Ric Forman knows winemaking. Cheryl Emmolo knows rootstock. They both know the land, how to cultivate it and how to patiently let it alone. And they both have a rich history here in the Napa Valley.
Four generations of Emmolo men and women have been working the valley's fertile farmland for nearly 100 years. Cheryl was born and raised on St Helena's Galleron Lane, where her father, Frank Emmolo, owned one of the largest rootstock and nursery businesses in California. She grew up pulling spray rigs, working in her mother's gardens and selling rootstock to local winemakers, a childhood that gave her an extraordinary intimacy with vineyards and vines.
This connection served her well when, decades later, Cheryl made the decision to jump back into the wine industry. For ten years - as the owner of a high-end fashion boutique in St. Helena, Cheryl had focused her energies on fashion merchandising and marketing. When she sold the business in 1989, she began doing administrative work for Colonna Farrell Design, then the most sought-after wine label design firm in the valley.
Although Cheryl was once again immersed in the business of wine, this new perspective on the industry led her to envision a way in which her two passions - agriculture and marketing - might merge. Over a Mother's Day lunch, Cheryl told her family that it was time to make something of her own, something personal. She left Colonna Farrell, bought 10 tons of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from her father, recruited her kids for labor and started her own label, Emmolo Wines.
Today, Cheryl's children - Charlie, Joey and Jenny Wagner - help craft her boutique Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot wines. Some might say they're the muscle and she's the palate; Cheryl just says it's a family endeavor.
Ric's Napa Valley tenure began over 40 years ago in the vineyards and cellars of Stony Hill Winery, although most people recognize him as the man who helped put Sterling Vineyards on the map. Following his time there and at Newton Vineyard, Forman tacked on several consulting projects with esteemed wineries like Villa Mt. Eden, Inglenook, Charles Shaw and Kendall Jackson, but it was when he started his own label, Forman Vineyard, in 1983 that Forman's talent for cultivating steep, hillside slopes evidenced itself in his focused, racy Cabernets and elegant, Burgundian-style Chardonnays.
Ric is a UC Davis alum and has welcomed his technical knowledge of winemaking throughout his career, but his real roots lie in his early introduction to the traditional methods used in Europe. His philosophy is similar to those ancient Bordeaux vignerons: soil and climate and that unquantifiable "somewhereness" is the key to great wine; science merely serves as a supplement.
Ric learned to respect and honor the land's capabilities as a boy working in - and eating from - his mother's vegetable gardens. When it comes to making wine, he always lets the fruit speak for itself. In his view, complexity without overt obviousness is the key to elegantly intriguing wines. Forman's wines are always classic and leave a sense of style in one's impressions of his wines.
It was a few years after Ric and Cheryl married that the couple began talking about making wine together as well as separately. Neither wanted to relinquish their own labels, but the chance to make another wine, side by side? It was too tempting to resist.
There was almost no debate regarding the specifics. They would produce their favorite wine in their favorite style: a Burgundian-inspired Pinot Noir. And they would craft it the way their spirited, garden-loving mothers would have wanted: in small quantities that would express the brightness and freshness of the fruit without the complications of over-ripeness or excessive oak.
"Pinot is the wine we like to drink, and we feel positive others will take pleasure in enjoying it as well!"