Viewing entries tagged
Napa Valley



Howell Mountain Winery Makes Harvest a Family Affair!

Harvest 2015 is underway!  To fully appreciate the art of winemaking, VAULT29 is taking you behind the scenes during the busiest - and most exciting - time of year in wine country. This week we take a look into Angwin winery, Lamborn Family Vineyards (Howell Mountain AVA in Napa Valley), who is gratefult for another successful harvest as a massive widfire erupted near Cobb, California - 100 miles north of San Francisco and ~30 miles from Angwin. The third most destructive wildfire in California's history, the Valley Fire burned over 75,000 acres and came within two miles of the Lamborn winery who were fortunate to have escaped any damage. The hard work and dedication of harvest is a family affair at Lamborn with the forth generation partaking in the events. 

The view on Howell Mountain is gorgeous, the picking bins are prepped, and this experience from the winery's perspective can bee seen in the VAULT29 app!

Lamborn Family Vineyards harvest prep | VAULT29

It's "GO TIME!" Harvest 2015 kicks off at 4:30am.

Lambrn Family Vineyards | VAULT29

One is never too young to learn the family business. The forth generation partakes in the harvest festivities and have fun doing so!

Harvest 2015 is officially over. An annual tradition of a Budweiser toast to a successful harvest season with the family patriarch, "Papa."

Successful Lamborn Harvest | VAULT29

Lamborn Family Vineyards are producers of elegant Howell Mountain wines, including cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel, artfully crafted by extraordinary winemaker, Heidi Barrett. Do yourself the favor and get acquainted with this lovely family and brand!



"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. Last week, we revisited four wine brands and what they've learned and how they've grown in "Building of a Wine Brand" Season 2, part 2. This week in Season 2, part 3, we look back at wineries and their approach to winemaking. Get to know Cuvaison & Brandlin -- two Napa Green estates. DRNK uses state-ofthe-art technology (UAV's) to image vineyard sites. and Frey Vineyards focuses on producing high quality organic and biodynamic wines without adding synthetic chemicals or preservatives. 

For many years, Cuvaison, located in the Carneros AVA,  has been regarded as an iconic winery and brand in Napa Valley, consistently producing beautifully balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  In 1998, Cuvaison purchased a historic Mount Veeder property owned by Chester Brandlin. Located on a 1,200 foot ridgeline – this is one of Napa Valley’s most difficult but acclaimed mountain regions for grape growing. Both estate vineyards, Carneros and Brandlin, are certified Napa Green, meaning the company has been recognized for their work in reducing the impact on the environment. Read more here.


Get to know DRNK and their aerial imagery approch to winemaking! Grapegrowers and winemakers have been experimenting with grapegrowing and winemaking practices for millennia, this is not something that’s going to change; the technology DRNK uses for experimentation does, and constantly. Ryan Kunde has been experimenting and using UAVs to image vineyards and orchards for 5 years now. He was initially inspired to do so by listening to other inventors and their experiences with the technology and to my professors at Davis and their experiences in research and learning about the most important factors that affect wine quality over time. Read more here.


Frey Vineyards is America’s Pioneering Organic Winery. Founded in 1980, we have always been family owned and operated and it is our mission to produce highest quality organic and Biodynamicwines without the addition of synthetic chemicals or preservatives while fostering environmental stewardship and social equity. Our vineyards are located at the headwaters of the Russian River in beautiful Mendocino County in Northern California.  As three generations of organic farmers and winemakers, we find that our care and respect for the earth is reflected in the expression of purity and true terroir in our wines. Read more here.

You can find Cuvaison, Brandlin, DRNK & Frey wine experience in our app! Smply search by winery name! We'd love to see experiences from your perspective too!. #GetV29app

Erin E. Wines

Erin E. Wines

“The Building of a Brand” by Erin Eileen

While I’ve spent many years promoting and talking about various brands of my employers, I am now embarking on the journey of my brand; Erin E Wines.

I have spent most of my career in the wine industry on the hospitality side of the business which, for anyone in the DTC (direct to consumer) market, is as important as the quality of your wine. Some may argue hospitality and customer service to be THE most critical aspect to your brand. If the only opportunity you have to sell your wine is face to face I’d have to agree. Some people love to talk about the technicalities of winemaking, some love to talk about their cat while tasting your wine. I believe a strong brand can support the interests of many facets of people.

When the opportunity arose to make my own wine and create my own brand, I wanted to integrate the importance of hospitality and quality into my wine and my brand. Sure anyone can come up with a catchy name and label design. They key is coming up with a name and label design that you, the creator, 100% believe in. The quality of the wine and knowing the vineyards the grapes are sourced from was and is the other equally important factor in my brand.

I set out to create the brand. Literally pen and paper in hand I started making a list. What do I love about wine? What do I love about labels? Meanwhile I needed the wine. Believe it or not, sourcing the grapes and the wine was the easy part. There are a lot of people in this industry whose beliefs about quality align perfectly with mine. There are so many amazing vineyards and winemakers it is an honor to be surrounded by so many talented people. My first vintage is a 2013 Sonoma Stage Pinot Noir. Sonoma Stage Vineyard is a whole other interesting topic. Back to the label. I was going through the list I had made of possible names and logos and contrary to my original ideas, I decided to use my name. My name is Erin Eileen, hence Erin E. That got me thinking about the meaning of my name and who I am.

I have always loved the Irish Claddagh symbol. You typically see it in the form of a ring, the hands, the heart and the crown joined together. The hands mean friendship, the heart means love and the crown means loyalty. The circle of the ring is for eternity.

There are many beautiful versions of this symbol but I needed it to be mine. Back to the believing in your label and wine 100%. I enlisted my cousin Hailey Jensen and gave her the task of sketching my own Claddagh that could be used on my label. I think she did an amazing job, all free hand. This label is how I tell my story and who I am in a glance from consumers. The label is a conversation starter. When I think about the ways people share and enjoy wine in their lives it usually happens around a life event. To have your bottle of wine be the centerpiece for these events is an incredible honor. The wine is just as intriguing as the label, it also is a conversation starter. Each opportunity I have to share my wine with people and talk to them adds to the foundation of my brand. I currently make 50 cases of Pinot Noir, 50 cases of Sauvignon Blanc and 25 cases of Cabernet Franc. Blending the wines and making them complex and mysterious yet delicious has been an incredible adventure. I strive to make wines that are drinkable on their own, a no food required approach. The thing I have really enjoyed the most is having a brand that invites people to it. It is approachable just like the wine. People can identify with it and feel comfortable asking questions. Wine should not be a big, unknown, confusing topic and through my brand I hope to convey that message. It should be hospitable, approachable and easy to talk about and enjoy. 

