Andy Erickson is leaving Napa Valley's Screaming Eagle winery after five vintages as winemaker for the celebrated Cabernet Sauvignon producer.
Erickson is departing to focus on his own label, Favia, his clients, Dalla Valle, Dancing Hares, Ovid and Arietta, and to reconnect with Charles Banks, one of the principals who bought Screaming Eagle in 2006.
Erickson says the timing is right, since the new Screaming Eagle winery on the property in Oakville has been completed, the vineyard replanted and its owner, Stanley Kroenke, can put his own winemaking staff in place. Erickson is the winemaking link between Screaming Eagle founder Jean Phillips who hired Erickson and then sold the winery in 2006 to Banks and Kroenke. Phillips founded Screaming Eagle in 1992 and it quickly became one of Napa's elite "cult" Cabernets.
Kroenke is a wealthy real-estate developer and the owner of the NFL's St. Louis Rams, the Denver Nuggets basketball team and the Colorado Avalanche hockey franchise, along with Jonata, a winery in Santa Barbara he founded with Banks. Kroenke's friends call him "silent Stan" because he is very private. His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke, is one of the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune.
"The timing seems right for Stan to put together his own team that can move forward into the next phase," Erickson told me last week. "I have come to have a very strong connection to the vineyard and the crew at Screaming Eagle. Being a strong believer in terroir, and knowing Stan's commitment to the property, I know that Screaming Eagle will continue to produce excellent wines."
Along with a new winery, designed by Howard Backen, the property has been replanted, bringing it to 52 acres of mostly Cabernet and lesser amounts of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Wine from the new vines was made in 2010, Erickson said, and the quality is good, but it's unclear whether it will be part of Screaming Eagle. With 52 acres, the winery has the potential for 100 tons of grapes or more, and would easily expand on the present output of 750 cases a year, which it made in 2007 and sold for $750 a bottle.
Banks, who heads Terroir Capital, said he's also interested in returning to Napa and acquiring a vineyard there, a natural fit for him and Erickson.