Marching to His Own Drummer

In Washington and beyond, Charles Smith takes an eclectic approach to making wines that people love to drink

From the Oct 15, 2014, issue

Although all of the Charles Smith bottlings rely on traditional winemaking, winemaker Charles Smith's public persona and business approach defy convention. His frizzy long blond hair, showing some gray, flails about his boyish face, part Medusa, part Sideshow Bob. At 52, he favors jeans and T-shirts, some of them artifacts of his decade of work in the rock 'n' roll world. He started from scratch with a line of bank credit; a series of smart business moves; brilliant labeling and marketing strategies. Along the way, business and personal relationships ran aground. But mostly, Smith has produced a stunning array of wines with personalities as bold as the guy who makes them. Wine Spectator's Harvey Steiman explains.

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