"I've never fired a winemaker, they've always fired themselves. Every one of them has had their own issues," said Don Bryant, proprietor of Bryant Family Wines, when I called him up to talk about the recent departure of his winemaker Helen Keplinger, after just a single vintage on the job.
For her part, Keplinger chuckled at the notion of firing herself. "It is interesting to note that over the last 10 years, five winemakers have departed from Bryant - two of them during harvest. It's clear to me that there is a disconnect", she said. The roster of winemakers at Bryant Family has included some of Napa's most famous names, including Helen Turley, Philippe Melka, and Mark Aubert.
Following Keplinger's departure, Bryant promoted Todd Alexander to winemaker. After less than two years as her assistant (plus several years' experience assisting at other wineries), this 34-year-old young man will now be head winemaker for one of Napa's highest scoring and most sought-after wine labels.
It may be slightly unfair to call Bryant Family the poster-child for winemaker turnover in Napa, but it is far from an isolated case.
This article is my monthly column at JancisRobinson.Com, Alder on America, and is available only to subscribers of her web site. If you're not familiar with the site, I urge you to give it a try. It's only £6.99 a month or £69 per year ($11/mo or $109 a year for you Americans) and well worth the cost, especially considering you basically get free, searchable access to the Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) and the World Atlas of Wine ($50) as part of the subscription costs. Click here to sign up.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. 2015 Roederer Award Winner.Learn more.
I'll Drink to That: Bob Cabral of Three Sticks Wines Warm Up: Rotgipfler and Beyond I'll Drink to That: Bernhard Stadlmann of Weingut Stadlmann Vinography Images: Last Light I'll Drink to That: Suzanne Mustacich Warm Up: The Douro I'll Drink to That: João Nicolau de Almeida of Ramos-Pinto Book Signing in St. Helena, December 5, 2015 I'll Drink to That: Carole Meredith of Lagier-Meredith Vineyards Napa's New Reference Point
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune