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Wine Enthusiast Podcast: Inside the U.S. Caviar Boom

Once considered a delicacy for the elite, caviar is now accessible to food enthusiasts of all backgrounds. As its popularity surges, producers in the United States have taken note, emerging as major players in the world of caviar, specifically those in Northern California.  

To make sense of these recent shifts, Writer at Large and spirits reviewer Kara Newman sat down with Ali Bolourchi to discuss the rise of caviar throughout the U.S.  

Ali Bolourchi is the owner of Tsar Nicoulai, a sturgeon ranch in Wilton, California, right outside of Sacramento. Sacramento County produces most of the caviar made in the United States. 

Listen as Newman and Bolourchi chat about what makes a great caviar; why caviar is so expensive; the parallels between California caviar and California wine; and why caviar from Northern California can rival its imported counterparts. 

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Ali Bolourchi, Kara Newman, Jacy Topps 

Jacy Topps  00:08 

Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. You’re serving drinks culture, and the people who drive it. I’m Jacy Topps. This week we’re taking a look at caviar, once only considered for the elite, food enthusiasts from all backgrounds are now enjoying the delicacy. As a result of its growing popularity, the United States has emerged as a major player in the world of caviar, specifically, Northern California. Writer at large and spirits reviewer Karen Newman sat down with Ali Bolourchi to discuss the rise of caviar throughout the U.S.  

Jacy Topps  00:50 

Ali is the owner of Tsar Nicoulai, a sturgeon ranch in Wilton California, right outside of Sacramento. Sacramento County produces most of the caviar made in the United States. So listen on as Ali explains what makes a great caviar; why caviar is so expensive; the parallels between California caviar and California wine and why Northern California caviar can rival its imported counterparts.  

Jacy Topps  01:25 

Every glass of wine tells a story. These stories reveal hidden histories, flavors and passions. And sometimes they unravel our darkest desires. In Wine Enthusiast, newest podcast Vinfamous Journalist Ashley Smith dissects the underbelly of the wine world. We hear from the people who know what it means when the products of love and care become the source of greed, arson, and even murder. Each episode takes listeners into the mysterious and historic world of winemaking and the crimes that have since become Vinfamous. This podcast pairs well with wine lovers, history nerds and crime junkies like so. Grab a glass of your favorite wine and follow the podcast to join us as we delve into the twists and turns behind all time most shocking wine crimes. Follow Vinfamous on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen and be sure to follow the show. So you never miss a scandal. New episodes drop every other Wednesday. 

Kara Newman  02:36 

What is it about caviar? We all love it. Whether to pair with champagne, or my personal favorite, ice cold martinis. Maybe you’ve done a caviar bump or headed spoon on top of crudo bellinis or even tater tots. Caviar is everywhere these days. But here’s the thing, as demand for caviar has soared, many Americans are looking to local producers of fish row and seeking sustainable options. So in the middle of all that Northern California has become the epicenter of us caviar. I’m Karen Newman, writer at large and spirits reviewer for Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Ali Bolourchi, president of Tsar Nicoulai, one of the top producers of American caviar based in Sacramento, and an alumnus of UC Davis. He’s incredibly knowledgeable about aquaculture and the history of caviar. And I interviewed him for a story about California caviar that will appear in the magazine’s upcoming California issue. And I knew right away that we had to have him on the podcast. So here we go. Welcome Ali. 

Ali Bolourchi  03:42 

Thank you, Kara. That was a very nice introduction on your part. Greatly appreciate it. And hopefully, you know, we have some really fun foodie, creative bites to share with your audience here. 

Kara Newman  03:53 

So let’s start with the name of your company, Tsar Nicoulai. I mean, what’s the origins? Must be really challenging to have a Russian sounding company name these days? 

