important things you learned from each? Or what did you get from those collaborations?

Josh Klapper:

From all three of them, I learned a lot. So probably the biggest lesson from Jim Clendenen was that he’s the founder of Au Bon Climat winery, one of the kings of Pinot Noir and beginning of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the Central Coast, really brought it to the world. I think Richard Sanford was probably one of the first, but Jim really went and got out there.

And from Jim, I just saw this insane work ethic. The guy travels a hundred days a year, 150 days a year selling wine all over the country. And he’s in his sixties now. I think almost 70 actually. And still, just constantly traveling and you could see how hard he had to work to push his brand.

From Bob, I learned the ability to trust in the process. So one of the Bob-isms that I use on a regular basis is that, I think about it when I’m putting together a blend, and I remember the first one that I put together was with Bob and I said, “Bob, how do you know how it’s going to turn out?”. He said, “I have no idea, but if all the wines are good, then the blend will be good too.”. He was like, “Just trust that it’ll be okay.”.

So that’s all about quality in, quality out. If you start with good stuff, you’ll have good stuff.

And then from Jim Adelman, I learned that if my wife wants a glass of wine, I should be really excited and just give her a glass of wine. Don’t fight it. Adelman’s given me a lot of family advice over the years.

Shannon Bowdey:

That’s awesome. Wonderful.

Josh Klapper:

But he was their GM and he’s been their GM for over 30 years. So he had a little local brand called Makor. And he’s always at the farmer’s market in AG, that’s where I tend to see him. But, three amazing winemakers yeah.

Ashlea Boyer:

Awesome.

Shannon Bowdey:

Wonderful.

Jordan Hamm:

Okay. So TIMBRE’s not a word that you see very often and we know that there’s a musical theme to your wine names. So can you just tell us about your winery theme and how you came up with the name?

Josh Klapper:

Sure. So full disclosure, part of the reason why I’m late is I got a new electric guitar. I was playing with it and then my alarm went off and I was like, oh I got to go jump on my computer and that’s when I received your call. [inaudible 00:07:01].

Timbre or timbre, it’s pronounced both ways, is a musical term. And it refers to the sound of one’s voice when singing. So it’s actually like the fingerprint of your voice. So it’s why each of the three of you would sound different. Even if there was no video, you would know each other’s voices. That’s literally the timbre or timbre of your voice.

And as a winemaker, I don’t own any vineyards. So I source fruit from, depending on the vintage, between five and last year I probably sourced from almost 15 different vineyards. But ultimately the wines that I make from those vineyards are unique. They really taste like my ones. So that’s like the timbre of my wine making, the voice of my wine making, if that makes sense.

Ashlea Boyer:

Yeah.

Jordan Hamm:

Cool.

Josh Klapper:

So it’s the idea of the winemaker’s expression showing up in the wines themselves, you know?

Jordan Hamm:

Yeah.

Ashlea Boyer:

And then the spinoffs of those are you have a wine that’s called The Black Keys, and then Dancing Queen. So they’re all musically [crosstalk 00:08:08].

Josh Klapper:

My dog is going crazy. I feel like she can unplug something. Oh, she got it. This is my chihuahua.

Ashlea Boyer:

Oh, there you go.

Josh Klapper:

She’s eating a fly right now as we speak. Sorry, [inaudible 00:08:21] weird. Sorry. I have one called The Black Keys. There is a Dancing Queen now. We do have that one. That’s a Rosé that was made by actually my head of business development, Bethany. She just does all the sales for me, because I’m not organized enough to do that.

And then Gary Gates, he’s a very old friend and invested in some wine projects of mine and he comes and works, harvest every year. And Dancing Green was a fun one because with that wine, we donated a percentage of sales to pride essentially. And unfortunately, there was no pride this year, but we did donate a portion to LGBTQ+, an organization that works with at risk youth in that community. And it was it’s a pretty cool way to give back. Yeah, but all the wines have a musical name. So yeah.

Ashlea Boyer:

Well, that goes right to Shannon’s question. So I’ll let Shannon do the next question.

