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Full text of "Launching Bordeaux-style wines in the Napa Valley : oral history transcript : Sterling Vineyards, Newton Vineyard, and Forman Vineyard / 2000"

University of California Berkeley 



Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

The Wine Spectator California Wine Oral History Series 



Richard Fonnan 



LAUNCHING BORDEAUX- STYLE WINES IN THE NAPA VALLEY: 
STERLING VINEYARDS, NEWTON VINEYARD, AND FORMAN VINEYARD 



Interviews Conducted by 

Carole Hicke 

in 1999 



Copyright <0 2000 by The Regents of the University of California 



Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
northern California, the West, and the nation. Oral history is a method of 
collecting historical information through tape-recorded interviews between a 
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well- 
informed interviewer, with the goal of preserving substantive additions to the 
historical record. The tape recording is transcribed, lightly edited for 
continuity and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The corrected 
manuscript is indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable. 



************************************ 



All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and Richard 
Forman dated February 15, 1999. The manuscript is thereby made 
available for research purposes. All literary rights in the 
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University 
of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Bancroft Library, 
Mail Code 6000, University of California, Berkeley 94720-6000, and 
should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, 
anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. 
The legal agreement with Richard Forman requires that he be notified 
of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 



Richard Forman, "Launching Bordeaux-Style 
Wines in the Napa Valley: Sterling 
Vineyards, Newton Vineyard, and Forman 
Vineyard," an oral history conducted in 
1999 by Carole Hicke, Regional Oral 
History Office, The Bancroft Library, 
University of California, Berkeley, 2000. 



Copy no. 




Richard Forman, 1999. 



Cataloguing information 



FORMAN, Richard W. (b. 1944) Owner, Forman Vineyard 

Launching Bordeaux-Style Wines in the Napa Valley: Sterling Vineyards, 
Newton Vineyard, and Forman Vineyard, 2000, viii, 149 pp. 

Childhood in Oakland, CA, and education at UC Davis; working at Stony Hill 
Vineyard and Robert Mondavi Winery, 1967-1968; developing Sterling 
Vineyards, 1969-1978: barrel fermentation in French oak, second Merlot in 
Napa valley, travel and research in Europe; partner and developer of Newton 
Vineyard, 1978-1982; owner of Forman Vineyard, 1983 to present: finding the 
property, innovative building, equipment, tunnels; thoughts on public 
taste, avant-garde winemaking in Bordeaux-style wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, 
Chardonnay, Merlot. 

Interviewed in 1999 by Carole Hicke for the Wine Spectator California 
Wine Oral History Series, the Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS --Richard Forman 



PREFACE i 

INTERVIEW HISTORY vii 

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION viii 

I BACKGROUND 1 
Family Roots 1 
Growing Up in Oakland and Grass Valley 3 
University and Graduate School, UC Davis 12 

II EARLY WORK EXPERIENCES 16 
Summer Jobs 16 
Stony Hill Vineyard, 1967 18 
Robert Mondavi, 1968 19 

III STERLING VINEYARDS, 1969-1978 21 
Hiring On 21 
Designing the Plant 22 
First Crush at Schramsburg; Pioneering Barrel Fermentation 25 
An Early Merlot Varietal 29 
Travel and Research in Europe 30 
Pioneering Winemaking Techniques; Importance of Barrel 

Fermentation 34 

1976 Trip with Dan Duckhorn; Other Trips 35 

Hedging 38 

David Abreu s Farming Business 40 

First Wines of Sterling 42 

Chardonnay sans Malolactic 45 

Different Techniques Required in California Vineyards 48 

Taking Risks, and a Hands-On Management Technique 51 

Sterling Wines in the Early Seventies 53 

Plant and Equipment 58 

Winemaking at Sterling Mid- to Late Seventies 62 

Decision to Join Newton 63 

IV NEWTON VINEYARD, 1978-1982 66 
Vineyard Property 66 
Planting the Grapes 68 
Building and Equipment 72 
Cooperage: The Forman Barrel 74 
Winemaking Techniques 76 
The 1979, 1980, and 1981 Wines 78 
Dissolving the Partnership 80 

V FORMAN VINEYARD, 1983 TO PRESENT 83 
Selecting and Developing the Vineyard Property 83 



Consulting for Woltner and Charles Shaw 88 

1983: A Crucial Year 89 

Building an Efficient and Innovative Winery 90 

Equipment 95 

Tunnels 96 

Wines of 1983 to 1986 101 

Canopy Management 103 

Pioneering Introduction of Petit Verdot 104 

Merlot and Cabernet Franc 106 

Association with David Abreu 106 

Rutherford Star Vineyard- -Chardonnay 109 

Forman Wine Library 113 

VI EVOLUTION OF PUBLIC TASTES AND WINEMAKING TECHNIQUES 115 

Chardonnay 115 

Cabernet Sauvignon 118 

Vineyard Management Tools 121 

Forman Vineyard: Present and Future 122 

Wine Industry Overview 124 

TAPE GUIDE 128 

APPENDIX 

Forman Vineyard publicity (various) 129 

INDEX 147 



PREFACE 



The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the 
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated by Ruth Teiser in 1969 
through the action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a 
state marketing order organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 
1983 it was reinstituted as The Wine Spectator California Wine Oral 
History Series with donations from The Wine Spectator Scholarship 
Foundation. The selection of those to be interviewed has been made by a 
committee consisting of the director of The Bancroft Library, University 
of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, president of the Wine 
Institute, the statewide winery organization; Carole Hicke, series 
project director; and Marvin R. Shanken, trustee of The Wine Spectator 
Scholarship Foundation. 

Until her death in June 1994, Ruth Teiser was project originator, 
initiator, director, and conductor of the greater part of the oral 
histories. Her book, Winemaking in California, co-authored with 
Catherine Harroun and published in 1982, was the product of more than 
forty years of research, interviewing, and photographing. (Those wine 
history files are now in The Bancroft Library for researcher use.) Ruth 
Teiser s expertise and knowledge of the wine industry contributed 
significantly to the documenting of its history in this series. 

The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on 
California grapegrowing and winemaking that has existed only in the 
memories of winemen. In some cases their recollections go back to the 
early years of this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are 
of particular value because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of 
not only the industry itself but also the orderly recording and 
preservation of records of its activities. Little has been written about 
the industry from late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real 
paucity of information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933), although 
some commercial winemaking did continue under supervision of the 
Prohibition Department. The material in this series on that period, as 
well as the discussion of the remarkable development of the wine industry 
in subsequent years will be of aid to historians. Of particular value is 
the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same 
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from 
his or her own point of view. 

Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in 
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State 
Library, and in the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its 
collection of materials readily available for the purpose. 



ii 



The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed 
significantly to recent California history. The office is headed by 
Willa K. Baum and is under the administrative supervision of The Bancroft 
Library. 

Carole Hicke 
Project Director 

The Wine Spectator California Wine 
Oral History Series 

July 1998 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 



iii 



CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS 
Interviews Completed as of November 2000 

Leon D. Adams, Revitalizing the California Wine Industry, 1974 

Leon D. Adams, California Wine Industry Affairs: Recollections and Opinions, 
1990 

Maynard A. Amerine, The University of California and the State s Wine 
Industry, 1971 

Maynard A. Amerine, Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies, 
1988 

Richard L. Arrowood, Sonoma County Winemaking: Chateau St. Jean and Arrowood 
Vineyards & Winery, 1996 

William Andrew Beckstoffer, Premium California Vineyardist, Entrepreneur, 
1960s to 2000s, 2000 

Philo Biane, Wine Making in Southern California and Recollections of Fruit 
Industries, Inc. , 1972 

William Bonetti, A Life of Winemaking at Wineries of Gallo, Schenley, Charles 
Krug, Chateau Souverain, and Sonoma-Cutrer, 1998 

Albert Brounstein, Diamond Creek Vineyards: The Significance of Terroir in the 
Vineyard, 2000 

Charles A. Carpy, Viticulture and Enology at Freemark Abbey, 1994 
John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry, 1986 

Arthur A. Ciocca, Arthur A. Ciocca and the Wine Group, Inc.: Insights into the 
Wine Industry from a Marketing Perspective, 2000 

Charles Crawford, Recollections of a Career with the Gallo Winery and the 
Development of the California Wine Industry, 1942-1989, 1990 

Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente, and Andrew G. Frericks, The California 
Wine Industry During the Depression, 1972 

William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology, 1967 

Jack and Jamie Peterman Davies, Rebuilding Schramsberg: The Creation of a 
California Champagne House, 1990 



iv 



William A. Dieppe, Almaden s My Life, 1985 

Paul Draper, History and Philosophy of Winemaking at Ridge Vineyards: 1970s- 
1990s, 1994 

Daniel J. and Margaret S. Duckhorn, Mostly Merlot: The History of 
Duckhorn Vineyards, 1996 

David, Jean, Peter, and Steven Ficklin, Making California Port Wine: Ficklin 
Vineyards from 1948 to 1992, 1992 

Brooks Firestone, Firestone Vineyard: A Santa Ynez Valley Pioneer, 1996 

Louis J. Foppiano, A Century of Agriculture and Winemaking in Sonoma County, 
1896-1996, 1996 

Richard Forman, Launching Bordeaux-Style Wines in the Napa Valley: Sterling 
Vineyards, Newton Vineyard, and Forman Vineyard, 2000 

Alfred Fromm, Marketing California Wine and Brandy, 1984 

Louis Gomberg, Analytical Perspectives on the California Wine Industry, 1935- 
1990, 1990 

Miljenko Grgich, A Croatian-American Winemaker in the Napa Valley, 1992 
Joseph E. Heitz, Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley, 1986 

William H. Hill, Vineyard Development and the William Hill Winery, 1970s- 
1990s, 1998 

Agustin Huneeus, A World View of the Wine Industry, 1996 

Maynard A. Joslyn, A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry, 
1974 

Amandus N. Kasimatis, A Career in California Viticulture, 1988 

Morris Katz, Paul Masson Winery Operations and Management, 1944-1988, 1990 

Legh F. Knowles, Jr., Beaulieu Vineyards from Family to Corporate Ownership, 
1990 

Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi, California Grape Products and Other 
Wine Enterprises, 1971 

Zelma R. Long, The Past is the Beginning of the Future: Simi Winery in its 
Second Century, 1992 



Richard Maher, California Winery Management and Marketing, 1992 

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Vine Making in the Napa Valley, 
1973 

Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry, 1984 

Eleanor McCrea, Stony Hill Vineyards: The Creation of a Napa Valley Estate 
Winery, 1990 

Justin Meyer, Justin Meyer and Silver Oak Cellars: Focus on Cabernet 
Sauvignon, 2000 

Otto E. Meyer, California Premium Wines and Brandy, 1973 

Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara 
Valley Winery, 1986 

Peter Mondavi, Advances in Technology and Production at Charles Krug Winery, 
1946-1988, 1990 

Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Industry, 1985 

Michael Moone, Management and Marketing at Beringer Vineyards and Wine World, 
Inc., 1990 

Myron S. Nightingale, Making Wine in California, 1944-1987, 1988 
Harold P. Olmo, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties, 1976 

Cornelius Ough, Researches of an Enologlst, University of California, Davis, 
1950-1990, 1990 

John A. Parducci, Six Decades of Making Wine in Mendocino County, California, 
1992 

Antonio Perelli-Minetti, A Life in Wine Making, 1975 

Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family in the Wine Industry, 1971 

Jefferson E. Peyser, The Law and the California Wine Industry, 1974 

Joseph Phelps, Joseph Phelps Vineyards: Classic Wines and Rhone Varietals, 
1996 

Lucius Powers, The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry, 1974 
Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block, Perspectives on California Wines, 1976 



vi 



Edmund A. Rossi, Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry, 1971 

Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., Italian Swiss Colony, 1949-1989: Recollections of a 
Third-Generation California Winemaker, 1990 

Arpaxat Setrakian, A. Setrakian, a Leader of the San Joaquin Valley Grape 
Industry, 1977 

Elie Skofis, California Wine and Brandy Maker, 1988 

David S. Stare, fume Blanc and Heritage Wines in Sonoma County: Dry Creek 
Vineyard s Pioneer Winemaking, 1996 

Rodney S. Strong, Rodney Strong Vineyards: Creative Winemaking and Winery 
Management in Sonoma County, 1994 

Andre Tchelistchef f , Grapes, Wine, and Ecology, 1983 
Brother Timothy, The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers, 1974 
Janet and John Trefethen, Trefethen Vineyards, 1968-1998, 1998 
Louis (Bob) Trinchero, California Zinfandels, a Success Story, 1992 

Charles F. Wagner and Charles J. Wagner, Caymus Vineyards: A Father-Son Team 
Producing Distinctive Wines, 1994 

The Wente Family and the California Wine Industry, interviews with Jean, 
Carolyn, Philip, and Eric Wente, 1992 

Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livermore Valley, 1971 
Warren Winiarski, Creating Classic Wines in the Napa Valley, 1994 
Albert J. Winkler, Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971), 1973 
Frank M. Woods, Founding Clos Du Bois Winery: A Marketing Approach, 1998 

John H. Wright, Domaine Chandon: The First French-owned California Sparkling 
Wine Cellar, includes an interview with Edmond Maudiere, 1992 



vii 



INTERVIEW HISTORY by Carole Hicke 



Richard Fonnan grew up interested in the outdoors, in chemistry, and 
in trying out new experiments. He was a natural to become an innovative 
and precedent -making winemaker in the Napa Valley. 

After studying food science and enology at the University of 
California at Davis, with early work experiences at Stony Hill Vineyard and 
Robert Mondavi Winery, he took up Peter Newton s challenge to build and 
develop Sterling Vineyards, starting in 1968. At Sterling he began 
processes which were new for the Napa Valley, but not for French wineries, 
such as barrel fermentation for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. 
Traveling to France with increasing frequency, Forman found more and more 
ideas that he liked, and he put these ideas into practice. At Sterling he 
made the second-ever Merlot produced in the Napa Valley. 

After Sterling was sold to Coca-Cola, Forman went into partnership 
with Newton in 1978 to develop Newton Vineyard, where he cleared and 
planted the vineyards, built the winery, and continued to make wines in the 
Bordeaux style. 

Always an individualist, Forman finally decided to produce his own 
wines from his innovative and efficient winery built above St. Helena. He 
is especially proud of the tunnels there, where he can store barrels 
without stacking them. He carries his Cabernet one step further toward the 
French style by adding a small amount of Petit Verdot--one of the many 
examples where his leadership has been followed by other winemakers. 

Forman was interviewed in his beautiful home, which is built above 
the winery and includes his office. The interviews took place on February 
24, March 3, and March 19, 1999, following in general the outline prepared 
and sent to him. I reviewed the transcript for clarity and sent it to him, 
but in spite of repeated requests, he failed to review it himself. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1954 to augment 
through tape-recorded memoirs the Library s materials on the history of 
California and the West. Copies of all interviews are available for 
research use in The Bancroft Library and in the UCLA Department of Special 
Collections. The office is under the direction of Willa K. Baum, Division 
Head, and the administrative direction of Charles B. Faulhaber, James D. 
Hart Director of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 

Carole Hicke, Interviewer/Editor 
July 2000 

Regional Oral History Office 
The Bancroft Library 
University of California, Berkeley 



viii 



Regional Oral History Office 
Room 486 The Bancroft Library 



University of California 
Berkeley, California 94720 



BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 



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I BACKGROUND 

[Interview 1: February 24, 1999] II 1 

Family Roots 



Hicke: Let s start with when and where you were born. 
Forman: I was born on May 18, 1944, in Oakland, California. 

Hicke: Now I m going to back up a little bit and ask you to let me know 
about your ancestors. 

Forman: I don t know an awful lot. We have a small family, I guess you 
could say. My father, Robert White Forman, was born actually in 
Hayward. It was in 1905 he was born. I never did meet his 
father, but his father was named Dick, Richard, whom I was named 
after. He was an engineer. I think one of his projects was 
Boulder Dam. He died relatively early, and I never did meet him. 

Hicke: Can you tell me why your name is spelled without the "e" as in 
Foreman? 

Forman: Well, it s just a spelling. There are various spellings. I am of 
English parentage, and the English spelling of Forman is without 
an "e"--as far as we can determine, anyway. 

I didn t really know my grandparents very well. Then my dad 
lived with his mom up in Hayward. 

Hicke: What did your grandfather do in Hayward? 

Forman: I m not even sure he lived there. On the other hand, on my 
mother s side, her father was a doctor in Pomona. 



## This symbol indicates that a tape or tape segment has begun or ended. 
A guide to the tapes follows the transcript. 



Hicke: You re a Calif ornian. 

Forman: Yes, true. My mother s mother, whom I certainly never met because 
she died when my mother was only seven, was--I m not sure what she 
did. I think she was kind of into acting. I know she was very 
interested in the theater, which is why she made my mother, 
Rosalind-- 



Hicke: What was her maiden name? 

Forman: Wallace, a pretty English name. So anyway, my grandparents I 
didn t spend much time with. Really no. My father had no 
siblings, so there were no relatives there, and my mother had one 
brother by the name of Caleb. But they called him Kay. Let s 
just say his name is Kay, K-a-y, I guess. He was quite an 
entrepreneur in Pomona and had all sorts of ranching projects and 
one thing and another, and did very well for himself, I believe. 
Flew airplanes and had sailboats and did lots of things. He was a 
nice guy. He s now dead as well. My mother is really the only 
surviving one. My mother is ninety-one, and she s quite active. 
She lives out in the Walnut Creek area, Danville area actually, on 
the Crow Canyon Country Club fairway there, in a condominium. 

She went to school in Pomona, Pomona College, and had a 
teaching degree and taught nursery school classes for a while. 
She did that up in the North Bay, not down in Los Angeles. Went 
to school at a convent for a while, I know. Had an interesting 
background. My mother s father, my grandfather, was very 
interested in horses as well, so she rode horses a lotkind of 
English-style horse riding: jumping and so forth. 

Anyway, my mother had some interesting experiences. She d 
tell me about growing up in the orange grove. I ll never forget 
the story she told one time that some poor Mexican was just 
screaming and yelling outside the window. Evidently, he d drunk 
methyl alcohol instead of alcohol. I don t know where in the 
devil he got it, but she said it was the most awful thing she 
could ever remember as a child. 

She used to really enjoy riding through the orange groves. 
In fact, another interesting part of her childhood was knowing 
Will Rogers. She used to know him quite well. He lived close to 
them. She said she used to love to go over and sit on the porch 
and talk to him, and he was very friendly with her and obviously 
quite a personality. That was kind of fun for my mother. 

My grandfather was very affluent. He had done quite well in 
the medical practice and had done also extremely well in real 
estate, so they lived fairly well. 



Hicke: Did she tell you any stories about Will Rogers? 

Forman: Oh, I m sure she has in the past and, you know, I didn t pay much 
attention to it when I was younger because he didn t mean very 
much to me. Now I know what a personality he was. I heard and I 
realized, because she mentioned it, that he was obviously 
important, but it didn t really make much difference. I suppose 
if I asked her now- -haven t thought about it in years, but if I 
asked her now she probably could recall something. 

Hicke: I ll bet she could. 

Forman: But we haven t talked about it in years and years. 

So that s not an awful lot to say about my grandparents 
because we didn t do much together. 



Growing Up in Oakland and Grass Valley 



Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 



Forman: 



I grew up in Oakland. Went to Oakland Tech. In fact, my father 
went to Oakland Tech, which is kind of interesting. But I think 
it was a very good school. I enjoyed it. I had a lot of good 
friends. We enjoyed living in the hills of Oakland. It was in 
the area, actually, that a few years ago had that horrible fire. 
We had a terrific home. There s another story which I ll relate 
in a moment, but I had burned it once myself with my chemistry 
lab. But it burned a lot more severely with the Oakland fire 
anyway, and it was kind of sad to see it go. 

Were your parents still there? 

No, they weren t, fortunately. We had sold it. But it sat up on 
one of the ridge lines and just had this magnificent view of San 
Francisco. I ll never forget. My bedroom had these windows that 
looked over the entire bay. I remember going back there recently, 
just to see, because it was sad to see where the fire hadwhat it 
had done. I m standing approximately where the house was, looking 
out over. It was just remarkable to remember how the view was. 
It was dazzling. 



How many places you ve been where there are views? 
have a magnificent view of Napa Valley here. 



Because you 



Yes, I must like views, that s true. But growing up, I was lucky 
also, but I had a lot of fun in the city of Oakland, particularly 
where we lived, because--! don t know--I had a very creative mind, 



I guess, and I had friends who were the same. We found lots of 
things to do. Lots of trouble to get into. 

Hicke: How about an example here? 

Forman: As I said, I was very interested in chemistry at a very young age. 
Unfortunately, one of the paths that it led me to was a 
fascination with pyrotechnics. Even in junior high school I would 
find these books and various recipes. In those days, it was very 
easy to get chemicals. You could go to these chemical supply 
companies, which we found out about. We d just go down. They 
would have no problem selling you these incredible chemicals. 

So we d go home and we d manufacture all these wild things. 
At one point, I was trying to make a chemical called mercury 
fulminate, which is a frightening chemical, highly explosive. 
It s a detonator chemical, and it required 95 percent ethanol as 
part of the reactant to produce it. That was hard to get, so I 
decided I d make it, so I concocted a sugar solution with 
nutrients. Mind you, I was only about thirteen years old, but I 
figured out how to do it, and I distilled quite a large quantity 
of it. I had about a gallon to distill again, to get high proof. 
I was doing it, and unfortunately the flask broke, and I was 
stupid enough to be doing it with a flame, and it lit on fire- -lit 
me on fire, too. Fortunately, I didn t get scarred, but I was 
burned pretty nastily on my face and arms. 

My parents weren t home. It was on a weekend, and they were 
over at some neighbor s house a couple of miles away. So I ran 
down the street to a friend of mine s house, whose father was a 
doctor, and he took one look at me and we went to the hospital, 
but in the meantime the house burned up! It didn t burn right to 
the ground, but it took six months before we were back into it. 
It was pretty much gutted. That s one of the examples. 

But we had lots of fun. 

Hicke: I was really asking for examples of the things you did, but that s 
an example, I guess. You said you did a lot of things with other 
kids. 

Forman: Well, we d hike all around the hills, and we d have forts in the 
craziest places you could think of. We enjoyed--well, like all 
kids, you know--riding your bicycle all around. I remember riding 
through the cemetery, which was quite a wonderful cemetery in the 
Oakland hills. I remember we used to have fun going out at night 
on the weekends with a flashlight and going into the old part of 
the cemetery, where these old, old crypts--honestly, it was the 



most frightening thing you could think of as a young kid. 
loved it. We loved to tantalize ourselves with the fear. 

Hicke: Like for Halloween. 



But we 



Forman: Yes. Anyway, we were always very busy. And then I started to say 
I was also lucky in that I was able to have fun even in a city, as 
most people would think you could only do in the country. I 
always found places to go, places to hike, forts to be built, 
things to do that were recreational, not in a sports sense but in 
a venture sense, even in the city. 

But my mother was very determined for our family- -which 
consisted of my brother, who is five years older than I-- 

Hicke: His name is? 



Forman: Peter. He s a dentist. They thought that it would be nice to get 
out of the city for weekends and summers, and so she was 
determined to find a summer home. At about age seven for me, she 
began looking around for the family to find a summer home. It s 
really intriguing. She started looking in the Napa Valley, of all 
things. One of the places she looked at was Schramsberg. It was 
for sale. God knows, I wish she had bought it. 

My father determined that it was too hot here, and there 
were too many rattlesnakes. He hates rattlesnakes. And there s 
no fishing here, so we couldn t fish. It s really too close to 
the Bay Area. It s too warm. So she said, "Fine, I ll forget the 
Napa Valley," which is really a coincidence that it started there, 
not having any idea that I d land here. 

So she went up to the foothills above Auburn in the Grass 
Valley area, and we did ultimately find a fantastic place: this 
wonderful, old, six-gabled house that a woman artist and her 
husband artist had built. Had these beautiful grounds, with big, 
giant cherry trees all around. It was really a wonderful place. 
It had been the site of an old gold mine and so there were lots of 
gold mine timbers in the house. 

We proceeded to make a beautiful estate /summer home out of 
it. My mother was a fabulous gardener. She had a vegetable 
garden that would have dazzled Sunset [magazine] in every given 
year that she did it. It was amazing. She d be up at five in the 
morning every morning, tending to that. People wouldn t believe- - 

Hicke: You mean up in Grass Valley? 



Forman: Up in Grass Valley. We d go up there as soon as school got out-- 
my brother and I and my mother would go up, and my father would 
work in the week and come up on the weekend. We d spend the 
entire summer up there. During the school year, we d go up 
occasionally on weekends. We had a great time. This was a 
complete fascination to me because there was so much to do. I had 
tons to do in the Bay Area; now, given the country environment and 
the time that we happened to land there, when the little towns 
were just getting over the gold-mining erasome of the mines were 
still operating; if they weren t operating, they were just closing 
down. The town was old and more or less unsecured and insecured 
as far as having tight regulations and everything, so I was just 
fascinated. 

I d get on my bicycle and ride over to these mines and go 
into all the crazy places they had and all the labs. They were 
closed, and I would be able to get in and look at it all. I mean, 
I was just in heaven. I d go into tunnels. I remember crawling 
through the roots of trees the animals had dug out through the 
shafts and getting down into these big caverns and all. It just 
went on and on and on. It was so much fun. 

And the mines were a tremendous fascination to me. I loved 
the tunnels, and I loved all the sort ofthis was low-grade ore, 
so they all used the cyanide treatment plants. They were like big 
fermenters. That whole process, the cyanide fermentation of the 
pulverized ore and all that--I got very fascinated with the 
chemistry of it. 

Hicke: More chemistry. 

Forman: More chemistry, yes. I was just really delighted with it. 

Hicke: I m surprised they weren t fenced. 

Forman: No, there was nothing. You could go and do anything. There were 
no locked doors. It looked like they just walked and abandoned 
them. The labs were there. It was crazy. It was a paradise. I 
remember the old assay still had all the old papers on the desk 
and everything. It was like everybody had just walked away. 

It s a museum now. It s all a museum. As a child from 
about seven to about sixteen or seventeen, I had free access to 
anything and everything, and it was untouched. It was just 
absolutely a delight to me because I had a very inquisitive mind, 
and I was always wanting a new adventure. I had good friends who 
loved the same thing. 

Hicke: So you had a set of friends up there as well as-- 



Forman: No, I would import them. My father would come up and bring a 
buddy of mine for a week or so, and he d stay with me until he 
came back the following weekend. We got into all kinds of trouble 
and had lots of fun, just having a good time, the way young kids 
do. We were able to do more and get away with more than we 
possibly could now. You can t go anywhere or do anything of the 
nature that we did. 

We had a wonderful lake on the property, and so we had 
boating, and we had--my brother and I--we had lots of places we 
could fish, and so there was fishing and just unending hiking, and 
so that was great for me. I had both country life and city life, 
and I think was very enriched for it. 

Hicke: Yes, it sounds like it. 

Forman: One of my first experiences with fermentation was--my parents were 
big entertainers. Mother is still a fabulous cook. They were 
very social and did, as I say, lots of entertaining. We always 
had a black lady living with us that helped my mom. This one gal 
named Dorothy--she was a wonderful woman--! don t know how she 
knew about it because she didn t drink alcohol herself, but she 
told me that you could ferment the fruits on these trees. 

One day I decided that sounded like a great idea, so I 
picked as many of the cherries as I could pick from all the trees. 
I was probably only eight or nine years old. I crushed them all 
up, and I fermented it. It was the most fun thing. I was totally 
fascinated with this fermentation process. 

Hicke: That was an early start on your career. 

Forman: Yes. Then I took it a step further a few years later, once I 
really understood the process. We had these huge blackberry 
patches. My brother dug a frog pond down there, and so we had 
opened up a lot of paths to it. We went and picked just cardboard 
boxes full of these blackberries one year. I fermented those, and 
then I took it a step further, and I actually distilled it. So I 
made this blackberrywhat could we call it?--a liqueur, except it 
wasn t sweet- -blackberry brandy, really. So that was fun. I did 
that probably at age fifteen. 

Hicke: Did you taste it? 

Forman: Oh, yes! My brother drank a little bit of it. I didn t care 

about drinking the stuff; I was just fascinated with making it. 

Hicke: Oh, that s amazing. 



Forman: So that was one of my first introductions to fermentation. It was 
interesting enough that I knew someday I d want to do something of 
that sort. I always knew, from I guess probably--! don t know 
what ageeight, nine, ten, somewhere in therethat I liked 
chemistry. Something about it fascinated me. I always had a 
little chemistry lab and then a bigger lab, and then I was 
interested as I said, I was fascinated with explosives, so I did 
a lot of explosives chemistry. 

I learned a lot from it. I did some very sophisticated 
things way too sophisticated for the time, and it was highly 
dangerous; but you don t know that. My parents hadn t a clue of 
what I was doing. So I got away with it. I m lucky I got away 
with it, but it also taught me a lot. Then the fermentation sorts 
of things were interesting to me. 

I got interested in gold, and so I started doing these gold 
analyses of the soil around there. I fiddled with all kinds of 
stuff. Eventually, I knew I was really going to do it. 
Obviously, these kinds of classes, right from junior high and high 
school, were the ones I liked most. All the science classes, I 
was fascinated with. 

Hicke: What kinds of science did you take? 

Forman: Everything, everything that was offered: biology all the stuff 
that was offered. 

Hicke: Any particular teachers that were influential? 

Forman: Well, not until I got into college, really. They appreciated the 
fact that I was interested in it, but I don t remember anybody 
really promoting anything for me or encouraging me in any sort of 
way. I had enough encouragement on my own. I was fascinated with 
it. It was fun to me. 



Hicke: Did your family drink wine? 

Forman: No, no, my family didn t like wine [chuckling]. They were of the 
old school. They were bourbon drinkers. I guess when they 
entertained sometimes they drank wine. They ultimately stopped 
drinking hard liquor and started drinking wine once I started 
getting into the business, but that was a long time after. No, I 
had no influence of wine around the family. They knew nothing 
about it. So I came by that strictly through chemistry and my 
interested in agriculture and being outside and one thing and 
another. 

Hicke: Did you ever find any gold? 



Forman: Yes. I had a buddy of mine. We made some really neat equipment. 
God, we worked so hard on this thing. I recall what happened to 
it the first day, too. I was so mad. We worked for about two 
weeks, manufacturing this gold dredge, and we were all set to take 
it up and go into this creek that we thought we d have good luck 
with. My brother was going on a fishing trip, and he backed over 
the thing and crinkled it all up. I could have killed him. I ll 
never forget it. So we spent another day or two uncrinkling it, 
and we went up and checked out for gold. We had the right 
equipment, but the pumps we had wouldn t work, or the creek wasn t 
right, so we never really did get anything, but it was good 
experience. We had a lot of fun doing it. 

Hicke: Making the-- 

Forman: Yes, making the thing and getting out there and doing it and 

seeing how it was done, talking to other people who had done it. 

Hicke: Did you do much reading? 

Forman: I didn t read very much in my youth. 

Hicke: I guess you were too busy. 

Forman: Yes, I really was. I wasn t a reader per se. I am now. I don t 
reach much in the summer, but I read all through the winter and 
spring when I m not so busy all day. 

Hicke: But you didn t go and get books on how to-- 

Forman: Oh, yes, of course. Oh, yes, we read up on gold mining. I read a 
lot of chemistry books, but that s hardly reading. It was 
fascinating. God, at age fourteen or fifteen, I d be up at the 
engineering library at Berkeley. I learned how to get these 
books, and I d go in and I d read all this stuff. I was 
fascinated with it. So that interested me, but not novel-type 
reading. 

Hicke: I d call that reading. 

Forman: Well, it was reading, yes. I certainly could read. I read an odd 
set of stuff, but I did. 

Hicke: Are there any of your friends that you particularly remember? 

Forman: Oh, sure, all of them. A guy named Fritz Henshaw--he was very 

clever. He was a good builder. He ended up going to Berkeley and 
getting a degree in electrical engineering. I don t see him much 
anymore, but he s still a good friend. And a good friend of mine, 



10 



named Phil Crane--he and I are concocting a business together 
right now, trying to sell wine to Japan with a special label that 
he s come up with. He has a valve business that takes him to 
Japan often, and so we re kind of working together. I still see 
him, a great guy. 

Hicke: But he s going to sell your wine? 

Forman: No, not my wine. We re going to try to buy probably bulk wine and 
use his special label for it, kind of a celebration wine, he calls 
it. He s got an idea, and I just offered to help him. Whether it 
will go anywhere, I don t know. 

And then another friend, Frank Potts, became a dentist. I 
still see him--oh, I don t knowevery two or three months. 

Hicke: Not on a dental basis, I trust. 

Forman: No, no, not with my brother being a dentist. 

Hicke: Oh, that s right. Is he up here? 

Forman: He practices in Concord, California. 

Hicke: How nice. 

Forman: So yes, 1 still do see at least a couple of the old buddies that I 
had in high school. Obviously, you get out of high school and 
college and you go to another community, and you make new friends. 
But I am still close to at least a couple of them, which is fun. 
We have lots of memories, and we laugh like crazy every time we 
see each other. It s a kick. 

Hicke: One other thing that I find kind of fun to find out is what kinds 
of foods people like. You said your mother is a great cook. 

Forman: Well, yes. And because they entertained and liked to cook so 
much, at a very young age we learned to eat everything. We 
weren t fussy kids, and we ate pretty fancy food. I mean, I 
remember my brother and I would be delighted to think that we were 
going to have eggs Benedict for breakfast or fried oysters and 
chicken livers and green fried tomatoes for breakfast. We thought 
that was just super. So we ate sophisticated food. 

My brother and father, actually, more than I were great 
fishermen and hunters, so we d eat a lot of wild game: deer, wild 
ducks, salmon, what have you- -everything from stuffed lamb hearts 
to the normal things. We just thought that was great. 



11 



And a lot of vegetables because my mother was such a 
vegetable farmer. Every single year of my entire life, I would 
either have a garden in conjunction with my parents or on my own, 
so I ve had fresh vegetables every summer. I always look forward 
to that. I love them. 

Hicke: You re spoiled! 

Forman: I know. I love them. I really look forward to the first of the 
tomatoes and all the special things that I grow. So it s hard to 
say that there s anything that I don t like. I really love 
quality food. I mean, you can see that I like to cook by the pots 
that I have. [points to the kitchen] I m into it. Those are by 
no means just decoration. I use them all. 

Hicke: They re very decorative, but if you use them all, then I m really 
impressed. 

Forman: I cook a lot. I m into cooking with good, fresh ingredients. I m 
not what you call a fancy sort of French-style chef. I don t like 
to do elaborate sauces and all those things. I like to do good 
ingredients, cooked tastefully with good flavors. I m not a 
recipe follower. I kind of invent things. Just like my 
chemistry. I like to taste things and kind of get an idea of what 
I think I like about the thing and then try to create something on 
my own that s around, rather than pick up recipes and follow them. 
I don t have the patience for that for some reason or other. 

Hicke: You re creative to cook that way. 
Forman: Yes. 

Hicke: You re taking full advantage of being in the Napa Valley, where 
the gardens-- 

Forman: Yes, we have good food. This is every bit as nice as Provence in 
the south of France. We have all these wonderful olives. We have 
everything, really, that they do. It s incredible. We have some 
great garden food here and farmers markets, which supply 
wonderful stuff during the summer, and obviously, all the great 
wine and so forth. 

Hicke: Okay, so you liked the science courses in high school probably the 
best? 



Forman: Oh, sure. The junior high school was so simple. I was still 
interested in it, but the high school chemistry was really 
fascinating. I loved that. 



12 



Hicke: Did you learn anything that you didn t already know? 

Forman: No, it was pretty simple. I did well in it, obviously. At that 
point, it was just fun that I did know it all, and it was kind of 
a kick. 

Hicke: You got to mess around in a lab. 

Forman: Yes, and I liked it. I had a better lab in my home than the high 
school had. But it was still fun. 



University and Graduate School. UC Davis 



Forman: 



Forman: 



Hicke: 



Forman: 



Then, of course, I went to college. I actually started off at San 
Jose State [University]. I m not quite sure why. I guess a lot 
of my friends lived there, and I thought, Well, that sounds good. 
I was there for a year in the chem department, and one of the 
professors, a guy named Wilkinson, said, "You know, Ric, you do 
really like chemistry. I can see that. You do well in it." And 
he said, "What do you want to do with it?" He kind of said, "Are 
you interested in straight chemistry as a research chemist, or 
what would you like? How about wine? Are you interested in 
wine?" 

it 

"How about wine?" he said. I said, "What does that have to do 
with chemistry?" He said, "There s a great deal to do with 
chemistry. There s a whole department at [University of 
California at] Davis that s involved in it." I instantly knew 
that that s what I wanted to do, so I applied to transfer and 
fortunately had the grades to transfer, and so I transferred to 
Davis and got right into their Department of Food Science, with 
the idea that eventually I would get into the enology program. 
But they didn t have a fermentation science course curriculum to 
graduate in then. It was food science. So I did all the food 
science classes in undergraduate school, and then went to graduate 
school. 



Wait a minute, 
were-- 



You said there were some of your professors that 



Oh, I m sorry. I think this was this one guy at San Jose who 
quickly re-routed me and got me interested in focusing on what 
direction I d like to take the chemistry. I knew very well, right 
out of high school, that when I went to college, chemistry was 



13 



what I wanted to do. My major was picked probably three years 
before I went to college. So that was simple. But then what 1 
was going to do with it, I really didn t know. That I didn t have 
any idea, but the more I thought about it after talking to him, 
the more I realized that I really didn t want to be in just sort 
of research lab. I needed to be outside a lot. I like the out- 
of-doors, which is obviously coming from my childhood background, 
being outdoors all the time, doing things. And I liked 
agriculture because I was fascinated with the way my family had 
always had agriculture, even though it was just gardens. That 
interested me. 

