I spent more time with Julie Johnson at her CCOF certified Tres Sabores than any other single winemaker during a recent three week swing through the West Coast this past spring. Why? Admittedly, because I can drink her wines all day or night, everyday. Also, because everything she does, as a grower and winemaker, just seems to make sense. My vinous sensibility is simpático with Tres Sabores.
Johnson farms a 32 year-old vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley’s famed Rutherford AVA; originally planted to Zinfandel (making killer reds), but to which she added two acres of Cabernet Sauvignon (yielding no more than a couple hundred cases a year) after first acquiring the property in 1987. As a former partner at Frog’s Leap, her instincts were, and still are, organic, but for all the right reasons: this vineyard is also her home, her refuge, her sustenance, and an extension of herself – everything in its place, but in the opposite of a contrived, unnatural fashion.
“The essence of sustainability,” she says, “is that no part of what you do is wholly separate from the other.” So, through Johnson’s windows, you see old, gnarly trunked vines, but also stands of walnut and 150 year old olive trees, zinnias and cosmos among the buckwheat and wild grasses between the rows, tangled blackberry patches around the edges, hummingbirds, bees, sheep, and furtive jackrabbits and noisy, wild guinea hens nesting or scrambling hither and yon.