The women at Brendel believe that making good wine is a team effort. Advanced sommelier Cassandra Felix is the brand director. Her accolades could fill up a novel, but as a young Black female wine professional she was a finalist for “Best Young Sommelier” and was a Wine Honoree at the James Beard House Iconoclast Dinner. She is originally from Florida. To say the least, Cassandra is a big deal.
Brittany Sherwood is the winemaker. She received her Viticulture and Enology degree from UC Davis (which means you know how to make really good wine) and worked at some of the most legit wine regions in France, Germany, Switzerland, and Spain. Brittany works closely with vineyard management, from poring over thinning schedules in summer to choosing smaller picks between blocks at harvest. “There is a lot of collaboration so that at the end of the day we are making the best decisions possible.”
Brendel is part of the Heitz Family Cellars run by CEO, Carlton McCoy. At 28, Carlton was one of the youngest people and only the second African American to be named a Master Sommelier. He is both the steward of iconic Napa brands and the inspiration behind new labels like Brendel.
The 2019 Brendel Napa Valley Chorus Cuvee is named for Leon Brendel, the original owner of the vineyard plot which he purchased in the 1950s. It is a historic field blend of grapes rarely grown in Napa including tempranillo, touriga nacional, tinta cao, tinta madeira, and trousseau. While each of these grapes can stand on their own, the blend of these varietals is much like a chorus – working together in perfect harmony to create a wine that is greater than the sum of its parts.
This is a field blend, so all of the grapes come from a single small plot in Saint Helena in the heart of the Napa Valley that was first cultivated by Leon Brendel in the 1950s. While others were ripping out old vines to plant more popular varietals, this vineyard stayed true to its roots. The vineyard is organically farmed using biodynamic techniques making this wine free of all unnecessary ingredients so the soil and the grapes can speak for themselves.
The 2019 Brendel Chorus Cuvee Rouge was aged ten months in neutral tanks with very little manipulation in the wine making process. This wine is displays notes of freshly cut red roses and tart red fruit. It is unlike any single varietal wine that you drink regularly. Delicious, complex, and dangerously drinkable, it’s the perfect wine for special occasions or any day of the week!
Emma says loves to explore new wines and unique blends like this get her very excited. “We are all love opening an amazing cabernet, but discovery is part of the fun in this business. Tell me about a unique blend or obscure varietal and I am in.” She appreciates the backstory of both the vineyard and the all-female winemaking team. According to Emma, women are just better at everything – and it shows up in this bottle of exceptional wine. We all agree.