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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

03/21/2016 - Building Barrels with Julien Hittos, James Forbes with Dramophone Scottish Whisky App

Julien Hittos
Marchive Tonnellerie

Julien Hittos is the Sales Director for Marchive Tonnellerie ( This is his ninth year at the firm. Barrel Builders is the U.S. representative and distributor for Marchive (pronounced ‘mar-sheev’) oak barrels.
Marchive Tonnellerie is a small artisanal cooperage (manufacturer of oak barrels specialized for the wine business). Marchive services wineries throughout France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

Tonnellerie Marchive is headquartered at 8, Route de la Cigogne, BP 900 – 17 16300 in Barbezieux (outside Bordeaux).

Born in Bordeaux in 1978, Hittos lives there today with his wife. He graduated from the Université de Bordeaux and began his career at Seguin Moreau Cooperage, working both in the vineyard and in the cooperage (in Bordeaux).

“This is where I learned all about barrels and how to adapt a barrel (oak origin, grain, maturation, toast) to a wine regarding the expectations of a winemaker,” he explains. From Seguin Moreau he went to Marchive.

Hittos stays closely in touch with the winemakers and enologists who use Marchive barrels. “I spend most of my days tasting every barrel from the cellars of my clients to be sure that Marchive meets their quality expectations as closely as possible,” he says. “Finding the best barrel means that I constantly need to focus both on the profiles of the wines they are crafting as well as the type of barrel I suggest they use. It is by mastering these two parameters that I can be a true collaborator with our winemaker clients,” he adds.

“This is the most important part of my daily work, and also the most exciting to me because I help in the creation of their wines. For ten years I have been tasting and exchanging experiences about wine and the influence of oak---there’s always more to learn and share,” he says.

Hittos works with winemakers in Bordeaux, Cognac and the south of France as well as in the United States, Portugal, Spain, South Africa and Australia, traveling frequently to taste and observe.

In his spare time, Hittos plays soccer and handball and is also a runner---often competing in marathons in and around Bordeaux. He enjoys mushroom hunting and cooking.


Phil Burton
Barrel Builders

Born and raised in the hills of Connecticut, Phil came out to San Diego to attend college where he majored in surfing with a minor in biology. After college, he worked for various wilderness groups leading backcountry trips, ending up doing a pilot project with the San Diego Juvenile Probation Department. They took young offenders, many of whom had never been out of the city, on wilderness trips. At the end of the first year they had a very public dinner for the “success” cases, inviting the mayor and various city and state officials. Several purses got stolen at the dinner and the program was cancelled. Phil was vaguely headed to Alaska to get lost in the bush when he came across Napa Valley and got hooked. Needing a job; and he thought making barrels looked like fun Phil started hanging around Barrel Builders until they gave him a job as an apprentice cooper. That was 1974 and he’s been working with barrels and tanks ever since.

 Over the years, Phil has worked with wineries and cooperages all over the world, from the US and Canada to Argentina, Australia, Israel, China and several European countries. 


James Forbes
Bearshead Dramophone Ap and Napa Valley DVD

Although James Forbes comes from the North East of Scotland, he speaks fluent food & wine- which is of course essential in his adopted Napa Valley home.

He is the creator of Dramophone, the comprehensive ‘phone app guide to Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, as well as the Bearshead Napa Valley DVD which is a comprehensive interactive video guide to the Valley, described by Forbes Magazine (no relation) as a “lavishly filmed tour de force”. Bear’s Head  Productions also take commissions from wineries and so over the years James has produced movies for  Cakebread Cellars, Silver Oak Cellars, Grace Family Vineyards, Cuvaison Estates and St Supery amongst others.

James first came to the Valley in 1977, working for Domaine Chandon over the summer. He moved here with his family in 1993, but they all regularly return to Scotland, where James is Patron of the Lonach Highland & Friendly Society, which works to preserve Scottish Highland Dress and customs, the Gaelic language, and to care for the people of Strathdon, Aberdeenshire. In this capacity James leads the annual Lonach March of 200 clansmen at “Scotland’s friendliest Games”. This may be a clue to the source of his great knowledge of Single Malts.

Prior to moving to the US, James created the TV cooking show This Is Your Fridge which was very popular in Germany (Wo Bitte Ist Ihr Kuhlschrank?) and Sweden (Hier Ihr Dit Schielskoop) where it was voted Best Entertainment programme of 1992.
He worked as Executive Chef/Owner of Spats Catering Co (film location catering for feature films starring Helen Mirren, Ben Kingsley, Jeremy Irons, Charles Dance, Robbie Coltrane et al, and music promos for Sir Paul MacCartney, Genesis, U2, Sir Cliff Richard, Johnnie Rotten, Bjork etc etc, and was also Chef and co-founder of the Titanic Club, Berkeley Sq., London.


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