Where do Napa winemakers dine out? 

For many Napa Valley visitors, the revelation is not the wine; it’s the food. With scores of restaurants featuring farm-to-table (and sea-to-table) ingredients, it’s hard to go wrong when dining out.

But where do the folks who make Napa’s wines go for special occasions, or just a burger and (gasp) a beer? Where might visitors bump into their favorite winemaker?

We asked eight vintners to cite special-occasion and casual spots — and where they hang with their vinous homies.

The most-touted hangout: Rutherford Grill’s bar for lunch and late afternoon. If you don’t encounter a famous winemaking face while dining, at least you know that the food will be stellar.

Philippe Melka
Owner/winemaker of Melka Wines, owner of Atelier Melka Wine Consulting Company

Special occasion: “Whenever we go to Press, we know we are in for a treat. Sommeliers Kelli White and Scott Brenner always impress me with their recommendations, (and) Press has one of the most comprehensive wine lists in Napa with a number of rare older vintages/special bottles.”

Must-have menu item: “the truffle mac and cheese and bacon platter.”

Casual: “Goose and Gander is one of my favorite places to hang out and have a cocktail at the end of the day.”

Must-have menu item: “You can’t beat their burger and octopus salad.”

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Le Pan - The Art of Fine Wine Living
Out of The Shadows 

With his own label and winery in the works, Philippe Melka finally takes the spotlight.

Over the past 20 years, Philippe Melka has consulted on dozens of top labels—including Dana Estates, Vineyard 29, Lail, and Brand. He has received several 100-point scores from The Wine Advocate and been named by Robert Parker as one of the top nine wine consultants in the world.

Melka has established a reputation as a soil whisperer, a brilliant blender, and a titan of terroir. He uses data and analytics to get the most out of every one of his sites. But because he has spent most of his career making wines for other people, few—if any—consumers seem to even know the guy’s name.

This is about to change...

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Napa Sonoma Magazine
Unicorn Hunting in Napa 

... That afternoon the Valley came alive with preview parties. From Napa Town to Calistoga, Howell Mountain to Spring Mountain, the Premiere Napa Valley wines were poured along with current and future releases, in the hopes of attracting buzz. Can you believe that Mekerra sauvignon blanc by Melka? Did you try the Fairchild Sigaro-—it’s a Melka. One name kept coming up.

Legendary winemaker Philippe Melka’s portrait dots the auction book 11 times—like the kid in the high school yearbook who was in every club. At an unofficial portfolio tasting later that day, I found out why ...

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VEGAS seven
Philippe Melka's "Winemaker Boot Camp" Featured in Marin Magazine 

Philippe Melka is one of the top winemakers in the world, but for three days this spring he might as well be your new best friend. Twice a year Melka and his wife, Cherie, host a three-day insider experience called Winemaker Boot Camp that includes an intimate look at the Melka way of life, including a wine reception at their home, dinners with the couple at St. Helena’s Press and the three-Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood, early morning vineyard tours and a winemaking class with Melka himself. The boot camp kicks off April 19 (just in time for the growing season’s bud break), but sign up now, as space is limited to 10 people. $10,000 per person; for more information call 707.963.6008. S.T

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Marin Magazine
Philippe Melka featured in just released "Wines of California" 

by Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen

Bordeaux-born and -educated, Philippe Melka is a winemaker and winemaking consultant. His client list includes Vineyard 29, Quintessa, and Seavey, for which he makes well-regarded and High-scoring wines. He also makes wines under his eponymous label, Melka Wines, with his wife, Cherie.

How did you get involved in the world of wine?

I was born and raised in Bordeaux, intrigued by the land around me. When it came time for college, I acted on my childhood interests and studied geology at the University of Bordeaux. A class in winemaking propelled me to earn my master’s degree from the school in agronomy and enology.


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Wines of California
Napa Valley's best tasting experiences 

Melka Wines introduced a Winemaker Bootcamp experience this spring. Only offered two times a year, the two-day overnight adventure takes place at the winery's new Montbleau Estate, complete with bocce court, infinity pool, private cave, fire pit and expansive outdoor entertaining areas.