Ali Bolourchi  04:02 

It’s an interesting question. So you have you know, one of the oldest, one of the five oldest farms in the world located in Wilton, California by a brand founded in San Francisco, California back in 1979, and established the farming practice in 1984. And it has a kind of Caspian Russian sounding name. So how the heck did we get to Tsar Nikolai as our beloved brand of California inspired by sushi caviar. The original founders of Tsar Nicoulai were the angstrom family and Madison Daphne Angstroms is some of the pioneers of search and farming, historically speaking, had a beloved foodie grandfather named Nicholas. And you know, back in late 70s, early 80s, no one really knew of the United States, specifically the western portion of the United States for having any sort of caveat significance. So as California sort of began In this push towards a black gold rush of sorts with caviar, they wanted to kind of qualify the farmed  production of Northern California, as a worldly caviar, something that sort of met the expectation of the consumer the aficionado, the enthusiast, who at that time, really, the Caspian Sea and Black Sea were the Mother Nature’s homes of you know, amazing caviar. So, the name Tsar Nicoulai actually became a sort of Shah czar Imperial way of describing their late grandfather. And so they took Nicolas and instead of naming it Nicolas caviar, they kind of looked up and found, hey, there was a Tsar, Nicoulai. And maybe we’ll do that as an homage to our grandfather. So that’s really the genesis of the name. And, you know, while it’s definitely had some, both ups and downs in terms of its association, I would say presently, or at least in the past, like 18 months, I think, overall, there’s a lot of good that came from the name really what it did was allow the domestic caviar enthusiast to know that there’s something grown under California sunshine, that is every bit, the quality that would be served to Czar shop. So that’s really how Tsar Nicoulai caviar brand sort of came to life. 

Kara Newman  05:28 

Okay, and I certainly don’t want to focus on, you know, the ugly part of business. But I did read that it has been the subject of some anti-Russian sentiment. 

Ali Bolourchi  06:35 

Yeah, absolutely. About a, you know, let’s say at our Cafe Morso we have a wonderful award winning cafe in San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza, which is a beautiful producer’s area. For anybody who visits San Francisco, I highly encourage you to go check out the ferry Plaza and smell and taste and enjoy a lot of amazing crafted food items that are very local hyperlocal really is the goal there. I think in our cafe about a year ago, it was a little bit tough on the staff, they had a lot of questions to answer. You know, we had flags out there, we’re supporting Ukraine, I think as a brand, what we did is we partnered with restaurants and chefs to try to do our part ultimately, not only to educate people on, you know, the, what we do in our association, or in this case, lack thereof any sort of actual connection to Russia for us as a brand or ownership. But to help our staff feel comfortable, we tried to go out of our way to create charitable give backs for the country of Ukraine through Red Cross and through a lot of these collaborative fundraisers with chefs where we were donating our California inspired caviar to kind of get the word out that hey, while our name may sound Russian there really is no Russian-ness  to Tsar Nicoulai outside of its historical sort of reference to quality caveats. So I think our staff in the last six months, nine months is definitely the dust is settled. I think a little bit further education has helped, you know, our staff not feel as intimidated by the fact that oh, shoot, we are Russian sounding name. And there’s a war going on right now, between Russia and Ukraine, where, you know, clearly from a California company standpoint, you know, our hearts are definitely with the people of Ukraine, and everything that we’re going through. So, you know, I would say, thankfully, as I kind of alluded to things have sort of evened out, you know, most people are okay with the concept behind our name. And I think in the long run, again, it’s just a representation of, you know, our own sort of unique spelling of a kind of foodie homage to the founders grandfather that, you know, definitely has a Russian association to it in terms of Tsar Nikolai was a Russian czar, really just kind of, you know, branding and as our logo proudly shows that gold in California State at the center of our our logo, almost a fusion of Caspian traditions just with, you know, modern California sort of Food Integrity inspired caviar. 

Kara Newman  09:06 

So bringing this back to California. Why, why so much caviar coming from California, these days of all places? 

