Growing up in the wine capital of the world — St. Louis — Anthony Yount realized at a young age that he wanted to make wine his life because, “It’s a great way to meet girls!”
Well, wife Hillary, and two kids later, he’s succeeded in meeting girls (one very special one) and having a family.
He also decided to give the wine thing a try.
This was after experiencing agriculture firsthand in Missouri, working a farm with grass-fed cows and free-range chickens while in high school. From this experience, he learned two things: 1) he wanted to be in agriculture; and, 2) he was done with livestock.
So, he went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which led to an internship at Denner Winery in Paso Robles in 2006. He became intrigued by the concept that wine wasn’t merely a staple item, like a loaf of bread or a carton of milk. Rather, there was value to be added to the final product (the bottle of wine) to distinguish it from other wine. Like he said, “There’s only one Caymus, only one Ditch Digger.”
Anthony took advantage of this opportunity to learn from such Paso luminaries as Justin Smith of Saxum, Scott Hawley of Law and Torrin, and Cris Cherry of Villa Creek. All of these were wine stars in the making, so Anthony got to watch over their collective shoulders to see how they created their individual take on wine magic.
Anthony soon transitioned from being an intern to becoming the cellar master at Villa Creek. Then, in 2009, the then winemaker at Denner left, providing Anthony the opportunity to become the winemaker at an established winery at the ripe old age of 24. Since then, even though he’d never been a winemaker anywhere, it’s clear he’s a natural — Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has given virtually all of his wines a rating of 90 or above.
He credits Vineyard Manager Aron Nevarez with gifting Anthony exquisite grapes from robust vines. So, Anthony has excellent material to begin the wine transformation process.
And with 15 harvests they have shared, they have come to an understanding that the “perfect grape” is not what is desired, since Anthony finds that uninteresting. Aron and Anthony seek to inject a sense of wildness into both the viticulture and the oenology. An expression of the place and the time.
After vintage, they taste through every barrel of wine, grading them, identifying both the strengths and weaknesses of each to see if the good stuff can be replicated and if the bad stuff can be expunged in the future vintages. Maybe picking earlier or later or different pruning or what have you.
Maybe because he doesn’t have the long-term training in a standardized method of production, he’s willing to try something different or even new. He ages his zinfandel in Hungarian oak barrels. He’s experimenting with barrels made from the acacia tree for some of his white wines (gives it a “syrupy” aspect).
They produce 8,000 cases, so it’s more of a boutique winery. Denner could make much more wine, but a conscious decision has been made to choose to only use about 60% of the fruit they grow – the rest is sold to other wineries.
Anthony believes the Denner vineyards have distinctive styles, profiles and tastes that vary year to year. He wants to highlight what each year gives him, not to create a signature style. More gut reaction than a scientific approach to the harvest.
Being young, Anthony can annually make 100,000 bottles for Denner and help raise a family of two kids but then still find the time and energy to produce white wine under his own label of Kinero and a grenache/syrah blend called Royal Nonesuch, plus numerous other side projects.
Anthony Yount — a distinctive winemaker.
Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.