Blankiet Estate

Cult Wine: Blankiet Proprietary Red
Winemaker: Denis Malbec
Proprietors: Claude & Katherine Blankiet
Inaugural Vintage: 1999
Annual Production: 300-400 cases
Varietal: Bordeaux Blend
Appellation: Napa Valley
Other Wines: Yes, Three
Estate Vineyard: Yes
Grape Source: 100% Estate Grown


“Always ask questions - do not become complacent, remain curious.” This is Claude Blankiet’s approach to winemaking. Blankiet Estate Proprietary Red, first produced in 1999, is now listed in Steve Tanzer’s Winophelia along with Harlan, Bond and Screaming Eagle as one of Napa’s most spectacular wines. Robert Parker says “The goal to produce world-class wines at Blankiet Estate has been accomplished, combining the extraordinary power of the site with unbelievable elegance and definition.” That the Blankiets have more than succeeded in producing a wine of first-growth Bordeaux quality from their tiny “puzzle of microclimates” is a testament to both their respect for nature and their unquenchable thirst for innovation.

Claude, who grew up in Burgundy, came to wine later in life. His first career was to introduce stonewashed jeans to the American market, using a revolutionary technique of his own developing. As with aging jeans, aging wine is essentially processing a natural material. There is, however, one significant difference between textiles and grapes. "Here, we have to work with the pace of the seasons” says Claude.

Given Claude’s proclivity for excellence and his wife Katherine’s love of antiques, it isn’t surprising that their search for an ideal site on which to build a world-class winery and residence took almost a decade. In 1996 the Blankiets purchased undeveloped land on the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains above Yountville and slowly transformed it into their 16-acre Paradise Hills Vineyard with a state of the art winery and deep underground caves. With a small team of local and European artisans they constructed a Renaissance castello hidden behind a knoll, home to their spectacular collection of art and antiques. The result is a gorgeous marriage of tradition and modernity.

Guided by the world’s finest talents, among them viticulturist David Abreu, renowned wine consultant Michel Rolland, and for the last few years, Denis Malbec, formerly winemaker at Chateau Latour, Claude is constantly perfecting his craft. He has developed the practice of fermenting each micro-harvest individually and aging each lot separately before blending. Other innovations include a cooling system of misting sprayers and shade cloth for the hottest summer days, in order to protect the vibrancy of the fruit, as well as a pioneering bubble tag that allows collectors of flagship bottles to guarantee origin and integrity. This technology is now used by most of the First Growth producers in Bordeaux and Burgundy.

As is often the case with visionaries, the scope of Blankiet’s project, originally to produce a tiny amount of wine for family and friends, has taken on another dimension. Although they only make about 300-400 cases of their Proprietary Red each year, they do everything it takes to get the wine near perfection. Self-described “instigators,” they are forever questioning “What if?”

Winery Website

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