Meteor Vineyard
Jason Alexander
 
July 9, 2010 | News, Wine Business | Jason Alexander

Best “Unsung” Winemakers

Our celebrity obsessed culture has fueled many trends in recent years, from reality television shows where people name their abdominals (how did “Snooki” make it into the NYT this past Sunday????) to chefs whose stain free jackets attest to careful preening rather than frenetic cooking.  In the world of fine wine we have seen the incredible growth of winemakers whose names are seemingly more important than the wine they are producing. Some of this is justified, yet the readily recognizable names are only the beginning.  Many of the best wines in the world are produced by winemakers you have never heard of – (even if their name is on the label)…

Here are 4 of my favorites;

  1. Kevin Kelley –  Salinia,  Natural Process Alliance,  Lioco; Working in the wine country, you are often bombarded with the sheer diversity of wine being produced – often in miniscule quantities.  I first met Kevin when he was offering the gargantuan inaugural release of 25 cases of this, 30 cases of that.  The wines were, and are, some of the finest wines I have ever tasted from Sonoma.  His NPA project seeks to take winemaking back to its fundamentals.  He is even “bottling” them in reusable stainless steel canisters.  Very cool.
  2. Luigi Ferrando –  Ferrando’s eponymous winery in Northern Piedmont is one of the great viticultural secrets.  Legally part of Piedmont, the Canvese  region lies at extreme elevation in the alps near the Val d’Aosta.  Planted to Nebbiolo (and the white grape Erbaluce) these are incredible wines of finesse and elegance.  Extreme rarities and singular examples of how a place (terroir) defines a wine.
  3. Jean-Michel Comme –  Chateau Pontet Canet, Pauillac – Bordeaux, perhaps more than any other fine wine region, is most associated with the property name than the name of the person tending to the fermentation and vinification.  Chateau Pontet-Cantet has been written about extensively over the last couple of years; as a pioneer of biodynamics in Bordeaux, as a narrative for regeneration and progress as the Tesseron family has transformed the once underperforming estate into a powerhouse that challenges many of the “super-seconds”.  In the background has been Comme – dedicated and driven, knowing that the position of Pontet-Canet on the Pauillac plain has all the makings of legend.
  4. Dawnine Dyer –  Dyer,  Meteor Vineyard,  Sodaro – Again, this seems obvious given the connection to Meteor Vineyard, and yet I feel strongly that Dawnine is one of the most overlooked winemakers  in the history of Napa Valley.  Since 1974, Dawnine (and her husband Bill) have been integral to the growth of winemaking in the Napa Valley.  And while Dawnine is most known for her history with Domaine Chandon, it is her work with Cabernet Sauvignon that most intrigues me.  These are wines of  balance over intensity, of structure over extraction.  Nowhere is this more true than in her work with Meteor Vineyard.

I posted a first pass of this on facebook and twitter and thought it worth listing a number of others that I left off the “list”; Karen Culler, Celia Welsch, Kathy Corison, Wells Guthrie, Pam Starr, Amy Aiken, Ken Bernards.

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