Shannon Bowdey:

Right. I, of course, asked my husband do you have any Dancing Queen? I want to try it. So unfortunately, he didn’t have any. So I can’t wait to try that one. But I love the program that you started during COVID and shelter-in-place of giving back to our area restaurants that were closed or have limited service. Thank you for your support in some of our favorite places. And how did you come up with that program?

Josh Klapper:

When the whole thing went down and we had the shelter-in-place and businesses were closing, I was pretty scared about our business, about our winery. We sell mostly through restaurants. But pretty quickly I realized that as a winery, any sales that we missed out on, we still had wine. Those were going to come back eventually.

And I didn’t think I was going to go to business. I started my winery during the financial crisis in 2008. And so that’s pretty much the economy tanked as soon as I started selling my first wines. And so I felt like I had the ability to work through those issues and figure out other ways to sell wine and make things happen.

But what I did know that, since I came from restaurants and since I sell mostly to restaurants, huge number of my friends actually make their livings from working or owning, or just being part of restaurants. And the revenue that they didn’t make during this time was never going to come back.

And so I just wanted to do something where if people came to my place, they’d also be supporting those restaurants that were trying to be open, that were trying to deliver food.

So essentially, we donated 10% of all of our sales in the tasting room to a restaurant that was doing something to go, like spoon trade, sidewalk cafe. I don’t know, we did a bunch of them. There are seven or eight Papy’s in Pismo, or Hapy’s.

Ashlea Boyer:

Hapy’s

Josh Klapper:

[Inaudible 00:11:22] in Pismo, both actually.

But I just I felt for those people that they were really, for better or for worse, they were screwed. It was a very difficult time, and it still is. Most of my friends that have independent restaurants in major cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco still haven’t opened. And ultimately, they’re not sure if they can, because at reduced capacity, restaurants a tough margin business in the best of times. And so there’s occupancy, it’s really hard to pay your rent. So, yeah.

Ashlea Boyer:

Yeah. It’s rough.

Shannon Bowdey:

Very cool. Thank you for that.

Josh Klapper:

Yeah.

Ashlea Boyer:

Okay. So along with that, we got to keep in touch with all of you all, because you started something called the Timbre Show. So how did that idea come about? I loved having my Friday start with your face really close to my screen and what hat you might be wearing that day and stuff like that.

Josh Klapper:

Yeah. It’s pretty funny. The idea behind the Timbre Show, most of our local wine club members and clientele and guests and friends, and the reason they come to TIMBRE is when we opened the tasting room, for me, the most important part of a restaurant was the service. And it didn’t have to be fancy and it didn’t have to be technically great, but it had to be warm.

And if you have warm and friendly service, and if you’re funny and happy, then people are going to want to come. The food could be absolutely terrible, but they’ll still come back because they just like being there. They’ll find something they like. Maybe they’ll just have a beer or something, but that’s the place that they want to go. If you go to a place and they could have the best food in the world, and then there’s restaurants like that, even in our area, but it’s very cold. And so it’s not that much fun at least for me.

And so the idea with the Timbre show was to try to keep that feeling of fun and warmth and friendship with all of our people while we couldn’t actually see them. Because I think that was the biggest loss from this whole thing, the biggest loss, obviously everyone’s financially hurting, but I think everyone’s hurting for human connection.

And so I just vowed that, even though this was a video that maybe people’s kids were going to see, I don’t know, that we were not going to dumb it down. It was going to be the full TIMBRE experience. And it was every week.

And we were all a little bit sad when it ended, but it was also pretty stressful. We were like, “What are we going to talk about today? I don’t know.”. It’s hard to produce a show. And we had absolutely the smallest amount of production value of anything, but it’s still really difficult to do. And people would give us suggestions like, “Oh, you have to get this mic or you have to get this camera.”, and I was like, “No, dude. This is the camera right here.”

Ashlea Boyer:

Well, but-

Shannon Bowdey:

So the dog’s part of our show. What’s her name?

Josh Klapper:

Sorry?

Shannon Bowdey:

So the dog’s part of our show. What’s her name?

Ashlea Boyer:

The dog.

Josh Klapper:

Oh Cookie?

Ashlea Boyer:

Cookie.

Josh Klapper:

She’s looking at me now. She’s like, “I don’t want to be on camera.”.

Ashlea Boyer:

I’m not ready for that.

