Christopher Howell is the winemaker and General Manager of the Cain Vineyard and Winery in the Napa Valley of California.
Christopher discusses his early wine tastings and home winemaking in the 1970s, and talks about some key relationships that helped form his interest in wine. He explains how he ended up pursuing an oenological and viticultural education in Montpellier, France, highlighting some notable people that he studied with, and how that school work then led to a stagiaire position at Château Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux. Christopher talks about a chance meeting that he had while working at Mouton, and something that was said to him that has stayed with him for the rest of his life. He also discusses other adventures in other wine cellars in France, notably at Château Rayas in the Rhône Valley.
Christopher discusses his return to the United States, and a pivotal meeting with Helen Turley that then led to a job at Peter Michael in the late 1980s. He talks about characteristics of Helen Turley and her husband John Wetlaufer that would contribute to their success in the wine world, and Christopher is frank about what he learned from them both. He further explains how the transition to working at the Cain Vineyard and Winery came about, where he has now been employed for the last thirty years.
Christopher is open about his sometimes unconventional winemaking choices, and explains the thought processes behind some idiosyncratic decision making, as well. In particular concerning brettanomyces, reduction, and volatile acidity. He also discusses the evolution of the different wine offerings at Cain, and what he has learned from that progression. He shares a great deal of his philosophy on topics like farming, vineyard trellising, terroir expression, grape variety blending, and wine complexity. He also is frank in his discussion about what his career choices have really entailed.
This episode also features commentary from the following people:
Cathy Corison, Corison Winery
Kelli White, author of "Napa Valley Then and Now"
Ehren Jordan, Failla
John Lockwood, Enfield Wine Co.
Bernard Portet, founding winemaker at Clos Du Val