Ali Bolourchi  09:14 

That’s a pretty, pretty good question. And what I would say is that California, ironically, was one of the test places for sturgeon farming, and Northern California in particular. Sacramento County is a great agricultural area, and a pub, my alma mater, again, one of the best ag universities in the world. UC Davis is about 2030 minutes away from where a lot of the sturgeon farming magic sort of came to fruition. So this is a very slow food part of the expensive caviar as it takes, you know, this is a long cycled fish. It takes about six to eight years to go from, you know, spawning all the way up to caviar producing feed. meal. So, California has been around doing this longer than just about anybody else. And as the domestic enthusiast, you know, the American with a palate for carriers kind of began to realize like, hey, why don’t we take a look and see if there’s some amazing caviar is being formed domestically, California has kind of been waiting for this, you know, confluence of factors to come together. So, to answer your question, California tends to produce almost 90% of the caviar that is produced in the United States. That’s a lot. Yeah. And again, this is a little bit of an estimate. So the real numbers could probably range anywhere from you know, 75 to 90%. But really, and I’ll take that a step further Northern California would be where all of that is done. Sacramento County, really, you know, there’s some other states Idaho’s and Florida is and Carolinas that produce caviar, but not at the same volume as California. And one of the reasons why California does really well, is we’re forming an indigenous fish. So the white sturgeon that’s our beloved native sturgeon does really well, when farmed in its home. And while Idaho for example, also Farms, a species of white sturgeon that’s the same as the one in California just adapted over time, through some migrations, it doesn’t produce as much genuine caviar as the fish in California, neither do the farms in the East Coast. And a lot of that just happens to do with really a replica of what you would see in the rivers and deltas and bays here. Very similar sort of water qualities and temperatures and microclimates and environments are done at the farming level. So, you know, a little bit of ag Tech and a lot of TLC, Northern California produces, you know, some of the largest yield per fish, meaning the percentage of the sturgeon that actually is made into caviar is greater in Northern California, then in other regions, whether there are countries or states that also produce this similar white sturgeon fish. So why so much caviar is coming from California currently? Well, California has kind of got that perfect agriculture, aquaculture DNA to it. And you know, I know that we’re doing this on, you know, Wine Enthusiast podcast. Again, it’s all about terroir. We have great soil, we have great waters, very inspired varietals of sturgeon. And by treating it respectfully, and kind of adding in some components of sustainability, it allows us to grow our volume, and our biomass from farming perspective, whether it’s our farm or some of the neighboring farms, without really losing our low density approach.  

Ali Bolourchi  12:55 

There are some very creative ways that are kind of embedded in that California terroir that allows us to be able to produce more and more but maintain quality along the way. So I think the analogy I would make is Northern California has had tremendous, tremendous area for amazing inspired high end agricultural food items. And whether it’s, you know, wines are caviars, I think caviar is a little bit later to the party. But the California sort of amazing ag food production state really benefits the California farms, that’s probably why caviar from California, you’re seeing it on more menus, and it’s kind of becoming more relevant. There’s two key factors again, great terroir, great ag great tack, and most importantly, a delicious food item that just happens to be kind of local to us. And now hopefully, it’s becoming a little bit more heralded. And you know, as people become more educated and try it more and realize it is every bit as delicious as imported caviars. But as you said, you know, it’s local, has a lower carbon footprint, again, low densities, antibiotic free, steroid free environments, using no land base proteins in our feeds, feeding the fish, what they would have in the wild. Certain practices also help California do better work. But really a lot of it has to do with the amazing state and the amazing agriculture terroir that we have. So that’s, that’s why you’re seeing it more and more and more, we have the foundation in the boats to do even greater work. So slowly as the caviar enthusiast gets inspired, and realizes and kind of finds that hidden treasure, which is California inspired why sturgeon caviar. We anticipate that growth to continue again, goes back to the boom of Napa and Alexandria Valley, really is amazing terroir especially right now, we’ve had an unbelievable rain season in California and 2023. That’s a lot long winded way of saying, Go California. The reason or caviar is getting on more menus is an amazing state with really talented people and amazing, amazing geography. So 

Kara Newman  15:10 

I see that as our future magazine caviar enthusiast, why not? 

Ali Bolourchi  15:14 

With you? That would be our hope. We’re just a couple decades away. 

Kara Newman  15:19 

I like what you say about different varietals of sturgeon, how many different types of sturgeon are there? 