We'd love to see your Erin E. wine experiences in the VAULT29 app. Use hashtag #ErinE or #ErinEWines! Cheers!



One Gift Changes the Destiny of a Family

The story of Sullivan Vineyards begins in the 1950s when Jim Sullivan, living in Los Angeles, fatefully received a grape arbor as an inspirational wedding gift which forever changed the destiny of the Sullivan family.  In the 1960s, Jim was an accomplished creative visionary and graphic artist who produced well-known work for Dick Clark Productions and famously worked with the band, the Monkees.  When he became a home winemaker, his innate creativity in the arts naturally honed his winemaking skills which grew to become an undeniable passion.    

In the early 1970’s, Jim decided to take the next step and search for land in Napa Valley to call home.  The Sullivans settled in Rutherford just as the quiet farming community predicted a California wine boom. Today, Rutherford is internationally recognized as a premiere wine growing region, and Sullivan Vineyards & Winery – one of the few family owned estates in the Napa Valley – sits in the heart of Napa Valley.  The property spans a total of 26 acres, 24 acres of which are planted with primarily Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, in addition to Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc varietals.  Sullivan’s focus is Bordeaux-style estate wines with an annual production of approximately 5,000 cases.

Sullivan Vineyards Art | VAULT29

The 2nd Generation of Sullivans

When Jim passed away in 2008, his children Sean, Ross and Kelleen inherited the business and spearheaded a second generational quest for a renaissance.  Other additions have been Ross’s brother-in-law, Scott McCleod, who joined Sullivan in 2012 as their consulting winemaker; and Assistant Winemaker Jeff Cole who was previously at Schramsberg.  Scott had held the honors of head winemaker for Rubicon Estate for 18 years and was impressively named 2009 Winemaker of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

For the past two years, the family has worked diligently at enhancing the tasting experiences for the winery’s visitors and loyal club members.  The estate underwent major renovation of the family’s residence by adding a copper roof and finishing the panoramic deck with views of the winery’s pond, the valley floor and Napa’s mountainous ranges to the east and west. An entirely new structure was built for a state-of-the-art tasting room, where Kelleen’s artwork is proudly displayed on the walls and wine labels throughout the property.  Rather than a typical walk up bar, the winery hosts guests to a one hour seated tasting experience in their beautiful courtyard under the stately trees.  You won’t want to miss the vintage car collection as well! 

A Bright Future

The future looks incredibly bright for Sullivan Vineyards, especially with some very great projects in the works!  On the horizon is an overhaul and complete makeover of wine labels.  In the past, Kelleen would design one label every release. The 2013 vintage and beyond will feature Kelleen’s art pieces along with the small production “Spotlight” wine series which will be incredibly rare at an estimated 100 cases.  Winelovers should also be on the lookout for the 2013 James O’Neil wine which will feature a special art piece of Jim’s that once showcased at the MOMA. 

Tasting Experiences at Sullivan

$30 Current Release tasting 
$45 Library tasting
$75 VIP tasting of library wines and charcuterie

Think about becoming a wine club member as Sullivan throws really cool parties with are complimentary for 2 if a member. Also, the current release tasting and library tasting are comped (up to 4 tastings) and one gets 20% off the VIP tasting. Reservations required.

Be sure to view others experiences at Sullivan VIneyards while adding your own in the VAULT29 app!

"Like" & "follow" Sullivan Vineyards on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest! 



Cuvaison is an iconic brand in Napa Valley and producer of beautifully crafted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Lesser known about Cuvaison is its ties to Mt. Veeder's Brandlin family; its green initiatives and commitment to the environment; and state of the art tasting room in the heart of their Carneros vineyards. Discover two incredible wineries in one very cool story! 

For many years, Cuvaison has been regarded as an iconic winery and brand in Napa Valley, consistently producing beautifully balanced Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Located in the Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area), the winery was originally founded in 1969 and purchased ten years later by the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland.  At the time of purchase, the Carneros region was little known for grape growing and the newly acquired 400 acres was pastureland. Today, Cuvaison’s 250 acres “under vine” produce a portfolio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah – all world class wines thanks to Carneros’ cool bay breezes and fog unique to the growing area.  The majority of the winery’s staff has held long tenures; Jay Schuppert, the President and CEO of the winery, has been with Cuvaison for 17 years.  The family itself reinvests all profits back into the business for its long term success – both testaments to the Schmidheiny family and its values. 

Two lesser known facts about Cuvaison are their ties to Napa Valley’s Brandlin family and commitment to sustaining the environment through various initiatives.

Family Ties 

In 1998, Cuvaison purchased a historic Mount Veeder property owned by Chester Brandlin. Located on a 1,200 foot ridgeline – this is one of Napa Valley’s most difficult but acclaimed mountain regions for grape growing. Dating back 140 years when the immigrant Swiss family first moved to Napa, they purchased various mountain properties instead of land on the Napa Valley floor; they began growing grapes as early as the 1870s.  In the 1920s, Henry Brandlin purchased this estate and started planting zinfandel which are still producing great wines almost 90 years later.  Cuvaison purchased the property from Henry’s son, Chester, who was very involved in grape growing until the age of 89 when he passed.  It’s hard to believe, but after so many years of growing grapes on Mt. Veeder, the Brandlin family never produced a bottle of wine with their family name on a label.  As a tribute and to pay homage to the family, the Mount Veeder wines – a Cabernet Sauvignon, a proprietary red Bordeaux style blend and two zinfandels – are marketed as an independent label called Brandlin Vineyards.   

Napa Green 

Both estate vineyards, Carneros and Brandlin, are certified Napa Green, meaning the company has been recognized for their work in reducing the impact on the environment.  Both estates are certified sustainable, practice Fish Friendly Farming and the winery/tasting room have Bay Area Green Business certification. The winery is solar powered producing 85% of their power use; they have invested in a very sophisticated water recirculation/conservation program; and they spearhead a cork recycling program where wine club members and neighboring wineries bring their popped corks to be grinded for repurposing. 

The staff at Cuvaison is dedicated to providing winelovers with a unique tasting experience at their recently built tasting room in the heart of their estate. Their original vision for the structure was to place their guests where they could get a true sense and appreciation for the vineyards and the picturesque, rolling hills of Carneros.  All visitors enjoy sweeping, 270 degree views with 22 feet floor to ceiling windows all while enjoying a 2-in-1 tasting experience with both Cuvaison and Brandlin wines.  Together, Cuvaison’s emphasis on lifestyle and celebration and Brandlin’s focus on exploration and discovery make for one unforgettable Napa Valley experience! 

Be sure to add your Cuvaison and Brandlin wine experiences using the VAULT29 app!

