Meet Our Winemaker!
In 2012, Kristy Melton became only the third winemaker in the storied four-decade history of Clos Du Val. Since then, Kristy has helped lead a renaissance at the winery. Not only has she guided a vibrant stylistic shift for Clos Du Val’s wines, she has transitioned the winery to an almost exclusive focus on estate-grown wines, with an emphasis on exceptional Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignons. This renewed focus on the winery’s 350 acres of renowned estate vineyards, combined with Kristy’s winemaking talents, has resulted in some of the finest wines in Clos Du Val’s long history.
A native of El Paso, Texas, Kristy grew up tending a garden and raising horses, sheep, and goats. These early experiences, and memberships in 4-H and the Future Farmers of America, ultimately led Kristy to earn a degree in biology and animal science from Texas Tech’s Angelo State University. Following University, Kristy earned a prestigious position as an immunology researcher at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. While at the NIH, Kristy supplemented her income working as a bartender, and soon fell in love with wine. She also began her own bartending company, which provided services for events at the White House, State Department, and Smithsonian.
While viewing a winery laboratory during a trip to Napa Valley, Kristy saw an opportunity to combine her two biggest passions, science and wine. In 2005, trading in her beakers for barrels, Kristy became one of only seven students accepted in the UC Davis viticulture and enology masters program. While at Davis, Kristy was personally asked by the head of the enology department to lead a study on the effects of wine-related compounds on cancer, and spent half a year doing research at Boston’s renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
After earning her master’s degree, Kristy gained winemaking experience on two continents, at Seresin Estate in New Zealand, and at Iron Horse and Saintsbury in California. After three years as the enologist at Saintsbury, Kristy joined Clos Du Val as assistant winemaker in 2010. In this important role, Kristy was given oversight of Clos Du Val’s smaller-production wines, where she began a stylistic shift towards greater ripeness, more mid-palate depth and greater tannin integration. In recognition for the exceptional quality of these wines, Kristy was promoted to senior winemaker in 2012.
Since then, Kristy’s stylistic vision for Clos Du Val’s wines has expanded to encompass the entire portfolio. To achieve this vision, and further enhance quality, Kristy has instituted numerous changes, including picking later, working with Vineyard Manager Al Wagner to increase dappled sunlight in the vine canopy, adding cold soaks to the Cabernet program to increase color and aromatics, instituting earlier pumpovers to create greater tannin integration, utilizing new filtration methods to limit oxidation, and revamping the barrel program to focus on only the best coopers—all with the goal of preserving vineyard character, while adding nuance and silky textural elements.
Most important, beginning with the 2014 vintage, Kristy began making almost all of Clos Du Val’s wines exclusively from estate-grown fruit. To take full advantage of Clos Du Val’s exceptional estate program, Kristy ferments more than 30 individual lots of Cabernet Sauvignon each vintage, with some lots as small as 1.5 tons. And, because the scientist in Kristy still loves experimentation, she is constantly running trials to improve the character and quality of her wines. These experiments cover numerous areas, including sensory, aging, oxygen ingress and winery logistics. Combining scientific rigor, a willingness to challenge convention, thoughtful winemaking and blending artistry, Kristy has ushered in a rich new chapter in the story of Clos Du Val. In 2013, Kristy was honored as one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s “Top 40 under 40 Tastemakers.”
40 Under 40
America’s tastemakers named by
Wine Enthusiast editors.
OUR WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY
Let the fruit speak for itself, showcasing the regional terroir, and above all, strive to craft wines that are elegant and balanced.
Kristy went from a rodeo queen in West Texas to one of the up-and-coming Next-Gen Napa Valley winemakers—all by the age of 31.