Laird Family Estate is located just off of Highway 29 near the intersection of Oak Knoll Road. Here is a bit of Napa trivia. The original plans for this winery facility 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 wines. Built upon many years of experience, Ken Laird, the owner and founder built a winery and tasting room in 1998. Always the visionary, Ken built the winery much larger than his own needs.
Today Laird Family estates is one of the largest custom crush wineries in Napa Valley with over 60 small wineries and winemakers bringing their fruit on site during the crush season. As a result, harvest is always a crazy time to be working in the production side of this winery. They have several large state of the art production facilities on site and making 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. Interestingly, one of their own customers is themselves as Laird makes their own brand on site. Some well known vintners have already come through their doors; cult Colgin Winery, well respected Paul Hobbs, and Bob Egelhoff to name a few. Laird also offers mobile bottling & a multitude of other winery services – www.lairdfamilybottling.com
While this winery is located in the southern part of the valley, Laird’s history in Napa actually started way 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 was pretty much just known to supply 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, managing over 2000 acres. This is very much a family affair with Ken & Gail’s children involved including Justin who oversees all their vineyards.
Their tasting room is small and is not setup for large groups, however weather permitting there are rod iron tables and chairs outside. We’ve seen several bike tour companies bring people here for outside lunches. As of our latest visit, a tasting includes a rather lengthy flight of 9 or 10 wines including 4-5 Chardonnays – each with their own unique taste and style. This is certainly one of the largest tasting flight selections you will find at any Napa winery! Their Carneros Chardonnay undergoes 100% Malolactic Fermentation and has notes of honey, apple and citrus; it is delicious! Their Cabernets and Merlots are styled so that you can drink them young. Also try the Jillian’s Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah blend. It is a big wine with lots of structure and is named after Ken’s grand daughter.
Nice large glass windows surround the tasting room with a small adjoining gift shop. Laird typically produces only several hundred cases per varietal, 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 probably our most often visited Napa winery! 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. Visit: www.lairdfamilyestate.com
Wine with Tony