Below are a handful of vineyards scattered throughout Napa Valley, some on the traditional list you’d find on every map and some hidden smaller gems as well.
They source fruit from a handful of dedicated growers and a dozen vineyard blocks. They make Cabernet Sauvignon from select vineyards in the Napa Valley as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, which all come from the Sonoma Coast appellation.
Chardonnay. They love intensely fruited Chardonnay from cool-climate California vineyards with lemony notes, minerality and minimal evidence of oak.
Pinot Noir. Their young Pinot Noirs has seductive aromatics, both dark and red fruits, earthiness and, sometimes, that rare and wonderful orange peel quality.
Syrah. Every year, their grapes yield a wonderfully intense blue-black color, and a wine that really has grip.
Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Cabernet Sauvignon smells like it comes from the Napa Valley – ripe but not overly ripe, rich, fruity and full.
Alpha Omega is located in legendary Rutherford in the heart of Napa Valley and is one of Napa’s newest boutique wineries. Surrounded by vineyards and mountains, the beauty of this rustic, farm-style winery is as captivating as its wine.
Alpha Omega’s extraordinary winemakers, along with historic vineyards, combine to create wines that express the essence of this famous wine region. Talented winemaker, Jean Hoefliger, has teamed up with one of the world’s finest palates, Michel Rolland, to create wines that express their passion for excellence as well as the unique terroir that is Napa Valley. By procuring prized grapes from the many appellations of Napa Valley, our winemakers blend the essence of exceptional terroir ranging from valley floor, hillside, mountain and coast. Using natural techniques, they handcraft finesse-driven, complex and balanced wines, which express the aromatic profile of the best Napa Valley has to offer.
Hoefliger and Rolland’s combined award-winning winemaking techniques create elegant, approachable and perfectly balanced wines of the highest quality through blending the best of Old World and New World wine styles. A gifted young winemaker and a master winemaker are discovering together the excitement of creating world-class wine from world-class grapes in world-class terroir for Alpha Omega.
Founded in 1972, Rutherford Hill Winery is a pioneer in the development of California Merlot. The grape growers who founded Rutherford Hill carefully studied the geography of the region and capitalized on climate and soil conditions that resembled those of Pomerol, the small but distinctive Merlot-growing region of Bordeaux. What a promising discovery that was – one that has borne plenty of fruit – specifically, the lush, purple-black grapes that have contributed so much to Rutherford Hill’s success. Today, Merlot remains the flagship wine of the company with 75 percent of Rutherford Hill’s production dedicated to this varietal, one of the leading Merlots of Napa Valley.
When the Terlato family of the Terlato Wine Group (TWG), Lake Bluff, Illinois, purchased the winery in 1996, they immediately began to apply their guiding principle: Quality is a way of life. The pursuit of excellence began with a comprehensive review of all aspects of the facility that resulted in significant enhancements.
TWG Chairman Anthony Terlato works with Rutherford Hill winemakers to tackle the challenges of consistently improving the wine, vintage after vintage. The philosophy that the Terlatos apply to all their ventures was evident at Rutherford Hill from the start. Their first step was to reduce production by 14,000 cases. This eliminated inferior lots from the final blend, and met the demanding new quality standard they had set.
In 1964, Louis Honig purchased a 68-acre ranch in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley. The vineyard was planted with Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which he sold to neighboring wineries. Louis worked to create a family gathering place at the ranch, for his children and grandchildren, while he dreamed of the day he could retire from his San Francisco advertising agency and make wine from his vineyard.
Louis passed away before he could realize his dream, leaving the estate to his family. In 1981, as a tribute to his legacy, his family produced a few hundred cases of Louis Honig Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard’s old tractor barn. After the wine won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair, the family decided to increase production, and Honig Vineyard & Winery was born.
In 1984, at the age of 22, Louis’ grandson, Michael Honig, took over management of the vineyard and winery. In 1989 the family began producing small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. As the business grew, family members Regina Weinstein, Steven Honig, Stephanie Honig, and Jonathan Honig joined Michael in the winery.
What began as a small “garage” winery has today become a successful family enterprise, with everyone working collaboratively to run an inspiring and socially responsible business. The Honig family donates wine to charitable organizations around the country; hosts political and community events at their vineyard; and are leaders in sustainability, both in the vineyard and the winery.
Winemaker Kristin Belair focuses production solely on Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Honig wines can be found on the wine lists of hundreds of fine restaurants. Louis Honig’s vision of bringing his family together to share in the beauty and bounty of Napa Valley, while producing outstanding wines, has become a reality.
The love of farming and a passion for wine brought Tony Peju to the Napa Valley. A series of ideas – starting in his birthplace on the Caspian Sea, then France, England and eventually, Los Angeles — created the Peju’s Napa Valley winery. In 1982, Tony and his wife Herta purchased 30 acres of land in the Napa Valley with the magic ingredient – location. Neighboring vineyards in Rutherford included Robert Mondavi, Inglenook and Beaulieu. Situated between Highway 29 and the Napa River, the acreage included a 1900-era house and rambling vineyards, some 60 or more years old. Looking to the future, Tony and Herta have introduced their two daughters, Lisa and Ariana, to the workings of the wine business.
In 1971 Charles F. (Charlie) Wagner and his wife Lorna Belle Glos Wagner asked their son Charles J. (Chuck) Wagner, who had just graduated from high school, if he would be interested in joining them in starting up a winery. If Chuck declined the offer, Charlie and Lorna were planning to sell out of their ranch in Napa Valley and move to Australia. Chuck accepted his parents’ offer to launch the winery, Caymus Vineyards.
