My first opportunity to try a "wine" came while working in Yosemite National Park in 1974. I was offered a glass of 1970 Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet. Later that summer I made my first trip to the Napa Valley and, in my immediate love for it, decided that the place would someday be my home. After working at one of the oldest wine shops in San Francisco, I returned to the Napa Valley and took a job working for a small, family owned winery. My duties encompassed everything from pouring wine in the tasting room to topping wine barrels and bottling. Three years later upon an invitation to work a crush in France, I left my job and went to Bordeaux. When harvest was over that year I toured the French wine country, meeting winemakers who, in light of my juice-stained hands, treated me as one of them. With this special recognition, I was able to learn much more about grapes and wine than in three years working in the tasting room and winery. In particular, I learned about the importance of "terroir".
I came back from France and worked the 1990-1991 crush at Grgich Hills Cellars. Soon after, a couple of friends and I started making wine in a garage in St. Helena using second-crop grapes—scrawny clusters overlooked by most wineries—which weren't exactly the quality we sought. In 1994 I researched some vineyards that had grapes for sale and bought a half-ton from one that seemed to satisfy what we were looking for with regards to farming techniques, location (terroir), and an affordable price. The wine from these grapes was better than we had dreamed. Inspired, we invested in some equipment and pushed on.
By 1998 I wanted to make wine on my own and focus solely on Cabernet Sauvignon. A friend of mine, Merus winemaker Mark Herold, told me of a small vineyard in Coombsville (south/eastern Napa) that had the characteristics I was seeking. It took a couple more years to realize my dream and in 2001 I was able, with the help of Mark, to put everything together and make my first Cabernet Sauvignon. This, and the subsequent years of Kobalt, mark the culmination of my untraditional education and desire to produce fine wine. The current production of Kobalt Cabernet Sauvignon is twenty barrels.