I sat down with Aline Baly, whose family owns Château Coutet in Barsac, here at my office today. The estate has made its first dry white, which debuts with the 2010 vintage. Here are my notes on the debut vintage.
I caught up today with Marc Kent, owner and winemaker of South Africa's Boekenhoutskloof winery, a top producer of high-end Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sémillon, as well as several value brans such as Chocolate Block, Wolftrap and Helderberg Wijnmakerij. The vintner has a new Syrah to add to his lineup and as is usual with Kent, he's got a good story to go with it as well (you can read this previous blog entry on the genesis of a previous wine called The Journeyman).
"I was reading an article that was talking about people running naked through the vineyards. It really wasn't a serious article, but that storyline kept me hooked,"' said Bart Araujo, dryly, when I asked him how he got interested in biodynamic farming. "And then I got to the second page, and it mentioned Nicolas Joly and Huët. And also de Vogüé, DRC and Leflaive. And Zind-Humbrecht. I asked myself, well, if it's good enough for those guys, why isn't it good enough for me?"
Araujo, 68, has applied a pragmatic approach to the Eisele vineyard ever since he and his wife, Daphne, purchased it in 1990. They've kept the historical name of the vineyard (named for Milt Eisele, who planted much of it and tended it into his later years before selling it) and improved upon the site's impressive track record for producing some of Napa's best Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc bottlings.
When it comes to biodynamics, I've never been a skeptic. But I haven't embraced it fully either. Much of the farming method's doctrine makes sense, but little has been proven. It's originator, Rudolf Steiner, often spoke in analogies which sound reasonable on the surface but have little proof. It's been left up to those who read his work to interpret and form what has today become biodynamic farming.
So it was with great interest that I got to spend the day with Valeria Huneeus and her team at Quintessa. Huneeus has been the driving force behind California's Quintessa since its founding in 1990. A believer in biodynamics, Huneeus also has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and nutrition, a seemingly perfect balance of science and common sense to help me understand biodynamics a bit more. Along with biodynamic consultant Alan York, winemaker Charles Thomas, viticulturist Michael Sipora and vineyard manager Martin Galvan, we walked the the vineyard of Quintessa yesterday.
Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth is in Napa for the week, and got his visit started with a trip to Stagecoach Vineyard and a tasting of Helen Keplinger's Rhône-style reds.