So Davis s ag department was definitely where I needed to 
go. And then, when I thought I could get into the wine business-- 
I like not only chemistry but the biochemistry, bacteriology part 
of it fascinated me as well, so I had it all. 

Hicke: Any professors at Davis that you recall? 

Forman: I was impressed with [Maynard] Amerine. Amerine was very nice to 
me. I ll never forget the first day, taking his Vit [iculture] III 
class, which I ended up finally being a reader for, or a TA 
[teaching assistant] or whatever you want to call it. But I ll 
never forget him coming into class. I was very impressed with him 
because he was so dignified. He just had an elegant appearance 
and manner to him. He also reminded me of a guy who was a friend 
of my parents whom I just happened to like very much, a guy named 
Len Richards. He was one of my favorite friends of my parents, so 
he had this charisma of looks just reminding me of someone whom I 
had liked from my family, but also he was impressive because he 
spoke so articulately. He just really looked important, and I 
realized that this was a step in a very important direction. 

I immediately took it seriously because of him, and then I 
realized, after seeing all the other professors, that I was 
focusing on something that was really pretty intense and not 
general in the sense that chemistry was but that there was 
direction to it. Yes, I was really excited about it and almost 
fearful because it was so intense and focused in the direction 
that it was. I felt the specialization immediately. 

Hicke: Do you recall anything specifically that you got from him? 
Philosophy of wine-- 

Forman: I remember going into his office, and I just remember admiring him 
because he was obviously so important and well liked in the 
industry. I admired the way that he tasted wine once I finally 
got into the classes. Not only did he understand how wine was 
made, but he understood the history of wine, and he understood the 



14 



elegance and the environment that wine achieved if you really 
appreciated it, and the people that were associated with it all 
around the world. 

He would encourage me. He would say, "Ric, you re doing 
well, and if you continue to do well, someday the wine business 
will allow you not only pleasure but affluence, and you will live 
very well by it." I believed him, and I just felt that he said 
that s the way it will be, and it has. 



Hicke: That s a great characterization of him. 
him. 



You just sort of captured 



Forman: It is. I always thought he was very special, which he was. I 

mean, everybody felt that way, but I saw it within the first five 
minutes. I think I have good intuition. Even then, at a young 
age, I had it. I realized that it was important immediately. So 
he was the most important. 



And 
Akioshi. 



I liked all the others . I remember a guy named Min 



Hicke: Min? 



Forman: Min. He s a Japanese guy. He was the lab assistant to Hod Berg. 
He was really encouraging to me. I ended up living with him and 
his family for a while. He was great guy, a lot of spirit. I 
think he works for Gallo [Winery] now. He left the university and 
worked for Gallo, but he was very sharp. Very, very nice to me, 
and 1 liked him a lot, so he was encouraging. 

Dr. [Ralph] Kunke was wonderful. He became a really good 
friend and my graduate advisor. I liked Ralph a lot. He was so 
nice to me and also very encouraging. He was fun. We could go 
out and laugh, and he also taught me a lot and was very kind and 
reassuring in my research project. So he was very important to me 
as well. I admired him. A different sort altogether than 
Amerine, but 1 liked him. 

I also felt that [Vernon L.] Singleton was probably one of 
the most intense and creative professors there. Great precision. 
He was very serious and had a unique sort of approach that no one 
really had spent much time on, working on his polyphenolics . I 
think I took the first class on polyphenolics that he taught. He 
sort of invented the class, and we were the pioneers of it. I 
thought that was good. 

[A. Dinsmore] Dinny Webb was a great professor, too. He was 
really nice to me. I remember he d tell me about how his son was 



15 



working hard in the chem department, and if you work hard, you 
make it. He was very fatherly to me about continuing there. I 
remember having a discussion with him about going to graduate 
school, and he encouraged it and said that it was a good idea and 
that you have to work hard, but it will pay for itself in the end. 

They were really nice professors. They were very serious, 
but they were very personable. It was a small department. 

Hicke: How many in a class? 

Forman: Oh, I think in a graduate class we d have five, six people in it. 
My colleagues in the classroom were David Coffrin and Mills 
Fenghi, Richard Nagaoka, Justin Meyer of Silver Oak, Pete Stern, 
and Rich Kunde. Five or six others, maybe seven or eight. That 
was about it. 

Hicke: You had an interesting class. 

Forman: Yes, yes. You hear some of these names, and we re all around 
here, still doing it. So it was a good class. It was great. 

Hicke: This is graduate school now. 

Forman: Graduate school, yes. And it was a little bigger in 

undergraduate, of course, because you were mixed with all the 
other classeshistory or one thing or another, which was a mixed 
bag of everybody, but the campus was neat. I really enjoyed it. 
It was a nice place to live. I could go both back to the Bay 
Area, where my family lived, or I could go up to our summer home, 
which I was halfway between. That was nice. 

But I was really getting ready to leave by the time I was in 
graduate school. I was fascinated with it and did well. I did 
very well. 

Hicke: What year did you graduate? 

Forman: I graduated in December, half year, in December of 1969. 

Hicke: This was under- 

Forman: Graduate school, master s degree. 



16 



II EARLY WORK EXPERIENCES 



Summer Jobs 



Hicke: When did you get your bachelor s? 

Forman: Oh, I must have gotten that two years previous. By that time- 
that was six years of school--! was pretty well ready to leave. I 
had thought about getting a Ph.D., but I thought No, I really 
don t need that. And while I was in school, I was very fortunate. 
I had worked for a couple of wineries. I worked for Stony Hill 
[Vineyard] in 1967. Fred McCrae was very, very good to me. I 
really admired Fred, and I liked him a lot- -he and Eleanor both. 
He taught me a lot . 

And then I worked for the harvest of 68 at Robert Mondavi 
[Winery]. That was a wonderful influence as well. 

Hicke: We were talking about whether you were going to go for a Ph.D. 

Forman: Oh, yes. I just realized that I really wanted to get out and 

work. I was lucky because the industry was just beginning to take 
off at that point, and there were new wineries being established, 
and they needed winemakers. And so at one point I had Peter 
Newton, through a relation, actually, on his wife s side--Sloane 
Upton, who owns Three Palms Vineyard, who was taking some classes 
at Davis and had met me. He encouraged Peter, Peter had talked to 
Amerine, and Amerine had suggested that he talk to me. 

So he came and interviewed me for the job of building and 
running Sterling Vineyards, the same time Billy Jaeger came and 
wanted to know if I wanted to be the winemaker for Freemark Abbey, 
and Bob Mondavi, after I had worked there a season, wanted to know 
if I wanted to be the winemaker or at least assistant winemaker at 
Robert Mondavi. So my God, here I am at school, thinking, Is this 
what it s really like? How could it be so good? 



17 



I was really looking forward at that point to getting out 
and doing something. 

Hicke: Yes. Before we get you out, let me back up. Is there anything 
more to be said about what you did at Stony Hill? 

Forman: Oh, sure. There s a lot more. We should not pass that up. That 
was important. I could go back even further than that. I see in 
the outline you ve made here: what sort of things did I do, what 
sort of employment did I have while I was growing up? Well, I 
worked one year-- 

Hicke: I wasn t going to ask you that because I figured you didn t have 
any time. 

Forman: No, I did. It s kind of interesting. One year I worked on a 
construction project for a company called C. Norman Peterson. 
They built sewage treatment plants. That was just straight 
carpentry construction. I did that one year in high school. 

Hicke: Summer? 

Forman: Yes, summer. I spent the summer doing that once I was finally too 

old to just go to the summer home and sit. Once I had a driver s 

license, the family felt I better start working, and so it was 
good. So I did that one year. 

And then the following year I had a wonderful job working at 
UC Berkeley in the Chem Department storage room. This was the 
year they were tearing down the old chem building, and so I was 
busy all year going into all these incredible labs in the old Chem 
Department. Remember that old brick building? Did you ever see 
it? 



Hicke: I don t think so. 

Forman: Oh, my God. It was a wonderful building. It was so much fun. 
And I can remember going through it even before I worked there, 
because I used to go up on weekends and go into the building and 
kind of go in and just befriend some of the research students in 
there and have fun talking with them. I just loved the building-- 
the whole smell of it, and the whole thing was utterly fantastic. 

I remember the old building that had this glass roof on it 
and all these steam pots, and all these guys were doing all this 
research. A professor named Rappaport had a greenhouse, and 
Rappaport s greenhouse was full of all these poppies. I guess he 
was doing studies on alkaloids. One of my jobs was to take all 
these poppies and get rid of them and clean out all these labs, 



18 



all this stuff. Threw half of the stuff away because it was so 
old. I just stocked my lab completely with all this stuff. I had 
so much fun. That was wonderful. 

Hicke: How did you get that job? 

Forman: My brother s girlfriend worked in the department there. She went 
to Berkeley, and she said, "During this summer we re going to tear 
down the old chem building, and there s going to be a ton of stuff 
to do. Are you interested?" Of course, I could hardly wait. So 
that was a good job. 

And then the following summer I worked at Weibel [Champagne 
Vineyards] on the bottling line. I thought I was going to work in 
the winery. I wasn t able to because there just wasn t enough to 
do, so I ended up doing construction and work on the bottling line 
there. That didn t last very long. 



Stony Hill Vineyard. 1967 



Forman: It was the summer after that that I finally worked at Stony Hill. 
That was then starting to be significant. I was at Davis at that 
point. 

Hicke: How did you get that job? 

Forman: Again through Amerine. He d [Fred McCrae] go to Amerine every 

year and say, "I want one of your graduate students or one of your 
students." He d be interested in... so Amerine chose me again. I 
had a great time. I lived in their newly built barn. I was the 
first person who lived there. It has been used for thirty years 
since for their Mexican help, but I had the initial live-in. I 
moved up there and lived down there on the ranch and made the 
harvest of 1967. 



It was extremely enlightening. A lot of things I learned 
there. He told me the importance of keeping everything clean and 
having sound fruit. He said, "If you have sound fruit"-- 

Hicke: Sound fruit? 

Forman: Sound, good fruit. "You probably won t make bad wine." I learned 
that rule very early on. I was introduced to the barrel 
fermentation phenomenon, which was really not very much dealt with 
at Davis, so that was fascinating to me. And being introduced to 



19 



the production of Chardonnay and the way they did it at Stony 
Hill. It was a very hands-on, very traditional system. 

Hicke: Traditional in the sense of the French-- 

Forman: Yes, very Burgundian system, really, except that he didn t use 

Burgundy barrels. He fermented in barrels. I think it has gotten 
way more traditional now, as are many of the wineries in 
California. But his approach to it was still, nevertheless, 
pretty classic. It was a wonderful way to start. Even though I 
had been taught all this technology at Davis, I was able to do 
some of the more traditional things along with my ability to point 
out to him and do various things that I had learned already as far 
as the technology goes. I helped him, and he helped me. 

Hicke: Are you saying that technology and things that you learned at 
Davis were a little bit different from the way he was doing 
things? 

Forman: Oh, definitely. And certainly influenced me, as did, finally, my 
ability to travel at an early age on Sterling s behalf. It 
influenced the way I make wine very, very seriously, and I think 
it had an effect on a few of the people who saw what I was doing 
and the way wines are being made now in California. 

But anyway, we were all just starting here. He had been 
doing this for some time, but all the new wineries had just begun, 
and so they were ready to see what was going on. So that was 
good. 



Robert Mondavi, 1968 



Forman: Then going to work at Robert Mondavi the next summer was also a 
wonderful experience for me. Totally different. Much more 
technology there. A lot of big, fancy equipment that I otherwise 
hadn t worked with. Of course, Davis didn t have any pilot plants 
equipped the way they are now, so I had never seen this equipment. 
It was a wonderful chance to see how pumps worked and how the 
presses worked. 

Hicke: Was he doing a lot of things that were different? 

Forman: Bob was very automated. He was out there buying this equipment, 
and all the first stuff that had ever come into California. He 
was using these nice, stainless-steel tanks, which very few people 
had started using. He had gotten good presses, and he was 



20 



interested in centrifuges and all the sorts of things that nobody 
else had really paid much attention to, so he was one of the 
beginning technologists, really, as far as the California wine 
business. 

I must say, I recall that it was a bit scattered around 
there. They were always doing too many things at one time. I 
learned that they were just full of energy and had lots of good 
ideas but that they probably took on too much at once, and so I 
learned those were some of the things I didn t want to do in the 
future, that I wanted to be more organized. 



Hicke: More focused. 

Forman: Yes, way more focused, 
to and not to do. 



So it taught me at a very early age what 



Hicke: Was Warren Winiarski there then? 

Forman: Warren was. I ll never forget Warren being on top of the tank and 
Warren said, "Well, now, Ric, we re going to pump these tanks 
over." I said, "That s great. I know in theory what it means, 
but how exactly is it done?" So he and I get up there, and he d 
show me this and that and the other thing, and he had really only 
learned it the year before himself. There was a time that he had 
come to me and started asking me questions. I remember he used to 
want to borrow chemicals from me and asked me how this was done 
and asked me how that was done. So he wasn t really that 
knowledgeable himself about making wine. He was just really kind 
of an assistant, learning himself at Robert Mondavi. 

Hicke: Was Zelma Long there? 

Forman: Zelma? No, she came just a little bit later. It was Mike 

Mondavi, me, Warren, Brad Warner had just started there, and a few 
other guys. That was it. I remember Bob would come out and stand 
on the press with me and talk about what was going on and what I 
thought, and we d taste wines. We had a wine that he bottled 
before that was a Sauvignon Blanc. He brought it down and said, 
"Ric, what s wrong with it?" He said, "It s all fizzy." I said, 
"Well, I ll tell you what s wrong with it, Bob. I think it s got 
some sugar in it and you didn t sterile- filter it," which was the 
problem. They were just learning there. They didn t have it down 
right yet. But they were very excited about the new Napa Valley 
wines. 



21 



III STERLING VINEYARDS, 1969-1978 



Hiring On 



Forman: So then I went back and finished with graduate school and had to 
make a decision at that point where to start working. The offer 
that had been made to me by Peter Newton, who was at that time 
contemplating building Sterling Vineyards, was by far to me the 
most exciting because it offered me the chance to really do it 
totally on my own, and I wasn t frightened of that. I didn t 
really want to go and work somewhere else with someone else. I 
really had, for some reason or another, enough confidence that I 
wanted to do it my way. 

I never was- -kind of all the way back into my childhood--! 
never really liked the Boy Scouts, I never really liked camp. I 
didn t like regimentation, and I didn t like people to have a 
program for me. I was really more interested in diving in myself 
and doing my own investigation and kind of running my own show. 

Hicke: The views are so much better up there at Sterling! [laughs] 

Forman: Yes, definitely. So I wasn t frightened by it. I guess they 
detected that, and they detected a degree of confidence. 

Hicke: Had he talked to anybody else? 

Forman: He must have. Yes, actually, they tried Philip Tonne, but they 

never got along. The winery wasn t built or anything, but Philip 
came aboard and was going to do some things with him, but they 
wore each other out, I think. I guess I was the next one, and I 
worked. 



22 



Designing the Plant 

Forman: So I graduated in December, and they started off-- 
Hicke: This is 69. 

Forman: In 69. We decidedfor the rest of the winter I began doing 

research on equipment and traveled to all sorts of wineries and 
asked lots of questions. 

Hicke: Give me an example. Where did you go? 

Forman: Oh, I went down to the Paul Masson [Vineyard] plant to look at all 
the fancy equipment, I spent time with Martini [Winery], I went up 
to Parducci [Wine Cellars], I went to Gallo, I went to Beaulieu 
[Vineyard] . 

Hicke: Were all these people willing to-- 

Forman: Yes, they were all very friendly. Bill Fuller was extremely 

friendly, at Louis Martini, I remember. And then 1 would travel 
to the various equipment companies. I remember going to Missouri 
and looking at the Paul Muir stainless steel company, trying to 
get an idea of all this equipment. I don t know how really, 
honestly, I did it, because I didn t really know what I was doing. 

Hicke: They don t teach you that in school. 

Forman: No, but I realized I had to do it, and I asked a lot of questions 
and put a lot of ideas together, and I ended up designing this 
first plantgetting the equipment and ordering all the stuff that 
I needed. 

Hicke: What were your objectives and goals? 

Forman: This is kind of how it evolved: By far the most important thing 

that really happened was my association with Dick [Richard] Graff, 
who had come to Newton at the same time I had joined Newton and 
asked Newton if he would help sponsor Dick in a barrel and winery 
equipment company that he wanted to get started in conjunction 
with his running the very small, at that time, Chalone Vineyard. 
Peter thought that could be very advantageous. He liked Dick. 
Dick and I had gotten along. We had met each other at school. 

And so Dick and I launched off in the spring. I actually 
got married to Joy, my wife-- 

Hicke: What was her maiden name? 



23 



Forman: Dale, D-a-l-e. So I married Joy, and we took off on a honeymoon 
to France. And then she came home after two weeks, and I stayed 
for an additional six weeks with Dick Graff, and we researched all 
of Europe. We went to all these equipment companies, all these 
barrel companies. We went into Italy and mostly France. Of 
course, I had practically never been out of California at this 
point, and so I was absolutely dazzled with the ability to go to 
Europe and then overwhelmed with what I learned. I mean, I went 
from this strict chemistry, technological background, other than 
what I learned at Stony Hill, to seeing what tradition really was. 
It just struck me, at age twenty-four, completely that that s what 
I wanted to do. I knew instantly that that was the way I wanted 
to make wine. 

Hicke: What did you do about language? 

Forman: I had French in high school, and I had a little bit of a knowledge 
of French. I m much better now than I was then. I continued to 
study it. I m not fluent, but I can kind of muddle through. But 
Dick and a purchasing agent for Sterling International, the parent 
company of Sterlinghe spoke fluent French, and Dick spoke quite 
good French, so we had two French-speaking people on the trip, so 
it made it pretty easy. 

Hicke: That covers French, but what about German? Did you go there? 

Forman: Dick was not bad at German. He actually took us to this amazing-- 
did you ever meet Dick? 

Hicke: No. 

Forman: Did anybody? They didn t get him before he died? 

Hicke: No, we didn t get an oral history with him. 

Forman: Oh, what a shame. He was without a doubt the most brilliant man 
in the industry. Utterly unbelievable. 

Hicke: He was on the list, but we just didn t get to him. 

Forman: What a shame. He was fabulous individual, unbelievably brilliant, 
genius-level brilliant, and very, very creative and very 
innovative and very energetic. Couldn t say enough about him. 
Incredible man. Awful, awful situation, that accidental death he 
had. 

So we went over there, and we had this tremendous time. I 
came home with a total feeling then that yes, I was very happy 
that I had this technological background because it gave me a 



24 



foundation to know when I was getting over the edge or not with 
tradition, but the tradition was what I wanted to do, making wine. 

Hicke: Can you explain why? 

Forman: I don t know. It just had that charisma of something done and 

makes you feel that that s what you want to do. I knew I wanted 
to make wine, but then all of a sudden I realized that when I saw 
the traditionboth how it looked, how it felt, the hands-on 
abilities that allow-- 

Hicke: And the taste. 

Forman: And, of course, the taste. I had been impressed with the taste. 
I wanted to create to those things. I really wanted to create 
something classic. And so I came home. Of course, my first 
project was to make Chardonnay, which was the thing coming in 
first. I didn t have a winery set up yet, and I was frustrated. 
Equipment was on its way, and they were building all this stuff. 
Jack Davies at Schramsberg was kind enough and he knew Peter 
Newton well and said, "Look, you ll have to make it here. The 
grapes are getting ripe. What are you going to do?" 

Hicke: Were these their own grapes? 

Forman: Yes, they were Sterling s grapes. Sterling had planted vineyards 
before they had a notion to do a winery. They ran an extremely 
successful paper company, Peter Newton had, and this paper 
company, which was really a bulk-trading paper company they buy 
paper in bulk and trade it all over the world, so it was kind of a 
brokerage business. He ultimately did then set up paper plants in 
England, but it was very successful. It was based in San 
Francisco 

Hicke: Just a second. 



Hicke: Okay. 

Forman: It was very successful. It was based in San Francisco, and, you 
know, they were of an age and an affluence at that point where 
they all kind of wanted to get away, as everyone does if you can 
afford to. They had bought summer homehe and the two officers 
of the company bought summer homes in the Napa Valley and got 
involved in planting vineyards. It was fun for them. They were 
interested in it. And before they knew it, they realized that 
they could afford it, and they thought it would be fun to build a 
winery. And that s when I came onto the scene. 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 



Forman: 



25 



Who were the other two partners? 

There was actually only one partner. It was Mike Stone. He was a 
partner with Peter. And then Martin Water field was their 
comptroller, but he was very close to them both. He was not a 
partner, but he had a house up here as well. He actually was one 
of the men who was most influential in the exterior design of 
Sterling Vineyards. He, Dick Graff, and I basically designed and 
put Sterling together. 

When you built it up on that hill, did you envision the cable car 
to get up to it? 



No, that was Martin s idea, totally Martin s idea, 
clever, very clever indeed. 



He was very 



So anyway, backing up, we built a temporary plant at the 
bottom of the hill before we had any of the concept of what to do 
at the top. 



First Crush at Schramsburg; Pioneering Barrel Fermentation 



Hicke: Did you get the first crush in now? 

Forman: Yes, we were starting. I tried to crush and couldn t get the full 
harvest, or the beginning of the harvest, at the initial plant, 
which was nothing more than a pad and some tanks sitting out in 
the open, with a crusher and so forth, and a trailer for an 
office. But it just wasn t complete in time for the Chardonnay, 
and so we went up to Schramsberg, where I had had a small 
relationship a year before because while I was at Robert Mondavi 
in 68, Sterling had grapes brought to Mondavi to be custom 
crushed. And then we put them in the new barrels, which I ll 
never forget, actually, putting into the tunnels previous to the 
69 harvest. 

I remember Joy and I--and we weren t even married yet--and a 
good friend of ours, Chick Hudson, had spent a weekend up there 
because the container of barrels had come in, and we laid all the 
cardboard down. I remember rolling them into the lower tunnel and 
being so excited that I had these brand-new, French barrels. 
Nobody had these barrels in the Napa Valley, and I had this new 
container of new French barrels. I ll never forget putting them 
into the tunnel. It was about the most exciting thing I could 
ever imagine. The charisma of going into a tunnel and having this 
wonderful new wood and knowing that I was going to put Chardonnay 



26 



and ferment it in there, which nobody else had ever even dreamed 
of doing, in new barrels. So I could hardly wait. 

We did that actually for the red grapes that we had made at 
Mondavi, custom-crushed for Sterling s account. We put that wine 
into those barrels. 

Hicke: Cabernet [Sauvignon]? 

Forman: It was Cabernet and Merlot. We put that into those barrels. And 
then the new Chardonnay barrels came. Of course, the previous 
year they were also put into the barrels. They were not intended 
to go in with Schramsberg, but we had to because the grapes 
weren t ripe. And so--gosh!--I had these pumps all set up and 
everything, and I was going to use their crushing equipment. I ll 
never forget. I had all this brand-new hose, and I had to lay it 
from the little crushing and pressing area that Schramsberg had in 
the upper tunnels all the way down to the lower tunnel, where I 
was going to ferment the juice. They didn t do that sort of 
thing. They fermented in stainless up there. But since I wanted 
to ferment in barrels, I had to go to the lower tunnel. 

I remember the morning the grapes came in, and before the 
grapes came in,, I had all of this hose, this beautiful hose, all 
laid out from one tunnel to the next. And who comes along but 
this guy named Hugo. He was actually quite a town character at 
the time. You can see him in paintings around. But Hugo drove 
in, wearing these white coveralls, and he drove this old Chevy 
truck with a little trailer. He had all his equipment on it. 
Here he comes. He sees the hose across the road, thinks nothing 
of it, and drives right over my hose and dents it in about ten 
places and puts cracks in it. 

Honest to God, I almost cried. I could have killed the guy. 
How could you do such a thing to me? I m all set up, and you know 
how excited I was, and really my first harvest on my own. And he 
comes and wrecks it. 



Hicke: 
Forman: 

Hicke: 



What did you do? 

Oh, we taped it up, and I was just sick. I had to buy new hose, 
and we made it work, but it was an awful start. So we pressed it, 
and I thought I knew what I was doing. 



I have a question before you get too far. 
kind of barrels these were. 



You didn t tell me what 



27 



Forman: These were classic Burgundy barrels, with the wooden hoop and all. 
It looked just as though you were in a Burgundy cellar. That s 
what was so exciting. 

Hicke: Okay. 

Forman: So we got the equipment going, and Jack helped me with the 

equipment and so forth. We pressed it and away the juice went, 
settled it. The next morning it went down into the barrels, and 
it fermented away, and it made just an absolutely wonderful wine. 
1 remember Dick Graff coming up and tasting with me, and we both 
just smiled and thought, Well, this is it. This is what using 
these barrels and good grapes and fermentation and so forth does. 

Hicke: Was that after three months? 

Forman: This was after about a month. It was very good. And then I 

remember, at the time, the university was putting on a tasting. 
It was hosted at Robert Mondavi s. This was the following March. 
Of course, the rest of the harvest took place, and there s more 
perhaps that we can talk about, about that, and the rest of the 
red grapes came in, because the plant was ready at Sterling 
Vineyards . 

But Chardonnay remained up there for some time, because it 
was fermented there. But we had a tasting in March of the new 
Chardonnay. There was a number of wineries that participated, the 
ones that were around- -Freemark Abbey, Beaulieu, Christian 
Brothers, Martini, Heitz, and us, I guess--and Inglenook. They 
wanted to taste all the new wines. They thought it would be 
fascinating for everybody to bring these new wines and taste them. 

I was making wine the way I felt that was traditional in 
Burgundy. I was leaving the wine with the lees, and I was doing 
things that no one would ever dream of doing: leaving the 
fermenting in barrels, which none of these people had done; new 
barrels on top of it all; leaving the wine with the lees; not 
racking it and getting off all these lees. 

So I brought this wine, and my wine was the only one on the 
table that was cloudy. The rest of the wines had all, of course, 
as California was in those days: as quick as you could get them 
filtered, the better; and store them in oak uprights or stainless 
steel. And so we tasted them all, and I could hardly wait to have 
everybody taste this wine. Gosh, everybody s wine was so clear, 
and that made me a little nervous. And then all of sudden, 
everybody s wine was real polished and fruity, and mine had this 
sort of stale smell, because I had taken the sample out the day 
before, and I now know, but anytime a new wine has yeast or any 



28 



sediment in it, it doesn t travel well. It ll have this sort of 
stale, metallic sort of smell if it gets sunlight on it. So it 
had the sunlight on it, and I was just horrified. My wine looked 
awful. It totally destroyed my sense of security and that I had 
done the right thing. And I wondered then, "My God, have I stuck 
my neck out and done something absolutely awful?" 

I called Dick, and Dick said, "Don t worry. I ve been doing 
this at Chalone. It works. Don t worry. It s just that you took 
the wine full of sediment." I knew in theory that was it, but I 
had a heck of time convincing everybody else there. They all felt 
so sorry for me because the wine looked awful. You can imagine: 
my first wine [laughter]. 

Hicke: Ruined your day! 

Forman: More than that! I came home, and my wife just said, "My God, what 
happened to you?" I said, "I don t know. I think I ve blown it. 
I think I ve really made something awful." But I stuck with my 
guns, I stuck with the traditional method, and eventually fined 
it, eventually bottled it, and I remember tasting it with all the 
rest of the wines, and it was so superior. The wine was 
absolutely elegant. It was just stunning. It was everything I 
wanted it to be. It truly had that French Burgundian taste. 

Hicke: Oh, great! 

Forman: So by hanging in thereand then I really had confidence. Other 
people tasted it and, of course, as we know, barrel fermentation 
now is being done. But Dick and I were the first people to do it 
and to really do it properly. It caught on. 

Hicke: Documenting those events is one of the reasons we re here. Before 
we get too far, can you tell me: is there any particular reason 
that the people at Sterling planted Cabernet, Merlot, and 
Chardonnay? 

Forman: Peter was English and really liked Bordeaux wine, number one. He 
liked European wine; that s what he grew up with. He saw that 
Chardonnay was catching on. He knew what Fred McCrae had been 
doing, and he was a visionary and realized that it would catch on. 
He knew Cabernet was what the Valley did well with. Obviously, 
Beaulieu had set the pattern with that, with making world-class 
Cabernet ever since the forties. So Cabernet was a natural. 



29 



An Early Merlot Varietal 



Forman: But he went further and said, "You know, I think Merlot would be a 
good grape." I wanted to agree with him. I was enthusiastic 
about it, particularly since I had spent time in Pomerol on the 
first visit. So I was very much in agreement with him. We even, 
at his encouragement, tried to bottle one early on, 1969. 

Hicke: A Merlot varietal? 

Forman: Yes, a varietal. Louis Martini had done one in 67. 

Hicke: I just read--I think it was in this morning s paperthat you had 
the second one. 

Forman: Yes, so I had had the second one. It was made in a different 
style. It was made in my traditional Bordelaise--as I was 
traditional Burgundian in Chardonnay, I was Bordelaise in my 
thinking as far as how Cabernet, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc were 
produced. We had Merlot and Cabernet. We later added Franc and 
even later, Petit Verdot, at my encouragement. But Merlot was the 
most innovative, of course, at the time because nobody was even 
thinking about Merlot; it was all Cabernet here. 

Peter said, "They make wonderful wines in Pomerol and St. 
Emilion. Why don t we bottle some Merlot ourselves? People might 
be fascinated." I sort of resisted, and then I said, "No, I guess 
you re right. We will, and I ll try to do something special with 
it." I did. The 69 was all right, but the 70 was really quite 
wonderful, and from then on, it turned into an incredibly good 
wine. It had uniqueness. People thought it could stand on its 
own. I made a very stylish wine from it. 

I remember going into 1978, encouraging [Dan] Duckhorn to 
get involved with it. Took him to Bordeaux and introduced him to 
the people. And he really started popularizing Merlot more than, I 
would say, Sterling did. Then, of course, we know where that has 
gone at this point. 

Hicke: Yes. Well, he made only Merlot for-- 

Forman: For a while, and that was kind of my encouragement, telling him to 
do so. Christian Moueix actually went to Davis with me. I wasn t 
really close to him, but I knew him, and I knew him, and I knew he 
was an important figure in the Bordeaux region, and became, of 
course, much more aware of it once I traveled to Bordeaux and 
visited him now and then. He was kind enough to allow me to spend 
time in some of his cellars, and so I learned the techniques of 



30 



racking and brought home for the first time also the Bordeaux 
system of racking and fining in barrels and racking out of the 
head of the barrel, using air pressure. Of course, everybody 
thought, again, I was nuts-- just as they thought I was nuts 
fermenting Chardonnay in barrels. 

But, again, now it s all caught on, and that s, of course, 
the only way people make classic Cabernet in California now. But 
I remember even having to convince Dick that this was the way it 
needed to be done. I remember bringing all of his crews from the 
various wineries that he had at that point, with the Chalone 
group. I d bring them into the cellars and train them how to rack 
out of the head of the barrel and how to do all the techniques 
that I learned. 

Hicke: Did you actually learn that? 

Forman: I was able to work in the cellar at Chateau Trotanoy, Moueix s 

cellar. The guys there really showed me exactly how to do it all. 
They would allow me to do it, and so I learned the physical way of 
doing it. So it was wonderful. I d bring these barrels home and 
drive holes in the head of them. Everybody thought I was crazy to 
rack a barrel that way. What in the world was I doing, racking 
that wine with air pressure and coming out of the head of the 
barrel, doing all these crazy things? 

But it made a difference. It made a subtle difference, but 
it was a difference. It just added that little touch of 
refinement to what I already felt was important, as blending 
Cabernet and Merlot and Cabernet Franc and eventually Petit 
Verdot. I was convinced that a Bordeaux-style wine could be made 
and even made to a more high degree of refinement than had been 
done previously in California, by using some of these techniques. 

Hicke: Okay. I think we went by these too fast. Could you elaborate on 
these techniques one by one, and explain how they were done? 

Forman: Let s take a break for a minute. 
Hicke: Okay. 



Travel and Research in Europe 
[Interview 2: February 25, 1999] //# 



Hicke: This is February 25th now. We re on our second interview. 



31 



Fonnan : 



Hicke: 



You made some notes, and I wanted to go back and try to elaborate 
on some of those topics. I m hoping that whoever transcribes this 
is able to pick it apartlike throw them all out on a sheet and 
then put the like parts together, because we ve been a little 
scattered. I would certainly like to see this whole thing 
collated, so to speak, so that we have a uniformity of 
progression, I guess, from where we started through my life as a 
winemaker. 



The transcriber will transcribe what s on the tape, 
rearrange some of it if you like. 



We can 



Forman: Yes, that s fine, that s fine. I ve done this enough times, and 
when somebody does it verbatim or they do kind of the flow as it 
came, it s very disjointed. I don t know whether there was a book 
or there was something that was done that way, and I was really 
upset about it, that they didn t take the time to at least get it 
back to me and let me say that I didn t want to have it sound 
exactly like that. You almost sound illiterate sometimes if they 
take it verbatimbecause we don t talk the way we write. 

Hicke: That s what I was just going to say. You sound perfectly fine, 
but when you look at it in writing-- 

Forman: No, no, it doesn t make sense, no no. Conversations don t go the 
way one writes. 

Hicke: Yes. Okay, I ll just kind of let you go your own. 
Forman: We made a note there. 

Hicke: Yes, we wanted to go back to early days at Sterling and talk about 
your trips to Europe. 

Forman: What I saw in Europe, exactly. Obviously, going to school and 
making the decision to get into the Department of Enology and 
Viticulture and see it through all the way to graduate school was 
an important phase and decision in my life. It set me into one 
direction which was obviously very important. So that was an 
important decision for me. 

The next most important thing that guided me was going to 
Europe, and so I think it s probably not just enough to say that 
it dazzled me, but why. I guess it has a lot to do with 
aesthetics, as much as it does practicality of the matter. Going 
there and seeing the way the vineyards, for instance, were so 
neatly laid out to me was very, very meaningful. I liked the 
symmetry of it all. I was astounded at the thought that the 
French, who are obviously very economy-minded people, would go to 



32 



the effort of spending that tremendous amount of money in the 
close spacing and the elaborate trellis systems and the massive 
amount of care that it takes to tend these vines . 

You see, in the normal course of things in those days in 
California on an acre of land we had 450 vines. You looked at a 
comparable plot of land in Europe, and we had 2,000 to 3,000 
vines. That s a big multiplier. I now know because I came back 
with this notion as well. I planted probably the first close 
spacing at Sterling because of that and because I was fascinated 
with it and fiddled with it for years. Of course, now, again, the 
whole Valley is going to this close spacing. 

Hicke: Did you look at the soil? 

Forman: Well, yes. Also, I was absolutely enthralled, particularly in 

Bordeaux and in Burgundy, with the soil types and where they were 
planting the land. You d go, for instance, from Bordeaux city up 
through the Medoc, and you d see this rather nice, low- lying land. 
It would be not planted in grapes, in a similar manner that we 
would see in California or in the Napa Valley where it would be 
planted in grapes. They only planted areas that were very well 
drained, and when they were well drained they also had extremely 
austere soils these gravelly- -looked like river beds. I thought, 
Wow, this is interesting, this notion of planting on the austere, 
not the rich soils. That has to have something to do with it. 

Hicke: There s even a winery there called Little Pebbles--! ve forgotten 
what it is in French. 

Forman: Yes, Ducru-Beaucaillou, the Cru of the Beautiful Pebbles, exactly. 
Ducru has a wonderful plot. So I got to know Bordeaux very well, 
and I realized that the grandes crus were always on these knolls 
and always had sort of watersheds that even the knoll itself could 
drain into it. These were important factors. 

It was understood, too, as well, that the close spacings and 
the no- irrigation there were coupled with the fact that they got 
more rain. That was just about the time that actually in 
California we were able to do drip irrigation so that that was a 
factor that was going to come into play here. 

But getting back to what my impressions werethe soil types 
and the beautiful slopes of Burgundy were down in the palm of the 
slope, where the soil was both well drained and somewhat rich- -was 
where all the grande crus were, so I was fascinated with this and 
realized that-- [pause] 

Hicke: Did you take notes? 



33 



Forman: Oh, yes. I have notes and notes and notes I d write and write, 
kind of summaries of each trip, at the end of them all. I don t 
know where they are now, in the archives at Sterling, I suppose. 

Then the next thing that 1 think impressed me was just the 
charm of the old buildings, the old stone buildings. I really 
liked that. It just had a feel of solidarity and a feel of 
longevity and of having been there for a long time. It was a 
tremendous statement to me that wine was important, that it was a 
tradition, that it was part of their heritage and they were proud 
of it, and that they really revered it. It was just this national 
sort of symbol of France and the other countries surrounding it 
that were involved in wines. So the buildings impressed me. I 
liked it. I liked the way they were laid out. I liked the charm 
of them all. I liked just their feel. 

Hicke: Are you talking about Bordeaux or Burgundy? 



Forman: Both. I loved the little villages 
were very, very neat--the way they 
streets, and under every house was 
garage had a press in it, and that 
and they made them totally by hand, 
on top of where they worked, which 
finally to do here. 



in Burgundy. I thought they 
were tiny and the winding 
a cellar, and every little 
they made these small batches 

They lived there. They lived 
is, of course, what I came back 



So this whole family feel, this whole approach of living the 
business, basically, was so different than what I had come away 
from at school with chemistry labs and research and technical 
papers and seeing big wineries that have big equipment and kind of 
corporate-run mentalities in California. So that obviously was 
just a total opposite of what I expected, and I liked it, and I 
kept thinking about it. It was one of these charismatic feels 
that you came back wanting to be part of. 

In the cellars, I loved the barrels, which I otherwise had 
become a little familiar with, having worked at Stony Hill 
previously, but he had old whiskey barrels and a hodge-podge of 
things and no French oak and disjointed things that had been there 
for twenty years before, and I think some of them still are! 

