The GRADE Cellars 1236 LINCOLN AVE CALISTOGA, CA 94515 (707) 967-8200
© 2018 The GRADE Cellars ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Thomas Winfield Thornton, Proprietor
Vintner by day and architect by night. Discovered French wines at 15. Would rather be playing the piano.
Brenda Joyce Mixson
Born to dance. Raised on a Florida cattle ranch. Smartest person in the room. Wine is better in her presence.
Fanny The Labradoodle
Born to chase balls.
We met on a blind date and discovered a common passion for food, fun, wine, spontaneity and an ethic for hard work. Our forays in real estate projects along the way testify to all those tendencies - yet it was still a surprise to friends & family when we announced that we were leaving our home for some California grass.
In 1997 we purchased our 32-acre ranch just a country mile north of Calistoga at the foot of Mount Saint Helena, and we moved full-time to the valley in 2004 after completion of our house in downtown St. Helena. We cut our grape-farming teeth on the aging Sauvignon Blanc vineyard that came with the ranch which we named Winfield Vineyard, and thus began our first blend – the intensity of The Big Apple with the lifestyle of The Napa Valley.
We were determined to grow the best damn fruit that Calistoga earth could produce. We studied Winkler, dug test pits, drilled a new well - and in 2000 we replanted the vineyard into five distinctive Cabernet Sauvignon blocks and began selling fruit to some of Napa’s finest wineries. In 2012 we added two blocks for a total of seven Cabernet blocks.
While still immersed in day jobs of architecture and commercial real estate finance, we made our inaugural vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon wine – THE GRADE – thus marking our return to full intensity. We discovered the label’s name in the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson who we learned had honeymooned on Mount Saint Helena above our vineyard in the late 19th Century. His travels up and down the Old Toll Road (“the grade”) were a thread throughout his book “The Silverado Squatters.” We delighted in the metaphorical meaning of “making the grade” as achievement in life – being the best that one can be.
We released THE GRADE at a rousing event at PJ Clarke’s in New York where we, expatriate New Yorkers, convinced our eastern colleagues 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.
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 refer to our tasting room in downtown Calistoga as “The Library” which is where we run the business and share wine with friends in Arts & Crafts styled surroundings. We also enjoy al fresco experiences together overlooking our reservoir at our 1971 vintage Airstream trailer in 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!