What's Cookin' on Wine with Michael Horn

9/15 JOE SHIRLEY, NAPA CELLARS, MARY ROCCA, ROCCA FAMILY VINEYARDS

September 15, 20141 sec
JOE SHIRLEY - WINEMAKER, NAPA CELLARS  In 1839, settler George Calbert Yount planted the first wine grapes in the Napa Valley where fruit and nut trees already flourished in the valley’s rare soils and mild Mediterranean climate. Other pioneers soon followed Yount’s lead and by 1861, the valley’s first commercial winery had opened its doors.  Destiny quickly found its course. Just 28 years later, more than 140 wineries had been established. Two historic events led to the Napa Valley we know today. In 1968, Napa Valley winery owners and grape growers joined forces to have Napa Valley declared the country’s first agricultural preserve. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. City sprawl and freeways soon transformed nearby agricultural regions into bedroom communities for San Francisco. Napa was protected. Then in 1976, a blind tasting held in Paris pitted a Napa Valley wine against the best wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Napa Valley wine won, and the world’s perception of Napa Valley changed forever. The same year that Napa was granted the status of agricultural preserve, self-made man Charlie R. Woods founded our winery on five and a half acres of prime Oakville soil. In the 1970s, he built a geodesic dome there to store barreled wine, and he concentrated on making reds, in particular Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery changed hands a number of times before being purchased in 1996 by Koerner Rombauer and Rich Frank. That’s when we earned our reputation for rich, buttery Chardonnay—a style that was becoming popular in the United States at the time. A decade later, the Trinchero family was looking for a winery property that would capture the essence of Napa. Napa Cellars, with its ideal Oakville location and fame for luscious Chardonnay and authentic Napa reds, was the obvious choice. Winemaker Joe Shirley came on board a year later, in 2007. He has since introduced French oak to our Chardonnay for a more balanced and contemporary style of wine. Though Napa Valley is small—30 miles long and only a few miles across as its widest point—its varied microclimates and soils make it possible to successfully grow a variety of wine grapes. That gives us the luxury to choose the best fruit for each wine we make without ever having to look beyond the Napa Valley. BIO                                                                                                                                               Joe is that rare bird known as a California native. He was born in Long Beach, raised in Napa Valley and after high school headed back down south to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in Exercise Physiology from Occidental College in Los Angeles. “I was pre-med and interested in sports medicine,” Joe says. “Then at a barbecue at Maynard Amerine’s house I met a few people from the wine world, drank some wine and thought, ‘Hmmm, this is fun’.” Just a short time later, Joe enrolled at the University of California, Davis where he received a Master of Science in Enology. After college, Joe launched his winemaking career at Sonoma-Cutrer in 1997. He joined Trinchero Family Estates in 1999 as enologist and worked his way up to winemaker for Trinchero Family Selection and Trinchero Napa Wines in 2002. In 2007, Joe accepted the position as head winemaker for Napa Cellars. “I don’t try to put a big winemaker signature on my wines,” Joe says. “When you’re fortunate enough to work with Napa Valley fruit, the vineyards add the character and sensibilities to the wine that I like to see.” Beyond the artistic side of winemaking, Joe is also a leader in the technical aspects of h

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