So these beautifully made barrels and the fact that many of 
them were new and the beautiful way they d be laid out, 
particularly in the chais of Bordeaux were these long rows of 
barrels with glass bungs on them, and their hand-done equipment. 
I remember watching some of the wines being racked. In those 
days of course, this was thirty-some years agothey d have these 
hand pumps similar to this one sitting up in the corner there? Do 
you see that thing? 



34 



Hicke: Oh, yes. 

Fonnan: I bought that there. That was actually a brand-new pump. Those 

would add air pressure to the barrel, and the wine would be racked 
from barrel to barrel. God, I was just fascinated with the hand- 
tending of these things. It again showed the care of the product 
and the really closeness that they felt. And that impressed me. 

And I looked at these big oak fermenters, and I looked at 
how they were kept and the various equipment that was so different 
from the equipment that we have here. The whole package 
eventually created a new philosophy for me, which otherwise wasn t 
really well formed anyway, having just come from school. I would 
have thought that I would have come away with this chemistry, 
technological, let s go and make the better wine through 
technology from school because that s all I had known. 

And bang! I almost forgot that. It was always in the back 
of my mind, and I think it s good that it is, because that s 
something you never get if you don t go to school you wouldn t 
get that in the field. So I had this background that gave me 
security in knowing why things happen, and if there was something 
wrong, I had the tools to solve the problems and get in and fix 
it. 



Pioneering Winemaking Techniques; Importance of Barrel 
Fermentation 



Forman: But I knew I didn t want to make wine that way. I knew I wanted 
to make wine the way it had been made in Europe, even though 
nobody here did it, really, in any true form. And I wanted to try 
to make a statement here with what we had, with our fruit. Peter 
Newton at Sterling was thrilled with the idea that I wanted to do 
that because that was his feeling and the reason wine was a 
romancing subject to him, and so he said, "Go for it. Do what you 
need to do." 

And then Dick Graff came along and helped me, because he had 
the same feelings, and he was dedicated to trying to make Chalone 
into a Burgundian winery. So the two of us did a lot of research 
together, bought a lot of barrels, studied what they did with 
barrels. It wasn t just to get barrels but once you had a barrel, 
what did you do? We brought a number of them in, sold them to a 
number of wineries, and they always misused them. They didn t get 
it. 



35 



Hicke: 



Forman : 



There are certain ways that barrels should be cleaned; there 
are certain ways that one needed to go into the barrels. The 
first barrels that were introduced, basically by Dick Graff s 
company and Sterling and me, were almost always abused because 
they came with the thought of Yes, this is something we have to 
change, but they used old technological sort of mentality with the 
barrels. They d take fresh wine and filter it, and then put it 
into these brand-new barrels, and the wine would turn out tasting 
like sawdust, it was so strong. 

They couldn t get the feeling of putting fresh juice into 
barrels and letting it ferment, leaving it with the lees--this 
wanting to be clean in California, or get the thing processed. 
This processing mentality in the wine business had to change. So 
we slowly talked to people that we sold barrels to and said, 
"Look, you ve got to do this; you ve got to that." We ourselves 
were continuing to experiment with it. We d go a little bit 
further each year and take the step one bit more. 

It made a dramatic change in what California Chardonnay and 
California Cabernet began looking like. All of a sudden, there 
was this extra bit of spice, this extra bit of richness, this 
intrigue that had not existed before. So we had the fruit, and, 
of course, the fruit is number one. I suspect and I ve always 
said that 75 percent of the quality of wine is really from the 
fruit and the vineyard in which it is grown. This 25 percent is 
what we can do in the winery to take it a step further or to guide 
it and to make what we re really interested in making. It can be 
straight, simple wine or it can be fancy wine or whatever. 

Before you get too far, let s keep in mind--I know you took other 
trips to Europe and taught your philosophy and spread it around. 
At some point, let s go into that. 



That is true, right. Where were we? 
subjects I wanted to talk about? 



What were some of the other 



1976 Trip with Dan Duckhorn; Other Trips 



Hicke: Do you want to talk about your trips with other people? 

Forman: I could, sure. Probably the most important trip that I have in 
mind right now that I took was with Dan Duckhorn. He had 
expressed interest. We were friends, simply because of living in 
the same valley and running into each other. He had a really keen 
desire to make wine. He had gotten into the bench graft business 



36 



coming from the banking business, of all things. The bench graft 
business was interesting to him, the viticulture side was 
interesting. But he wanted to take it a step further for himself 
as well and wanted to investigate the possibilities in making 
wine. 

And so he asked me if I would give him some guidance. He 
was fascinated with the Merlot that we were making at Sterling and 
felt that it had a place in California s wine portfolio, if you 
will. He said, "Look, take me to Pomerol. You seem to be the one 
that has gone more than anyone else that I know in the Valley, and 
you re comfortable with it. You like it, you understand the 
Bordeaux philosophy maybe more than anyone at this point, and 
would you take me and show me what s going on?" 

I thought that sounded like fun, so we took off. This was 
probably in 1976, I would think. I lined up a number of visits in 
Bordeaux. We actually went to Burgundy as well, but Bordeaux is 
the one that really stuck with him. Had a lot of fun. He was 
just fascinated in the very same way that I was. The buildings 
were very interesting, and I think if you look at his building 
now, he s done a lot to sort of capture that low chai, Bordeaux- 
facade look. 

He immediately grasped the notion that thin-stave, Bordeaux 
barrels were important, as opposed to just what everybody really 
wanted, being these thick- staved- -when Californians wanted 
barrels, they couldn t get away from the thicker-staved sort of 
bourbon barrels that they d been using, and so they always wound 
up with what the Bordelaise called export barrels. 

I told a number of people, including Dan--and I think he was 
one of the first to get it--that the thin-staved barrel was more 
important, because in making the thin- staved barrel they didn t 
have to put as much heat with the barrel, and there was a total 
different flavor of toast. It was what we really liked when we 
tasted these French wines, this flavor of violets. 

** 

Forman: So there were little, subtle things like that. He came away 

realizing the same things I did when I started: that there was a 
tremendous tradition there and there were ways of doing things 
that if you paid attention to it, could make a big difference. 
And so he came back and started producing Merlot in 1978 from 
grapes from Three Palms [Vineyard], which was quite a miracle that 
we were able to get for him, because Three Palms was controlled at 
that point by Sterling. It still is, for that matter. 



37 



I m not sure how we did it, but they allowed him to buy a 
small bit of Merlot 

Hicke: Sterling did? 
Forman: Sterling did. 
Hicke: They didn t have a contract? 

Forman: They had a contract for life for it. Newton secured that very 

carefully. I honestly can t remember the details of how that came 
about, but he was able to get it. The 78 Merlot was an instant 
success. He did it properly. I guided him a bit. Phil Baxter at 
the time was helping him as well. The team of us made a very 
impressive wine, and he continued to do so and does right up to 
today with that adherence to Bordeaux tradition, in the same 
manner that I did. 

Hicke: Anybody else? Did you finish with that? 

Forman: Yes, I think I said enough. No, actually, I generally went by 
myself. The other person I ve influenced in a massive way--I 
guess I ve done it so often that I don t even recall it, but it 
seems like part of what I ve donebut David Abreu is a very close 
friend of mine. He s probably the premiere viticulturist now in 
the Napa Valley as far as premium grapes are concerned. He was a 
native of St. Helena and really had no formal education per se but 
was interested in farming and started withas he came out of the 
Vietnam affair- -out of high school, Vietnam, and then came back 
and wanted to do farming and farmed for the H&W Ranch. 

And realized that he liked it, was associated with Chuck 
Wagner at Caymus [Vineyards] and enjoyed his relationship there 
and the ability to learn from the farming that they d been doing, 
and finally decided that he wanted to get into farming on his own 
and farm for other people as a businessvineyard management 
company, if you like. So he asked me what I thought about it, 
because I had become acquainted with him at this point, it was 
about 1980--at Newton. I said, "Yes, I ll help you out." 

I agreed to join him as a partner in his first venture, 
which was running the Inglenook Vineyard. And then, about the 
same time, I said, "You know, David, we have to go to Europe and 
I ll show you some of the things I ve seen. I think you ll be 
fascinated with it." He was indeed just enthralled with the whole 
thing. The same concept that hit me in the early seventies hit 
him immediately, this notion of the French taking the vines and 
making them literally behave in an entirely different way than we 
do. This very, very close attention to training, to trellising, 



38 



Hicke: 
Forman: 

Hicke: 
Forman: 



to vine care, and the whole effect on the fruit and the way one 
deals with the land was impressive to him, and he really, I think, 
was determined to come back and see if we couldn t put some of 
these notions to work in the Napa Valley. 

I helped him do so and guided him in it. David is a very 
astute man, and he learns quickly. He s very fastidious, and he 
developed a whole system of vineyard management around these trips 
and around our knowledge that we would gather. We would go and 
spend hours in the vineyards, particularly Bordeaux, and take 
meticulous notes and take roll upon roll of pictures and talk to 
the farm workers. 

I was, at least at this point--! m now capable enough, I 
guess, in speaking French that I can get some stuff out of these 
workers. And we found that it was probably almost more fun to 
talk to the workers than to talk to the owners because they d tell 
us different things. We weeded out all of the whys and wherefors 
of how these vineyards functioned. For eight, ten years now we ve 
been doing this. We ve gained a great deal of knowledge. 

Do you go every year? 

Every year. I went three times last year. So I spend a lot of 
time in Europe. It s very important. It s very influential on me 
and how I maintain my philosophy of winemaking. 

You learn something new every time? 

If you don t learn, you reinforce the old things, and you come 
back with a strong conviction to continue with what you re doing. 



Hedging 



Hicke: I d like to ask a question I ve wondered about. In Europe they do 
something I think they call hedging? They clip the vines right 
across the top. 

Forman: We now own a machine that we bought in Pomerol that does it. All 
of our vineyards are hedged. When you come through, it looks very 
much like topiary bushes. They re absolutely perfectly hedged. 
What we re trying to maintain is a meter of growth between the 
fruiting bud and the top of the canes, and we want about thirteen 
inches wide, thirteen-inch density canopy, one meter high. So it 
comes along and hedges the sides and hedges the top. By so doing, 
we get just the amount of light necessary. What you re really 



39 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 

Hicke: 

Forman: 

Hicke: 



after on fruit is dappled light. You want about a leaf and a 
half, so to speak, of maximum shade over the fruit, so you d like 
bits of light hitting the fruit at all times and hitting all of 
the leaf surfaces. 

This idea of this massive, lush canopy that we ve had in 
many California vineyards is absolutely dead wrong. This is the 
reason the vineyards are so carefully tended and so carefully 
hedged and have these thin, vertical trellises. It s because they 
realize that light is the element that s needed for vines to 
function. They have leaves, and the leaves can t function without 
light, and so every effort is made to get all the leaf surface 
exposed to the maximum amount of light. By so doing, you 
concentrate its effort, and therefore the components of the fruit 
and the health of the vine. 

That s what it s all about, really. 
Has machine hedging now become more prevalent? 

Oh, yes, the machines are coming in here as fast as they can get 
them in. You ll drive up this Valley, and every close vineyard 
now is properly hedged. I think we brought the first machine in, 
but there are a number of them now. Unfortunately, a lot of it on 
terraces and so forth still has to be done by hand, but all of 
these vertical trellises are hedged. It s just a matter of 
practice. Usually three times a year. 

I haven t been up here in the summertime for a while. 

I d love to take you and show you the Torvillos vineyard we have. 
You d be amazed at how beautiful it is. It looks absolutely like 
Pomerol. It s a dead copy of every single system, and it s a 
spectacular vineyard, I must say [chuckling]. I think it s the 
highest-priced fruit in the Valley, too. David and I own it 
concurrently. It s just on the ridge above me here. 



Where the flag is? 

It s a little beyond that. It s twenty acres, 
for five thousand dollars a ton. 

That s amazing! 
It s unbelievable. 
What s planted? 



We sell the fruit 



Forman: Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot--all French 

clones. We ve taken it, so to speak, to the next level, I think, 
both David and I. 



David Abreu s Farming Business 



I ve taken to Europe-- just as 
astute. He s a very keen 
he s very fastidious and comes 
the principles that he believes 

successful business around it, 
society vineyards. He has the 

Vineyards, Staglin Family 
on the table now, pretty much, 



Forman: And David- -getting back to people 
Dan is very astute, David is very 
observer and a quick learner, and 
back and just doggedly adheres to 
in and has created an unbelievably 
and now farms what I call all the 
Araujos, the Harlan Estate, Viader 
Vineyard, Cogan- -every fancy wine 
David farms. 

Hicke: Araujo, did you say? 
Forman: Yes. 



Hicke: I had some Araujo Viognier last night, by the glass, here, and it 
was marvelous. 

Forman: I don t happen to like the variety, but I m sure if they made it, 
it s good. 

Hicke: I never liked it before, but this was excellent. 

Forman: Well, he farms that land in a very, very grand manner. It s very, 
very expensive. That s another thing about him. I mean, anything 
that s good I guess is costly. He s expensive, but what you get 
is what you want, usually. As I said, 75 percent of the quality 
of these wines comes from the vineyard. Most of it s from the 
soil and the exposure, and then the vineyard viticulturist tends 
them, and if he does it properly, he gets the maximum out of the 
soil and delivers this product to a winery, and there you are: 75 
percent of the quality is already in your lap. It s up to you to 
take it and not ruin it, and to put perhaps your 25 percent of 
additional effort into it to produce something we hope is very 
special. 

Hicke: I m gathering that this is another thing you learned in France- - 
you ve been saying all along that this is one of the things you 
learned in France. 



41 



Forman: Oh, the fruit is so critical. You see this highly delineated area 
in France, where one plot has its own appellation and has its own 
sort of level of quality. The stamp is put on it and guaranteed 
by the government, and the rules are made. You say why? Do they 
do this just becauseis it political? To some extent it was, 
particularly in Bordeaux, where they arrived at this hierarchy of 
classification. It was done really on price in 1855, and the 
expensive wines were the premiere First Growth and on down through 
the Fifth Growth, according to price. But price really, in those 
days, by and large related to quality as well, and the quality 
related to soil, so it does really relate to how good is the piece 
of ground. 

We re starting to do that here in the Napa Valley. You see 
vineyard-designation labels. We have now zones of appellations-- 
the Howell Mountain appellation, the Spring Mountain, the Stag s 
Leap and so forth, the St. Helena appellation. So we re beginning 
to realize that certain areas produce quality which is distinct 
and identifiable and is worthy of recognizing, just as the French 
do, but we haven t even come close to the detail that they spend, 
looking at it. 

Hicke: Is that maybe because they have such small amounts of land to work 
with? 

Forman: They have more than we do. They have a lot more land than we do. 
It s just that they ve been doing it for 300 years and paying 
attention to it. And I think they take, frankly, their 
viticulture areas more seriously than we do. The whole community 
in Europe, once they have a viticultural area which they ve known 
they ve had for 200 or 300 or more years, the whole community 
respects it and gets behind it and doesn t try to out-zone it or 
change it for the whim of whomever happens to come and live there, 
the way we re doing in all of our nice regions in St. Helena. 

You mentioned coming up here, why we can t cut trees down 
anymore. There are people who come from other regions and think 
this is a wonderful Valley. They love the notion that it s a 
wonderful Valley mainly because it has grapes, but they don t want 
the grapes; they only want the notion, and they don t realize that 
you have to support the grapes and that you have to give 
precedence to the grapes. They are what made the region, they are 
what we stand for, and they should not be hindered. 

And so we have developers who see plots that would make 
lovely homes and people coming up and thinking, "Oh, I m in the 
Napa Valley. This is great. Don t plant any more vineyards. 
Don t take any trees down. I love it, but I love to be in the 
Valley." This notion doesn t even come close to being in effect 



42 



in Europe. They highly covet their land. They realize that it s 
for grapes, and grapes come first. Unfortunately, they don t 
around here, and we re going to run into a little bit of trouble. 
But here we are. 

Hicke: We ll want to get into it a little more later. 

Forman: Exactly. So that s traveling to Europe and what it really did for 
me and the intensity with which it guided me and formed a 
philosophy. 

I came to Sterling after having had a couple of what the 
French I guess would call stages, training sessions at Stony Hill 
and Robert Mondavi. 



First Wines of Sterling 



Hicke: Now I think we wanted to go back a little over the first harvest 
and some of those days at Sterling. 

Forman: At Sterling, yes. 
Hicke: Are we there yet? 

Forman: Oh, I think we could get there, yes. We ve seen how I really 

formed my thought process about how I wanted to make wine. And, 
of course, clearly it sounds and feels to me now like it s always 
been there and, like, what else? But in those days it was the 
beginning of a thought process, and so I wasn t totally sure of 
myself, although I wanted to do it, and I did it. I had to learn 
going along. I didn t just automatically launch into this notion 
that I wanted to make classic, European-style wine and there we 
go, I went at it. 

I stumbled and tried various things and tried to see which 
of them was really very adaptable to our type of fruit and so 
forth. Made mistakes, clearly, in the beginning. The first 
harvest was both very exciting and very frightening for me. I had 
never really been left on my own to do this, and I realized we had 
spent a great deal of money, totally at my suggestion, and that 
the owners didn t know how to make wine either but were completely 
trusting in me. 

Hicke: Can you describe what a typical harvest day was like that first 
time? How you felt? 



43 



Forman: I was nervous from the point I woke up until I went to bed, trying 
to think about what I should do next. I would plan my whole day 
out before I got up and go through each step and figure out what I 
needed to do and hope that I had all the equipment necessary and 
all of the pieces in line. 

I think I learned this technique of planning ahead while I 
was at school. I had this research project in graduate school. I 
got into a habit--it was not a very elaborate research project, 
really. It wasn t really very sophisticated, but I had to invent 
it and dream it up and guide it. So I learned the habit of every 
morning before I got up, I d spend whatever it took to completely 
think through what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it and 
what I was going to need to do it, so that when I started I had 
this preparedness. 

That habit carried over into how I ran Sterling, and it has 
carried over all my career. I m able to get a lot done and get it 
done efficiently and not waste a lot of time, and seemingly 
[chuckling], for some reason or other, I always manage to get an 
amazing amount done without having had to stay up all night or 
work too long. I get things done quickly and efficiently by 
planning ahead, I think is really what it amounts to. 

So I planned ahead, and I had all this equipment, and I 
actually did a fairly good job, surprisingly, without having had 
much experience before, other than at Stony Hill and Robert 
Mondavi, because everything was there, everything worked, 
everything functioned the way it was supposed to. 

I m trying to remember some of the things we did. I 
remember all the grapes we had to take, because we had Cabernet 
and Chardonnay, which they planted new, but we had old vineyards 
which ultimately we d rip out, but we had to deal with the wine. 
Remember, I mentioned to you yesterday there s one called Pinot La 
Fata. There was a guy named La Fata, which is quite a funny name. 
There s actually a street in town named after him. Evidently, he 
was a botanist. He cloned grapes. One of the grapes he cloned, 
he named after himself. It was Pinot La Fata, and it was this 
white grape, which is a very funny grape. To me, it was sort of 
like Sauvignon Vert. It was a very loose-clustered, pale-colored 
grape with almost no flavor. Anyway, we had to make about ten 
tons of it. I remember fermenting it and wondering what in the 
world I was going to do with it. It had no flavor at all. 

Then we had some French Columbard which we had to make. I 
made a whole batch of that. And we had Chenin Blanc that I had to 
make, and I made a whole batch of that. None of these wines I 
really knew what to do with. 



44 



Hicke: That wasn t quite your style, was it! 

Forman: No, I just fermented them in stainless, and they came out--I could 
never seem to make a Chenin Blanc that had much flavor; I don t 
know why. Maybe it was the fact that I really didn t like 
fermenting white wine in stainless. It went against what I really 
wanted to do, and I just didn t see the notion of wasting barrel 
space and expensive barrels on these. We had the grapes; we had 
to do something with them. So maybe my heart wasn t into it, but 
I never made really very good wine. 

I remember having to sell it all in bulk. We took it down 
to Hans Kornell. He wanted me to bring it down and put it into a 
tank. God, I d never figured out how to close one of these wooden 
doors on a tank, so old Hans says, "What are you doing?" I said, 
"Well, I m trying to close the door." He said, "But you haven t 
put Seal-Tight around the door." I remember old Hans showing me 
how to prepare the door. 

Then I get it done, and here wine comes from the tank truck 
in there, and he says, "What in the world are you doing? This 
wine is dirty." "What do you mean it s dirty? It s new wine." He 
said, "I don t take wine in this cellar with yeast in it." He 
said, "What are you doing to me?" I said, "Oh, my God, Hans, I 
didn t know it would bother you." He said, "I only buy wine 
that s been filtered." 



So I get into a big, big hassle with him. Hans was a very 
tough character, and boy, he was not pleased with me. I d filled 
his whole tank up with this cloudy, yeasty wine. That didn t 
please him at all. But we got over it. 

[tape interruption] 
Hicke: You were just delivering some wine to Kornell. 

Forman: Oh, yes, we did that. Some of the other wines I madeyou know, 
the "69, the Chardonnay we mentioned I had to make up at 
Schramsberg, and that we ve been through that quite thoroughly. 
That was very exciting, and it ended up turning out to be really 
quite a nice wine. So all of the ideas worked. From that point 
on, I wouldn t dream of making a white wine any other way than in 
barrels. I never have, to this day, thirty-one years later. I ve 
never made any white wine in anything other than fermenting it in 
barrels. It obviously has stuck with me. I think the notion, as 
we said yesterday, has caught on, and a few other people believe 
it works as well. 

Hicke: What else did you make at Sterling? 



Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 
Hicke: 
Hicke: 



At Sterling in that same year, 1969, we made all these other goofy 
white wines, as I mentioned, and those were fermented in 
stainless, but the last to be for me. And then we made Cabernet, 
of course, and Merlot. We also had some Pinot Noir, which was 
growing at Three Palms, of all places, the absolute worst place in 
the world for Pinot Noir to be grown. 

Where is it? 

Three Palms Vineyard is just on one of the last bends of the 
Silverado Trail as it comes around to Dunaweal Lane. It s just in 
back of Sterling. It s a unique swathe of ground, having been 
sort of criss-crossed over the eons with Selby Creek, and so it s 
very rocky. It s rocky in the same way that Rhone soils are 
rocky. It has all these round, river- run, hard rocks, and very 
gravelly, well-drained soil. It s a super place for grapes, but 
it s for grapes that require heat and exposure, not sensitive 
grapes like Pinot Noir. The Cabernet and Merlot and Franc and so 
forth do marvelously there, but the Pinot Noir was just a joke. I 
don t know why they ever planted it. That came before me. 

So I tried to make Pinot Noir at Sterling. Actually, in 
1971 we made quite a unique one. It was a California-style Pinot 



Noir. It s still very viable. It s unbelievable, 
dark, and uniquely spicy and flavorful. It worked, 
call it Burgundian Pinot Noir, but it worked. 

And that was from that vineyard? 

Yes, yes. But that only happened occasionally. 

It just goes to show the winemaker can do a few things. 



It was tannic, 
I wouldn t 



Chardonnay sans Malolactic 



Forman: A few, I suppose. I suppose. But the real excitement there was 
these Chardonnays that I was able to produce, actually, also from 
an area that really isn t very good for Chardonnay, the Calistoga 
area, but this treatment in barrels and sur lees and so forth was 
making very good wine. 

I will mention, as long as we re talking about Chardonnay 
again, that I early on deviated in one very--I suppose you could 
say strict way from the Burgundian method. Of course, all 
Chardonnay in Burgundy goes through a malolactic fermentation. 
While I was being traditional in every mannerfrom the crushing 



and using settled, free-run juice to putting juice directly into 
barrels, yeasting in barrels, leaving the wine with the lees for 
up to five or six months in barrels and stirring the barrels the 
only thing I decided I didn t want to do was malolactic. 

Dick Graff was a real proponent of that. He said that no 
malo was important. I think in his area in Chalone, it worked 
because they had high acidity. But I just didn t feel that 
Chardonnay, particularly grown in Calistoga, had enough acidity to 
produce a balanced wine if the malo took place. So I always 
inhibited the malo, using reasonable amounts of sulfur dioxide. I 
think my wineswell, even today some of them are still viable. I 
think they were then and still are better in this region for it. 

I think the malo has been taken to extremes. It sort of was 
turned into a buzz word by the wine writers and the notion of 
having malo on Chardonnay was the thing to do. In only very few 
places in California, I think, is it successful. I think it turns 
the wine into an unbalanced product. It makes it overly sweet, 
with lazy flavors. It doesn t have that distinct, crisp, 
mineral-y quality that you like in a white wine. And the wines 
practically don t age at all. Most California Chardonnay are 
eighteen-month wines. 

The no-malo wines I made at Sterling and the no-malo wines I 
made at Newton and the no-malo wines I m still making, no matter 
where the grapes are grown, seem to have tremendous ability to 
age. I mean, they re ten-year wines easily, in many cases, 
sometimes more. They do develop this wonderful creme brulee 
character that you get from malo, but get it with age rather than 
from the malo, and they retain the acidity, which gives it the 
mineral quality that you re after. 

I really like white wine with acidity. Probably the only 
Chardonnay that I really am fond of are Chardonnays made in 
Chablis because they have this nice mineral-y quality. I realize 
that the California market wants something a little richer, so I 
do pick the grapes quite ripe. Did at Sterling, did at Newton, 
have here. And so I get a very rich wine, but this no-malo has at 
least the wine balanced with acidity, and it manages to handle the 
oak much better. It certainly ages more gracefully and produces, 
I think, a final product which has a lot more intrigue. 

Actually, I wrote quite a long paper on the subject for the 
Napa Valley Wine Library. I went into a lot of depth about why 
you do, why you don t. Somebody was interested in really learning 
about why, I think, so they could look up 

Hicke: About what date was it? 



47 



Forman: I have it in there, and I ll give it to you. It was kind of a 
neat article. It really went top to bottom on malolactic with 
Chardonnay in Europe and California and why it was done, in the 
same manner we re doing it as an interview, but it turned out 
pretty well. So I ve really been very emphatic about staying with 
that conviction, that malo is no good for the region that we re in 
here. I think, actually, the public is now getting a little tired 
of these massively heavy, oaky, sweet Chardonnays. They re 
starting to say, "You know, I like these wines that don t have 
malo." It s coming back in fashion, you know? Don t throw your 
bell bottoms away. 

Hicke: [chuckling]. 
tt 

Forman: I may have started something with the sweet Chardonnay as well. 
Jess Jackson of Kendall- Jackson [Vineyards] came to me right in 
the midst of when I was having trouble with my partnership with 
Newton. Just as I bailed out of the partnership, he asked me to 
come and consult for him. This was some of the first wines he had 
made up in Lake County, and he was just getting started with 
Kendall-Jackson wines. He said, "Ric, I ve got some problems. I 
know you have some problems with your partnership, which I may be 
able to help you with"--because he was an attorneyand he said, 
"I have some problems with the wine that maybe you could help me 
with. Could we trade thoughts?" 

I said, "Sure, Jess, I d be happy to." So I went up there 
and discovered that he had tank after tank of Chardonnay that had 
stuck during its fermentation. It was left sweet. I did the best 
to retrieve as much of it as I could. But in the end, he had let 
it go for so long that we were unable to get a lot of the wine to 
go to dryness, and so I encouraged him to buy some wine from 
Tepiscay, which turned out to be very good wine and so good that 
he ended up buying the vineyards. 

We finally had to make some blends. I told him, "You know, 
I don t think, Jess, that the public is going to mind this. Why 
don t you go ahead and blend some of this sweet wine in there? 
It s not my style, by any means. I can t stand it. But," I said, 
"I think the public is going to like it." Wouldn t you know it, 
they flipped over it. It became the new thing, this sort of 
subliminal sweetness in Chardonnay, and people just went crazy. 
It was almost the same thing that happened with Bob Trinchero s 
White Zinfandel. They flipped over it, and it became the new wave 
in Chardonnay, and Kendall- Jackson was at the forefront with it. 



48 



Hicke: I ve heard it said that people like to say they like dry wine but 
actually 

Forman: Well, they do. Californians--they say warm and want cold; they 
want dry but really have sweet. We re a soda-pop-bred society, 
and it s tough for us to get into the real wine-drinking habits 
and styles that the Europeans have because we haven t been brought 
up that way. 

Hicke: It takes some education. 

Forman: Yes, it really does. You really have to know wine to like it. 
The more you know wine, the less you want these sweet, heavy 
wines. You want something to reach for and something that has 
intrigue and something that doesn t assault you when you drink it. 
Bigger is not better. 

Hicke: It s an intellectual challenge. 

Forman: It definitely is, and unfortunately, the current wine writers are 
promoting again this massive character, and it really saddens me. 
It s something I think we could end with, but I m deeply worried 
aboutbut that s a subject to wrap up with, I think. 

Hicke: You were talking-- 

Forman: We ve worked Chardonnay and my theories and developing ideas on 
how it evolved for me throughout the various places that I ve 
worked. 



Different Techniques Required in California Vineyards 



Forman: The Cabernet is, of course, very, very important, too. We did 

make Cabernet and Merlot at Sterling. I tried my best to produce 
something that was different than what had been produced here. I 
tried to take what I had learned and observed in Bordeaux and see 
what it did with the grapes here. I think it was more challenging 
than the Chardonnay. It s odd that the Chardonnay should have 
turned out to be immediately recognizable as a Burgundian style 
and that it was easier. 

The Cabernet turned out to be a much bigger challenge. The 
flavors were more diverse, depending on the vintage. I didn t, 
let s say, get it quite as quickly with that, or what I tried 
didn t work as well as I d wanted it to. I had to continually 
experiment with those. I m trying to remember the 1969 wine. 



Hicke: Yes, what was wrong with it? 

Forman : Well, some of the problems with it- -I don t think I really 

understood thoroughly the maturity level that was necessary. I 
don t think I really got that for a long time on these red grapes. 
In Bordeaux, the grapes don t ripen quite as readily as they do in 
the Napa Valley, and so these grapes are staying on the vine for a 
long time, and they re being picked in Bordeaux sometimes by need, 
because of the weather, and sometimes simply because they are 
maturewith less sugar, but yet the grapes are fully mature, 
meaning that the tannins have softened, the flavors are fully 
developed, the anthocyan and pigments are there, and even though 
the grapes are 22, 21-1/2, 22-1/2 sugar, they are mature. 

So I was assuming that perhaps this was enough in 
California, and picking the grapes with 22-1/2, 23 sugar was 
really picking green grapes in most circumstances. And so the 
tannins were hard, and the flavors were somewhat green. It just 
wasn t that round, supple wine that you were looking for. And so 
I had to learn this. Gradually, as I went along, I did learn it. 
I began picking, by 1973 on, much riper grapes. 

In some cases it required grapes that were 25, 26 sugar, 
which was not what I was after with alcohol, and I would add a bit 
of water to it, which was legal and is still. But I realized 
finally that California ripened grapes brought sugar on quickly, 
but it didn t necessarily ripen the fruit. And so I was having 
to, again, stick my neck out and say, No, I know everybody is 
traditionally picking Cabernet at 22-1/2, but if we have a healthy 
vineyard, it needs to be more than that. So I really did try it, 
and I think some of the wines from 1973 on actually are still 
very, very viable, and they re delicious. 

Hicke: Did you have a vineyard manager? 

Forman: No, I did pretty much that myself, guided some of the people. 

Towards the end there, we did take someone on, but I began guiding 
the vineyard as well as the winery. 

But I ll tell you one of the things I did then that I now 
have learned much later on in my career that was a mistake: even 
though I realized the grapes were not mature and required much 
more sugar and time on the vine to reach maturity, the chemistry 
still bothered me. I didn t like seeing these high pH s and low 
acidities. And so I was in the practice of adding a great deal of 
acid to these wines, both before fermentation and after. The 
wines were--phew! --they were powerful wines. They had this pretty 
strong hit of acid, combined with a fairly forceful, full flavor-- 



50 



granted soft, big tannin, but just the same, they required so much 
time to finally soften. 

I m now realizing that these acid additions aren t 
necessary, that the wines really do become balanced with a little 
less tending to the acidity and that they do age fine and they do 
hold up and have a stable cycle in their development, so I ve 
backed off a bit from that. I think a lot of California 
winemakers have. I think we were in the practice, as I was, of 
worrying too much about the pH. 

Hicke: As a result of your classes in enology? 

Forman: Oh, yes, it s a result of what you learn in school, that pH is 

very important to control the microbiology of the wine, the color 
of the wine, and that it s very risky to have a wine that s 
somewhat out of balance in pH. But if you look at the Bordeaux 
wines, they all have relatively high pH s. I don t know why early 
on I didn t get that. It s something that really kind of bypassed 
me. I didn t pay enough attention to it. And it took time to 
learn. 

Hicke: You had to wait ten years to see what happened. 

Forman: That was it. I think it s amazing how some of the wines at 

Sterling are still very, very viable and wonderful. I don t think 
they might be had I not added so much acid, but I think they would 
have been nicer wines earlier on. So it s just something that you 
learn over time. You force yourself to change, even though you 
have this thing in the back of your mind that tells you, "Oh, but 
be careful; you know the risks that go along with leaving a wine 
with high pH," but again you say, "But I want the flavor," so you 
weigh back and forth and try it. If it works, you go with it. 

It s kind of this risk winemaking, really. To go out and 
get these grapes fully mature and leave them in a somewhat natural 
state is very risky. But it s in the end, if it works, the 
ultimate flavor, what you re really after. That s what I think 
premium winemaking is all about. It s knowing how to deal with 
the risks and guide it along and avoid the risks because you know 
what s going on with the wine, in order to get the product that s 
very special in the end. It s easy to do it in a safer manner, 
but the end result is not a very exciting wine. 



51 



Taking Risks, and a Hands -On Management Technique 



Hicke: One thing that I wanted to ask you about was taking risks, because 
you re taking enormous risks. 

Forman: Yes, you take a lot of risks. You take a lot of risks leaving 
these wines with the lees, the Chardonnay. You take a lot of 
risks keeping them on the vine for a long time. You take a lot of 
risks in the cellar with wines that are perhaps not exactly at the 
right acidity level that would guard them against microbiological 
problems, and so forth. But if you re aware of the danger points 
and know how to watch for them and prevent them by simple 
attention, you can get through it. 

Hicke: So you just have keep things clean? 

Forman: Well, you have to keep things clean, and you have to--you know, 

it s really one of the reasons I spent so much time myself in the 
cellar at Sterling. Sterling only had usually three guys helping 
me. They were high school graduate kids, basically. They had no 
technical background. There was never an operation in the cellar 
that I wasn t there doing it myself. It s finally why I decided 
to leave. I just got tired of making 75,000 cases by myself. 

But I would be there. I would do it. I would make sure 
that all the rackings were done properly. I would make sure that 
when they topped, they topped properly. I knew the chemical 
analysis of the wines because I did it all myself. I had no lab 
assistant. I did everything. And I watched over every single 
part. I would climb all over the racks and taste the wines. I 
would be everywhere, at every point, and do all of the jobs right 
along with the cellar crew. I was part of the cellar crew. I 
would run the press always by myself. I never let anybody else 
run it. I did all of the important steps--! was there to do it 
and finally decided I just couldn t do it anymore, and so I left. 

It s still that way [sighs]. Here I am, fifty-four years 
old, and I m still running this winery by myself. I have no 
employeesat this one, none. I m getting a little tired of it, 
and I ll be glad when my son comes to join me. But this is the 
point I m trying to make: I can, for instance, rack Chardonnay and 
the last, final racking- -because I fined it so carefully--! can do 
in a manner that will allow me to filter the wine through a .45 
micron filter. I do this because, of course, I have no malo 
fermentation and I have to sterile-filter the wine to assure 
myself that in the bottle the odd malo bacteria doesn t begin 
growing . 



52 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



But if I were to allow just, you know, a normal cellar crew 
--a Mexican cellar helper or an American, it doesn t make any 
dif ference--they wouldn t take the care. They wouldn t know how 
to run that pump. They wouldn t be as mindful of the last barrel 
as they are the first barrel. But if I do it myselfbecause I 
know if I don t get it right, I m going to suffer the 
consequences I get it done. And so I can take risks where I 
wouldn t dream of allowing someone else in a winery to take risks 
because I know what to look for and I m guiding it. 

These are the differences. They add up to this ultimate 
quality. It s hard to articulate and hard for people to 
understand. I used to, for instance, sell some of the fruit that 
I finally bought a vineyard from, Star Vineyards. I d sell it to 
Shaw [Charles F. Shaw Vineyard and Winery] and I d sell it to--I 
think Ridge [Vineyards] bought some. Who else bought some? I 
can t remember. A few people bought it. 

But particularly at Shaw, where I was consulting, I d tell 
them all what to do. Of course, there, because I was a 
consultant, I wasn t doing it. I d tell them to do precisely what 
I do myself here, and when I d taste the wine, they were two 
different wines. Unless you do it yourself, it s not going to 
work. And so I ve been very strict in adhering to that principle 
all my life and career. I think my wines, no matter where I ve 
made them, kind of have my stamp on them. 

Again, I don t know how I can articulate what it is I do. I 
just do it. I do it myself. That s probably the most important 
point. And there are lots of little details along the way that it 
probably would never even be able to talk about because I do them 
so patently that I can t remember that I do them. 

Do you keep notes? 

Yes, I have a log. They hated me when I left Sterling. I never 
kept any notes, and so there was nothing to guide anybody after I 
left about what went on. I kept it mostly in my head. But since 
I have been here, I keep a log. It s fascinating. I make notes 
on my impressions of things; obviously, the analysis of things; 
and all of the important things the weather, what it was like at 
the time, what went wrong, what went right, why, what would I do 
next. I mean, it s a whole thing. Sometimes my mood--it s almost 
like a diary. I ve got two volumes of it, which do give this 
detail. It would be fun for people to read if they could read it 
[chuckling] . 