Follow & Like Cuvaison on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Vineyard 36

Vineyard 36

Meet Jason - co-proprietor of Vineyard 36 - a Napa Valley winery created by three friends with a mutual passion for friendship, wine and hockey. The story begins with Jason's first visit to Napa Valley and a private, guided tour with Dave Del Dotto himself. It was this particular wine experience that changed Jason's life and led to his first winery venture, Tobacco Roads Cellars. Eventually, he would befriend Cam and Tim - two professional hockey players in the NHL - who had a shared love and appreciation for wine. In this exclusive piece, Jason shares how these three came together to chase one shared dream - Vineyard 36 - and the stories behind the wine labels, UnMask and Cross Check.

Vineyard 36 is the story of three friends living individual dreams, brought together by a mutual love and appreciation for wine.  It begins with Jason Earnest’s ownership in Tobacco Roads Cellars – a boutique winery located in Napa Valley named after the rivalry between Duke University and the University of North Carolina.  Known for big, bold California Cabernets, Jason would often travel and host Tobacco Road wine dinners in restaurants across the US. 

At one particular event in North Carolina, Jason met Cam Ward – a prominent professional hockey player for the Carolina Hurricanes – who quickly became one of Jason’s best customers.  The guys always managed to keep in touch, even after Jason sold his ownership in Tobacco Road Cellars and relocated to New York.  During hockey season, anytime the Carolina Hurricanes came to town to play the New York Rangers, they met up for dinner with fellow teammate Tim Gleason. 

Fast forward to one evening when the curiosity of owning a winery came up in conversation.  This initial, wine fueled discussion lead to several others, and a decision was made to make 3 barrels of Cabernet.  Jason, Tim and Cam shared creative input during the blending process; the wine went from barrels to bottles; labels were added and the stash was divvied for personal consumption between friends and family. 

For the highly anticipated tasting of their inaugural release, Tim, Cam and Jason met in Fort Lauderdale on Jason’s boat.  They opened a bottle, hoped for the best and…were completely blown away at the gorgeous wine! Jason vividly recalls Tim’s reaction: a big smile and a hope it wasn’t going to be THIS good.  All three agreed this was something special, so talks quickly turned into strategy and CANE Estate was born. 

Since Tim and Cam both played for the Carolina Hurricanes, CANE Estate seemed to be the perfect name for the venture, especially in the Carolina market.  But with dreams of expanding and creating a nationally recognized brand, they settled on Vineyard 36 – the summation of Cam Ward (#30) and Tim Gleason’s (#6) jersey numbers. 

From inception to present day, all three friends agree quality and passion are two of the most important factors when producing consistently balanced, beautiful wines.  Each year, their fruit is sourced from boutique, privately owned Napa Valley properties, typically 10 acres or less.  The wine labels – cleanly designed with a little edge – tell their own unique stories, especially the Cross-Check and UnMask blends.  During one of the Carolina Hurricane games, Cam Ward went to visit the injured Tim Gleason in the locker room and snapped a photo to send to his family as reassurance he was well attended to.  The captured image resurfaced when their Cross Check wine was ready to be labeled.  Both Jason and Cam thought the photo perfectly matched the intensity of the wine, but it took some convincing on Tim’s part.  The only way he agreed to his personalized image on the bottle was if another blend captured Cam in action.  You can find Vineyard36’s ode to Cam on the goalie-inspired label, UnMask: a zinfandel based wine with Syrah and a secret grape varietal.  To date, no one has been able to successfully guess the secret blend – but anyone who does will be offered a complimentary bottle!

Get your hands on their very limited portfolio of wines!  Stay up to date with Vineyard 36 by joining their mailing list or following them on the VAULT29 app, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Barrel tastings can be set up by emailing them, as all tastings are appointment only.

WMM: S1, pt 1

WMM: S1, pt 1

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. In Season 1, part 1, we look back at our stories from Napa Valley. Take a deeper look of how the barrel process begins in "From Forest to Barrels to Bottle" by Neil Koch (proprietor and winemaker who trained under Philip Melka) of Canepa Koch. Understand why the verbiage on labels is important in "Label Talk: Let's Make It Meaningful'" by Brian Lamborn of Lamborn Family Vineyards. Get the insiders scoop into Merryvale - one of the most historic wineries in the Napa Valley in "Building on a Rich Napa Valley Legacy" by proprietor Laurence Schlatter. Learn about Voneyard {511} and the wines of the Diamond Mountain (AVA).  

From Forest to Barrel to Bottle

There are many factors influencing the outcome of a wine, including barrel selection. In this Canepa Koch story, learn how the barrel process starts (in the oak forest of France), to the French government deeming the trees as "ready" to be cut and sold at an auction to cooperages, to aging the staves (the wood pieces that make up the barrel), to making the barrels, to toasting the barrels per winemakers preference, and finally aging the wine prior to bottling and release. Read more!

The 2013 "The Dude" is on pre-order with a release date of April 1st, 2015!


Label Talk: Let's Make It Meaningful

There are stringent regulations on grapegrowing and winemaking, but the terminology that goes on a bottle is overlooked. With so many wines being produced today, wine terms themselves are becoming homogenized, and as a result, obsolete. In this Lamborn piece, learn why label terminology should be regulated, just like all aspects of making wine. If you’re not familiar with Lamborn, they are a “boutique,” “family winery” with “estate grown,” “cult” Cabernets and “old vine” Zinfandels “handcrafted” with care in “small lots” by “artisan” winemaker Heidi Barrett. Read more!


Building on a Rich Napa Valley Legacy

The landmark, family-owned St. Helena winery is one of the most historic wineries in the Napa Valley, as it's the first winery built in the valley after Prohibition. The Schlatter family, are tradiotionalist with a vision, and alongside their winemaker, the acclaimed and charismatic Simon Faury, they have sharpened their focus on Bordeaux varietals. With a prime location along Highway 29, their goal is to create an intimate, engaging atmosphere for visitors. From the wine and cheese experience in the historic Redwood Tank Room. to movie nights in the Cask Room, the Merryvale tasting experience is not to be missed. Read more


Vineyard {511} & Diamond Mountain Wines

Located just two miles southwest of Calistoga, CA, Diamond Mountain has a long and rich winemaking history in Napa Valley. Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards, laid out near the mountaintop at 2,200 feet above sea level, is one of the oldest vineyards in Napa Valley, dating back to the late 1890s. The Diamond Mountain District AVA, created in 2001, is unique with only 500 acres of vines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, although small amounts of other varietals. Wineries located in the Diamond Mountain District (DMD) AVA are small production wineries, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand cases each year. If you haven't got to know Vineyard {511}, do yourself the more!

Get your hands on the newly released, limited production 2011 Diamond Mountain Cabernet!

Are you a winery looking to share your story? We'd love to hear from you! Click here to get in touch!

