Sam Stephens has more than 20 years’ experience in the wine industry and is regarded as something of an
expert on Napa Valley wines. Exquisite Taste took the opportunity to catch up with him at The Plantation
Grill – Seminyak and chat about one of Napa’s most famous wines and his role as brand ambassador.
E: How did you get into wine?
Sam: I grew up in South Australia where wine is close to a lot of people’s hearts. I started working in a restaurant when I was at school and that ignited my interest, later I started working behind the bar and got even more exposure. At university, I worked for a lecturer studying labels and how they affect consumer choices. That got me involved with some wine shops and cellars. Then it was off to the UK and more wine-centric employment. I worked for Penfolds in the UK, before moving to Singapore and Treasury Wine Estates.
E: What does being a brand ambassador entail?
S: It involves a lot of travel – we were in Jakarta yesterday, Bali today, Thailand tomorrow to meet with our customers, suppliers and the consumers, so that we can introduce, educate and promote our wines, and aim to keep them in people’s minds.
It’s also about the stories. There’s a growing thirst for information about wine and its provenance. Take Beaulieu wines, they have almost 120 years of history. There are some very old vineyards that were brought in by the founder, Georges de Latour, so you can give someone a glass of a young BV wine but tell them a story that goes back for a century.
E: What’s the best part of the job for you?
S: The destinations and people. Whether it’s a wine dinner or a masterclass, the minute you pull the cork out of a bottle of wine, people will always smile.
E: What do you think is special about the Napa Valley?
S: There is a lot of diversity, but one of the things that sets Napa Valley apart is a certain level of ripeness and smoothness to the wines. The region has this wonderful combination of hot days and generally cool nights and mornings, with an almost daily cooling morning mist. This brings about the ripeness and richness, but also adds elegance and some acidity.
Napa Valley wines are generous, with an upfront fruity bouquet. On the palate you get the fruit and complexity. It’s generally a region that produces very drinkable wines, but also wines with complexity and the ability to age, as well. So, you get wines you can drink young or develop with cellaring. The BV Tapestry is a great example of this.
E: What makes Beaulieu Vineyards wines special for you?
S: The history. Beaulieu Vineyards was founded in the early 1900s; Georges de Latour was one of the early adopters in the region and saw the opportunity to grow quality Bordeaux varietals. They are also one of a handful of vineyards that survived Prohibition by selling sacrament wines.
E: Do you have a favourite Beaulieu Vineyards pairing?
S: Probably my favourite pairing is the Tapestry, a powerful and well-balanced Bordeaux blend that is predominantly cabernet, with merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec – all five Bordeaux varietals, paired with a Porterhouse steak.
We also have the BV Prestige range, which is sourced from all over California, not just the Napa Valley, and this opens up some of our cooler climate vineyards and brings a fresher, fruit-driven expression to the wines. This works really well with spicier foods.
E: Climate change is a big issue for winemakers. How is BV coping with this issue?
S: The weather impacts on every vintage and there is little we can do about it. However, BV has many old vines, which have a natural hardiness to them and can survive higher temperatures and droughts better than younger vines, while still producing quality grapes.
Treasury Wine Estates is committed to sustainability and is actively trying to reduce water and power usage, reducing shipping and generally aiming for a neutral impact on the environment for all our wineries to try and help ensure a future for us all.
The 2015 BV Reserve Tapestry Red Blend Napa Valley is a flavoursome blend of five Bordeaux-heritage grape varieties. With expressive and vibrant aromas, it is an approachable food-friendly wine crafted from crops produced in an exceptional Californian growing season.
BV Reserve Tapestry 2015
Well-structured, layered and with bright acidity, it has a complexity built upon a core of juicy wild blackberry, dark blueberry cobbler and cassis imparted by the cabernet sauvignon, followed lingering notes of toasted spiced oak and gingerbread.
Tapestry Reserve is a great wine for social drinking and pairs perfectly with red meats like Porterhouse steak and was awarded 93 points by James Suckling and 92 points by Wine Advocate.
Drink now or lay down until 2025.
Exquisite Taste December 2019 – February 2020