John Anthony Vineyards opened their first ever tasting room in downtown Napa in early July 2010. They are in a prime location, near many restaurants and directly next door to the luxurious Andaz hotel. The simple but luxurious appointed tasting room is a rarity in the Napa Valley in that they are open later then most tasting rooms – until 10pm or 12am on select days. With both a tasting bar and sit down options, and a great location, this space has become one of the go to downtown tasting rooms for both visitors and locals alike. Despite the later closing time, this is not a bar, it is a pleasant and chic place to hang out, especially in the evenings and drink good wine.
Guests sometimes will meet the owner, John Anthony Truchard in the tasting room but he also manages a significant Chardonnay + other wines brand called JAM Cellars and oversees two decently sized vineyard management companies – he spends much of his time in the vineyards. He and his wife Michele have been producing wine commercially for John Anthony Vineyards since their inaugural 2003 vintage. John is the son of Tony and JoAnn Truchard; his parents are pioneer’s in the Carneros district and first planted grapes in the area in 1974 (when John was two years of age).
John originally went to the University of California Davis, as often is the case with sons and daughters of Napa Valley winemaking families. His intent was to major in Enology but he soon changed to Economics – as he says, “you have to know how to sell wine”. True, that part can be the most difficult part of the wine equation for small producers.
In any case his passion is with the vineyards – while in college he started “knocking on doors” as he puts it and soon started managing small pieces of vineyard acreage. He then began leasing land and planting various grape varieties. He recalls doing this very cheaply with minimum costs. Today his wine is made from vineyards he manages. Most of the vineyards that are sourced for their wine are located in the southern part of the Napa Valley including Carneros and Oak Knoll. John prefers long hang times in these cooler climate parts of the valley – the fruit ripens slowly and retains its acidity letting the “greenness” drop out.
The first non commercial release was nicknamed “Blues Booz” and featured their dog on the label. Making a smart business decision he gave away a number of cases to spread the word about their new wine, however upon realizing that he could only give so much away to friends and family he was still left with most of his production. The next vintage turned out even better and at this point he decided to sell commercially.
John initially hired well-known winemaker Alison Doran who crafted their wine for several years. Alison was born and raised in the Los Angeles area and began her career in winemaking in 1973 as a harvest intern working at Simi Winery in Sonoma County which her father had purchased in 1969. André Tchelistcheff was hired as a consultant for Simi Winery; Alison spent time working with and learning from him. She has a degree in winemaking from UC Davis and later worked in Alsace, France and at several wineries in California’s Central Coast. Later, Rob Lloyd was John Anthony’s winemaker for several years (Rob was also a partner with John in his vineyard management company).
Over the years John Anthony’s Sauvignon Blanc has received excellent press and scores from notable publications and has a flavor profile that will appeal to those who can appreciate drinking this variety by itself, often as a summer sipping wine or pre-dinner. The 2009 John Anthony Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc shows plenty of tropical notes including white pineapple and honeysuckle on the bouquet. The palate is balanced, clean and rounded and packs an intensity of fruit flavor from the start to the finish. There is no tartness or citrus-driven notes that one sometimes finds on the finish of this variety – the finish is very clean.
While working with the vintage variances each year, John Anthony strives for consistency, a wine that their customers will come back to again and again because they know the quality and flavor profile. Their Cabernet Sauvignon has already been well-recognized, one year it was ranked in a top 25 Cabernet Sauvignon list released by the Wine Spectator.
The 2006 John Anthony Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (primarily Coombsville fruit) is worth seeking out. The bouquet is quick to reveal aromas of black fruit including fig with a palate that shows cherry and black licorice. The John Anthony Vineyards 2007 Syrah features 3 clones and is a soft velvety wine with a rounded mouth feel. Notes of dusty chocolate are found on the supple finish. Ripe fruit, ripe tannins.
John Anthony even produces a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine.
Art from local well known artist Gordon Heuther is on display in the tasting room. Gordon maintains his own gallery a few minutes drive northeast of downtown and his artwork is also displayed at Artesa winery.
John’s other label, JAM Cellars can often be tasted on site (or simply walk a few doors down the street to the JAM Cellars Tasting room – on the other side of the Andaz Hotel). This is a cleverly assigned name for two reasons, first it is the initials of John Anthony combined with the initial of his wife’s first name, Michele and second these wines can be slightly jammy. They typically have some residual sugar left, are sourced from select sites through California including the Napa Valley and are extremely reasonably priced. See our much more extensive review of JAM Cellars, also reviewed on this website.
For those looking for a more educational John Anthony experience, consider participating on one of their vineyard tours. Visits begin in the John Anthony Vineyards tasting room and then proceed to two of their vineyards (both in the southern part of the valley – each a short drive from the tasting room (Carneros and Oak Knoll). Once at the vineyards, the host will provide information about vineyard management practices and other important information relating to growing grapevines. Also visit www.jamcellars.com for more details.
For every bottle of wine purchased in the tasting room John Anthony donates $1 to the V Foundation for Cancer research.
For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.johnanthonyvineyards.com