Like other types of farming, winemaking is a job where nature is boss. “Seventy-five percent of it is the grapes and the gift of a great site,” says Ric Forman. “Then it’s up to the winemaker not to blow it.” Forman began his career more than thirty years ago, running a large vineyard that produced 75,000 cases a year. But early on, a trip to France turned him on to artisan techniques, and the introduction was a revelation. Eventually he pared down and went out on his own, now making just 4,500 cases a year at Forman Vineyard, his tiny estate winery in the Napa Valley.
Of being small-scale, Forman says, “You can observe and adjust—you can feel, smell, and taste what’s happening, so nothing gets ahead of you.” He adds, “Some people might get weird working alone, I guess. But this way, I know it gets done right.”