Laird Family Estate is located just off of Highway 29 near the intersection of Oak Knoll Road. A bit of Napa trivia to get your attention: the original plans for this winery were to be used by nearby Dominus Estate. However Dominus decided upon a totally different design and with a few modifications, Laird used their original design.
No appointment is needed to sample their fine array of reasonably priced wines. Built upon many years of experience, Ken Laird, the owner and founder opened the winery and tasting room in 1998.
Always the visionary, Ken built the winery much larger than for his own production needs. Today Laird Family is one of the largest custom crush wineries in Napa Valley – home to over 60 small wineries. These producers bring in their grapes during harvest – and during a visit the crush pad and winery is a buzz of activity – easily seen from their outdoor terrace.
Walking into Laird’s barrel storage rooms or among their winery operations is like walking into the guts of the Napa Valley. During harvest especially, the winery is a hive of activity with forklifts running, pumps operating, and wine making staff busily handling work orders.
Several large state of the art production facilities are located on site. For the winemaker, producing wine here is also educational as you are working along side other area winemakers. It is not a competitive environment and winemakers often help out each other. Their own winery is a client of their custom crush facility as all their own wines are made on site. Numerous now well known vintners got their start here in the past; Colgin Winery along with well respected vintners Paul Hobbs and Bob Egelhoff to name just a few. Laird also offers mobile bottling & a multitude of other winery services – www.lairdcustomcrush.com
And Laird maintains a major wine facility within the Napa Airport Business Park (south of the city of Napa). They have the capacity to store 2.5 million-gallons of bulk wine with additional space for up to 50,000 cases of wine in their climate controlled warehouse. More information about these services is available here: www.lairdwineservices.com
While this winery is located in the southern part of the valley, Laird’s history in Napa actually started further to the north in Calistoga with the purchase of their first vineyard (an abandoned fruit orchard). Ken and his wife Gail drove up from the San Francisco Bay area for a romantic weekend and fell in love with the entire valley. They had no background in wine at the time (still not an uncommon story in Napa) and needed to raise capital to actually purchase the vineyard.
The bank told them to “do some homework” before they would lend any money. Looking through the phone book Ken saw merely 8 Napa wineries listed and the only one he recognized was Robert Mondavi. Short story told, he met Robert at the site of what was going to be Ken’s new vineyard and Robert told Ken what to plant and said he would buy the grapes for the next 20 years. Good timing on that partnership as Mondavi’s fledgling winery was merely 2 years old at this time!
More good timing occurred in the early 1980’s when the Lairds purchased land in the Carneros region which at that time more known as providing good grazing land for sheep. Today the Carneros is Napa’s world renowned cool climate terroir – ideal for producing top quality Pinot noir and Chardonnay. Currently Laird is one of Napa’s largest growers (if not the largest), managing over 2400 acres. With so many acres they have a wide diversity of grapes to choose from for their wines.
This is very much a family affair with Ken & Gail’s children involved; Justin oversees all their vineyards and Rebecca is the General Manager of the winery including of their custom crush facility.
Their tasting room is spacious with plenty of windows allowing one to look out onto the winery and vineyards in the distance. In mid July 2017 the tasting room building was significantly expanded. During the construction of this, tastings were temporarily conducted out of a fancy airstream trailer. Guests who enter their hospitality center can view their original small tasting bar directly in front of the entrance – simply turn to the left to reach the main tasting room. This tasting room contains a smaller room that can seat larger groups (up to 10 people) for appointment only private tastings. Weather permitting, the outside western facing seat are the most coveted spots here – with cozy sofa like chairs overlooking the vineyards.
Often popular with cyclists (considering their prime location near the Napa Valley Vine Trail (for bikes and pedestrians). We’ve also seen several bike tour companies bring people here to enjoy lunch plus wine tastings.
As of our latest visit, choose from two tasting options, a Standard Tasting or their Reds Only Tasting. Individual wines can also be ordered by the glass or by the bottle. Each tasting flight includes five wines – each wine has it’s own unique taste and style. Their ever-popular Chardonnays are sourced from the southern part of the Napa Valley. Their Cabernet Sauvignon’s and Merlots are styled so that you can drink them young.
The Ghost Ranch Pinot Noir is from the Napa side of Carneros – the 2014 Laird Ghost Ranch Pinot Noir shows spicy notes on the bouquet both from the fruit and from the oak. As it opens it reveals aromas of mushroom or truffles. Somewhat earthy. Soft on the entry, this wine is light yet very balanced. Lingering notes of oak and subtle white pepper show on the finish. The name of this wine comes from the name of the vineyard – apparently vineyard workers have at times noticed ‘people’ within the vineyard – and as they approach them, these people totally disappear.
One of their most popular wines is the Jillian’s Red Wine Blend. The 2012 Laird Family Jillian’s is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. Shows pink purplish hues on the rim with a darker ruby red core. Initially shows a noticeable dustiness on the bouquet – almost like the smell after a summer rain drops onto dry soil. This opens to a more floral characteristic – violets with aromas of blackberry. Shows a pleasing richness on the palate with fairly muscular tannins that persist for some time. Good steak wine. Very reasonably priced for the quality.
The 2012 Laird Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon initially shows a smoky elegance on the bouquet with an herbal hint – which over time opens to reveal pretty fruit aromas – fruit forward, with a little dessert spice sweetness. Drinks easily with a lingering liveliness on the finish. Pleasing earthy tannins linger for some time. Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah blend. It is a big wine with lots of structure and is named after Ken’s grand daughter.
Laird typically produces only several hundred cases per variety, so purchasing wine at the tasting room is your best bet. Due to all the custom crush winery clients who use this facility, this is one of our most often visited Napa wineries. We’ve tasted with a number of winemakers outside next to the olive trees. Laird is sometimes referred to as “the Napa pyramid” due to its unique design (they even offer a Pyramid Tasting which pairs small bites iwth a variety of wines – available by reservation only).
Laird Family also owns the winery facility that Andretti Winery uses and leases the tasting room to Andretti – and in 2013 they purchased Silverado Hill Winery on the southern part of the Silverado Trail for additional custom crush facilities. They renamed this winery to Laird Wine Studio. This winery is currently only used for production while the original tasting room remains closed. If this tasting room is ever re-opened we will of course re-visit and update this review.
For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.lairdfamilyestate.com
Laird Family Estate
Laird Wine Services