Carl Kanowsky: Aron Weinkauf: A Napa success story

Aron Weinkauf, winemaker and vineyard manager at Napa’s acclaimed Spottswoode Winery. Courtesy photo

At a winery successfully owned and run by women for decades, Aron Weinkauf (a man) has enjoyed renown and success wearing two hats, as both winemaker and vineyard manager at Napa’s acclaimed Spottswoode Winery.

He started there in 2006 as an assistant winemaker. As Spottswoode’s web site describes it, “In 2009, in addition to his role as assistant winemaker, Aron was named Spottswoode’s vineyard manager. Two years later, in recognition of his deep understanding of the vineyard, his gifted palate, and his artistry as a winemaker, Aron was named the fifth winemaker in the storied history of Spottswoode.”

Wine significantly entered Aron’s life about twenty years ago when he lived and studied in two extremes of Spain, both Barcelona (near the home of Cava wines) and in Sevilla (next door to the winemaking center of Sherry).

In tribute to Spain (as well as having a ready source of fruit from good friends), Aron goes against the grain by making Albariño, the white grape widely planted in Spain. While he only makes about 100 cases of the Spanish varietal, he has introduced California wine drinkers to Albariño, gaining some loyal followers. As one reviewer on Cellar Tracker put it, “Peach, apricot, heavy melon, clean and crisp without any overly acidic notes. First time in this variety and we are hooked. “

But getting into his wheelhouse, Aron has soared with Spottswoode Cabernets. Since 2009, Spottswoode’s Cabernets have garnered two perfect 100s, four 99s, and several 95+ scores from Robert Parker and Wine Advocate. Parker has heaped high praise on Spottswoode, calling it “the Chateau Margaux of Napa.”

All of these accomplishments come while Aron is both the winemaker and the vineyard manager, a unique dual role. As a result, “This brings a continuity. If one is very clear where one wants to end up, being both makes it easier to get to that point,” he said.

Good structure, good vibrancy, good tension, and still very archetypal California Cabernet – lofty goals indeed that Aron sets for his creations. Apparently not satisfied with the trials common to all wineries, Aron has voluntarily increased his burden by farming both organically and biodynamically.

Aron is modest about his success. “If you get good grapes, all you really have to do is to manage it relatively well” for the fruit to become great wine. He actually sees greater challenges in the vineyard. “It (winemaking) is not like dealing with Mother Nature, where the variables are absolutely uncontrollable.”

He is honored to be working at Spottswoode. He cites not only the winery’s remarkable history and the daunting task of following in some famous winemakers’ footsteps. He’s also proud of how Spottswoode treats its employees and how it gives back to the community.

As was discussed in my last column, some friends and I had the distinct pleasure of sampling some of Aron’s handiwork. And it shined. As you’ll recall, I commented on how the less expensive Lyndenhurst outperformed the pricier Estate Cab. Aron was not surprised, since the Estate needs some cellar time to bloom. This was well demonstrated a few days after our tasting. We still had some of the Estate Cab left, which I had re-corked. My nephew, Danny, a Cabernet Sauvignon lover, was over at our home. I poured him some, not telling him anything about it. After his first sip, he had to sit down, it was so amazing. Danny, who’s never at a loss for words, was speechless at first. “This is outstanding! The taste and flavors linger on and on. Wow, what a great wine!”

Congratulations on your success, Aron.

March 15, 2018
© Carl J. Kanowsky

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