I’ll Drink to That: Winemaker Bernard Portet

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Episode 326 of I’ll Drink to That! was released recently. It features features Bernard Portet, who co-founded Clos Du Val in Napa Valley and worked there as the winemaker until 2010.

Bernard Portet came from France for two weeks to help out at the beginning of Clos Du Val, and ended up making Napa Valley his permanent home. It was a big switch for Bernard, whose father was the Technical Director of Chateau Lafite Rothschild at the time, but he clearly saw Napa Valley in the early 1970s as a land of opportunity. He chats in this interview about what Napa Valley was like at the time, from the farming to the winemaking to the people, and it is easy to see parallels between what was on his mind back then and some of the big conversations happening about winemaking in California today. Bernard was looking for less alcohol, he was picking at lower Brix numbers than his neighbors, we was aiming for wines that would age, and he was taking cues from what his father had told him. At the same time, he was searching out cooler zones for planting. Those are discussions points that are still talked about today. Bernard clearly has a pretty good idea of how the Napa Valley changed over time, and listening to him discuss in this interview what happened when is a real treat. If you are looking for a more nuanced understanding of the history of California winemaking, this is an interview to cue up. Or if you want to just spend some time with Bernard, who comes of as quite genial in this conversation.

Listen to the stream above, or check it out in iTunes.

I’ll Drink to That is the world’s most listened-to wine podcast, hosted by Levi Dalton. Levi has had a long career working as a sommelier in some of the most distinguished and acclaimed dining rooms in America. He has served wine to guests of Restaurant Daniel, Masa, and Alto, all in Manhattan. Levi has also contributed articles on wine themes to publications such as The Art of Eating, Wine & Spirits magazine, Bon Appetit online, and Eater NY. Check out his pictures on Instagram and follow him on Twitter: @levi_opens_wine