Silence Is Golden for Screaming Eagle's Founder

Jean Phillips recently purchased a Napa vineyard, but don't expect another cult sensation—she wouldn't want one
Aug 19, 2011

Don't bet on Jean Phillips breeding another Screaming Eagle. She did it once, her way, on her own terms, and that was more than enough for this ever so private former vintner.

Phillips is as shy and humble as they come in Napa Valley. She bought a nice vineyard the other day, and I'm sure she could again make another great wine. But the one thing she couldn't recreate is the timing. Screaming Eagle was a brilliant wine that came along at just the right time, the start of the go-go 1990s. Hers remains one of those rarest of rarities, a wine fantasy come true. Her success reminds me of another tale from Sonoma, the rise of Williams Selyem winery, the garagiste vintners who triggered the ascent of Pinot Noir.

Ms. Phillips happily stepped out of the spotlight a few years ago, and were it not for the text message she sent me Tuesday evening, confirming her purchase of the Pillar Rock property, she has been true to her word, living her life happily in anonymity. She has politely declined invitations to visit at least in part because she values her freedom from attention. Media types are sort of OK. But she can live without them.

Screaming Eagle was as close as an overnight sensation as it gets in wine and, frankly, the notoriety that came with her success exceeded anything that she ever imagined, much less wanted. Lightning struck once and she doesn't need it again.

Hers will remain one of Napa's legendary stories, impossible to duplicate.

United States California Napa Red Wines Cabernet Sauvignon
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