"I hold a beast, an angel and a madman in me...
and my effort is their self-expression."
Aaron Pott and I walked through a vineyard in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley one day, musing and discussing the surrounding landscape. We both commented on how deep and dark it was; the rugged cliffs seemed to contain a story and a secret. Our conversation turned to literature and we bantered back and forth about the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. We sat down to chat with one of the most prolific growers in Napa Valley and the Stags Leap District. Surrounded by his vineyards, iconic winery and art collection, we convinced him to sell us grapes from the fabled Stags Leap Ranch Vineyard. This new chapter in our lives would be called “Dylan’s Ghost”, and would emphasize Aaron’s philosophy of winemaking without intervention, as well as, finding the poetry and power of the surrounding terroir. Three years went by, and today, we are proud to release our inaugural vintage of Dylan’s Ghost.
“When you taste a typical Stags Leap District wine, you understand what all the fuss is about. What’s harder to explain is precisely what it is about the soils and climate of Stags Leap that gives its Cabernets such characteristic softness and intensity. Yes, the coarse, eroded soils are, according to reports from UC Davis, unique. Yes, the bare rocks heat up the district quickly during the day. And yes, the heat drops off at night just as rapidly, as cool breezes are sucked in off the Pacific. ... But why this translates to textural hedonism remains a mystery.” — Karen MacNeil, Cabernet Heaven, Los Angeles Times, 7/8/98.
A jagged outcropping of sheer rock and the legend of a nimble buck inspired the Stags Leap name over a century ago. The first viticultural area in the United States to be approved based on the distinctiveness of its soils, the district is located in the eastern portion of the Napa Valley, 5 to 7 miles north of the town of Napa and east of the Napa River along the Silverado Trail. Barely a mile wide and three miles long, the district comprises roughly 2,700 acres, of which half are planted to vineyards.
A VALLEY WITHIN A VALLEY
Often referred to as a “valley within a valley,” the district is bounded on the east by the towering Stags Leap Palisades, to the west by the gently rolling hills and the Napa River, to the north by the Yountville Cross Road, and to the south by low-lying flatlands. These landscape features lend the district its clear physical identity.
There is a great diversity of soils within the Stags Leap District but two main types predominate. Soils on the eastern elevation are the result of volcanic eruptions that took place millions of years ago, as well as the slow erosion of the arid Vaca Mountains. In the lowland area, where a much broader Napa River once ran, old river sediments have created a remarkable blend of loams with a clay-like substructure. These gravely soils, and those of the hillsides, are coarser and retain less water than most resulting in low-vigor vines that yield fruit of great intensity and flavor—the “rock soft” wines of the Stags Leap District.
The rock facades of the palisades reflect the heat of the sun onto the vineyards below, causing temperatures to rise more quickly than in neigh- boring vineyards. As afternoon draws to a close, the hills funnel the cool, marine air flowing north from the San Pablo Bay through the Stags Leap District corridor. The cooling effect of this breeze, coupled with nighttime air drainage off the mountains and hills, means lower nighttime tempera- tures. This allows the grapes to achieve an excellent balance of acid and sugar and also minimizes the threat of frost. The end result is a longer growing season of warm days and cool nights—perfect for late-maturing varietals such as Cabernet.
Dylan’s Ghost Stags
"The Beast" 2014
Winemaker Aaron Pott
Stags Leap District
Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Petit Syrah 33% each
Maceration 30 days 18 Month barrel aging Cooperage Taransaud, Demptos, Sylvain, Saury,
Handpicked at the peak of flavor development, then crushed and cold soaked for 24 hours. We punched the cap down three times a day to maximize flavor extraction, followed by a 10-15 day maceration period and barrel aging for 16-18 months. The final blend included 100% French oak.
Bold, dark, blackberry, cherry, cocoa, coffee, smoked meat, nutmeg, chocolate, full rich attack, massive juicy mid-palate, very soft finish with lovely supple tannins. - Aaron Pott
“Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying Though I sang in my chains like the sea.”
Studying oenology at the University of California, Davis, Pott delved into all aspects of the theory of winemaking, including practical application by working part-time in the research laboratory at Robert Mondavi Winery. He completed his education with a master’s degree in Viticulture from the Université de Bourgogne in Dijon, France. Pott immediately took the position of assistant winemaker at Newton Vineyard, under Winemaker John Kongsgaard. It was at Newton—under the wing of his first great mentor—that Pott would be introduced to Michel Rolland.
At many tastings with Kongsgaard and Rolland (set up by legendary wine collector Dade Thieriot), Pott tried to convince Rolland to find him a job in France—pulling hoses around a dark cellar and working on his language skills. Rolland soon sent word that he had found the ideal position—winemaker at Château Troplong Mondot, Premier Grand Cru Classé St. Emilion. Pott would thereafter become winemaker and general manager of Château La Tour Figeac Grand Cru Classé St. Emilion.
Pott worked for nearly six years making wine in France before returning to the States to take a position with Beringer Wine Estates. As a winemaker for the company’s international brands in France, Italy and South America, he had the pleasure to work with French winemakers Jean-Louis Mandrau, formerly of Château Latour and André Porcheret, whose resume included the Hospice de Beaune and Domaine Leroy. Pott’s duties expanded in 2001 as winemaker at St. Clement in St. Helena. In 2004, he accepted the position as winemaker and general manager at Quintessa.
In 2007, Pott formed “Pott Wines” and is dedicated to consulting for a limited quantity of notable producers as well as making wines of his own. Currently, Pott is the consulting winemaker for Joseph Carr and Dylan's Ghost Winery as well as Bellow, Blackbird, Krupp and Fisher among others. Pott lives at his self-proclaimed “Châteauneuf du Pott” on the dizzying heights of Mt. Veeder with his wife Claire and his daughters Tosca and Isolde.
Founder/Vintner Dylan's Ghost Winery Oakville CA
The New York Times called Joseph Carr “A producer to watch.” Mr. Carr began his career as a sommelier in NY and passed the initial Master Sommelier exams before he was 25. He later went on to work for wineries in France, Italy, Spain, Australia and Napa Valley.
In 1999 at age 39, he was named President of Mildara Blass USA, the international wine division of the Foster’s Brewing Group. Mr. Carr along with his wife and daughter began an eponymously named Napa Valley négociant firm in 2005, producing Napa Valley Cabernet, Merlot and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. In 2009 Mr. Carr worked with grower/winemaker Tom Larson to produce a Sonoma California brand dedicated to his father.
Dylan’s Ghost, Mr. Carr latest project was created, after a long walk with celebrated winemaker Aaron Pott, down a vineyard road, in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. “ We discussed winemaking, art and literature, and both realized that the iconic terroir, which surrounded us, was the place to capture all of this,” states Carr. Wine Writer Ken Hoggins call’s Dylan’s Ghost Hell Hollow, in a phrase “simply amazing; 92 points” and Wine Blogger Joe Roberts professes that Dylan’s Ghost SLR Vineyard as “Dylan is alive and well in the inky depths of this silky, rich red.”
Destined to be another cult wine classic, with less then 800 cases produced, the Dylan’s Ghost portfolio is only available on line and at a few select luxury retailers and restaurants.
Mr. Carr divides his time between Napa Valley and Cape Cod Massachusetts.
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