Was there a moment that you remember when you knew that you wanted to be a winemaker?
When, as a young teenager, I helped Mom with the nightly cooking and I was fascinated with how we matched wines with food and thought about the chemistry and science of the taste comparisons and tactile experiences and thought it would be fun to make wine at home. Well, I was constantly experimenting with home fermentations of wine and beer before I was 16. It was exciting for sure and then I met a professor at UC Davis who said I should become a winemaker!!
What was your first wine job? How did you end up starting your own brand Tom Eddy Winery?
Interned at Wente Bros the last quarter of college and really got hooked. I couldn’t wait to get out on my own and thought if the Wentes can do for many generations, then I too can build my own winery!
For those not familiar with Tom Eddy Winery can you share a brief history and what makes it so special to those who’ve had it and are your cult followers?
After college and several “large winery” experiences, I wanted to specialize with mountain Cabernet having seen the unbelievable quality coming from Napa Valley hillside vineyards. It was really Cabernet that was the catalyst for me to have my own winery specializing in Cab. Those who “collect” our wines understand my commitment to Cab and to make hillside wines that are intense, rich, yet elegant, and age well. Some of our buyers like this most about our wines.
Over the years you’ve made many varietals, what do you think has been the most challenging to make? What variety now do you enjoy making the most?
The cold fermented whites and rose’s are the most challenging to make because they are so delicate. It requires much skill and experience to duplicate the right touch of perfume, softeness and structure at the same time.
As a winemaker you taste (and spit) lots of wine, what wine do you feel bad about spitting because you love it so much?
That’s easy. I just can’t spit out our older Cabernet library wines!
What was one of the biggest mistakes you have made in your winemaking career?
Not going with your gut and instinct and palate first, just because the numbers came back from the lab with a certain result. A good winemaker makes the call with his palate and then backs it up with the lab. A couple times in my career I have made a wine that months later I didn’t like and it was because I was rushed and believed something that someone else told me that I should not have accepted. A good example is sometimes believing a celebrity wine critic, when I know they may not have the experience to make a particular statement about a particular wine.
Who has been the most influential mentor in your career?
Probably a couple of older winemakers who told me about some realities of wine processing that were ultimately proven to be accurate. These guys are not know and not famous, but they had decades of premium experience and shared those winemaking tricks with me.
What is something you’d like to share about Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that many consumers may not know or have a misconception about?
Pressing the skins longer and harder to get more tannin does not make a wine that ages longer. In fact, having more rough-tasting tannin often ruins a wine in terms of taste and ageability.
What is your favorite after work drink?
More Sauvignon Blanc!
What is your favorite local spot in Napa?
I love the resorts Meadowood and Auberge Soleil, but Solage has great breakfast donuts!
For those don’t know where Tom Eddy Winery is located, can you share more about your unique location just feet from the Napa and Sonoma border?
My wife Kerry and I “discovered” our ranch 20 years ago and fell in love. It’s 22 acres in the mountains and overlaps both Napa and Sonoma counties and sits between the two counties. At 1,100 above sea level and the city of Calistoga, it’s like making wine in Lake Tahoe. We love everything about making wine in the mountains and have a special relationship with the grapes, the trees and the animals, and it’s the perfect spot for our cave drilled into the volcanic rock.
Tell us something that would surprise people about you?
During college I was known as a great water skier and trumpet player. I have not skied or played music now in decades. Since becoming a winemaker, I practice the usual things like drinking wine, grilling, trout fishing and smoking an occasional cigar (don’t tell my doctor).