Recently, I was invited to the premier of Decanted, a winemakers journey. The documentary takes a deep look inside one of the most intimate winegrowing regions in the world, Napa Valley and it follows a handful of top winemakers on their journey to master their craft. Little did I know that the film's genesis began in my home town Baltimore, Maryland.
Decanted, the Movie, follows the development of a new winery, Italics Winegrowers, seen through the eyes of elite Napa Valley winemakers in the highly revered Napa Valley wine region. It was filmed in a “Cinema Verite” style with the aim of capturing natural moments. It was directed and produced by Baltimoreans and college chums, Nick Kovacic, produced by Matthew Riggieri and Todd Yuhanick, was one of the associate producers, along with the the many wine makers who contributed. The film is 90 minutes.
"It all came together over beers," states Nicholas Kovacic II, Decanted's Director. The back story, he explains to CITYPEEK, in an exclusive interview, is that Kovacic, along with his college chums and fellow Baltimoreans, Matthew Riggieri, Decanted's Producer first aligned by creating a documentary about the history of brewing beer in Baltimore in 2010. A number of years after, Kovacic, Riggieri and Associate Producer, Todd Yuhanick, met winemaker and 'lead winemaker' in Decanted's Italics, Steve Reynolds in Washington, DC to discuss wine and the history of Napa Valley, California over beers. Shortly thereafter, the gang packed their bags, headed to Napa and Decanted, the movie, was uncorked.
"Winemaking is not all about wine dinners and tastings. It is really not glamorous, but hard work," states Steve Reynolds, an associate producer of the documentary and winemaker, exclusively to CITYPEEK, in an interview before the showing. Reynolds has a starring role in the show, with the birth of Italics wine. The event took place at the historic Senator Theater in Baltimore, MD and featured a VIP wine tasting featuring the wines from winemakers featured in the film. The crowd sampled wines from all of the wine makers below. The well-harvested group included the following.
Steve Reynolds of Reynolds Family Wine shared, in his bio, that wine has always played a large role in his life. From the time he was a teenager, tasting his way across Europe, to the moment, 20 years ago, when he decided to quit his day job and transform a dilapidated chicken ranch into a Tuscan-inspired winery. That winery -- Reynolds Family Wines – has since blossomed into, well, let’s call it the Reynolds Family of Wines. That’s because over the last decade Steve has launched three ground-breaking brands and has been retained by half a dozen boldface clients. His portfolio includes: Appellations, Naughty, Hiatus, V12 (Indy car champ Jimmy Vasser’s winery), Imago Mundi, and Italics, Steve’s newest endeavor located in Napa’s newest AVA, Coombsville.
Reynolds works alongside, Texas-born, Mike Martin who is taking his vast knowledge from the citrus business and founding a partnership with Italics to create a winery that defines time and place. From the Italics website I learned a facinating story.
When the brand was conceived, Napa had exactly 13 AVAs. That’s when a couple of friends sat down over margaritas and decided to turn the appellation model on its head. They used their connections to acquire fruit from every AVA – Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena to Spring, Diamond and Howell Mountain. Yes, all 13 appellations. They vinified each lot separately and when they put together the final blend they called the wine THIRTEEN. “It had the structure you find in the hillsides and the acid balance you get from the cooler regions,” recalled Steve. “It was rich on the palate but not at all jammy. We’d found the sweet spot.”
In 2004, a 14th AVA was added (Oak Knoll) and the named changed to FOURTEEN. In 2009, a 15th arrived (Calistoga) and the name changed again. Along the way the wine had created an unlikely following: collectors who regularly paid top dollar for the Valley’s best vineyard-designated wines, but who were savvy enough to understand the benefits of blending.
One of those collectors, Mike Martin, decided this was a brand that deserved a bigger stage. So he bought it. And while searching for a vineyard to represent Napa’s 16th AVA (Coombsville) he found the new estate home, Italics. Today, the Appellations' wines live within the Italics portfolio as an important expression of our mission: to highlight places that truly have something to say. Napa Valley is just such a place, even if it has 16 sub-AVAs nested within it. Appellations is the wine we use to draw your attention to the majesty of Napa Valley as a whole. To italicize it.