Kick things off with a Champagne reception hosted by Philippe and Cherie Melka, followed by a welcome dinner with the winemaking couple at the Melka's favorite Napa Valley restaurant. The hard work begins the next day with a tour of select Napa Valley vineyards including the La Mekerra Vineyard in Knights Valley. Back at Montbleau Estate wrap up the field experience with an interactive winemaking tutorial led by Philippe.

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USA Today
Famous Winemakers' Affordable Bottles 

Hard To Find - Worth The Search

Philippe Melka 2010 Seavey Merlot ($45)

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Food & Wine
Make Your Own Wine Adventure 

Tantasy Wine Camp

Genius winemaker Philippe Melka, who consults for some of the California's most lauded labels, now hosts two-day belding classes at Montbleau, his home in St. Helena and the site of his highly anticipated winery (opening this year). Though his wines often sell out immediately, $10,000 buys guests an all-access weekend with Melka and his wife, Cherie, for insider tours of the local vineyards that provide their grapes and hand-on instruction in his winemaking philosophy and techniques.

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Food & Wine
What To Drink Now: Boisset, Melka and Graham 

Earlier this year I was in Napa and had a chance to sit down with winemaker Philippe Melka, a star in Napa Valley, consulting on over a dozen different projects while developing and maintaining his own brand, Melka Wines, with his wife, also a winemaker, Cherie. From Lail to Gemstone to Brand to Dana Estates to Vineyard 29 to Cliff Lede, his impressive list of clients producing great Napa Valley wine proves both how a skilled winemaker knows how to make great fruit shine, and how incredibly different each and every part of Napa Valley is from one end of the region to the next. Like the wines he consults for, his own wine, Melka Wines, is dedicated to and defined by its superb quality....

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Hot 20: The King of Cabs 

HOT. The word carries so many meanings: passionate, sizzling, trendy, intense, and yes, sexy. But for us, it signals our favorite month. Meet the 20 movers and shakers that have us fired up this year.

If you’re even remotely involved in the wine business or if you live in Napa Valley, chances are you’ve heard of Philippe Melka, the winemaker behind such powerhouse labels as Dana Estates, Vineyard 29, and Brand.

If you happen to just enjoy fabulous cabernet, you may have looked deeply, longingly into his eyes—they peer out from each $55–$155 bottle from his personal label, Melka Wines, launched in 1996. Despite the cult status he’s been honing since his arrival in the region in 1991, the Bordeaux native is a down-to-earth family man who names vintages after his kids and spends time off from the vineyards surfing in Santa Cruz. “It’s a feeling of freedom that you can’t get anywhere else,” he says wistfully.

This month, he and his wife, Cherie, Melka Wines’ CEO, launch their first white varietal: the 2010 Mekerra Sauvignon Blanc is a red-lover’s white that’s “not made to be quaffed by the pool or served ice cold; it should be decanted and enjoyed with food, such as lobster or crab,” says Melka. Come 2015, they’ll release the first wine from their newly acquired St. Helena property, Montbleau Estate. Long live the king.

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7x7 SF
Melka picked as one of the 17 coolest wine labels of the year by Forbes’ 

Melka Metisse Knights Valley Red
What can we say, it's bold and unnerving

Do we judge a bottle by its cover? Yes, often. Truthfully, wine labels often reveal something about the winemaker, winery owner or the wine itself. Some are haughty and grand, covered in script and gold lettering, while others are simple and straightforward. The wine label is technically our first impression of a wine, so it should be reflective of what’s in the bottle.  This slideshow is a mere snapshot of some of the coolest wine labels I’ve seen to date. I know there are more, if you’ve come across something spectacular, please share. I’m already working on next year’s list.

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Premiere Napa Valley: ‘The truth is in the tasting’ 

Philippe Melka maintains vintage 2011 will be described as one with “great personality.”

While such a terse descriptor could mask any or all of that harvest’s defects, winemaker Melka uses it instead to underscore the brightness, the depth, the balance of the wines from that cool, quirky growing season.

He admits that early October rains in 2011 were not welcome. Yet he was buoyed by the warm sun that “dried things out and concentrated flavors” in the early November that followed.

