The Next Generation

Wine-making is often a generational affair with a large percentage of California wineries operating as family businesses — big and small.

Survival, in many cases, hinges on whether the next generation can sustain, or create, success.

The new crop of family winemakers is already engaged and starting to make their mark on the wine industry.

Fortune and fame have been made on the legacy of wine country’s hallowed names and generally speaking the business has been handed down from fathers to sons. Daughters are making inroads, too .

Under a Spell

At Spelletich Cellars, Seattle natives Timothy and Barb Spelletich have been making wine in Napa Valley since the 1994 vintage.

Daughter Kristen caught the wine making bug and is producing her own line of inexpensive wines under the Spell label.

“This is everyday wine and all of them are less than $20,” Spelletich told me as she poured samples of her wine at the New Generation event in St. Helena, part of the annual Premiere Week festivities.

The Spell cabernet sauvignon presented bright cherry fruit with mild tannins.

The Spell 2006 zinfandel is an even better buy at $16. Made from Amador County fruit, it tasted of plum jam with just a hint of eucalyptus on the nose.  There were 250 cases produced.

Smooth Sipper

On a more refined note, the Spelletich 2005 reserve merlot is a delicious discovery. Their 2005 reserve Napa cabernet is nothing to sneeze about, either, but I didn’t get a chance to taste that wine, which got a 90+ rating from Connisseur’s Guide.

From the first sip of merlot, I got a lip-smacking mouthful of luscious plum fruit that lingered on the tongue. This wine got even better when paired with a chunk of buttery brie on a slice of sourdough bread.

Frias, Broman Stand Out

The 2007 Napa merlot from Frias Family Vineyard is another serious effort with fruit sourced from Spring Mountain.

There’s 20 percent cabernet in the dark purple mix.The cab provides enough backbone to counterbalance all the lovely merlot fruit in this wine.

The 2005 Broman Cellars Napa cabernet sauvignon is nearly opaque with a charming initial tartness that gives way to nice red fruits and finely integrated tannins. I was ready for a second glass, before I’d finished my second sip!

Broman Cellars acquires its cabernet grapes from some of the valley’s finest growers, including Andy Beckstoffer’s Dr. Crane Vineyard in St. Helena and George III in Rutherford. They also have a two-acre cabernet vineyard of their own, just off Deer Park Road in St. Helena.

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