A great Woodinville winery, Auclair, founded by Charlie Auclair, was started in 2000 following some inspiration from the great wine regions of the world. An impressive world traveler, Charlie recently returned to Washington from visiting some of the first growth estates in Bordeaux. His warm vintage new release wines were very impressive and I recently had the chance to sit down with Charlie and chat wine. I think you will really enjoy hearing his story. Here is my interview with Charlie Auclair, Owner and Winemaker of Auclair Winery.
WWB: You have traveled the world to some fantastic wine destinations. How have your travels influenced you as a winery owner and winemaker?
CA: I have been very lucky to have traveled to some great winemaking regions over the years. My first trip to Napa was in 1988 on a summer break from college and it opened my eyes to what good wine was supposed to taste like. I went on an exchange program to the Soviet Union in 1989 during the Perestroika days of opening up to the west and I recall loving the wines from Hungary and Georgia. In 1992, I moved west from Massachusetts (where I grew up and went to school). My plan was to move to CA but I fell in love with Washington State on my way and settled here instead.
Some of my biggest influences have been casual conversations with great wine makers. I recall visiting Yarra Yering winery in Australia’s Yarra Valley and talking with Dr. Bailey Carrodus in a simple tasting room located in the basement of a modest house where the tasting bar was a plank set up on 2 barrels. Here was one of the greatest winemakers in Australia pouring his own wines for people in a simple setting and I realized it wasn’t about the fancy tasting rooms and the picturesque locations. It was about making great wines. I got a tour of his facility and saw how simple and utilitarian it was. It was designed for 1 person to operate and to make great wine.
My wife and I traveled through S. Africa for our honeymoon and spent a week in wine country there. Again, there was one winery that stood out from the rest for me. de Trafford was located at the end of a 2 mile, one lane, dirt road and had a simple tasting area in an older building on the property. They only opened 1 day/week for 4 hours. We visited due to a recommendation, and again, the wines were far superior to any others we had tasted at big fancy tasting rooms with incredible views. It just drove home the message for me that great wine is what’s important. The rest is really just fluff.
WWB: Can you talk about your winemaking style or philosophy?
CA: I believe great wine is made in the vineyards. That sounds very obvious and almost rote to say but I really believe my job as winemaker is not to screw up the great grapes I get. I am hands off and don’t manipulate things. Vintage variation is OK. I take what I’m given and try to make the best wines possible. Every vintage is like a new child with its own personality and needs.
WWB: I was very impressed with your 2013 Auclair Cabernet Franc (WWB, 90) which showed a beautiful feminine personality. Can you talk about this great wine?
CA: When I was doing blending trials for the 2013 Right Blend there were 2 blends on opposite ends of the Right Bank spectrum that just stood out for me. My typical Right Blend is Merlot dominant and I had zeroed in on a Merlot dominant blend that I liked a lot and it became my 2013 Right Blend, but there was this Cabernet Franc dominant blend that I really loved equally well and I just couldn’t blend it away, so I made this wine. This wine just demanded to be made.
WWB: As a world traveler, what are some of your favorite wines and producers of the world. What are some of your favorite wines in your cellar?
The wine that changed my life and perspective on wine was a bottle of 1970 Mouton Rothschild that a very good friend shared with me. I was amazed that a 37 year old wine could taste so good. Up until that time aging for me meant storing a wine for 3-4 years after purchase.
CA: I am an admirer of Bordeaux. I belong to a fantastic tasting group and have had the privilege of tasting some of the world’s great wines. I love German Riesling. Yarra Yering and Yeringberg in Australia are making great wines that I admire. Closer to home I have great respect for Kapcsandy, Betz, Cayuse and Leonetti wines.
In my cellar right now I have a few favorite wines. For reds: Thomas Pinot Noir, Beaucastel, Leoville Las Cases, Leoville Barton, Latour, Cheval Blanc, Yarra Yering dry red #1, Yeringberg, Betz Le Parrain, and for whites my favorites are Domain de Chevalier Blanc, Didier Dagueneau, Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc, Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, and Rhys and Yeringberg Chardonnays.