Nearly two years ago we interviewed Kristy Melton of Clos Du Val shortly after she was named their first female winemaker. Since that interview Kristy has risen to Head Winemaker with a broader set of responsibilities and a new vision for Clos Du Val. Kristy has undertaken the task of taking Clos Du Val to “the next level of premium” by improving the winemaking and vineyards while refurbishing the historic facilities. Expect some exciting additions to Clos Du Val’s wine lineup including single block and single clone wines.
As you will see, Kristy is still a hands-on winemaker, not afraid to get dirty. As we spoke, I was glad to see there is still quite a bit of the spunky Texas rodeo queen (really) left in this rising Napa winemaking star. Maybe that’s what makes her special. Read Kristy Melton’s first interview
B&B Wine Blog: Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
Kristy Melton: I see a very hardworking person who is passionate about what she does. We are all imperfect, but if you just keep working hard toward what you want, you’ll find happiness.
B&B Wine Blog: You were the first female winemaker hired at Clos Du Val, now you’ve been named Head Winemaker. How have your roles and responsibilities changed?
Kristy Melton: Now, I’m in charge of all the wines and all aspects of the facility, where before I focused more on our cellar techniques and the premium tier wines.I now guide the house style and how the fruit from our vineyards works within that style.I craft 8 different varietals that are portrayed in various ways within our wine program, everything from the tiny premier wines to the classic, more widely distributed wines.
But I also do the nitty-gritty, too: cooling systems, pumps, bottling lines—if it breaks down or we need to modify it, I’m involved in all those elements. I’m just thankful my dad was a mechanic and taught me how to work on anything with a motor when I was young.
B&B Wine Blog: What are your long term goals for Clos Du Val?
Kristy Melton: We, as a winery collectively, are working toward taking Clos Du Val to a new level of premium. We focus on quality, in the vineyards and in the winery.Our classic wines have been Napa Valley icons for decades, I’m just trying to make it the best we can every single day. Every year will bring us interesting wines to work with to take us to that next level.
B&B Wine Blog: What is the most exciting part about your new position?
Kristy Melton:That really depends on the day, and the time of day. Today was a great example: I started the morning off putting together our 2013 Sauvignon Blanc blend, which brings me unbelievable joy! Then, I met with some amazing customers over a wonderful lunch in our olive grove on a 75oF day (in January!), followed by a late night in the office catching up on paperwork. How could a late night at work be exciting??? I was sitting at my desk and a bat flew right into my office from somewhere in the cellar. Of course, I screamed. One of my wonderful cellar guys came running in and gently coaxed the bat out and back off to nature. I work with some kind-hearted, amazing gentlemen, get to craft wines I love every day, and share them with people who are passionate about them. That will always be exciting.
B&B Wine Blog: 2013 was your first full season as Head Winemaker, what changes did you bring to the 2013 growing season and harvest?
Kristy Melton: 2013 was a big season, and very high quality. I had been experimenting over the last 3 years to develop some techniques to make the wines even better than they’d been before. I also was working on the most optimal way to handle fruit and extract exactly what we wanted from it. I was able to take what we learned from those and use it on a much larger scale across more of the wines. I’m so very excited about the results. You’ll have to wait a few years to taste what I’m talking about, but I’m hoping you’ll be as excited as I am.
B&B Wine Blog: Give us your take on the 2013 vintage and what exciting things we can expect from Clos Du Val?
Kristy Melton: Spectacular! It was a bit tight in the cellar fitting it all in, but harvest is always a logistical dance, which keeps it interesting. I am just now getting a handle on where various lots will fall into each of our wines, but it is exciting already. I can’t share all of our secrets, but I do enjoy focusing on what’s special from each vineyard and showcasing that. You’ll see some single block/single clones from us in the future, perhaps some other things that excite me too. What I will say is that the wines are amazing in their youth and I couldn’t have asked for a better vintage.
B&B Wine Blog: Clos Du Val has been going through a bit of a renaissance. What transformations can we expect to see over the next few years?
Kristy Melton: If you’ve been to our winery before, you’ll notice some really nice differences in the near future. I’m doing some renovations, yet still preserving the historic nature of the winery. There is lots of freshening up, new paint, landscaping, you name it. The cellar is getting a face lift, some new equipment, and refurbishing our oak tanks. The face of the winery is a fresh take on an established property.
B&B Wine Blog: Tell us a bit about Clos Du Val’s small lot and luxury wine programs.
Kristy Melton: These wines are where I try to express both the best aspects from our vineyard and what excites me. There are 2 different sides to our smaller lot production. The first is the estate vineyard side, where I showcase my favorite blocks or clones from that vintage. They come from our vineyards in Carneros and Stags Leap District and are the best expressions of what we love from those sites. Our most premium wine, Joie du Vin, is the top Cabernet block from each vintage and we produce only 80 cases.
The other side of it is the blends I make, both a red and a white. They are different every year and where we winemakers love to play. There aren’t really any rules when it comes to blending, so it is a spin on what we classically do to keep things fun.
B&B Wine Blog: What is your favorite Clos Du Val Wine for 1. A warm spring afternoon 2. A cold and rainy night?
1. Kristy Melton: Spring is a great time for white wine and I love our Sauvignon Blanc. The first vintage we produced was 2012, and I’m so excited the inaugural one is so much fun to drink.
2. I will always have a soft spot for Pinot Noir. My favorite is one we are always sold out of (seems like it’s everyone’s favorite!) so I try to stock up when we have it. Lone Cypress Pinot is one of our single block wines, most recently made from the clone 667. My friends actually fight over the last bottles of this wine. When I run out, I definitely reach for our Carneros Pinot Noir, which is usually in stock and delicious.
B&B Wine Blog: When you’re not enjoying Clos Du Val wines, what do you like to serve your friends?
Kristy Melton: Bubbles, almost always. Actually, friends usually come over bearing their own bottle of bubbles so we can try many different producers from different regions. After bubbles, it depends on what we are eating. Nothing is out of the question, we are adventurous drinkers.