I think [Andre] Tchelistchef f did this and had sort of a 
treatise on how he made wine. I don t know whether it s written 



53 



or it s available, but I bet it would be fascinating. But yes, 
you re right, that does tell you how I think and how I make wine 
because I do write these things down. 



Sterling Wines in the Early Seventies 



Forman: So I made some Cabernets that were interesting at Sterling. Oh, 
I ll never forget: The second year I had one of the biggest 
disappointments in my career, I think. I had two real serious 
problems with wines that I producedtwo outright, total failures. 

One was the 1970 Cabernet. I did allow those grapes to get 
very ripe. I guess I was catching on quicker than I think I was. 
And the vintage of 1970 was rare in itself because we had that 
severe frost, and it knocked the crop down. I think we had 
twenty-three straight days of frost. You know, there wasn t 
enough water. There just wasn t enough fuel. There wasn t enough 
anything to take care totally of all the fruit. So everybody was 
dealing with a tiny harvest. 

It was a very warm year, and we made just very extracted, 
very delicious, wonderful, wonderful wines--one of the best 
vintages the Napa Valley had seen in many years. I managed to 
spoil the whole batch, which was shocking. How it happened: At 
the time, we were growing, and we had ordered some oak upright 
tanks, which I was thinkingbecause of the size that Sterling was 
going to try to achieve that we had to put wine right after 
harvest into oak upright tanks for a period of time, because I 
didn t think we were going to have space to have all the barrels. 

I was going to see what would happen if I aged wine in oak 
upright tanks for a year and then in barrels for the second year. 
I ve since given up that practice and realized that it s not the 
way to go. But it was part of my I didn t want to do it, but I 
had to compromise in some respect so that I could get everything 
into the program that they wanted at Sterling. 

We ordered these tanks from a company called Marcheve in 
France. Clever old Marcheve delivered the tanks and installed 
them just in time for the harvest, so I really didn t have a lot 
of time to pay attention to the quality of the tanks. For that 
matter, they looked fine. I soaked them up, rinsed them out, and 
bang! --put the new harvest into these tanks. 

Within a week, the wine starts smelling like smoked bacon. 
I thought, "My God, what in the world is this?" There were great 



54 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 

Hicke : 
Forman: 



concerns. I of course took the wine out of the tanks, but by then 
the wine had this smoky taste. It was almost a creosote taste. I 
had Tchelistcheff over, I had some of the professors from the 
university over, and we looked at the tanks. We finally decided 
that what had been done was the wood that had been used to make 
the tanks was not properly air dried. It was green. In the 
process of firing the tank and bending it, this green wood 
produced this creosote-like character in the wood. It wasn t 
recognizable just smelling the tank. It really kind of had a 
smoky, normal tank smell, but the minute you put wine into it, it 
extracted it from the depths of the wood where this creosote stuff 
had been formed. And so the entire batch was ruined, one of the 
best wines. It would have been very exciting in my career. 

It was bad, but it wasn t that bad, so we put it in barrels 
and we aged it. Today I never would have bottled it, but we were 
not sophisticated enough, nor was the public sophisticated enough, 
to know it. So we decided to try it. We bottled it, and, God, 
every time somebody would taste it, they d say, "You know, I 
really like the flavor of this" because the flavors were great. 
The richness, I mean, the extract. "But what s the smoky 
character?" I can t imagine how we allowed ourselves to do it. I 
always knew it, and I would always cringe. 

Even today, once or twice a year today, still, somebody 
says, "You know, I ve got a bottle of that 1970 Cabernet. It 
still has that smoky character." I thought, "Oh, my God, do you 
have to keep reminding me of that?" It was devastating to me to 
think what happened. So that was a terrible one. 

Did you have recourse to the barrel maker? 

Oh, yes. We sued them, and we got a lot of money out of them. We 
got all new tanks and everything, but still, the wine was they 
lived with it financially; I have to live with the fact that the 
wine is still out there. I just dreaded it. 

What could have been. 

Yes, what could have been a wonderful vintage. What it did was it 
made me more alert. You learn by mistakes, and clearly I made a 
lot of mistakes when I was starting out. 

What mistake was that? 

Oh, I should have paid more attention to the way the water tasted, 
but I hadn t enough experience. I just didn t have enough 
experience to know that those flavors weren t going to be right. 
I hadn t smelled enough new tanks, you know? Where was I going to 



55 



get the experience to do that? I had only been making wine for 
two or three years. So I was inexperienced, and it was my fault 
for not probably realizing that it was different and that perhaps 
I should have somebody else taste it. 

But 1 was under the gun also. The wine was there; we had no 
place to put it. One of those things you say, "Oh well, I guess 
it ll be all right," when you shouldn t have. I didn t have the 
maturity level or the experience to deal with it. Clearly, today 
I wouldn t do it. But then, there we are. That s how we learn. 

And I ll have to say, on Newton s behalf and Stone, the 
owner and everythingthey realized that I had made a big mistake, 
and they were very decent about it and never once really 
reprimanded me, never once. They were very good to me, I ll have 
to say. They really were. 1 was lucky that way. 

So we went on. And then 1971 rolled around, and we had ten 
days of rain before the Cabernet was harvested, so that was a 
disaster. 

Hicke: The Chardonnay was okay? 

Forman: The Chardonnay was fine. The Chardonnay was wonderful wine. But 
the red wasno, that was 72; 71 they just never got ripe again. 
I don t know. We had too much crop, and we made this very thin 
wine that had an aroma of orange peel. I ll never forget it. 
God, I thought, when am I ever going to make good wine here? I 
was really starting to wonder. 

Sixty-nine was an experimental year; 70, I destroyed with 
the smoky tank; "71, the grapes never got ripe. Seventy-two, we 
had ten days of rain. The only wine I made in 72 that was really 
spectacular and today it is still a wonderful wine was what I 
called Merlot but in fact it was 60 percent Merlot and 40 percent 
Cabernet 60 percent, and in those days you could call it if it 
was 51 percent. What it was was pre-rain grapes. It was the Bare 
Flats Merlot and the Three Palms Cabernet. These were both just 
wonderful wines, very intensely dark, very concentrated, fully 
ripe. I put them into all new barrels, and they handled the wood 
fantastically, and the wine today is miraculous. It s amazing how 
wonderful it is. 

So that was successful, but the rest of the wines were 
terrible. At least that made me feel good. And then, in 1973, we 
had a normal year. I d had plenty of experience to know when to 
pick and when not to pick, and I decided as well to finally launch 
into what we would call the Sterling Reserve, and I would pick the 
best lots from each vintage and make a small quantity of wine 



56 



which would go directly into barrels instead of into the uprights 
first and would be treated precisely as the wine was treated in 
Bordeaux, which was something I had wanted to do ever since day 
one. But I really couldn t do it until I felt that the grapes 
were ripe and until I had had enough experience. 

So we created this Sterling Reserve, and it was to be the 
first year in my career to make wine the way I really wanted to, 
as it was made in Bordeaux. From that point on, we made Sterling 
Reserve, and going from there to Newton and from Newton to here, I 
have made only that style wine avoided the upright portion, used 
only new barrels, and used the barrel-racking techniques and the 
fining in barrels and so forth. 

That was really wonderful. And thankfully, the vintage 
turned out to be beautiful. The 74 rolled around, and it was 
even better. The 74 Reserve today is still one of the classic 
74 wines. It s wonderful wine. And we really went along, and 
life was getting better. 

Hicke: What about the Sterling regular, other than the Reserve? 

Forman: Even the regular is nice, yes. They re both nice. But the 

Reserves are very special. The Reserves were the wines that were 
the pick of the litter, so to speak, and went directly in the 
barrel. So I stuck my neck out and made the blend early on, which 
was also very untypical of California. I still do it. It s 
pretty much what would happen in Bordeaux. So the Reserve wines 
were wines that aged as the final blend and were very much hand- 
done winesusually bottled unfiltered. I still bottle wine 
sometimes filtered, sometimes not, but I pay attention to the 
microbiology and let that be the determining factor of bottling, 
rather than the clarity. 

I ve managed to master fining to a point where the wine is 
always clear and that s a subject that I d love to talk about 
later, about clarity of wines and filtration. I have a real 
opinion on that at this date. 

Hicke: Do you have anything to do with determining the price niche or the 
marketing? 

Forman: Newton did that. This will be fun for people to hear. I remember 
when we came out in oh, I guess it waswhen was it? Between 69 
and 72. I remember having a very important discussion with 
Newton and Stone. My opinion finally was asked, and I remember 
being astounded at what they wanted to do and was not for it but 
ultimately gave in to it, and that was how we were to price the 
Merlot. 



57 



They said they wanted to charge five dollars a bottle for 
it. I [chuckling] said, "You can t charge five dollars a bottle 
for it. Nobody will buy it. That s way too expensive." 
[laughing] Isn t that classic? I said, "Beaulieu Private Reserve 
is four- fifty a bottle. How in the world do you think you re 
going to charge five dollars a bottle and have people swallow that 
one?" Isn t that amusing? 

Hicke: That is. How things have changed! 

Forman: Now if you don t charge seventy- five dollars a bottle, you haven t 
arrived to the party yet. It is a very amazing thing to look at 
and realize that this was twenty- five years ago, and we were 
looking at five dollars as being a high price to charge. God, 
what has happened! 

Hicke: Did it sell? 

Forman: It sold. Everybody loved it. Merlot was popular. It really 
charged right along. 

[tape interruption] 

Forman: We were discussing the wines at Sterling and the Cabernets and how 
they evolved and how I finally managed to get, by 1973, both ripe 
grapes and a system and finally a wine that I was really happy 
with because I was doing it the way I had originally observed in 
Bordeaux and I wanted so much to do myself. 

Hicke: Can you tell--I guess you must be able to--what it s going to 
taste like in fifteen years? 

Forman: Well, you can get some idea. I don t know if I was able to then. 
I think I can now. I don t know. I m able to--as any experienced 
winemaker is--I m able to look at brand-new wines, wines that have 
just finished malo, perhaps, and look through all of the fresh 
fermentation, yeasty, odd aromas and see what s behind it, look at 
the texture, the structure, and the flavors and the aromas and see 
what might go together and determine what the final product will 
be like. 

Hicke: You have to be able to do that in order to blend it, right? 
Forman: Yes, you do. You definitely do. 
II 

Forman: So Sterling was really becoming very exciting for me. I was 
getting confidence in myself by the time the 73 vintage was 



58 



completed. I saw then that I could deal with the volume, that I 
could produce unique wines. I was beginning to understand the 
vineyards, I was understanding the maturity level that was 
necessary, Sterling was becoming recognized as a new producer of 
quality wine, so I was having fun. We were planting new 
vineyards. I was getting more involved in viticulture. 

Hicke: Deciding what to plant and where? 

Forman: Well, I made those decisions along with the owners. We talked 
about it. We knew what we wanted to produce. I think we made 
some mistakes in the early days, planting so much Chardonnay up 
there, but it still made a very unique wine. It was sought after 
and it had its own style, so it wasn t perhaps as bad a mistake as 
you d otherwise think. 



Plant and Equipment 



Hicke: We never really talked about the building, designing the winery. 

Forman: Yes, designing the winery was a lot of fun. It was really 

fortunate that we were able to start the winery on nothing more 
than an open pad and a tilt-up building at the bottom of what was 
going to be the secondary winery, the final winery. I could test 
this equipment that I had. It was never going to be in its 
permanent location, so I could change it, I knew, if it was wrong. 

Actually, we bought a used press. I can t imagine why we 
kept it for as long as we did. We bought the old Wilma-style 
bladder press. I think we bought it from Robert Mondavi. Yes, 
exactly. It was the press that I had used at Robert Mondavi. 
They were upgrading. They bought a Bucher, which I wish we had 
had the good sense to buy, and we bought Robert Mondavi s old 
press. 

And we bought a brand-new Healdsburg Machine [Co.] crusher 
and a Healdsburg piston pump for the crushing equipment. And then 
we bought Miiller and Valley Foundry fermenting tanks- -of course, 
with all the temperature-control jackets and so forth, which were 
relatively new in those days but available, at least. 

Hicke: You made all these decisions? 

Forman: Yes, I had to go around, find these companies, and decide on where 
to put the valves and what type of valves to have and what kind of 
pumps to get and so forth. So we bought pretty much what was 



59 



available in those days. It was rather standard equipment: piston 
pumps, centrifugal pumps, and the bladder press, the Healdsburg 
Machine crusher- -which was a good crusher; it s a very good 
crusher. There are better crushers now available, of course, but 
in those days it was a very decent crushervery, very well built, 
very easy to clean, relatively gentle on the fruit. 

So we designed this plant with tanks ranging from 10,000- 
gallon capacity down to 3,000-gallon capacity, with stainless 
steel wine lines and must lines going to all the tanks. It was 
quite fun installing all of this and seeing how it worked. We 
operated it for- -let s see, 69, 70 and 71, and in 71 we began 
building and designing the winery that s now at the top of the 
hill. The old pad then became, after the new winery was done, a 
warehouse. 

To build the new winery, obviously, we wanted to put a great 
deal of thought into it- -more, certainly, than we had on this pad 
to get started at the bottom. Again, I did a lot of research, 
traveled to Europe, looked at more detail with the equipment that 
was available, talked with people around here about what they 
liked and what they didn t like. 

Dick Graff at that point had started working with Newton on 
his barrel project. He and I would do the research for it and 
gather barrels and so forth in Europe to sell in California. Dick 
and I would spend sessions together, laying out a winery on this 
unusual, sloping hill that we thought would be functional from the 
point of view of making wine. We worked on the interior design. 

A fellow named Martin Waterfield, the comptroller for 
Sterling International Paper, Newton s company, was a very clever 
sort of amateur architect, I guess you could say. He put a facade 
around the interior working design that Dick and I had worked on. 
So we came up with this sort of segmented winery that stepped down 
the hill, where we had at one level the fermentation and crushing. 
We put the crusher in a pit so that we didn t have to elevate the 
grapes coming up out of the receiver hopper, which I thought was 
an important thing and something that I had observed in Bordeaux 
and thought that that would be important, so that was unique. 

And we went from there into levels that dropped slowly down 
the hill. We had barrel rooms. I had observed in some of the 
I m trying to think where I saw this. I knew we had to stack 
barrels. I hated the thought of having to do it, but I knew we 
had to conserve space and stack barrels. But I didn t want to 
stack barrels on top of each other. I guess I did a lot of 
research on material handling companies. They had available at 
the time what we call a cantilevered rack. I was the first, 



60 



certainly, to bring those into the Valley and thought that this 
had to be a much better way to store barrels than to stack them 
one barrel on top of the other. 

I wanted to be able to get to the barrels, I wanted to be 
able to roll the barrels upside down and wash them, I wanted to be 
able to get into each barrel and inspect it. And so I was 
determined to find a system of stocking barrels without actually 
putting them on top of each other. These cantilevered racks 
really worked. They were both more attractive to look at and 
very, very functional. 

Hicke: Can you describe them? 

Forman: It was an upright beam with arms going off in opposite directions. 
On these arms, rails were attached. These beams were built of 
such a strength that they were able to actually extend out and 
hold the weight of a line of barrels on top of them. They were 
really just an upright post holding a series of rails. 

Hicke: Over the lower line? 

Forman: Yes, and we had them five high. So the barrels were in fact 

stacked five high, but no barrel was ever touching another barrel. 
They were stacked on these double-sided, cantilevered racks. They 
were really wonderful. 

Hicke: Where did you get them? 

Forman: I can t remember who supplied them, but there was a metal 

fabricating company who put them together for us. They were used 
in other industries to stack pallets on. I think, actually, I saw 
them at the McGraw-Hill Paper Company. I remember going there and 
looking at forklifts and noticing these racks and saying, "You 
know, these racks might be useful for barrels." And sure enough, 
they did work. I think other people began using them. That was a 
nice touch. 

So Dick and I laid it all out and figured that it would 
work. We hired Keith and Associatesthey were structural 
engineers--to draw and design the building. I guess one of his 
original buildings on wineries was Chappellet [Winery] , so he had 
had some experience putting wineries together. We all worked 
together and came up with what today is Sterling Vineyards and 
hasn t really changed, really, since then. 

It worked. It worked very well. It worked to the point 
where I only required three cellar workers and myself to finally, 
when I was there, produce up to 75,000 cases in the winery. It 



61 



worked really well. We crushed everything and operated the winery 
and bottled the wine, did all of the necessary functions with 
relative ease. I think it was laid out very, very nicely. Dick 
and I were quite proud of ourselves, in the end, for having put a 
winery together that was so simple to run. 

Hicke: And efficient. 

Forman: It was efficient. It was really efficient. 

Hicke: I think you said it was Martin-- 

Forman: Martin Waterfield? 

Hicke: Yes, who designed the cable car. 

Forman: Yes, he knew that we had to be involved in tours. He was an 

astute observer of the Valley and the way it was changing. He 
realized that it was going to be very tourist-oriented. Newton, 
actually, in his economy sort of sense of how the wine business 
should be run, said, "I think if we do this right, we can sell all 
of the wine out of the winery." And so they decidedwrongly, but 
they decided to gear the winery up so purposely around tourism 
that if it was, they thought, properly done, the wine need not be 
marketed in any other area. Well, of course, that proved to be 
dead wrong. 

But at least they got the function of the winery to the 
level where it really was an exciting place to visit. Martin 
conceived of this self-guided tour because he thought that the 
tours that currently were available in the winery were boring and 
people didn t want to be herded around. So he said, "I think we 
can design this whole thing with catwalks and gantries and a fun 
ride up to the place, where people will treat this as a 
destination point and really have fun, and also be educated." 

He was absolutely right. People loved it. I think today, 
still, it s probably one of the most fun places to visit. So he 
got that right. We did a lot of right things there and in the end 
made some pretty exciting wines, towards the latter part of when I 
was still working there. I m sure they still are. I think the 
wines are different today, but I think they re very good wines. 
They don t look like the wines I made. I know that. But, then, 
why should they? 

Hicke: Well, you didn t leave any notes. 



62 



Winemaking at Sterling Mid- to Late Seventies 



Forman: No, I didn t. That really irritated them. God, I ll never 
forget. A guy named Theo [pronounced TAY-oh] Rosenbrand was 
chosen to take my place, along with Sergio Traverse, so they hired 
two winemakers to take my place- -why, I m not sure- -but they did. 
They were just infuriated to think that I left absolutely no 
notes. Theo thought it was absolutely ridiculous- -Theo, of 
course, was the chief cellar master under Tchelistchef f at 
Beaulieu, so he had been responsible for really doing all the 
mechanical things necessary to make all the Beaulieu wines. So he 
came with a lot of training. He thought that the way I had made 
wine at Sterling was total nonsense. He couldn t understand the 
barrel-to-barrel techniques, and he couldn t understand fermenting 
Chardonnay in barrelsall of the things I did, he said didn t 
work. 



I remember he made the first wines there, and they were 
almost total flops compared to what had been made there. I 
thought that was very amusing. And they ultimately didbecause I 
left a guy in the cellar named Bill Dyer, who became, actually, 
the chief winemaker there some years later. But he brought them 
back to making wines the way he and I had made wines. I think 
they found that it worked a little better with their fruit and 
with the way the winery was laid out. 

Hicke: He was there, watching you? 

Forman: He was. I trained him. I had a most unfortunate circumstance, 
oh, about three years before I left. I had a cellar crew who-- 
well, I don t know. Maybe because I spoiled them. Who knows what 
the reason was? Maybe because they were not old enough to really 
understand what they had. But they became disgruntled with the 
pay scale and the benefits and one thing and other, and they just 
got more and more difficult to work with. I suddenly realized 
that they weren t doing what I really wanted them to do. Or, if 
they were doing it, they were doing it begrudgingly. 

And so I said, "You know, guys, "--I didn t even check with 
Newton or Stone about doing this, but I took it upon myself, which 
was probably a little lofty, thinking back at it, but at any rate, 
I said, "Guys, I don t think this job is really a happy one for 
you anymore, and I m suggesting that I think you better leave." 
So I fired the entire cellar crew [laughing], and I was left with 
absolutely no one. Newton and Stone were aghast to think that I 
did it. 



63 



Today, of course, we would have had the labor boards on our 
heels in no time. But I think, really, thinking back on it, it 
was probably the right thing to do as far as what evolved from it. 
This fellow, Bill Dyer, came strictly sort of off the street, 
realizing that I needed some help. He had the desire to make 
wine. He d fiddled around at working in the cellar at a winery in 
Soquel, down in the Santa Cruz area. But he was really just a 
philosophy major from University of California at Santa Cruz, I 
guess. A really very likeable guy and a guy who was very sharp 
and very eager to learn and very enjoyable to work witha step 
above the fellows that I had been working with, only because he 
was more educated. 

And so he jumped in with me, and we quickly found some more 
cellar crew, one of whom was Dennis Johns, who of course has gone 
to work at St. Clement [Vineyards] and made wonderful wines there. 
And a couple of other guys. We kept at it, doing what I had done 
in the past. Bill was a very quick learner, so that when I left 
by 1978, Bill had fully taken charge and knew what was going on. 
While they hired Theo and Sergio to run the place, they were 
short-lived there, and finally they sent Bill to school part-time 
at Davis and had Bill stay, and Bill was the chief winemaker for 
Sterling for a long time, up until about a year ago, when they 
fired himfor what reason, I ll never know. I think it was a big 
mistake. But it was, as I told him, probably the biggest relief 
of his life. He has since agreed with me [chuckling]. 

Hicke: What s he doing now? 



Forman: 

Hicke: 
Forman: 



He s consulting. 
Domaine Chandon. 



His wife, Dawnine Sample, is chief winemaker at 



I was wondering if that was the same Dyer. 

It is, it is. Bill is a terrific guy. Bill has a very good head 
on his shoulders and a very good knowledge of how to make wine. I 
think they were crazy to do what they did, but that s a 
corporation for you. 



Decision to Join Newton 



Forman: So that was Sterling. By 1978, I had kind of run my stay there. 
I had been there for ten years. I got interested in producing 
wine on a smaller level. Newton had come back, having left two 
years previously, when they sold the winery to Coca-Cola and said, 
"Ric, would you like to do a winery together? A small winery. 



64 



You design it. Let s go back to what you really want to do, make 
the classic wines that you want to make. We ll go out, we ll find 
some land, we ll design the winery you want the way you want to 
design it, and we ll be partners in this operation, not employer- 
employee." 

I thought, "My God, this is wonderful." My wife at the time 
didn t think it was so wonderful because she had trouble with 
Newton s somewhat controlling attitude towards me. I was pretty 
much mesmerized by him and would kind of follow him and do 
anything that he wanted to do. That was a serious problem for me 
and my family, but I--rightly or wronglywent ahead and did it 
anyway, and joined Newton. 

Hicke: Before we get to that, were there any major changes when Coca-Cola 
bought the winery? 

Forman: No, not really. Coca-Cola went right along with whatever 1 wanted 
to do. I had complete control there. See, Stone stayed on with 
Coca-Cola. So I still had part of the old feel there. He became 
the president. I reported to him, and it was no different, 
really, than reporting to him and Newton. So no, the Coca-Cola 
crowd didn t bother me at all. They had plenty of money, they 
would spend money, they would do what we needed to do, they bought 
a nice new press, which I loved. Finally, I didn t have to stand 
on that awful old press that I d had for so many years. So no, 
they were a good thing for me. 

Hicke: What did Newton do? You said he left at that point. 

Forman: He left. Newton is a very proud man. The minute he left, he 

really didn t think highly of Sterling anymore. He kind of looked 
a bit askance at Coca-Cola, I think--the whole concept of it all. 
I think he was proud to have owned Sterling, but having backed out 
of it, I think he was left a bit empty-hearted when he realized 
that he had put all this effort and really wanted it to work and 
then, because it was not making financial sense at the time, had 
to bail out of it. I think he was saddened by it, but he didn t 
want to admit it, that he really did want to be in the wine 
business. 

He and I still had a good relationship together, and so he 
thought, "Well, let s do it. Maybe Ric is ready to leave, too." 
And so he pretty much enticed me to leave. I would have stayed at 
Sterling, but he enticed me to leave because it sounded like a 
better deal. 



Hicke: What year was this? 



65 

Forman: This was 1978. I finished the harvest of 78 at Sterling, and in 
November gave notice and left. They were not very happy with it 
all, but they were very understanding, and what can you do when 
somebody feels like they need to go on? It s probably pretty 
amazing that right out of school I stayed at a place for ten years 
and did get it established and well on its way, so I didn t really 
feel like I left them in the lurch. I had a fully trained cellar 
crew that knew what was going on. I helped them pick the 
winemakers that were to carry on the operation. I didn t leave 
them a lot of notes, but I was there to talk to them. They 
managed just fine without me. 

So I went on to join Newton and was very excited about it. 
Unfortunately, my wife was not, and that caused a lot of trouble. 
But I was excited about the project and put a massive amount of 
energy into developing Newton Vineyard. 



66 



IV NEWTON VINEYARD, 1978-1982 
[Interview 3: March 3, 1999] it 

Vineyard Property 



Hicke: We just had gotten up to the beginning of Newton Vineyard. I know 
you had also been buying property here, but maybe it would be 
easier to come back to that when we talk about your own business. 

Forman: Let s start with Newton. I was at Sterling for two years without 
Newton. Newton sold to Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola remained. Newton 
suggested that I probably stay there as he left; it would help 
him, he said. I was wanting to make life easier for him because I 
still had allegiances to Newton, not to Coca-Cola. 

Hicke: Why would it have made it easier for him? 

Forman: He didn t want to leave them in the lurch without somebody to run 
the property. They knew I was capable of running it, obviously, 
since I helped build it and ran it practically by myself. He 
said, "Stay. They want that. I ll talk to you about 
possibilities later," and so I agreed to stay. 

About a year into my first year with Coca-Cola, Newton 
suggested that perhaps it would be fun to join as partners; why 
don t I start looking for property? I did. I looked at a number 
of pieces of property and ultimately found 750 acres of property 
above Madrona Avenue in St. Helena. It was a hilly property owned 
by the Meyer family. 

Hicke: Was it planted? 

Forman: It had no grapes on it, althoughit was very funny--the realtor 
that showed me the property said, "Look, I don t know whether 
you re after grapes or not, but this property certainly has no 
possibilities for grapes." I said, "Show it to me anyway." I 
said, "I don t quite follow. Do you see over there in the brush? 



67 



What do you think those are?" He said, "Oh, those are grape 
stakes." I said, "Sure they are. There were grape stakes 
probably during Prohibition, but the whole place has been taken 
over by forest," which is typical of many hillside locations. I 
said, "I know it doesn t look like it s easily plantable, but I 
see lots of potential here." 

Hicke: Is it on this side? [pointing to map] 

Forman: Yes, it s looking directly overit s all the hillside land up 
there. So I said, "I think it does have potential," and told 
Newton so, and of course we looked at it together and thought a 
great deal about it. He ultimately made a bid and bought it. 

Hicke: May I ask how much he paid for it? 

Forman: I don t think he paid a lot. I think he paid about $750,000, and 
it was 750 acres, about a thousand dollars an acre, which is 
unheard of, of course, today. Not very much was usable for 
vineyard, of course. We managed to get--oh, I must have planted 
fifty acres of it. I think he has planted an additional twenty. 
So it s not a high percentage of plantable land, but just the 
same, it was a very good deal. It had two homes on it. 

So there we were in 1978, in the spring. He bought the 
property, and asked, of course, formally at that point if I would 
join him as a partner. I was thrilled with the idea. My wife was 
not thrilled with the idea. I probably should have listened to 
her. In retrospect, that was a plea on her part that I didn t pay 
close enough attention to, and I realize it now and didn t then. 
I was so enthusiastic about the possibilities of really being an 
owner in a winery and launching off into a project which would 
challenge me and which would be of a scale that I could control. 
The whole scope of the thing was utterly about as exciting as it 
could be for me. 

And at that point I was still getting along personally, 
myself, with Newton. My wife, as I said, feared him. I didn t 
fear him. I found him exciting. He stimulated me and created the 
enthusiasm, and he was very instrumental in making me think and 
making me stretch, and so I wanted to do it. 

And so I said yes. I gave notice to the people at Sterling, 
one of whom happened to have been his former partner in Sterling 
International. He remained at Sterling after Newton left as well. 

Hicke: Michael Stone? 



68 



Forman: Michael Stone--and became the president. He soon left as well and 
went into the Department of the Army, serving under [President 
Ronald] Reagan as the Undersecretary of the Army. 

They were not terribly pleased that I was leaving, but I 
think understanding. Being a large corporation, Coca-Cola, they 
had seen people come and go, and they realized that I had been 
there for ten years and that obviously it was what I wanted to do, 
and that s what I had to do. So they said, "Go, and have our best 
wishes," which I thought was decent. 

I jumped right in with Newton directly after the harvest of 
1978 at Sterling. So I completed the harvest at Sterling, and on 
November 1st left, so the wines were just pressed and just into 
cooperage. I left them in the hands of Bill Dyer, whom I had 
trained over the last three years and had complete confidence in. 
And I helped them find replacement winemakers, as I mentioned 
earlier in the interview here, that I felt could helpone being 
Theo Rosenbrand, Tchelistchef f s key cellar worker at Beaulieu. 
And the other, Sergio Traverse , was someone I had known for quite 
a few years and who at that point, I think, was working at 
Concannon [Winery] . 

So here we are, starting the winter off in November of 1978. 
having to figure out what to do with this basically 750 acres of 
raw land. 

Hicke: It was hillside. 

Forman: Very hillside. There wasn t a flat piece on it. I don t think we 
got one flat piece of vineyard on it. Everything was terraced or 
in one angle or another, running up a slope or down a slope. 



Planting the Grapes 



Hicke: What was the soil like? 

Forman: The soil was varied. Some of the soils had a lot of clay. There 
were other faces that had red decomposed shale. There were 
sandstoney soils. We had many exposures, we had many elevations. 
We basically had to take the hill and look at it as little, 
faceted pieces of land that we could get. It was a massive 
challenge for me. I had run vineyards at Sterling, but not as 
seriously as I had to take this one on. I had used my technical 
background from school to kind of interject ideas on what I 
thought of crop level and pruning styles, but I had never really 



69 



gotten involved seriously in a planting project, nor in choosing 
varieties, cloneswell, we didn t do too much clonal selection in 
those daysbut rootstocks. 

And the fact of the matter is there weren t very many 
rootstock selections, either, because we only used one, obviously, 
which is why the Valley is falling apart. AXR was the rootstock 
of choice and availability at the time. 

Hicke: So you planted everything on it? 

Forman: Unfortunately. It has all been replanted at this point. I really 
had a big challenge on my hands. I had to first go out and find 
somebody whom I felt confident in who could put a team together. 
I had met a guy named Lupe Maldonado, a dear friend still today, 
who had been at Sterling, and I had kind of watched at Sterling 
and realized that he had more intelligence than the average 
Mexican vineyard worker. Spoke fluent English, which was helpful. 
He just had a nice personality, and I liked him. So I asked him 
if he would be interested in joining us. He was. 

So he and I put a team of employees together and jumped 
right into looking at what was plantable and what wasn t. We 
found a fellow who had worked with Sterling, clearing land on the 
Diamond Mountain property, who was willing to come and start 
clearing for us. In those days, there were no permits required. 
We just charged ahead. And so we took all slopes that we figured 
were farmable and where we could contain erosion and could farm in 
a relatively safe and rational manner. 

Knowing that there wasn t any flat, we had to look at all 
hillsides. We didn t try to take things that were too severe 
right in the beginning, just the more gentle slopes, and started 
clearing. The winter was mild that year, and we cleared almost 
all winter long and were ready to plant quite a bit of it in the 
spring. 

We developed the lake that was already on the propertyput 
a bigger spillway in it, got more water into it, and put this 
elaborate system of irrigation--! 1 11 never forget. I thought I 
was really more of a plumber than anything that year. I had to 
put in miles and miles of irrigation system and had to overcome 
huge pressure differences going from the lake all the way up to 
the top of the mountain. We were dealing with pressures of four 
and five hundred pounds per square inch, which is enormous on big 
pipelines. So we had pipes breaking all the time. 

I had to figure out how to put ditches through the mountains 
and how to put thrust blocks in things I never had to deal with 



70 



before and how to put irrigation systems in, and valves. On top 
of it all, how to lay out these properties. I was trained by a 
guy to work with a transit and to work with eye levels and to lay 
out terracesnone of which I had ever done before. But Lupe and 
I kind of were taught and taught ourselves and somehow laid out 
all of these terraces. 

I hired another friend, whom I had met at Sterling, who was 
still a very close friend and who does all of my soil contracting 
work, Gene Boiadjieff [pronounced BOYD-jeff ] , B-o-i-a-d-j-i-e-f-f . 
He s a terrific guy. Very, very bright and capable man with heavy 
equipment. And so he came in and did all the terracing. We put 
in drainage, and we put in the irrigation, we put in the stakes, 
we put in the trellis system, and phenomenally were ready to go 
and planted a great deal during the summer of 79. 

Hicke: Okay, I have to ask you a little bit more. How did you decide 

whether to do the terracing up and down or around? And I want to 
know what kind of grapes you planted. 

Forman: Okay. We had done quite a project just before I left at Sterling, 
at Diamond Mountain. A guy named Chuck Saunders helped lay the 
property out for Bill [William] Hill, who had started the project 
and then we ended up finishing it once we bought it from Bill 
Hill. So I contacted Chuck Saunders who was quite a character, I 
must say and he came over. He and I basically did most of the 
layout together until I figured I had caught onto the technique, 
and then Lupe and I finished. 

We just took a hill and in those days pretty much went with 
the contour. We d use a hand level or a transit and follow the 
contour around and put marking stakes every twenty- five or fifty 
or a hundred feet, wherever the visual ability allowed. These 
allowed, then, the tracker to come in and cut terraces to our 
marks . 



Hicke: The terraces were how wide? 

Forman: Oh, generally the terrace ended up being about eight feet wide 
but, of course, depending on the slope, the distance between 
terraces could be anywhere from nine feet to fifteen feet. The 
steeper the slope, the more distant the terraces would be because 
you had to take a cut and form a toe. 

Hicke: Would that plant one row of vines? 

Forman: That would only plant one row of vines. It s very wasteful of 

land, really, I ve since learned, and I almost never cut terraces 
now. We go straight up and down the mountain. At the same time, 



71 



I came and did my property here, because I had purchased this 
piece. I put terraces on this piece. Well, I have since 
replanted this piece, and I wiped all the terraces out, and I go 
straight up and down the hill, as they would in France. You 
actually end up having less erosion by going straight up and down 
the hill. You move and disturb much less soil, and you get far 
greater density and more use out of the land. I didn t know that 
in those days, and so we cut all these terraces, and there they 
are. They still remain. 

Varietieswe knew we wanted to do Cabernet and Chardonnay-- 
Cabernet meaning we wanted Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and 
Petit Verdot, which I had at that point determined were all very 
valuable as blending grapes in and amongst themselves. 

Hicke: Did you keep them separate in the plantings? 

Forman: Oh, yes. We planted separate slopes, slopes that had the most 

extreme exposure and austere soil to Cabernet; the more clay-like 
soils, we planted Chardonnay on. One particular soil that was 
very rocky, I felt the Franc would do well on. We switched it 
around here and there. Of course, most of the production, most of 
the planting was Cabernet, because we wanted the Cabernet to 
dominate. 

We planted no Chardonnay on the property. However, we did 
decide that we wanted some Sauvignon Blanc and planted a fairly 
good hillside with Sauvignon Blanc. In retrospect, I think it 
would have been much better to plant Cabernet there. I think at 
this point, since they replanted, they did put Cabernet there. 

Hicke: Why? 

Forman: It made interesting wine. Well, it was red soil, fabulous 

exposure, and would have produced very high-quality red grapes, I 
think. 

Hicke: Which would have been a better use of the property? 

Forman: Much better use, but Newton wanted Sauvignon Blanc, and I was 
fascinated with Sauvignon Blanc. We had no idea at that time 
where to get quality Sauvignon Blanc, so we decided to plant our 
own. Considering what you can get for a bottle of Sauvignon 
Blanc, it was a bum choice financially. I m sure it has been 
changed at this point. Interesting working with the grapes, but-- 

Hicke: Is that because you wanted the Bordeaux varieties? 



72 



Forman: Yes, we wanted a Bordeaux theme, but we also realized that we 

should think Chardonnay. We bought the Chardonnay from a vineyard 
at that time that was called the Adamson Vineyard. It was down in 
Rutherford. I since have purchased that vineyard, and I own it 
now, along with Reg Oliver. We re general partners in the 
vineyard we now call Rutherford Star. 

I produced at Newton the first harvest for that vineyard in 
1980, and it was spectacular wine, and it s still very good wine; 
it hasn t gone over the hill yet. Eighty-one and 82 were all- 
some of the best Chardonnay I ever made. They were really very 
good wines. Extremely rich, extremely long lived, and very 
concentrated that wonderful French Meursault sort of creme brulee 
character. 

I determined that I liked that vineyard very much, which, 
after having left Newton, was very excited to be able to buy, 
along with Reg Oliver, who is by far the largest owner of the 
vineyard; he owns the highest percentage of it. But it has been a 
great vineyard to work with. It has been the vineyard that I ve 
made almost alland certainly now, all of the Chardonnay for 
Forman Vineyards from. 

Hicke: Let s go back to 78 and 79. 

Forman: It was quite amazing that I left Sterling in 78, joined Newton in 
November of 78, cleared and planted in the spring of 79 the 
vineyard, as well as designing, building, and completing the 
winery for the harvest of 79. I don t know how we ever did it. 
I have no idea how we did it. 

This is what happened and what I m sure my wife realized was 
going to happen: Newton totally mesmerized me as to grabbing hold 
of this project, making it happen, and making it happen today, 
rather than tomorrow. And so I worked nonstop to the point of, of 
course, forgetting that I had another life; i.e., my family. So 
that began to fall apart, which was unfortunate. I did succeed in 
finishing the winery. 



Building and Equipment 



Hicke: Let me ask you about building the winery. 

