The SOMM Journal

April / May 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 46 of 108

{ inside sonoma } 46 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } APRIL/MAY 2018 SINCE WE TYPICALLY learn about the intricacies of crafting world-class wines from a winemaker's perspective, it's an interesting twist to see the process through the eyes of a star chef—particularly one responsible for bottles bearing his family name. With years of amateur winemaking under his belt, talented Sonoma County chef Dustin Valette of Valette restaurant in Healdsburg, California, teamed up with veteran winemaker Bob Cabral of Bob Cabral Wines to launch his own debut release: the elegant, food-friendly Valette 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Driven by curiosity and his upbringing in Sonoma County, Valette began his journey toward winemaking after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York. Upon his return to the budding Healdsburg food scene in the 2000s, he became the Executive Chef at Dry Creek Kitchen and became intrigued by the local wine pairings that accentuated his dishes. In 2009, Valette made his inaugural five- gallon batch of Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes sourced from his uncle's vineyard in Alexander Valley. Over the next few years, he began working with premium Syrah and Zinfandel from a variety of sites in Dry Creek Valley and Russian River Valley under the advisement of local vintners (and Dry Creek Kitchen regulars) Dave Rafanelli, Clay Mauritson, and Tom Rochioli. As his winemaking skills improved, Valette drew parallels between using yeast and acid to making artisanal bread and kimchi in the kitchen. He also real - ized the techniques he used to preserve flavor, build structure, and balance tannins in wines were similar to decisions a chef makes to design a signature style of red meat on their menu. "In each case, everything you do will affect the flavor and texture," Valette tells The SOMM Journal. The turning point of his winemaking training came when he began working with super-premium Pinot Noir grapes from a vineyard planted by Kosta Browne Co-Founder Michael Browne in 2013. In contrast to the more aggressive approach he used to ferment thick-skinned grapes like Cabernet and Syrah, he quickly real - ized that light-bodied and finicky Pinot Noir grapes demand close attention at every step of the winemaking process. While taking a two-year hiatus to open his new restaurant—which he co-owns with his brother Aaron Garzini—in 2015, Valette met Cabral, who let the chef select from a wide range of barrels to make the master blend for his Valette Pinot Noir (the 50-case release features a combina - tion of Clone 777, Swan, and Calera). In comparison to the 60–65% new oak Cabral typically uses to give his finished wines more longevity, Valette only used 40% new oak and finished the wines unfined and unfiltered. The natural flavors of the fruit and the personalities of the sites come to life in the new release, which retails for $75. "To me, a great Pinot Noir is a composite of premier fruit and terroir," says Valette. "It should provide the consumer with a sense of place and a flavor profile that sets a wine apart from the rest." Chef Dustin Valette of Valette in Healdsburg, CA, teamed up with veteran winemaker Bob Cabral to craft the Valette wine label. A Prize Pinot AFTER YEARS OF AMATEUR WINEMAKING, CHEF DUSTIN VALETTE DEBUTS HIS FIRST OFFICIAL RELEASE by Chris Sawyer PHOTO COURTESY OF DUSTIN VALETTE

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The SOMM Journal - April / May 2018