Bill Cadman is a character and a half, with a quick wit and easy charm—and his wines have the same feel. Each is memorable and distinctive for its own reasons, and each has everything it takes to stand the test of time.
Cadman’s been in the Napa winemaking game since the late 1960s. He was in between jobs at the stock exchange in San Francisco and decided to move to Napa with “the woman who used to be my wife” to pursue his interest in wine. His first gig was at Charles Krug, where, “the fermentation area was like winemaking in 1890,” he remembers.
The winemaker there was Bill Bennetti (who went on to Sonoma-Cutrer). “It was the greatest thing for someone who’d never worked in a winery,” says Cadman. “I thought they hired me because they could see my hidden talents. But my friend said, ‘It’s harvest. They’ll hire anybody!’”
From there, Cadman went on to work for Joe Heitz for about a year and a half (“That was great! It was like boot camp.”), then Clos du Val for about a year. It was at that point a friend suggested starting his own winery. Once Cadman found the right property, he fixed up some outbuildings and got permits, but there was just one more thing: “I needed some grapes.”
So he began his search. “I was at an event, talking to Louis Martini and telling him there was a vineyard by my house. Martini said he knew the vineyard and was putting it in his special selection wine. Being young and naïve, I asked if I could get some, too. He said if it was OK with the vineyard owner, it was OK with him.” Owner Duncan Haynes, in turn, said yes—and Cadman’s been purchasing the grapes ever since. This year, all Cadman’s wines will be made from grapes grown in the Haynes vineyard.
Cadman makes several varietals under the Tulocay Winery label, which released its first vintage in 1975. This year, he added a second label, Cadman, and released the first in his “family album” series, a 2006 Haynes Vineyard Chardonnay. It’s 100 percent steel fermented, with stone fruits and a touch of vanilla on the nose, then very smooth with citrus flavors and a long finish. He also made a second Chardonnay, under the Tulocay label, that spent some time in oak. It came from the same vineyard but had a different pick date and was a little riper. “I did it both ways, because I thought it would be fun to compare them,” he says. And it is. The second one is softer but just as full and lush. The oak is very subtle, and the citrus elements aren’t as dominant. We tried it with one of my favorite cheeses, Andante goat cheese (delicious).
Cadman says he’ll continue making wines under the Tulocay label, but will also keep the Cadman label for the special series. When asked how he came up with the name Tulocay, he says it’s the Wappo name of a 1,000-acre land grant, and means “‘red clay earth’—but I prefer [my own definition]: ‘Fine wines at reasonable prices.’”
To make his fine wines at reasonable prices, Cadman says he starts with “grapes that are balanced; they’re picked when the sugar, acid and pH are such that no manipulation is needed.” He contracts winemaker Mike Bunter to come in and ensure the exceptional fruit is handled with care. The results are well-balanced wines that pair well with food (or stand alone).
The 2006 Pinot Noir, for example, is easy drinking and delicious, with cherry cola flavors and a lush overall feel. Cadman served it with a Serrano ham sandwich (from The Fatted Calf in Oxbow Market) that had an apricot spread—they went together so well it almost felt like something would be missing without the pairing.
“If I had to only make one wine, it would be the Haynes Vineyard Pinot Noir,” says Cadman. “It’s my favorite because it goes with so many foods.”
The Tulocay Syrah has chocolate and dark fruit on the nose, with mild tannins and blackberries on the palate. One sip commands your attention, yet still plays nice with things to eat (we enjoyed it with tuna and chicken salad sandwiches from Model Bakery). “I find it remarkable that California wineries were so slow to plant Syrah,” he says. “It’s an ideal grape—great color; great blending fruit. It’s good with Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon, and makes such a nice wine on its own. It’s the red wine drinker’s wine. If you like reds, you have to like Syrah.”
And even though Cadman has spent his winemaking years in the Napa Valley, he says he’s “much more of a Sonoma guy.” He compared Napa to Bordeaux and Sonoma to Burgundy, and says when friends come to visit he takes them to Sonoma Valley. “Napa is tourist central,” he says. “It used to be associated with the insane asylum. But rich people have discovered Napa…it’s funny how many artisan winemakers were previously trapped in computer engineers’ bodies.”
When asked about other changes he’s seen in the area and the industry, he says he thinks the major change has been increased quality. “When I started Tulocay in 1975, California wines certainly didn’t have the renown they do now. And I, like most, would give much of the credit to Robert Mondavi, who said, only about five million times, ‘Our [California] wines belong in the company of the fine wines of the world.’”
As far as changes at Tulocay? “We did buy a new forklift.”
Whatever it takes to keep making that world-class wine.
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