Charles Banks, the onetime co-owner of Napa's Screaming Eagle, tells where he sees untapped winery potential and explains why the $12 South African Chenin Blanc may be the world's best wine deal.
Q. What was the first wine you ever fell in love with?
A. It was on my first wedding anniversary. We went to Carmel, to this place called The Cheese Shop, and the owner asked what we liked to drink. My wife said: "We want a white to drink while we're on the beach watching the sunset. And we like Chardonnay." So he gave us a bottle of Au Bon Climat, and it was awesome. Clean and beautiful, not oaky and buttery. A simple $20 Chardonnay.
Q. In 2006, you became co-owner of Screaming Eagle, Napa's most sought-after cult Cabernet. Was that at all intimidating?
A. Yes! Before we bought the property, Jean [Phillips, the former owner] showed me around, and everywhere I looked, I saw all this room for improvement. But back at my hotel, it was like, What am I thinking? Am I nuts? You can't just show up out of nowhere and make Screaming Eagle better.