Napa Valley isn't quite like Hollywood (yet), where the stars get by on a first-name basis. Even so, what serious wine collector doesn't know who Helen and Heidi are? While the name Philippe may not register so quickly, Philippe Melka is definitely a Napa winemaker to watch, a man many believe is poised to become one of the valley's hottest consultants since Helen Turley and Heidi Barrett.
And yet, Melkawhose list of clients includes highly regarded producers such as Seavey, Quintessa and Vineyard 29is not following in anyone's footsteps. Trained in Bordeaux but passionate about California, this Frenchman has his own take on Napa Cabernet, with a signature style that, well, in many ways, is a lack of a signature.
I'll explain. Consider, for example, the Melka-made 1998 Seavey Cabernet. It's powerfully tannic and rustic, a classic old-school Napa Cabernet that's loaded with ripe blackberry and chocolate. On the other hand, there's the Melka-made 1998 Lail Vineyards J. Daniel Cuvée, a Cabernet blend that's almost Lafite-like in its elegance, with a lush texture wrapped around a discreetly intense core of cassis and earthy fruit. Then there's Melka's own 1998 Métisse, a third type of wine, which is more in line with typical Napa Cabernet. It's a big, crowd-pleasing wine with rich, supple, ripe fruit and well-integrated tannins. Three styles, one winemaker.