Vineyard511 pt2

Vineyard511 pt2

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. This week we pick up from last week's part 1 of the Vineyard {511} story. Click here to read part 1 which covered the Diamond Mountain AVA, ownership, what to do with an acre of grapes, and meeting the winemaker. . 

Vineyard {511} and the Wines of Diamond Mountain District (cont'd) by Ed Ojdana

What to Call It?

Before designing a logo and label for their wine, Ed and Irene needed to decide what to call it. Surveying other wine labels, they concluded that wine labels typically fall into several categories based on 1) the winery owner’s or family's name (e.g., Peter Michael), 2) geography, location or topography (e.g., Rutherford Hill), 3) critters or trees (e.g., Frog’s Leap or Silver Oak), 4) whimsical or humorous (e.g., Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon), 5) sensation oriented (e.g., Thumbprint Winery’s Four Play), or 6) foreign language derivative (e.g., L’Angevin Wines).  They chose the name Vineyard {511} to reflect that the grapes come from a single vineyard and, more specifically, from their property at 511 Kortum Canyon Road, on Diamond Mountain.

Designing the Vineyard {511} Logo and Label

Irene describes the Vineyard {511} label design as follows: “We wanted our bottle and logo to reflect not only our pride in our wine, but also to reflect the beauty of Diamond Mountain and our love of art. Our home and vineyard are surrounded by lovely mountains and colorful sculpture. So with the help of our talented designer Christian McDaniel, we presented ten designs to our friends and family for their input.  Because it does take a village, we blended their ideas with our own and came up with a subtle and graceful, diamond-inspired image reflecting both Diamond Mountain and, of course, that diamonds are a girl’s best friend! We used color for drama and silk screening (rather than a paper label) for elegance. We hope our bottle and label enhance the already-wonderful experience of our Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon. “ 

Getting to Know the Diamond Mountain Neighborhood

When purchasing their property, Ed and Irene knew that they were outsiders moving into a well- established community of wineries and generations of families.  They were concerned about how their Diamond Mountain neighbors would accept the “newbies” with Hollywood and internet-tech backgrounds.  Their fears soon vanished as they made friends, first with their most immediate neighbors, Norm and Suzie Kiken, owners of Reverie Winery, that abuts Vineyard {511}.

Norm acquired Reverie in 1993.  Today Reverie has nine varieties of grapes–Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Barbera, Tempranillo, Grenache, and Roussanne.  Although all of Reverie’s wines are great, Ed and Irene particularly favor Norm’s Barbera and Roussanne.  The limited production of these wines sells out quickly with each new vintage. 

Norm and Suzie, Owners Reverie Winery

Norm and Suzie, Owners Reverie Winery

Through Norm and Suzie, Ed and Irene were invited to the annual Diamond Mountain Holiday Party, where they were welcomed by many of the winemakers and residents of Diamond Mountain. Like Norm and Suzie, no matter how well- known their wines or reputations in the wine industry, Ed and Irene discovered a group of neighbors always willing to help a neighbor or provide practical advice regarding their wine.  Boots Brounstein, who with her late husband Al's efforts, are credited with bringing recognition to Diamond Mountain Cabernet.  Diamond Creek Cabernet, with its inaugural 1972 vintage, set the standard for Napa Valley Cabernets made exclusively from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Their vineyard designate Diamond Mountain District Cabernets are among California’s most sought after wines:  Red Rock Terrace, Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and Lake Vineyard.  Boots, along with her son Phil Ross and his wife Susan, who now run Diamond Creek Winery, are always approachable for help and advice, or for just a great evening having dinner and drinking wine.

Bill and Dawnine Dyer are probably the most famous winemaker couple on Diamond Mountain. Bill made wine at Sterling Vineyards for 20 years, from 1976 to 1996, starting as Cellarmaster and becoming Winemaker in 1985.  He was responsible for developing its single-vineyard wines, including a Cabernet from Diamond Mountain.  Dawnine spent 25 years as Winemaker at Domaine Chandon, where she introduced many original sparkling wines and wine styles.  They purchased 12 acres of land on Diamond Mountain in 1992.  With considerable effort, they cleared 2.3 acres and planted Cabernet Sauvignon (78%), Cabernet Franc (16%) and Petit Verdot (6%).  Later they built a home on the property, with the vineyard as their front yard.  Bill and Dawnine are highly engaged in the Napa Valley and Diamond Mountain communities.  Besides offering Ed and Irene advice on marketing their wine, they can always be counted on to keep updated on the many community and political issues in Diamond Mountain and Napa Valley.

Last summer Ed and Irene hosted a Diamond Mountain Neighborhood End- of- Summer Party and were delighted to entertain so many of their neighbors, famous and not so famous!

Mountain versus Valley Wines

The debate regarding mountain versus valley floor wines, is “a slippery slope.”  Both can produce excellent wines but with differences:

  • Napa Valley Mountain AVAs tend to be above the fog level and are bathed in sunshine, when the valley floor is covered in chilly fog.  Evening temperatures are also warmer for mountain sites than they are for those on the valley floor.  With fewer dramatic swings (diurnal) in temperature, mountain grapes build acid and sugar slowly.  The wines tend to have a good balance of alcohol and acid as a result.  Tannins tend to be more prevalent for mountain wines.

Vineyard {511} grapes

Vineyard {511} grapes

  • ·Most Napa Valley Mountain AVAs consist of volcanic soil, with Mt Veeder being the exception.  Valley soils tend to be deep and rich, sedimentary and alluvial.  Hillside or mountain vines are highly stressed, as their roots must go deeper for water and nutrients. Consequently, hillside vineyards produce smaller grapes and fewer berries than do valley floor vineyards. Hillside wines thus tend to be more concentrated with intense aromas and flavors.  Alcohol levels of mountain wines tend to be lower than that of valley wines produced from grapes that are larger and more juicy than are mountain grapes.  Tannins also tend to be more intense in mountain wines with smaller grapes increasing the amount of wine skins relative to juice during the fermentation process. 

Vineyard {511} Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon exemplifies these characteristics of mountain wines.  The low-yielding vineyard produces small, intense berries with flavors of cherry cola mixed with cocoa powder and rich tobacco and cedar notes. Its intense, dark, garnet color is accompanied by aromas of dark roast expresso, dark chocolate-covered cherries, and new oak.

Three Vintages Later

Fast forward and Ed and Irene have released three vintages of Vineyard {511} Diamond District Cabernet Sauvignon:  2009, 2010, and 2011.  They’ve also started a wine club called Encounter {511}, that celebrates each harvest with a Harvest Party at Vineyard 511 for club members.