Ali Bolourchi  15:28 

So there’s about 26, 27 species of sturgeon, and they are of many differing lengths and colorations. And there’s really just two branches of the surgeon family without getting overly technical. There’s kind of the Acipenser side and the Husso side, and those two branches will come to the family which is called Acipenser day and that houses all these 27 varietals of sturgeon, which are northern hemisphere fish that, you know, traditionally, from a carrier perspective, were Caspian Sea delicacies, and they had common names like Belugas satras sevruga, is now in the United States. Our team of scientists are really sort of observational scientists, we call a white sturgeon a white sturgeon because it has, you know, triangular scoots. on its side that are white, we call the green sturgeon and green sturgeon because it has some green color patients. We call the Lake Sturgeon Lake sturgeon because it lives in lakes. So we don’t have as much sort of charismatic names as some of these historical sturgeons that you would find in the Caspian or Black Sea. But again, it goes back to our you know, coastal Pacific white sturgeon, really being that hidden gem that was kind of in our backyard and was kind of a test done by the University of California Davis to see if this variety will was able to produce a word winning caviar is ecologically it made sense to farm and native species, because you wouldn’t impact the wild population. Further, you’d be able to sort of test this for Rydell, in a closed loop farm, where you weren’t worried about a farmed version of that fish getting out and adjusting the DNA of the wild population. So you’re able to do stuff that, you know, the Monterey Bay Aquarium would deem as a best choice or a green practice. And really, you know, if we fast forward from, you know, the test in, you know, the early 80s, when we started in 84 Till now, I mean, there’s, there’s been, you know, a good four year run in sort of mastering this craft of growing this varietals into a heralded product. So, there’s, I guess, a good and a bad to that the challenge of it again, I’m gonna jump into a sort of wine conversation is historically, the Caspian caviar is really have these specific varietals that people were familiar with. So while we may have like a Cabernet Sauvignon that we grow here in California are white sturgeon because it’s very sort of buttery and intense in a good way in terms of that rich fat flavor. It is a full-bodied caviar. It took a lot of people to realize that, you know, good caviar could be grown here. And it’s, you know, been a 40 year battle to get to that point because the Caspian carriers were very much like, you know, a Bordeaux read, they just carried so much historical relevance that it was very hard, even if, you know, we felt we may have had a superior varietals to tell people that were enthusiast of these Caspian sutras are belugas are so Rouga is that there was a different varietals grown in California. That was every bit as awesome, more local and grown under ideal California conditions with you know, the best possible feeds healthier for you more dynamic and flavor and, you know, lower carbon footprint to produce for the domestic confuses so there are so many varietals now today that, you know, I think it’s the hope that with podcasts like this education’s for the consumer that they can begin to nerd out on which varietals that they like, because that’s really the key to wines growth is, the better you understand the flavors you like you can identify them to this specific type of grape or production method that you like, or a region that tends to produce those better, and really hone in on delivering the food experience that you like. And that’s really, as we assume getting all over the place on these varietals. It’s really the goal for California is to get the flavor out to more enthusiast because they’re able to then benchmark that rich fatty almost fog rub the sea flavor and know that that’s the kiss of Northern California caviar. 

Jacy Topps  19:59 

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Kara Newman  20:46 

One of the things you said that really resonated with me when we talked for the magazine, I think you prepared California’s caviar to California sparkling wine compared to the champagne or Prosecco of another region. 

Ali Bolourchi  21:03 

Absolutely. Our best comparison is always side by side, because it just goes into my mom had spent some time in France and as a huge fan of Ruinart champagne. We have a partner winery that we work with in Northern California for our tasting experience. Domaine Carneros and I have converted her to Laura has her new favorite. But it’s a California sparkling right. So it’s a champagne style, you know, just made in Northern California. So I think it’s one of those where, you know, our hope is the more people try it, the more they begin to understand that there’s more into it than just the name. So you know, just because a caviar is called osteria or it’s called a sevruga or is a beluga hybrid or something that sort of brings with it that historical champagne Prosecco tradition and now approach to that delicious food bite. We’re working on that. And we’re working on it by you know, in our case, our namesake was her estate grade of white sturgeon. And that really was our way of even in the inception of Sir Nicholas branding, they would refer to it as California osteria, style estate so that people knew that this variety of California white sturgeon was of, you know, to make the comparison, champagne quality, even though it was a California smartphone. So I think that’s where we see the growth happening is food education, and food education is more accessible. And the average age of very knowledgeable foodies, it’s getting younger and younger. And a lot of that benefits, you know, with the work we do in Northern California, because without an educated consumer, you’re really kind of always going to be at the mercy of, you know, fancy marketing, and you know, historical name relevance, because two things have to happen in order for the product to stand out and show up as we say, it has to be delicious. And then if you can help people get educated enough to try it, you’ll find that perfect marriage of they’ll be inspired to seek you out. And then they’ll let people they know, hey, next time you’re looking for caveats, you don’t have to bring it in from Europe, or Asia or Latin America. Give one of the Northern California farms a try. And that’s really our hope through some of our partnerships, specifically with like Whole Foods Market. We were fortunate enough to win an environmental stewardship award back in I believe, 2019 or 18, with whole foods that really helped a broader audience kind of get a sense of the practices done at the farms in Northern California to say, hey, well, these farms are working to be beyond the current standard of green, whether it’s through you know, recirculating aquaculture systems, new RAS systems or aquaponics, to further filter the farms and create tangible resources from these ways streams, but ultimately, that gets them to the point of trying it, they enjoy it. And then it becomes like even the biggest champagne enthusiast which of you know, give a shout out to my beloved mother again as we get closer to Mother’s Day, that all it takes is an amazing Laura from Domaine Carneros to just get her to recognize you know what, that Northern California agriculture is really it’s it’s been kissed by you know, Mother Nature. 

