Aaron Pott left a full-time winemaking position at Quintessa in Napa Valley last year to pursue a career as a consultant, and already he’s a busy man.
He still has ties with Rutherford-based Quintessa, which focuses on its namesake Bordeaux-style red table wine, as well as a second label called Faust.
But now Pott’s clients include Blackbird, a Yountville-grown Merlot; Seven Stones, a 2-acre Cabernet vineyard in St. Helena, near the Meadowood resort; Fisher, a Sonoma-based winery, which also makes a Napa Cabernet called Coach Insignia; and his own label, Huis Clos Wines.
He stopped by my office in Napa to taste some of the wines from his new projects.
Huis Clos (pronounced "we cloh"), by Pott’s translation, means, well, several things. “Huis Clos is a very unusual word, or very unusual phrase I guess you’d say,” he offered, and I agree, to the extent that it’s the most complex wine brand concept I can recall.
“A French person would say it’s a closed door meeting. But a huis is the front door of your house and clos is the enclosure around your own house.”
“But generally [huis clos] means "in absence of other people.'”
Huis Clos is also the name of a play by Jean-Paul Sartre, which we know as No Exit, which concludes that "hell is other people,” Pott said.
Lastly, it’s a play on the Burgundian notion of an enclosed vineyard, or plot of land.
The Potts—Clare and Aaron and their 10-month-old daughter—have a dinky vineyard on Mount Veeder, all of one-quarter of an acre, from which they made 20 cases. But most of their small-lot production Cabernets, which started with the 2007 vintage, will come from Mount Veeder, Spring and Howell Mountains and Oakville. The wines are being made in St. Helena. The Mount Veeder bottling, at 250 cases, is the largest.
Blackbird is a small vineyard in Yountville, off Big Ranch Road. Selene, Mia Klein’s label, has used its grapes and in 2005 Sarah Gott oversaw winemaking, producing a dense, rich and powerful wine that’s elegant and refined. Pott took over with 2007.
Seven Stones is owned by Ron and Anita Wornick and takes its name from a large, seven-marble statue on the property, Pott said. The 2005 (250 cases, no price or release date yet) is ultrarich, with deep layers of mocha, currant and blackberry fruit.
I also thought the 2005 Quintessa was rich and elegant, sleek and refined, in sync with the winery’s style.