Here’s what their winemaker says about each vintage:

2009 Vineyard {511}:  "This wine should be able to age for 20 years, but I always go back to the story of my dad and me. When we go down to the cellar, I want to pull cabs from 1990-1992. He wants to pull from 2005-2008. He wants to have the bright fruit, while I like the smoothness and richness that aging gives a wine. Luckily for us, we just open two bottles."  92 points, Wine Enthusiast

2010 Vineyard {511}:  "What I love about the 2010 is that it is a classic Napa Cabernet.  It has notes of tar, black currant, and a bright acidity. It is a rich, clean, powerful Cabernet that shows the effort we made in taming and smoothing the classic Diamond Mountain tannins.  The clean fruit makes me want to drink this wine now, but I know how much more I will like it with 10+ years of aging." 90 points, Wine Enhusiast, Gold and Double Gold Medal Winner, Orange County (CA) and Florida State Fairs, respectively

2011 Vineyard {511}:  “2011 was a late year for Napa Cabernet.  The growing season started late due to winter conditions lasting into spring.  We were lucky that warm conditions followed, and with Vineyard {511}’s nice hillside and western exposure, the vines were able to ripen, even with their slow start.  The grapes were picked on October 26th,in 2011, as compared to October 1st, in 2009.  So, while we started late, we also finished late, so that the grapes not only had time to get their sugar, but also had time to get their ‘ripeness’.  I love the 2011 for its smooth tannins and rich finish, which should drink well even upon release.” Release date: March 15, 2015

For more information, visit the Vineyard {511} website:

Be sure to add your Vineyard {511} Wine experiences in the VAULT29 app

"Like" Vineyard {511} on Facebook and "follow" them on Twitter @Vineyard511

Vineyard511 pt 1

Vineyard511 pt 1

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. This week we are proud to feature Vineyard {511} a family owned and operated winery rich in history, high in the hills of the acclaimed Diamond Mountain AVA who believes, "Like a great restaurant that is a reflection of its chef, a great wine is a reflection of its winemaker, as well as of its vineyard‏."

Vineyard {511} and the Wines of Diamond Mountain District by Ed Ojdana

Napa Valley Map | VULT29

Located just two miles southwest of Calistoga, CA, Diamond Mountain has a long and rich winemaking history in Napa Valley.  Constant Diamond Mountain Vineyards, laid out near the mountaintop at 2,200 feet above sea level, is one of the oldest vineyards in Napa Valley, dating back to the late 1890s.  The Diamond Mountain District AVA, created in 2001, is unique with only 500 acres of vines, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, although small amounts of other varietals, such as Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc, are also grown. Wineries located in the Diamond Mountain District (DMD) AVA are small production wineries, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand cases each year.  Diamond Mountain Ranch, owned by Sterling Vineyards, is the largest vineyard on Diamond Mountain, with about 200 acres of grapes on 307 acres of property.

Vineyard {511} on Diamond Mountain

Vineyard {511} on Diamond Mountain

In 2008, Ed and Irene Ojdana purchased a 6-acre estate on Diamond Mountain, which included a small vineyard, originally planted in 2001, with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  Although Ed had some experience in the alcohol beverage industry, having worked at Olympia Brewing Company in the 1970s, neither Ed nor Irene had a background in the wine industry other than knowing they liked great wines.  Over the years, they had visited Napa Valley many times and always thought it would be a great place to live when they gave up their day jobs.  Since then, they have learned a great deal about farming vineyards and producing wine, and particularly what makes mountain wines so different from other valley wines.

What to Do With an Acre of Grapes?

The prior owners of the Ojdana’s estate had planted the vineyard in 2001.  The vineyard, planted on a steep, west- facing hillside, draws the warm afternoon sun, allowing the grapes to slowly ripen during the growing season. A vineyard management company farmed the vines, and the grapes were being sold to the Duckhorn Winery at the time Ed and Irene purchased the property.  Dan Duckhorn was a close friend of the prior owners.  In 2007, however, GI Partners, a private equity group, bought a controlling interest in Duckhorn Winery, and Dan retired from active management in the winery. Because of the relatively small annual harvests (2 to 3 tons of grapes), the new management at Duckhorn was not interested in further purchasing the grapes.

Ed & Irene Ojdana, Owners Vineyard {511}

Ed & Irene Ojdana, Owners Vineyard {511}

Ed and Irene closed on the property in early 2008.  There was much to do as the house on the property was in need of remodeling and updating, which became their focus for the remainder of 2008.  Consequently, they sought another buyer for the grapes.  They quickly learned how easy it was to make connections in the valley. Through Paul and Sue Frank, friends from Los Angeles and owners of Gemstone Winery at the time, they eventually met Pam Starr, one of the superstar winemakers in the valley, whose resume includes Winemaker at Spottswoode Vineyard and Winery prior to founding her own winery, Crocker Starr.

Through Pam, Ed and Irene sold their 2008 harvest to boutique winery Garric Cellars, with Pam as their consulting Winemaker. Their 2008 harvest was disappointing, yielding only one ton of grapes from a vineyard that historically produced 2 to 3 tons.  They eventually learned that the vineyard management company had not properly irrigated the vineyard during the growing season, which resulted in the low yield.  An important lesson was learned about staying involved in the active management of their vineyard, rather than totally relying on a farming company.

As part of their agreement with Garric Cellars, Ed and Irene received 5 cases of wine made solely from their 2008 harvest. They will occasionally open a bottle for visitors to Vineyard {511} so, if you are able to get an appointment to taste their wines, be sure to ask about it.

With 2008 under their belts, it was clearly time for a change in direction for the vineyard. The storm clouds of the Great Recession that rolled through in 2009 had a devastating impact on Napa Valley and on the 2009 harvest. As wine producers cut back on their 2009 production plans, growers were hit hard.  Signs began appearing along Highway 29 advertising large quantities of grapes for sale – something unheard of in the valley.  Ed and Irene found themselves without a buyer for their 2009 harvest, as Garric Cellars also cut back on its production for 2009.

And so, the idea of producing wine under their own label took hold.  In the turbulent economic times of 2009, this was a risky decision.  However, given the time it takes to age an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon, Ed and Irene rightly thought that the economy would be well on its way to recovery by the time their Diamond Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon was ready for release in early 2013.

Rob Lloyd, Winemaker Vineyard {511} 

Rob Lloyd, Winemaker Vineyard {511} 

Finding a Winemaker

The next challenge was to find the right winemaker.  Like a great restaurant that is a reflection of its chef, a great wine is a reflection of its winemaker, as well as of its vineyard.  Ed and Irene wanted an experienced winemaker, who believed in their vineyard and who could make a wine that reflected the Diamond Mountain District terroir.  As luck would have it, family connections played a key role in their search. Irene’s nephew, Geoff Silverman, had grown up with Paul Frank.  Paul is the son of Rich Frank and a highly-talented entertainment executive.  He and his father Rich currently are executive producers of Royal Pains, now in its seventh season on the USA Network.  Rich Frank, one of Hollywood’s most creative executives and longtime Disney executive, is also the owner of Frank Family Vineyards, near Calistoga, CA.  Geoff arranged a private tasting for Ed and Irene at Frank Family Vineyards during one of his visits to Napa Valley.  They were graciously hosted by Dennis Zablosky, the winery tasting room manager, who is often touted as one of the valley’s “legends.”

