Can you name a particular winemaker who has had the most influence on your own winemaking vision, style and techniques, and why? Or, is there a particular wine that made you say, “I want to make something like that.” Not exactly like that, as in a copy, but with that wine as a stimulus.
Bernard Hervet, Domaine Faiveley (Burgundy, France). That’s a very interesting question, and certainly for winemakers of my generation, who have evolved over many years. My models when I was in my thirties are totally different compared to now. Now, especially for pinot noir, of course the great terroirs of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti are something very special, and the wines are unique after aging. I am very impressed by the Rousseau wines, which express purity, balance, freshness—for me, they’re a quintessence of red Burgundy. For the whites, my passion is for Chablis, and Domaine Raveneau is so special and so representative of the greatness of Chablis.
Manfred Krankl, Sine Qua Non (Central Coast, California). It is virtually impossible for me to name just one person. There are really quite a few who have impacted me in my winemaking life. First and foremost just HAS TO BE the late Jacques Reynaud of Chateau Rayas. I absolutely adored his wines because they combined what is fairly rare to find: power and depth, but also nuance and elegance. Plus I absolutely adored his wit and eccentricity and the fact that he completely followed his own path and didn’t give a hoot if someone agreed with him or not. From that perspective, nobody has ever influenced me more.
I would also have to list Burt Williams [co-founder and original winemaker of Williams-Selyem]. Unbeknownst to him, he taught me how important it is to treat wine with kid gloves. The fewer mechanical parts that touch a wine, the better the texture of a wine will be and the more lovely and ethereal. These are characteristics I look for in a wine and I strive for in our wines. Nobody before him ever made me so keenly aware of this.
And then there are Helen Turley and David Abreu. Helen was the person who first made me believe that great things can be accomplished in California. I will never, ever forget the first few bottles of her chardonnay I had. First at Peter Michael and then her own Marcassin. It was truly a revelation for me and a game changer. I also read this interview that you (Steve Tanzer) did with her at some point in the early ’90s, I believe. She more or less spells out how to make a great wine, even in just a few pages. She had a huge influence on my belief in what California can produce and in what we can do if we only work hard enough at it and don’t fall for nonsense. And David fills that same role on the vineyard side. All California winemakers—and consumers—owe these two a huge debt for having moved the ball forward and having shown us that we can be proud of our “terroir” and that California can produce world-class wines.
There are others, but these four would top my list.
Olivier Humbrecht, Domaine Zind-Humbrecht (Alsace, France). I am not sure that you can use my answer, and I am not trying to be cheeky about it, but in my case it would only be my father, Leonard Humbrecht!
Alberto Antonini, Wine Consultant (Italy and Argentina). I’ve learned from many winemakers in my professional life but one in particular has taught me a lot about the importance of purity in premium wines. His name is Gianfranco Soldera, the maker of my favorite Brunello di Montalcino, called Case Basse.
My favorite wine has always been the Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino, a true masterpiece that has everything: elegance, purity, complexity, texture, freshness . . . It’s impossible to copy but a great wine to be inspired by.
Michael Twelftree, Two Hands Wines (Barossa Valley , Australia). The particular wine that has inspired me for many years has been the 1999 Domaine Jamet Côte-Rôtie. I have bought and tasted many bottles of this wine, with the most memorable experience being at a dinner at Les Crayères in Champagne a few years back. What I love about this wine is its multidimensional bouquet that changes dramatically over the course of a meal, and on the palate I loved its depth, richness and restrained power that can only be found in the best syrah/shiraz-based wines. The 1999 Jamet has made me want to tinker with fruit sourcing from the cooler climes behind McLaren Vale, specifically the Blewitt Springs sub-region, and Eden Valley in the hills atop the Barossa Valley. My journey had led me to train the vineyard to goblet pruning, with the vines attached to stakes, just like in Côte-Rôtie, and to experiment with a high percentage of whole bunches and whole berries under longer vat times and softer pressing. I am thrilled with the resulting wines and look forward to releasing them over the following years, but sadly they are made in very small quantities.
Pietro Ratti, Renato Ratti (Piedmont, Italy). For a second-generation winemaker like myself, the person who had the most influence has been—of course—my father. First, because he introduced the single-vineyard concept in Barolo (Marcenasco 1965), and also because he was a strong believer in the elegance of Barolo. My father’s vision of winemaking is still so modern and real, it plays a big role in my day-to-day work. His first Barolo Marcenasco vintages from the ’60s and ’70s are legendary for those years.
In recent times, a very good friend and a very talented winemaker is Stefano Conterno, the son of Aldo Conterno. The way he makes his Barolo from the Bussia area (within the village of Monforte d’Alba) is very inspiring. Of course I would like to make a Barolo like his Granbussia 1989, but I also know that my vineyards are in Rocche dell’Annunziata (La Morra), where I will never get his power but rather will always look to get the greatest possible finesse and elegance.
Philippe Cambie, consulting enologist (southern Rhône, France). I would like to thank mainly André Brunel and his Domaine Les Cailloux, which for me is a bible of Châteauneuf du Pape and its terroirs. He has always helped me in understanding and making grenache. For me, his Les Cailloux and Clos Mont-Olivet bottlings are models of Châteauneuf du Pape.
Gilles Nicault, Long Shadows Vintners Collection (Walla Walla, Washington). There have been many incredible winemakers who have had some influence on my winemaking style and techniques. For nine years, I have been working very closely with seven icon winemakers at Long Shadows Vintners in Walla Walla. Our partner/winemakers Philippe Melka, Randy Dunn, Giovanni Folonari, Michel Rolland, John Duval and Armin Diel have brought to us countless viticulture practices and winemaking techniques from numerous international wine regions. I respect them greatly for their visions that have changed the way we all look at the craft while remaining very humble about it.
This being said, my debut into the trade has lingered like a first love. I had the pleasure to be initiated into viticulture and winemaking by Peter Fischer, owner and winemaker at Chateau Revelette in the Côteaux d’Aix en Provence. That experience opened my eyes to what truly is the meaning of “down to earth” and humble. Peter’s love for his terroir, his land, his vines, his wines is completely infectious. His blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah has inspired the blend for my Chester Kidder wine.