Jim Little is one of those guys who has lived a charmed life. As co-owner of Coaltrain Wine and Spirits he has traveled to 60 countries, tasting wine in some of the world’s most storied wineries in France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, and all over America.
But where did it all begin? Well, for Jim Little, it was Napa Valley when wine making in the United States was in its infancy in the early 1970s with only a few dozen winemakers in business. Little took a tour as a student to the Paul Masson Vineyards, one of the largest producers of jug wines in the world.
“I thought it was one of the coolest things I’d ever done in my life,” said Little. “I’ve gone out to Napa Valley and visited Paul Masson! They weren’t very good wines, but that’s what started my interest in wine.”
A few years later, he and his business partner Peggy McKinlay began offering wine tours.
“We’d take a small group out to Napa or Sonoma and just go knocking on doors of people we never even knew. We were welcomed like there was no tomorrow; we’d go into their cellars, they’d invite us into their houses. It was just a great intro into quality domestic wines.”
Later, Jim started taking trips to some of the Old World countries renowned for making wine for centuries, beginning with Burgundy in France and the Piemonte region of Italy.
“When you’ve gone to Burgundy, you’ve pretty much set the benchmark. I mean, to me a great Pinot Noir may be the greatest wine in the world. Pinot Noirs and Barolos… that’s my style of wine, they’re just beautiful, it’s elegant, it’s pretty, it’s as good as it gets.”
Jim’s involvement with the Wine Festival of Colorado Springs coincided with his world travels; the FAC and Southern Colorado wine lovers have been the beneficiaries.
Jim and the Wine Festival Committee select an area of focus from types of grapes to regions to themes. The last two years have focused on South African and Spanish wines. This year’s theme brings Jim Little’s wine adventure full circle.
“We’re going to do Napa Valley,” said Little. “We’ve featured Napa Valley wine producers before through our Women in Wine, through Cabernet producers, but we’ve never specifically done Napa Valley and obviously there’s just a plethora of great Napa Valley producers.”
Originally published in the Dec. 2011 – March 2012 edition of ArtsFocus
(Vol. 8, Issue 1) for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.