Helen Keplinger is one of Napa Valley’s star winemakers. Having side-stepped a career in medicine, she moved from Ohio to California in 1998 to study at UC Davis. Graduating in 2002, she moved down to Santa Barbara (making wine at Fiddlehead), which led tangentially, through a meeting with Victor Gallegos of Sea Smoke, to an opportunity in Priorat with a winery he was setting up called Melis. So, in 2004, Helen moved to Priorat and, over the next three years of living there full-time and then travelling back and forth from Napa Valley, became immersed in the Catalan culture, lifestyle, food, wine, and specifically Garnacha. On her eventual return to Napa, after winemaking roles at quite a collection of fancy producers, she started her own wine project with her husband, DJ, and it was only natural for her to begin with Californian Grenache and Syrah. Refreshingly (since we like an occasional change, and we love a bit of Grenache), her focus, Napa based though she is, remains Grenache. Keplinger follows the mantra that great wine is only possible from great vineyards. She seems to relish the process of seeking out exceptional vineyards ideal for a specific varietal, and farming for the highest quality, focusing on small quantities made from small wine lots, respecting and responding to the uniqueness of each site and year. She has developed a network of fabulous vineyard sites from Napa to the Sierra Foothills. Working hard, and demanding of the vineyards from which she sources fruit, she believes in gentle winemaking to create wines of balance, elegance and complexity that are varietally true, communicating their terroir and provenance.
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