When Dennis heard that Ed and Irene were looking for a winemaker, he promptly volunteered that he had just the person for them – Rob Lloyd.  Rob is a graduate of UC Davis, where he received a master’s degree in Enology in 1999.  He subsequently worked at LaCrema as an Assistant Winemaker and then at Rombauer Vineyards, from 2001 to 2008, first as Assistant Winemaker and then as Winemaker.  While at Rombauer, the winery received many new accolades and awards for its wines, including being named by Wine Spectator as one of the Top 100 wines in the world in 2007.  In 2009, when Ed and Irene met Rob, he was, and remains, the Winemaker for Jessup Cellars and consults for several other wineries, including Humanitas, John Anthony Vineyards, and Handwritten Wines.  He also has own label: Lloyd by Robert Lloyd.

During the “courting” process, Rob visited Ed and Irene’s vineyard a number of times in the summer of 2009, tasting and analyzing the grapes from various parts of the vineyard. After much suspense, Rob told Ed and Irene that he thought he could make a “pretty good” Cabernet Sauvignon from the grapes, one that would reflect the traditional Napa cabs before the high alcohol, jammy, fruit forward wines became the trend.  Although mountain fruit is known for its tannins and often requires years of aging in the bottle, Rob felt that he could make wine that was drinkable upon release, as well as age well over a 10 to 15 year period. The wine would need to be aged in French oak considerably longer than the typical Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is aged to accomplish this.

Rob also recommended that Ed and Irene hire a new vineyard management company, one that he knew well, worked with, and trusted.  They subsequently hired John Truchard’s Vinewerkes company to farm their vineyard.  John’s family is well known in the valley (Truchard Vineyards).  John grew up in the valley, and it was only natural that he would continue their farming and winemaking tradition with his own vineyards and label (John Anthony Vineyards)...To Be Continued...

Please tune in next Monday for part 2 of Vineyard {511} and the Wines of Diamond Mountain, as Ed discusses topics like:

  • What to Call It?
  • Designing the Vineyard {511} Logo and Label
  • Getting to Know the Diamond Mountain Neighborhood
  • Mountain Wines vs Valley WInes

Be sure to add your Vineyard {511} wine experiences in the VAULT29 app!

"Like" Vineyard {511} on Facebook and "follow" them on Twitter @Vineyard511



"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. This week we are proud to feature Hardball Cellars, where a passion for wine, baseball and family combine for an unbeatable combo! 


Hardball Cellars is a family business with a passion for baseball, business and wine. Currently our team produces small lots of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot and pinot noir. Founded in 2012 at the encouragement from family and friends, we are working hard to grow our brand communicating our passions while making delicious wines. Mike and Cindy are transplants from Oregon and were raised by hard working families in the Willamette Valley. Mike’s mother is an artistic antiquer and owned her own antique and import shop. His father was born to be a handyman and worked in industrial construction. Cindy’s parents also owned their own hobby retail and wholesale business for many years. Mike and Cindy followed their family to Napa in the mid 1980’s where they have planted roots and fallen in love with the northern California wine country.


We have a long family history of winemaking. Our parents and grandparents made wine for well over 50 years in Oregon as a hobby and grandmother Alberta Gearin would always have a crock pot brewing when we went to visit. Our parents tell us she made the most incredible dandelion wine. She would brew anything she could get her hands on, including fresh Oregon blackberries and even cabbage.  Our grandfather Dewey Gearin was a military man. When he finished serving his time for our country, be became an inventor who patented a number of inventions. He is best known for the old gas station rubber hoses that rang to alert the service station attendants when driven over. He had an amazing sense of humor, and a serious palate for adult beverages and was always eager to drink Grandmas fixins. 

HArdball Cellars "Coaches" | VAULT29

Mike’s mother and father followed in Alberta’s footsteps, making blackberry, pear, and plum wine. They also enjoyed making homemade root beer with their children. Mike’s dad to this day still loves to play around with fermenting the fruits on his farm in Oregon. He dreams of planting a pinot noir vineyard on his farm one day.


Our true passion for wine began to grow when we moved to Napa over twenty-five years ago. Spotting an ad in the Napa Register for some u-pick Zinfandel fruit on Glass Mountain Road, in Saint Helena, Mike grabbed garbage cans and took my kids along for the ride to the vineyard. The owner was a nice old guy who loved kids and sent us into the vineyard to harvest the fruit. He then destemmed our fruit back into our fermentors and off we went! Mike learned what about making wine by watching his parents, reading books, watching videos, and networking in the wine country for many years. He still remembers the smell new wine in our garage like yesterday. After many batches in our 5 gallon carboys over the years, some good, some not so good, learning by trial and error, we knew one day that we would have our own wine.

harball Cellars Rookie Years | VAULT29

As Mike and Cindy’s kids grew up we had the opportunity to traveled around the country for dance competitions with their daughter all over California, with trips to Disney World in Florida , and baseball trips all over the country with their son. They experienced many wine tasting adventures between events and games wherever they traveled and began developing their palates by tasting wine from various regions. Baseball and wine soon became one of our favorite pairings. Summer baseball paired with Northwest wines like zinfandel in Roseburg Oregon, chardonnay by Wölffer Estate in the Hamptons (Long Island, New York), and college regular season games paired with the wines of the central coast (between Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Barbara).


After our son Jason’s baseball career came to an end due after injuring his throwing elbow, he soon graduated from Santa Clara with a degree in marketing. As a family we then decided that we wanted to take our passion for wine and baseball to the next level. Our friend Cynthia Cosco, who we met through social media circles several years ago, played a key role helping us get our start. After many conversations with Cynthia we mentioned that if she ever came across any fruit for purchase, we would buy to make a barrel of wine. One day, relatively quick, we received a call from Cynthia telling us that she found fruit. After much debate, we decided it was time to begin our journey. Later during the process of bottling our wine with Cynthia, she mentioned “now all you need is a name!” We began brainstorming by scribbling on paper and drawing logo concepts. One day while Mike was driving, Hardball Cellars popped into his head and after relaying his idea to his teammates, we knew it needed to be our brand name. It represents exactly who we are, and what we have a serious passion for! Baseball…business and wine! 