Josh Klapper:

No, no, no.

Shannon Bowdey:

Wonderful.

Jordan Hamm:

So can you tell us, too, about your tasting room? Is it open? Are you serving food? Or if it’s not open yet, what are you expecting to happen in the future?

Josh Klapper:

Yeah, so we are open. We opened pretty quickly. The first weekend we couldn’t do it. There was a lot of paperwork and things that you had to file with the ABC, which is the Alcohol Beverage Control in the area. I think that’s what it’s called.

There was a lot of hoops that we had to jump through. We did open that second weekend, which was we had to serve food. So we contracted with a local vendor that we really get along with, and we did food for literally two days. And then they said the next week we didn’t have to have food. So that was great. That was a lot of work for almost absolutely nothing. But I do have a fridge full of charcuterie, which I’m eating and I’m excited about.

Jordan Hamm:

It’s always my favorite.

Josh Klapper:

Yeah, right? And so now we’re pretty much open on weekends. We encourage reservations during the week. You can come and we’re not technically open during the week. It’s mostly pickups, but if you want to buy a bottle and sit, we have a back patio that we’ve set up where people can sit and enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of wine.

We also do flights, but it’s different than we used to do it. So the flight used to be poured by somebody. They’d come in, pour each one and tell you about each one. In an effort to minimize contact, all five wines are put out in front of you in little crafts. And you have a little menu which tells you all about each wine.

So we’ve adapted a little bit, but now we actually are offering tastings again, which is really nice. So the biggest thing for us though, is we used to do some pretty wicked parties for our pickup parties. I’m not going to say there wasn’t lots of inebriation. It was a lot of fun. And I’m just really sad we can’t do those, because I love parties and [crosstalk 00:17:04].

Ashlea Boyer:

Looking forward to those too.

Jordan Hamm:

Oh yeah.

Shannon Bowdey:

Yeah.

Josh Klapper:

But I don’t want a TIMBRE super spreading event. That would not be a good thing.

Ashlea Boyer:

No, I think you’re talking to three people that are very much people people. That’s what we do. So it’s been a little bit frustrating with the lack of interaction. I think Shannon’s literally exploding with an overload of hugging.

Shannon Bowdey:

I want to hug somebody soon.

Josh Klapper:

The first post that we sent out, we basically said, “Hey, we’re sorry for anyone that’s being hurt by this. Unfortunately, we’re closed for tastings.”. I think in like service and then hugs was the third one. Can’t do hugs, you know?

But I have hugged a few people besides my children and wife. It felt dangerous every single time, but it was worth it. That’s funny.

Ashlea Boyer:

It’s a whole new world. Well, those are all the questions we have and we really enjoyed getting to know your background a little bit better. So I’m so appreciative that you took the time away from that new guitar. What kind of guitar is it?

Josh Klapper:

It’s a used guitar. I don’t even know the brand, but it looked pretty cool. It’s bright yellow and it’s definitely my style. And then I got a little three-quarter guitar for my son and daughter because they’re little. And so I’m hoping they’ll pick it up. They already play piano. Unbelievably, they’re both really good. [inaudible 00:18:38] time to introduce a second instrument, so we can have a band someday.

Jordan Hamm:

Oh cool.

Josh Klapper:

My hope is that when we can reopen, maybe we’ll start doing music at the tasting room.

Jordan Hamm:

Oh, I love that.

Shannon Bowdey:

That’s cool. I like that.

Ashlea Boyer:

It’s going to be awesome.

Jordan Hamm:

Can’t wait for it.

Josh Klapper:

[crosstalk 00:18:52] if I commit in a public space, maybe I’ll actually do it because I’m very shy actually about playing music in front of people.

Ashlea Boyer:

Playing new music? Okay. Well then we’re all going to come to the first time you do it.

Josh Klapper:

Awesome. You can all laugh at me, you know?

Ashlea Boyer:

I don’t think so. Thank you so much.

Josh Klapper:

Yes, my pleasure. Thank you guys for having me on.

Ashlea Boyer:

Have a great evening. With wine in hand, Ashley Boyer.

Jordan Hamm:

Jordan Hamm.

Shannon Bowdey:

And Shannon Bowdey with the Pismo Beach Homes Team.

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