Julien Fayard — 2016 Winemaker of the Year

julien fayard winemaker

We have been following Julien Fayard’s career for several years now and are consistently impressed with the wines that he creates. When it came time to name a 2016 winemaker of the year, Julien was a no-brainer. With two wines in the Top 10 and three in the Top 30, he made himself impossible to ignore.


In France, Julien worked in both Provence and Bordeaux, where he defined his core winemaking style at the exalted first growth Château Lafite-Rothschild (he even lived in Lafite’s grand château for a period) as well as at Smith Haut Lafitte. There, Julien says he learned his attention to detail and how to not excessively intervene in the winery: “If you put in the hard work in the vineyard, you have to trust and have patience; then, on its own, the wine will become all that it is capable of.”

Julien Fayard has lived in the Napa Valley since 2006, when he and his wife agreed to settle down by “meeting halfway” — between his home in France… and hers in Sonoma. Here in Napa, Julien worked at Quintessa before joining Atelier Melka (where he learned from one of the best winemakers in the world, Philippe Melka), where he spent five years as the Director of Winemaking.  He has come to be a Napa Valley veteran after more than a decade of working with some of the most highly acclaimed and sought after wines from the Napa Valley. 

It was here, working with a variety of clients including Lail Vineyards, Gemstone, Dalla Valle, and more that Julien further developed his winemaking style — while also gaining an intimate understanding of the valley’s vineyards and establishing strong relationships with its many passionate, quality-dedicated growers. His philosophy is to produce wines with an identity that express pure, terroir-driven specificities and characteristics. He believes that as a winemaker, one doesn’t control the wine but rather wine style is the result of a combination of soil, climate and vineyard management. Wine style is an elegant combined expression of the fruit, soil, vines and climate. 


#7 WINE OF THE YEAR – 2013 Purlieu Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Purlieu Cabernet Wine Spectrum 96+: Rich dark purple color. The nose is pure joy, black fruits, espresso, graphite, and cedar. Mouthfeel is concentrated and unctuous, rich and expressive, with smooth tannins leading to swirling flavors of dark berries, plum, chocolate and sweet spice. Purlieu is produced under the guidance of winemaker Julien Fayard (assistant winemaker at Lafite Rothschild and current assistant to Philippe Melka) and viticulturist Steve Matthiasson.

“The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Purlieu was aged in 70% new French oak for 22 months. This just has a Napa appellation, but is very concentrated — even profoundly so — and I have to argue that it’s even deeper, richer and potentially even finer than the Martinez Vineyard from Pritchard Hill. Very long, impressive and intense, this looks to be a great value in the scheme of Napa Cabernet pricing. It is also no shy wine at 15.5% alcohol. This is a big-time sleeper of the vintage. Drink now-2030.” ~ Robert Parker Jr.

#8 WINE OF THE YEAR – 2013 Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Le Pich Cabernet Wine Spectrum 95: Purlieu’s sister label, Le Pich, gets its name from a Wappo Indian term meaning “golden eagle.” They are hunting birds, and you can often spot them above our vineyards as they soar, glide, circle and arc. They are beautiful birds — stately and impressive, but not haughty or boasting, with a nimbleness that’s inspiring. We hope that our Le Pich wines live up to the character of their namesake.

The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Le Pich has a deep ruby/purple color to the rim, sweet cassis and blackberry fruit, licorice, incense and well-disguised oak. The wine is medium to full-bodied, pure, ripe and impressive. It should age nicely for 10-15 years and it’s a real sleeper of the vintage.” ~ Robert Parker Jr.

#26 WINE OF THE YEAR – 2013 Matthew Wallace Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Matthew Wallace Cabernet Wine Spectrum Rated 97: The 2013 vintage of Matthew Wallace is handcrafted by winemaker Julien Fayard (Lafite Rothschild, Melka Consulting, Le Pich, Purlieu…..) from grapes grown in two vineyards located in Stags Leap District and on Howell Mountain by Matt Hardin (of Barbour Vineyards.)  The blend is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, classically-styled and fermented in small lots with the intent to choose only those that reflect the best of their site and vintage.

Matthew Wallace Cabernet Sauvignon fruit is grown in the coveted Stag’s Leap District accompanied by grapes from Howell Mountain. In Stags Leap, we isolated the steepest part of the hillside vineyard and fermented it separately in small batches. The wine is rich and dense with a beautiful tannin structure coming from the steep terrain. This West-facing slope brings dark, black fruits which are elegantly ripe and combined with lively spice notes from the barrel. The mouth is balanced with minerality and soil flavors typical of Stag’s Leap. The wine benefits from decanting in its youth. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

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