For our monthly series “Meet The Kitchen Purveyors,” we sat down with Duncan Arnot Meyers, a winemaker with Arnot-Robertsto get to know him a little bit better. Duncan and his wine partner Nathan Roberts help supply The Kitchen with a very tasty series of wines including a Chardonnay, Rosé, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Here’s what he had to say:
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Napa, the name of my high school was Vintage High. Our mascot was the Crusher, a guy operating an old-fashioned basket press. Kind of funny, probably not all that intimidating to to other football teams.
Do you come from a family of winemakers?
I grew up around wine but not in a winemaking family. My dad made a little bit of wine in the garage, in the esteemed vintages of 1979 and 1980. When I was seven and eight years old respectively, I helped him make one barrel of wine from leftover fruit at Clos du Val winery, founded by my Dad’s best friend, our neighbor Bernard Portet.
Where did you study?
I went to Fort Lewis College in Durango, I studied Physiology. I was chasing the dream of becoming a professional cyclist which I did for a couple of years. My winemaking background is more in learning on the job but I worked in cellars growing up in Napa. I studied for one year at U.C. Davis, I cherry picked courses to understand the basics of wine chemistry and vineyard soils. My first internship was in 2003 with John Kongsgaard, he’s one of my main winemaking mentors.
How did you and Nathan Roberts meet each other?
We’ve known each other since third grade. His father is a Master Cooper, and after high school Nathan went to work for his dad. That’s a huge component to what we do: using new barrels that we make ourselves. Having control over exactly how the barrels are made and toasted gives us direct control over the oak influence on the wine. We’re looking for the barrels to support the structure of the wine, not to add oak flavor.
Who are your winemaking heroes?
In the Rhône Valley, we really like Thierry Allemand in Cornas and Pierre Gonon in St.-Jospeh. In Burgundy we love Michel LaFarge, Armand Rosseau, and the old wines from Domiane Dujac which have been inspirational for us over the years. Munier as well. Their wines show transparency and finesse and are truly indicative of their upbringing.
Generally, we feel that when grapes are pushed towards the periphery of their comfort level for ripening, we achieve the most detailed expression. Whether it’s Chardonnay, Pinot, Syrah, Trousseau; they’re all grown in sites that I would say are marginal for the planted varieties, where you get longer, slower flavor development and growing seasons. That is really important to making more elegant, feminine, nuanced style wines.
Why have winemaking traditions stood the test of time?
That’s something that I think about a lot. I really feel that wine is this, it takes us back, it’s almost a basic need. There’s food, water, shelter, love, and wine is next in place on the list. While today’s society, in general, has a preference towards instant gratification; I think that in food, water, housing, people still respect a more timeless nature. We’re so privileged to have grapes at our disposal, because of their simplicity, and the simplicity of winemaking, there’s really not a lot to it. I think that will always be enticing to people, especially as our lives become more complex. Being able to grasp something basic and fundamental that ties us to the earth, to a particular year and place in time, that’s just amazing to me, there are very few things like that in the world.
Interview by Veronika Sprinkel, photo courtesy of Arnot-Roberts