Forman: The winery was an immense task. We determined that we wanted 

underground cellars. They ve since dug tunnels, as have I on my 
property, but we didn t know that the technology really existed 



73 

then. I insisted that I wanted an underground cellar, as did 
Newton, so that we could have better control of humidity and more 
natural control of temperature. 

We had a semi-hillside location that we chose to build on. 
We found an excavation company that came in and carved, literally, 
a notch into the hill. We put the cellar in the notch, and then 
we put a very strong roof on the cellar, and we buried it with 
about six feet of soil. It did manage to keep the cellar fairly 
cool. We ran into a severe humidity problem, however, that I had 
never experienced before and ran into a lot of trouble with in the 
1980 harvest. I ll explain that in a minute. 

But the cellar was unique. It had compartments that we 
could keep at different temperature levels during harvest, which I 
did have air conditioning for because I realized that if I was 
going to ferment, I had to keep the cellar very cool, so we had 
compartments for temperature control and a very simple, 
straightforward layout for a winery that was designed to produce, 
we thought, no more than about 8,000 cases. 

We had a very neatly designed, octagon-shaped crushing pad 
directly above the cellar, with around the perimeter of the 
octagon, all the fermenters. We bought some really neat--at that 
time, we thought crushing equipment. The Demoisi crusher had 
just come out. This was the latest technology. Came from the 
experiment station in Beaune [France], for crushers. It was 
indeed a very good crusher and remains to be so today, one of the 
two best crushers. 

We bought a membrane press, which was just being offered on 
the market as the latest technology in pressing, which it indeed 
was as well and still remains to be. So we had great equipment- 
nice, small fermenters; good crushing equipment. I designed self- 
tilting gondolas which we would haul through the field, and we 
could harvest one-ton batches, which was very convenient, I 
thought, for quality. We got to the crusher in a matter of 
minutes from picking. 

So everything was done on a smaller scale than at Sterling 
and more in keeping with the tradition that I experienced in 
Europe and tried to experience at Sterling, and now felt fully 
capable of having a complete handle on. 

Hicke: You mentioned that you took new role in viticulture. Is this what 
you re talking about: the complete designing of the vineyard and 
all that? 



74 



Forman: Yes. I d never been used to the fact of having to design 

irrigation systems and actually install them myself, to the level 
of involvement in planting and to the level of involvement in 
layout. I was really for the first year a viticulturist, in every 
sense of the mannerfrom actually doing the physical work to 
doing the layout to ordering all of the supplies. I learned a lot 
by doing it. I learned how to be a good viticulturist. Even 
though I had the technical background from school, I had none of 
the practical background, but I learned in a big hurry. 

Lupe was very helpful to me. He came with a lot of 
experience and a lot of knowledge. The two of us, I think, did a 
fine job. I would have done it differently today than then, but 
we always continue to learn if our eyes are open. Things change. 
Ideas change. Today we would plant the vineyard closer. We d use 
European clones. Obviously, the rootstocks have changed 
dramatically. The trellis systems are no longer T trellises; we 
use vertical trellis systems. We no longer terrace grapes; we go 
straight up and down the hills. The irrigation systems are 
somewhat different, although we re still using the drip 
irrigation. Fertilizer injectors are now available. I mean, it s 
almost like night and day today, compared to then. 

But since I ve continued to plant vineyards and actually 
joined David Abreu in his original days, with his vineyard 
management company, and helped him along through our visits to 
Europe, we have both evolved together, and our viticulture is 
leaps and bounds ahead of what it was in 1978. 



Cooperage: The Forman Barrel 



Hicke: What about cooperage? 

Forman: Cooperage--! really have stuck with the same coopers from day one 
at Sterling through my current practices at Forman Vineyard. We 
liked Nadalier then and introduced Nadalier into California, and 
I m still using a high percentage of Nadalier barrels for the red 
wine. Always chateau barrels, what we call Chateau Barrique. It 
was actually a barrel that I invented. I liked the thin-staved 
Bordeaux chateau barrel, because I felt that the flavor was 
different than the export barrel they were selling when we 
originally introduced them into California. 

I realized that the smoky, harsh taste of the transport 
barrel that they wanted to introduce into California was too 
strong, and I wanted to try some of the chateau barrels. Did try 



75 



them, found that the taste in the chateau barrels was much more 
similar to what I noticed the wines of Bordeaux in Bordeaux tasted 
like, realized that the thin staves had a lot to do with it. They 
were less difficult to bend, took much less fire, and acquired a 
far different flavor because of the firing technique. 

So I ordered these barrels. And for some time, the barrels, 
of course, came in the traditional manner, with the chestnut hoop 
on them, and they looked very fine when you had a non-humid 
cellar. But in the humid cellar, these chestnut hoops fell apart 
within months. So I said to Jean- Jacques, "How about giving me 
the same barrel, but instead of the chestnut hoops put a wide hoop 
on the ends." He said, "Great, I guess we ll call it the Forman 
Barrel, so when you order we ll know what they are." 

And so they did, for about three years, and then other 
people started seeing these barrels and wanting them. They 
actually started selling a large percentage of these barrels to 
the point where now, I think, almost all of the barrels are being 
purchased chateau-type, rather than transport-type. Of course, 
they had to change them from Forman to something else, so they re 
now calling them Chateau Barrique. 

Hicke: And you didn t get a patent! 

Forman: No. They re even starting to use them in Bordeaux now. A small 
point, but I did start something. 

Hicke: Fabulous! Do the thinner staves allow more air through? 

Forman: Perhaps there s a bit more. That could be part of the factor as 
well. But there s a dramatically different flavor. So that was 
the Bordeaux barrel. 

I ve used other people s barrels. I ve used Demptos, I ve 
used Sorie, I ve used Sylvan, and I m using a mixture of other 
barrels that I find with subtly unique characteristics, and very 
nice as a blending component with, always, Nadalier. I always use 
some Nadalier. 

But on the Chardonnay side, I prefer the thicker-staved, 
Burgundian barrel, and I ve found through experimenting with many 
different coopers that I go back always to Francois Frere as being 
the flavor that I like best and that matches my style of 
Chardonnay best. These have a totally different flavor than the 
Bordeaux barrel. They re very thick-staved. They have a smokier, 
more cinnamon-like character, much more aggressive character, I 
would say. But it somehow brings out that toasty, creme brulee 
character from the fully ripe Chardonnay that I like. 



76 



Hicke: What about the reds? 

Forman: The reds, always in Bordeaux, the Bordeaux thin-staved barrel. 

That also seems to be more appropriate. It has a more violet-like 
character, a more vanilla-like character, and that seems to blend 
better with the red wines, Cabernet, than that cinnamon sort of 
smell that the Burgundy barrels have. 

Hicke: I m going to turn this over. 



Winemaking Techniques 



Hicke: In your winemaking, were you doing anything different from what 
you had done at Sterling? 

Forman: I started doing things a little differently. The Chardonnay was 
handled pretty much the same, except for the fact that we were 
picking in smaller batches, we were using the Demoisi crusher, and 
in fact, yes, I would say there was one dramatic difference. The 
Demoisi crusher had the ability to take the de-stemming device 
out, and so I was crushing whole clusters, just crushing the whole 
clusters without de-stemming them, so we were crushing with whole 
clusters. This gave us a clearer juice, added a bit of tannin 
material from the stems, and I think did add a different quality 
aspect to the juice and wine than I was getting at Sterling. 

The barrels were the same. I would say that the other 
unique aspect of handling the Chardonnay at Newton versus Sterling 
was that I would leave the wines in barrels with lees for a much 
longer period of time. At Sterling I was in the habit of taking 
the wine off the lees within a month after fermentation. At 
Newton I experimented with leaving the wine on the lees. Dick 
Graff and I were experimenting with it at the same time, and I 
think we were certainly some of the first to try this. 

Found that it added a very nice character to the wine. It 
lengthened the flavor of the wine and added that toasty Chardonnay 
flavor that we were all looking for, that sort of richness that 
they were getting out of Burgundy that we never seemed to be able 
to get and that this was helping us with. So I would leave the 
wine with the lees for up to six months before we d rack it. So 
the combination of stems versus no stems at Sterling, and leaving 
on the lees for six to six-plus months was, I think, quite a 
deviation. 



77 



Hicke: When you say it lengthened the flavor, does that mean it lasts 
longer on the palate? 

Forman: It s both an actual flavor, and it s the texture that it gives. I 
think it gives richer texture to the wine, and it gives that 
toasty sort of autolysis character that you get from champagne. 
Champagne, after all, is sitting with the lees in the bottle, in 
bottle- fermented champagne, for as much as five years. We get 
that really toasty, autolyzed yeast character which is, again, a 
flavor as well as a richness. 

The same thing is happening to Chardonnay, sitting with the 
lees in the barrel. It did prove to make the wine far more 
sophisticated. It s obviously being used extensively today with 
anybody who s serious about making Chardonnay. But it was 
considered fairly unique and a bit out there in those days. It 
was considered to be risky. Actually, it was barely even 
considered! People didn t even know about it. We experimented 
with it. Other people heard about it and were interested in it at 
the same time, and, just as barrel fermentation caught on, so did 
the sur lees technique catch on. 

Other practices that I experimented with were adding no 
sulfur dioxide [S0 2 ] to the juice before fermentation, something I 
didn t do at Sterling but I did at Newton. The juice would 
oxidize severely in the press, but this oxidized, polyphenolic 
material would settle out during the settling process, and after 
fermentation, the wine would become clear, and I think more clear 
than had we added S0 2 , which we ve discovered is to be expected. 
And I think it would be less prone to oxidation after 
fermentation, and it seemed to have less bitter characteristics 
than wines fermented with sulfur dioxide. 

The risk was that malo would start. I never would at 
Sterling, Newton, or Forman or anybody that I would ever consult 
for- -encourage malolactic in white wine. The sulfur would have to 
be added directly after fermentation. But I did like the result 
of it. I m trying to think why I steered away from it, because I 
have steered away from it. In fact, this last harvest I was going 
to experiment again with it and, in the fury of the harvest, never 
did. I had other things I was working on. 

Hicke: Are you talking about malolactic? 

Forman: No, I m talking about the addition of sulfur with white juice. I 
think I was worried basically about the lactobacillus infection, 
because there was a real upswing of it in the early eighties or 
mid-eighties and into the nineties. So I began worrying more 
about that than the oxidation or non-oxidation of polyphenolics. 



78 



So I started adding sulfur again when I began working with my 
Chardonnay at Forraan Vineyard. But it s an interesting technique, 
one I plan on fiddling with again. 

Where are we? 



The 1979. 1980. and 1981 Wines 



Hicke: Well, we ve only gotten up to 1979, as far as I know, the summer. 
When was the first crop? 

Forraan: The first harvest was 79. We bought Chardonnay, as I mentioned, 
from Adamson and liked it very much. We bought Cabernet from--oh, 
where did we buy it from?--oh, some of the Carmine grapes. The 
Chalone people offered us Cabernet, and we bought some from the 
Sea Ranch, which is now the Disney property, Silverado Vineyards. 
We bought Cabernet Franc from the Frediani Vineyards up in 
Calistoga. We bought some Cabernet from Spotteswood [Winery] . 
And we bought Merlot from the Silverado Vineyard Ranch, and we 
bought Merlot from the Narsai David Ranch. We bought Chardonnay 
also from the Pun Ranch in Rutherford. And we bought Sauvignon 
Blanc and Semillon from the Polisa Ranch down in Yountville. I 
think those were pretty much all the grapes we purchased, 
obviously in the first year. 

The 79 wines were pretty attractive, I think. Because of 
the problems that I later had with Newton and because of the 
difficulties that the whole project was creating for me in my 
private life, with my family, my memories of a lot of actual 
happenings of fermentation, the season, the experiences, the way 
the wines turned out are not as clear in my mind as times at 
Sterling or times after Newton. 

I would say that one of the most serious problems that I 
ever encountered with winecompared perhaps equally to the scope 
of the problem that we had at Sterling with the smoky tanks- -was 
the catastrophe with the 1980 Cabernet. As I mentioned, we had a 
very humid cellar, and in 1980 I determined that I wanted to warm 
the cellar for the completion of malolactic in barrels of the red 
wine. I also decided that it would be interesting to use glass 
bungs as I had seen used in Bordeaux. 

What I didn t realize was that the humidity and heat and 
glass bungs, which were constantly in contact with the wine but 
not creating a tight seal, were posing a very serious threat to 
the spoilage of the wine from introduction of acetobacter. Within 



79 



one week of putting the wine into barrels, which was basically 
directly after fermentation, I noticed that the cellar every 
morning had this odd, acetobacter smell. I would look at the 
bungs and, sure enough, there was a little ring of slime around 
the bung. 

I would immediately every day clean the bungs, thinking that 
I was dealing with it and that it wasn t getting into the wine. 
By the second week, the aroma was still there and so I realized I 
had to deal with this and that I was creating something unnatural 
in this environment of humidity and heat and using the glass 
bungs. And so I replaced the bungs, but at that point the wine 
had already jumped up to almost the legal limit of volatile 
acidity. 

I caught the problem, but I didn t catch it in time. It was 
sickening to me because the wine was a spectacular wine. The 1980 
vintage was going to be--just as the 1970 vintage at Sterlingwas 
going to be a wonderful wine. Because of the rapid production of 
acetobacter, I actuallywell, I think I pretty much almost 
spoiled the wine. 

Hicke: You can t innovate, I think, without having things like that 
happen. 

Forman: Today we have the equipment. We have osmosis filters that could 
get rid of the VA [volatile acidity] very readily. In fact, I 
know a lot of wineries who make very, very high quality wines who 
use these for either dealcoholization or getting rid of the 
volatile acidity, particularly wineries who age longer than two 
years in barrels. It s very useful. 

That didn t exist then, and I was trying to do some very 
clever things that backfired on me. I learned a lesson, brutally. 
Actually, it was in that year that the silicone bungs came out 
from Europe. Of course, that solved the problem immediately, 
sealing the barrel very tightly. But it was too late, and it was 
one of those very sad lessons that I learned. 

The wine was not so seriously affectedit was sold in bulk 
--but it was spoiled to the point where I could recognize it, and 
I wasn t that proud of it. It was kind of like the 70 Cabernet. 
It was the second year out. We needed a product to sell; we did 
bottle it, and a lot of people liked the wine. But we held most 
of it back. I ended up taking the wine back during the 
dissolution of our partnership, as part of the settlement of our 
partnership, and developed a label around it, which I still use 
today. 



80 



I had to take the wine. It was bottled. So I had to call 
it something. I didn t know what, really, to call it. I wasn t 
going to put it under Fonnan. We obviously couldn t put it under 
Newton. My winery is on Big Rock Road, so I thought, "Well, 
what 11 I call it? I think I ll call it Chateau le Grande Roche, 
Big Rock." It was cute enough. I developed and designed kind of 
an attractive label. As I say, I still use it for grapes that I 
buy. 

We sold the wine, and, actually, it became very popular at 
that point. I sold it at a pretty reasonable price--! think five 
dollars a bottle. All the places I sold it to, the people 
actually loved the stuff. So I turned a disadvantage into an 
advantage by selling it at a reasonable price. It had been in the 
bottle at that point long enough. It wasn t all that bad. It 
just wasn t the wine that Newton and I really wanted. It wasn t a 
disaster wine, but it wasn t our premium wine that we were looking 
for. 

I took it, and I sold it, and forgot about it. 
Hicke: It worked. 

Forman: But anyway, getting on to further things at Newton: The red wines 
were fermented in these small tanks, kept separately, put into 
pretty much all new barrels every years. My racking system that I 
had developed at Sterling and learned in Bordeaux was used and 
strictly adhered to: racking out of the head of the barrel, egg- 
white fining in the barrel. Really nothing too different from 
what I had done at Sterling. 



Dissolving the Partnership 



Forman: And I made some very nice wines 79, 81, 82. The wines were 
really quite delicious. The Merlot was very wonderful. These 
were all from purchased grapes and really by the time I realized 
that I had to leave Newton, the grapes that I had planted were 
just coming on, so I never really got to harvest any of the grapes 
that I planted. I gather they make quite a nice wine. 

Hicke: Did you design the label? 

Forman: No, Sua Ha designed the label, Peter s wife. I had nothing to do 
with the label. Obviously, these were part of the problems. By 
the time 81 rolled around, we had had two vintages. My wife was 
pretty fed up with the whole affair, of me having to spend so much 



81 



time there. The wine label was supposed to be Forman Vineyard, 
and Newton decided he didn t want it to be Forman Vineyard; it was 
going to be Newton Vineyard. 

I lived with that, but I also realized that there were other 
things going on that were not probably going to work out for the 
better for me. 

Hicke: He must have told you that it would be under your label. 

Forman: He had. He made a promise. We even had stationery made. It s 
funny. And then that changed. Well, 1 could see how he was 
developing the property and how much money it was costing and that 
we probably never were going to become profitable, and that the 
fact that we were never going to become profitable was not a 
concern to him but obviously it was to me, because if I was to 
ever really realize the benefits financially from this massive 
amount of effort that I put into it, it would mean that we would 
have to become profitable. 

I just didn t see it happening. So for better or worse- 
there were other things that went on that are not necessarily at 
this point even necessary to discuss, but obviously, differences 
arose, and I was no longer comfortable there. And so, in the fall 
of 1982, just after the harvest of 82, I informed Newton that I 
no longer wanted to be a partner with him and that I wished to 
dissolve the partnership and that I wished to extract from the 
partnership what I felt was my fair share of the partnership, 
financially. 

Unfortunately, he didn t agree that there was anything 
financial for us to divide. I felt differently, and so the whole 
affair had to fall into the hands of attorneys, and we struggled 
with it for a year. And in and amongst that time, my family 
dissolved, and so there was a period there in 1982 where the 
family separated, I separated from Newton, and went on my way. It 
was a very black time, I must say, of my career. 

But I didn t let it get me down. We ultimately did resolve 
the problem in 1983. We didn t leave amicably, unfortunately, but 
we left. I began consulting and, in the dissolution of my 
marriage, ended up keeping the property which I now live on and 
have the winery. And so I began developing Forman Vineyard. 
Along the way, I consulted for a number of places, most seriously 
with Charles Shaw Winery. 

I ended up beginning and really introducing his white wine 
programs, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as fine-tuning 
and perfecting his theme of producing Camay Beaujolais in the 



82 



traditional carbonic fermentation used in Beaujolais. So I worked 
with him very closely as the winemaker for 1982, 83, and 84 
harvests. 

While so doing, also put together the Woltner Winery, W-o-1- 
t-n-e-r, for the people who used to own Chateau La Mission Haut 
Brion, and helped design that winery. Hired Ted Lemon as their 
actual winemaker, and continued to consult for them. And 
consulted a bit for Villa Mt. Eden and Inglenook--all the while 
planting my vineyardwell, my vineyard I actually planted in 
1979, when I was at Sterling, so fortunately I had that. 

Hicke: Yes. Before we go too far, let s go back to your finding the 
property because we haven t even talked about that. 

Forman: Oh, yes, we haven t even talked about that. So anyway, the Newton 
period of my life I m certain there are other things that could 
be highlighted, but it was not a happy period of my winemaking 
career, and it s probably well enough just to leave it at that. 

We found the property, I learned a great deal about 
viticulture, we built a unique underground facility, I produced 
some wines, had one very unfortunate circumstance with a wine, but 
also made some very interesting wines some wonderful Chardonnays. 
Some of the best Chardonnays I ever made in my career were made 
there. A very unique Sauvignon Blanc and some very nice Merlots 
and one or two good vintages of Cabernet. And then it was over. 



83 



V FORMAN VINEYARD, 1983 TO PRESENT 



Selecting and Developing the Vineyard Property 



Forman: But where did I go from there? I consulted and developed my own 
property. How did I find my own property? I had determined, 
along with my wife, that we wanted probably to get out of town and 
have a property in and around the hills of town somewhere. 

Hicke: This was in the seventies? 

Forman: We began thinking about it in 1976, the year our son was born, 

Toby. In 1976, while I was still at Sterling, I started looking 
in the hills. Oh, we d look all over, all the way from past 
Calistoga to various places realtors would show us in and around 
town. I can t remember how I stumbled on this property except 
that Vern Halley--a really wonderful guy, still a very close 
friend and realtor in townsuggested that I hike up on what s 
called today the Woodbridge property but I don t think it had a 
name. He just said, "Go hike up in those hills above Meadowood 
Lane, above the town of St. Helena. You ll find some old dirt 
roads, and see what you think of it. It s not currently for sale, 
but I think it will be. It s owned by Harry See," of See s Candy, 
actually, and the first owner of the Silverado Vineyards today. 
And a guy named Fred Holmes, who was a very interesting guy. I 
never met him, but he was very interested in the wine business, a 
partner both of Robert Mondavi and [Joseph] Heitz. 

So they owned, as a partnership, this hillside above town. 
I believe it was four parcels and approximately a hundred acres, 
about twenty- five acres a parcel. So I did hike up the road and 
wow! I knew instantly that I had found what I was looking for and 
that it was exactly what I wanted to develop into a vineyard. I 
came up this little dirt road, kind of walked through the trees 
into what had been a meadow, looking carefully at what had 
obviously also been a vineyard but had grown back into forest and 
sort of brush land. But everywhere I walked, I looked down and 



all I saw were pink sort of pocky stones, volcanic gravel bed, and 
I thought, Wow, this is very unique. 

It was the right color. I love the red-colored soils. They 
produce really characteristically powerful and long-lived red 
wines. 1 saw that the soil was obviously very well drained, that 
it had beautiful southern exposure, and that obviously someday, 
somebody in the probably pre-Prohibition days had taken the effort 
to clear it and probably grown very unique vines, because here and 
there I could see vines that had rotted trunks, but I could tell 
by the caliper of the trunk that the vines had flourished. 

Hicke: You re demonstrating about six inches in diameter? 

Forman: Well, yes. Four to six, yes. They were good-sized trunks. Very 
well spaced, in the tradition of those days and Europe. Also I 
realized, by finding a few stakes here and there and could line 
them up, that they had planted this thing on five by five spacing. 
I had never seen anything in the Valley that close. The closest 
I d ever seen was eight by eight, so five by five spacing was 
very, very unique. It meant that the soil had to be quite deep, 
because obviously they never irrigated the soil here. 

To get a vineyard out of five by five spacing, to grow vines 
of this size meant that the soil had to be very well drained and 
very deep. And to have that combination also on a hillside 
location spelled quality. It was also a size that I thought I 
could manage. It looked like it was about five or six acres of 
plantable land. It was rolling on part of it, and part of it went 
up and had been terraced, it looked like, with brush growing on 
all of the terraces. 

Hicke: Is this over there? [points out the window] 

Forman: Yes, this is that piece, yes. I went after it. Asked the owners, 
through the realtor, whether they d sell. They fiddle-faddled 
around and ultimately said yes, they would sell. I think I bought 
it in the fall of 1977, at a remarkable price. I paid a little 
over $3,000 an acre for twenty- five acres, which is utterly 
ridiculous today, particularly considering the quality. 

And so in 79, while now at Newton, I used the same tractor 
driver and tractor to clear this piece as I did Newton, so I was 
planting Newton and this at the same time. Planted it in 79-- 
again, unfortunately, with AXR. I should have paid attention 
because the vineyard had been planted with St. George before, and 
I should have used St. George. Some of the rootstock was still 
growing even a couple of years ago, when I took the old vineyard 
out. It survived two vineyards. 



85 



So anyway, I planted AXR, because that was the practice in 
those days, and used the Martha s Vineyard clone Cabernet, which I 
had also used to plant Newton I forgot to mention that, but we 
felt that the Martha s clone was unique. I ll tell you why. This 
is interesting, too. I never mentioned this. When I was in 
school, I wanted to plant a vineyard at my parents summer home up 
in Grass Valley. I went to [Albert J.] Winkler at the university, 
and I asked Winkler, "If I were going to plant a vineyard, I m 
going to plant it up in the Grass Valley area." He said, "That s 
probably a pretty good area. It s warm, but it has cool nights, 
and I ll bet your Cabernet will ripen and it will produce some 
very good wine." 

So he said Cabernet would be recommended. He said, "Why 
don t you go over to the experiment station in Oakville, and I ll 
tell you the row numbers. Get the bud wood from there. We re 
taking it out next year, but," he said, "I think this is very 
unique Cabernet, and I think it could actually be defined as a 
Cabernet clone because its characteristics are unique enough. It 
has very pronounced Cabernet character, it has very good balance, 
and it has a decent yield. Take it. I like it." 

If 

Forman: Winkler had said the same thing to Barney Rhodes the year 

previous, and the year previous, Barney Rhodes had taken this 
fruit and encouraged- -what s his name?--Tom May and Martha May to 
plant the Martha s Vineyard with the same clone, the vineyard that 
Heitz makes this famous Martha s Vineyard Cabernet from. So we 
both had taken this on Winkler s recommendation as being a unique 
clone. Martha s Vineyard was planted, and obviously it produced a 
spectacular wine. 

I planted it some 150 miles away, at a 3,000-foot elevation, 
up in the foothills of the Sierras. I made only one vintage from 
it because Winkler was wrong; it was more difficult to ripen than 
he thought. Also, I didn t have the place properly deer fenced, 
and one thing and another, and the deer ate it or the birds ate 
it. 

But one vintage, 1973, I did manage to make a barrel of wine 
from it. And that barrel is the most unique Cabernet I ever made 
in my life. Amongst its unique characters is its very strong but 
not obnoxious eucalyptus aroma, very similar to the way the 1929 
and the 1945 Mouton and in many cases the Leoville Las-Cases has 
that unique eucalyptus Cabernet character. 

Of course, Martha s Vineyard had this very strong eucalyptus 
character because it s surrounded by eucalyptus trees. People 



86 



always thought that, Ah, that s the only reason Martha s has this 
eucalyptus character. But I proved that there is a degree of that 
within the clone by planting it up in the Sierras. 

This Cabernet I had with a fellow just before last harvest, 
1998--a 1973 wine. 

Hicke: You opened a bottle? 

Forman: I opened a bottle. I opened it at Tra Vigne Restaurant. He said 
he had neverand I must say I haven t had it in yearsnever had 
such an unusual and incredibly distinct and still youthful 
Cabernet in his life. The wine, you would have thought and I had 
some of the waiters taste it you would have thought it was 
Mouton. It still was tannic, it still had bright red color, it 
still had intense fruit. Unbelievable, unbelievable. 

So this vineyard clone, Winkler knew and I knew from the 
start, was very unique, and I ve used it always in my clonal 
selections. I used it at Newton, I ve used it at my Torvilas 
Vineyard, I used it at the Forman Vineyard. So I did plant the 
entire Forman Vineyard with Cabernet from this Martha s Vineyard 
clone, gained through this experience. 

The Cabernet Franc I took through a recommendation from 
Walter Schug that came from virus-free stock at Gallo, which had 
evidently been a descendent from Bordeaux. The Merlot I took from 
the Sterling block at Bear Flats, which was originally from 
Inglenook and which we now know as Clone 3, also a Bordeaux clone. 
And then Petit Verdot I got from two vines from the mother block 
at the UC planting of grapes. It was claimed by Olmo to be the 
true Petit Verdot of France, rather than the Petit Rougienne, 
which is sort of an off -clone of Petit Verdot. 

So I had a relatively good selection in the vineyard here 
unfortunately, on AXR, but in this great piece of ground. I 
remember when we ripped the ground, the rippers went through the 
soil like it was butter, and the soil just rolled back and 
cultivated exactly like sugar. It was wonderful soil. When it 
rained, you d go out there and you d never get mud on your feet. 
It was strictly this light, light, pulverized volcanic rock mixed 
with this gravel. 

I didn t realize how deep it was, but years later I drilled 
a well at the end of the vineyard and went 260 feet deep through 
this gravel. It s surrounded by much larger rock of the same 
material, which draws the heat and it radiates onto this little 
bowl, which is then surrounded by trees. It s a very pretty 
little piece. Totally an environment to itself and a soil type 



87 



which is fairly unique to this part of the base of Howell 
Mountain. 

Hicke: Did you ever find out who owned the property? 

Forman: Dr. Talcott, who lives down the way and grew up here, says that it 
was an Italian family, but he doesn t know the name. It was 
Zinfandel. There were a few living vines that had grown up into 
trees, so it was Zinfandel planted on St. George. 

[tape interruption] 

Forman: We were kind of finishing up with Newton. We bought this land 
Hicke: And we were taking up Forman Vineyard. 

Forman: Yes. So I went ahead and was thrilled about the possibility of 

buying this land and bought it when I was at Sterling, as I said, 
and then developed it the first year that I was at Newton, in 
conjunction with Newton. The same crews were bouncing back and 
forth, doing this. Unfortunately, I planted it on AXR. Even 
though the expense of replanting it has been absolutely 
astronomicalit has cost almost $40,000 an acre two years ago to 
replant itwhat I have now is what I really want. 

I have the proper trellis system, which I ll explain how we 
came by, and I have the proper clones that I want, including the 
Martha s. I always have some of that. And yes, the proper 
density. And I ve gotten rid of the terraces, and I have the 
irrigation system with the right volumes and the right this and 
that. I mean, the whole thing is the way I want it now. So I m 
sorry that it died, and I had to spend so much money. But now 
that I ve redone it, it s going to be a spectacular vineyard that 
I can hardly wait for. Even the old vineyard made wonderful 
wines. 

So it was exciting in 1979 to finally have my own piece and 
to plant it, to plant the classic varieties on it, and to do in 
those days the best I could with the best materials we had. I 
went along with the vineyard alone. No house, no winery. At that 
time, no real plan to do so because, after all, I was then just 
beginning with Newton, and we had what I thought was to be a very 
exciting project going. 



88 
Consulting for Woltner and Charles Shaw 



Forman: But clearly, after I realized that Newton and I weren t probably 
going to get along as partners in the same way that we got along 
as employer and employee and that ultimately I had to get out of 
it, I was very happy to have this to fall back on. I couldn t 
fall back on it as a source of income immediately. It was a 
source of drain on my income, obviously, because it was in the 
developmental stages. 

This is why I decided that I had to consult and why I joined 
with the Woltners, whom I had met in Bordeaux. They came out and 
kind of looked me up and asked if I would help them do their 
Chardonnay winery up in Anguin, which I didn t agree with, on the 
variety, but nevertheless, that s what they were set for. That 
helped out. 

Then Charles Shaw, with whom I had been a close friend 
before and really wanted to get going on a white wine program, was 
very appropriately timed because that I could join with and have 
as another source of income to get me by until my own was 
producing. And then a few other little tidbit consulting jobs, 
none of which I really liked. I decided that being a consultant, 
other than at Shaw, was not very gratifying, because you d go and 
suggest things and come away finding only that they wouldn t do 
them as you suggested them. 

Or I don t think really I enjoyed telling people what to do. 
I really liked doing it myself, which is one of the reasons I got 
away from Sterling. I realized I had come to a point where I had 
to begin delegating things. We were growing and growing. You 
can t do it all. But I didn t like the feeling of delegating. I 
wanted to be there, making sure that it was all done right. I 
wanted to do the racking. I wanted to see every part of the 
winery. I just felt better at home with it if I was doing it and 
really observing it firsthand. 

So going to Newton, I thought would be that ability again, 
gearing back to the small size. And it might have had we gotten 
along. We didn t get along. So going into my own business was 
going to satisfy it ultimately, but having to consult in the 
meantime, again, wasn t terribly satisfying because I couldn t 
really do what I did best: that s make wine, not tell people how 
to make wine. 

At Shaw it was a little different because I actually went to 
work there every day and did the cellar work, a lot of it, myself 
and really pretty much took up where I had left off at either 



89 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Newton or Sterling in participating firsthand in all the 
operations. But sure enough, as time goes on, my property became 
more and more developed, and I launched in, in 1983, to the full 
blown winery and a place to live above the winery, again to be 
underground. 

This is your third winery, isn t it? 

Really, yes, exactly. The fourth, considering Woltner. 



1983: A Crucial Year 



Forman: Of course, between 1979 and 83--well, no, 85, actually, the 
first vintage I produced at Forman Vineyard, but 1983 I had a 
second cropthe first crop went to Newton. It was just a token 
ton with the grapes. It didn t amount to much. But the first 
real crop from Forman Vineyard actually was crushed at Charles 
Shaw. That was another nice advantage of working there. He 
allowed me to bring the grapes there. And so I crushed them there 
and aged the new wine there for the first year, and it was really 
very exciting wine. I was absolutely thrilled to see the results 
of it. 

Hicke: This is 83? 

Forman: The 83 Cabernet. It still today is just delicious. It s one of 
my most prized wines. I did not have Petit Verdot then, but I had 
Cabernet Franc and Merlot. We picked the Cabernet separately and 
the Franc and Merlot together, fermented it at Shaw, and put it 
into all new Nadalier barrels, of course. And the wine was 
absolutely delicious. I was so happy with the results. It 
actually had some of that Martha s clone eucalyptus tones to it, 
not obviously overwhelmed with it but just in the right 
proportions. It was beautifully tannic, with long, soft tannins, 
and had a gorgeous dark color, and just lively fruitiness. I 
thought, Wow, I may be able to make it. It gave me the absolute 
encouragement to know that I wanted to charge ahead, that I had 
something of value here. 

That, coupled with the fact that I was able to buy fruit 
from the Adamson Vineyard, which I had done so well with at 
Newton, made me feel confident that I could put a package together 
slowly but surely that would ultimately take care of me. 

Hicke: So that was a crucial year. 



90 



Forman: It was very crucial. It was scary. I had stuck my neck out. 

Spent a lot of moneynobody else s money. I borrowed it. I had 
none of my own. Having just gone through a divorce, I had given 
up all my rights to the property in town, so I had nothing to fall 
back on there. I did get a small amount of money- -a very small 
amountfrom the dissolution with Newton. Didn t go very far, but 
it helped. And then my consulting and a friendly bank got me 
along. 

But all of a sudden realizing what I had in the soil, I 
wasn t fearful anymore. I knew I d make it. I had to go through 
a lot of hoops to get this place. I had to re-zone the property. 
Everybody said, "Oh, you ll never be able to do that." And I knew 
somehow that I would because I had to, I wanted to. So I re-zoned 
it, which would allow for a winery, got the money from the bank, 
went ahead, built the winery, built the winery the way I wanted, 
as much as the site would allow. 



Building an Efficient and Innovative Winery 



Forman: I had, before building the winery, contemplated with the thought 
of renting a property that I had originally lived on when I moved 
to the Valley. It s what s called Chabot Ranch. Now Beringer 
leases the ground, but a woman named Suzanne Bucharaz owns it. I 
stayed there both when I was with my wife, Joy, when we were first 
married and moved to the Valley, and then again, quite ironically, 
when we separated. 

Became very friendly with the owner. She s quite a 
character, I must say. From an old French family. She remembered 
as a girl running the winery, which was built in the early 1800s 
on the property. Her grandfather, Chabot, oddly enough, was one 
of the Chabots from the Bay Area, which is the name my grammar 
school was named after. That really had a lot of coincidence to 
it. 

But anyway, I liked Suzanne, she liked me, and she said, 
"Sure, why don t you go ahead and lease this whole winery from 
me." It was a beautiful winery, a gabled winery, stone bottom, 
wooden front, which, you might gather, this place now looks like. 

And my good friend, Gene Boiadjieff, who I mentioned I was 
so fond of, this contractor, I came to and said, "Gene, I need to 
build a septic field out in front of this winery I m going to 
lease." He looked at me and, in all of his wisdom, he said, "Ric, 
there s no way I m going to build that septic field. It s a bum 



91 



idea. What you re going to do is take that money and put it into 
your own property. Don t be stupid." He just banged my head 
against the wall and made me realize very quickly that I had to do 
it on my own. With the knowledge that the grapes were pretty 
good, I felt confident enough to go to the bank, get the loan, and 
start this construction. 

Gene, of course, was the one that started the project for 
me, because it required unbelievable excavation. I wanted the 
winery to look out over the town because the view- -you could see, 
before we had done any thing- -through the trees was utterly 
spectacular. It was just as though we were an eagle looking down 
through the trees over the whole Napa Valley. 

Hicke: It is, yes. 

Forman: It was a difficult site, but Gene, with his unbelievable foresight 
into how projects could be done and his great skill- - 

[tape interruption] 

Forman: So Gene, in all his wisdom, knew just how to deal with this site, 

which I thought had a magnificent view. But I thought, "My God, 
Gene, this is not a buildable site." "Ah, don t worry, Ric. I ll 

deal with this. First thing we ve got to do is get a tractor out 

here and see what s underneath this." Well, he brought a tractor 

out, and one scratch, sounded likewell, it sounded exactly like 
what it was. His tooth hit solid rock. 

Hicke: Ouch! 

Forman: There was about six inches of dirt and then solid rock. There was 
no way, absolutely no way we were going to deal with this piece of 
property with anything other than dynamite. And so to me, 
enjoying my explosives, I thought that sounded like a great idea! 
"What do we do first?" He said, "Well, first we ve got to go out 
and we ve got to rent a big dynamite drill, not a little one, a 
big one. We re going to have to do a lot of holes here. I think 
I know a guy, though"--at the time, they were putting in a 
pipeline down the main Silverado Trail. He said, "There s a guy 
down there that s doing this explosives work. I m going to get 
him up here and ask him what to do." 

Well, he was a rascal of a guy, I must say. He was not of 
the best character, but he had the know-how, and we weren t 
worried about a character reference on the guy; we wanted the job 
done. So old Bigley came up. Bigley looked at the site and 
agreed that there was nothing else other than dynamite that was 



92 



going to touch it. But we were slightly in awe when he told us 
how much it was going to take. 

He said, "We have to drill, on a grid three feet by three 
feet on every corner, a hole probably fourteen or fifteen feet 
deep by three inches wide, and at the bottom of each hole we ll 
put a stick of dynamite, and we ll fill the hole straight to the 
top with blasting powder. I ll set it all together so it ll blow 
off in microseconds apart, and it ll just shove this whole thing 
right out into the open." 

