Dirk Hampson, Partner & Director of Winemaking
Few winemakers realize the opportunity to build a winemaking program from the ground up, living and growing with the vineyards over two decades. Dirk Hampson, partner and director of winemaking at Far Niente, and sister wineries Dolce and Nickel & Nickel, counts himself among the fortunate.
Hampson joined Far Niente as assistant winemaker in 1982, the same year that winemaking returned to the historic property after an extensive, three-year restoration by Gil Nickel. Although Nickel produced Chardonnay in 1979, 1980 and 1981, the wines were produced at another location. Nineteen eighty-two also marked the first harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon at Far Niente.
An Oregon native and enology graduate from the University of California, Davis, Hampson honed his craft at some of Europe's greatest properties, including the Rheingau estate of Schloss Vollrads in Germany, followed by an apprenticeship in Burgundy at the Nuits St. Georges negociant firm of Labouré Roi. He then joined the Bordeaux First Growth Chateau Mouton Rothschild, where he was the first American to apprentice with the winemaking staff.
Hampson brought his depth of knowledge and craftsmanship to Far Niente, where he was charged with developing the fledgling wine program focused exclusively on estate bottled Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. He was named winemaker in 1983, and in 1991, was named a partner and appointed to the Far Niente board of directors. Six years later, Hampson was named Director of Winemaking. In 2008, Hampson was named chairman of the wineries.
Hampson strives to achieve a balance of intensity and elegance in his winemaking that is recognized as the Far Niente house style. Experimentation in the vineyard and the winery always remains important in his search to improve. It was this experimentation in 1985 that led to the creation of Dolce, a distinctive late harvest blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, regarded by many to be the finest late harvest wine produced in North America.
Today, although he has three winemakers reporting to him for Far Niente, Dolce and Nickel & Nickel, Hampson remains hands-on with his team and his partners, regularly tasting from the barrels, sourcing new vineyards and shaping the vision of the wineries’ futures.