Matt Crafton

Winemaker, Chateau Montelena

Matt Crafton

It’s great to be in the business of making people happy.

When he’s not making wine, Matt likes to bake bread.

How many years have you been in the Napa Valley wine industry?

I’ve worked in the Napa Valley since 2006, in wine production since 2003.

How did you get started in the wine business?

As my time in college came to a close, I just couldn’t see myself nestling into the sea of cubicles at an investment bank in lower Manhattan. I was getting interested in wine at the time, and on a lark, decided to apply for a cellar rat job at a local winery. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I started at the bottom of the totem pole, dragging hoses, driving tractors and scrubbing tanks. It’s made me a better winemaker and a better person.

Which wine was your "a-ha!" wine – the one that made you love wine or inspired you to get into the industry?

1976 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. That was in 2003, after my first week of work in the cellar when I still had absolutely no idea how magical wine was. It opened my eyes.

Name a Napa Valley vintner who has influenced you and briefly explain why.

That’s easy. Bo Barrett has been a mentor both professionally and personally. He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever met.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

It’s great to be in the business of making people happy. We want our wine to make everyone’s life a little bit better and to enrich those around them.

What are the greatest challenges?

When all is said and done, many elements of what we experience each year, both in the vineyard and winery, are completely out of our control. The key is having the perspective and mindset that buried inside every challenge is an opportunity.

Our motto at the NVV is "cultivating excellence." What does this phrase mean to you and how do you cultivate excellence at your winery?

To me, cultivating excellence is synonymous with relentlessly pushing the envelope. I actually have an envelope on the wall with the word “push” written on it, above my desk.

If you weren't a Napa Valley vintner, what would you be doing?

I still want to be an astronaut. Seriously, I do. There’s certainly an altruistic side of doing good for mankind and the idea of exploration has huge appeal, but being able to fly at 5 miles per second and seeing millions of stars would be amazing.

What advice would you offer someone trying to get into the Napa Valley wine industry?

Attitude is everything. If you come into the industry with a smile, a healthy dose of humility, a willingness to learn, and the drive to work hard, you’ll be successful.

What's one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I make a wicked good English muffin from scratch. Hint: butter is your friend.