It’s the end of an era. Sort of. Maybe.
Two of the most influential winemakers of this era—the wife-and-husband team of winemaker Helen Turley and viticulturist John Wetlaufer—have cut their consulting business to one client.
The couple, who own the celebrated Marcassin Vineyard and label, under which they make sensational Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, recently severed ties with their last client in Napa Valley, Blankiet Estate, located in Yountville. Their last month working there was August. (Claude Blankiet has hired Martha McClellan Levy as winemaker; she worked previously for Harlan and most recently at Sloan.)
“We’re concentrating on Marcassin. That's always been our focus,” Wetlaufer said Thursday. “We don’t have any more clients in Napa as of now.”
If the right client came along, they might change their minds. “If a Napa client was serious about Cabernet, we’d be happy to talk to them,” Wetlaufer said. Turley was known for making wonderful Cabernets for wineries such as Colgin and Bryant Family Vineyard in Napa, and Peter Michael in Sonoma’s Knights Valley. “We really enjoyed consulting. [Our relationships] were more like partnerships than clients."
He added, “I had a chance to [work with] six or seven vineyards [with Helen] and really grew to enjoy it. It’s an activity where the high-tech is useful and an eye for terrain still valuable."
While their ties to Napa are severed for now, Turley and Wetlaufer are still consulting for Martinelli, in Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. Marcassin is made at Martinelli, and the two wineries both produce Pinot Noir from two vineyards owned by the Martinellis on the Sonoma Coast—Blue Slide Ridge and Three Sisters. “We still fit at Martinelli,” Wetlaufer said.
Looking ahead, Marcassin's production from 2006 should be 3,000 cases between the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the largest production in their winery’s history.
“We did have a wonderful harvest,” Wetlaufer said of the quality. “It’s a little early to tell.”
But then he added, “Reminds me of 1996 …”