Claude & Katherine Blankiet
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Claude Blankiet, who grew up in Burgundy, came to wine later in life, his first career was to develop and industrially produce “aged” jeans to the American market. In the 80’s he was stonewashing, sandblasting, acid washing, over dyeing and distressing blue jeans at the pace of half a million units per week. Blankiet was driven by his pursuit of innovation developed revolutionary techniques, some of which have been granted U.S. and European patents. He was well known for his ability to navigate the world of fashion designers and his international network of engineers and chemistry PhDs. As with aging jeans, making fine wines worthy of aging is essentially the process of collaboration between nature and the human hand. Given Claude’s proclivity for excellence and his wife Katherine’s love of antiques, it isn’t surprising that their search for an ideal site on which to build a world-class winery and residence took almost a decade. “We were always in love with Northern Italy and short of living there… we decided to grow roots in this magnificent Napa Valley”. In 1996 the Blankiets purchased undeveloped land on the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains above Yountville and slowly transformed it into their Paradise Hills Vineyard with a state of the art winery and deep underground caves. With a small team of local and European artisans they proceeded to construct a Renaissance castello hidden behind a knoll, home to their spectacular collection of art and antiques. The result is a gorgeous marriage of tradition and modernity.
Blankiet Estate wines were first produced in 1999 and are now listed in Steve Tanzer’s Winophilia along with Harlan, Bond and Screaming Eagle as one of Napa’s most spectacular wines. Robert Parker wrote that “The goal to produce world-class wines at Blankiet Estate has been accomplished, combining the extraordinary power of the site with unbelievable elegance and definition”. Claude and Katherine’s success in producing wines of first-growth Bordeaux quality from their tiny “puzzle of microclimates” is a testament to both their respect for nature and to their unquenchable thirst for innovation.
As is often the case with visionaries, the scope of Blankiet’s project, originally to produce a tiny amount of wine for family and friends has taken another dimension. Although they only make a few hundred cases each of their proprietary red wines a year, they do everything it takes to get these wines near perfection. Self-described “instigators,” they are forever questioning things and remain firmly committed to fulfill their passions.