Artist Wine is owned and operated by Kristian Story, formerly of Kristian Story Wines (that label closed in 2013) and formerly of Napa One Wine. We originally caught up with Kristian when he was producing his wines at a winery in Carneros. Last we heard Kristian had entered the insurance brokerage field and moved out of the Napa Valley. These wines focus on special productions for bands or musicians often in the world of rock music. Less than 15 years ago Kristian wasn’t even remotely connected to the Napa wine industry. After graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in Metallurgical Engineering he went to work for a micro-electronics firm in San Diego for the next 15 years.
As with a number of vintners in the valley Kristian attributes some of his wine making styles and influences to Robert Mondavi. His father Peter Story was a salesman for IBM in the early 1970’s. Peter’s first client was Robert Mondavi who wanted to buy a computer system that would provide a variety of measurements for his wine making team. Stylistically, Mondavi was trying to take a more hands off approach to wine making.
Kristian approached his father about joining the family winery business in 2000 but the timing wasn’t quite right. After approaching his father again in 2002 with an offer no one could refuse Kristian started developing his own small wine brand. His father would have no financial liability and Kristian would be his largest buyer of grapes. After launching several small labels ultimately Kristian launched Kristian Story Wines in 2006.
Kristian’s style of wines are minimalist in nature – with a number of wine making influences coming under the mentor-ship of winemaker Mark Herold and Sarah Gott. In 2000 Kristian and his father placed a classified ad in a local wine making magazine asking for a winemaker who would be willing to teach them more about wine making. Mark answered the ad and along with Bulmaro Montes (long time vineyard manager at Joseph Phelps) were instrumental in both Kristian and his father’s wine careers.
Kristian has never been formally trained in wine making rather his education came in the vineyards for a number of years. He develops his wines to be approachable early on. The sediment you see in the bottle and glass from the red wines is nothing to be concerned about. Kristian does not fine nor filter his wines.
2010 was the first year Kristian commercially produced white wines. Wanting to limit his losses in case these wines were not well received he produced just several hundred cases of each wine. Not to worry, demand has been great – and he now has a reason to increase the production for future vintages!
The 2010 Ratt N Roll Chardonnay (under his Artist Wine labels) is made from four different clones of Chardonnay grown on the Sonoma Coast. We tried this wine at several temperatures but the nose really “pops” when it is served chilled. Tropical fragrances, orange peel and tangerine blossom show. The palate is rounded with good viscosity and notes of green apple and some oak on the finish.
The 2010 Los Carneros Chardonnay is golden in the glass with a bouquet showing notes of tangerine blossom, graphite, honeysuckle and white peach. This wine has good weight and a rounded mouth feel. The palate shows intense flavor with a lively finish that shows lingering notes of Meyer Lemon as well as toasted oak.
The 2006 Soiree is the softest of the red wines. This Meritage is composed of 45% each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the remainder Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. This is Kristian’s “Vegas” wine – or as those actually in Vegas say, “a party in the mouth”. The bouquet is like candy featuring sweet red and black fruit. The mouth feel is soft and rounded with dusty tannins (always in the background) and a very long finish.
The 2007 RED Special Vineyard Select is a unique blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and a small amount of Petit Verdot. Kristian’s red wines are about big aromatics and this one is no different; the nose is all about the fruit showing generous aromas of cassis, black berry and black cherry. The entry is soft and supple and dusty tannins start about mid palate and run through the finish.
Rhapsodie was made under the Kristian Story label every year since 2006 and is one of the wines Kristian is most proud of. This wine speaks to his philosophy of layering to add additional nuances and complexities in a wine – a “crescendo of flavors” if you will. He sources some of the fruit from his father’s vineyard in St. Helena (clones his father secured from nearby premium wineries) as well as Rutherford. He uses three different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Merlot, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot in the blend.
The 2006 Rhapsodie is a dark wine in the glass with big aromas and big flavors. The bouquet is mostly about black fruit including black cherry. The palate is soft and rounded upon entry but soon picks up the intense fruit flavors complemented by the large tannins and a fairly long finish.
Kristian’s wines are distributed at fine wine shops and restaurants. For more information visit: www.artistwine.com
NOTE: possibly no longer producing commercially. We will update and archive this review if needed in the next few years.