Two of Napa Valley’s cult Cabernet producers rotated winemakers this week.
Mark Aubert, who had been consulting winemaker at Colgin since 1999, is leaving and will now be overseeing the winemaking at Bryant Family Vineyard, according to owner Don Bryant. "I consider [Aubert] the top winemaker in California," Bryant told me.
Allison Tauziet, who has been Colgin's assistant winemaker, is taking over for Aubert at the winery. That makes the change merely an extension of the "Colgin team," proprietor Ann Colgin said.
She did not comment explicitly on why Aubert departed, but it may be a result of Aubert taking on Bryant as a client. “I think having a consulting winemaker was great," Colgin said, "but now we're a bigger winery and we need a full-time winemaker." Colgin makes several top Cabernets and a Syrah from both estate-grown and purchased grapes.
Aubert also has his own self-named label, under which he makes Sonoma Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that consistently earn classic and outstanding scores.
At Bryant, Aubert rejoins David Abreu (who also worked at Colgin), who is returning as vineyard manager. Additionally, Aubert continues to follow the trail of Helen Turley, who he replaced at Colgin in 1999. He was also her successor earlier at Peter Michael, where he spent a decade crafting its highly regarded Chardonnays and Les Pavots Cabernet-based blend. Turley had been Bryant's winemaker from the early days, helping to create one of the state's greatest Cabernets, until she departed in 2002 in a high-profile dispute that ended up in court.
Aubert is replacing Philippe Melka, a Bordeaux-born and -trained winemaker who took over at Bryant immediately after Turley's departure. Melka consults for several Napa wineries (his clients have included Caldwell, Hundred Acre, Lail, Marston, Quintessa, Seavey and Vineyard 29) and produces his own wine under the Matisse label.
"I needed to give Philippe a chance, but I think he has 20 clients," Bryant told me. "Twenty clients is too many, in my opinion. And our vineyards and winery need more attention, and he understands that."
Melka acknowleged, "We had a difference of opinion in winemaking style, which is fine. It just didn't work out."