St. Helena, Calif. (Jul. 17, 2017) — After 35 years of winemaking at Conn Creek and sister winery Villa Mt. Eden, winemaker Mike McGrath has announced his retirement in August.
“It’s been a rewarding and joyful journey crafting wines for Villa Mt. Eden and Conn Creek,” said McGrath. “I’m very proud of not only what we have created but also the lasting relationships established with our longtime grower partners, wine club members and friends,” he continued. “I’m particularly excited about the evolution of Conn Creek’s programs toward distinctive Cabernet Sauvignons from diverse AVA’s within Napa Valley, the unique Barrel Blending Experience®, and a continued focus on our flagship wine, Anthology.”
McGrath graduated from U.C. Davis with a degree in fermentation science in 1978. After stints with Grgich Hills Estate, William Hill Estate Winery, and Charles Krug, he joined Villa Mt. Eden in 1982 and was appointed to winemaker in 1983. In 1986, he joined Conn Creek and was promoted to head winemaker in 2007. During his tenure, McGrath achieved five “Top 100” wines in Wine Spectator magazine’s prestigious “Top 100” list, including four Chardonnays and one Cabernet Sauvignon. McGrath also helped bring about investments in cutting-edge winemaking technologies at Conn Creek, including the addition of a Pellenc Selectiv optical sorter in 2013—the same year the winery celebrated its 40th anniversary.
In his retirement, McGrath plans to hike the 2,500 mile Pacific Crest Trail and to continue savoring wines that bring friends and family together.
Conn Creek has named Elizabeth DeLouise-Gant as its new head winemaker. Most recently, DeLouise-Gant was the Assistant Winemaker at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Prior to that, she was the Assistant Winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyard. DeLouise-Gant graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences and a minor in Cultural Anthropology. She was raised in Napa Valley and gained her first taste of the wine industry helping out in her parent’s vineyard. Her passion for wine led her to apply her biology background to the science of winemaking. She completed the Winemaking Certificate Program at U.C. Davis.
“I am so honored to take the reins at Conn Creek. My passion in winemaking has always been Cabernet Sauvignon—its styles, clones, the many ways it can be interpreted—so joining Conn Creek is a natural fit. I look forward to continuing to explore the possibilities of Bordeaux varietals with this stellar team,” DeLouise-Gant said.
The two winemakers will work in tandem until McGrath’s retirement in August.
About Conn Creek: Founded in 1973, Conn Creek immediately established itself as one of Napa Valley’s premier Cabernet Sauvignon producers with the release of its 1974 Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Robert Parker called the 1974 vintage “one of the great classics of the seventies, as well as a testament to what heights California Cabernet Sauvignon can achieve.” Since then, the winery has continued to build a reputation for excellence in Cabernet Sauvignon and for expertise in selecting and blending the best vineyard sites and small lots to compose wines that express the unique characteristics of each distinct growing region. It is widely known for the unique hands-on Barrel Blending Experience® in which guests can blend and bottle their own wine. For more information, visit www.conncreek.com.