Grassi Wine Company was founded in 2005 and is owned by the Grassi Family, long time residents of the Napa Valley. Mark Grassi moved to the valley in 1974 and has long held a passion for wine and has been a home winemaker for a number of those years. When he first moved to the valley, he had to decide whether to enter the wine industry or construction, and having friends in the construction industry he chose this field. For many years his firm has built some of the finer custom homes in the valley and has more recently developed high end winery estates.
The beautiful Ovid Estate was their first winery project; this led to additional winery projects including building Cade Winery. Grassi has more recently worked on the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in neighboring Sonoma County and Screaming Eagle in Oakville.
Their 4 acre vineyard is located along the southern part of the Silverado Trail just south of the Oak Knoll District. This vineyard is not exactly valley floor as its set off the floor a bit – it is rolling bench-land on an old river bed (good mix of cobble and soil). Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot are planted. Additional acreage has been purchased and cleared and will be planted to vine soon.
With 35+ years in the valley Mark has made some connections in the industry; these are good people to know when you plan to make wine. Mary Maher, renowned viticulturist at Harlan Estate and The Reserve took the original soil samples and helped decide what varietals to plant where. While their property was not planted to vine at that time they were certainly surrounded by proven vineyards; nearby neighbors sell fruit to Caymus and Silver Oak Cellars owns a 100 acre vineyard next door. Pete Richmond of Silverado Farming manages their vineyard and long time Napa winemaker Peter Franus has made every vintage.
Mark has taken a number of wine related education courses at Napa Valley college and it was in one of his classes that he met his future winemaker, Mr. Franus. They hit it off from the start as they both had similar palates. If they both enjoyed a wine inevitably the rest of the class did not care for that particular wine.
Of note is Grassi produced their first vintage of a second wine in 2009. No this is not your typical Napa second white wine of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, rather it is a Ribolla Gialla, a varietal from the north eastern corner of Italy (Friuli) and parts of Slovenia. At the time of this review there is only one known commercial planting in the USA and it is in Napa County. For 2009 Grassi sourced the fruit from vintner George Vare’s (now deceased) vineyard (he provided the fruit to a number of small Napa producers). Grassi has planted a small estate vineyard of this varietal for future production.
Their vineyard was planted between 2001 and 2002 and their first commercial release came in 2005. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon includes 9% Cabernet Franc and 9% Merlot. The wine has great color – it is dark ruby in the glass. This is a wine that has a powerful, rich always evolving bouquet; a wine that does well with decanting. The nose shows spices including clove and cinnamon, black licorice, anis, sage, vanilla and a perfumy note of lavender. The wine is nicely balanced and structured with a soft rounded mouth feel. It has a palate that shows additional notes of black licorice, cassis and deep dark fruits. The finish shows smooth, rounded, and slightly dusty tannins. With its nice acidity and flavor profile, this is an excellent food wine.
In late 2008 the Wine Spectator featured a number of “hot new” Napa based Cabernet Sauvignon producers. Grassi was included in this select list; of note is their wine was the most affordable priced of any of the producers listed in the article.
Grassi donates 1% of their total gross profits to an organization called 1% For The Planet – funds from businesses who participate in this are distributed to organizations protecting the environment worldwide. This organization was formed by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and his business partner Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies (fishing equipment manufacturer). Grassi is one of the few Napa wineries to participate in this program.
You can find their wines locally at CalWine and Backroom Wines in Napa. They also have good distribution in New York. For more information and to join their mailing list visit: www.grassiwines.com