Porter Family Vineyards is located in the hills on the edge of the Coombsville region east of the town of Napa. As a result the vineyards here are all hillside planted with great views looking north into the Napa Valley. This winery is owned and operated by Tom Porter, his wife Beverly and additional family members. The region is cooler here as it is in the southern part of the Napa area with marine influences coming from the relatively nearby San Pablo Bay. As a result hang time is often very long with harvest occurring in mid October to early November. This helps ensure a slow maturation providing well balanced ripe fruit with lots of flavor intensity. Their location is ideal, great terroir (volcanic), great views and the vineyards back right up against the Napa Valley preserve which ensures the surrounding land will never be developed and will remain in its natural state.
A number of varietals are planted on site including Syrah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Aside from the crush pad, the winery is entirely underground in their 17,000 square feet of caves. At the time of our visit, the caves were completed with additional inside work still in development. Also of note is during the tunneling of the caves a large piece of sandstone fell from the ceiling of one of the tunnels. It contained a bunch of fossilized footprints indicating this location was actually a shoreline millions of years ago.
This is one of the most technologically self contained wineries within the Napa Valley. It is state of the art. Tom has a background in the computer software industry and has put a lot of thought into this winery especially into the computer algorithm controlled systems. Four large tunnels lead from the surface to strategic parts of the cave providing air flow when needed - anemometers are stationed outside both entrances providing wind speed measurements and the inside is completely climate controlled and adjusts for various factors including humidity, temperature and external conditions such as cave doors being opened and closed. Large fans and humidifiers are stationed at each entrance. In addition all tanks are located under automatic computer controlled punch down devices which can be moved from tank to tank as they are located on rails. Small fermentors are used and with the help of technology they can track specific vineyard blocks or even specific vineyard rows all the the way from vineyard to fermentation to aging. This type of technology combined with winemaking allows them to track things such as problems in a specific part of their vineyard, fermentation and aging data.
This technology is not only represented in the cave but in the vineyards as well. While most wineries have one watering system for the vines, Porter Family has two. The second "targeted irrigation" system is designed to place water on only weak or young vines, thus avoiding waste of water on all the vines.
Their first every vintage was 2005 and was released in early October 2008. The entire initial production is fairly small at 300 cases but this will be ramped up over the next few years. Their main focus is on Cabernet Sauvignon but they do make other red wines. We tried their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon; this is blended with Syrah from two different vintages and just a touch of Merlot. Their Syrah is an intense rich fruit and adds some nice structure, mouth feel and dark color to the wine. This is still a young wine of course but is already showing nicely with blackberry, cassis and notes of plum towards the finish. The finish is long and intense, one of those finishes that go on and on! We also tried the 2005 Merlot - merely 1 barrel of this wine was produced. It has an elegant nose and the palate is all about cherries and licorice. Tastings are for serious wine enthusiasts and at some point a retail outlet may be opened in the Napa area. A mailing list is available. For more info as well as some neat cave and other winery photos visit: www.porterfamilyvineyards.com
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Open to Public: No
Regular Tours: No