“If you know what you’re doing and your vineyards were in the right spot, you now have some really good wine aging in barrels,” the winemaker and consultant to many of the valley’s small brands readily snapped up in today’s marketplace...

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Robert Parker on the Past, Present & Future of Wine 

"It is interesting that all people I listed as the most influencial wine consultants in 2008 have actually increased their influence... Philippe Melka and Stephane Derenoncourt continue to expand their influence as well as the number of their clients, and that's good news fo the wine consumer. Anything associated with their names is undeniably high, high quality."
− Robert Parker

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Food & Wine
Spirited bidding pushes past $8 million 

"For (wife) Cherie and me, it has been many years of hard work, and to be here today is very special," Melka said at the close of the bidding. "The friendships we've made along the way and this strong showing today have made it all worthwhile, while helping to make our community a better place to live."

The Top 10 lots at this year's barrel auction were from Melka Wines, Scarecrow Wine, Shafer Vineyards, Chappellet Vineyard and Winery, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard and Winery, Kongsgaard, Crocker and Starr Wines, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Realm Cellars and Vineyard 7 & 8.

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Sunset's New bargains 

Top Labels are producing less expensive, "second" wines - same winemaking talent and, sometimes, even the same vineyards.

The House: Melka Wines
A much-sough-after consultant from France, Philippe Melka has put his own face on this Napa Valley label. A flagship: Melka "Métisse" Jumping Goat Vineyard ($155).

Second Label: Melka "CJ"
The French winemaker hugs California with this one. In Melka 2009 "CJ" Cabernet Sauvignon ($52), decadent black cherry and cassis, mocha, cedar, spice, and black tea hide a spine of tanin.

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Sunset - Living West
Melka's wines raise $220,000 

Winemaking consultant Philippe Melka had a hand in making eight Premiere Napa Valley wines that were auctioned off Saturday at the Culinary Institute of America, Greystone. Together they raised $220,000.

Melka and his wife, Cherie, founded their own brand of Melka wines in 2006 after planting a vineyard of cabernet franc and merlot vines. Currently on the market are their 2008 Metisse from their Knight’s Valley Mekerra Vineyard. It was released earlier this month after being aged 22 months in 70 percent new French oak. The blend of 55 percent cabernet franc and 45 percent merlot and retails for $125.  Another of the 2008 wines from the Napa Valley’s Jumping Goat Vineyard also is now available.  It’s a cabernet sauvignon (85 percent), merlot (12 percent) and petit verdot (3 percent) blend that was released a year ago. Melka produced 325 cases and suggested retail is $155 per bottle.

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Locals in-the-knows: Philippe Melka 

Philippe Melka, proprietor of Melka Wines, describes his ideal outing in Napa: "My wife Cherie and I love to start the morning off with a hike up Mount St. Helena—it was our first adventure together when we first moved to St. Helena. And then following the hike, we like to invite our two children, Chloe and Jeremy, to Solage for Sunday brunch, where the outdoor eating space is gorgeous and the weather is always pleasant. After brunch, we play a few rounds of bocce, as a little family rivalry is always fun."

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Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Power Couples of the Wine Country 

As we can personally attest, running a business with your spouse or significant other can be an incredibly rewarding experience–sharing the triumphs and challenges of the business together; sharing laughter in the face of stress and long hours; and, most importantly, sharing your combined passion and talents to make a difference. For this article, we talked to nine couples, each of whom we consider to be among the most respected “power couples” in the wine business today in Napa and Sonoma counties, to learn about how they met and how they maintain their relationships in the face of spending so much time together and the unique stresses of the wine industry. Here are the answers we got from the ladies:

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Gunshots Rattle Hills as Maligned Merlot
Rebounds From ‘Sideways’ Putdown 

"As winemaker Philippe Melka unlocked the gate of his Knights Valley vineyard in Sonoma, California, gunshots echoed from the hills surrounding his plot.

“It’s pretty dangerous to make merlot in California,” he joked. “There’s a lot of issues with marijuana growers here. The last time I was harvesting, the cops were all over.”

