Blazing a New Trail
The past twelve months mark a significant milestone in the career of innovative entrepreneur and winemaker Julien Fayard. Just before the 2018 harvest, he relocated all of the winemaking operations for his clients to a new location in South Napa–the Fayard Winemaking facility.
After a decade of managing and providing hands-on winemaking consulting services for premier wine brands all over the Valley, it was time for Julien to have a space of his own. The diversity of projects and the specific needs of each client had been perfectly tailored to custom crush, but with custom crush comes the constant negotiation for shared time and logistics. He developed a plan for the Fayard Winemaking facility that would solve this and allow him to provide a better quality service with greater attention to detail and quality for his clients.
Located off of N. Kelly Road in South Napa, the Fayard Winemaking facility offers all the state-of-the- art winemaking equipment one would expect to find in a high-end winery, yet it’s tucked into an urban business park. Aside from the bells and whistles, this production-driven facility allows Julien to have an in- house team dedicated to his winemaking, and now, he’s welcoming guests to an intimate tasting room on property–The Green Room–where his clients can have a dedicated space to host their guests.
At the Green Room, guests are invited to hang out, sample wines and see what happens behind the scenes during various stages of winemaking. Just as the name suggests, the bar and cozy seating area are located off the “main stage” of the production area and decked out in luxurious green décor thanks to the detailed eye of Julien’s wife, Elan Fayard, who has her own consulting business–Elan Fayard Consulting–for tasting room design, marketing and hospitality. The Green Room boasts a floor to ceiling window wall which offers a full view into the crush pad. The “backstage” experience offers visitors a unique opportunity to taste the premier wines of Julien including their brand Azur and his winery clients, meet the winemakers and proprietors and have a front-row seat to see how wine is made. The urban wine community vibe creates a special thrill for anyone seeking a more knowledge- driven wine tasting experience.
Last spring moved another needle in Fayard’s winemaking legacy as he and Elan celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the launch of Azur, their first label and award-winning premier Rose’. While Rose’ has fast become one of this decade’s most popular wines, in 2006, when the Fayards moved from Provence to Napa Valley, Rose’ wines in the U.S. were not as easy to find. Julien longed for the pure, Provençal style Rose’ wines his family produced at their winery, Crus Classé Chateau Sainte Marguerite, as he was growing up.
The Côtes de Provence style incorporates grapes grown specifically to make quality Rose’, which at the time, was not common practice for U.S. produced Rose’ wines. He soon realized he could not ac- quire this type of Rose’ locally, so he decided to make it himself. Starting as a garage operation, in 2007, Julien harvested and produced their first vintage of Rose’ under the label Azur Wines. Although he and Elan loved it, they faced an uphill battle getting it launched. “We had a hard time getting people to even taste it,” Elan jokes looking back. But once a buyer tried it, the desire to have it on their wine list or retail shelf was immediate. “Our first introduction to Julien and Elan Fayard started over a decade ago when a glass of their Azur Rosé transported us to Provence,” recalls ACME Fine Wines owner Karen Williams. Over time Azur Rose’ has set the benchmark for premier Rose’ made in America and Julien’s determination to create it cleared the path for many vintners in the U.S. to follow in his footsteps.
To celebrate Azur’s inaugural decade as the first dedicated Rose’ produced in America, the Fayards have made a deliberate investment in repackaging the wine to represent its leadership position within the “quality Rose’ revolution” in America. This past holiday season, the 2017 vintage was bottled with a patented new design intended to stand out in the fast-growing sea of pink. The bottle sizing has the circumference of a standard 750ml, but it has the height of a magnum, and the label is minimal with the screen-printed dove carrying a cluster of grapes to symbolize the journey of bringing the Provençal knowledge of winemaking from France to California.
After twelve short years in the U.S., and more than a decade of winemaking in France, including lead roles at both Chateau Lafitte Rothschild and Smith Haut Lafitte, Julien has made a name for himself at the young age of 41. “Julien has been one of the brightest winemakers that I have been involved with,” said Philippe Melka. “His understanding of all the facets of the business make him one of the elite winemakers of his generation.” Julien started working with Melka shortly after moving to the U.S. and he grew to become his Director of Winemaking.
Several years later Cal Nicholson, of Nicholson Jones wines, discovered Julien and was the first person to hire Julien on his own to save his 2005 vintage. Julien did save the wine, according to Cal, and he’s been making his wines ever since. But that was just the beginning of Cal and Julien’s relationship. In 2015, Julien, Elan, Cal, his wife Pam and their friends Dave and Laura Nestor, opened Covert Estate in Coombsville. The luxurious cave carved into the hillside among twelve-acres of ancient oaks and estate vines positioned Julien at the helm of winemaking for one of the most elite brands coming out of Napa’s newest AVA.
In addition to Azur, Covert Estate and Nicholson Jones labels, the Fayards also have the Empreinte label, and Julien’s client list has grown to include at least a dozen other high-end brands such as the highly-rated Le Pich and Purlieu, Brion, Scalon, Taplin Cellars, Matthew Wallace, Mithra, Cultivar and Caspar Estate to name a few. According to Stephen Taplin of Taplin Cellars, “When we chose a wine- maker, we were seeking someone who was eager to work with us and committed to expressing the character of lands owned by our family for more than 150 years. We got both in Julien and we’ve only grown more excited to have him on our team as time has passed. His intent is to make the process from grapes to wine be as natural as possible, therefore letting the vineyard expression thrive. Through this approach he has been delivering wines with increasing complexity and nuance.”
Over the years Julien has refined his winemaking philosophy to create wines with their own unique identities that express pure, terroir-driven characteristics. The wines he’s making are reminiscent of Napa Valley’s heyday in the ’70s and ’80s, and with each project he allows the vineyards to set the strategy representative of the unique characteristics of the vintage and terroir.
The Fayards have earned a reputation as modern-day trailblazers within the premier wine world of Napa Valley.
Although they do not feel they have hit their stride yet, with the potential partner- ships that will evolve from the launch of the Fayard Winemaking facility and the Green Room, it’s safe to expect that more exciting things will come.
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Article By: Laura Larson