We recently had an opportunity to visit and spend two days in the Napa Valley of California. We were fortunate that this year the harvest look to start early because of some severe heat spikes which happened in May & June. As is normally the case whenever we go to a winegrowing region we endeavor to walk vineyards with some of our favorite winemakers. In this case because of the early harvest, were also able to taste nearly ripe grapes as well.
Our first day we met with Napa Valley winemaking phenom Thomas Brown. Thomas, although very busy, was kind enough to meet us at my best friends’ family ranch just above St. Helena.. Even though I had been going to and staying at this ranch for 30+ years up until this visit I really had no idea of the true quality of the grapes grown on this 6 1/2 acre ranch. I was certainly in for an eye-opening discovery walking the vineyard with Thomas Brown.
The small dirt road lane has 4 vineyards (Schoenstein, Tournahu, Shibumi Knoll & Panek) on one side and one larger vineyard (Aida) on the opposite side. Schoenstein at one time was farmed by viticultural superstar David Abreu. Thomas Brown is a consulting winemaker for Shibumi Knoll & and I believe he also works with Panek. Aida vineyard was made famous by Turley Wine Cellars. Needless to say I was absolutely blown away by the reputation of all of these vineyards. To think for 30 years I had no idea.
We then went down the road a short while to visit Larkmead Estate, which is an iconic vineyard heralded back in 1961 by Napa Valley winemaking legend Andre Tchelistcheff, as being one of the four top vineyard sites in all of Napa Valley at that time.
We then did a walk through Michael Chiarello’s vineyard, which Thomas also consults for. Some of the Petite Sirah vines are over 100 years old. The nearly ripe fruit oozed vinosity & lots of character, eventhough the vines looked exhausted. This is really a vineyard which needs tender loving care.
Another vineyard & winery Thomas Brown consults for is Jones Family. The 10 acre estate vineyard is located on between St Helena & Calistoga between 600 & 900 feet & is farmed by superstar vineyard-ist David Abreu. This vineyard was originally planted by the Araujo’s who sold it off in 1992 when they purchased the Eislese vineyard.
We also learned that Thomas Brown is currently building 2 new wineries–one for Pinot Noir (located on a corner off of the Silverado Trail) & part of a custom crush facility near Calistoga, where he will make some of his Cabernets. This winemaking phenom certainly has alot going on, besides the high profile projects he consults for such as Schrader, Outpost, Maybach, Casa Piena (Carmen Policy’s winery) & GTS (the project of Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Tom Seaver)……AND his own label, Rivers Marie.