Bill Murphy is not your typical retired Silicon Valley exec turned winemaker. Not for him the vanity property in Napa and designer cabs at $70 a bottle with no hope of seeing a return on his money this century.
"In Napa, land is not priced on vineyard land economics. It's priced on lifestyle, or ego economics. They are good reasons, but it's not a business" he explains to me one balmy early summer evening on the deck of his winery's—Clos LaChance—handsome visitor center overlooking the bucolic golf course of the CordeValle resort 20 miles south of San Jose in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
"I fully intend to run a profitable business because if it isn't, pretty soon it will cease to exist. If it's just about the beautiful place and beautiful wine and the lifestyle, that's great. But if it's not a successful business, if it's not sustainable financially, eventually it's going to fall apart."
Believe it or not, such commonsense thinking is not as widespread in Napa Valley as one might expect—there's an awful lot of vanity winemaking being done there, winemaking where competition for ratings points, not to mention price points, is more important than actually making money.
But not for Murphy.
As we chat I am savoring a glass of his best wine, the Clos LaChance Hummingbird-Series White-Tufted Sunbeam 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($15) and watching a couple of hundred locals enjoying the regular Thursday evening open house, a Time For Wine Evening, while listening to music, eating picnics on the center's terrace and lawns and, not incidentally, buying his wine. Murphy is nothing if not adept at applying the skills he honed in his previous life as a senior marketing executive for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) to promote his wine.
Perhaps because SB is a relatively simple varietal—you can only go so far with it, and it shows well even when the vines are young—it is often the wine that stands out in a startup winery's portfolio.
This version is crisp and fresh but not totally dry, and mercifully free of that assertive gooseberry taste so many SBs exhibit these days. It has also acquired a touch of appealing minerality since I last tasted it.
Whatever the reason this is a beautifully-made, inexpensive wine that will work equally well as a summer party sipper, an aperitif, or with scallops, clams, mussels, or lobster for supper.
And it should certainly help Clos LaChance on the road to profitability.
To find this wine try www.wine-searcher.com.WOW Rating:
When to Drink: Now
Breathing/Decanting: Not necessary.
Food Pairing: See text above.
Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Central Coast
Web Site: www.clos.com
See more wines at www.nickonwine.com.