When Joe Phelps founded his estate winery and vineyards in 1973, he did so with a clear vision for the work and commitment that would be required to create the best wines possible. Essential to his goal was assembling a winemaking team who would embrace his dedication, attention to detail, and tremendous passion for the craft of winemaking itself. Today, the talented winemaking team of Ashley Hepworth, Napa Winemaker, Damian Parker, Director of Winemaking, Philippe Pessereau, Director of Vineyard Operations, Kelly Fields, Napa Assistant Winemaker and Justin Ennis, Freestone Assistant Winemaker, have taken Joe’s vision to heights even he could never have imagined.
Ashley summarizes the Joseph Phelps winemaking philosophy as: “…creating the very best wine from the vintage we’ve been given; to take what we get from the vineyard and to express the terroir and the beauty of the vineyard in every bottle of wine.”
How is this accomplished?
Of all the phases in winemaking, without a doubt, the most difficult and probably the most intense is harvest. The urgency and intensity are great because timing is so critical. If picked too soon, the potential of the grapes is lost. If picked too late, the potential has passed. Once the fruit is delivered to the winery, the next step begins with fermentation. (There is nothing like the smell of fermenting grape juice!) During this process, the winemakers taste and smell the juice multiple times a day while asking themselves, “What adjustments are needed? Are we doing the right number of pump-overs? When should we drain the tank and press the pomace? Is the mouth feel and texture continuing to improve? Do we want more extraction?” These questions are asked daily – and sometimes repeatedly – for each tank.
To ensure perfect timing for all stages of the harvest, Ashley, Damian, Philippe, Kelly and Justin work closely together in the decision-making process. According to Ashley, “our wine should reveal itself as complex and balanced, and it should express that 'soul' that we want here at Joseph Phelps Vineyards.”