Napa Valley AVA
American Winery of the year 2007 - 92 Points Wine & Spirits
Many wineries in California are the stuff dreams are made of and Napa Valley's Chateau Potelle is no exception. In fact, its location and general appearance cause it to be called a dream winery more often than not. Perched above fabled Mt. Veeder's summit on the Mayacamas Range's eastern slope at an altitude of 1800 feet, Chateau Potelle is the antithesis of a modern looking winery. It is tucked away in relative obscurity in much the same way some collectors hide away their prized possessions. Nevertheless, Chateau Potelle was founded on classic winemaking ideals by a French couple that originally came to the United States as employees of the ENRO or appellation controlee segment of the French wine government. The couple, Marketta and Jean-Noel Fourmeaux, was sent to California in 1980 to taste as many wines as possible and report back to France on their quality and various aspects of vineyard management and winemaking philosophy. After six months and more than 2000 wines, the pair sent word back to France that they intended on staying in California. They returned home for their two young daughters and came to Napa Valley to stay.
'What we found in Napa Valley was something we considered as a wonderful opportunity,' offered Jean-Noel Fourmeaux. 'During the early 1980's much of Napa's output was still heavy and wood laden, and lacking in finesse. Since we were part of the Bordeaux wine government, we thought Napa would be ideal for a different style of wine. The fruit that was available was truly outstanding, it was simply our opinion that the wines just needed to be more refined.' By 1988, the couple's five year search for the ideal property ended with the purchase of a 202 acre estate near the top of Mt. Veeder.
'At no time did we consider anything other than mountainside property,' Jean-Noel Fourmeaux explained. 'It had been our experience that the hillsides had it all over the valley flatlands in every way, in particular when it came to producing the intensity and character of the wines.' Fourmeaux borrowed his 900-year-old family estate name from France and Chateau Potelle became a reality. The new company's first release was around 3,000 cases, which has since grown to over 25,000 cases this year. From the beginning, Chateau Potelle gained early press acceptance and followed it up with a large number of competitive awards that assured the winery's future. During the early years of development, it was Chateau Potelle's intention to strengthen the tie between wine and food, particularly the new style of American cuisine that was just beginning to appear.
'There were a number of great young American chefs that were creating a unique style of cuisine and I wanted our wines to really compliment their efforts. I felt that if the new cuisine proved successful, so would our wines. It's easy to see the rest of the story.' Five years ago, with Chateau Potelle solidly ensconced, the Fourmeauxs decided to split up and take separate paths in the wine business. Earlier this year, industry giant Jackson Family Wines (Jess Jackson of Kendall-Jackson Fame) bought the winery and estate, but Jean-Noel Fourmeaux retained control of the Chateau Potelle name and existing inventory.
'They made us an offer we simply couldn't refuse,' he said resolutely. 'But I sold the property with another project in mind and I am presently seeking a new location to begin another winery.' Fourmeaux said that the new property is somewhere in Napa Valley and should become his possession by this summer. 'I know what I am looking for and I don't think it will be all that difficult,' he added.
'What I have to be careful of is that the place doesn't get too hot. Too much heat is bad for the vines. Most growers are always looking for less heat, and I intend to be sure the place is right for what I want to do.' Fourmeaux intends to keep the Chateau Potelle presence alive with his new venture and also the distinctive VGS (Very Good Stuff) logo that has become an important part of Chateau Potelle's distinctive appearance. He also intends to limit the new facility's production to around 7,000 cases in order 'to be able to produce the very finest wines possible.' Jean-Noel Fourmeaux is a proven veteran of the Napa wine scene with enough accolades to last a lifetime. We know he will continue to be successful.