Over the years while making very small batches of wine, we have learned that it’s a specialized craft which has science behind it. However, you need to be able to let your god given senses guide you through the process. Our vision is to remain a small boutique vintner, while continuing to produce high quality wines that meet our high standards. We have released 4 vintages to date and have sold out of the first pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay vintages since we began. We feel with our winemaking experience and extensive travels tasting wines all over the United States. We are confident that with our combined palates along with coaching from our mentor Cynthia Cosco, we have the skills to make and market delicious wines.

We are now a fully bonded winery as of July 2013, and we are now producing our wines at Dogpatch Wines Works a Custom Crush facility located at 2455 3rd Street, San Francisco CA 94107. Approximately 9 blocks from AT&T Park. Our wines are available for tasting at Dogpatch Wine Works and available online at

We have worked hard to locate the finest quality fruit and have developed relationships with our growers to create world class, small lot wines. Our growers are located all over northern California and have helped us produce our Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and soon to be released Cabernet Sauvignon. We continue to network and scout new varietals and vineyards as we move forward. We make wines that we like to drink...big and bold, complex in color, aroma and flavors. As Hardball Cellars, we evoke a high level of work ethic, quality and execution. 


We are hands on through the entire process, and strongly believe in minimalist techniques. We get out into the vineyards during the year, hand picking the highest quality fruit, hand sorting the fruit as it comes in from the vineyards, carefully removing the low quality clusters that may have trickled in, any leaves, and anything else we see that might jeopardize our quality standards. We ferment our lots in our one ton micro bins, which allows us to control the temperature during fermentation. We perform daily manual punch downs, record daily brix and temperature readings through the fermentation process. Careful handling of our fruit and cap management are key fundamentals during the fermentation process in order to extract the highest quality colors, aromas, and flavors. We age our wines in oak barrels and continue to hone our process, techniques and plans. We have most recently utilized older neutral barrels, which we had reconditioned to expose new oak, knowing that this is eco friendly. We continue to learn so that we can strategize and refine our techniques to get the most out of our fruit and resources.


We are a 5 tool player offering our wines through our website, special event around the country, our wine club with special wine club offerings, a tasting room in San Francisco at Dogpatch Wineworks, and at private tastings where our wine club members, family and friends host us!


Our current wines consist of a (soon to be released) 2012 Napa cabernet sauvignon, 2013 Alexander Valley pinot noir, 2012 Los Carneros merlot, and our 2013 chardonnay. We are hard at work training for the 2015 harvest and look forward to bringing in our Napa cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and chardonnay. We cannot wait to bottle these wines and offer them to our followers through our website, the Dogpatch Wine Works tasting room, and in local wine shops and restaurants.

Our wine club is called “The Hardball Club.” There is no sign up fee or cost to join. By signing up, you commit to receiving two bottles, three times a year (February, May and October). Our skipper developed The Hardball Club as a simple affordable way to be a part of the Hardball Cellars team. Shipments can be mixed or matched at this time. We only bill at the time of shipment for the cost of your wine, tax and shipping. You receive many benefits as a member such as invitations to all private wine club events, early access to all new wines and a 20% discount with every purchase! and our quarterly Newsletter including recipes, winery news, and all things Hardball. We are preparing to send our first shipment of the year, just in time for 2015 Spring Training. In other news, we have also been invited to Spring Training to pour for San Francisco Giants season ticket holders. Follow us on our social media channels or blog on our website to see how it goes!

We will be emailing special offerings as we release our new wine, so get on our email list, and make sure to connect with us on Facebook. We want to thank all of our friends and family who have all been so supportive and encouraging as we have worked hard to bring Hardball Cellars to life. We hope you will join us and help spread the word about Hardball Cellars as we continue to grow.

Be sure to add your Hardball Cellars experiences in the VAULT29 app!

"Like" & "follow" Hardball Cellars on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest & YouTube! 




"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog to write about aspects unique to them and their wines. This week, we have the distinct honor of featuring legendary Merryvale Vineyards and it's female proprietor, Laurence Schlatter, who discusses the winery's rich history; the people behind the scenes; and the hospitality and tasting experiences you will only find at the winery! Find Merryvale wine experiences in the VAULT29 app!

"Building on a Rich Napa Valley Legacy" by Laurence Schlatter, Proprietor

Merryvale Vineyards, the landmark, family-owned St. Helena winery, is one of the most historic and significant wineries located in the Napa Valley.  As the first winery built in the valley after Prohibition, Merryvale sits in a prime location along Highway 29, within walking distance from vibrant downtown St. Helena. Its Cask Room and vineyards bear the imprint of industry icons who have worked there.

Cask Room of Merryvale, Napa Valley

Merryvale’s proprietors, the Schlatter family, are traditionalists with vision, committed to preserving the winery’s rich past without compromising their innovative plans for the future. Alongside their winemaker, the acclaimed and charismatic Simon Faury, they have sharpened their focus on Bordeaux varietals, the wines for which Napa is most renowned. 

Laurence and Ren é Schlatter - Proprietors

Laurence and René Schlatter - Proprietors


René and Laurence Schlatter Although René and Laurence grew up in the same Swiss town along the shores of Lake Geneva, they never met until a chance encounter in 1995 in the Merryvale tasting room. The daughter of a sixth-generation winemaker and winery owner, Laurence had traveled to St. Helena to visit her brother, a Napa harvest intern, when she crossed paths with René for the first time. An introduction and a glass of wine led to a long distance relationship, which was soon formalized with a wedding ceremony in their Swiss hometown.

United in marriage, the Schlatters are joined in their belief in a hands-on approach to the family business. They are a constant presence on the property, in the vineyards, the cellar and the tasting room. As they lay the groundwork for the future, they are committed to building on Merryvale’s rich past. Their goal is to create an intimate, engaging atmosphere for visitors while producing exceptional Bordeaux-style wines that reflect the unique and rich history of the Napa Valley.

Simon Faury, Winemaker

Simon Faury, Winemaker


Merryvale Vineyards’ Cabernet-centric portfolio includes wines that are complex and rich, balanced and expressive of Napa Valley’s fruit but also reflective of classic styles. Winemaker Simon Faury’s meticulous attention to detail calls for handpicking grapes in small batches and using custom-made Rieger tanks tailored specifically for the character of the grapes in each vineyard block.

Grapes for the Profile (Proprietary red) wine and the St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon are sourced from Schlatter Family Estate Vineyard, on a hillside nearly 900 feet in elevation, just east of St. Helena. The vineyard’s 25 acres of volcanic rock soil provide ideal growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon and small-block plantings of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Permanent cover crops, reduced herbicide use, and integrated pest management are all at work in the vineyard, which became Napa Green Land certified in 2008. Fruit for non-estate wines is sourced from independent grower sites throughout Napa Valley that reflect the region’s diverse soils and microclimates. 