Kara Newman  24:41 

In terms of flavor. I know if you have oysters and usually say that, you know, East Coast oysters teas this way and are more minerally and West Coast oysters are more succulent. Is there some sort of flavor signifier for California caviar? 

Ali Bolourchi  24:58 

Absolutely. And That, I think is the best way of kind of guiding people to what your palate should expect. It’s like a freshly salted foreign butter flavor. And it’s one of the things that you know, is both a benefit and a knock on white sturgeon, specifically Western produce white Sturgeon is that it’s a single note caviar, you might not run into as much complexity, or diversity of flavor. And that’s actually somewhat by design. So one of the efforts done in the early days was tasting out the different sort of flavors that you know, these different food stocks were producing from a farming perspective so that we could hone in on the flavor that we felt reigned supreme, which was this freshly salted farm butter flavor, rich fatty unctuousness almost like a like a Toro to the sushi like sashimi or nigiri fan, just that, um, she was fattiness that just has a little bit of salted kiss of the sea, by not being overly naughty, by not being super briny. By not being, you know, let’s say herbaceous. It’ll allow the person who loves white sturgeon to really always look for or close your eyes, enjoy a scoop of it, and just let the rich fatty salted flavors sort of remind you of why you put all this effort into seeking out products that we farm or that are farmed by our neighbors. So that single note of freshly salted farm butter is very much unique to white sturgeon, and of all the other varietals. None of them will have that depth of rich salted butter flavor that white Sturgeon is able to produce. And that becomes our sign, our signature. No, 

Kara Newman  26:45 

That sounds amazing. I’m getting hungry just talking about this. Can we pull back and talk a little more broadly for a moment? I mean, can you explain what makes for good caviar? It doesn’t have to be expensive to have to be considered a luxury item. 

Ali Bolourchi  27:02 

Yeah, no, absolutely. And then, you know, kind of speaking to not only what makes a good carrier, but you know, why is caviar expensive, you know, kind of give a little background to so in the case of our farms, and most farms that produce surgeon, only the females produce caviar. The males are used at our farm for brood stock purposes, but also they do our smoke fish program for smoke surgeons and smoke surgeon pates. The females on the other hand, are raise anywhere from six to eight years, minimum of six years to reach maturity to produce caviar. And again, the caviar is the unfertilized salted row of the female surgeon that has been cold aged and rotated bi weekly and carrying ball for anywhere from six to 12 weeks to allow the salt through kind of gravity and osmosis to make its way from the outside to the dead center of the beads to kind of release that full flavor. So that’s kind of the background to Why is caviar not a inexpensive luxury food bite is really the resources that go into raising the fish and producing this two ingredient. Sturgeon row and salt inspired item. 

Kara Newman  28:21 

Is it ever consumed unsalted? 

