Recently we run a feature about Napa Valley’s Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery. A family-run winery located in St. Helena, California. We had pending a conversation with its winemaker Aron Weinkauf.
Good morning Aron, and thank you for your cooperation. You are the chief winemaker of the house since 2011. What’s so special about the Spottswoode’s vineyards to produce such splendid grapes?
It’s an exceptional vineyard at the confluence of a seasonal creek, which has left dynamic, diverse soil at the start of the bench with good drainage.
What kind of weather and soil do you have here?
We are in one of the warmer sites of the Napa Valley, so our trellis, canopy management, organic farming for over 50 years, and other winegrowing decisions are very important to our winery and wine style.
Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon are your trademark wines. How do you manage to express both the terroir and the grape into them?
If one doesn’t allow the grapes to overripen, I think the grapes express themselves.
The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is an iconic wine. How do you elaborate it? How do you select the grapes for it? How this variety shows its characteristics and personality in your wines?
We farm for a vineyard that is balanced and dynamic, in which we want each block to express itself. We select grapes for a wine of great balance and density and then try not to over extract, over oxidize, or over oak the Cabernet Sauvignon, so that the fruit shows powerfully, fresh, and expressive.
What’s your style of wine and how do you make your Cabernets to show it?
Balanced, not overripe, layered, a wine that will evolve, structured, aromatic and textured.
Then you produce a white wine: the Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, a young wine with no aging.
Yes, this is correct. This said, it is equal in production to our Cabernet Sauvignon, and within the world of Sauvignon Blanc, we consider it also iconic.
Please tell us about the Field Book wines.
These are wines we love and want to explore, grown by growers with passion in areas where we are trying something new and unique.
Being Spaniard as I am, it caught my attention that you elaborate a wine with the Spanish Albariño variety. How is this wine and how the grape adapts here?
We think the wine is great. Grown near Forestville, California, due to the moderate temperatures, cool nights, and growing practices, the wine has preserved acidity, texture, and vibrant Albariño aromatics. We use very little oak.
Do you plan on keep on producing it?
Yes, we plan to continue producing it. It is a very young vineyard that we are helping to develop and advising on its farming.
Have you tasted Albariño from Rias Baixas? How do both wines compare?
I also lived in Spain and loved/love wines from the Rias Baixas! We do a number of comparative tastings here at Spottswoode, and find that we do very well with the variety.
Do you plan to use other non-common varieties in the USA?
When the other components of grower, unique projects, and varietal coincide, we will certainly consider it.
Some years ago, before your time here, the vineyards suffered the attack of the Phylloxera. How did they manage to avoid losing the vineyard?
They avoided this by gradual replanting to and with modern rootstock.
Nowadays Spottswoode is an organic and biodynamic farm. Can you explain how do you work in this way?
Biodynamics helps advise the wisdom and rhythms by which we work. Organics is the way we’ve been farming since 1985. The rules guide the products that we use, and structure our goals of farming for the health of our land, homes, and community. And of course, both contribute to the energy and strength of the wine.
What’s your winemaking philosophy?
Wines are made in the vineyard. All qualitative decisions start there, and then we make the wine as respectful to the natural process as possible. It is important to me to allow the wines to show true to the time and place at which they were grown.
What kind of wines do you like to drink when you are not working?
I am interested in all kind of wines, especially Barolo, Sancere, Spain, and archetypical wines
Thank you very much, Aron!!
Photos © by Robb McDonough (Spottswoode)