The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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NEXT-GENERATION WineMAkeRs very important to me.” “I think that a lot of people my age and younger are starting to have much better palates; it’s not just for older people anymore,” Katz avers. “There’s a lot less BS these days; the consumer is a lot more knowledgeable, and I think it’s helping everyone. You’re not going to be able to fool people with a poor product.” That said, there is still the hazard of industry veterans raising an eyebrow at the wunderkind winemaker’s relative youth. “Maybe right off the bat,” Katz concedes. “But if anything, it’s a conversation starter. There are some people with their doubts —‘What’s this young kid doing here?’—but as soon as we get to talking and going over wines, that all goes out the door.” Craftsmanship and the Camaraderie Darrin Low, Flowers Vineyard & Winery Forty-year-old Darrin Low became acquainted with the vicissitudes of the wine industry through his parents’ wine shop while growing up in Healdsburg. “I was around when wine started becoming big in and around Sonoma County back in the ’80s,” says Low, winemaker for Flowers Vineyard & Winery in Cazadero, on the county’s craggy coast. Darrin Low. Katz followed his education with a series of ad hoc apprenticeships with acclaimed winemakers the world over. Among them was a tour with Hans Vinding-Diers, the South African-born Dane behind the wines at Tuscany’s Argiano and Argentina’s Bodega Noemía de Patagonia [see p. 64], where Katz worked with him. That Katz would eventually also clock time with lumi- naries Paul Hobbs, Robert Foley and Screaming Eagle’s Andy Erickson is as much a testament to his networking skills as his taste in winemakers. “It’s been my goal to go around and follow the best Bordeaux winemakers in the world,” explains Katz. “I think I get it from my dad; he knew everyone 52 / the tasting panel / april 2010 in his industry, and everyone in their industry. His first book was A Portrait of Napa and Sonoma. I was meeting a lot of these people, and I met Robert Mondavi when I was young. I just picked everyone’s brain as much as possible,” Katz says. “That’s really my goal: to surround myself with brilliant people who make amazing wines and hope that some of it rubs off.” Though Katz’s efforts at Lancaster Estate have yet to be released, he is enthusiastic about his contributions. “I’ve always loved the Sonoma area,” says Katz. “Lancaster has become one of the top Bordeaux producers in the area. And having a proprietor who is so into top-quality, handcrafted wines is While in high school, Low found seasonal employment at the local wineries doing pump-overs and sundry maintenance tasks, which primed his passion for the trade. “I loved the work and loved being outside, and I saw the lifestyle of how wine and food and friends came together—the craftsman- ship and the camaraderie,” says Low. While many of his contemporaries pursued their passion for winemaking at programs such as U.C. Davis, Low opted to follow an independent course of study at the University of California Santa Cruz. There, he studied enology, supplemented with hands-on work at a local winery. He also eventually studied in France. “Everything was coming out of Davis. People from our generation coming out of Davis obviously have that network, but also have that Davis ‘taint’ on things. Coming from a differ- ent approach of living and making wine PHOTO: PETER GRIFFITH

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