Napa’s Grape Crusher

Figure 16–1 The Grape Crusher Sculpture on the road to Napa ValleyIf you’ve ever been to Napa, you’ve seen him.  You may have wondered what the 16-foot gentleman wearing the wide-brimmed hat was doing crushing grapes at the top of a lonely hill in the middle of the night, but you can’t deny you noticed him.  I’m talking about – of course – “the Grape Crusher,” the lovely statue sitting atop Vista Point near Napa Valley Corporate Drive, looming over the vineyards as you buzz past on Highway 29.

Having been an admirer of this particular blending of art and wine, and having wondered just who the Grape Crusher was and what he was doing there; I did a bit of digging. It turns out the Grape Crusher was created by a well-known artist named Gino Miles in 1986. Mr. Miles created the sculpture as a tribute to the dedicated vineyard workers of the valley, in honor of 200 years of grape growing in Napa Valley.  The sculpture was purchased and dedicated by the city of Napa in 1987.

The Grape Crusher weighs 6,000 pounds, stands 16 feet tall, and is set atop a 10-foot base covered in river rock. The statue, which took over a year to complete, is hollow and made of bronze.  The artist built sculpted the piece and brought it to the Shidoni Foundry in Tesuque, New Mexico.  At the foundry, the statue was cast into 135 separate bronze pieces, assembled, and shipped to Napa in one piece.

Gino Miles has been an artist since the 1970’s.  After attending the University of Northern Colorado, he spend many years in Europe studying art and art history, and founding Italart, an art school for American and German students in the Chianti region outside Florence.  For many years he taught design and sculpture classes while presenting his original pastels and sculptures as well. Gino and his wife now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and are the owners of Sculpture 619, a gallery in the heart of Santa Fe’s Art District.

If you’d like more information on the artist who created Napa’s iconic Grape Crusher, click here for a link to his Santa Fe Studio: http://www.sculpture619.com/about/

 

The Maestro

Andre TTTAndré Tchelistcheff (1901-1994) was so impressive as a winemaker that he earned the lasting nickname “The Maestro.”  Born in Moscow, he fled Russia during the Revolution and studied agricultural technology in Czechoslovakia before landing in France, where he studied microbiology, fermentation, and oenology at the Institut Pasteur.

In 1938, Georges de Latour, the owner and founder of Beaulieu Vineyards in Napa Valley, made a tour of France in search of a new winemaker. He was looking for someone with a sophisticated palate and a scientific background.  He found it in André, who was working at the French National Argronomy Institute at the time.  André had already received numerous offers of work from all over the world, yet he accepted the challenge and, in 1938, moved to Napa to become the Vice President and chief winemaker at BV.

Upon his arrival in California, he stopped the over-sulfuring of wines and put an end to the practice of dumping large amounts of ice into the crusher to combat the searing heat of the Napa Valley in fall.  He pioneered the cold fermentation of whites and rosés, the control of malolactic fermentation in red wines, and the use of small barrel aging.  He spent years replacing rusty cast iron piping and pumps that were causing the wines to have unacceptably high levels of metallic concentration.

Napa AndreAndré also pioneered the study of viticulture and terroir in Napa Valley, implementing frost protection in the vineyards and the prevention of grape diseases. He studied the various sub-regions of Napa, identifying areas where world-class Cabernet Sauvignon could be made, and is credited with coming up with the term “Rutherford dust.” Most importantly, he created Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which quickly became the benchmark style for high-quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

During his time with Beaulieu, Tchelistcheff trained many soon-to-be-famous winemakers, including Mike Grgich and Joe Heitz. He remained vice president of Beaulieu Vineyards until he retired in 1973.  In his “retirement” he consulted with dozens of wineries and winemakers in California, Washington State and Oregon. One of his first clients was Mary Ann Graf at Simi Winery, who is now recognized as the first woman winemaker in America. In full circle style, he consulted once again with Beaulieu Vineyards from 1991 until his death in 1994.

Always a gentleman, André was well-known and much beloved for his for his quick wit, sharp intellect, and European charm.  He was considered a master of the language of wine, and once described a Beaujolais as “a young woman, barefoot, the wind blowing in her hair, ruffling her blouse.  She has the look on Andre Tchelistcheffher face of an early peach, a teen-age beauty.”

Considered the most influential California winemaker since the repeal of prohibition, his many honors include being inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame in 2007, Wine Spectator’s Distinguished Service Award of 1986, and the 1970 Merit Award of the American Society of Enologists.  He was also recognized internationally, being named both a “Chevalier” and an “Officier du Mérite Agricole” by the French government.

However…to all those countless winemakers, grape growers, wineries and wine drinkers from the early days of the California wine industry and beyond, he will always be “The Maestro.”

 

Post written by Jane A. Nickles, CWE (your SWE Blog Administrator) bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org