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Winemaking

Overview

Kuleto Estate wines are 100% estate-grown, produced and bottled. With 82.9 acres of vines planted between 800 and 1,450 feet, each of the 100+ micro-blocks must receive individualized treatment to maximize their potential. Winemaking team, David Lattin and Giovanni Verdejo have been working side-by –side since 2002 and together they have mastered the art of cultivating the unique personalities of each block into some of the finest mountain estate wines in the Napa Valley. 

David Lattin, Winemaker

With more than twenty years of experience in the wine industry, it would be easy to assume that winemaker Dave Lattin came to Kuleto Estate in the spring of 2002 based on the strength of his resume. While his credentials are impressive, Lattin was chosen as much for his philosophical approach to the art of winemaking, as for his technical mastery of it. For Dave, making wine at Kuleto Estate is about quality of life and a deep relationship with a remarkable piece of land.

From his first memorable sip of Mosel at the age of six, Dave Lattin has been cultivating a keen palate and a passion for wine. Originally from Corvallis, Oregon, Dave received his bachelor degree in microbiology from Oregon State University in 1981. Soon after, he took his first position in the industry working for Acacia Winery. The environment and work inspired him beyond his expectations and he quickly fell in love with the business. Determined to gain experience, Dave traveled to Europe where he developed a profound appreciation for German and French wines. From the vineyards of St. Emilion to the cellar at Troplong-Mondot, Dave worked and studied the art and craft of winemaking before returning to the United States.

In 1986 Dave received his master’s degree in enology from the University of California, Davis. After university he was hired as enologist at Robert Pecota, where he further refined his technical and artistic capabilities before taking a hands-on position as cellar master at Storybook Mountain. In late 1987, Dave rejoined Acacia as enologist where he quickly made himself indispensable. Passionate and committed, Dave was promoted to winemaker in 1992, then to general manager/winemaker in 1997.

Resolved to maintain his relationship with both the wine and the vine, Dave left Acacia in 1998 after eleven years of dedicated service. Together with his wife Kendra, a trained enologist and landscape architect who has worked for several top California wineries, Dave founded CL Wines, a consulting and winemaking business.

In 2002 Dave met with Pat Kuleto at Villa Cucina on the Kuleto Estate property. “I came to talk about doing some consulting work,” says Dave. “Pat was looking for someone who loved to be in the vineyard. We ended up sitting on his porch, drinking wine and eating olives and cheese for five or six hours. We talked about the land and winemaking, we talked about what was important to us; about quality of life and feeling connected. For Pat, wine doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it is part of a rich, abundant lifestyle. Who wouldn’t want to create wine in an environment like that?”

As comfortable on the mountainside among the vine rows as in the winery, Dave works closely with vineyard manager Alberto Ochoa throughout the year. During harvest, Dave begins each morning in the fields hand-selecting the following day’s fruit, choosing blocks or individual rows that have attained ideal maturation. Skilled working with a diversity of varietals, he thrives on the challenges presented by a mountain capable of producing such a wide array of world-class fruit. An instinctive winemaker with an extensive technical background, Dave strives to create warm, open and opulent food wines that suggest the gracious personality of Kuleto Estate.

Giovanni Verdejo, Cellarmaster

Before Kuleto was even built, Cellarmaster, Giovani Verdejo, fell in love with the property. The rolling hills and sweeping views drew Gio to the mountainside estate where he started work constructing the winery’s foundation at just nineteen years old. When harvest arrived in 2000, Gio helped out in the cellar, working on the fermentation tanks that remained outside while the winery was still under construction. He’s been hooked ever since.

Being of Basque descent, Gio was introduced to wine at an early age at family gatherings. His culture and love of wine drew him to study Winemaking and Viticulture at Napa Valley College after high school. Since then, Gio has become Dave Lattin’s right-hand-man, helping craft some of the best estate wines coming out of Napa. Praised for his refined palate, Gio is involved in every part of the winemaking process and final blending decisions. 

The most enjoyable time of year for Gio at the estate is the arduous harvest season, oddly enough. “The long hours seem like minutes when you’re doing something you love,” he says. During harvest Gio spends most of his days working in the lab, monitoring all the changes the wine goes through during fermentation, experimenting with different blending techniques, and taste-testing all of the clonal varieties picked that year. “I enjoy harvest because it’s the beginning of it all. It’s a time where we can direct the style of all the new wines being made for that year.” As Cellarmaster, Gio loves nothing more than the smell of new wine barrels being filled and fresh yeast on his hands.

When he’s not playing maestro in the cellar, Gio spends his downtime with his wife and three children. “You’ll be hard-pressed to find me at home on the weekends,” he says, keeping a busy schedule filled with outdoor activities, salsa dancing, and bike rides. As foodies, Gio and his wife love to explore Napa’s fine dining scene, as well as kick-back at home with a cold beer watching football.