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 well-appointed 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) for Truchard Vineyards.
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 of John Anthony Vineyards 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.
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 2019 John Anthony Church Vineyard, Carneros Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (primarily made with the Musqué clone) is medium yellow in color; offers attractive aromatics that are partly floral and partly tropical in nature. Shows aromas of mango, honeysuckle, hibiscus, yellow pineapple and baked apple. The texture is creamy, almost saline in its feel. Not green, not grassy; certainly not the noted leaner style often associated with New Zealand wines from this variety. Rather the flavors embrace California’s sunshine and its resulting attributes. Clocks in with higher alcohol at nearly 15% with resulting flavors more tropical including of pineapple, passion fruit and ripe pineapple guava. Lingers with a rich finish showcasing the intensity of the fruit but complemented nicely with a zing of acidity. This wine went through 40% malolactic fermentation and was barrel aged for three months.
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.
The 2019 John Anthony Napa Valley Chardonnay is deep golden in color; offers a nice diversity of aromas including margarine, crème Brule, pineapple, almond, vanilla, some dessert spice nuances deeper into the aromatics and ripe Crane Melon (reference the Crane Melon Farm in neighboring Sonoma County). Creamy and velvety, the palate is complemented with lively acidity which balances out the slightly viscous texture. Offers flavors of mandarin, butter, dried orange peel, vanilla and some toasted oak notes. This is a very rich showing with persistent flavors on the finish. This wine was aged 8 months in 100% American oak: 80% was new and 20% neutral.
John Truchard also produces another label with wines bottled as Farm Napa Valley. The logo on each bottle is an outline of the shadow of a farmer carrying a shovel. The inception for this brand came from a number of the small vineyard sites he oversees for his vineyard management company and all wines bottled under this label are managed by Farm Napa Valley. These wines can also be tasted or purchased directly from the tasting room.
The 2017 Farm Napa Valley Pinot Noir is pale to medium ruby in color; shows an intense bouquet with aromas of black raspberry, white pepper, and rose stems and a hint of vanilla. Also some old cedar box notes. Its aromatic presentation is initially somewhat savory, although give this wine some time and the aromatics show more fruit and desert spice sweetness as it evolves in the glass. On the palate the wine offers flavors of licorice, strawberry and cherry cola. The tannins are noticeable with an earthy note and a light grip. Lingers with a subtle hint of dried tobacco flavor and some darker spices along with primarily red fruits including cranberry.
The 2018 John Anthony Napa Valley 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color; shows ripe fruit including blackberry and plum, both of these aromas are complemented nicely with notes of sweaty leather, violets, dark chocolate, Graham cracker and an Asian five-star spice component. Also offers a hint of tobacco smoke. The wine is juicy and mouth watering across the palate, with flavors of plum, blackberry and black licorice. The finish shows darker spices including notes of cracked peppercorn. The tannins are earthy and drying with a gravelly texture and a medium to heavier grip which persists for quite some time on the finish.
John Anthony sometimes produces a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc dessert wine, the most recent vintage at the time of our update to these notes was from 2011.
Art from local and well known artist Gordon Heuther is sometime 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.
The Church Vineyard is worth noting because the a real church sits among the vines in Carneros. This building was originally constructed in 1886 in Pennsylvania but later reconstructed in Napa and renovated in 2018. The inside is still setup as a church with pews, the original stained-glass windows and a bell tower.
For every bottle of wine purchased in the tasting room John Anthony donates $1 to the V Foundation for Cancer research.
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a *major* update.
For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.johnanthonyvineyards.com