I once asked winemaker Nick Goldschmidt: “How do you ever get it all done?”
“I don’t do any of it very well,” he responded with a smile.
Goldschmidt lied, because he makes marvelous wines from a wide range of terroirs: Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, Dry Creek and Sonoma Coast, Oakville in Napa Valley, Marlborough in New Zealand and regions throughout Chile and Argentina. “Energizer Bunny” is a characterization doesn’t do him justice, as he spends a remarkably brutal life of travel, winemaking and sales calls, in two hemispheres. His California-based Goldschmidt Vineyards brand is but a cog in Nick’s winemaking world; he consults for 26 wineries in seven countries--15 of them in Chile--along with making wine at home.
Home is Healdsburg, in California’s Sonoma County, where Goldschmidt lives with his wife and business partner, attorney Yolyn Wilson. They’re New Zealand natives who found their way to Sonoma, where they ambitiously produce more than 20 wines from locally grown grapes, a handful of Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley, and the brands Forefathers and Boulder Bank, focused on New Zealand grapes. In all, Goldschmidt consults for 26 wineries in seven countries--15 of them in Chile. Whew.
He graduated in 1982 from New Zealand’s Lincoln University and continued his horticulture and winemaking studies at the Roseworthy program at Adelaide University in South Australia. In 1989, after 18 months of winemaking in Australia, New Zealand, California and South America--including his first harvest in Chile as winemaker for Calitera--Goldschmidt returned to California with an amazing range of winemaking experiences.
In 1990, he and his wife settled down in Healdsburg, California, and Goldschmidt went to work as Simi Winery’s associate winemaker under Zelma Long and Paul Hobbs. He became chief winemaker 1991, and in the ensuring years, rose to vice president titles for Allied Domecq Wines USA and Beam Estates.
Now the globe-trotting Goldschmidt oversees the farming of 59 acres in Sonoma’s Alexander and Dry Creek valleys, 38 acres in New Zealand and 130 acres in Chile. Goldschmidt Vineyards and Forefathers are his longtime brands made from California grapes (there is also a Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc under Forefathers), and there a dozen more labels, including Boulder Bank Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Trig Point Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, value-priced ($16) Fidelity Alexander Valley Bordeaux-style red blend, Yardstick Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and those named for daughters Chelsea and Katherine Goldschmidt.
Prices range from $16 to $80, and most quantities are in the hundreds, and not thousands, of cases, though a generous 3,000 cases of Fidelity were produced in 2013.
Goldschmidt has a particular fondness for red grapes grown in Alexander Valley. The region isn’t even close to being as famous for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as the Napa Valley, but Goldschmidt sees an advantage.
“It’s cooler in Alexander Valley than in Napa Valley,” he explained, “and the vines in Alexander Valley produce more red-fruit flavors than black, and lower alcohol levels. I like the more elegant, red-fruit wines.”
The 2012 Forefathers Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) from the dry-farmed Lone Tree Vineyard north of Geyserville has a gorgeous floral aroma and is a mouthful of perfectly ripe, energetic dark cherry fruit. It’s very supple and polished, with firm yet not drying tannins. It’s a lovely drink now yet should improve with eight to 10 years of bottle age. 94
The 2013 Katherine Goldschmidt Crazy Creek Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) offers immediate drinking pleasure, with gentle vanillin oak wrapping around the bright, juicy, pleasantly tart red fruit. The finish is crisp and palate-whisking. 91
Trig Point is named for Goldschmidt’s father, Donald, who spent time as a surveyor at the South Pole. The 2013 Trig Point Diamond Dust Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) is a deeper wine with dense blackberry and black cherry aromas and flavors, and grainy tannins that should smooth out a bit with more time in bottle. 90.
While he embraces Alexander Valley for Cabernet Sauvignon, Goldschmidt produces a handful of Napa Valley Cabs, among them the 2012 Yardstick ($28) Napa Valley and 2011 Goldschmidt Game Ranch Oakville Napa Valley ($80). The latter is “pure Oakville,” as he puts it, with rich dark cherry and berry fruit and velvety tannins. A hint of mint and forest floor add complexity. 93
The 2011 Goldschmidt Yoeman Vineyard Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($80, 92) is solidly structured and deep in dark cherry and red plum flavors. From a cool vintage, it shows excellent grip and a streak on minerality. “The two Goldschmidt wines were made in basically the same way, but with different grapes and picking dates,” Nick said. “The intent is to show off the vineyard character.”
For immediate pleasure, there are two Merlots, one from Alexander Valley, the other from Dry Creek Valley, under the Chelsea Goldschmidt label. The 2013 Chelsea Goldschmidt Alexander Valley Merlot ($18) is young, tart and fruity, with savory tobacco, anise and barrel spice notes. 88. The 2012 Chelsea Goldschmidt Salmon’s Leap Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Merlot ($18), from a warmer area than Alexander Valley, has generous, Cabernet-like cassis and plump plum fruit and a briary, spice aroma.
As you can see from these notes and evaluation scores, the fact is that Goldschmidt does virtually everything very well indeed. The more one learns about his work, and the many projects that he juggles so deftly, the more one is inclined to ask: how does he ever get it all done?