Ali Bolourchi  28:24 

So it’s that’s a good question. So when we do our initial work, we do try it kind of raw to make sure that, let’s say the class of fish that we’re going to produce are mature enough that they have the right richness and flavor. The answer to your question is the raw caviar will have a muted version of that final flavor. So it takes really the best of the best within our team to be able to pick up on. Hey, I taste the rich fattiness or it has like some of the aspects that will play into texture or it has the right color I appeal to it. Not to briny, it’s not you know, there’s no earthiness, it’s a very clean flavor. So all of that the salt really is going to be almost like the catalyst to release all of the full flavor of it. You know, it’s really just a lack of ham until it gets assaulted and becomes you know, hum on or prosciutto and through that aging hearing is really what releases that dynamic of flavor. But no, when it’s raw, we’ll have a sense of hey, where this will be headed. 

Kara Newman  29:27 

Interesting. I just assumed it was for preservation purposes. That’s so interesting. 

Ali Bolourchi  29:31 

So in its inception, yeah, absolutely. Caviar is another one of those. How would I say it that necessity is the mother of innovation. They were forced to specifically in the case of some countries like Iran, the South Caspian where ramps are is one of these small sort of coastal towns that was known to have docks, just kind of in the middle of the Caspian that would produce caviar, and at that time would really just remove the row from the fish and they were having trouble get In all the way from Ramsar to some of the capitals like Tehran. And so the only way to get it there was for salt. So the salt work to preserve it as a historical preserving method, you know, hundreds of years ago. And that actually led to releasing the full flavor. And the people who brought it in realize, Wow, this is far superior in its flavor than when we lived. And now salt is obviously a preserving method. But the goals of the farms like for us is, the less salt the better. So we want people to experience as much caviar as possible. So, a lot of times you’ll find a historical word, which ironically, is a Russian word called mal of salt, which translates into meaning little salt. And really what that meant back in the day was, this is a very perishable, very premium caviar, very low school. Now, as a luxury bite, what makes caviar luxurious. I think there’s a couple components that go into it. I think it has like kind of its historical, kind of sought after this is what the Shahs and the czars were battling over. It was a prestigious item. But like fans and oysters are, you know, again, I go back to, you know, fans of sushi or even enthusiast of delicious wines. It’s all about the flavor. So, if you like an oyster again, I’m obviously biased. As a sturgeon farmer, what makes an oyster decadent and delicious, is simply magnified with caviar, there’s just more of it in terms of this, that kiss of the sea, the rich fatty flavors, just those notes that really are unique to something that is coming from the sea, where it’s just Uber clean. And again, just rich fatty like a protein that shouldn’t be a sea based protein. And that’s why I often throw out like a Toro or a tuna Valley, or even a salmon belly for that matter. It’s just a wonderful combination of good for you great tasting, and inspired. And it’s farming practices to produce. It just takes a long time. And I think that’s why caviar is expensive. We have some grades that in our mind are not, you know, overly expensive. Like our plastic white sturgeon grades, these are some of our quicker to produce fish, maybe right at that six year mark or not in the seven year, eight year where you deal with some of our reserve grades or crown jewels and where you start getting these sort of, again, to use an analogy. And this time with spirits like moving from anjeo to an extra aged anjeo, caviar can get very expensive, because you are producing fish where half of your spawns turn out to be males, only 50% of them are females of that 50% You’re waiting anywhere from six to eight years to produce the actual carrier. In that process, you’ll identify which grade qualifies as. And that’s again, you know, like a wine producer, knowing that everything is vintage isn’t going to be, you know, a 100 score $100 bottle that there’s some stuff that you’re going to produce that will be those 20 $40 bottles that are amazing, and are kind of gateways to the enthusiast on the product.  

Ali Bolourchi  33:09 

And that’s really how we look at our grades here. It’s our Nicoulai is our classic and estates are really there to allow you to experience California inspired white sturgeon caviar and hopefully guide you to look above that. And at the end of the day, if our original estate grade turns out to be someone’s favorite, there’s nothing wrong with that, the better our consumer, you know, identifies what it is with our carrier that they love. The happier everybody is because that’s really what this whole conversation is about. A lot of these food and beverage podcasts are really helping people get more educated and figure out what they love and the why behind it. I think once you can connect those dots you become more tolerant of the fact that this amino acid Omega three ancient food buy that you know it’s now grown under California sunshine is Yeah, it’s good for you but it is a bit pricey. So that’s our that’s the negative on our superfood is that we’re not a cheap superfood, but we hope that for the seafood enthusiast, we bring so much dynamic flavor. That that’s really our differentiator. It’s there is no substitute for caviar. It really is a flavor that is so unique to itself that there’s components of carriers flavor and other delicious things from the sea scallops, oysters, but they’re just heightened when it comes to caviar. Now obviously I’m a sturgeon farmer, and I’m a child who grew up eating caviar under my mom’s watch, so I’m very biased but for seafood lovers for sushi lovers, man oh man, get your favorite California sparkling like highly recommend get a little. You know, put that bottle on ice grab our reserve or a state and it’s a it’s a heavenly pairing. 

