Even during his childhood, wine was a part of Drake Whitcraft’s life. He was still in elementary school the first time he helped out in the cellar of his parents’ winery. Even at that young age, Drake was often asking questions about why things tasted different and exploring his vivid curiosity about the whole winemaking process. During harvests, little Drake got his friends involved, too. They would come over and help stomp grapes, which was a good time for all. Then while his father, Chris Whitcraft, worked in the winery, transforming the grapes into wine, he would explain what he was doing and why he was doing it. “After fifteen years of hearing it, stuff just sank in,” Drake explains. Now, he has taken on the winemaking duties from his father, but Drake has never veered from the truly natural methods that make Whitcraft Winery so unique.

Drake Whitcraft

The Whitcraft wine making philosophy comes from family friend and wine legend, Burt Williams. It’s a simple one, but it gets right to the heart of the process. As Burt used to say about making wine, “you put it in the barrel and you don’t f%#k with it.” While the phrasing may be colorful, the idea behind it is one Drake puts great value in. “Probably 95% of wineries use enzymes or other additives in their wine. I’ve never bought into it.” Drake believes in the quality of mother nature and doesn’t see a reason to try and manipulate what she already has to offer. In fact, at Whitcraft, their minimalist philosophy is such that the only things in a bottle of their wine are grapes, sulfur, and yeast. It’s in the same spirit that Drake has been pushing for a wine ingredient label to be on bottles. For instants, “when I tell people that our wines are among those which are vegan, they’re surprised because they assume all wines are. They don’t realize a lot of wines actually aren’t vegan,” Drake points out. Much of what they do at Whitcraft is about demystifying wine.
New technology and innovations have given winemakers a lot of tools and options for exerting more control over the wine making process. “I think people are afraid of variation in their wines, but I think variation is the heart and soul of wine.” From a sales standpoint, nowadays, being able to deliver consistently similar wines vintage after vintage is often helpful. But it’s not how things used to be. Drake remembers wine drinkers being a bit more engaged when he was a boy. He recalls people at tastings bringing note pads, being more willing to explore different wines and finding out what they liked for themselves. Now, people rely so much on scores when making purchases, and when they go tasting, the goal is often more about having fun then to discover new wines. So long as the market place supports uniformity or expects consistency in wines from year to year, plenty of winemakers will continue to manipulate their wines with various additives in an effort to minimize variation. Drake hopes it is a phase the industry moves out of over time.


Drake sees himself as more like a shepherd of the wine, than its maker. He wants the wine to be an expression of what nature delivered rather than something he’s put his footprint all over. A good friend of the family, that’s “really into manipulating wine, jokes with me that I’m not a real winemaker,” Drake chuckles. It’s a title Drake is happy to forgo. For him, delivering a pure, natural wine is far more important than his offerings tasting consistently the same from vintage to vintage. Drake’s thinking may just be a little further along than many people in the world of wine, but there is plenty of reason to think that they’ll catch on.

Click the links to read reviews of Drake’s Chardonnay, Syrah, Melville Pinot Noir and his Aubaine Pinot Noir.


By Jason Barlow