Aspire Magazine Issue 2 - Page 47

/////////// Rothschild’s story inspired Helen to reinvent her own life, ditching medicine for graduate school in viticulture and enology. The move proved inspired. The would-be winemaker would go on to work for a storied series of talents, including Screaming Eagle vet Heidi Peterson Barrett (“my first mentor—she doesn’t get her feathers ruffled easily”), Cabernet expert David Abreu (“a stickler for detail”) and Bordelais Michel Rolland (“a brilliant blender and a beautiful man”). Such experience helped shaped her career and position Keplinger as one of Napa’s rising stars, lauded by Wine Spectator and Food + Wine for her nuanced palate and nerdish passion. She credits a trip to Spain as the other pivotal point in her career. While there, she first truly explored the potential of the varietal she’s most closely associated with: Grenache. “It’s not an easy grape to farm,” she says. “You need a strong stomach when you do, because it’s such an overachiever. It wants to crop a lot when it’s young and the weather is right,” Helen explains, “but it’s also super transparent for its terroir, tasting incredibly different from different sites. I love that about it.” The best proving ground was Priorat, the tiny northwest region in Spain that features a kaleidoscope of different soils and climates across 4,500 acres. When Keplinger returned to America, she began hunting for a site in Napa. Instead of flat valley floor sites, of course, LEFT: Keplinger coaxes the fruits of her labor; handcrafting the harvest in Napa, California. she needed rocky, steep slopes that would put her beloved, robust Grenache under strain, and, in turn, improve the quality of the final wine. During the last decade helming Keplinger Wines with her husband, D.J. Warner, she’s become acclaimed for boutique cuvées that foster a true taste of terroir in Rhone-style varietals. In 2014, Nick Allen, great-grandson of the man who purchased Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Chateau Haut-Brion, hired Keplinger to steer the vintages of his Napa-based Carte Blanche Wine. They quickly realized similar wine perspectives. Allen hosted a special vintner tasting at Southworth Development’s Willowbend community in fall 2017, to the applause of the club’s discerning wine fans. “It was one of the most well received wine events of our 2017 season,” says Willowbend Director of Food and Beverage Blane Toedt. “The wines were showing beautifully and the food pairings really allowed their complexity to shine.” Keplinger adds, “Nick Allen loves Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone, and was wanting to make wine that was a tip of the hat to those. He’s serious about wine, but he’s also really fun, and that combination is rare in this business.” “Nick Allen loves Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone, and was wanting to make wine that was a tip of the hat to those.” —HELEN KEPLINGER SIP + SEE>NAPA. KEPLINGERWINES.COM; CARTEBL ANCHEWINE.COM ASPIRE | ISSUE TWO 45