Ali Bolourchi  33:23 

I have this vision of you as a little kid instead of having tuna fish sandwiches. You had caviar sandwiches? 

Ali Bolourchi  34:55 

Absolutely. And it was caviar Add some sort of some sort of unique sort of rustic bread. And that’s how my mom got me into it. And you know, I have two kids now and I have one kid, my four year old son absolutely loves caviar. My daughter, she loves the bread with the butter that the caviar is served with. But she’s like, You know what, you can hold the caviar server to my brother. So I think that’s, you know, that’s how these foodie love affairs happen. Somebody has to kind of be your guide. That’s, you know, the hope of this podcast that we get people again, doesn’t have to be as Tsar Nicoulai. But if you’re thinking caviar, give Northern California a chance. I think that hyperlocal delicious, rich, fatty flavor, man, it’s almost bold enough to stand up to you know, something like, you know, I love California cabs, Napa Valley, cabs just sing to my soul. So you know, our product is almost rich enough to make its way there. Well, we’re better suited for California sparkling. That crisp sort of effervescence will clean your palate and reengage you for many more bites that are caviar, there’s so much good wine that comes out of the United States. I think there’s a perfect pairing meant to happen, whether it’s still sparkling of light read, there’s very, very enthusiastic ways to pare just, you know, obviously, I would say within the state of California, but I think the United States is an amazing place. And there’s more growing regions than, you know, just our Northern California one. 

Kara Newman  36:30 

Okay, so I’m just about winding down here. But I did want to ask one more. One more question. So according to your website, your your team sings to the sturgeon. Is that true, 

Ali Bolourchi  36:43 

Is that I think they sing for their own mental health as well. We have some talented people, which backgrounds that maybe had to be in theater, or some other aspects of their education through their high school and college. So I think what that does is it sort of creates this really, we like to refer to it as a California chill, relaxed environment, it’s a it’s a slow food. Our staff has been at our farm. You know, in many cases, the average staff members worked 5,10, 15, 20 years lifecycle of each vintage is about six years. So I think you need to create an environment that does two things, we have a very eco-friendly, and again, I’ll use our Eco certification, like our efforts of going green are kind of that intersection of being sustainable for the environment, to the point where it can help you become more sustainable as a business. And that’s really the goal to what we do in Northern California, we have to be because of resource restrictions, the cost of operating a farm, the cost of land, we have to be sort of on the plus side of agriculture technology. But also like we like to think of it as kind of, you know, we have some like Fairtrade ethos in our mission, where it’s that equal stewardship. Your employees that work this long for your vintages are part of your sturgeon family, and you want them to feel at home at the farm. And the beauty of the farm. The care for the farm, the clean nature of the farm, is what encourages everybody. And really a lot of that is what fuels into the award winning caviar. It’s all about the team. And that team includes our you know, beloved native California white sturgeon. So 

Kara Newman  38:34 

I love they’re part of the team. That’s great. Okay, so I’m going to wrap it up here. I’m so glad we had a chance to talk about sturgeon and caviar and parents, you heard it here your first, feed your children caviar sandwiches. So thank you so much for your time. This was really interesting. 

Ali Bolourchi  38:53 

It’s been a pleasure for me as well, thank you. 

Jacy Topps  38:59 

It may have taken decades for people to learn that excellent caviar can be grown right here in the U.S. But now, the secret is out. And caviar is everywhere. But it sounds like we should check out caviar produced in Northern California. What are your thoughts? If you like today’s episode, we love to read your reviews and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine loving friends to check us out to remember, you could subscribe to this podcast on Apple, Google, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. You can also go to wine backslash podcast. For more episodes and transcripts. I’m Jacy Topps. Thanks for listening.