It all came about in a rather interesting fashion. One day I received a call from Acme Fine Wines in St. Helena inquiring whether or not I might be interested in photographing a project with Dave Phinney of Orin Swift fame. Being a huge fan of Mercury Head, one of their extraordinary wines, I was anxious to meet the man behind the juice. Our first meeting was really great. We seemed to totally hit it off and I not only liked Dave's personality but his keen enthusiasm for design. I liked the concept for his new wine, Papillon, and from there the collaboration began. I threw out some ideas about how I felt it should be realized and Dave offered his comments and positive feedback. We completed the shoot photographing Vince Tofanelli's hands and than headed over to Dave's for dinner. I sat and played with the images over several glasses of wine and we finally came up with the image for Papillon. I believe it was the very last of many frames that I had taken that afternoon!
The following year I approached Dave in regards to helping me make my own wine. Knowing fully well that Dave was sourcing some of the finest fruit from the Napa Valley-much of which was from St. Helena, offered me some pretty good options if he was to agree. Dave not only agreed but was very encouraging. With no real formal training but years of drinking great juice with fellow wine lovers as well as wine makers at least gave me a fighting start. Dave also really pushed me by bringing in all the samples blind and tasting through the different varietals until I had found the various components to make my blend. It certainly was trial and error coming up with what worked for my palette-but what a learning experience!
The 2006 was my very first blend and being like a kid in a candy store, I got pretty carried away! Oh I really like this/Wow this tastes awesome/Oh we should put some of this in there! The final blend I came up with was a bit on the slutty side but fun-none the less! One thing I learned in blending, which was not unlike cooking, was that you had to be careful to have the right amount of each of the components so that the unique flavors which layered the wine and gave it complexity did not cancel each other out. It ended up being 60% Cabernet Sauvignon.20% Merlot and 20% Petit Verdot! Although it was a rather rich mix, the dark ripe black cherry notes were enhanced with underlying notes of cedar, dark chocolate and mocha. This being my first time out the gate, I opted not to file for a license to sell the wine but instead, watch it and see how it developed. One of the things that I realized with this exercise was that there was no pressure involved and it gave me more of an opportunity as well as the flexibility. to watch the wine develop and evolve. This year I have allotted more time to be available during veraison as well as being around for harvest and tasting through the fermenters. This whole process has been and will continue to be an amazing learning experience for me with thanks going out to Dave Phinney, Kevin Fox and their entire team. Thank you for this exceptional opportunity!