These are the Napa Winemakers you Need to Know

Posted January 14, 2015

Ian Dorin


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2015 is going to be a big year for Napa, mostly because it'll be the first of three consecutive banner vintages to hit the market. There is already a ton of buzz about how great the 2012 vintage is, and most of the wines will be in stores this year. Of course, there are the names that have been on the map over the last few years, like Mark Herold, Thomas Rivers Brown and Andy Erickson, but who's next to make a splash? Here's a few names that we are hot on the trail for!

Benoit Touquette 

If it wasn't enough that he was born in Bordeaux, he also graduated from Bordeaux University, and learned from one of Bordeaux's greatest, Michel Rolland. After some time in Bordeaux, Benoit decided it was time for a change, and thought that Napa would be his next venture. There he met another great person to learned winemaking from, Andy Erickson, whose resumé includes such iconic estates like Dalla Valle, Screaming Eagle and Spottswoode, just to name a few. Benoit is now the winemaker for Hartwell, Realm, Kata (Beckstoffer Family), and several other small Napa wineries that could be big names soon, just like Benoit!

Julien Fayard

Following a similar path as Benoit, Julien found his winemaking roots in Bordeaux, working for a couple of wineries you may have heard of: Smith Haut Lafitte and Lafite Rothschild. After his time in Bordeaux, he also headed to Napa to work under another icon, Philippe Melka. After many years of working with Melka's top clients, Julien decided it was time to venture on his own and start his own winemaking company, but they also market the wines for their clients as well. His projects to look out for are Taplin Cellars, Purlieu, and Azur.

Michael Smith

Although Mike didn't cut his teeth in Bordeaux, he did learn from one of Napa's best, Thomas Rivers Brown. When Smith and Brown worked together at Schrader, they became close friends who still work on several projects together, but Mike is now out making big waves of his own. His own labels Quivet, Myriad and Ancillary have become internet sensations that really deliver huge bang for the buck, and other clients like 12C and Carter are unreal projects that are worth every penny.


With over 15 years of experience (and counting), Ian has risen to become Wine Director for the Wine Library. He also been featured in the Wall St. Journal, and has regularly been quoted in a variety of wine articles.