The Wagners produced their first vintage in 1972, consisting of 240 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then, Caymus has focused their efforts in the production of quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Today’s production is 65,000 cases.
Caymus Vineyards remains 100% family-owned by the Wagners. Charlie, Lorna Belle, and Chuck worked together as a remarkable team for over 30 years building Caymus Cabernet. Today, Chuck, his two sons, Charlie and Joe, and one daughter, Jenny, have joined the family team. Farming grapes remain the priority with the family farming about 350 acres of choice Napa Valley land.
The Cakebread family, owners of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford founded it in 1973, and since then, the winery has developed a reputation for producing fabulous wines. Its success is built on quality, consistency and continuity, characteristics which apply equally to the grapes, the wines, the people and the operation of the winery.
Over 39 years ago, Jack Cakebread came to photograph the Napa Valley for a book and while here, he casually mentioned his interest in one day owning a vineyard to some family friends who had a ranch in Rutherford. When he returned home that afternoon, the phone rang and it was the family friends offering to sell their property. He headed back up to the valley that same afternoon to make his best offer, and Cakebread Cellars was born.
As the Cakebread family reflects upon the many profound changes in the wine industry over the last 38 years, such as innovative farming techniques and new methods of reaching out to consumers, they note that their key values have remained the same. Dedication to making the highest quality wines and a commitment to family has followed a continuum as their first small vineyard has grown into a thriving internationally distributed wine company.
Their first vintage–157 cases of 1973 Chardonnay–was sold to Phil Faight of Groezinger’s Wine Shop in Yountville. He in turn sold to a small audience of premium wine drinkers who primarily drove up from the Bay Area on weekends to visit the country. “Two or three cars an hour would be on the road and we would all stop and look to see who was coming,” said Jack as he thought of his original neighbors who became some of the “legends of the wine industry – Mondavi, Martini, Heitz, BV’s Tchelistcheff and Christian Brothers “Brother Tim.” Today, traffic is about 30 cars-a-minute as the world comes to visit the Napa Valley wine country.
Grgich Hills Estate
Miljenko “Mike” Grgich first gained international recognition at the celebrated “Paris Tasting” of 1976. Then, in a now-historic blind tasting, a panel of eminent French judges swirled, sniffed, and sipped an array of the fabled white Burgundies of France and a small sampling of upstart Chardonnays from the Napa Valley. When their scores were tallied, the French judges were shocked: they had chosen Mike’s 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay as the finest white wine in the world. Mon Dieu! The results stunned the international wine establishment and immediately earned Mike a reputation as one of the greatest winemakers in the world.
The Paris Tasting served notice to the world that the California wine industry was on the move, and it laid the groundwork for the creation of Grgich Hills Cellar. After his victory in Paris, Mike sat down with Austin Hills and his sister, Mary Lee Strebl, from the Hills Bros. Coffee family, and on Independence Day 1977, they gave birth to Grgich Hills. It was an ideal partnership. Austin owned premium vineyards in Rutherford, in the heart of the Napa Valley, and with his extensive background in business, he put the winery on its financial feet. Mike, with his fierce commitment to making wines of the highest quality, began producing what immediately became our signature wine: the exquisite, richly complex Chardonnays that win awards and delight wine lovers across America and throughout the world.
Their pride and joy is our Chardonnay, an elegant example of the varietal displaying rich flavors and exquisite balance. As a complement to the Chardonnay, they also produce a refreshingly crisp Fumé Blanc, a rich and spicy Zinfandel, a Cabernet Sauvignon with tremendous depth and complexity, a lush and richly fragrant Merlot, and a luscious dessert wine named “Violetta,” in honor of Mike’s daughter, Violet.
Now 89 years old, and still sporting his signature blue beret, Mike was inducted into the Vintner Hall of Fame in 2008 in honor of his many contributions to the wine industry. While many other Napa wineries pursue strategies of expansion, Mike, along with his daughter, Violet, and his nephew, Ivo Jeramaz, prefer to stay small. Their aim, year after year, is to improve the quality of their vineyards and their wines, relying on Mike’s unique artistic and intuitive touch.
Following the contours of the land, the founders planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc throughout the vineyard, which sweeps across the hills on terraces ranging from eight to twenty feet apart. Endless hours are spent on each plant over the course of the growing season – pruning, shoot positioning, thinning, suckering, and leaf removal – to achieve the proper sun exposure. Summer daytime temperatures in Jericho Canyon frequently reach 100 degrees but can drop to 50 degrees at night. These temperature swings, along with the volcanic Boomer gravelly clay loam soils, ensure production of small quantities of rich, full-flavored fruit.
Their wine is made in the Bordeaux style: hand-crafted in small lots, the juice is blended to create a full-bodied, complex wine with well balanced tannins. Because of their hillside location in the canyon, the grapes typically ripen later than those from the valley floor. This means they often let the fruit hang into late October or early November.
The wines were handcrafted by our renowned Napa Valley winemakers, Ted Osborne and Gary Warburton. This is the story of city boy meets country girl. Shane, who grew up in the town of postage stamp lots, Manhattan Beach, CA moved to the country to breathe some fresh air and slow down with Suzanne. And alas, the future of Phifer Pavitt was born.
Photo credit: blog.purentonline.com.