Even scarier for merlot makers is Miles Raymond, the pinot noir-loving wine snob played by Paul Giamatti in the 2004 movie “Sideways.” Raymond’s disparaging remarks about merlot sparked a decline in the wine’s U.S. sales. Now, the red varietal is on the rise again...."

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A New Look for Two Oft-Maligned Varieties 

There's something confrontational about the set of eyes on the new labels of Melka wines.  They stare intensely at you from the bottle, as if daring you to drink it.

The eyes belong to the famous Napa Valley winemaking consultant Philippe Melka, who founded the brand that bears his name with his wife, Cherie, in 1996.  Mr. Melka seems anything but confrontational in person, but rather markedly humble and accommodating.

Perhaps the label's steely gaze is in recognition of the implicit gamble behind...

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New York Times
A Frenchman in Napa Valley 

Although Michael Rolland may be the most prolific wine consultant in the world, fellow Frenchman Philippe Melka is easily his equal in the Napa Valley.

The ever-modest Melka might well protest this isn't true. Indeed, Melka, for all his awards and high-scoring wines, is a resolutely modest man. Even when he was telling me the story of his recent near-brush with death, courtesy of a New Zealand wine-making intern driving on the wrong side of the road, he told it, well, modestly. (Never mind that the story ended with Melka's car declared a total wreck.)...

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The Wall Street Journal
Annual Wine Star Awards - Presenting nominees for the 2010 honors. 

The editor of the Wine Enthusiast Magazine are proud to announce the individuals and companies in wine and distilled spirits that we feel reached a noteworthy level of achievement and overall excellence in 2010. The winners in each category will be announced in our December 15th issue, and a gala dinner will be held in New York City in January, 2011; at that time, the vintners will be presented with their wine stars.

Winemaker of the Year

Philippe Melka has made is reputation as a winemaker half a world away from his native France, consulting for some of Napa Valley's greatest producers of cabernet Sauvignon. Since 1996, Philippe and his wife Cherie have also made and sold wines under their own label.

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Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Wine to look for: Melka's Revamp 

Napa Valley Now

California's most celebrated wine region is buzzing with stylish hotel, smart tasting experience, and talented new players.

Phylippe Melka, winemaker for top Napa producers, and his wife, Cherie, have relaunched their small-production Melka Métisse wine with a strikinly redesigned label and intriguing new Merlot-Cab Franc blend from their Knights Valley vineyard that release this fall.

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Melkas step into the limelight with Métisse and CJ wines 

Philippe Melka is in the business of making others look good. One of the foremost craftsmen of his trade, Melka for years has been turning some of the valley's best grapes into outstanding wines.

While kudos came his way, Melka nevertheless took a back seat to the owners of a number of high lauded brands.

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Napa Valley Register
New Look for Melka 

James Laube's blog talks about the package change for Melka Wines. 

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Wine Spectator
Fortune 500 Trend's -- Merlot's Moment 

Why the shift? Melka says people need a break from Cabernet.

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Fortune 500 Magazine
A Blend of Cultures 

Philippe Melka makes California wines with French style.

Philippe Melka boasts a resumé that includes degress from the University of Bordeaux (geology, agronomy and enology) as well as a stints at Haut Brion and Pétrus in Bordeaux, Dominus in Ridge in Californiaand estates in Tuscany Australia.

92 Melka 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, CJ, Napa Valley
94 Melka 2007 Métisse, Jumpimg Goat Vineyard, Napa Valley
95 Melka 2007 Métisse, La Mekkera Vineyard, Knight Valley

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Patterson's Tasting Panel
Parker's PIcks 

Robert Parker Jr. Chooses The World's Most Influential Wine Consultants

Philippe Melka named by Robert Parker as one of nine top consultants of the world. 

Philippe Melka - Combines French training and technique with top California fruit to great effect.

Food & Wine
Higher ground: Napa and Sonoma's mountain vineyards produce Cabernets with desirable intensity 

Philippe Melka, winemaker, and Elizabeth Marston by Tim Teichgraeber, San Francisco Chronicle feature article

“…Marston Family Vineyard Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon ($90) Close to perfection. Packed with tremendously expressive cassis, boysenberry, dried herb, graphite, cedar, chocolate flavors, loam, ultra-ripe black cherry flavors and plenty of highly polished tannin. Just beginning to blossom, it should age beautifully.”

