The Making of John Lockwood, at Enfield Wines
“It’s en vogue to hate on big Cabs,” said John Lockwood of Enfield Wines, “but to me, it was a necessary step in this country. We had to learn.” As a member of the first generation of North American winemakers that were exposed to small producers from the Old World, Lockwood’s palate was formed on these European wines. “When I was 25 and living in Oakland, I was always turned off by new oak/sweet cola wines,” he added. “So when I got into winemaking, it wasn’t the wine I wanted to make.”
Meeting David Mahaffey of Olivia Brion Winery (who is responsible for establishing the Wild Horse Valley AVA) by happenstance, Lockwood said, “David is the reason I’m in the industry. He taught me that winemaking is fun.” As one who’s always been “hands-on”, Lockwood has always favored making things with his hands. His last career as a guitar craftsman is what led Lockwood to first meet Mahaffey, his first mentor. “In building instruments, there is a science to it, which is what I like about winemaking, the balance of art and science.” Working in 2004 as Mahaffey’s assistant winemaker for one-and-a-half years, John remained with Mahaffey, who “does everything himself, from vineyard [management] to selling,” until there wasn’t any more that he could do. And though Lockwood then left to work with Ted Lemon at Littorai in 2007, his work with Mahaffey had only just begun.
Lockwood at Heron Lake with David Mahaffey (photo courtesy of Wakawaka Wine Reviews)
“Ted is the ultimate…His farming is immaculate. He’s the master of knowing every vineyard site and guiding it to [become] what it wants to be.” Aspiring “to make significant stuff,” John learned wine from Lemon. “Ted taught me winemaking,” he said, “his approach. I [now] approach winemaking more from his mindset.”
After mastering his way around the cellar, John stepped deeper into the vineyard with Ehren Jordan. “Ehren is farming,” said Lockwood, “very straight forward. No tricks. He hired me and threw me out into the Failla estate vineyard, put me on a tractor and said, ‘Farm this.'” Practicing a more “European approach”, Ehren opted to do everything, from top to bottom. “He’s not into titles, but he had teams and just moved us around. We would leaf and prune most of the vineyard ourselves, and in the middle of leafing, we’d go bottle then go back to the vineyard.” Commuting two hours each way, John felt the strain and “once a baby came into the mix, something had to give.”
As luck would have him, opportunity presented itself, much like on that day that Mahaffey walked in to the store. After trying to help David sell a plot of fruit from Heron Lake, Lockwood ended up taking it himself. “The reason I started Enfield, is because Heron Lake Fruit was available,” he said. “[Later] then, I was looking for a red. I didn’t specifically know of Haynes vineyard, but I looked at 50 vineyards that summer, and as it happened there was extra fruit. Wineries were buying less because of the economic downturn [in 2010].”
Again, without a specific varietal in mind, Lockwood had found at Haynes, “the best looking vineyard with the best looking fruit.” With two tons of fruit to start, John set out to make Syrah from a relatively cool site. “In the classical sense,” he added, “if you’re using the Cru language, it’s definitely a Cru vineyard in Napa. With remarkable soil, remarkable climate and balance, it’s a noble site.” When he first ran the idea by Ehren, Jordan said, “Where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow, Syrah probably makes an interesting wine.”