The Documentary's Winemaking Team includes:
South African born, Anthony Bell, who was born into a South African wine family. In his teens he experienced European wine styles, visiting Spain, France and South Africa. After receiving an undergraduate viticultural degree at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and a Masters degree in enology at U.C. Davis, Anthony began a 15-year career at prestigious Beaulieu Vineyard, home to California’s royal house of Cabernet Sauvignon.
During his innovative tenure as director of winemaking and later as general manager, he pioneered educational grower-vineyard programs, wrote the definition of the Carneros appellation, and raised the bar on BV’s grape quality by conducting the now famous, groundbreaking research into the differences and impact of clonal variations on Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 1991, Anthony crushed his first vintage of Bell Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone Six, thought to be the first single vineyard, single clone Cabernet produced and labeled in Napa. In 1994, Anthony left Beaulieu Vineyard to pursue fulltime his passion for Cabernet Sauvignon at Bell Wine Cellars, with a mission of producing small quantities of hand crafted, vineyard expressive wines.
French born, Phillippe Melka of Melka Wines has a fascination by the relationship between soil and wine quality. Philippe spent much of his youth in Bordeaux, France, earning a geology degree from the University of Bordeaux. On a whim, he took a wine course- a decision that changed his life. At Chateau Haut Brion, his passion for cabernet-based blends and sauvignon blanc began and he completed a masters program in Agronomy and Enology under the direction of Professor Sequin, the renowned terroir specialist.
He set out for Napa Valley (Dominus Estate), Western Australia (Chittering Estate), Chianti in Italy (Badia O Coltibuono) and Bordeaux (Chateau Petrus) where he divided my time between soil study and winemaking. However, the great diversity of terroirs He found in Napa Valley, and its potential for extraordinary wines, was a revelation to him. His Brand, Melka Wines, has chosen to focus on wines that represent single vineyard, soil specific wines from the heart of Napa Valley.
Julien Fayard of of Fayard Winnes, gained his knowledge and defined his core winemaking style from working at grand Chateaux in France such as Lafite Rothschild and Smith Haut Laffite. In Napa Valley, he’s worked alongside renowned winemaker, Philippe Melka. He has come to be a Napa Valley veteran after many years of working with some of the most highly acclaimed and sought after wines from the Napa Valley. During the cinema tasting, we sampled some of his Azur brand and Melka wines.
Aaron Pott of Pott Wine, Aaron’s personal brand, is an historical journey into a forgotten time of Napa Valley wines; a time of balance, elegance and respect of terroir. Working in all of the great appellations of Napa Valley, in the vineyards of friends, some of which he helped to plant, Aaron has been able to obtain grapes that express the wonderful idiosyncrasy of their place and time.
HEIDI BARRETT, one of the world’s most renowned and respected winemakers. Since the 1980s, she has created some of the Napa Valley’s most famous wines, including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Paradigm, and many others. She started her own brand, La Sirena, in 1994, and began her collaboration brand, Barrett & Barrett, with her husband, Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, in 2010.
Her career took off in the late 80s when she began working for Dalla Valle as an “independent winemaker”. She began to develop a tiny project called Screaming Eagle shortly afterwards, and from there, things escalated quickly. With 5 perfect 100-point scores for her wines in the span of just a few years, Heidi skyrocketed to international fame, setting a world record for the highest price ever paid for a single bottle of wine ($500,000 for a 6L of 1992 Screaming Eagle at the Napa Valley Wine Auction in 2000).
Austrialian born, Michael Scholz is from the 6th generation to grow up on his family’s vineyard in the Barossa Valley. Michael comes to St. Supéry from Wattle Creek, a Sonoma property in Alexander Valley. Scholz is not a newcomer to the Napa Valley or St. Supéry. He previously served as the winemaker at St. Supéry from 1996 to 2001 before returning again in 2009. During his tenure, he created the distinctive style that has made St. Supéry the benchmark producer of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The Cabernet Sauvignons Michael created for St. Supéry garner critical acclaim from top industry publications including Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. Enologist and consultant, Michel Rolland says, “Michael Scholz is on my list of great winemakers from around the world.”
Congratulations to all!
Patti Neumann is Founder of CITYPEEK.com & an award-winning 21 C website & blog. She is one of the region's top Social Media Publicists and Influencers on food, sips, hospitality & the good life. CITYPEEK.com has its finger on the pulse of what's hot in the world of food, cocktails & travel trends.