In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earthiness of Calistoga.
Fast forward from Genesis to 1985. We meet on a blind date and delightfully discover we had much in common – a passion for food, fun, wine, margaritas, a spontaneous outlook on life’s opportunities and an ethic for hard work. The real estate we put together along the way is testimony to all those tendencies! Yet, it was still a surprise to friends and family when we announced we were moving from New York to take on the stewardship of a piece of Calistoga earth.
Fast forward again to 1996. We both visited Napa Valley in the mid-90s during coinciding business trips from the East Coast and began our dream of it being our retirement terroir. Within two years, we took the leap and purchased a 32-acre ranch outside Calistoga with an aging SB vineyard that we renamed Winfield Vineyard. Thus began our first blend – the intensity of The Big Apple with the lifestyle of Napa Valley! It was neither retirement nor retrenchment, but rearrangement of our life goals to pour the wine industry on top of everything else we were doing. Talk about Thelma and Louise! Today’s technology has allowed us to maintain our Type A personalities in this paradise setting – Tom is an architect, still practicing and passionate about his work, and Brenda has made a career in the investment world. We’ve never looked back. (more…)
Our initial goal was to grow the best quality fruit our Calistoga earth could produce. In 2000 we replanted the vineyard into five distinctive Cabernet blocks and began selling fruit to some of Napa’s finest wineries.
In 2004, after completing construction of our new house in downtown St. Helena, we undertook our next life-changing endeavor by making our inaugural vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon wine – THE GRADE. That officially marked our return to full intensity. We found our label’s name in the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson who visited Napa Valley in the late 19th Century and honeymooned on Mount Saint Helena above our vineyard. His travels up and down the Old Toll Road (“the grade”) were a thread throughout his book “The Silverado Squatters.” We also took this reference to his route as our name because “making the grade” is a metaphor for achievement in life – to be the best that one can be.
In the spring of 2008 we released our inaugural vintage of THE GRADE at a big coming-out event at PJ Clarke’s in New York. We, the expatriate New Yorkers, returned to our eastern friends victorious, bearing our luscious California nectar! That year we also made our first vintage of SEA-FOG Sauvignon Blanc, and this fanciful name can also be credited to Stevenson.
The years have flown by, and with Stevenson as our muse, (Tom is now on the Board of the Stevenson Museum in St. Helena), we have continued pursuing our goal to produce the best fruit possible from Winfield Vineyard. The vineyard has reached a level of maturity that produces wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon fruit, cultivated by hand and watched over by the viticulturalist, vineyard manager, our winemaker and ourselves. Mother Nature also sits at our table and, as our silent partner, keeps us vigilant as we meet her challenges in each growing season. Winfield Vineyard is the genesis of our vineyard-driven wines.
We are fortunate to be working with Thomas Rivers Brown as our winemaker. He recognized Winfield’s potential when first he came on board to blend the 2010 vintage and is already realizing that potential. After his first full vintage at THE GRADE Cellars, Thomas debuted with a 99 point score from Robert Parker for our 2012 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which we named KINGLY PROJECT. The critics are on notice that there’s a new player on the block and it’s not just Thomas – it’s Block 5 at Winfield Vineyard.
We have opened a tasting room in downtown Calistoga – “The Library” – where we run the business and share wine with friends in Arts & Crafts styled surroundings. We also enjoy alfresco experiences together overlooking our reservoir at our 1971 vintage Airstream trailer in the vineyard, and soon that beautiful site will be under construction as we build a new home at the vineyard. No matter what the venue, we feel fulfilled to be in the Napa Valley and to have the opportunity to share the beauty and bounty of Calistoga earth through the handcrafted wines we bottle for you!