“For all of the science and technology involved and the advanced techniques we are constantly exploring, winemaking is still essentially a journey of faith. You never quite know exactly where that journey has led you until you open the bottle.”
Simply put, Andrew is a child of Carneros. One could say that the same earth, atmosphere and culture that give each Carneros varietal its unique, indelible character were also at work in Andrew. Son of the well-known Carneros winemaker, Larry Brooks, Andrew grew up amongst the vines. From the wide open spaces of the vineyards to a playground of barrels, tanks, catwalks and forklifts, Andrew’s childhood was idyllic. “It all seemed completely normal to me,” Andrew recalls. “As far as I was concerned, making wine was simply what you did as a grown-up.” Those “grown-ups” happened to be a virtual roll call of iconic Carneros winemakers, including Michael Richmond.
While wine was in Andrew’s blood and background, it wasn’t necessarily in his plans. After high school, Andrew attended college far from wine country. At Wesleyan University in Connecticut, he pursued a degree in Chemistry. Little did he know, but the path that seemed to lead away from his roots would quickly bend back towards home.
Andrew’s first harvest job in the wine industry wasn’t supposed to turn into a career, much less a calling. After graduating from Wesleyan, Andrew took a harvest cellar position at Domaine Carneros to make enough money for an adventure through South America. Upon returning home to the States with an empty wallet and an open outlook, he rejoined Domaine Carneros’ lab to get a closer look at the data that drove the winemaking decisions. In 2007, he learned of an opening in the lab down the road at Bouchaine and jumped at the chance.
For Andrew, Bouchaine represented an exciting new opportunity. The flexibility of a smaller operation allowed him broader and also deeper learning at the side of one of the Carneros Region’s legendary winemakers, who also happened to be an old family friend. “Michael Richmond has a very hands-off approach which allows me to develop my own sense for the critical points of input in the vineyard and cellar. It’s very reassuring to have him as a resource because he’s seen almost every sort of vintage and every type of winemaking challenge. That lends a certain calmness to his demeanor, a patience and critical optimism which are key winemaking tools.”
Like Michael and many luminaries before him, Andrew can’t help but wax poetic when talking about his primary medium: Pinot Noir. To him, the famously challenging varietal is endlessly intriguing. “It takes a while to get to know Pinot,” he says. “It isn’t easy to manipulate. You don’t really make Pinot inside the winery. You discover it. Young wines show the winemaker’s imprint and the artifacts of fermentation, but those don’t endure. As the wines mature, their true nature comes out. The character of the vineyard is revealed. In the end, there’s no getting away from their roots.”
We could say the same about Andrew.