I have had the pleasure of meeting Aaron Pott several times over the past few years out and about in Napa. Each time his natural charisma and passion for life has impressed me and after a chance meeting in San Francisco in January, he agreed to be interviewed for this post. Aaron has worked in many areas of the world after his education in Bordeaux, including Italy and Chile in addition to Napa. He credits his mentor, Michel Rolland, with helping him the most along his career. Among the esteemed wineries for which he is working are Blackbird, Fisher Vineyards, Jericho Canyon, Perliss (The Ravens), Greer, V22, Martin Estate, Adler Deutsch, Quixote, Como No?, Seven Stones and St. Helena Estate. He and his wife, Claire, have started their own brand called Pott Wines and have their own small estate on Mount Veeder in Napa.
NC: How did you learn that you were a winemaker?
AP: My parents took me for the first time to Paris when I was nine year’s old. The first night in an old bistro I ordered a glass of milk. In halting English the waiter replied, “milk is for babies” and promptly brought me a glass of wine. This was the inception of the idea that wine was the thing that made one an adult and if I wanted to get there I would need this beverage. This lead me to study oenology at U.C. Davis and later to a master’s degree at the Univeristé de Bourgogne.
NC: Your website says that Michel Rolland was one of your greatest mentors. What was the greatest learning from him that has shaped your winemaking?
AP: Michel taught me many things. Most importantly, what ripeness is. It seems simple but it is really a complex construct. This he did by tasting many grapes with me.
NC: You have worked with some of the most famous names in Napa. How do you decide which clients to work with for your projects?
AP: I choose clients for two reasons, either I like them or they have great vineyards.
NC: For young winemakers starting out, what is the best piece of advice you were given along your career?
AP: Young winemakers need to realize how much work it takes to become a good winemaker. It is not something that happens quickly and requires a great deal of work and discipline.
NC: Please describe your winemaking philosophy in Haiku.
AP: The nectar of gods
Demands great grapes and terroir
Soar beyond the stars
NC: We work in an industry that is steeped in tradition and history. Some could say this makes our industry stuffy and boring. What is the most exciting aspect of the wine industry today, in your opinion?
AP: I think what makes it interesting IS the history and the tradition. I would like to think that my wines would appeal to ancient Greeks as well as to people of today. People are always trying to make wine less stuffy but lets face it, it is the most amazing beverage that exists to it should be revered and worshipped!
NC: I completely agree with your philosophy to “Work Slowly, Taste Often and Travel Frequently” which you expressed to Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague back in 2012. How do you feel this has helped you improve as a winemaker?
AP: Working slowly makes great wine. Thinking about every detail and each step and how you move. I love the tantric nature of wine work.
“Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed and I like to do both.”
NC: You have received numerous high scores, applause, and accolades and you are one of the most sought after winemakers in Napa yet despite it all you remain extremely approachable. How do you stay grounded amidst the laudations?
AP: I ask my youngest daughter what she thinks about me and I always find the truth there. Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed and I like to do both.
NC: You and your wife work very closely together on your own project, Pott Wines. How do you balance the demands of being a flying winemaker and a business owner with the demands of being a family man?
AP: Luckily, I only work with clients in the Napa Valley so I am not far from my family. I think that family is an important part of the wine experience and I like to have even my little daughters help out during crush.
NC: Do you have any upcoming projects or dreams of projects that are new and exciting that you’d like to share?
AP: I have developed a vineyard for Danica Patrick, the racecar driver, and it is an excellent spot. I am looking forward to the release of this wine!
NC: That is so exciting! We look forward to it as well. Thanks so much for answering my questions today!
To find more of Aaron’s wines check out his website here.