Long time California Winemaker William Knuttel has concentrated on ultra-premium winemaking for the majority of his career. His philosophy has long been to make a wide range of wines in various styles every vintage, for the simple reason that the number of vintages for any winemaker is quite finite. This wealth of experience has led directly to his adherence to traditional winemaking practices, which lead to balanced, elegant wines that pair well with foods and have excellent aging potential—the hallmarks of classic wine.
William Knuttel’s winemaking journey began at Saintsbury, where he was winemaker from 1983 to 1996 and established that brand as an international leader in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the Burgundian style. William Knuttel was also Vice President and Winemaker at Chalk Hill Winery from 1996 to 2003, specializing in ultra-premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. From 2003 to 2011 Knuttel was Executive Winemaker at Dry Creek Vineyard, where he completely re- honed the styles and quality of that winery’s extensive portfolio. Knuttel was also ZAP’s winemaker in 2005, producing their Heritage Zinfandel, and President of the California Cabernet Society from 1999-2003.
William Knuttel is a long time resident of Napa Valley. His daughter Kate, a dancer, graduated from California College of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, while his son Sebastian, a cellist, studied at UC Santa Cruz, receiving his BA with a major in Mathematics–both are currently part of the family business. Knuttel’s hobbies range from golf to genealogy, and he travels often to the Argentine wine region of Cafayate. As an avid music lover, Knuttel developed the Napa Valley Youth Symphony, a non-profit dedicated to bringing professional orchestral experience to talented young musicians, and he currently sits on the board of Berkeley Symphony, where William Knuttel Winery is an official sponsor.
Aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and spiced tea rise unabated from this inky black wine. A well-integrated backbone of velvety tannins and toasty oak highlights cherry and cassis flavors, leading to concentrated fruit in a seamless and assertive finish. Our entire block of Windsor Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was hand harvested on September 11th, 2015, after a warm and steady growing season ripened one of the smallest crops we have seen in this vineyard.
For this single vineyard bottling, the ripest and most flavorful section of the vineyard was crushed separately into one-ton fermenters. Native fermentation began spontaneously after three days of a cold soak. The cap was punched down three times per day through the end of fermentation, and then pressed off immediately.
The free run portion was racked to French oak for twenty months of aging, at which time eight barrels (four new and four 2-year-old) were selected for this bottling. The wine was bottled unfined in August of 2017. Only 128 cases were produced.
Creaminess is the all-pervasive character. The complex aromas subtly weave lemon and red apple with banana and key lime pie, underlain with toast and nutmeg. Layers of crème brulee, caramel, and stone fruits chime in on the palate, highlighting textbook Russian River Valley structure. Lively acidity graces the finish, which is full bodied, rich and creamy, and the lingering palate impression lures one into sip after sip.
This Chardonnay synthesizes thirty-five years of winemaking in the style of Burgundy’s great whites. Knuttel produced commercial unfiltered Chardonnay (maybe the first in California) at Saintsbury; then, at Chalk Hill Estate, all Chardonnay received the full on treatments utilized in Burgundy, including whole-cluster pressing, barrel fermentation with native yeast in 100% French oak, 100% native malolactic fermentation, sur-lie aging with weekly batonage, and extended aging with a significant percentage of new French oak. Starting with Windsor Oak’s meticulously grown fruit, our own practices, which complement those of Windsor Oaks, allowed the wine to let the vineyard stand out, retaining the flavors unique to the vineyard sites. Only 100 cases produced.
Peterson Vineyard, on Bradford Mountain in northwest Dry Creek Valley, yields intensely flavored Malbec with great natural acidity from its well-drained, red- clay hillsides. A small block of Petit Verdot sits nearby, and 20% was co- fermented with the Malbec. Fully ripened clusters from the near perfect 2017 vintage were hand harvested and gently crushed to one-ton fermenters. The must was inoculated after two days of cold soaking the berries. Extraction with three punch downs daily continued until the wine was completely dry, at which time it was pressed to 100% French oak, predominantly Francois Freres, for malolactic fermentation.
Fourteen months aging in barrel, with quarterly racking, completed the classic Bordeaux-style winemaking utilized in the making of this Malbec. The 2017 Peterson Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Malbec is densely scented with aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and earth, gently massaged with oak spice. Flavors of black cherry and raspberry chime in on the mid-palate, and resolved tannins amply support the lengthy finish. This wine is eminently suited to the table, and pairs especially well with roasted meats and grilled vegetables.
Only 56 cases were produced.
Doug Rafanelli grows Cabernet Sauvignon in a patchwork of vineyards dotting rugged hillsides on the west side of Dry Creek Valley. Labeling the soils there as “marginal” would be doing them a favor, as the vines struggle to support even 2 tons per acre in a good year. This bottling was blended from two low yielding blocks, Terraces and Mary’s, lying on south-facing slopes above the big bend on West Dry Creek Road, near Lambert Bridge. The southern exposure on thin, well- drained, gravelly soils accelerates ripening, and these blocks of Cab are always first into the winery. Our Cabernet Sauvignon was painstakingly harvested by hand, its miniscule clusters and berries not even punching in at one and half tons to the acre.
For this bottling, areas of the vineyard were isolated and separately crushed into one-ton fermenters. After 3 days of cold soak, a native fermentation began with wild yeasts. The cap was punched down three times per day through to the end of fermentation, and then pressed off immediately. The free run was racked to French oak for 22 months of aging, at which time 8 barrels (four new and four 2- year-old) were selected for this single vineyard bottling. The wine was bottled unfined. This 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon features aromas of ripe blackberry, plum and blueberry, and hints of earth and dried flowers. Oak and toast mesh completely into the flavors. The wine’s color is dense, and flavors of ripe berry and cherry ride a wave of firm but resolved tannins. While built for aging, this wine can be enjoyed now with heartier meals.
Only 130 cases were produced.
Over the years William Knuttel Winery has produced Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from many small vineyards throughout the valley, but this is the first time we’ve used the Atlas Peak designation. Two of my consulting clients brought in fruit from the appellation, and one of them asked if I would trade my consulting fees for wine. The decision was not finalized until early 2019 when the wine was in barrel—and at that point it was pretty easy to figure out what a marvelous blend could be made. So, while the exact parcels cannot be identified, the client’s bottling, albeit a slightly different final blend, has already been released with quite a high price tag, and it immediately scored a Double Gold in the Bay Area’s most prestigious wine judging!
Our Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon was hand-harvested from three small blocks averaging 2.3 tons per acre. These were separately crushed into one-ton fermenters, and fermentation with wild yeasts began after two days. The cap was punched down three times daily, and then the bins were sealed up for an additional two weeks of maceration before pressing. Only free run portions were used in the final blend, which was aged in 100% French oak (40% new – medium+ toast)) for 20 months and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Only 134 cases were produced.
The 2016 Rex & Amarica Petite Sirah has aromas of blackberry and ripe pomegranate, black plum and black cherry, with well-integrated oak and toast. The wine is opaque, nearly like India ink, with black and deep purple hues. The velvety tannins are meshed in intense blackberry, black cherry and licorice flavors, and the well-balanced finish lingers while concentrated fruit explodes on the pallet.
Only 66 cases were produced.
91 Points, The Wine Enthusiast: “Leathery, savory and herbal, this block designate from the heart of the appellation is impressively complex, structured and dusty on the palate. Black pepper, blueberry and gamy meat combine around significant tannin and lasting oak.”
Copyright Crafted Brands, All Rights Reserved