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Winemaker fair | joie de vivre | a bit sarcastic

Chris Phelps was born into a wine-loving family. Phelps completed a degree in enology at U.C. Davis, then studied viticulture and enology at the University of Bordeaux. He was selected by his future mentors, Christian Moueix and enologist Jean-Claude Berrouet, of Château Pétrus and Ets. Jean-Pierre Moueix, to direct winemaking at Château des Laurets in Puisseguin-St. Émilion for the 1982 harvest.

After extensive training at Château Pétrus and other Moueix properties on the Right Bank, Phelps spent 12 years as the founding winemaker at Dominus Estate, the Napa Valley property owned by Moueix.

After Dominus, Phelps made the wines at Caymus Vineyards before starting his consulting business. His winemaking experiences in both Napa and Bordeaux led him to create what he now calls “New World wines with an Old-World sensibility.”

Since 2007, Phelps has produced Ad Vivum, his single vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet sourced from the Sleeping Lady Vineyard in Yountville, California.

In addition to Ad Vivum, Phelps consults for a number of projects throughout the West Coast, including Inglenook, as well as working with Josh on Grounded Wine Company, producing wine from California, Oregon, and Washington. Chris and his wife, Maria, live in St. Helena, Napa Valley.

97 points — “A gorgeous wine from Chris Phelps, the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Sleeping Lady Vineyard sports a dense purple hue as well as awesome aromatics of cassis, violets, flowers, and spicy oak. It’s young and unevolved, with medium to full-bodied richness, silky tannins, flawless balance, and a great finish. It ranks with the finest wines I’ve tasted from this vineyard. All Cabernet aged 20 months in 70% new French oak, it has two decades or more of prime drinking ahead of it.

Jeb Dunnuck