Wine Personality of the month!
Claude Blankiet / Proprietor of Blankiet Estate /Yountville, Napa Valley
Claude and his wife Katherine purchased the estate above Dominus Estate and Napanook in 1996. Claude grew up in France with a family deeply rooted in the textile industry. His grandfather invented weaving looms and his father owned factories manufacturing military uniforms before World War II
What inspires you the most in wine?
The discovery of a great bottle and sharing the emotional effect with friends
From which vintage of your wines, you are particularly proud of and why?
2010: It was the first year we worked with Denis Malbec, the former Winemaker at Chateau Latour. 2010 was challenging for Napa Valley vintners, with a wet spring with cold temperatures that lingered until July. Many estates opted to de-leaf their vineyards in August, hoping to accelerate ripening. Unfortunately for them, a brutal heat wave in late August burned their fruit. Others harvested early to save their crops and made wine with ripened fruit. Having a French Winemaker accustomed to late-season weather challenges was a blessing. We did not de-leaf and waited. Finally, the weather changed, and we got several weeks of perfect ripening. We were rewarded for making wine rated among the three best Cabernets of the Napa Valley in 2010.
What have been the most recent innovations that you have implemented in viticultural practices and vinification processes?
Viticulture: To mitigate the effect of climate change. We use twenty-five kilometers of shading material draped in front of the fruiting zone to mitigate excess solar radiation. After the weather cools, the fabric is raised and clipped to the top wire of the canopy. This acts like a curtain, and it works!
The second innovation to mitigate heat spikes is the installation of little misters just above the fruiting zone. One mister every meter vaporizes a fine mist of water between the rows of vines. The evaporation lowers the ambient temperature around the clusters by 10 degrees C.
Winemaking: We are particularly proud of our sorting line. We can micro-harvest fruit at the optimal phenolic maturity we want. Picking is done at night and stored in little stackable baskets. We hold the pallets for a few hours inside a custom-made freezer that brings the berries to minus 5 degrees C. This firms up the berries and protects the skin from cracking during the sorting process. Our sorting line assembly has two Weco optical sorters. It takes four minutes to sort our fruit, eliminating immature berries, raisins, or unwanted fruit.
Name one wine that has really impressed you?
Taylor vintage Port 1935
Blankiet Estate Mythicvs 2016
What wine you wished to enjoy on the last supper?
Chateau Haut Brion 1989 in magnum
How was the Napa Valley Vintage 2022?
Vintage 2022 in Napa Valley was challenged by a heat wave on September 4th that lasted for several days with temperatures from 100° F to 114° F. Our shade cloth and mister system prevented our fruit from dehydration, which was not the case for our neighbors where we saw rows after rows of dried raisins. Our two optical sorters sorted out any berries showing some puckering that went for our Port wines. Our winemaker Graeme MacDonald was vigilant during fermentation as higher sugars triggered an Acetobacter strain growth throughout the valley. Our wines have another fifteen months of barrel maturation, and we will rack them again shortly. Several vintners who visited us in September 2022 to see our systems told us that our fruit was the best they tasted in the valley. At present, the wines are still primary.
All the best,