We calculated, and we figured it was going to take 500 
holes, so that meant 500 sticks of dynamite. And we pretty much 
calculated the depth and diameter of the hole and everything and 
the powder, and it took 1,200 pounds of blasting powder. That s 
twelve, hundred-pound sacks plus 500 sticks of dynamite. Nothing 
less than an awesome explosion. 

It took us a week to drill these holes. Gene and I got out 
here, and we hammered and hammered away and hammered away, and 
finally finished all the drilling. Bigley came out, set all the 
charges, and unfortunately, I was called away on a trip that I had 
promised Chuck Shaw I d go on to New York, to help the Shaw wine, 
and was unable to be here for the explosion. 

Hicke: Oh, no! 

Forman: I called. I remember I called, actually, from Connecticut. I 
said, "Gene, how did it go?" He was practically stuttering in 
response, saying, "I ve never seen anything so awesome in all my 
life. It was literally like an atomic bomb. There was this 
massive explosion. The smoke and dust went up in an identical 
mushroom cloud to the atomic bomb. We were hiding about fifty 
yards down the road, behind a bucket, and, rock went through one 
side of the window and out the other of my truck. Stumps, big 
stumps went flying up, over trees and into other trees. It was 
utterly unbelievable. But," he said, "it s all shattered. It 
turned solid rock into boulders and gravel." 

So it was quite an exciting event. I came home, having seen 
a knoll, and now viewed a quarry. It took him about a month to 
dig it all out. He performed what I consider to be a miracle in 
getting a rather steeply sloping hillside into a courtyard and a 
shell to build the bottom floor of the winery, which was to be 
three sides underground. 

Hicke: That work done there-- 



93 



Forman: That was all solid rock. From the road down, it s all solid. He 
blew it up, and of course, we have tons of rock now to build 
walls, which you can see. Everywhere you look, there are stone 
walls. 

Hicke: Yes, it s beautiful. 

Forman: We worked at it. I had a wonderful old friend of the family- -he 
was, I think, eighty years old when he designed the building, 
which I pretty much showed him what I wanted. Took him to see the 
Villa Ramey Winery. 

. 

Hicke: What s his name? 

Forman: Oh, Irwin Johnson. Wonderful man from Oakland. He actually just 
died here a few years ago, about 95. So Irwin designed the 
house, and he put an unbelievable amount of structure in it. We 
were on solid rock, and he made me go three feet deep by three 
feet wide into the solid rock, pour this foundation, pour solid 
concrete walls all around. And then the face, I faced again with 
rocks. We ended up with almost three-feet thick walls on the one 
facing the outside, and the other walls are all underground. It 
was to be a very well-insulated cellar, and it has proven to be 
quite easy to maintain good temperature in it, except during 
harvest, when I have to air condition it because of the 
fermentation. Even during the summer, it only gets up to about 
sixty-four [degrees], so it s very nice. 

That was exciting. And then I put up a redwood structure, 
small home above, where I still live. 

Hicke: How did you get the garden? Was there enough soil? 
Forman: No, there was no soil anywhere. 
Hicke: Yes, I thought so. 

Forman: I then decided I wanted some water to look at, so we built a pool, 
and that took sixty sticks of dynamite, and then I needed lawn 
around, and I love vegetable gardens, as we have mentioned very 
early in the interview, so I had to have a vegetable garden. I 
had the guys that were building the stone walls go way out on the 
edge, build a high, stone retaining wall about six to eight feet 
high, and then I brought in- -around the pool, around the perimeter 
of the housefor the vegetable garden, twenty-five truck and 
trailer loads of topsoil. So there s this great topsoil. And 
then I mixed every year ten or fifteen tons of grape pumice with 
it, so it s a wonderful garden. It just absolutely grows 



94 



Hicke: 

Forman: 

Hicke: 

Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 

Hicke: 

Forman: 



everything beautifully. So that s been nice. The landscape 
finally looks as though the place was always here. 

It really does. 

But it didn t start that way. 

But it also fits into the landscape very nicely. It doesn t 
obtrude. 

Yes, I appreciate the fact that you appreciate that. I remember 
going to a city council meeting when the rest of the parcels up 
here were going to be sold and they wanted to subdivide it. I 
complained that it was a very sensitive area, that it was very 
delicate, and that it couldn t take more roads, and that many more 
houses would totally destroy the ambiance and the ecosystem. 

One of the engineers, who was really on the other side, I 
will say, stood up and said, "I have to commend Forman, because 
there s no place in town that you can see his house. The house is 
of the right colors, the green metal roof, the terra cotta colored 
redwood, the stone rock, in and amongst the trees. One would never 
know the place was there." 

We lost of course, and since, there have been three or four 
other homes built, and they stick out like sore thumbs from town. 
But you still can t see my place. 

Yes, from down there I see some yellow houses? 

Yes, those are the ones that came much later, the Italian villas. 
It has gotten to be a very expensive neighborhood. My place was 
what?--$65 ,000 for this thirty-five acres. The parcel across from 
me now--no agricultural possibilities on it, most of it a straight 
cliff in the back, all rock; twenty-eight acres sold for $1.2 
million. Things have changed. 

You don t ever want to sell thisyou can t pay the taxes! 

That s true. Napa Valley land now is probably approaching if 
it s good land will approach the common denominator of about 
$100,000 an acre. 

This is for vineyard land? 

Yes, this is what it s coming to. This is where we have finally 
arrived. And it will get higher. I also suspect that we will not 
see any more straight vineyards without wineries. I don t think 
there will be any more just straight growers in the Valley. All 



95 



of the growers will either become vintners or all of the growers 
lands will be purchased by wineries. It simply doesn t pay 
anymore to sell grapes. You can t make enough money. It s got to 
be turned into wine. 

[tape interruption] 



Equipment 



Forman: Let s see. Where shall we go next? 

So we built the winery. I moved into the home and winery in 
1985. I had my first harvest here. It was very exciting. I 
bought this beautiful little German Roche crusher, and I bought a 
Howard membrane press once used. It had been used in a German 
wine cellar, but it was only two years old. It was very clean and 
very nice. I still use it. Maintained very well. It s just like 
new. And so is the crusher. 

Oh, I had a nice, helical must pump, but have since changed 
to a very innovative type of pump, a peristaltic kind of pump. It 
works just like the heart, with a tube that is simply massaged 
with a rolling cylinder. It simply moves the grape must along, 
and the must itself is never being touched by moving parts. So I 
find that a great innovation in pumps. 

Hicke: Who makes that? 

Forman: A couple of Italian producers. Manzini is the name. I have to 

think about it now that it s not in front of me, but I think it s 
probably the finest must pump made anywhere in the world. I think 
my crusher is a very good crusher. I think if I were to buy a new 
one, and I m contemplating buying one, the--oh, what s the name of 
it?-- 



Hicke: You can fill it in. 

Forman: I bought Santa Rosa stainless steel tanks, little 1500-gallon and 
1200-gallon tanks, so it was absolutely ideal. I could harvest 
and fill one tank in one day, five to six tons. Every day, what 
was picked flowed through the equipment nicely, filled one tank, 
one tank would fill one row of barrels. Everything that I had 
designed seemed to flow and fit very nicely so that it really 
required very little help to run the winery. This is the way I 
had planned it. 



96 



Tunnels 



Forman : I didn t have the knowledge of, nor, I think, was even the 

technology available at the time I built the winery to do tunnels. 
So I decided at that point that I had to stack barrels in order to 
make enough wine to be economically feasible. As much as 1 
dreaded stacking barrels, I only went two [barrels] high, with 
half the cellar being white and half the cellar being red. This 
workedlet s see. I started in the cellar in 1985-- 85, 86, 
87--and in 88 Schramsberg had already dug their tunnels and a 
few other tunnels had been dug. Obviously, the technology was 
widely known. 

I was utterly fascinated with it and realized that somehow I 
had to have tunnels dug on the property. I wanted to expand a 
bit. The vineyards were capable of producing a bit more than the 
cellar would hold. And in between that time, Reg Oliver and I had 
purchased the Adamson Vineyard, which we now call Rutherford Star. 
So I owned at that time fortyand we ve since purchased another 
twenty--! have another sixty acres so I had ample fruit, ample 
Chardonnay fruit to make more wine. 

I really wanted to fill the cellar that I had originally 
built under the home with strictly Chardonnay, and I wanted to be 
able to put the red in a separate cellar, keeping the malo 
separately and keeping the temperature conditions separate. So 
this tunnel idea kept rattling around in my head. 

I went ahead and called 
Hicke: I need to turn it over. 



#1 

Forman: Called Alf Bertleson, who was the cave driller at the time. I 
think there are three or four more now, but he was the only one 
available then and is still the best of the pack. He said that he 
could do it. He had the time. We went down and tried to figure 
out where we d do it. The only hill that was really available was 
the hill directly below the winery, which came right off of the 
vineyard, so it was aesthetically a very nice site. 

It worried me that it was so separate from the main cellar 
until I realized that if we d dig it at the right angle, we could 
ultimately end up directly underneath the other cellar, albeit it 
would be deep, but we d be directly underneath. And then I 
conceived of the idea of bringing a well rig in and drilling sort 
of a dummy well hole, so to speak, a well hole that wasn t going 



97 



to produce water but a hole that would go from the current cellar 
all the way down to the second cellar. 

I asked some engineers in town whether they could determine 
before digging the tunnel what direction the tunnel would have to 
go and where it would have to end and where we could drill a pipe 
and would it all connect. They said, "Piece of cake. It just 
takes math and a good transit." So they came before we dug the 
tunnel and got way out in the vineyard, viewed way up to the top 
of the hill at the winery, and came up with their calculations. 

When the cave drillers arrived, they said, "All right, go in 
nine feet, turn so many degrees at so many feet, go for three 
hundred feet, and you ll be directly under the winery." So we 
did. I must say it was the most exciting thing I ve ever done in 
my life, drilling the tunnel. It went very quickly. It only took 
them two months. But it was the most fun I ve ever had with a 
project. It was an adventure to have this incredible machine 
going at fourteen feet to twenty feet a day inside a mountain, 
coming directly underneath the other cellar. 

I could hardly wait to go back and forth every day to see 
how they were doing, and go in and see the progress and see this 
incredible soil that I was digging in, which incidentally made me 
realize what the vineyard was growing on. We never ran into one 
rock. Everything was sand and gravel, the gravel being nothing 
bigger than a hen s egg and all round. So it was clear that this 
was an uplifted river bed that the vineyard was planted in. 

So away they went, and, as I say, it happened quickly. Two 
months after the total design I had conceived of was fully mined, 
I brought in the well rig. They dug right where we wanted them, 
right in a convenient place up in the existing crushing pad. 

Hicke: The cellar and everything was already there? 

Forman: The cellar was there. And so I said, "All right, drill here." 
They were still down there, putting finishing touches on the 
cellar. We had determined about a hundred feet, which is not much 
for a well rig to dig through. So they dug through this massively 
hard rock, which of course I had to go through when we blew it up 
for the building, and then all of a sudden it was like they 
dropped into a sugar bowl. So forty-five feet of it was hard 
rock, and then they dropped into this gravel lens that we were 
digging in below. It was only about five hours into it. We were 
down in the tunnel, and they said, "I think we re about where you 
think we should be . " 



98 



So we went down therenot directly into where they were 
going to come through, but we were down there. You could begin 
hearing this crunching noise and this hissing noise. God, it was 
massively exciting. And then all of a sudden, the noise got 
louder and louder, and then pretty soon it was just a very loud 
gush of air blowing out, and the gravel cracked on the ceiling, 
and out poked the well-drilling rig. Absolutely dead-on where it 
was supposed to be. I mean, it wasn t even an inch off. It was 
perfectly placed. So engineering works. 

That was so exciting. The whole project at that point I 
knew worked. 

Hicke: What year was this? 

Forman: This was 1988. We went ahead and put nice floors into the tunnel 
and all the proper drainage and all the water, and I put in air 
lines to rack the wine with air. 

Hicke: And barrels are single stacked. 

Forman: And the barrels now are single stacked. One hundred barrels long, 
the length of a football field. It s dazzling to see and 
marvelous to work with. 

Hicke: I appreciate your little tour through there so I can picture it. 

Forman: Yes, it s a neat cellar. Actually, it s still one of Alf s 

favorite tunnels. He has drilled countless tunnels now, miles and 
miles of them, having started--what?--f ifteen years ago. At the 
rate of ten, fifteen feet a day, you can imagine how many feet of 
tunnel there are for all these various places. He still thinks 
this is one of the nicest, probably because I didn t require the 
ceilings to be quite as high as those who wished to stack barrels, 
even though I could still stack. And I made the tunnel slightly 
wider, which gave it a nice, comfortable feel. And I don t stack 
barrels, so you re looking down this long row of unstacked 
barrels. 

Generally, the people that have tunnels stack barrels on 
barrel pallets, and pallet upon pallet. They just stuff the 
cellar and use it as an industrial cavern, whereas mine has a 
great deal of aesthetics involved in it. It s a very charismatic 
place to be, with a constant humidity of about 98 percent and 
constant temperature of 59 degrees. It s close to being ideal. 

Hicke: Doesn t Rutherford Hill Winery have tunnels? I remember going 
there and they made a big deal of these tunnels or caves. 



99 



Forman: 



Hicke: 



Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 

Hicke: 
Forman: 



After they dug my tunnel, they went to Far Niente [Winery]. Then 
they went to Rutherford, then they went to Sterling, then they did 
Cuvaison Winery, then they did Clos Pegase [Winery] , then they did 
more of Newton--no, that s right. He refused to do Newton. He 
said Newton was too difficult to deal with, and so he refused to 
do Newton. I thought that was very funny. 



[chuckling] 
didn t you? 



As usual, you had a crowd of people follow you, 



Anyway, they dug a lot of tunnels. They re all over. They went 
over and did the tunnels at Kunde [Estate Winery], and they ve 
done them in Sonoma, they ve done them here. Plus, of course, 
since they started there, there are two other outfits that are 
digging, so other outfits have come and dug things like the 
tunnels at Stag s Leap [Wine Cellars] and the tunnels all over. 

Schramsberg was the first. He was the pioneer. He was the 
one who got the guy up here. It was really a great idea of Jack s 
[Davies] to research having tunnels old tunnelsboth modernized 
and expanded. I don t know how he came onto this guy, where he 
discovered him. 

I knew where he was. He was up in Grass Valley, actually, 
in my old stomping grounds, in the mines. In fact, Dale, the 
operator of the machine for Alf, is a wonderful man, and we had 
just great times--he and Toby and I talking about all the mines 
because he knew them all. He had been in them himself. I guess 
they had done some exploration work with this machine up there in 
the gold mines. And he actually lived up there, so he d go back 
and forth on the weekends. So that was fun, too, to talk about. 
We both agreed that both the soil texture and the color reminded 
us very much of all of the hillsides that you see near Auburn and 
going over the pass, the Yuba Pass, and so forth, from Grass 
Valley, where they hydraulic-mined and took so much ore out. 

[laughing] I was going to ask: Did you find any gold? 

I told Dale that "we ought to have this stuff analyzed." There s 
a good chance it does have gold in it. I never sent it in for 
analysis, but it might. I don t know. 

That s another project. 

I hope it doesn t. Think of what it would do then. Where would 
we put all the dirt? The dirt was a problem. You have to get rid 
of this stuff, just massive amounts. I guess we figured we took 
something like 20,000 yards out of beautiful gravel and sand. I 
just had it dumped in between the two vineyard sites, on a little 



100 



knoll which Gene had prepared for the dumping of this stuff. He 
moved all these big boulders around and made a plateau, and then 
we built a mountain on top of it. 

I leveled it off. It was gorgeous soil. It was all this 
sand and gravel. And so I tried planting a vineyard up there, but 
it just simply wouldn t grow, wouldn t grow, and wouldn t grow. 
Well, you can imagine soil that s coming from a hundred feet 
underground. It s completely depleted of nutrients. We analyzed 
and we added this, and we added that. The vineyard is still 
there. It s actually nowI ve abandoned it. I want to take it 
out, and I m going to try olives in its place. But oddly enough, 
once I abandoned it, the thing started growing because I guess 
we ve added so much nutrient to it, and it has weathered and the 
pumice we put on it and the leaves that fall are starting to get 
it into a kind of natural state again. 

Hicke: Another couple of centuries and-- 
Forman: It ll be fine. 
Hicke: Great stuff. 

Forman: It s fun to plant things, particularly like grapes because it s so 
porous and sandy. 

Hicke: So are you going to plant olives? 

Forman: I ve got to get now somebody up there to take the vines out 

because I ve hacked them apart so badly now, trying to get them 
out, and I can t. Now they re fully rooted. It s turning into a 
real nuisance, but I will take it out, and I think I m going to 
try olives. Yes, I think olives might do well up there. 

The prune trees that we ve planted around the perimeter are 
now doing beautifully, so I think maybe just the moving and 
settling for ten years, the soil has changed its chemistry. 

Hicke: You planted prune trees. That s a wonderful idea. 

Forman: Yes, the prune trees are beautiful to look at. They re thought 
to--what?--I guess they harbor some wasps that deal with the 
larvae of the sharpshooter leaf hopper, trying to control Pierce s 
disease. I don t find it very useful for that, really. I haven t 
seen any difference. But the prune trees are nice and the prunes 
are wonderful to eat. 



Hicke: 



And the blossoms-- 



101 



Fonnan: And the blossoms are beautiful, so that the whole hill has a 

perimeter of that. I think olives on top would be very lovely. 

Hicke: So look what you got out of that tunnel! 

Forraan: Oh, we used every crumb of it, every crumb. It s very nice. 
Let s stop for a second. 

Wines of 1983 to 1986 

"" -" - 

[Interview 4: March 19, 1999] it 



Hicke: We have covered your starting the winery here, so let s see how it 
went along. 

Forman: We left off some two or three weeks ago- -it s hard to remember- - 
but we left off with me discovering this site, wanting to develop 
a winery of my own, buying the land in "78, planting in 79, and 
finally building the winery in 1983 and actually moving in in 
1985, meaning that I moved into the house, which is above the 
winery, and I moved into the cellar, actually, in 85, making 
wine--start to finish. 

Previous to that time, I had crushed my grapes at Charles 
Shaw winery, so the 83 and 84 were actually harvested and 
crushed and fermented at Shaw. The 83 totally done there, the 
84 actually was brought back to this cellar and aged here, and 
the 85 was crushed here, so the first vintage really here was 
1985. 

That was very gratifying, I must say. I was finally really 
on my own. I was finally independent. I had a little vineyard 
that looked promising. This very, very unique bit of soil was 
exciting to watch develop. Indeed, I think the 83 wine was 
looking good about the time I moved in here and started the 85. 
Of course, the "83 was being bottled. It was reviewed. 1 
remember I was just elated to think that Robert Parker thought it 
was great and gave it ninety points. 

Hicke: Wow! 

Forman: From that point on, it was successful. It was a good wine, too, 
and it still is. I remember putting it in a tasting in the 
Connoisseur Wine Imports, a blind tasting with a group of people 
with other Bordeaux wines. Granted, they were 83, which wasn t a 



102 



Hicke: 



great vintage of Bordeaux, but there were things like Mouton and 
so forth in there. My wine did very well. In fact, the group 
actually liked it best. I didn t pick it out. I thought my wine 
was the Mouton, because it had that really unique, subtle but 
definitely there sort of eucalyptus Bordeaux Cabernet character- 
coming, again, from that incredible clone that I took from 
Martha s Vineyard, having nothing to do with eucalyptus trees, but 
there s a nuance in there; I m dead sure of it, just as there is 
in Mouton and occasionally in Leoville Las-Cases. In the very 
good years, they do have a subtle, eucalyptus Cabernet sort of 
character to them, which is, when it s not overdone, really very 
delightful. 

My wine had that, and nobody could believe that that wine 
was Calif ornian. I thought, Wow, maybe I m getting there. My 
dream was to make Bordeaux-style wine in California if I could. 
The soil being very, very gravelly certainly had something to do 
with it. The use of Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit 
Verdot--well, Petit Verdot hadn t been introduced yet, but that 
was making a difference. And my technique that I had been 
developing, patterning after Bordeaux, starting all the way back 
in the early years at Sterling and really very strictly adhering 
to here, was lending its effect to the style and character of the 
wine. 

And so I was off and running. I was very excited. I was 
happy that the results were good right from day one. The 94 
vintage came in with very ripe grapes and produced a bit richer 
wine, but it was tannic and felt good in your mouth and had very 
nice fruit flavors, and so I had another winner. 

I think you told me before, but let s just clarify: This is 
Cabernet? 



Forman: Yes, we re talking about Cabernet; we re talking about Cabernet. 
It s funny: When I talk about wine and get really enthusiastic, 
it s almost always red. But I guess most people, when they re 
really into wine, red is the thing that excites them most, even 
though I spend a great deal of time trying to make a classic 
white. 

Hicke: Is that because of demand? 



Forman: No. It s just because when you really like wine, you like red 
better than white. 

Hicke: No, but I meant you re making a white because of demand for that? 



103 



Forman: Yes, and I have a good vineyard, and I enjoy making white wine. I 
have fun making that, too. If I didn t like to make it, I 
wouldn t make it. 

So the 85 came along, and it was a very cool year. The 
vineyard had gotten rather vigorous, and I was beginning to 
realize that I had to do something with the trellis system because 
I was afraid that the fruit was getting too shaded. People 
enjoyed the 85, and they still do, but to me it was a little too 
menthol-y, a little too much green-Cabernet character. 



Canopy Management 



Forman: So we changed the trellis system. We added poles in 86, upright 
poles, and tried to do an upright trellis system, which did in 
fact work marvelously. It made a dramatic difference in 86. And 
we also started leafing the vines to get some sun on the fruit, 
which was kind of a technique that was just beginning to be 
investigated in the Napa Valley, as well as, for that matter, in 
Europe. 

Hicke: They hadn t been doing that in Europe? 

Forman: No, not really. Europe didn t do it because they have a vertical 
trellis system, and that s the whole point of a vertical trellis 
system. It makes a canopy which is generally no wider than about 
thirteen inches, and that thirteen inches seems to allow a leaf to 
a leaf-and-a-half coverage for grapes, thereby allowing just the 
right amount of sunshine, which is so essential, we now realize, 
for the proper development of all the components that we re after 
for quality wine, whether it be sugar-acid ratio or the anthocyan 
and then flavor development. 

So I really had a lot of work to do, I could see, in my 
vineyard, and I was getting there. The introduction of the poles 
and the vertical trellis system made a big difference. Also, I 
was realizing at this point that I had to get the grapes a bit 
riper, and so I was tending to allow them to mature more and more 
each year, and so you see a progression from 86 right up through 
--oh, I guess the big break was up into the nineties, when, not 
only was I doing this but we had these phenomenal string of years, 
which we ve had from 90 right on to present. 

Hicke: Weatherwise? 



104 



Forman: Weatherwise, yes. And so I think there s quite a change in my 
wine from "90 going forward versus 90 going back. 



Pioneering Introduction of Petit Verdot 



Forman: One of the things that made a big difference was the introduction 
in 1990 of Petit Verdot. That added another dimension of 
complexity. I guess I was probably the pioneer of Petit Verdot in 
the Napa Valley or in California, for that matter. I had a hunch. 
I kept reading the literature and talking to people in Bordeaux 
about Petit Verdot as a grape to be added to the Bordeaux blend in 
small percentages. 

What did it do? Well, not all but a number of top producers 
in Bordeaux seemed to like Petit Verdot in small percentages. 
Even though the university never recommended that I try, I decided 
I d better try it. 

Hicke: Where did you get the grapes? 

Forman: So I bought bud wood, actually, while I was at Newton. I don t 
remember whether I had to pay for it or whether they gave it to 
me, but I got it from the university- -what they call their mother 
block, which was bud taken directly from Bordeaux. They had it on 
two vines, and they would watch it for a series of years and do a 
lot of tests on it and so forth to determine whether it was 
infected with any viruses or not. Once it wasn t, they would 
release it for propagation. 

So I took all of the vines--! m trying to think what the 
year was, probably 1980--I took all of the bud wood from two vines 
and planted most of it at Newton s and planted six vines at my 
place. That s how it worked. So I had six vines right from day 
one, which is not enough to make any difference in the blend. 

And then finally in I think it was 1988 I planted a small 
vineyard, about three-quarters of an acre, using my wood. Then, 
by 90, I had some grapes and started introducing Petit Verdot 
into my wine. 

Hicke: In what percentage? 

Forman: About 3 to 5 percent. Some years it goes higher. But I ve 

discovered that it was really a variety that I liked. It produced 
intensely darkly colored wines, with deliciously soft but intense 
tannins, a really nice tannin structure, and tremendous acidity, 



105 



which we I think need in the Napa Valley because we have a 
relatively warm climate. But the acidity and pH holds up very 
nicely with Petit Verdot. It has a subtle varietal character, 
kind of violet-like would be the best way to describe it. And it 
added a dimension to the wine that I thought was quite dramatic. 
It really made a difference in every parameter. 

I was enthusiastic, and I guess other people realized I was 
doing it. The word got out that it was interesting, and people 
were constantly knocking on the door, wanting bud wood, and so I 
guess my little vineyard has probably supplied all of the current 
plantings in the Napa Valley of Petit Verdot. It has become very 
popular. Now everybody who makes Cabernet wants Petit Verdot in 
their wines. It s funny how these things happen. 

[tape interruption] 
Hicke: We were just talking about-- 

Forman: What we did with the Petit Verdot and the introduction of Petit 
Verdot and how really very nice it is and how other people have 
caught onto the fact that no longer, I think, would we follow the 
university s recommendation that it s a variety of no interest in 
California. It s a variety of immense interest. 

Hicke: What does it taste like by itself? 

Forman: I actually bottled some by itself in 1990 and again in 91 I did a 
couple of barrels of it. I haven t looked at it in some time, but 
I had a chance to do it with my European distributors, who were 
here about a month ago, and I opened it for thembecause the very 
same question was, "What is it like on its own?" So I said, "I ll 
go get a bottle." They were astounded with its individuality and 
its inherent quality on its own. It has really very good 
structure. It s not hugely distinct varietally, but the structure 
is so nice. It has this delicious sort of acid-fruit-tannin 
balance. Its varietal character doesn t confuse Cabernet; it 
blends nicely with it in that it doesn t override it or it doesn t 
muddle it or change it dramatically, but it adds the structure. 

Hicke: Adds a little backbone? 

Forman: Yes. So that s its quality. And I m sure that s what the 

Bordelais feel about it as well, and others are now finding that 
it s quite useful. So, Petit Verdot. 

Let s think. Where-- 



106 



Merlot and Cabernet Franc 



Hicke: What about Merlot? 

Forman: The Merlot, of course, has always been something of interest to 
me. You knew from our discussion about Sterling how Newton was 
convinced that California would be ready for Merlot if someone 
would just introduce it. We did. Obviously, it caught on, and 
I ve continued to be interested in Merlot. I have a nice 
selection of Merlot, what we call Clone 3. Oh, it was derived 
from Wente Brothers and Inglenook, and it was derived by them, we 
think, directly from Bordeaux. So whether it is one of the clones 
that now we re calling 181, we re not sure. It has very good 
character. So I put Clones 3 and 181, which is a direct 
descendent of Pomerol, in my vineyard. 

Hicke: That ought to be good. 

Forman: I continue to be enthusiastic about it, both on its own and in the 
blend. Merlot adds a wonderful dimension to Cabernet. It s got 
this deliciously spicy fruit. It s close to Cabernet in that it 
has an herbaceous note to it, but when fully ripe it develops a 
more subtle, tea-like herbaceousness and a very nice, cherry-kind 
of character. When it is fully ripe, it has wonderfully long, 
rich tannins and somewhat low acidity, which is not necessarily 
sought after, but it does make the wine soft. It broadens 
Cabernet. It takes some of that vertical leanness out of 
Cabernet, and so I think it s very useful as a blend. 

Cabernet Franc- -much like Merlot except that it has a more 
defined, raspberry-blackberry fruit, and the fruit character is a 
definite enhancement, both with Merlot as a Merlot blend, and with 
the blend with Cabernet. It just adds one more component of 
fruit. It has similar characteristics to Merlot as far as tannin 
and acid level, but its fruit component in quite unique and very 
delicious. 

So I think they re all beneficial. Malbec I ve never played 
with. Don t know much about it. 



Association with David Abreu 



Hicke: Tell me about your association with David Abreu. 



107 



Forman: Ah, very good. David Abreu. Just to review: he met me at 

Newton s in about 1980. He was just beginning on his own, trying 
to get involved in helping people farm landin other words, 
becoming a vineyards manager. He really had no formal training, 
no schooling per se . He worked at Caymus , and he worked at the 
H&W Ranch, helping out during harvest, helping out in the 
vineyard. 

He comes from a farming background. His whole family grew 
up in St. Helena, and his father was in the ranching business, so 
he knew farming from an early age and was very fascinated with the 
way the wine business was growing. David has a keen sense for 
looking at something and seeing where it s going to go, and being 
able to perceive where to be at the right time, so to speak. He s 
very sharp that way. 

I grew to like him. I thought he was an interesting guy, 
just as friend. We became acquainted. He was fascinated with 
what I was doing at Newton s; I was fascinated with his farming. 
I guess our relationship with one another began strictly as 
friends, and then the more we got involved with asking questions 
about what each was doing, we became interested in each other s 
livelihoods. And so I think I was asked by him to really give 
more than just how-are-you-doing assistance on his projects. 

He wanted to get involved with Inglenook, and I knew the 
people at Inglenook, so he said, "Could you talk to them for me?" 
And I did. The people at Inglenook said, "We d be glad to have 
David farm our ranch, but how about you joining him? And then 
we d feel even better." I thought, Well, that s novel. I talked 
it over with David, and we decided that it wouldn t be too 
difficult. I could lend some assistance in helping him find some 
men and so forth, and if that made the Inglenook people feel good, 
then I d be glad to do it. 

What we didn t know was we ran smack dab into the middle of 
their labor dispute because David did not have unionized labor 
force, and of course, Inglenook was. And so we were served with a 
subpoena to come tell why we weren t using union labor on the 
Inglenook project. Oh, my God. It turned into an absolute 
nightmare for us. We had to go to court together, and we had to 
do all these things. 

We finally got out of it, but it cost us a fair amount of 
money and a lot of strife. David actually continued to run 
Inglenook. I helped him find another ranch, the Staglin Ranch. 
Then I got him involved in a ranch that I had then purchased by 
1986, along with partners, the Rutherford Star Vineyard, and he 



108 



became the manager of that . 
along with his business. 



So by now, he was really getting 



Coupled with that, we used to like to travel together during 
the winter, mainly to Mexico to get warm. But we decided one year 
to go to Europe, and so I brought him through the Bordeaux 
district, and he was so fascinated with the way it all was done 
that we made a pledge to keep coming back and really do a hard 
study of the whole thing together. And we did. 

So he slowly evolved from the normal practices used in the 
Napa Valley to really investigating and experimenting with some of 
his customers more Bordelais techniques of farming. We started 
planting grapes closer, we started using the vertical trellis 
systems that they were using in Bordeaux, we began getting, of 
course, the rootstocks along with everybody else that they were 
using there, the right clones. 

David is not slow at getting where he wants to go, and he 
became noted for doing this kind of farming. Everyone was 
interested. And so his client base started growing, and growing 
with the really upper-end vineyards. He now farms for people like 
Harlan, Araujo, Staglin, Cogan, my vineyard at Starpretty much 
all the really high-end vineyards, David is now farming. He has a 
labor base of about a hundred employees, so he has really gone 
somewhere with this business. He s noted as probably the highest- 
quality vineyard manager in the Valley. So it s exciting for him. 

Hicke: You re still working with him? 

Forman: I dropped out long ago. Right after Inglenook, I dropped out. 

No, no, he has totally his own operation. But we stay associated, 
of course, as friends. But we also got involved in another way. I 
guess it was 1988. He asked if I would be willing to make some 
wine from a vineyard that he owns called the Madrona Ranch. I 
said sure, I could do that. And have done it ever since. I make 
a wine that he calls Abreu Vineyards Cabernet. It comes from the 
Madrona Ranch, which he owns with the Meyer family. It has become 
very famous as well. In fact, it s one of the most highly sought 
after wines now in the state. It s all made here at Forman 
Vineyard. 

Hicke: As long as you had nothing else to do! 

Forman: Exactly. I think he probably will abandon the site as the site to 
have his wine made soon, because he s acquiring more vineyards and 
really has the desire to have a winery of his own. I m 
restricting him to about 500 cases, which is all I have space for. 
So he will in the near future, I m sure, build his own little 



109 



facility. He has learned a lot not only about how to farm land 
through some of my assistance and his own keen insight, but also 
how to make wine, and so I think he could probably manage very 
nicely even making wine--not totally on his own, but pretty much 
on his own. 

So that s David. 



Rutherford Star Vineyard--Chardonnay 



Hicke: Rutherford Star. 

Forman: Rutherford Star I bought with Reg Oliver and a group of partners 
in 1986, I believe, we bought that. It s a now sixty-acre 
vineyard in Rutherford, right behind La Luna Market. It s a 
wonderful piece of ground for Chardonnay, and it s actually fairly 
good for Cabernet, although I don t use the Cabernet often. I use 
it when I have low yields in the vineyard or in years that I think 
the fruit is going to get very good and ripe. But I don t use it 
every year. 

The Chardonnay has been exciting ever since the first wine I 
made from it when we were buying grapes from the previous owner 
that we bought the property from- -that being 1980 at Newton when 
we purchased this Chardonnay, and it made an extraordinary wine, 
wine that s still very viable and delicious. The 81 is equally 
as nice. The 82 I don t know what happened to. I can t 
remember. That was the year I left, so probably it s why I 
forget. In fact, I don t even think I bottled it. I didn t. 

The Rutherford Star has proved to be a great source for me 
for Chardonnay. 

Hicke: Are you bottling under a vineyard-designated label? 

Forman: I don t vineyard- designate it, no. But my Chardonnay is, oh, 
post- 1986, when I was still buying a bit from the Talcott 
Vineyard, right below the winery. Starting in 1987, it has been 
100 percent Star every year. And I like it. David keeps thinking 
that I should find sources other than that, but I m satisfied with 
it. It has a track record, people recognize the style, they 
recognize what I do with itwhich is something we can talk about 
in a minute--and so I m just probably going to stay with it. 

Plus the fact I like to estate-bottle all of the Forman 
Vineyard wines, and if I were to buy grapes, I couldn t do that, 



110 



so that s, I m sure, where my Chardonnay will be for some time. 
There are some old blocks on AXR we re slowly replanting, so I 
think we can keep up with the phylloxera and still have supply for 
me. Others buy the grapes. I don t use the whole vineyard. We 
sell to Sterling and Merryvale. But there s always enough for me. 

And El Molino, which is my partner, Reg Oliver s little 
winery, also uses the fruit for his Chardonnay, exclusively. So 
he and I make 100 percent Star Chardonnay in our two wineries. 

The wine from the Chardonnay ever since 1980 has been 
distinct in that it has a wonderful green-apple, and when it s 
fully ripe that creme brulee, Chardonnay nose. As I think we 
previously discussed, I m opposed to malolactic on Chardonnay in 
the Napa Valley, at least north of Carneros. I don t think 
there s enough acidity to support a malolactic, and so I ve never 
allowed malolactic to take place in the wine. 

Very traditional otherwise. Fifty percent new, French oak 
barrels. I started using Sereau at Sterling. Used Francois Frere 
later on at Sterling. At Newton, used almost exclusively Francois 
Frere. Used Francois Frere barrels at Forman, then began 
experimenting with others, and now have gone back to 100 percent 
Francois Frere barrels, because I think they just are the most 
suitable with the Star fruit. 

The fruit is harvested fairly ripe, which I believe is 
essential for Chardonnay. The only thing I m against in 
harvesting it so ripe is the fact that it has all this alcohol- 
approaching 14 percent. I dislike that aspect. But the flavors 
aren t there unless it is ripe, so I harvest it ripe. Very simple 
treatment: crushed, pressed, and the juice settled overnight, and 
the juice goes right into 50 percent new, 50 percent one-year used 
Francois [Frere] barrels for fermentation. The wine is left with 
the lees all the way up until April, so it never comes out of the 
barrel until April. 

The lees are stirred, up through February. Comes out, and 
it s fined with isinglass and bentonite in April, and right back 
to the barrel the next day. And then racked the day before 
bottling with one filtration. So really minimal treatment. 

The wine is being made with really three factors: the 
vineyard, the fact that there s no malo, and the Francois Frere 
barrels. I suppose four factors: the sur lees has a big influence 
on the flavor as well. The effect is that the wine comes off at 
all stages of development with a wonderful mineral-y quality that 
you rarely see in California Chardonnay, probably because you 



Ill 



rarely see California Chardonnay that hasn t gone through 
malolactic. 

But with the no malolactic, the acidity is left, and with 
it, that delightful French sort of mineral-y quality. 

Hicke: So it s more like Burgundy? 

Forman: Well, it is. But, of course, Burgundy always goes through malo, 
but they have a better acid level and pH than we do, and they can 
manage it . 

The wine is tight when it s first bottled. It requires 
probably a minimum of a year before it s looking the way most 
California Chardonnay looks when it s first bottled because of the 
malo. Really, it takes almost four years before the wine reaches 
its--I wouldn t say peak because it continues to develop after 
that, but a really proper level of what the wine can show. At 
four years and beyond, the richness that the wine takes on from 
bottle age is really pretty equivalent to that fairly rich 
character that most of the California Chardonnays are getting with 
malo at an early age. 

The beauty, I think, of mine is that not only does it have 
the richness but is also has that, again, good acidity and 
mineral-y quality, and so it still is a delicious wine with food, 
and it s not so cloying. I find that most California Chardonnays 
now, because of this Kendall-Jackson sugar thing, which we went 
into earlier on in the interview, and because of the strong use of 
too much new wood and grapes that are too ripe and full malo, the 
Chardonnays are, I find, almost gagging. They re cloyingly rich. 
They re too sweet. They re too heavy. They re just overwhelming. 
They do enthuse wine writers. They stand out in a lineup of 
wines. They bowl you over. But are they really balanced? I 
don t find it so, so I ve tried to stay away from that. 