San Francisco Chronicle
Napa's go-to virtuoso - Winemaker Philippe Melka brings a meticulously gentle touch to some of the showiest cult Cabs. 

By Patrick Comiskey Special to The Times

"BY the time Philippe Melka walks through the doors at 9:15 a.m. at Vineyard 29, he's already received about 20 phone calls and answered 10. He used to not answer his phone, hoping to return calls when he had a free moment, but lately those moments aren't easy to come by. Melka is probably the most famous winemaker you've never heard of in California...."

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Los Angeles Times
Food & Wine - American Awards 2005 - Winemaker of the year: Philippe Melka 

Winemaker of the Year: Philippe MelkaIt may raise eyebrows to name a Frenchman as the American Wine Awards' Winemaker of the Year, but Philippe Melka is an honorary native of the Napa Valley. "I bring my French roots," he says, "but I don't have a French conservatism in winemaking; I have an American open-mindedness." In addition to creating his own tiny-production, Bordeaux-style Métisse and CJ wines for the past nine years, Melka is currently the winemaker of and consultant to 12 first-rate small Napa wineries, including Lail Vineyards, Hundred Acre and Vineyard 29. (Add to that Washington State, where Melka's new Bordeaux-style blend, Pirouette, was just bottled.) His most publicized coup came in 2002, when he seamlessly succeeded the legendary Helen Turley at über-cult-winery Bryant Family Vineyard. This University of Bordeaux—trained soil geologist was enticed by the Bryant family's exquisite Pritchard Hill Vineyard. "My clients are not blind dates," says Melka. "They represent some of the greatest vineyard sites of Napa Valley." Melka believes in strictly noninterventionist winemaking, designed to let the fruit produced by a great vineyard- not the art of the winemaker- shine through. "I don't use any tricks," he says.

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Food & Wine
Philippe Melka - Stepping from Turley's shadow 

Philippe Melka (winemaker)There's a shadow at the new Bryant Family winery. It follows winemaker Philippe Melka through the tank room, the barrel cave, even out into the vineyard. It's the larger-than-life legacy of his predecessor, Helen Turley. Many winemakers would shrink from the challenge of replacing Turley, California's most influential winemaker, but Melka took a similar dare in the past, replacing Heidi Peterson Barrett at Vineyard 29 four years ago...

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Wine Spectator
Decanter: Philippe Melka 

Philippe Melka - A Frenchman who arrived in Napa Valley in 1994, Melka was not just another young French winemaker from Bordeaux. He arrived with degree in geology, oenology and agronomy, and so has a keen interest in the influence of soils on wine quality...

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Winemaker to watch: Philippe Melka 

So many wines, so many choices! That, in a nutshell, was Philippe Melka's response when asked what wine he would serve an important guest. The question may have posed a genuine dilemma. Should he favor his native Bordeaux? Pick one of the wineries in other parts of the world where he honed his skills? Flatter one of his California clients, or tout his own two labels? But while unwilling to select a specific wine, Melka readily reveals what he looks for in a wine: personality, character, finesse and elegance...

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San Francisco Chronicle
A Star Is Born 

Philippe MelkaYou may not know his name yet, but Philippe Melka is quickly becoming Napa Valley's hottest consulting winemaker.
By: By Tim Fish

Napa Valley isn't quite like Hollywood (yet), where the stars get by on a first-name basis. Even so, what serious wine collector doesn't know who Helen and Heidi are— While the name Philippe may not register so quickly, Philippe Melka is definitely a Napa winemaker to watch, a man many believe is poised to become one of the valley's hottest consultants since Helen Turley and Heidi Barrett...

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Food & Wine
Napa's New New Cab 

Philippe MelkaMelka is a newer face in the Napa valley, he’s from Bordeaux, where he was educated as a geologist, and he came to California to work at Dominus in 1991, focusing on the connection between soil type and ripeness in the vineyard. Since then he’s become a full-time consulting winemaker for brands such as Vineyard 29, Lail and Constant...

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Wine & Spirits