The title of World’s Busiest Winemaker would be a hard one to quantify.
But Patrick Saboe sure gives it a shot at The Wine Foundry in Napa, California, where he is winemaker for the custom, small-lot winemaking facility for numerous individuals and small commercial brands.
There’s no expense spared, as The Wine Foundry has exclusive contracts with more than 30 of California’s top vineyards, and deals with 12 different cooperages for exclusive barrel selection. From harvest to tank or barrel, and lastly to bottling, Saboe has a thread of what each client desires for their wine running through his mind.
If that weren’t enough, he’s also the winemaker for Foundry and Anarchist Wine Co., the labels of The Wine Foundry owners Phillip and Valerie Von Burg.
“Totally bespoke custom winemaking is a challenge,” Phillip Von Burg said. “It’s amazing what Patrick does, the info he has to collect – and then retain that info and manage wine through the aging process all the way through blending and bottling – is a challenge. He makes more wines than any winemaker in the world I would bet.”
While Saboe deftly switches gears in conversation from client to client and from vineyard to vineyard, the stress of client demands and desire to meet their expectations comes at a price.
“It’ll give you a white beard and wrinkles to meet clients’ needs,” Saboe said. “We’ve already bottled 200 wines this year (262 actually), and probably still have 100 more to go.”
From the wines sampled by Anarchist Wine Co., Saboe showed imagination and resourcefulness. One was an homage to a wine that made one of his favorite winemakers famous. Fondness for Spain and France inspired Saboe with Anarchist Wine Co.’s Rosé Against the Machine 2019 ($24). Just like the 1990s Los Angeles rockers that fused rap and rock, the wine is a genre mix.
Saboe turned to tempranillo, a grape that excels in Spain but he found growing an hour east of Napa in Clarksburg, to provide an acidic base and give off “SweeTARTS or Smarties flavors.” With mourvedre, which has deep roots in France, there was “roundness, tropicality, papaya, mango, guava that exploded with fruit like a Starburst” and “threw in little drops of pinot because you weren’t expecting it.”
Anarchist WIne Co.’s Conspiracy Theory 2016 ($38) brought me back to graduate school, sitting in a wine bar waiting for The Prisoner release party. That wine achieved cult status under Dave Phinney, its genius dissipated after he sold the label, but Saboe used petite sirah, syrah, malbec, sangiovese and zinfandel to make a bold, beautiful, flavorful and playful wine that should be on your table this weekend.
“It was modeled after The Prisoner,” Saboe said. “Dave (Phinney) is a brilliant winemaker and brilliant at marketing and business. I loved the idea of The Prisoner and the fun blends behind. This is a New World blend, and I wanted it to be something you haven’t had before. Stylistically, I wanted it to feel familiar but be a blend someone hadn’t conceived or definitely hadn’t tried it.
“I wanted to challenge the ideas of what works well together, and the ‘16 vintage drinks beautifully,” Saboe said. “It’s a blend of all of California that changes varieties year to year. Napa and Sonoma vineyards are featured primarily, but I have gone up and down the coast to explore different things. I love old school French winemaking techniques but love the freedom to challenge boundaries and explore things we have here.”
While Anarchist Wine Co. pushed boundaries, “Foundry wines show beauty of classic traditional winemaking and what it can do,” Valerie Von Burg said.
In a nod to Alsace, France, and its flinty, mineral-driven wines, the Foundry Schrader Ranch Vineyard Pinot Blanc ($50) has peach, apricot, lemon, lime and an iron-like note.
Sourced from Sonoma's Petaluma Gap AVA is the Foundry Rodgers Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir 2017 ($62). It is full-bodied, with cherry, black cherry, tobacco and vanilla flavors. Its vineyards benefit from foggy mornings and cool days that lead to long hang times, and Saboe said it's a New World-styled wine where he keeps from "stepping on the gas" and making it too big.
Whether it’s making wine for clients, Foundry or Anarchist Wine Co., Saboe has a chef’s mentality.
“That’s part of the challenge,” Saboe said. “Everyone might have the same order at a restaurant, but they all want it prepped differently.”
• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.