A lot of us think about how one day it would be great to move to the country, plant some grapes, and make some wine. Luckily, most of us have enough sense not to try it! But time and circumstance converged for us in 1989, and that wild hare of an idea became a reality.
Dale and I spent years trying to find what we were looking for. Before we met, Dale and I had each lived in Italy – working, studying, drinking wine, and enjoying “la dolce vita.” And when we met in an Italian class, well, I guess the rest is history. But in Italy we both had discovered that hillside vineyards produced unique, exceptional fruit, and our spirits longed not for the flat, fertile valley floor, but for the eagle’s perch: the extreme, the spectacular. It helped that we did not have the knowledge or experience to realize that what we dreamed about was an incredibly crazy idea. And so our innocence propelled us to create what we originally sought: the unique and exceptional.
After 3 years of searching, we found a small ad in the San Francisco Chronicle with a “For Sale by Owner” heading. We knew it the moment we saw it: this hidden canyon was both the perfect place to raise our children and the perfect place to raise our grapes. With blood, sweat, and a few tears, we worked on tractors and in dirt, through rain and 100 degree heat. In the field, in the classroom, in the coffee shop, Dale and I learned how to grow grapes on our land. Every undulation, every nook and cranny was different and needed its own special attention. And slowly we learned how to meet those needs.
Our kids reaped the benefits and bore the burden of being farm kids. During the summer, they were required to work 3 hours a day. Aside from learning responsibility and respect for hard work, they quickly realized that education would give them a way out of the field! To that end, Oriana, our eldest, is completing her PhD in Early Modern History at Yale, Vanessa, our middle child, attends the John Burns Medical School at University of Hawaii, and Nick, our youngest, graduated from University of California, Davis with a degree in viticulture, oenology, and economics, and now works here at Jericho.
Though some of our family may not be living or working here at this point in time, each and every one of us love the beauty of this spot – the Palisades and Mt. St. Helena cradle us, Jericho Creek lends the rhythm and music with its frogs and toads, the seasons give us perspective. Mother Nature makes sure we stay flexible as each year brings with it new challenges, both in the vineyard and in the winery.
And wine, well wine is an unusual thing. Alive from its birth in the wood of last year’s crop, alive until the moment we swallow it many years later, wine grows, changes, and evolves just as we do. It is a beautiful thing – in the field, in tank, in barrel, in our mouths – it brings joy, and camaraderie, and just plain fun to our lives. So open a bottle. We hope you, too, will experience the pleasure we find in the unique and exceptional wines we grow here at Jericho Canyon Vineyard.
Growing up at Tanguy Homesteads near West Chester, PA, making summer dandelion wine with my father, I never dreamed that I would be a winegrower in the Napa Valley.
With winemaking far from my mind, I left Pennsylvania at age 16 in order to see the world. I traveled, worked, and lived in many places: from tending bar and pulling espresso in Sicily, to hitchhiking across North Africa, to recuperating in Afghanistan after fighting a life-threatening illness in India, to studying Spanish and Mexican history in Guadalajara. My longest stint in one place was the 3 years I spent in Italy where I found a love and respect for the world of winemaking.
But when I returned to the states, it wasn’t winemaking I turned to. I was lured to Oregon by the whopping $6/hr wages offered by the logging industry. After 2 years alternating between choker setter and tree planter, I decided college might be a better route. I completed my degree in Romance Languages at University of Oregon where I met and married my classmate, Marla.
Once we started our family, I began a career in the Bay Area’s financial world, but after a number of years in that profession, it was time for a change. One look at this Calistoga cattle ranch was all it took. Marla and I moved our kids out of the city, and we began to develop our vineyard. Twenty three years later, we are still doing what we set out to do – striving to make the best wine possible with what each year brings us.
I came to Jericho Canyon Vineyard at the age of one, though I am told it was a cattle ranch at the time. I began contributing to the family business when, at the age of four, I was given buckets of fertilizer every morning and was sent into the vineyard for an assigned three hours of “character-building” labor.
During subsequent summers, I further honed my viticultural skills through irrigation system cleaning, leak repairing, suckering, leaf removal, grape harvesting and, finally, wine making. By the time I entered the Viticulture and Enology program at University of California, Davis, I was an expert in manual labor and thus breezed through courses like pruning labs. With time on my hands, I began brewing beer and exploring my love for all types of alcohol production.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Viticulture and Enology and a minor in Managerial Economics I began contributing full time at Jericho, traveled, and worked a harvest in New Zealand. However, the more I travel, the more I realize that there is no place like home. There are few wineries that match JCV’s meticulousness and love for growing spectacular grapes and making them into exceptional wine.