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Hot 20: The King of Cabs

Photograph by Zach Gross.

HOT. The word carries so many meanings: passionate, sizzling, trendy, intense, and yes, sexy. But for us, it signals our favorite month. Meet the 20 movers and shakers that have us fired up this year.

If you’re even remotely involved in the wine business or if you live in Napa Valley, chances are you’ve heard of Philippe Melka, the winemaker behind such powerhouse labels as Dana Estates, Vineyard 29, and Brand.

If you happen to just enjoy fabulous cabernet, you may have looked deeply, longingly into his eyes—they peer out from each $55–$155 bottle from his personal label, Melka Wines, launched in 1996. Despite the cult status he’s been honing since his arrival in the region in 1991, the Bordeaux native is a down-to-earth family man who names vintages after his kids and spends time off from the vineyards surfing in Santa Cruz. “It’s a feeling of freedom that you can’t get anywhere else,” he says wistfully.

This month, he and his wife, Cherie, Melka Wines’ CEO, launch their first white varietal: the 2010 Mekerra Sauvignon Blanc is a red-lover’s white that’s “not made to be quaffed by the pool or served ice cold; it should be decanted and enjoyed with food, such as lobster or crab,” says Melka. Come 2015, they’ll release the first wine from their newly acquired St. Helena property, Montbleau Estate. Long live the king.