Mahoney Vineyards is one of two brands associated with Carneros (the other being Fleur de California). This wine company and both brands are owned by Francis and Kathy Mahoney; Mahoney Vineyard’s first vintage dates from 2004. However Francis has been strongly associated with Carneros and Pinot Noir since the early 1970’s. He and his business partner Balfour Gibson founded Carneros Creek Winery in 1972 (the first new winery built in Carneros since prohibition).
With a last name of Mahoney, the family is clearly from Ireland. Francis’s parents immigrated to California from County Cork, Ireland in the 1920’s. Francis still has family in Ireland – both of his parents’ families continue to own and operate farms in County Cork. Francis begin to appreciate European wines after spending time working his family farms (in the 1960’s) and traveling to some of Europe’s most well known wine regions (where he became intrigued with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay).
After studying enology at the University of California, Davis eventually he and Kathy moved from San Francisco to Carneros. Francis was in his late 20’s at the time, had a strong passion for wine and was confident that the Carneros growing region could produce world class Burgundian styled wines. Francis was one of the first to plant Pinot noir grapes in Carneros. He work with Pinot Noir research and UC Davis helped determine the best Pinot Noir clones to plant in the region. His research has proven critical in helping advance the overall quality of Pinot Noir in not just the Napa Valley but throughout cooler climate regions in California and Oregon.
Francis has always been an experimenter – while Pinot noir is the varietal he has spent his life focusing on he’s always explored Italian, French and Spanish varietals. Currently Mahoney Vineyards owns three vineyards in Carneros – on the Napa side, the Mahoney Ranch (home vineyard) is planted to numerous clones of Pinot Noir; the nearby Gavin Vineyard produces Chardonnay and Las Brisas Vineyard located on the Sonoma side of Carneros is planted to additional clones of Pinot Noir and a what is an extremely rare varietal for Carneros, Vermentino (a white grape prominently grown in Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily and Liguria Italy).
Francis has long touted the varietal expression in wines – making balanced wines that pair well with foods, rather than wines heavily oaked. He prefers wines that are terroir driven – varietals best suited to certain soils and micro-climates.
While Mahoney makes a number of wines under their own label – the amount of fruit sourced from his Carneros vineyards are just a fraction of what he grows. Most of the fruit is sold to a number of premium mostly Napa producers. Even in Carneros with its proximity to the San Pablo Bay there are a variety of micro-climates on their own vineyard. Parts of the vineyard are more windy, parts are more sheltered and parts are warmer (where the Syrah grows).
Francis has founded several wineries and wine brands over the years. You come here for their Pinot noir’s of course as that is what they are most known for; when we visited 4 of the 5 wines on their tasting menu were Pinots. Our favorite is the Las Brisas with various fruit flavors, mostly cherry, a little spiciness and a beautiful long finish.
In the past, they have made an excellent very dark in color “cold weather” Syrah from their Mahoney Vineyard in the Carneros region. It is ready to drink now, shows a little pepper typical of this type of wine and has lots of berry flavors on the palate.
Their Montepulciano shows berries and black pepper spice with decent acidity. Try finding this varietal at another Napa associated winery.
Tastings are now by appointment (either with one of the Mahoney’s or one of their long time employees) as they have been approved for a tasting permit at their property on Dealy Lane in Carneros. Plans call for building a tasting room on site – we will update this once we have more information.
Their offices and Mahoney vineyard are located down the street from what used to be Mahoney Winery on Dealy Lane (now Kieu Hoang). However, their wines are produced in neighboring Sonoma County at a production facility just outside the city of Sonoma.
Note: This review has been identified as needing a major update as we originally tasted at their old tasting room located across from Oxbow Public Market several years ago (that tasting room has since been operated by another vintner collective for a number of years).
For more information, visit www.carneroswinecompany.com