Winemaker, Spelletich Family Wine Company
Barb was born and raised in Seattle in 1952. She started her career in the wine industry as the manager of The Cork & Bottle wine shop there. She worked for Ste. Michelle Winery and G. Raden & Sons, and then established her own distributorship, Zephyr Imports. This began her international travels and relationships with the finest wineries in the world. She spent every spring traveling to Germany, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The purpose was to visit each producer to choose the wines to be exported to the U.S. These producers became friends and taught Barb much about wine making, mainly the importance of ripe fruit and the gentle way to preserve that fruit flavor.
Her next step was Whitwhams Fine & Rare Wines, based in Manchester, England and Bordeaux. Life as a négociant enhanced her contact with winemakers of all cru classé. She further enhanced her winemaking skills with courses at UC Davis. Barb arrived in Napa Valley in 1992 and started working for St. Clement Vineyards in St. Helena. Two years later, she and Tim formed Spelletich Cellars.
Country born: United States
Education: No, Barb Spelletich doesn’t make wine necessarily in an ordinary way. It is her philosophy to hold back some of her wine. When others in California have taken to releasing their red wines in two to three years after harvest, Barb will not allow some of her wines to reach market for five years; in the manner of some of the finer French producers.
She has also been known to not put some of her reds through the standard practice of utilizing malolactic fermentation (ML). It is something that is nearly unheard of – some would say crazy, or brave – these days.
Years in the wine industry: 30+ years
Barb Spelletich is a confident, accomplished winemaker, who makes fine wine, and is described by daughter Kristen as “such a wonderful blender.”
On blending Barb explains: “It’s my sensitivity. When I do blends I taste individual barrels and I cannot be disturbed. Then I do a composite blend. I usually come up with many blends on my Cabernet Sauvignon. Making wine is the same as cooking. You are looking for balance, nuances; and I predominantly focus on smells and flavors. My focus is fruit. The wine must smell and taste like the fruit from which it has been made. Wood and age add nuances.
“I'm a good winemaker because I don't do the same thing to it every wine. I don't care what other people are doing. It gets me beyond the box."