January 26, 2021, 7:36PM
Updated 3 hours ago
Technology can be a saving grace to help stand up to the mercurial wildfires that have ravaged the region in recent years.
“For the past two vintages, we’ve had complete control in our approach to winemaking, and we’ve accrued some incredible technology to help guide the process,” said Jesse Katz of Healdsburg’s Aperture Cellars. “In 2019, for example, I was able to evacuate from the fires and complete automatic pump-overs remotely from an iPad in my home.”
The founder of Aperture and winemaker is behind our wine of the week winner — the Aperture, 2018 Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Red Wine, 14.4%, $55. This is a gorgeous Bordeaux blend weighted to cabernet sauvignon and merlot. This complex wine has generous fruit with a range of flavors — ripe berry, tobacco, meat and a hint of chocolate. It’s impressive, with its supple texture and lingering finish.
Other tasty Bordeaux varietals include Chappellet, 2017 Napa Valley, Cabernet Franc, 14.5%, $85; Goldschmidt Vineyards, 2016 Yoeman, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $75; Turnbull, 2017 Oakville, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.2%, $90, and Raymond, 2017 Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $22.
As for the Aperture, Katz said his goal with the house style is to let the vineyard speak.
“When it comes to farming, we like to be as hands-off as possible and let our vines guide the grape-growing process from bud break to harvest,” he explained. “Once the fruit is in the winery, we want to create wines that are precise without doing too much manipulation. Our fantastic equipment in the winery (optical sorting tables, automated pumpovers, etc.) makes sure that we’re using the best materials as a starting point. From there, we don’t refine, filter or acidify our red wines, to ensure we’re showing the purest expression of the grape.”
Crafting Bordeaux varietals was a natural path for Katz, who grew up visiting some of the most revered vineyards at home and abroad with his photographer dad (Andy Katz) on assignment.
“My experiences there fed my aspiration to become a winemaker and learn from the best in the industry,” he said. “I’ve spent time with Pétrus in Bordeaux, as well as time on the winemaking teams at Screaming Eagle Winery and Robert Foley Winery in Napa Valley and Viña Cobos and Bodega Noemia in Argentina.”
Katz, 37, graduated from Fresno State with a bachelor’s in science degree in enology and viticulture and a minor in chemistry. The winemaker is known as a boy genius of sorts for producing the priciest 750 ml bottling, a private label for Shep Gordon from “The Setting Wines.” It sold for $350,000 at the Carnivale du Vin’s charity auction in New Orleans in 2017.
“I think making new-world Bordeaux wines requires being forward-thinking,” Katz said. “As rising temperatures have continued to shift the climate and grape ripeness of grapes in Northern California, I believe more than ever that parts of Sonoma have the opportunity to make some of the best Bordeaux-style wines in the world. There’s exquisite balance and restraint that Sonoma’s cooler-climate regions are able to provide, and it’s my mission to seek out these sites for Bordeaux varieties to unlock their ultimate potential.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5310.