Daniel Baron and Jean-Claude Berrouet
The story of Twomey Merlot is one of a friendship thirty years in the making.
The tale begins in 1981, when Daniel Baron, a recent UC Davis Viticulture & Enology graduate, headed to France for an enologist job that fell through upon his arrival. Penniless and with no other job prospects, he was about to jump on a plane to head home when a mutual friend invited him to visit the legendary Chateau Pétrus. As good luck would have it, that afternoon Daniel met winemaker Jean-Claude Berrouet and owner Christian Moueix, who was in the process of purchasing property in the Napa Valley for a new wine project that would become Dominus. With good wine, food and conversation flowing, the men hit it off and before Daniel knew it, he was offered an apprenticeship under Jean-Claude.
“Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. But Christian Moueix was a prophetic guy and believed I came into his life for a reason. So he invited me to apprentice under Jean-Claude at Pétrus so I could be indoctrinated in all aspects of grape growing and winemaking.” – Daniel Baron
Daniel’s good fortune continued with his first Bordeaux vintage – the legendary wines of 1982 – under Jean-Claude at Chateau Pétrus. Before long Christian Moueix and Jean-Claude saw potential in the young protégé to return to the States and develop Dominus under their direction. As first winemaker and then general manager at Dominus, over the following twelve years Daniel and Jean-Claude became even closer friends.
Ready for a new challenge, in 1994 Daniel answered an ad placed by Justin Meyer at Silver Oak to name his successor, and was hired as the second winemaker in Silver Oak history. Daniel reminisces, “We hit it off immediately, and although I wasn’t sure about taking the job, Justin wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
In 1999 Silver Oak purchased Soda Canyon Ranch, a 115 acre vineyard site in Atlas Peak, as the primary site for its Cabernet Sauvignon. In walking the property, Daniel discovered 40 acres of world-class Merlot vines, enough to produce 750 cases of wine. With the eyes of a Bordeaux vingneron, he recognized the prospect to produce an expressive Merlot and worked with the Duncan family, co-owners of Silver Oak, to explore the varietal. Soon after Twomey Cellars was born, with the first wine being the 1999 Merlot.
“Daniel saw something special in Soda Canyon, an opportunity to do a Bourdeaux-style Merlot that was informed by his early days. Our general approach with Twomey is that the vineyard is our teacher, so in this case, Daniel got to learn from two teachers – Soda Canyon and his mentor Jean-Claude Berrouet,” said Silver Oak and Twomey CEO David Duncan.
Though Daniel enjoyed exercising his Bordeaux roots crafting Twomey Merlot, he missed the comradery and back-and-forth of making wine with Jean-Claude. In 2012, after Jean-Claude’s retirement from Chateau Pétrus, Daniel invited him to join him in the Napa Valley on the Merlot project. Now, more than 30 years after their initial meeting, the two-men team is reunited, working together to create a blend that captures the best of California’s fruit-forward style with the subtlety and restraint of Bordeaux.