The Tasting Panel magazine

Nov 09

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Page 40 of 92

French-born Bernard Portet traveled the world for American entre- preneur John Goelet, who in 1970 sent him on a mission to find new territory for growing world-class wines. "Being born and raised in the Bordeaux area may have tainted my approach," Portet claims; he remembers thinking that the Oakville and Rutherford wines he sampled at the time were too powerful for his taste. However, he knew that Napa had something special. Driving up and down the Silverado Trail, on the valley's eastern flank, Portet took notice of how the temperature would drop significantly here in the afternoon. "It happened every time I passed that hill," he says, pointing across the road from the Clos du Val win- ery. "I found an area where the nights were cooler and, therefore, where we could get more ripe elements and fresh- ness in the wines." In the spring of '72, the vine- yards were developed and the first 50 acres put under vine. Portet decided to grow Bor- deaux varieties; when Goelet asked him to plant Chardonnay in 1973, Portet refused. "I came to realize that there was a common thread among the wines from this area: bal- ance, elegance and complexity. While styles of wine change according to the winemaker, there does exist a typicity here: round, full, well-cen- tered, silky and yet long-last- ing aging potential." The Valley within a Valley The Stags Leap District 20th Anniversary Interviews Bernard Portet, co-founder and Vice Chairman of Clos du Val, French for "small vineyard in the valley." Bernard Portet • CLOS DU VAL The Clos du Val 2005 SLD Cab- ernet Sauvignon is well-centered. "We're not aiming on being the biggest wine," says winemaker John Clews. But the wine is cer- tainly French in style and quite pretty, with hefty fullness as well as a floral arrangement of violets and rose petals. 40 / the tasting panel / november 2009

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