In 1960, John Steinbeck set out to reconnect with America accompanied by one companion, an “intuitive” standard poodle named Charley. The tale was recounted in the now classic book “Travels with Charley.” Steinbeck met the idea of the expedition with both excitement and trepidation. In July of 2012, I set out with my daughter, Whitney, to reconnect with the teenager turned young woman who had so matured, since leaving home for college three years earlier. My stated objectives were to celebrate her 21st birthday and introduce Whitney to the wonders of wine country. This father/daughter excursion was one I met, much like Steinbeck, with both excitement and trepidation.
How does a rodeo queen from West Texas transition from a career as an immunology researcher at the National Institutes of Health to ultimately becoming one of the up and coming Next-Gen Napa Valley winemakers, all by the age of 31?
We met Kristy Melton, Clos Du Val’s first female winemaker in it’s 40-year history, at a small tasting in Austin earlier this summer. As she says later in this interview, she is not the stereo-typical “older man with dirty work boots and a dog by my side” winemaker. We enjoyed her youthful enthusiasm and passion for winemaking, not to mention her sharp wit. Kristy Melton may not be a winemaking name you know today…No doubt however, it is a name you will be hearing much more about very soon.
It was the birth and adolescence of our children that slowed the wine-stained part of our lives and seemed to bring it all into perspective. While my passion for wine and winemaking never died, for the next 20 years it often took a backseat to soccer and volleyball games, golf tournaments and ski races as by then we had relocated to Colorado to find a simpler lifestyle in the mountains.
But a true passion, like a long lost love, never dies. And while we may stray from our roots, it is those very roots that anchor us and call us home. Those two roots for me are wine and Austin, Texas. As the children left for college, Donna and I began to migrate back to the wine-stained lifestyle we enjoyed so much, now more mature and less prone to excessive hedonism. And we purchased a small place in Austin and reunited with many of our wine friends there, if only part-time. It was not long before my smoldering passion for wine reignited into an all engulfing conflagration.
Hey B&B Wineauxs… Here is a great chance to bid on some amazing Napa Valley experiences and rare wines that would make any wine lover drool! Even better, you get to help some families in need. Bidding runs from Friday, March 30 at 8:00 am through Monday, April 2nd at 8:00 pm.
Late in the fall of 1983, John, an eccentric wine-business friend, insisted we join him and his wife, Jennifer, on a trip to Napa and Sonoma. The excursion included events that would ultimately change both our wine-stained lives forever. We flew into San Francisco and rented a white Lincoln Towne Car, the size of a small yacht. We cruised across the bay and into wine country. I was mesmerized. In November, with harvest completed many of the vineyards still had leaves of rustic red, yellow and harvest gold. The trip had many memorable moments, including the haunted San Francisco B&B’s where John insisted we stay. Lest we forget the corner sushi bar whose concept of hospitality was to curse in Japanese as you entered.
Donna spent the whole trip politely passing on any red wine tastings, limiting herself to whites. She had yet to develop a taste for rich red wines with their structured tannins. As if acting in unison, the red wines would begin to pour and her right hand would cover the wine glass. That was until the moment in the living area of our Healdsburg B&B when Donna lost her cabernet virginity. Around four in the afternoon we sat with a few other guests to share the day’s wine tasting bounty. John opened a bottle of Jordan Cabernet and insisted Donna give it a full-on chance. With much trepidation, she lifted the glass to her lips and took a sip, letting the wine settle on her palate. At that instant she knew what she had been missing all along.