A student of Bordeaux and the French masters before him, Fayard is forging his own path in California wine country.
SARA L. SCHNEIDER, SEPTEMBER 11, 2018 Robb Report
Behind many of Napa Valley’s most sought-after bottles stands a familiar figure: a wine consultant for hire. He’s often French, has experience making wine at some of Bordeaux’s First Growth châteaux, and has built a robust consulting business among Napa’s unofficial first-growth wine brands. These talented winemakers are the Michel Rollands and the Philippe Melkas of the wine world. And, to be sure, their influence on Napa Valley wines is a good thing by the most important measures; they’re responsible for exquisite nuance, complexity, and—technical terms be damned—an enormous yum factor in some of the valley’s best bottles.
Now, there’s a new name to add to that short list of superstar consultants: a young French winemaker with a dozen or so clients, a handful of his own labels, and one exciting partnership. Julien Fayard, having grown up in Provence (note the serious rosé cred!), checked the Bordeaux winemaking box at the likes of Lafite Rothschild and Smith Haut Lafitte. Stateside, where Fayard has lived and worked (for a time with the aforementioned Melka) for a little more than a decade along with his wife, Elan (who is from Sonoma), set out early on to become the reference point for serious, deliberate rosé under the label Azur. (Deliberate meaning the grapes were grown and picked to be a rosé from the start, as opposed to being a by-product of the saignée process, where juice is “bled” off a red wine to concentrate it.) In the world of Bordeaux varieties, Fayard now counts among his clients the coveted Purlieu and Brion. And he and Elan are partners in the exciting Coombsville AVA brand Covert, with a beautiful new subterranean winery worthy of every connoisseur’s bucket list.
To date, Fayard is a bit more hands-on than most of his French cohorts, who work with a head winemaker at each brand. To a large degree, he is the winemaker. And his bottles are giving him a strong voice in a message that’s trending in the valley. Going by the wayside are the vintners who quite openly and deliberately let their Cabernet fruit hang on the vine to reach extreme ripeness, thereby effectively obliterating any unique character the specific vineyard might have given the wine in favor of a more generic lush Napa style.