The Tasting Panel magazine

Nov 09

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Page 46 of 92

46 / the tasting panel / november 2009 By Design Pat Kuleto came into his own as a restaurant designer in the mid-1980s with his design for San Francisco's popular Fog City Diner. Over the next two decades, the establish- ments he created in the Bay Area and beyond—not only as designer but as a frequent equity partner with luminary chefs—became a desti- nation checklist for foodies; they include Wolfgang Puck's Postrio, Boulevard (with Nancy Oakes), Far- allon (with Mark Franz), Jardinière (with Traci des Jardins), Martini House in St. Helena (with Todd Humphries) and, most recently, surf- and-turf twins WaterBar and Epic Roasthouse on the San Francisco waterfront, just to name a few. As befits a successful, food-loving entrepreneur of his considerable stature, Kuleto purchased an 800- acre ranch in Napa in 1992, build- ing his ideal home—Villa Cucina, "basically a kitchen with a couple of bedrooms attached"—with raptor views overlooking Lake Hennessey and Pritchard Hill. Vines were planted for home winemaking, but by 1999 Kuleto had constructed a full-fledged winery on the property; it opened for tastings and tours, by appointment only, in 2003. Gentlemen's Agreement While Pat Kuleto and his family were enjoying their mountaintop aerie (when not cooking pizza in one of the nine outdoor ovens on the property, the bear-like Kuleto reportedly likes to skinny-dip in his outdoor pool), another entrepreneur came calling with an offer too good to refuse. Businessman Bill Foley— who already owned Foley Estates and Lincourt in Santa Barbara and had re- cently expanded his collec- tion of top-notch wineries to include Firestone Vineyard and Three Rivers in Walla Walla, Washington—cooked up a delicious deal with Kuleto that would allow the restaurateur to remain ensconced at his mountain- top villa, while Foley would handle the business end of the Kuleto Estate wines. Foley doesn't like fixer- uppers: "I don't want to buy something that's broken," he's been known to say. The pristine Kuleto Estate was a prime acquisition for the astute Foley, who can complement low-produc- tion boutique properties like Kuleto (around 9,000 cases per year) with larger producers in his portfolio, such as Sonoma's historic Sebastiani Vineyards & Win- ery, which he also recently purchased. Speaking Lattin Oregon native David Lattin, who became winemaker at Kuleto Estate in 2002 after having spent more than a decade at Acacia, takes an instinctive approach to his craft, flying by experience as much as book learning (although he holds a Master's degree in enology from U.C. Davis). Lattin works closely with the vineyard team and knows every hill, dale and microclimate of this sprawling and seemingly in- tractable estate. Although 88 acres are planted to grapes, the vines are scattered in more than a hundred blocks that can be as small as a tenth of an acre in size. Kuleto planted Sangiovese to re- flect his Italian heritage, but discov- ered that Zinfandel, Syrah and Cab- ernet Sauvignon were the grapes that performed best on the estate and most completely expressed its mountain terroir. "Geologically, we're different from our neighbors," Built in 1999, the winery looks as if it's been there forever. Top: The entire Kuleto range showcases moun- tain fruit. Above: First day of harvest. Caber- net Sauvignon grapes arrive on the crushpad.

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