Merryvale Tasting Experience: Featuring single vineyard, limited-production wines, this tasting experience highlights the very best of Merryvale Vineyards and will be changed seasonally based on wine release dates and availability. It is offered at the tasting bar but is also available by prior appointment (48 hours in advance) to large groups in the Cask Room Club lounge area. 

Wine-Cheese Pairing in Merryvales Redwood tank room

Wine and Cheese Experience: This seated, semi-private food and wine experience is offered daily at 11:30 a.m., and pairs artisan cheese with Merryvale Vineyard wines. Developed by the winery’s onstaff CIA-trained chef, Jason Velderrain, this tasting focuses on family-owned, locally sourced products that embody the values of the Merryvale Vineyards family. Offered by prior appointment only in the historic Redwood tank room. Eight person maximum.

Profile Library Tasting: Handcrafted from the Schlatter Family Estate Vineyard and a few select vineyard sites, Profile is the centerpiece of Merryvale winemaking. Combining the current release Profile with three past vintages, this privately hosted, seated tasting is the ultimate expression of Merryvale’s unique history. Offered by prior appointment only in the historic Redwood tank room. Eight-person maximum. Last available seating is 3 p.m.

                        Merryvale Movie Nights The Perfect Pairing of Food, Wine and Film                               Napa Valley Night Life – What to do when the wineries close for the evening?  

It’s a rare treat to visit a winery at night, and now you can reserve seating at Merryvale Vineyard’s Movie Nights in the winery’s historic Cask Room. Two stories of century-old, 2,000-gallon casks line the stone walls creating an unforgettable ambience, and there’s much more than popcorn and soda on the menu. The scene is set with plush, comfortable seating and Merryvale wines poured by-the-glass, or for purchase in bottle, paired with locally sourced bites specifically selected to complement films. 

For more information please call 707.963.7777 or visit

Be sure to add your Merryvale experiences in the VAULT29 app!

Follow Merryvale on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Canepa Koch

Canepa Koch

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog to write about aspects unique to them and their wines. This week, we are proud to feature Neil Koch, proprietor and winemaker at Canepa Koch Wine Cellars. Neil trained under Philip Melka at Seavey Vineyards, Bryant Family and Vineyard 29, and was assistant winemaker at Lewis Cellars. 

"From Forest to Barrel to Bottle" by Neil Koch featuring “the dude”

As the rain starts to fall in late November, all the wine from the previous vintage is in barrel. For our wine, “the dude”, the barrel is not just a vessel for 18 months, but plays an important role in the maturation of our wine. 

The barrel process starts in the oak forests of France with the most prevalent species being French sessile oak (Quercus Petraea).  The trees in these forests can be anywhere from 200-300 years old.  For example, in the French National Forest of Troncais, Napolean first planted these trees to be used for ship masts.  

Once the French government deems the trees are “ready”, the logs are cut and sold at auction to cooperages (barrel makers) in France.  These cooperages then cut the logs into staves (the wood pieces which make up the barrel) and age them in seasoning yards for 24 - 36 months.  After the seasoning process, the staves are formed into barrels using galvanized hoops, then toasted on an open flame to the winemaker’s desired toast level.

After 12 years of making my own wine, I am still amazed by how much influence a barrel has on the outcome of a wine.  Mark Canepa and I have been making “the dude” since 2009 and have used 100% French oak in all of our vintages, both red and white.

Typically in red wines French oak adds sweetness, body, length, and structure.  Darker notes, such as chocolate, espresso, and spice are brought out in the wine. It transforms brighter red notes into darker richer components.  In white wines, the barrel adds texture, spice, caramel, and butterscotch components, while fattening the wine’s mid palate.  

The barrel’s toast level also greatly impacts the wine.  A lighter toast adds more wood structure to the body of the wine, but fewer toast related aromatics. Higher toast levels elevate the wine’s aromatics and impart a sweeter, toastier component.

For “the dude” Napa Valley Red Wine, we typically use a blend of medium plus toast and heavy toast to add structure and increase complexity in our wines.  The fruit from our Rutherford vineyard needs more structure, such as a medium plus toast, while our Atlas Peak and Coombsville fruit can handle a higher toast level.

Come Spring 2015, our wine will make its final transition to bottle, where all of these factors including wood sourcing, seasoning, toast level, and barrel aging have played a part in making “the dude”.

"Like" Canepa Koch on Facebook & "Follow" them on Twitter @CanepaKochWine

Be sure to add your Caepa Koch experiences in the VAULT29 app! 

The Hit List: Napa Valley Experiences

The Hit List: Napa Valley Experiences

Wine drinkers always want to know: Where can I find a good glass (or bottle) of wine?  Well, we have you covered! This week in "The Hit List," we feature a few of our favorite experiences in historic Napa Valley:

BUBBLES in CAVES, Schramsberg Vineyards: One of the few places you can find sparking wine for those of you who love the bubbles - and this is the best of the best in the Valley. Take a walk through history and drink wine along the way at this famed estate high in the hills of Diamond Mountain. Discover the 3rd oldest wine caves hand dug by Chinese railroad workers after the gold rush. Learn about "Methode Champenoise" and the art of riddling. The J. Schrams and Reserve are our favorites, in addition to other non-sparkling offerings like the Davies Cabernet Sauvignon. 1400 Schramsberg Rd, Calistoga 

 Riddling racks inside Schramsberg's historic caves. Photo credit:

 Riddling racks inside Schramsberg's historic caves. Photo credit:

SMALL PLATES/WINE/OLIVE OIL, Round Pond Estate: In the heart of the Rutherford district is one of the most picturesque wineries with award winning wines and a variety of experiences to choose from. Try the delicious food and wine pairings or the olive oil tastings from the estate's own olive oil press. Our favorites: the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc and, of course, their 2010 Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. 875 Rutherford Road, Rutherford

UNIQUE EXPERIENCES, Merryvale Vineyards: Located directly on Hwy 29 is Merryvale, a family owned and operated winery notably known for beautiful Cabernets. We were blown away by their private cheese and wine tasting inside the 25,000 gallon historic redwood barrel. Do yourself a favor and book this incredible experience! We loved the Silhouette Chardonnay and, of course, the flagship Cab. 1000 Main Street, St. Helena

Merryvales_a view from within the tank.jpg

CAVES AND REDWOODS, Reverie Winery: This small family owned winery is tucked away off the beaten path of Hwy 29 on the hillsides of the Diamond Mountain appellation. If you are a serious winelover, you will love these limited production, ultra premium boutique Bordeaux style wines. The tour starts inside the caves and ends under the giant redwood trees. Hopefully when you visit, Messi - the winery dog - makes an appearance too! Very few wineries rival this all around experience. 1520 Diamond Mountain Rd, Calistoga

Reverie Redwoods.jpg

Got your own favorite winery experiences? Be sure to add them to the VAULT29 app! Cheers and happy discovery!