My wine has a group of followers who appreciate that style. 
I don t think that the person that likes the full-blown Chardonnay 
is probably not as wound up with my style as they would be. 

Hicke: Yours is a little more austere? 

Forman: Mine s austere. In fact, it has almost been saidor it has been 
said on a few occasions that my Chardonnay would be the Chablis of 
California. I wouldn t put it that light. 

*i 



112 



Hicke: Do you mean the Chablis that we talk about here or the kind from 
France? 

Forman: No, no, the kind from France. Oh, no, definitely. In fact, I 
don t drink much Chardonnay, but when I do, it s almost always 
Chablis, French Chablis. That s the kind of Chardonnay I like, 
that highly mineral, low pH, tart, sort of stony fruit character I 
find very refreshing and very exciting, as opposed to that thick, 
heavy, caramel-y, buttery California style. That s my taste. 
That isn t saying that I think these are bad wines. They don t 
appeal to me. Just like chocolate appeals to some and vanilla to 
others. I don t like it. 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



So I tend to try to make wine at least somewhat in the style 
that I like, although, being of course aware that I have to sell 
it in California, and so--well, it would be impossible almost to 
make Chablis-style wines here anyway. Our climate is too warm, 
and we don t have limestone, so we couldn t do it. But if I were 
to really do it, I would be picking green grapes, and I don t 
think it would be very appealing. 

I do the best I can with the style I d like to do in a 
climate that s a little marginal, really, for Chardonnay. And 
then doing so, it has proven to be a nice wine. I know the 85, 
for instanceagain mentioning these Europeans who came here a 
month ago. They tasted the 85 in magnum, and they absolutely 
couldn t believe not only the color but the incredible flavor. It 
was like an old Meursault that had the color, still, of a brand- 
new Chardonnay. It hadn t oxidized in the slightest. But it 
developed that deliciously long, sort of hazelnut, creme brulee, 
toasty character that you get out of Chardonnay that s properly 
balanced. 

How long will that last? 

I have no idea. The 84 is still viable, and that s the only one 
I have. The 80 and 81 Newton--in fact, there was a tasting. 
Maybe it does have something to do with the way I make it, because 
there was a tasting three nights ago at the Culinary Academy of 
the 1977 Sterling Chardonnay and the 73 Merlot, and the Sterling 
Chardonnay was still very drinkable. I wouldn t say that it was 
young, still. But it wasn t gone. It was interesting, and it was 
powerful. 

Amazing! 

The 73 Merlot was superb. It still had bright fruit and 
delicious. I find that in my cellar, too: 73 Sterling Merlots is 
a phenomenon. So is the 72. I don t know. It might have 



113 



something to do with winemaking technique. I always think it s 
more fruit than winemaking, but one doesn t know. 

Hicke: It takes both, I m sure. 

Forman: Well, a little guidance, let s hope. 

Forman Wine Library 



Hicke: Since you mentioned your wine library, is this a good time to talk 
about that? 

Forman: Sure. We ve talked a little bit about some of my styles of 
winemaking and where we re going. I think in a moment we ll 
discuss the fact that my vineyard got phylloxera, and I ve 
replanted it, and how I ve replanted it, what I anticipate the 
future of it will be. 

Wine library. What do I keep, you mean? 

Hicke: That was one of the topics you wanted to talk about, so I ll leave 
it to you. Maybe that s a good question: What do you keep? 

Forman: I put some wine away each year, of course, as anybody would in the 
business. I don t keep a lot: fifteen, twenty cases of each 
vintage. I ve got them going back, of course, to day one, like 
83. The 83 Cabernet is still very drinkable, the one I 
mentioned a few moments ago that was in that tasting, right after 
its release. 

Hicke: How often do you open a bottle? 

Forman: I don t drink the older ones too often. To tell you the truth, I 
don t get a lot of pleasure--! get pleasure, but I don t open them 
strictly for pleasure, because I realize what s going to happen is 
I m going to sit there an analyze them and fidget, thinking about 
them. So I make other wines for myself under the Chateau le 
Grande Roche label. I have a lot of fun. I gave you some. 

Hicke: It was wonderful. We really did enjoy it. 
Forman: Did I give you the Rose or the Days Off? 
Hicke: You gave me one of each. 



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Forman: Oh, good, good. With Days Offyou see, this gets back to my 

Chardonnay. I can t find much California Chardonnay that really 
appeals to me, not because it s bad wine but because it s too 
rich. This is why I drink Chablis. I must have gone through 
fifteen cases in the last two or three years of my favorite 
Chablis, because my distributor in California sells it. In fact, 
he told the fellowand I visited the guy, too how much I was 
drinking of it, and the guy was overwhelmed to think that a 
California wine producer, who produces Chardonnay, no less, was 
using his Chablis as his standard house wine. They got a big kick 
out of that. 

I made a wine this year under my Grande Roche label, which I 
do mostly just for my own pleasure and for fun, although I had to 
make so much this year I ll have to sell it, but I found some old- 
vine French Columbard, which is like finding hen s teeth because, 
obviously, in this expensive place for growing grapes you don t 
have French Columbard anymore, but this is an old, old vineyard, 
head-pruned, low yielding, beautiful vineyard. I got it early and 
kind of helped manage the vineyard so that it turned out all 
right . 

The grapes were beautiful- -harvested at about a little over 
20 sugar so the alcohol is around 11-1/2, very high-acidity, bone- 
dry wine. It s, to me, just delicious. This is what I like in 
white wine. I thought, What am I going to call it? Nobody will 
buy French Columbard, so I thought, Days Off, the days we don t 
drink Chardonnay, so we called it Days Off. That s where it comes 
from. These are the wines I like. A white wine, for some reason 
or other, to me, doesn t have to be serious. It can be something 
that we simply enjoy. 

Red wine, on the other hand, I like more serious. I like 
Beaujolais, and Beaujolais is not serious; Beaujolais is for fun. 
And I love it. But the fancy varieties definitely are fancy, and 
one has to take them a little more seriously. This is back to why 
I don t like drinking my Forman Vineyard label: because I have to 
think about it too much. It s a little nerve-wracking. 

Hicke: So you open that when you just want to see what it s like? 

Forman: I open it because I want to see it, or I open it when somebody 

else wants to see it, or I use it for vertical tastings or one 

thing and another. You have to have some. So that s what the 

library is all about. I keep it in the tunnel, where it s 98 

percent humidity, so I have to put bin cards on the slots, because 

the labels are all black. But it s a great place to store wine. 
It s a marvelous tunnel. 



115 



VI EVOLUTION OF PUBLIC TASTES AND WINEMAKING TECHNIQUES 



Chardonnay 



Hicke: You wanted to talk about the concept of market and changing 
tastes. Maybe those go together? 

Forman: Yes, they kind of do. Where are we in the market? This might be 
fun just for you and me to talk rather than me strictly talking 
about where you see the market and where I might see the market. 
You ve been drinking wine for a number of years, I gather. 

Hicke: Since we moved to California. 

Forman: Chardonnay. Let s begin with that. Chardonnay is a phenomenon 

that s developed really only sincewell, I was making Chardonnay 
at Stony Hill in 1967. 

Hicke: That was really early. 

Forman: That was early. They started in 52, and nobody even knew that 
Chardonnay existed in California. I mean, Fred McCrea really 
produced one of the first Chardonnays--he and Lee Stewart, I 
think, and Joe Heitz started making Chardonnay in the late 
fifties, early sixties. People were fascinated with it, but the 
only people that were really fascinated with it were people who 
had traveled to Europe and knew European wine. But the crowds out 
there, you d say "Chardonnay" and you d think you were speaking a 
foreign language. They would never know. 

But it slowly came around. Of course, Kendall- Jackson, I 
think, helped catapult it into the arena with its sweet 
Chardonnay. I don t know what really got it going. 

Hicke: I don t know which came first, but as I recall, people started 
drinking white wine instead of martinis . 



116 



Forman: Yes, I guess that was it. Then somebody decided maybe we should 
upgrade it. Instead of the old Chablis-style, Rhine-style wines 
that we were getting from the bulk producers, we could do varietal 
wines . 

Hicke: I used to drink vermouth, I remember, before white wine became 
popular. 

Forman: I love vermouth, yes. I love dry vermouth. I think it s a 

delicious drink over ice. It s wonderful. I quite agree with 
you. That s rare, though. People would not do that, I don t 
think. 

But where has Chardonnay gone? Chardonnay started by being 
a very honest white wine. It was almost always fermented in 
stainless steel. It had good balance because we weren t 
harvesting it terribly ripe. It wasn t as distinctly varietal in 
character as it is today because we weren t harvesting it ripe 
enough, but it was a very honest, clean wine that was above the 
level of quality and interest of the other white bulk wines that 
were being offered. 

I guess Chardonnay came first and then Sauvignon Blanc was 
really popularized by Bob Mondavi in the mid-sixties. Those were 
the two varieties that were interesting. Riesling was being made 
by a handful of producers, but it was sweet, and it wasn t too 
interesting then and still isn t. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay 
really caught on by the mid-sixties. As I say, I think Mondavi 
totally is responsible for having Sauvignon Blanc popularized, 
with his coining the name "Fume Blanc." 

But what has happened to Chardonnay? Well, it has gone from 
stainless steel to barrel fermentation. As I mentioned, Dick 
Graff and I were some of the first to experiment with barrel 
fermentation when we introduced French barrels into California. 
So I think the Chalone Winery and Sterling had a lot to do with 
people being fascinated with wine fermented in barrels. 

At the same time, I think Bob Mondavi was experimenting with 
fermenting Chardonnay in barrels, because I know when I was there 
we did it. And so, between Freemark Abbey, Bob Mondavi at 
Mondavi, and Sterling and Chalone, we all kind of began this 
notion that Chardonnay fermented in barrels had some merit. Of 
course, that was a big enough sampling so that people indeed liked 
it. Wine writers weren t a thing, really, at that time, so it 
really had to spread by the individual winery s advertising and by 
people liking it. 



117 



Slowly but surely, more wineries came onto the scene and 
with them, wine writers. Wine writers started talking about these 
concepts of barrel fermentation and so forth, and I think it 
really snowballed. People got used to the flavor of oak. I think 
it was overwhelming in the beginning, but people kind of got used 
to it, and they thought that was neat and it was sophisticated. 

So barrels quickly spread to every winery that made 
Chardonnay. And, of course, wineries were opening up by the 
dozens every month, and everybody wanted to make barrel-fermented 
Chardonnay by the time 1975 came around. Between 75 and 85, it 
was like: how else do you make Chardonnay? Of course you make it 
in barrels. Of course you do malolactic. 

So there we are. And then Kendall- Jackson came along around 
85 and introduced Chardonnay with sugar, and that appealed to 
even more. Then all of a sudden, the whole Chardonnay program was 
split in two. There were the really fancy, barrel-fermented 
Chardonnays, and there were the so-called fancy Chardonnays that 
have residual sugar in them. When you look at most of the large 
producers of medium-priced Chardonnay, you ll always find them 
with a little sugar in them. 

Hicke: Is that right? 

Forman: Yes. It s just a flavor people now recognize. They re 

associating sugar with this richness that comes out of barrel 
fermentation and malolactic. 



Hicke: It doesn t announce that on the label. 

Forman: Both of them make the wine sweet tasting. So I think that s where 
Chardonnay has landed. I would hope that people will begin to 
realize that it isn t essential that all the times wine go through 
malo and that they be so rich and so heavy and that they will 
slowly, as they did in the seventies, be weaned from these high- 
alcohol Zinfandels, which [chuckling], interestingly enough, we re 
getting back into again. And they ll want wines that have better 
balance. 

That happens as you get more sophisticated. The more wine 
you drink, the less you want to drink these heavy-handed wines and 
the more you want a little something to reach for, and you want 
subtleties and balance in your wine instead of the heavy-handed, 
knock-you-over-the-head stuff. 

The wine writers really are promoting most of this. People 
still in America aren t sure of themselves as far as drinking 
wine. The minute they get enthusiastic about wine, the first 



118 



thing they do is turn to one of the wine reviews, and the wine 
reviews, of course, are promoting bigger is better. So it s going 
to be a while before people get out of that habit and trust their 
own palates. 

Hicke: Why are the wine writers promoting big? 

Forman: Because they think big is dazzling, and also, I suppose, you ve 

got to realize that these guys are tasting hundreds of wines in a 
day, or at least a hundred wines. I don t know if you ve tasted 
wines, but I m a professional, as any other winemaker, and eight 
wines is about all I can do a really good job on. The minute you 
get twenty or thirty or forty lined up, obviously what s going to 
hit you is-- 

Hicke: Big. 

Forman: Yes. The only thing you re going to really be able to determine 
is what stands out with the most of whatever: the most body, the 
most color, the most nose, the most oak, the most something. And 
then they get all wrapped up in it. A couple of the really 
important ones are very fond of this flavor. They re just excited 
about these massive what I call rather obtuse wines. They say 
wonderful things about them, that these are the magical, unusual 
wines, and people seek them out. They re overwhelmed with them. 
They taste it and, of course, the power of suggestion says to 
them, "God, he s right. This thing is phenomenal. What an 
incredible wine!" 

Does it go with a meal? No. Does 16 percent Zinfandel 
really go with a meal? But isn t it still called table wine? 
They re show wines. They re something to be dazzled with and to 
be excited about. But they aren t really, I think, what the fruit 
was intended to be. Well, that s not the case, either. It s 
intended to be whatever it wants. But I think if you re going to 
drink wine on a regular basis and have it accompany a meal, I 
think you ll become tired of these really, really heavy-handed 
wines. On occasion, I guess they re fun. 



Cabernet Sauvignon 



Hicke: Maybe you could go through Cabernet the same as you did with the 
Chardonnay. 

Forman: How I produce Cabernet? 



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Hicke: Well, sort of how it has evolved. 

Forman: Yes, of course. Cabernet has been here for a lot longer than 
Chardonnay, I think, mainly because of the reputation that 
Beaulieu probably gave it. I mean, Beaulieu and Inglenook. 
Beaulieu and Inglenook were making wonderful wines. 

Hicke: Is that Tchelistcheff ? 

Forman: Yes, Tchelistcheff. In the forties. Those wines are still--some 
of them are still viable. The Napa Valley started growing 
Cabernet probably in the forties. Those two producers did an 
incredible job of classic winemaking with the variety, and the 
Valley is so well suited to Cabernet that you almost can t miss. 
But they on top of it all had very good vineyards and 
knowledgeable people making the wine. 

Cabernet was known through the efforts of Beaulieu, probably 
Inglenook, to a somewhat lesser extent Charles Krug, and Wente in 
the Livermore Valley, and Concannon in the Livermore Valley. I m 
trying to think of who else was, back in those early days, 
producing great wines from Cabernet. I m sure there are some. I 
just can t think of them. 

And then, of course, by the sixties we had Mondavi again 
coming on the scene, Clos du Val, Sterling, Freemark Abbey, and 
all of a sudden, new people were arriving. There had been a few 
other producers. Heitz certainly was very important earlier than 
these. Souverain was an important producer. I don t know why, 
but the world just knew about Cabernet from the Napa Valley. I 
guess because of Beaulieu. I can t think of any other reason, 
really, because it wasn t really written about. But Beaulieu had 
developed such a wonderful reputation that it was classic, and 
people associated Cabernet right from the forties on with the Napa 
Valley, and so when new producers came along, Cabernet was easily 
accepted. 

Cabernet wasn t really twisted around in such a fashion as 
Chardonnay has been twisted around. Cabernet still is being made 
classically. In fact, it s probably being made more classically. 
Beaulieu always used American oak. The newer producers were using 
the barrels that Sterling, Dick and I were selling and some of the 
barrels that Robert Mondavi was importing from Demptos . So the 
introduction of French barrels, Bordeaux barrels, in the late 
sixties and early seventies was probably the most important thing 
that altered Cabernet slightly from its previous standards of 
production at the other wineries. 



120 



Hicke: 
Forman : 



But then, I think, people were concentrating more on 
viticulture, realizing that low yields were important. We were 
opening up new areas. Some of the old hillside vineyards that had 
old varietiesPetite Sirah and things that had been abandoned 
were opened up. This was exciting. New people were buying old 
wineries. Like, the Araujos would buy the Eisele Vineyard, and 
Phelps came along and bought some fancy land, and Freemark Abbey 
would promote the Bosche Vineyard. Sterling opened up the Diamond 
Mountain Ranch up in the hills there. 

So all of this slowly took place, and before you knew it, we 
had instead of four main producers, we had forty producers, many 
of them with wonderful new vineyards, adding Merlot to the wines 
at the lead of Sterling; adding Cabernet Franc finally in the end 
of the seventies. Not until the nineties did we introduce Petit 
Verdot, but paying attention to what was done in Bordeaux. 

Cabernet has reached unbelievable heights of quality in the 
Napa Valley, so much so that it challenges Cabernet made anywhere 
in the world, including the great Cabernets made in Bordeaux. I 
don t think they taste necessarily like Bordeaux, but they have 
the same quality. They have perhaps more richness because of our 
ability to achieve full ripeness here, but the quality of some of 
the top, say, forty producers in California of Cabernet is as good 
as any wine made in the world. 

So we ve really come a long ways with all of the aspects of 
growing and winemaking. 

What about your own methods? 

As we mentioned earlier, I ve been a strict, sort of classical 
producer in the sense of traditional methods, gained through my 
visits and insight and studying in Bordeaux. 1 was convinced 
that, certainly, the area and the grape clones and varieties and 
soil and climate, by and large, made a big difference in why 
Bordeaux wine tasted the way it did. 

But I was also fascinated and felt that at least a part of 
that quality had to do with how the wine was made, and so I paid 
close attention and came home and at Sterling started using these 
techniques. Again, the French barrels played a big part--how the 
barrels were used. A lot of people in the early days didn t 
understand how to use the barrels. They would put clean wine in 
the new barrels. They didn t know how to wash the barrels out, 
and they wondered why the wine instantly turned just so oak-y they 
couldn t get near it. 



121 



I was willing to take chances and put unfiltered or 
unsettled wine into new barrels, and the results were good. 1 
believe that more general intervention into the wine handling was 
important, so I adopted the technique of barrel-to-barrel racking 
with air pressure, rather than using pumps. That was important, 
and I think that added a subtle difference to the quality. 

I was fascinated with the egg-white fining technique and 
thought that it would probably work well in barrels, as opposed to 
big tanks, and so I introduced egg-white fining in barrels. I 
think that added a slight factor of quality to the wine. 

What else? I think the blending of Merlot, Franc, Cabernet, 
and Petit Verdot was a big step forward as far as complexity is 
concerned in California. And then also concentrating on the 
specific little vineyards, which had nuances of quality that were 
distinct and worth capturing and leaving on their own, rather than 
mass blending a number of vineyards for a standard quality every 
year had a big effect, and it certainly did at Sterling, as it has 
at my winery here. 



Vineyard Management Tools 



Forman: I think one of the things that we re doing now that we didn t do 
quite as rigorously or didn t quite understand in the sixties and 
seventies is the level of maturity and the crop level and the 
trellising systems that are necessary to produce ultimate quality 
off of some of these already fantastic pieces of soil. We talked 
a little bit earlier about the introduction of vertical trellises. 
I think that s having a big effect. 

We now know, through the university s studies and through 
what they ve done in Bordeaux and through our experiences, that 
sunlight is important in how it plays on the leaf surface of the 
vines and on the fruit itself. We re spending a great deal of 
money designing trellis systems to maximize the effect of light on 
the fruit. We re realizing that you can t just put huge amounts 
of crop on a vine. In that vein, we re cutting back on crop load 
and actually adding density to vineyards so that single vines 
don t have to carry such a huge load of fruit. We ve gone from 
the normal 400 vines to the acre up to as much as 2,000 vines to 
the acre. 

We ve added vertical trellises. We re using, where 
necessary, leafing techniques to expose fruit to more sunlight. 
The crops have come from the eight tons to the acre down to three 



122 



tons to the acre. Judicial use of fertilizers and/or drip 
irrigation has made a big difference. You can control the 
conditions of the vine. More fine tuning with drip than you had 
with sprinkler irrigation, which caused problems with mildew and 
so forth. 

Then realizing that this fruit, if it s going to have that 
deliciously rich character that we re after, has to be fully 
mature. We re understanding the tannin structure of wines, and 
the level of maturity that s necessary to produce this soft tannin 
and supple fruit character out of the wine, as opposed to the kind 
of hard, green tannins that you d get if you picked Cabernet too 
under-ripe. 

I think the wines have taken a major step in quality because 
of all of this, in the last probably five to eight years. 



Forman Vineyard; Present and Future 



Hicke: You wanted to finish with where you saw Forman Vineyard going, 
especially what your son s ideas are and where you saw the 
industry going. 

Forman: Okay. Well, I ve been making wine for thirty-two years. I m 
certainly not running out of steam, but I would like some 
assistance, I think. It s hard for me to do that. I never really 
could delegate things too readily in any place I ve worked-- 
Newton, Sterling or certainly here. And here it s gone in the 
reverse. At Sterling at least I had a cellar crew, which 
obviously one had to have with a capacity that big. But I came 
here and I have no cellar crew. I do hire people to help me when 
I have a job, but I do an awful lot of it on my own. I m thinking 
that at some point I ve got to have an assistant here to do some 
of the things . 

It s fortunate that my son, Toby, who is only twenty- two 
years old and still in school, is really interested in the 
business. I think what would be funbecause he s very mechanical 
and he s very excited about farming. He s interested in the 
winery, but to a lesser degree in the winery; he s more interested 
in viticulture. I would be interested in having Toby--and he s 
very excited about itdevelop a small farming company whereby he 
could take on small vineyards. 

I don t think he s anxious to do a huge operation in the way 
that David Abreu does, but have a small team of people and do some 



123 



small vineyards take care of them in a very meticulous fashion, 
and then also take care of my vineyard, which would be so nice, to 
have a permanent crew that I could consistently count on--not that 
I don t with David, but I think it would be important as time goes 
on to have a crew that is really mine run the vineyard and have 
Toby be able to take care of that crew and to allow the crew 
enough to do to take on a few satellite properties. That would be 
the answer to a prayer for me. It would be wonderful. 

And then I would envision training this crew to actually 
work in the cellar when cellar work was needed, so that they were 
ongoing, knowing how the process goes, and Toby could watch over 
them and help, and I would then get relieved from some of the 
pressure of doing so much of it on my own, by myself. 

And then I carried it a step further and I talked with Toby. 
I said, "You know, what would happen if we did sort of like what 
Christian Moueix does in Bordeaux, different than him in the fact 
that he owns all of the properties that he manages, but the same 
in the way that he manages the properties. Suppose we went to 
these little producers of vineyards and said to them, It doesn t 
make much sense for you all to sell grapes anymore 1 "--and that s 
another point that we can make: I don t think in the future you 
will see any straight farmerhow shall we term it? people 
farming land and selling grapes. I think farmers will all be 
vintners because you can t make enough money farming grapes 
anymore . 

So we go to these little people who are buying these small 
properties and say, "We ll manage your vineyard for you, but also 
we ll help design which I m very capable of and have fun doing- 
design a small winery for you, and we ll manage the winery as 
well. Our crew can go from one place to the next, run your little 
two-, three-, four-thousand-case winery, run your little 
vineyard." I would supervise the people that we choose. We d 
have to have a pretty good winemaker involved on the team. 

I think it could be a very interesting business that Toby 
could grow with, I could have fun with, they could come back and 
do the physical work here, and I could do, finally, just the 
mental work of making sure that all was going right and how it all 
will run. I see that perhaps as the evolution of Forman Vineyard. 

As far as making more wine, we have space because I like 
space. I ve developed a large space to make a small quantity of 
wine. You ve been through the cellars. You ve seen no barrels 
stacked. Everything I have is one barrel high. In the tunnels, a 
hundred barrels long and not one barrel on top of each other. So 
I could double the capacity of the winery, but I don t really 



124 



think I d want to do that. I think I d rather keep the winery as 
it is, perhaps grow it to the point of maybe 10 to 20 percent more 
and leave it at that, and instead, grow the business as it sees 
fit, with Toby s capacity to grow it with a management team. 

Hicke: Would you envision most of this being in the Napa Valley? 

Forman: Oh, I think it would all be in the Napa Valley. Yes, I wouldn t 
go outside the Napa Valley. You have a lot of people who have 
moved to the Valley whose dream is to run this little winery and 
vineyard. They re just dying to do it. They re lined up in long 
lines, literally, and will pay anything to get into this 
situation. And so you will see these little places. They re 
going to pay dearly for it, but they re also going to want it 
managed properly. And they won t want to just sell grapes; they 
all want to make wine ultimately, maybe a thousand cases, two 
thousand cases. And that could be done. 

We, I think, could do a very good job for them, and they 
would have a lot of fun with it. So it s an idea. Where it will 
go, I don t know. It all depends on Toby--if he wants to, it 
will; if he doesn t, it s fine. We won t do it. I can manage 
this and eventually hire some people to run it when I get tired of 
running it and have it run perfectly. 



Wine Industry Overview 



Hicke: Okay, what about the industry? 

Forman: Where will the industry go? I think I touched on that in saying 

that I don t think you re going to see many growers as strict 

growers anymore. I think you re going to see totally, every 
vineyard owned and operated by a winery. 

Hicke: And that s, again, in the Napa Valley. 

Forman: In the Napa Valley, but I think you ll see it spread probably, as 
things happen. It goes from the Napa Valley to the Sonoma Valley, 
there and beyond. We re discovering that the price of labor and, 
as we go from wide-spaced vineyards to tightly spaced vineyards, 
that the cost of farming is so high that you can t charge enough 
for the fruit to justify the farming costs anymore. It simply 
doesn t work. David and I have the Thorvilos Vineyard, which we 
own in conjunction together, above the winery. It s a beautiful 
vineyardclose spaced, vertically trellised--and it costs us 
close to $12,000 an acre a year to run it. 



125 



You can charge $5,000 a ton, but the people that are going 
to pay $5,000 a ton don t want it grown at more than three tons to 
the acre, and so $3,000 an acre isn t very exciting to take the 
risks-- 

Hicke: There s a little disparity there. 

Forman: Yes, to take the risks that you take, it doesn t make sense. So 

we don t know what we re going to do with it. We re contemplating 
forming a winery around Thorvilos. I really don t want to do 
that, but it s crazy. We can t make any money fanning it. And 
everybody else is realizing the same thing. And people who are 
getting into the business and thinking they re going to go out and 
find good fruit, it won t exist anymore. Good fruit is all going 
to be taken by growers who have formed their own business in a 
winery or vintners who have locked up long-term growerswell, but 
that s really not the case, though, because that s contrary to 
what I just said. Vintners won t be able to go out and buy fruit 
unless they own the vineyard. I don t think it will be available 
anymore. Wineries will own their own vineyards. Growers won t 
exist. It ll take probably another ten years, but I ll bet you in 
ten years you won t see any growers. 

Hicke: What s that going to do to the marketing and distribution? 

Forman: Well, it depends on whether the growers can make decent wine. 
That s a problem it s kind of fun to think about. Established 
wineries with good reputations know how to make good wine. Do 
they know how to convince growers to grow good fruit? Some do, 
some don t. It depends on what they re willing to pay and what 
their management is able to do as far as supervising the growers 
they have contracts with. 

On the other hand, if a grower is going to decide to make 
wine, it s probably going to affect the way he grows grapes. All 
of a sudden, he s not going to try to squeeze the last grape out 
of his vineyard, because he s now not trying to make money from 
the vineyard per se; he s trying to make money from the wine. So 
I think the quality of the fruit will be raised, the quantity will 
be decreased- -but again, will the grower know how to make wine? 
Some of them will, some of them won t. It depends on who they re 
willing to hire and how they re willing to do it. 

There seems to be a new wave of very talented winemakers, 
consultants, out there. It s kind of a new business. They re 
beginning to be kind of like almost cult superstar people that go 
from place to place. I think there will be an increased number of 
capable winemakers--well, this is the sort of project that I m 
saying that I d like to do with Toby. 



126 



I think the fruit quality would be raised dramatically in 
the Valley because growers won t be growers anymore; they will be 
dependent on their wine selling as wine, not grapes. So the 
quality of the fruit will be raised, the quantity will be 
decreased because the yield will have to be decreased, and there 
will be new labels. I don t know how we ll absorb new labels, 
but--you know, we ve got many four or five hundred in the Napa 
Valley. 

You look at Bordeaux alone. They ve got 4,000, another 
4,000 or 5,000 in Burgundy, another 4,000 or 5,000 in all the 
other areas. So there are hundreds of thousands of labels in 
France alone, not to mention Italy and all else. So can the Napa 
Valley go from 400 labels to 900 labels? Easily. Absolutely no 
problem. 

Hicke: It s going to produce a lot more wine writers to cover all this 
territory! 

Forman: Yes. Well, wine writers are drooling at it because they ve got 
more to write about. Next year there s another ten new ones, 
another hundred new ones. Always something new to talk about. 

Hicke: Exactly. 

Forman: So I think it s positive. I think that people are beginning to 
become a little more sophisticated on wine. The wine consumers 
are becoming more sophisticated, partly because of the wine 
writers and partly because the word of mouth is spreading. Your 
neighbor is drinking wine. Well, let s try it. And they try it, 
they like it, they get into wine clubs. It s the new thing to do. 
I think their affluence has a lot to do with it. The world has 
never been more affluent in history. Affluence means you can 
afford to buy pleasurable things, and wine is a pleasurethe 
high-priced wine is. As it is in Europe, it s not a food staple; 
it s a luxurythe high-priced wine, anyway. There seem to be an 
unlimited number of people out there that are willing to 
experiment with this new-found luxury. 

Hicke: It has an intellectual challenge to it as well, as we discussed. 

Forman: A little bit, yes. It does appeal to people. It s not 

homogenized milk; it s different every year. It has personality. 

Hicke: Glamour, too. 

Forman: Yes, it s fun. It s definitely fun. So I see a very bright 

future for it. I think as the economy takes its cycles, the wine 
business will, of course, follow right in hand, but it s cyclical, 



127 



Hicke: 
Forman: 



Hicke: 

Forman: 
Hicke: 
Forman: 
Hicke: 



and it s not going away. This progression of quality and winery- 
owned vineyards or vineyard wineries will be a thing that will 
develop and will be here forever. The face will change, and I ll 
bet you in fifteen to twenty years, there will definitely be a 
finite number of vineyards planted, because there s only so much 
land here, and they will all have labels attached to them. 

The next step will be fine-tuning the appellations and what 
they really mean, and you will pretty soon see the Cabernet 
varieties and the Chardonnay exclusively, and perhaps Pinot Noir. 
I don t think you ll see much Sauvignon Blanc. You ll see none of 
the other varieties. I don t even think Zinfandel will exist here 
for very much longer. I think it will be Pinot Noir, Cabernet 
varieties, and Chardonnay. And that s all you ll see in the Napa 
Valley. Pretty soon, from Napa north will be all Cabernet 
varieties and from Napa south will be all Chardonnay and Pinot 
Noir, and we will be as delimited as France. That s where it ll 
be. That s what s coming, in my view. 

What about Merlot? 

No, I say the Cabernet varieties. I mean Cabernet, Merlot, Blanc, 
and Petit Verdot. North of Napa, that s all you ll see. You 
won t see any other grape here. And then south of there you ll 
see Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. And that s all you ll have. And 
Sonoma will follow in another ten years with the same thing. 

Well, you re on the right track. I think that s a good place to 
stop. 

Yes. 

Have we missed anything crucial? 

Oh, I don t think so. 

Thanks so much for a really informative and insightful series of 
interviews . 



Transcribed by Him Eisenberg 
Final Typed by Shannon Page 



128 
TAPE GUIDE--Richard Forman 



Interview 1: February 24, 1999 

Tape 1, Side A ! 

Tape 1, Side B 12 

Tape 2, Side A 2 4 

Interview 2: February 25, 1999 

Continue Tape 2, Side A 30 

Tape 2, Side B 36 

Tape 3, Side A 47 

Tape 3, Side B 57 

Interview 3: March 3, 1999 

Tape 4, Side A 66 

Tape 4, Side B 75 

Tape 5, Side A 35 

Tape 5, Side B 95 

Interview 4: April 19, 1999 
Tape 6, Side A 
Tape 6, Side B 

Tape 7, Side A 122 

Tape 7, Side B not recorded 



APPENDIX 



Forman Vineyards Publicity 



129 APPENDIX 




VINEYARD 



FORMAN VINEYARD HISTORY 

I founded Forman Vineyard in 1983 to fulfill a dream of producing, as a sole proprietor, 
small quantities of classically made Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. 

After a 3 year search of the Napa Valley for the perfect location, I purchased, in 1978, the 
current winery/vineyard site which is perched on a ridge at the base of Howell Mountain 
overlooking the town of St. Helena. A remarkable site, it has since produced some unusually 
elegant wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. 

The Chardonnay is grown in a vineyard in Rutherford named appropriately "Rutherford 
Star". Founded as a partnership venture, the vineyard has, due to its prime location and deep 
gravel loam profile, produced consistent quality. 

The soil is the essence of a wine s finesse. The Cabernet vineyard below the winery is 
boldly surrounded by a shelf of massive grey volcanic rock which protects and moderates the 
climate in this tiny "clos de la roche". The exposure is multifaceted due to the rolling terraced 
layout. The vineyard radiates in the sun showing its unusually distinct pink color. It is a very 
austere soil made up of pink volcanic gravel, sand and a sparse bit of humus. When cultivated, it 
folds as though it was sugar displaying its remarkable friability and hence its propensity to drain 
well allowing vine roots to search for their existence. It is in these rare soils and in the sublime 
Napa Valley climate that the wines are made. 

A philosophy of winemaking which follows more a traditional approach as opposed to 
technological appealed to me early in my career. I would say that a familiarity with European 
tradition has seriously influenced my style and hence the fashion with which I designed and built 
my winery. 

Grapes are gently handled from harvest thru fermentation. Small stainless steel fermentors 
for red wines and new Burgundy barrels for white seem fitting for the need to pay close attention to 
detail during the winemaking process. 

Deep caves have been constructed which maintain a cool dark and humid environment in 
which to age red wines in new French oak barrels. The wines literally age in the soils from which 
they grew. The integration of the small stone cellar settled in the hillside surrounded by a 
courtyard and in touch with the deep caves below set a mood which would recall that of a tiny 
European Estate. 

Thus, with a wonderfully situated vineyard and deliberately planned cellar, I am fulfilling 
my dream and am constantly vigilant in personally making sure that each step is uncompromised in 
the pursuit of producing the finest quality possible from my estate. 




1501 BIG ROCK RD. P.O. BOX 343 . ST. HELENA. CA 94574 TELEPHONE (707) 963-0234 FAX (707) 963-5384 



Wine Spectator s 



CALIFORNIA WINE 



by James Laube 



FORMAN VINEYARD 

St Helena, Napa Valley F: 1983. 0: Richard Forman. 

W: Richard Forman. S: Chateau La Grande Roche. 

OVERALL $23-30 ***** 

WINE RATINGS 

Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley ***** 

Chardonnay Napa Valley ***** 

Chateau La Grande Roche Pinot Noir, Napa Valley ** 

WINERY DATA 

C: 4,000. V: 86 acres in St. Helena, Napa valley, Rutherford. G: 
Chardonnay (43 acres). Cabernet Sauvignon (30), Merlot (7), 
Cabernet Franc (3), Petite verdot (2). P: None. 

Ric Forman has filled his life wall to wall with Napa Valley 
wine and has had a hand in developing many important wines. 
While a student at U.C. Davis, he worked at Stony Hill, the fa 
mous Chardonnay estate. After school he worked briefly at Robert 
Mondavi Winery. In 1968 he was hired at age 24 to be wine- 
maker for the new Sterling Vineyards winery, where he worked 
until 1978, in the process developing new wines such as 
Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot while defining the Sterling Reserve 
Cabernets. After Sterling he had a brief stint at Newton before 
starting his own winery in the hills east of St. Helena near the 
Meadowood Resort. 

Forman has acquired 86 acres of vineyard, mostly Chardonnay 
and Cabernet, and his focus is on those two wines. His Cabernet 
(2,200 cases) is a Bordeaux-style blend containing Merlot and 
Cabernet Franc. He makes 1,800 cases of his estate-grown 
Chardonnay. Both wines show a definite house style that s very 
consistent. The Cabernet aims for finesse and understated fla 
vors, rarely overwhelms but charms with its subtlety and grace. 



His Chardonnay is one of the few left in Napa that doesn t u: 
dergo malolactic fermentation, the goal (which he achieves) b 
ing a longer-lived wine that develops character and complex! 
in the bottle. 



WINERY STAR RATING 

5 Star ***** 

Araujo Estate Wines 

Au Bon Climat 

Beringer Vineyards 

Caymus Vineyards 

Delia Valle Vineyards 

Diamond Creek Vineyards 

Dominus Estate 

Dunn Vineyards 

El Molino 

Gary Farrell Wines 

Forman Vineyard 

Grace Family Vineyards 

Kistler Vineyards 

Marcassin Winery 

Matanzas Creek Winery 

Robert Mondavi Winery 

Opus One 
Patz & Hall Wine Co. 

