“I make wine because I need the intellectual challenge and the satisfaction of crafting something beautiful for those that will appreciate it. I look forward to those foggy, pre-harvest mornings when you taste the grapes and begin to imagine what they will do in the glass. I practice viticulture because the vine is the ultimate teacher, no matter how long you have been at it. Vines respond to the slightest interaction; a leaf removal here, a shoot positioning there. In every case they show you, often with humor, how wrong or right you were! Vines give you back the effort you put in, which is a rarity in life and utterly satisfying. I have made wines from all over Napa Valley and I relish the freedom to choose exactly the vineyards and blocks I want, and to dictate their management. There are many fascinating terroirs in Napa, and even more fascinating owner-characters! Pott Wine is the best way I can think of to share with you the Napa I know and love.”
Swipe right for more pictures …
- Some say the colors for Pott Wine come from here.
Mention Paris to most people and you’ll get a rude waiter story; Aaron’s is that he was ten, and the sneering Monsieur brought him wine instead of the milk he had ordered, because milk ‘ees for babies.’ Aaron’s father was a minister, a great fan of Riesling and a keen student of the role and ritual of wine in the biblical world. He moved the family around: Berkeley, Eugene, Oxford, but landed in, of all places, Davis, California. Aaron stayed through college, getting a degree in Enology. As a career, it seemed the perfect choice.
It was unusual and ornery… the wine industry in those days, still kind of marginalized. This was the era before the discovery of wine’s health-giving properties and benefits. Wine was expanding in California but was in danger of becoming over scientific – too sanitized.
Even then, Aaron believed winemaking should also be an art, and was attracted to the larger than life characters in the Napa Valley, like John Kongsgaard and French consulting-winemaker Michel Rolland, who professed to reverse the science-driven trend. Aaron began working for John at Newton Vineyard in 1990 as his assistant winemaker, and along with the many Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons they also bottled an unfiltered Chardonnay (Unfiltered? Shock!). Suddenly wine was sexy again and Aaron was hooked. When Michel came out from France to consult, Aaron would squeeze his 6’3″ frame into the back of John’s beat up Ford Ranger and take notes. What a great learning environment! He lapped it up.
Perhaps it was that waiter, or maybe that French school mistress (by then just mistress). Surely it was the charisma of M. Rolland… Aaron found himself yearning for a French wine adventure. He asked Michel if he could find him a job somewhere. Heeding his master’s call (his mind filled with romantic expectations of pulling hoses around a cellar) he dutifully showed up at the appointed Chateau… only to be taken on as winemaker. So began 6 years of living and working in France, culminating in a Masters Degree in Viticulture from the Université of Bourgogne, while being winemaker at Château Troplong Mondot and, in 1994, becoming director of Château La Tour Figeac.
Ready to come home in 1998, Aaron phased himself back to California with a stint as Beringer’s “flying winemaker” making wine in France, Italy and Chile. Here’s when he met and wooed his wife, Claire, with his “impossibly romantic” lifestyle, and found another great friend and mentor, Jean-Louis Mandreau (winemaker at Château Latour from 1970 to 1983 who wasn’t so impressed with the lifestyle, but thought Aaron had a lot of potential).
In 2001, he became winemaker at St. Clement, collecting a pantheon of vineyards that would make the lauded single vineyard series. In 2004, Aaron moved to Quintessa where he was winemaker and general manager through 2007. Currently he is consulting for Blackbird, Fisher Vineyards, Jericho Canyon, Perliss (The Ravens), Greer, V22, Martin Estate, Adler Deutsch, Quixote, Como No?, Seven Stones and St. Helena Estate. He has chosen clients who, like him, think wine is sexy and aren’t afraid to make something that will be misunderstood by the masses.
And now… well now comes the best part, getting to make his own: Pott Wine.