The SOMM Journal

August / September 2018

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16 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 WHEN LESLIE RUDD died in May at the age of 76, I hope a soft wind blew down the rocky face of the Vaca Mountains and nestled into the tender curves of his Napa Valley vineyard below. Indeed, it must have happened: Having stood in that very vine - yard in recent weeks, how else could I explain the feeling of being wrapped in a gentle soulfulness? It's perhaps not an exaggeration to say that vineyard was Leslie. I remember the first time I visited the corner of Oakville Crossroad and the Silverado Trail decades ago. It wasn't Rudd Estate back then, but rather a weary patch of vines that resembled bedraggled soldiers returning home from war. The vivid auburn red soil was there, and beams of sunlight bounced down from the canyon above just as they do today. But the vine - yard itself was a neglected mess. For Leslie, I suspect it was love at first sight. Leslie was tremendously shy, but I grew to know him a little bit. In the 1990s, he was one of the first people I talked to about my then pie-in-the-sky idea of creating a pro - fessional wine school within the Culinary Institute of America's Napa Valley campus. Leslie—a man who always walked the walk—donated the millions in seed money it took to convert the crumbling-down Christian Brothers still house on campus to what would eventually become the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies. I recently went over to Rudd to taste wines with Leslie's daughter Samantha (now head of the winery), Estate Director Oscar Henquet, and Winegrower Freder - ick Ammons. As I pulled into the driveway, I was seized by the worry that somehow, without Leslie there, the magic of those wines would be gone. It turns out, though, that the wines were more exquisite: a culmination, an embodiment, and an homage all wrapped into one. The 2014 Rudd Estate Propri - etary Red ($250; mostly Cabernet) had a texture so sumptuous it was like melted chocolate, yet it was uncannily fresh, vivid, and pure at the same time. Meanwhile, the 2014 Samantha's Cabernet Sauvignon ($175) featured long swaths of violet blue fruit and a sensational structure. "Leslie worked for years on this vine - yard," Henquet told me. "He died knowing he understood it. That was his promise to Samantha, and that is the promise and foundation we will build on for the next generation." Karen MacNeil is the author of The Wine Bible and creator of WineSpeed. A Man and His Vineyard IN PRAISE OF THE LATE LESLIE RUDD'S EXQUISITE CABERNETS { one woman's view } Vineyard workers descend on Rudd Vineyards' Mt. Veeder Estate. The late Leslie Rudd with his daughter Samantha, who is now in charge of the estate. PHOTOS: MATT MORRIS

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