Ridge Vineyards 
J. Rochioli Vineyard 

San ford Winery 

S potts woode Winery 

Williams & Selyem Winery 



TASTING NOTES 



CABERNET SAUVIGNON NAPA VALLEY 
(*****): Packs in lots of complex flavors, but fi 
nesse and grace are its signature. Ages very well. 
1992: Weaves together a pretty- array of ripe cherry, 
currant and spicy oak flavors, with an earthy edge. 
Very well focused, young and vibrant, but in need of 
cellaring until 1999 or so. 92 
1991 : Inky and raw like a barrel sample, but it serves 
up lots of concentrated currant, spice and cherry fla 
vors, finishing with a peppery, tannic edge. 89 
1990: Sleek and elegant, with tight, firm, focused herb, 
currant, cedar and spice flavors. This youthful and con 
centrated wine finishes with fine tannins, but needs 
short-term cellaring to soften and develop. 90 
1989: Ripe and supple, a fleshy wine with a soft tex 
ture and enough backbone to carry the currant and 
spice flavors. It hints at anise and herbs, but remains 
fruity. 88 

1988: Solid tea, black cherry and currant flavors are 
backed by strong, rich tannins; shows more depth and 
concentration than most 88s. Picks up an herbal, oaky 
note on the aftertaste. 88 

1987: Ripe and intense, with concentrated currant, 
cherry, cedar and spice flavors that are tightly wound, 
firm and tannin Has a supple, smooth texture before 
the tannins build up. 93 

1986: A beautifully sculpted wine, rich and cedary, 
with vibrant currant, plum and spice flavors that are 
lean and concentrated, finishing with firm tannins. 93 
1985: Very rich and cedary, with a touch of elegance 
and finesse and deep currant, spice and plum flavors. 
Finishes with fine, smooth tannins; it s focused long 
and complex. 93 

1984: Rich, forward and delicious, a splendid Cabernet 
with supple, layered black cherry, currant and anise 
flavors framed by toasty oak and smooth tannins. 92 
1983: Mature and drinking well, holding its core of 
rich, complex currant, berry and spice flavors. 90 



CHARDONNAY NAPA VALLEY (*****): 
Starts out crisp and tight, but blossoms in the bottle, 
showing flinty apple and citrus notes. 
1992: Crisp and lean, with lots of spice notes, but also 
sharply focused apple, pear and nectarine flavors. 89 
1991: Tart, lean and crisp, with spicy lemon, honey, 
pear and toast notes. Youthful, concentrated and full 
of flavor, but will require time to open and be more 
generous. 89 

1990: Tight, firm and crisp, with intense, focused pear, 
pineapple, peach and citrus flavors and a pretty over 
lay of toasty, buttery oak notes. 90 
1989: Tight and tart, with melon, pear, citrus and but 
terscotch flavors that are ripe and attractive, finishing 
with good length. 88 

1988: Intense, concentrated and complex, with pear, 
pineapple, spicy oak, peach and vanilla notes that gain 
prominence on the finish. 92 
1987: Plenty of fresh, ripe pear, spice, butter and toast 
notes that are long and tasty. 89 
1986: Toasty and smoky, with richness, depth and 
intensity and a smooth, silky texture to the ripe lemon, 
pear, butterscotch and smoke notes. 92 
1985: Amazing for its depth, intensity and sheer el 
egance, offering great complexity, with tiers of rich, 
toasty butterscotch, honey, citrus and spice flavors. 
93 

CHATEAU LA GRANDE ROCHE PINOT NOIR 
NAPA VALLEY (**): 

1991: Rich, full-bodied, complex and flavorful. The 
spicy, smoky cherry and plum flavors are long on the 
finish. Supple enough to drink now, but has the depth 
to cellar through 1998. 85 



132 



liquid 

1 





CALIFORNIA S TOP 

CABERNET SAUVIGNONS 



It was only a few years ago that America s wine 
writers were announcing that mature California 
cabernets were not worth their storage costs. 
With the continued very dramatic growth of 
Butterfield s San Francisco auctions, there is now 
a good supply of mature California cabernet 
sauvignon arriving on the market so that buyers 
can see for themselves just how well these wines 
age. The willingness of buyers to spend hard 
earned cash for properly matured California 
cabernets indicates that these wines deserve a 
place in the best wine cellars. 

We first constructed a ranking of California s 
top cabernets seven years ago. We used a simple, 
tried and true test to determine our ranking: we 
based our ranking on the prices the wines fetched 
in arm s length transactions in the auction rooms. 
Instead of using the size of a winery s advertising 
budget, or the ratings of a few wine writers (no 
doubt influenced by the same budgets and boon 
doggles), we rank the wines based on what con 
sumers are prepared to pay in order to drink the 
mature wines. This is the method that was used 
to construct the original ranking of the top wines 
of Bordeaux in 1855. 



We have developed a new ranking to show the 
extraordinary changes that have taken place over 
the past seven years in California. For one thing, 
many of the top wines today (Opus I, Caymus 
Special Selection, Dunn Howell Mountain) barely 
existed eight years ago. In addition, many long 
time favorites (Trefethen, Mt. Eden Vineyard, 
Martini) have lost so much visibility that they 
no longer make the list of wines that sell regu 
larly at auction. Finally, some familiar wineries 
of a decade ago (Inglenook) no longer exist at 
all! 
How the Ranking Was Made 

We prepared our ranking of California 
cabernet sauvignon producers by comparing the 
prices of all the mature wines sold at auction in 
the last year. This provided us with data on over 
2,000 transactions, a dramatic increase in the to 
tal auction sales of these wines over previous 
years. We compared wines from the same vin 
tage sold in San Francisco (accounting for over 
one-half the cabernet sold), Chicago, and New 
York. Sales of California cabernet sauvignon in 
the auctions of London and Amsterdam are neg 
ligible. 



NEW CALIFORNIA CABERNET SAUVIGNON CLASSIFICATION 

Based on Prices of Vintages from 1968 through 1985 
Rank, Vineyard & Price as a Percent of Beaulieu Vyds. Private Reserve 



1. Caymus Special Selection 366% 

2. Opus I 242 

3. Stag s Leap Wine Clrs. Csk. 23 239 

4. Dunn Howell Mountain 215 

5. Heitz Martha s Vineyard 206 

6. Spottswoode Napa 172 

7. Ridge Monte Bello 155 

8. Silver Oak Napa 150 



9. Dunn Napa 

10. Beringer Reserve Napa 

11. Chateau Montelena Napa 

12. Dominus Napa 

13. Silver Oak Alexander Valley 

14. Joseph Phelps Insignia 

15. Forman Napa 



142% 

141 

139 

129 

119 

114 

114 



133 



FOURTH EDITION 




FORMAN WINERY (NAPA) 

Cabernet Sauvignon ****, Chardonnay **** 



1991 Cabernet Sauvignon 



Napa D 



94 



1990 Cabernet Sauvignon 



Napa D 



92 



1992 Chardonnay 



Napa C 



88 



Rick Forman continues to be one of the best practi 
tioners of nonmalolactic-fermented Chardonnay. The 
1992 Chardonnay possesses excellent purity, ripe fruit, 
medium body, and a crisp, tart, tasty finish. It is a 
delicious, lively Chardonnay for drinking over the next 
1-2 years. For readers information, a vertical tasting 
of the Forman Chardonnays from the mid-eighties 
through recent releases poignantly revealed that (1) 
they survive as they get older, (2) they become greener 
and more Sauvignon-like with each additional year 
of cellaring, and (3) because of the green, tart acidity 
that develops, they are far less enjoyable after 2-3 years 
of cellaring than when they are young. For these rea 
sons, I recommend drinking them within their first 
several years of life. 

Forman s 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon (packaged in a 
heavy, broad-shouldered bottle) may be the most im 



pressive Cabernet he has made. The wine s softer, 
fleshier palate suggests a lighter hand in acidification. 
The saturated black/ruby/purple color is followed by 
copious aromas of wonderfully rich and ripe cassis 
intertwined with vague mineral and vanilla scents. Full 
bodied, with terrific richness, layers of fruit, and a 
multidimensional personality, this gorgeously made, 
opulent Cabernet Sauvignon can be drunk now or 
cellared for 15-20 years. Forman s 1990 Cabernet 
Sauvignon is a deep purple-colored wine displaying 
a supe rex press ive nose of black currants, licorice, and 
vanillin. With a beautifully etched, medium- to 
full-bodied feel, exquisite concentration, decent acid 
ity, and firm but soft, sweet tannins, this is a graceful, 
authoritatively flavored Cabernet for drinking over the 
next 12- 15 years. 



134 




39 

California 

Wine Spectator Yearbook 
by James Laube 



93 
Forman 

Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1992 $30 

The name of Fonnan has been associated with great 
Napa Cabernet for decades and this 92 Cab will only 
add to winemaker Rick Forman s prestige. This is an 
intense wine that weaves together an array of gorgeous 
fruit character and spicy oak flavors along with a good 
backbone of ripe tannins. Wait until 1999 to try it 
(2,000 cases made) 



Wine Spectator 



SELECTED FROM THE HIGHEST-RATED, MOST WIDELY AVAILABLE WINES REVIEWED IN 1995. 



TOP-RATED WINES 



TOP-RATED WINES 



Cabernet Sauvignon 

93 
Forman 

Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 1992 $30 

Weaves together an array of ripe cherry, currant, and 
spicy oak flavors, and adds a trim of earthy charac 
ter. Well focused, young and vibrant 



Chardonnay 

91 
Forman 

Chardonnay Napa Valley 1994 $23 

A delicious young wine that balances intensity with 
elegance in a ripe, fruity, moderately rich wine. Fea 
tures ripe pear, spice, melon and fig notes, finishing 
with toasty oak and smoky nuances. 



135 



Wine Spectator 



CABERNET ALL-STARS 



FORMAN VINEYARD 

Napa Valley 

Best recent vintages 7992 (93), 1991 (89), 

1990 (89) 

Price $30 

Cases 2,000 

Owner Ric Fonman 

Winemaker Ric Fonnan 

Greatest older vintages 7957, 1986, 1985, 

1984. 1983 

When phylloxera began to spread in the late 
1980s and early 1990s, Ric Fonnan figured he d 
have to replant his Cabernet vineyard and buy 
grapes, which would have changed his wine style. 
Phylloxera never really took hold in his gravelly 
vineyard and the vines have remained healthy, 
leading to a string of fine vintages from 1990 to 
1992. Forman aims for elegance and finesse with 
his Cabernet and the wine is usually marked by 
fine detail and tannins. But they can be big, too; 
the 1991 was dense and chewy on release. The 
1992 has in it small amounts of Merlot and 
Cabernet Franc, and it s bright, rich and lively. 
Some 25 percent of the Forman Cabernet comes 
from a Thorvilos Vineyard, which he co-owns 
with Dave Abreu. It lies adjacent to his main 
vineyard at the base of Howell Mountain. 



TOP CABERNETS 

Araujo Eisele Vineyard 
Beaulieu Private Reserve 
Beringer Private Reserve 
Caymus Special Selection 

Chateau Montelena 
The Montelena Estate 

Dalla Valle Napa Valley and Maya 

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow, 
Red Rock and Volcanic Hill 

Dominus Napa Valley 

Duckhorn Napa Valley 

Dunn Howell Mountain 

Flora Springs Reserve 

Forman Napa Valley 

Grace Napa Valley 

Groth Reserve 
Heitz Martha s Vineyard 

The Hess Collection Napa 
Valley and Reserve 

Robert Mondavi Reserve 

Opus One Napa Valley 

Joseph Phelps Insignia 

Ridge Monte Bello 

Shater Stags Leap 

Hillside Select 
Silverado Limited Reserve 
Spottswoode Napa Valley 

Stag s Leap Wine Cellars 
Cask 23 




136 
Robert M. Parker, Jr. s 

The 

WINE 

ADVOCATE. 

Independent consumer s bimonthly guide to Fine Wine 




1992 




9~AS 

* 



1991 



PRODUCED k BOTTLED BY FOX-MAN VINEYARD. ST. HELENA. CA 
ALC I3. Y VOL CONTAINS SULRTES 



PRODUCED k ROTTLED IV FOUMAN VINEYARD. ST HELENA. CA 
ALC ll.mlYVOL, CONTAINS SULHTEJ 



FORMAN VINEYARDS 



1991 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 



NAPA 



($32.00) 



RED 



94 



1992 CHARDONNAY 



NAPA 



($24.00) 



WHITE 



88 



Rick Forman continues to be one of the best practi 
tioners of non-malolactic Chardonnay. The 1992 
Chardonnay possesses exellent purity, ripe fruit, 
medium body, and a crisp, tart, tasty finish. It is a 
delicious, lively Chardonnay for drinking over the 
next 1-2 years. For readers information, a vertical 
tasting of the Forrnan Chardonnays from the mid- 
eighties through recent releases poignantly revealed 
that (1) they survive as they get older, (2) they 
become greener and more Sauvignon-like with each 
additional year of cellaring, and (3) because of the 
green, tart acidity that dominates, they are far less 
enjoyable after 2-3 years of cellaring than when 



they are young. For these reasons, I recommend 
drinking them within their first several years of life. 

Forman s 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon (packaged 
in a heavy, broad-shouldered bottle) may be the 
most impressive Cabernet he has made. The wine s 
softer, fleshier palate suggests a lighter hand in 
acidification. The saturated black/ruby/purple color 
is followed by copious aromas of wonderfully rich 
and ripe cassis, intertwined with vague mineral and 
vanilla scents. Full-bodied, with terrific richness, 
layers of fruit, and a multidimensional personality, 
this gorgeously made, opulent Cabernet Sauvignon 
can be drunk now or cellared for 15-20 years. 




137 
Robert M. Parker, Jr. s 

The 

WINE 

ADVOCATE. 

Independent consumer s bimonthly guide to Fine Wine 



FORMAN VINEYARDS 



1994 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 



NAPA (not yet released) 



RED (91-931 



1993 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 



NAPA 



($35.00) 



RED 



92 



1992 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 



NAPA 



($32.00) 



RED 



91 



1994 CHARDONNAY 



NAPA 



($27.00) 



WHITE 



89 



1994 MERLOT 



NAPA (not yet released) 



RED (89-90) 



It seems like yesterday that Ric Forman began his career, 
yet he is now one of California s veteran wine-makers. 
From his early days (nearly 20 years ago) at Sterling he 
has built an impressive resumed The proprietor of 
beautiful vineyards tucked high in the hills between the 
Silverado Trail and Conn Valley, he has launched a new 
wine, a Merlot from a vineyard called Thorvilos, that he 
developed along with the well-known viticulturist David 
Abreu. The 1995, which had just finished malolactic 
fermentation, blew me away, but the wine will not be in 
the marketplace for several years. The 1994 Merlot s 
arrival is more imminent. It is a seductive, wonderfully 
ripe, rich, nicely textured, full-bodied, exquisitely pure 
wine with berry/mocha-like flavors. It should drink well 
for 12-15 years. It is the first vintage for Forman s 
Merlot. 

The 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon (80% Cabernet 
Sauvignon / 20% Cabernet Franc) is a sweet, broad, 
gorgeously pure and well-delineated wine with an 
opaque purple color. It is typical of many Forman 
Cabernets - rich but gracefully constructed, without any 
excess. All of its components - fruit, glycerin, acidity, 
alcohol and wood - are beautifully balanced and inte 
grated. It will-drink well young and last for 20+ years. 
The 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon is a more muscular 
wine, with considerable tannin (sweet rather than 
astringent), full body, outstanding ripeness, admirable 
purity, and a long, textured structured finish. Although 
approachable, 3-4 years of cellaring are warranted. It, 
too, is a 20-year wine. The 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon is 
beginning to shut down and reveal more tannin. Some of 
the baby fat and thickness have taken a back seat to the 



wine s more structured aspects. Rich and full-bodied, it 
is less flattering and showy than when I first tasted it. It 
possesses outstanding concentrations, as well as the 
potential for 20+ years of evolution. 

Like Chateau Montelena and Stony Hill, Forman is one 
of the few members of the old school of California 
Chardonnay wine-making. Harvesting very ripe fruit, 
blocking any malolactic fermentation (which means the 
wine has to be sterile filtered). Ric Forman produces a 
crisp, honeyed-apple, spring flower blossom-scented 
wine, that epitomizes the natural fruit character of the 
Chardonnay varietal. It is always an elegant, graceful 
wine that offers a Chablis-like alternative to the fatter, 
more creamy-textured, malolactic Chardonnays. Forman 
was generous enough to do a vertical tasting of his 
Chardonnays to try and convince me of their ageabilty. 
Certainly the effects of sterile filtration preclude the 
possibility of any real bouquet development. Older 
Chardonnays that were still in good shape, such as 1984, 
1985, and 1986 revealed no aromatics. but on the palate 
they possessed various degrees of honeyed apple and 
citrusy fruit, as well as fresh and lively personalities. But 
if readers are "nose* people who like to be set up and 
seduced by a wine s aromatics, they will likely be 
disappointed by the old, stale paper-scented bouquets. 
Nevertheless, these wines do hold up in the mouth. I 
suspect most malolactic Chardonnays would be dead at 
age 10, but how important is ageability in Chardonnays. 
I drink many of my California Chardonnays within hours 
of purchase! Tel. (707) 963-0234, Fax (707) 963-5384 
Closing Date: 12-23-95 
Issue 102 



138 




ineiourn 




A DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO THE WORLD 



FINEST WINES AND SPIRITS 




noDucio * omro v FOKMAN VINEYARD. XT. HELENA. CA 

OL CONTAINS SULFTTtS 




rtODUCED * IOTTLED IV FOftMAN VINEYARD. ST HELENA. CA 
ALC I 2.** K VOL CONTAINS SUUTTES 



Forman Winery. 

Ric Norman has been producing consistently 
fine Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay at 
his winery on Howell Mountain since 1982. His 
1991 and 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon were both 
outstanding, as was his 1992 Chardonnay. To 
get on his mailing list, write 1501 Big Rock 
Road, St. Helena, CA 94574. 
1994 Chardonnay. Bottled, Not Released. 
Lovely perfume and flavors of apple, vanilla, 
tropical fruit and floral undertone. Elegant, 
crisp, great style. Lovely. (18) 

1993 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. 
Bottled not released. 

Lovely perfume of cassis, cedar, vanilla and 
chocolate. Similar flavors. Elegant, lovely fruit 
refined, soft tannins. Terrific. (OP) (VGP) 

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep fruit, full 
complex, tannic finish. (OP) 

1994 Merlot Lovely fruit, supple, delicious. 
Sure to be lovely. (OP) 



FORMAN 

The 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon NapaValley is 

deeply perfumed with blackberry cassis, spice 
cedar and vanilla. It has lots of rich fruit, simi 
lar to the nose, on the palate that is balanced, 
full complex and structured. A superb 
Cabernet and a worthy match for the stunning 
1991 - Ric Forman s on a roll (18 1/2). 
The 1993 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley has 
lovely fragrances and flavors of citrus, vanilla 
and melon. It is rounded, fruity, with a nice, 
crisp finish a lovely Sauvignon Blanc (17). $14 



139 



Wine Spectator 



Cellar Selection 



Highly Recommended 




nonicTO* 



noouciD * iOT-njD n POUIAN vmmw>. ST. HOENX CA 

ALC ll%iYV<X COTTAJNS SUlfHTS 




MOOUCEO k KITTLED T KKMAN vmiTHJID. ST HDJNA. C 
LC.IU%rVOL COKTAJNS SUUTTES 



93 
Forman 

Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1992 $30 

An intense wine that weaves together a pretty array 
of ripe cherry, currant and spicy oak flavors, and 
adds a trim of earthy character. Very well focused, 
young and vibrant, but needs at least until 1999 to 
open up. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 
2,000 cases made. 



91 
Forman 

Chardonnay Napa Valley 1994 $23 

A delicious young wine that balances intensity with 
elegance in a ripe, fruity, moderately rich style. 
Features ripe pear, spice, melon and fig notes, 
finishing with toasty oak and smoky nuances. 
1,800 cases made. 



10 



140 



Stephen Tanzer s 




International 



Wine Cellar 

the consumer s passport to fine wine 



Forman winery 

Ric Forman makes a consistently stylish, 
rather understated cabernet that actually comple 
ments food. It is a wine that typically combines 
California fruit and French restraint never a 
massive cabernet, although the infant 94 displays 
some of the density of this highly successful 
vintage. Forman s no-malolactic chardonnay, 
which often shows a steely Chablis-like quality, 
similarly works well at the table in contrast to so 
many heavily oaked, butterscotch-and-tropical 
fruit examples from Napa Valley. Forman also 
offers a small quantity of sauvignon blanc, and 
begining with 94 will bottle a varietal merlot from 
his own vineyard. 

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Vallev (includes 
petit verdot, cabernet franc and merlot): Good fresh 
deep red. Reticent licorice scent. Sweet, fat and 
(atypically) dense; really quite a big boy. Seemed 
considerably more concentrated than a mouthfilling 
and more aromatically expressive sample of 94 
merlot from barrel. Long, sweet aftertaste, with the 
tannins buried in fruit. 91-94. 1993 Cabernet 
Sauvignon Napa Vallev: Very good red-ruby. Per 
fumed, sappy, black cherry aroma. Lush, gentle, and 



smaller-scaled than the 94 more typical of the 
Forman style. Rather closed on the palate today. 
Shows a firmer structure and a tannic edge today 
because the wine is not as densely packed as the 
above. 89-91. 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 
Vallev ($33): Very good deep red. Bright, perfumed 
aromas of black fruit, coffee and chocolate; smells 
riper than the 93. Lush and concentrated, with 
notes of super-ripeness but also very good grip. 
Long, ripely tannic aftertaste. Closer to 94 than 93 
in style. Has a Me"doc-like suavity. 91. 1994 
Chardonnav Napa Vallev (approx. $25): Pale color. 
Subtle nose combines acacia flower, honey and wet 
hay aromas I always associate with ripe Chablis. 
Excellent intensity and freshness of flavor, but 
acidity seems lower than in the more penetrating 
93. This is fatter and broader-shouldered than the 
93 and should be accessible earlier on. 89-90. 1994 
Sauvignon Blanc Napa Vallev ($15; "the sauvignon 
is full of acid," says Forman, "so I added some 
much flatter semillon,"): Musky, green apple nose 
reminiscent of white Graves. Good cut in the 
mouth, but on the lean, even austere, side despite 
the semillon influence. Slightly bitter but refreshing 
finish offers strong grip. 7. 



11 



141 



Stephen Tanzer s 




International 



Wine Cellar 

the consumer s passport to fine wine 




2994 
* 



mODUCED * BOTTLED BY fOKMAN VINEYARD. 5T. HtLEXA. CA 
ALC I J.l BY VOL CONTAINS SUUTTES 



1993 Chardonnay 

Forman Napa Valley ($24): Subdued, fine, spear 
mint and mineral aromas. Juicy, bright, minerally 
fruit is high-pitched and penetrating, with strong but 
well- integrated acids. Longs bracing, citric finish. 
The 13.8% alcohol is practically invisible in this 
classy, firm, very young wine. More Chablis than 
California style. 9K+71. 

94 Chardonnay 

Forman Napa Valley ($27) Very pale color. Pun 
gent citric, brothy, steely nose hints at talc; more 
Chablis than California. Firm, racy and focused, 
with very strong extract. Very long, subtle finish 
coats the palate with powdered stone. Became 
thicker and spicier as it opened in the glass. Very 
classy, no-malo Chardonnay, with a track record for 
aging extremely well. 92. 




1992 



P*ODUCD ft BOTTIED BY fOUMAN VINEYARD. ST. HELENA. CA 
UC. IM% BY VOL CONTAINS SULJTltS 



1994 Sauvignon Blanc 

Forman Napa Valley ($14): Very fresh aromas of 
spearmint, green apple, and minerals. Bright and 
penetrating in the mouth, with a vibrant grapefruit 
rind flavor. Very good intensity of flavor. A firm, 
lean, very young wine of noteworthy structure. 
Should prove to be a flexible food wine. But this is 
not for fans of fat, spicy sauvignon blancs made in 
the style of Chardonnay. 89f+?V 

1992 Cabernet 

Forman Napa Valley ($32): Very dark purple-red. 
Claret-like nose of cassis, shoe polish and spice. 
Quite intense and tightly packed, but in contrast to 
recent Forman vintages, this cabernet has a density 
and texture that make it easier to taste early on, 
Quite suave, St. Julien-like wine, with a long, 
powerful finish. Great potential, 



12 



142 



GRAPEVIN 



H 




1993 CHARDONNAY 

More New Releases 



_n_J 




PROPRIETOR 



1993 



PRODUCED 8t BOTTLED BY FORMAN VINEYARD, ST. HELENA. CA 
ALC 13.8% BY VOL CONTAINS SULFITES 



1. 1993 Fonnan, Napa Valley ($22) - Medium-light golden yellow color; attractive, ini 
tially subdued, earthy, floral, toasty, lemony, green apple, ripe Chardonnay fruit aroma 
which developed depth and intensity with airing; medium-full body; intense, toasty, green 
apple flavors with firm acidity; well structured; slightly tart finish; lingering aftertaste. 
Above-average to superior quality. This wine shows well integrated fruit and oak though 
it deserves another year or two of bottle aging. Very highly recommended. 13.8% alcohol; 
0.76 TA; 3.36 pH; 1,800 cases; 100% barrel fermented (BF); 0% malolactk fermentation (MF); 
released October 1994. (Group Score: 16.0 of 20 points, 5 of 15 first-place votes /O seconds/ 
1 third; My Score: 17 [92 of 100 points], first place) 



13 



143 

Retyped from information 

provided by Forman Vineyard 
Winery: Forman 

Location: Howell Mountain, Napa Valley 

The Wine: Estate Merlot 
Vintage: 1997 
Appellation: Napa Valley 

Varietal Blend: 90% Merlot, 10% Petite Verdot 
Cooperage: 20 months in 80% new, 20% once used French oak 
Total Production: 525 cases 
Winemaker: Ric Forman 

Vineyard Source: 60% Thorvilos Vineyard (at the base of Howell 
Mountain) , 40% Rutherford 

Total Cases Available at Winebid.com: ten .750-liter, 12-bottle cases 
Reserve Prices: .750 Liter Bottles: $30 
Estimated Release Price: $35-$40 
Release Date: Fall 1999 

About the Vineyard Source: 

The "Thorvilos Vineyard" was planted and is owned by Ric Forman and 
David Abreu in 1989. Located at the base of Howell Mountain in the Napa 
Valley appellation, it hold Cabernet Sauvignon (Martha s Vineyard Clone 
and Clone 337), Merlot (Clone 181), Cabernet Franc (Clone 1), and Petite 
Verdot. Used to make the Forman Cabernet Sauvignon since 1994, previous 
harvests have been used by Pahlmeyer and Merryvale wineries. Colgin s 
"Lamb" Vineyard neighbors this stunning property. 

Winemaker s Comments on the Vintage: 

Rain started earlier in 1997 than many previous seasons and was quite 
prolific during November, December and January. By February, however, 
it stopped altogether and became quite mild. In fact, the whole winter 
was warm. Bud break was early due to the mild winter and the vines grew 
quickly in early spring. Summer progressed with rather even heat with 
no real serious spikes in either direction. Harvest began very early-- 
on August 23 for the Chardonnay, September 2 for Merlot and September 23 
for Cabernet Sauvignon. The uniform summer assured fully ripe grapes 
and the early harvest held ample acidity for well balanced wines. 

Winemaker s Comments on the Wine; 

Bright Ruby Red. Rich and alluring aromas of ripe cherry, mulberry and 
a touch of violets are evolving nicely in this developing wine. Full 
sweet and spicy Merlot fruit abounds in the mouth and is further rounded 
by a good integration of new oak. This is a very promising wine. 



144 



Bottling in June should capture the essence of what is developing so 
nicely now. 

Comments By the Press On the 1997 Forman Merlot: 

Robert Parker, "The Wine Advocate" - December 23, 1998 
"The 1997 Merlot reveals more lushness and accessibility than Forman s 
wines sometimes do. It boasts a dark ruby color, followed by an 
attractive nose of black cherries and berries intermingled with soil 
notes, subtle oak, and floral scents. Medium-bodied and delicious, it 
should be accessible when bottled next year. Moreover, it should last 
for at least a decade." 87-90 points. 

The Fine Wine Review, #68 1998 

"The 1997 Merlot shows crunchy, crushed berry fruit and some oak on the 
nose, and oak and cherry fruit in the mouth with a luscious texture. 
This is a forward wine that should be excellent for drinking early on." 
89-92 points. 



145 

Winery: Fonnan 

Location: Howell Mountain, Napa Valley 

The Wine: Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 
Vintage: 1997 
Appellation: Napa Valley 
Varietal Blend: 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% 

Cabernet Franc, 7% Petite Verdot 

Cooperage: 20 months in 80% new, 20% once used French oak 
Total Production: 2,200 cases 
Winemaker: Ric Fonnan 
Vineyard Source: Thorvilos Vineyard (at the base of Howell 

Mountain) 

Total Cases Available at Winebid.com: ten .750-liter, 12-bottle cases 
Reserve Prices: .750-liter bottles: $45 
Estimated Release Price: $45-$50 
Release Date: Spring 2000 

About the Vineyard Source: 

The "Thorvilos Vineyard" was planted and is owned by Ric Forman and 
David Abreu in 1989. Located at the base of Howell Mountain in the Napa 
Valley appellation, it hold Cabernet Sauvignon (Martha s Vineyard Clone 
and Clone 337), Merlot (Clone 181), Cabernet Franc (Clone 1), and Petite 
Verdot. Used to make the Forman Cabernet Sauvignon since 1994, previous 
harvests have been used by Pahlmeyer and Merryvale wineries. Colgin s 
"Lamb" Vineyard neighbors this stunning property. 

Winemaker s Comments on the Vintage: 

Rain started earlier in 1997 than many previous seasons and was quite 
prolific during November, December and January. By February, however, 
it stopped altogether and became quite mild. In fact, the whole winter 
was warm. Bud break was early due to the mild winter and the vines grew 
quickly in early spring. Summer progressed with rather even heat with 
no real serious spikes in either direction. Harvest began very early-- 
on August 23 for the Chardonnay, September 2 for Merlot and September 23 
for Cabernet Sauvignon. The uniform summer assured fully ripe grapes 
and the early harvest held ample acidity for well balanced wines. 

Winemaker s Comments on the Wine; 

Deep claret red. Very focused nose for its youth. A deep berry/cassis 
aroma dominates the entrance but is followed with aeration, by complex 
Bordeaux-like, cedar /earthy notes. Very powerful style here with more 



146 



concentration in the nose than is usually expected at this early stage 
of development. A very mouthf illing sweet fruit is deliciously balanced 
with wood and soft acid/tannin structure. Aftertastes of cedar, 
underbrush and violets are remarkable for this early point in the wine s 
evolution. This should be a very fine wine with true breed and 
distinction. 

Comments By the Press On the 1997 Cabernet; 

Robert Parker, Jr. s The Wine Advocate, 12/23/98 Issue: 

"The 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon displays a saturated ruby /purple color, and 

an exceptional bouquet of blackberry and cassis fruit intermingled with 

cedar, herbs and wood spice. The wine is deep, medium to full-bodied, 

and richly fruity with firm tannin in the moderately long, ripe finish. 

Like many 1997s, it will be enjoyable in its youth, yet will last for 15 

or more years." 90-92 points. 

Wine Spectator, August 31, 1998 Issue 

"Intense, lively, well focused, rich and brimming with racy wild berry, 
cherry, anise, cedar and spice. Finishes with a long, lingering 
aftertaste." 95-100 points. 

Fine Wine Review, #68, 1998 

"The 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon is more closed, but quite noble in the 
mouth and somewhat austere, long blueberry, cherry and mulberry fruit. 
In the past, I have found his Cabernets to be St. Julien, in style, this 
one is more Pauillac." 

Jim Laube, "Wine Spectator s California Wine" 

"The Cabernet aims for finesse and understated flavors, rarely 

overwhelms, but charms with its subtlety and grace." Named a "5-Star" 

Winery. 

Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar 

"Ric Forman makes a consistently stylish, rather understated cabernet 
that actually compliments food. It is a wine that typically combines 
California fruit and French restraint." 



INDEX- -Richard Forman 



147 



Abreu Vineyards Cabernet, 108 
Abreu, David, 37-39, 106-109, 124 
Adamson Vineyard, 72, 89 
Akioshi, Min, 14 
Amerine, Maynard, 13, 16, 18 



Beaulieu Vineyard, 119 

Berg. Hod, 14 

Bertleson, Alf, 96 

Boiadjieff, Gene, 70, 90-92, 100 

Bucharaz, Suzanne, 90 



C. Norman Peterson company, 17 
Chalone Vineyard, 116 
Chalone Vineyard, 22 
Chateau Barrique, 74-75 
Chateau le Grande Roche, 80 
Coca Cola Co., 63-64, 66, 68 
Coffrin, David, 15 
cooperage, 25-26, 33-36, 74-76 
Crane, Phil, 10 



Dale, Joy, 22-23, 65, 67, 80, 90 
Davies, Jack, 24, 99 
Duckhorn, Dan, 35-37 
Dyer, Bill, 62-63 



equipment, 22, 34, 58, 73, 95 



Fuller, Bill, 22 



Graff, Richard, 22-23, 25, 27-28, 

34, 46, 60, 76, 119 
grapes: 

Bordeaux varieties, 71-72 

Cabernet Sauvignon, 78 

Chardonnay, 72, 110 

Chenin Blanc, 43 

French Colombard, 43 

Petit Verdot, 104-105 

Pinot La Fata, 43 

Sauvignon Blanc, 71 

Zinfandel, 87 



Halley, Vern, 83 
hedging, 38-39 
Heitz, Joe, 115 
Henshaw, Fritz, 9 
Hill, William, 70 
Holmes, Fred, 83 
Hudson, Chuck, 25 



Inglenook, 82, 107, 119 



Jackson, Jess, 47 
Jaeger Billy, 16 
Johnson, Irwin, 93 



Fenghi, Mills, 15 
fermentation, 19, 34, 76-78; 

malolactic, 45-47, 77 
Forman Vineyard, 72-114 
Forman, Peter, 5, 7, 9-10 
Forman, Robert White, 1 
Forman, Rosalind Wallace, 2-3, 5, 

7 

Forman, Toby, 83, 99, 122-123 
Freemark Abbey, 16, 116 



Keith & Assoc. , 60 
Kendall-Jackson Vineyards & 

Winery, 47, 115-116 
Kornell, Hans, 44 
Kunde, Rich, 15 
Kunke, Ralph, 14 



labels, vineyard-designated, 41 
Lemon, Ted, 82 



148 



Long, Zelma, 20 



Madrona Ranch, 108 

Maldonado, Lupe, 69, 74 

Martha s Clone, 85 

Martha s Vineyard, 85 

McCrae, Fred, 16, 18-19, 28, 115 

Meyer, Justin, 15 

Mondavi, Michael, 20 

Mondavi, Robert, 16, 19-20, 116 

Moueix, Christian, 29 



Nadalier barrels, 74-75 
Nagaoka, Richard, 15 
Newton Vineyard, 63-82 
Newton, Peter, 16, 21-82 
Newton, Sua Ha, 80 



Stone, Michael, 25, 67-68 
Stony Hill Vineyard, 16-19 



Talcott Vineyard, 109 
Tchelistcheff , Andre, 119 
Thorvilos Vineyard, 124 
Three Palms Vineyard, 16, 36 
Torvillos Vineyard, 40 
Traverse, Sergio, 62 
tunnels, 96-100 



University of California, 

Berkeley, Chemistry Dept., 17- 

18 
University of California, Davis, 

12-15 
Upton, Sloane, 16 



Oliver, Reg, 72, 109-110 



Potts, Frank, 10 
pricing, 56-57 



Ridge Vineyards, 52 

Robert Mondavi Winery, 16, 19-20, 

25, 27 

rootstocks, 84-85 
Rosenbrand, Theo, 62 
Rutherford Star Vineyard, 107-109 



San Jose State University, 12 
Saunders, Chuck, 70 
Schramsberg Vineyards, 25-26 
See, Harry, 83 
Shaw Vineyard and Winery, 52, 88- 

89, 101 

Singleton, Vernon L., 14 
Staglin Ranch, 107 
Star Vineyards, 52 
Sterling Vineyards, 16, 21-65, 

116 

Stern, Pete, 15 
Stewart, Lee, 115 



Villa Mt. Eden Winery, 82 
vineyard management, 31-32, 37- 

38, 68-74, 103-104, 121-122; 

see also hedging 



Warner, Brad, 20 

Waterfield, Martin, 25, 61 

Webb, A. Dinsmore, 14 

Weibel Champagne Vineyards, 18 

winemaking, techniques of, 45-46, 

49-51, 53-56, 76-80; see also 

fermentation 
winery, design and building of, 

59-61, 72-73, 90-95 
wines: 

Beaujolais, 114 

Cabernet Franc, 29, 89, 106 

Cabernet Sauvignon, 26, 28, 
29, 45, 48-50, 53-56, 78-79, 
85-86, 89, 101-103, 118-121 

Chardonnay, 24, 27-28, 30, 46- 
47, 55, 76-78, 109-112, 114, 
115-118 

Chablis, 112 

Chenin Blanc, 44 

French Colombard, 43 



149 



wines (cont d.) 

Merlot, 26, 29-30, 37, 45, 57, 
80, 89, 106 

Petit Verdot, 29, 104-105 

Pinot Noir, 45 
Winiarski, Warren, 20 
Winkler, Albert J., 85-86 
Woltner, Winery, 82, 88 



Carole E. Hicke 



B.A., University of Iowa; economics 

M.A., San Francisco State University; U.S. history 
with emphasis on the American West; thesis: "James 
Rolph, Mayor of San Francisco." 

Interviewer/editor/writer, 1978-present, for 
business and law firm histories, specializing in 
oral history techniques. Independently employed. 

Interviewer-editor, Regional Oral History Office, 
University of California, Berkeley, 1985 to 
present, specializing in California legal, 
political, and business histories. 

Author: The Federal Judges Association in the 
Twentieth Century; History of Farella, Braun & 
Martel; Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe: A 
Century of Service to Clients and Community. 

Editor (1980-1985) newsletters of two professional 
historical associations: Western Association of 
Women Historians and Coordinating Committee for 
Women in the Historical Profession. 

Visiting lecturer, San Francisco State University 
in U.S. history, history of California, history of 
Hawaii, legal oral history. 



2495 



fcftNC