Sometimes a book won’t leave you alone. It plays havoc with your curiosity. It fills you with questions that demand answers. It whispers to you when you try to sleep.
The upside is a book that disturbs your peace of mind can be life altering.
Elias Fernandez crossed paths with one such book. He was a student at UC Davis and the book was required reading for his class on the “Wines of the World.” Fernandez can’t remember the name of the book but said it was so compelling he read it for three days, non-stop. He finished the book before the first day of class.
“I realized that wine is the culmination of history, science and art,” he said. “From that moment on I felt that this (winemaking) is where I belong.”
Fernandez is the winemaker behind our wine-of-the-week winner –– the Shafer Vineyards, 2015 One Point Five Stags Leap District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $95.
The One Point Five is a gorgeous cabernet, full-bodied and complex with silky tannins. It has layered notes of pomegranate, cassis and cedar. An impressive wine with generous fruit, it still manages to be balanced. The Shafer has depth and lingers on the finish.
Fernandez said this wine, groomed in the Stags Leap District, benefits from this micro climate.
“With its warm days and cool nights it’s ideal for wines that will age,” he said. “It’s cool enough for the grapes to hold onto their natural acidity and its warm enough to develop complexity.”
The winemaker said experience is what gives him the edge when making wine. The 2015 vintage was his 30th.
“I have experience with Mother Nature, who is the real winemaker,” Fernandez said. “My job is to steer her to make better wine. If she throws heat spells at us, I’m ready to irrigate, always watching the weather to hedge our bets.”
Fernandez, 57, is a second generation American whose parents settled in St. Helena in 1961. They were seasonal migrant workers from Mexico who worked in the San Joaquin Valley in the 1950s.
“I have done all the jobs in the field and doing all the agricultural handwork benefitted me when I got my education in winemaking,” he said.
Fernandez graduated from UC Davis in 1984 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fermentation Science. He transferred from the University of Nevada, Reno where he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study music.
“I played the jazz trumpet but I decided I didn’t want to be a starving artist,” he said, with a laugh. “I’ve retired from music. Winemaking takes up a lot of my time. I like to say that now my music comes through my wines.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.