Jonathan Maltus, producer of cult St.-Emilion Grand Cru Le Dome, released his inaugural 2008 Napa Valley wines last week under the brand name “World’s End,” an homage to the American wine lover. The red wines range from exclusive single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon wines from Oakville to regional Napa Valley wines.
Making Napa Valley wines was a natural move for Maltus, who was born to be a man of the world. Although English by citizenship, he comes from a family of expatriates going back to the 18th century and Maltus himself was born and raised in Nigeria. While he has lived in Bordeaux since 1994, Maltus has continued to explore the world through wine, first in South Africa and Australia, and now in the Napa Valley. Besides, he and his wife Lyn have friends here and most of his buyers are from the US, perhaps swayed by Robert Parker’s impressive ratings for the St.-Emilion Grands Crus wines.
Maltus has a contemporary approach to winemaking. He arrived in St.-Emilion in the mid-’90s when the garagiste movement was in full swing and the region, “an agent of change” from green thinning in the vineyard to experimenting with micro-oxidation, 200% new oak and lees stirring to produce dark, rich and concentrated wines. He acknowledges now that they probably “overdid it” during this “Dr Pepper” decade, but that they were able to learn from the experiences and evolve.
Since then, he’s fine-tuned both the Bordeaux and Napa Valley wines by dialing down the ferment temperatures and reigning in the new oak (to only 100%) and lees stirring to create fresh and elegant wines with clarity of fruit.
Maltus’ approach to marketing is rather New World, being more brand-driven than chateau-driven and eschewing the traditional negociant system to deal directly with the trade. Rather atypically for Bordeaux, he makes a range of wines to suit every consumer, from single-vineyard micro-cuvees like 1,000 case Le Dome to 15,000 case ‘brands’ like Chateau Teyssier – his first venture in wine – to regional Bordeaux red and white. Maltus uses a similar formula for his Napa Valley wines.
Like Le Dome, whose vineyard is on the best sandy soils for cabernet franc adjacent to St.-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classe Chateau Angelus, Maltus also goes to the top vineyards for his flagship Napa Valley wines. The inaugural, single vineyard wines from World’s End are “Good Times Bad Times” ($105, 350 cases) a 100% cabernet sauvignon from Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, “Crossfire” ($90, 500 cases) a 100% cabernet sauvignon from Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Vineyard, Oakville, and “Wavelength” ($72, 350 cases) a 50/50 cabernet franc/syrah blend from Sugarloaf Mountain.
The mid-tier Napa Valley varietal wines are expected to be released in the spring and will retail for about $40. They are “If Six Was Nine” Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2,000 cases), “Little Sister” Napa Valley Merlot (1,500 cases) and “Against the Wind” Napa Valley Cabernet Franc (1,500 cases).