For Christophe Paubert, Winemaker and General Manager at Stags’ Leap Winery, it was an easy decision to become involved in the wine business: growing up outside of Sauternes in Bordeaux, where his grandfather worked as a cellar master, he was exposed to the French culture of wine since childhood.
J“When I was 17, I decided to study winemaking,” Christophe Paubert recalled during a recent visit to Jakarta, where he promoted Stags’ Leap to the Indonesian market and hosted a media lunch at Cork & Screw Pacific Place, during which he introduced a number of Stags’ Leap wines that were paired with exquisite food.
“I was very good in chemistry, biology and science, and of course when you grow in Bordeaux and are good at these things, you immediately think about becoming a winemaker.”
He began honing his skills at the Institut d’Inologie in Bordeaux and later completed a graduate course in sales and marketing. Upon graduation sold winemaking equipment for several years; it was a job he enjoyed, but while he was visiting friends at Chateau d’Yquem, he was offered the job of cellar master – and Christophe Paubert decided that it was time for a change and follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.
“I was very passionate about this job because Sauternes is part of my culture; it was an exceptional thing to touch this unique wine,” he said.
His career as a winemaker next led him to Chile, where he helped build a winery. His responsibilities included training the cellar crew and overhauling the vineyard spanning 400 acres. After further stints in Spain, France and New Zealand and Washington State, Christophe Paubert eventually came to Stags’ Leap in Napa Valley in California, where he felt at home immediately, thanks to its unique terroir.
“I believe that wine should express the uniqueness of the land, and the Stags’ Leap wines have always showcased one of the most distinctive regions in the Napa Valley,” he explained.
Christophe Paubert’s winemaking philosophy is an accumulation of his various experiences in the wine business. He makes wine the way he learned in France, to showcase the fruit and not the winemaker’s hand, but he applies a technical understanding of each and every step of the process.
“Wine is culture. There is history and tradition behind it. You enjoy it on the table with food and good conversation, and making wine involves working with other people,” he said.
In fact, it is the teamwork that he loves most about his job.
“The beauty of winemaking is that it is great teamwork,” he said. “We are achieving everything together and we support each other. I am nothing without my team.”
When asked if he prefers to make red wine or white wine, Christophe Paubert was hesitant – it seemed impossible for him to choose.
“At our winery, we make 17 different wines, and for me the most interesting challenge is that I want all of them to have a high quality,” he explained. “If I would make only one wine all the time, it would be boring.”
His wines all have one common feature, he added – they have to be fresh.
“Otherwise, you can’t pair it with food. If the wine is too strong, it will overwhelm the taste of the food,” he said. “But of course, it all comes down to personal taste. Some people prefer stronger wine, and that is fine too. I am not a wine snob.”
Stags’ Leap Lunch
On Arrival: 2015 Stags’ Leap Viognier Napa Valley
1st Course: 2014 Stags’ Leap Chardonnay Napa Valley, paired with Roasted Scallop with Zucchini Tagliatelle, Charred Corn and Truffle Vinaigrette
2nd Course: Stags’ Leap Petit Syrah Napa Valley, paired with Foie Gras Ravioli, Sauteed Mushrooms and Sage Butter
3rd Course: 2014 Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley; 2013 Stags’ Leap “The Leap” Cabernet Sauvignon, paired with Chateaubriand Steak, Truffle Mushed Potatoes, Glazed Vegetables and Red Wine Sauce
4th Course: Dark Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream