Andy Erickson has been called a “rock star” winemaker, however he’s too hectic to listen to the flattery.
© Tom Hyland/WINE-SEARCHER|Winemaker Andy Erickson is exceptional in his field.
Andy Erickson, might or might not be the best wine maker operating in Napa Valley today, but he is certainly the most popular.
He’s likewise possibly the busiest, seeking advice from for 10 California wineries, consisting of Napa properties such as Dalla Valle, Mayacamas, Alpha Omega and To-Kalon Vineyard Business. The 55 years of age’s previous experiences included stints at Stags’ Leap Wine Cellars, Spottswoode and Screaming Eagle. Together with his spouse Annie Favia– an accomplished wine maker in her own right– he crafts the wines at Favia in the Coombsville district of Napa Valley.
Wine-Searcher just recently spoke with Erickson to learn his ideas about his consulting work, the distinctions among numerous terroirs in Napa, and finally, what he thinks of all the praise that has been loaded his way.
How did your white wine profession get going in Napa Valley?
My first task in red wine in Napa was at Stag’s Leap Red wine Cellars in 1994, and I just worked harvest. Then I got very lucky and somebody told me to go up to Newton Vineyard and consult with John Kongsgaard, since his cellarmaster was going back to Europe or something, so I increased there. I wound up working for John for about a year, simply after harvest of 1994, through harvest of 1995.
A couple of years later you returned to UC Davis to make your master’s degree. What took place then?
In 2000, I completed my master’s and worked at Harlan Estate as the assistant and that was for about a year. The Staglins (Staglin Household Vineyard) approached me to be their winemaker. I ended up being the head winemaker at Staglin and helped them develop the winery there.
So that was for 2 vintages and then, in my 3rd year, a lot of people were approaching me about seeking advice from. The Staglins are still like family to me, we’re still really close, but we concerned this junction where I simply had two kids, I had all these people approaching me about other things, so I chose to begin Favia in 2003, and I also started to speak with for other individuals then.
For the wineries you seek advice from for, it is equal time for each, or are there some that require more of your time than others?
It’s constantly developing, right? My first consulting task was Ovid. I was there for 15 years. The home offered, so I’m no longer included, but I’m very near to them. We began with a bare piece of ground there, it’s up on Pritchard Hill, it’s a stunning home.
These tasks are enjoyable too, where you start with a bare piece of ground; it’s all about prepping the ground, planting the vineyard, creating the winery, developing a wine design for the ownership, what do they wish to do. That takes years to specify where it’s simply sort of cruising along, right? And it never actually is.
Even those kind of things, like when you get into year 10, there’s a daily winemaker, and I’m just checking in, making certain that whatever’s great; there’s a great deal of decisions throughout harvest and mixing and quality control and all that. However as you go on, it’s more routine– the start-up things take more time.
Then I have other clients where it’s more stopping in for perhaps a regular monthly conference and tasting all the white wines, and giving them advice on the blending, that kind of thing. There are all sorts of kinds of relationships, but they’re all truly excellent properties and excellent people. I feel very blessed.
© Favia Erickson Winegrowers|The Favia white wines have been a personal job for Erickson and his spouse Annie Favia for more than twenty years.
Throughout fermentation time in September and October, do you get any sleep?
Well, that’s go time; it’s like a chef throughout dinner service. I describe it like picture you’re a chef in Manhattan and you have four dining establishments in a 20-block radius, making sure everything is going precisely the method you want it.
However the difference is that red wine moves very slowly even throughout harvest. The harvest choices are really important, and then, when it’s fermenting, my winemaking design is not very complex, it’s extremely sort of analog, if you will. The distinction with that and operating in a cooking area is that you hear “do this, examine this, I’ll be back tomorrow”, as opposed to “I’ll be back in 15 minutes.” You’re not going to screw something up in a matter of minutes.
That duration lasts two months. This year , we thought the harvest was going to be all early, and after that we ‘d be done, and it was actually 2 months of harvesting grapes this year. It was really interesting; the early things was available in prior to the heatwave, and then, particularly down here in Coombsville and some greater elevation stuff, we weren’t collecting until the end of October, which was intriguing, and the white wines are terrific. I had no concept. I thought everything would be carried out in weeks.
Do you have a winemaking style?
I would hope that the wines have more of the character of the property than my thumbprint on them. I believe that they’re all extremely intriguing and very varied properties, which’s how I choose who I wish to work with really. I’m not wanting to have 30 different wineries and make them all the same.
From Dalla Valle, which I’ve been with now for nearly 15 years, those are high hillsides, rocky site, extremely focused big wines. Then Mayacamas up in the mountains is very old school. We’re selecting grapes previously; it’s meant to be not a lighter red wine, however more of an old-school wine.
I deal with the owners to see what they desire, and also the home is going to give you what they want. We simply need to make certain that the quality is right.
You deal with fruit from numerous different areas in Napa, such as Mayacamas on Mount Veeder, To-Kalon in Oakville, in addition to Coombsville and elsewhere. How do explain the character in the fruit from these areas?
Those hills in Oakville are like the power center of the valley; those red wines are really effective. Up on Mount Veeder, you’re at 2000-foot elevation, so while it says Napa Valley on the label, however for me it’s more like Barolo; it’s a various world up there.
Then To-Kalon is this benchland on the valley floor, where you have concentration, but you have this actually silky texture where you can make an actually classic-style Cabernet.
Coombsville, you’re down near the bay, so it’s cooler so you have more of, I call it a more European scent profile, but with this concentration, due to the fact that we have these volcanic soils. Then I have a number of vineyards up in a location in between Stags Leap and Oak Knoll, which is an amazing area, some of those rolling hills at the foot of Atlas Peak. There you have this rich, chocolatey power in the wines. I think there’s a lot variety in the valley; it’s enjoyable to play around with it.
Tell us about Favia and dealing with your spouse.
I fulfilled Annie a couple years after I moved back to Napa. Of course, I always joke that when you meet your life partner, the very first thing you do is start making red wine together. We began making wine together in a garage. We have some of these bottles back from 1995 and ’96 that we made; these were home red wines.
2003 was truly the first meaningful industrial release. We were certified in 2001; when I was the winemaker at Staglin, we made one barrel of wine each of the two years I existed, with the intent that we were going to begin this label, and we started developing this label and such. In 2003, we raised some friends and family money to start the important things, so in 2003, we started making wine.
We now make 4 various Napa Valley red wines. There’s a Cabernet Franc-based white wine, one each from Oakville and Coombsville, and we have a Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon and an Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. We’re celebrating our 20th year, which is interesting.
Would you consider taking on more wineries or are you at your limit?
I suggest, it’s amusing. I’m not looking for anything, but I also state that every now and then, you need to say yes. At this moment I’m truly delighted with what I have actually got going on so I’m not actually trying to find anything; it sort of depends what begins the radar.
You have actually been described as a rock star winemaker. How do you feel when you checked out something like that? Is it humiliating?
Super embarrassing. I don’t know, I’m not like that at all. My other half and I– I would not say we do not head out that frequently– however our sense of a great time is to have some good friends over and have supper together. We’re not huge event individuals. I constantly believed it was amusing that there would be that sort of thing, a rock star wine maker. Those words together simply sound so outrageous.
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