Barbour Vineyards is owned by long time Napa resident and vineyard manager Jim Barbour and his daughter Fiona. Jim first moved to the Napa Valley from San Francisco when he was a young boy. His family owned a ranch in the 1960’s where Sequoia Grove winery is now located (Rutherford). Jim remembers Highway 29 when he was growing up as a place you could freely ride your bicycle; it certainly did not have the traffic it does today. This was before most of Napa Valley was planted to wine grapes and his family grew prunes, apples and table grapes. Jim convinced his father to plant 5 acres of Chardonnay grapes and when the demand for these grapes outpaced their production they converted over their entire farm to wine grapes. Jim has been growing grapes in the Napa Valley for over 30 years with a focus on hillside vineyards.
Jim left the valley for UC Davis and completed his studies in viticulture and upon graduating returned to the Napa Valley. He worked for Napa vineyard management pioneer Frank (Laurie) Wood from 1975 to 1989 helping control 1200 acres of area vineyards. In 1990 he branched out on his own and started Barbour Vineyard management company; today his company manages over 1000 vineyard acres in Napa and he has been responsible for either planting or maintaining some of the top vineyards in the valley including Blankiet, Fantesca, Grace Family, Chiarello, Casa Piena, Hundred Acre and many more.
In 1992 Jim purchased a 7 acre piece of property just south of St. Helena and planted this to Cabernet Sauvignon. The soils are loamy with lots of gravel; the vineyard is situated fairly close to the base of the Mayacamas Mountains. Barbour sourced the original bud wood from the Grace Family Vineyard to the north of St. Helena (incidentally a vineyard Jim helped initially develop). Jim keeps the production low, usually merely 1 to 2 tons per acre (certainly low for valley floor fruit). In addition his vineyard is dry farmed each year. His first commercial vintage dates from 1995 and every year since has produced a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Their current production is usually between 400 and 500 cases.
Jim has worked in conjunction with a number of Napa winemakers over the years but none closer than Heidi Peterson Barrett. He currently manages vineyards for a number of producers where she is the winemaker and she has been his winemaker since day one.
At the time of this review the 2006 is their current release. This wine is 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Cabernet Franc. Jim tries to find a balance between picking the fruit so that the grapes are not extremely high in sugar at the time of picking. This is an elegant wine that drinks very well by itself but certainly will pair with a number of foods. It has lively natural acidity and an exceptional taste profile that holds its own even without food. The bouquet is appealing with its refined aromas of toffee, mocha, Asian spices and plum. The palate is soft, elegant and shows both plum and red cherry and is layered in flavor. Notes of espresso from the barrels touch the long clean finish which is anchored by fine grained delicate tannins. This wine is most definitely in balance.
Barbour Vineyards is distributed direct through their mailing list and their website. You can find their wines locally at Dean & Deluca and 750 Wines, both in St. Helena. You may taste Barbour’s current release at Revana Winery (north of the town of St. Helena), by prior appointment only. For more information visit: www.barbourwines.com