Finding a Silver Lining in Napa: A Live Chat with Andy Erickson

The former Screaming Eagle winemaker and star consultant talks about his journey to Napa, overcoming the 2020 wildfires and new projects coming soon

Finding a Silver Lining in Napa: A Live Chat with Andy Erickson
Napa's Andy Erickson says Napa production levels will be down this year, but the wines that do get made have great potential. (Emma K. Morris)
Oct 26, 2020

A career in wine was always waiting for Andy Erickson—he just didn't always realize it. Growing up in Indiana, the future Screaming Eagle winemaker and enology consultant was surrounded by agriculture, but after college he moved to the Bay Area to work in the advertising industry. It only took a few client meetings in Rutherford and a view of the vines to inspire him to seek a new life in wine. Erickson is now in his 27th Napa harvest.

In the latest episode of Straight Talk with Wine Spectator, he sipped on a 2019 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre and spoke with senior editor James Molesworth about his start in wine, new Cabernet projects and how the wildfires are impacting the 2020 vintage.

While the Napa wildfires haven't slowed Erickson down, he admits that as much as 60 percent of the Napa Cabernet crop could be lost this year, due to some scorched vineyards but primarily because of smoke taint. Yet he is optimistic that good wines will be bottled, thanks to aggressive grape washing and smoke taint testing. The stellar growing season leading up to the fires also gives him hope for Napa's 2020 vintage.

"I think [the wildfires are] more localized than people might think … I know a lot of people walked away from the vineyards thinking they weren't going to make wine, but I'm still seeing people harvesting even now," Erickson said. "I think that a lot of that fruit is going to be taken up by other wineries and will be made into wine, and hopefully good wine."

Although red wines are in uncharted territory, Erickson says white wines such as Chardonnay weren't impacted by the fires, since they were harvested earlier and fermented without skin contact.

Apart from Erickson's clients, he also co-runs Favia with his wife Annie Favia and has other personal labels.

He's also consulting for Constellation on its young To Kalon Vineyard Company brand. Erickson's first two vintages for the label each earned a classic rating. The winemaker has also taken his skills 1,400 feet up for his new Seven Apart label, which will produce wines from two 25-year-old properties in Atlas Peak.

"I don't really have a certain style of my wines," Erickson said. "I love very unique sites and places and people that are committed to something unique. It's not about doing the same thing over and over again. It's about creating something new and different and exciting."

Watch the full episode with Erickson on Wine Spectator's IGTV channel, and tune in to catch Straight Talk with Wine Spectator every Tuesday and Thursday. This week, on Oct. 27, senior editor James Molesworth will chat with Napa winemaker Dan Petroski at 7 p.m. ET, and on Oct. 29, associate tasting coordinator Aleks Zecevic will host German winemaker Katharina Prüm at 3 p.m. ET.

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