Brooks Painter, who heads up winemaking and viticultural operations at St. Helena’s V. Sattui Winery, was named “Winemaker of the Year” recently at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. It is the largest international wine competition in the nation.
Painter’s selection came after 52 judges from retail, restaurants, winemaking, media and consulting judged 4,539 wines from 1,400 wineries, 30 countries and 29 states.
The winemaker award honors the late André Tchelistcheff, celebrated as America's most influential post-Prohibition winemaker for his highly regarded winemaking efforts at Beaulieu Vineyards for many decades.
Painter has been director of winemaking at V. Sattui Winery since 2005. He is responsible for the winery’s portfolio of 60 different wines as well for viticultural and grapegrowing operations, plus supervising 230 acres of estate vineyards. V. Sattui wines. They are sustainably farmed, some from its own organic vineyard, are sold exclusively from the winery, a rarity in today’s corporate-influenced wine world. Sattui wines are only sold in the tasting room, online or through a wine club.
“Brooks has been called ‘the winemaker’s winemaker’ because of his extensive expertise and prominence as a wine industry leader among his peers,” noted Sattui Winery president Tom Davies. “Our steady stream of accolades substantiates his expertise.”
V. Sattui has more than a dozen 90-plus point rated wines among its current vintages, Davies pointed out. In 2012 the winery was twice named Winery of the Year — at the 2012 Winemaker's Challenge and the 2012 Monterey Wine Competition — then voted Best Winery for the second year in a row by the San Francisco Bay Guardian Readers Poll.
Most recently V. Sattui again was named the 2013 Winery of the Year at the Winemakers Challenge, remarkably the 11th time in 8 years the winery garnered such recognition.
With every harvest, Painter and his winemaking team produce between 50 and 60 different wines. Cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot are offered in both single vineyard bottlings and blends and there are usually 9 or 10 single vineyard zinfandels each harvest, Painter said. There is also a syrah and often a syrah blended with other Rhone varieties, such as grenache and mourvedre.
At present, Sattui is offering five distinct chardonnays, three sauvignon blancs, plus muscat and riesling.
“We’ve been producing a sweeter style muscat for some 20 years along with one that’s slightly sweet,” he added. “About four years ago, we added a fruity, spritzy moscato that’s been popular (with consumers).”
Also included in the company’s annual 40,000-case production are V. Sattui Port, Madeira and sparkling wines.
Painter said Sattui has some 260 estate vineyards, which provide for nearly 70 percent of the winery’s grape needs.
How does he manage to handle such a variety of wine and oversee the grapegrowing operation as well? Painter said “it’s being able to delegate and communicate well with a very good staff. It’s not easy, but we have a lot of good people here.”
The winemaker expects he’ll be spending a lot of time at the winery between now and November.
Painter’s résumé boasts positions in winemaking at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Robert Mondavi and Leeward wineries. He has served as president and board member for the Napa Valley Wine Technical Group, and has been a technical reviewer for enology research proposals submitted to the American Vineyard Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by the wine industry to provide grant money for research and development projects.
His research on biochemistry and sensory evaluation of wine has been published in The American Journal of Viticulture and Enology, Biochemistry, Practical Winery & Vineyard and Wines & Vines. He is a member of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture and a former chair of the Microbiology Committee for C.E.R.A. (California Enological Research Association). He has also taught adult education classes on wine and grapegrowing for the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
The honoree and his wife, Beth, have been Napa residents for more than 15 years. Their two college-age children, Miles and Emily, are now enjoying the wine tasting and winery visits that used to bore them to tears, their father noted.
V. Sattui is a small, family-owned winery founded in 1885 in San Francisco by present-day owner Dario Sattui’s great-grandfather, Vittorio, who made his wines from grapes grown in St. Helena. It is located on a 32-acre vineyard about a mile south of St. Helena. The winery is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.