Franco-American: Great relations at HdV
Put HdV’s Stéphane Vivier squarely in the “wine is made in the vineyard” column.
“We work hard to frame the best interpretation, the best picture of the vineyard and put it in the glass,” Vivier (left) said. “We want to put in the glass a picture of the vineyard, not a picture of the winemaker.”
That’s not surprising coming from a winemaker working with one of California’s foremost growers (Larry Hyde) and one of France’s finest vintners, Aubert de Villaine (who in his spare time oversees a little operation called Domaine de la Romanée-Conti).
Or from someone lucky enough to be plying his trade in Carneros’ Hyde Vineyard, which he calls “definitely premier cru headed toward grand cru.
Vivier esepcially likes the consistent weather conditions in his swath of Wine Country. “You get fog, then that luminous, intense Napa Valley sun,” he said, “and at about 3:30 to 4, the cool winds from the Petaluma Gap and San Pablo Bay.”
But HdV — bearing the initials of its two proprietors’ surnames (de Villaine is married to Hyde’s cousin Pamela) — is not built around a laissez-faire approach.
“A lot of people say we make wine with minimal intervention,” Vicier said. “But you need to intervene in the vineyard. We have to create that stress to get the best grapes possible.
Part of that stress comes from dry-farming, the only winery using Hyde Vineyard grapes to do so, and in “letting the grapes stress,” Vivier said.
HdV does one extra bit of intervention of sorts in the winery. “We press chardonnay for five hours here, maybe more than anyone,” Vivier said. “Chardonnay is not about fruit. Chardonnay is about texture and grain.
The chardonnay and a red Bordeaux blend were the first HdV wines, from the 2000 vintage; syrah and pinot noir have been added since.
And while it’s almost always folly to dub any California wines “Old World,” you can see France from there when consuming these wines. The French influence has come from one of the true masters, executed by a fellow Frenchman in Vivier.
“Aubert designed this so that we wouldn’t change our style,” Vivier said. “Now that the pendulum is swinging back to this style of wine “¦”
Recommended wines: Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay ($60, vibrant, great structure, endless), Syrah ($50, beefy, smoky, smooth).
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