Miro Tcholakov makes the red wines of Blue Rock Vineyard. He came to this role against all odds. Miroslav, as written on his passport, hails from the town of Trayan, Bulgaria. This village of under 22,000 inhabitants is named for the Roman emperor, Trajan. Trajan would have been proud to have known Miro. Because like the great emperor, Miro’s rise to prominence came through hard work, duty as a soldier, and a keen understanding of the wants of the people. Born and raised under the unrelenting regime of the former Soviet Union, the odds were against him. Miro had to make tough choices, the kind that few of us in the free world will ever face. These decisions led him on an adventure typically reserved for Hollywood, or the wine business.
Only a few Soviet soldiers of the Bulgarian military could have survived in the inhospitable mountains that demarcate the border between Bulgaria and Slovenia. Miro spent much of his youth negotiating these same mountain passes, for fun. His athleticism and passion for the outdoors made him the ideal watchdog for this lengthy stretch of electrified fencing. This was not a fence to keep people out, so much as it was meant to keep people in. East Germans seeking an avenue home to the free west, Turks seeking a better life, and dissidents fleeing the wrath of the Iron Curtain were rounded up by the dozen, and sent back from whence they had come, if they were lucky. If they were not, then the results were less encouraging.
Life would have been miserable for most people in this hostile environment. Food was scarce. Meat was only obtained by hunting, and rations never made it through the winter months. However, Miro was not most people. He possesses a knack for survival, and a resourcefulness gleaned from managing difficult, indigenous grape growing on his Grandfather’s farm. A skill he began to hone from the age of 6. No, our winemaker was no soft city soldier, he was a rough Bulgarian country kid, who knew something better was on the horizon, so long as he lived through his military service. He had a scholarship to Eastern Europe’s most important University for agronomy awaiting him when his duty was done. Thankfully, after arduous years roughing it in the mountains, Miro went to college.
The piles of empty booze bottle blocked the exit to his small apartment balcony. The capital was too loud, too dirty, and too fast for a kid who had become the Grizzly Adams to the great Soviet Bear. Partying was an escape. The post traumatic stress of his forced military service, coupled with the rigors of university were too much. Once again, Miro was faced with a situation that would have sunk a man of lesser constitution. A young woman suggested he might need to get his act together, or a coveted career, a degree, and his own life might all meet a fate similar to the unlucky few who tried to cross that electrified fence, back on the mountain.
Miro emerged from the fog of trauma, and his studies became all consuming. Making wine was one of the great joys of the Bulgarian agronomy program. The science yielded something not only tangible, but enjoyable. Like so many others who make their careers in the wine biz, the bug had bit Miro, and the call had to be heeded. Although his overall studies were in agronomy, his passions were clearly in the viticulture and enology components of the degree. So, when Miro happened upon a fax in his university program administrator’s office, he saw a chance to engage his resourceful mind once again. The fax was from the FFA – The Future Farmers of America. They wanted 7 Bulgarian agronomy students to participate in an exchange program in the United States. Miro had the grades, he spoke English, and he was ready to get out of the Soviet Block.
In the summer of 1990 Miro landed in Washington DC, and immediately set out (in a Greyhound bus) for his internship at one of the stalwarts of Zinfandel production, Dry Creek Vineyards. The clever young graduate turned a 6 month internship into a 9 year apprenticeship, and ultimately, mastery in the cellar. Now, the winemaker at Trentadue, Miro Tcholakov also applies his resourcefulness, talent, and experience, making the exceptional red wines of Blue Rock Vineyard. Miro not only loves making wine, he loves tasting, comparing, listening, and learning the flavors that American wine drinkers adore.
Miro and Kenny Kahn, Bluerock’s founder and owner, work together to taste every barrel of wine and to determine which wines go into the exclusive Best Barrels program. These two are also responsible for the blend of the cult quencher, Baby Blue. Both Baby Blue and Best Barrels sell out shortly after their releases, and in today’s saturated wine market, this is no small feat. Miro has grown with Blue Rock over the years, and he is thrilled with the top-tier viticulture and the state of the art production facilities. Learning how to obtain quality results, when given very little, empowered Miro to do even more with the bounty of quality ingredients, and production facilities currently at his disposal. With his compelling background, it comes as no surprise that Miro’s wines make people happy.
“Elegance with Power” is a theme that Miro reiterated over and over in this interview. This is the ethos of Blue Rock Vineyard wines. However, we also believe it might be the way in which the great emperor Trajan would have described Miro. Miroslav Tcholakov, an elegant winemaker with a powerful drive towards quality. The kind of person to succeed, against all odds.