Marciano Estate. There are a certain number of properties within the Napa Valley that are uniquely special based on the site, history or vineyard pedigree. What is now Marciano Estate is one of these properties. It is 60 acres located in the rolling lower elevation hills of the Mayacamas Mountains south west of the town of St. Helena. Some of it’s historical vineyard neighbors include the Hayne Vineyard and Lewelling Vineyards.
The property was under ownership of the Bourn Family, a prominent family in St. Helena. They called this property the Madroño estate. This is the same family that owned the Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley, California (one of the most notable gold mines in the state and now a State Historic Park). This family (William Bourn II) is also connected with the construction of the impressive Greystone Cellars Winery in St. Helena (now occupied by the Culinary Institute of America). There is still even a Bourn Vineyard just west of the town of St. Helena – a portion of which is owned by prominent grower Andy Beckstoffer. The Bourn’s owned their Madroño property from 1872 until the late 1950’s.
The Bourn Family eventually sold this estate to the Christian Brothers who in turned used it as a Catholic retreat center. After they sold it, a family purchased and planted 20 acres of grapes on site with the fruit going into the portfolio of several local wineries. In 2006 long time collector (especially of older Bordeaux wines) Maurice Marciano purchased the property and over the subsequent years invested his creativity along with many others into building what has become a remarkable estate.
Maurice was born and raised in Marseille, France and is most well-know for being the co-founder of Guess Inc., along with his three brothers. He is also a prolific art collector and opened a contemporary art museum (Marciano Art Foundation) in Los Angeles (one of the great museum cities in the country) at the end of May 2017 but this museum permanently closed at the end of December 2019.
An estate like this with its historical pedigree should be focused on it’s own vineyards and estate wines. And it is; Maurice purchases no grapes from other vineyards. The property has changed dramatically since his purchase in 2006. He hired prominent architect Howard Backen of St. Helena based Backen, Gillam, & Kroeger Architects to design the winery and David Abreu to manage the vineyards.
After David Abreu provided his initial vineyard evaluation, the joint decision was made to cut the vineyard acreage in half from twenty acres to ten – focusing on the most premium sites on the property. Today four of the five major Bordeaux red varietals are planted – the exception being Malbec. Five of the other ten acres were then planted to olive trees – and now there are nearly 1000 olive trees on site planted to both Italian and Spanish cultivars. They produce a premium olive oil each year – most recently taking top recognition at the annual Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition.
Ultimately the winery design took on the contours of the rounded shapes and curvatures of the various features on the property. The stand alone barrel room is the signature building on site – one that your eye immediately is attracted to upon pulling up to the winery. This contains two vintages of wine. The winery itself is state-of-the-art featuring small tanks that correspond to each block within the vineyard.
Winemaker Morgan Maureze was an early member of the winemaking team – soon after Mauricio purchased the property. He has played an integral role in both making the wine and helping oversee the vineyards (today they have their own in-house viticulture and vineyard management team).
Morgan was born in France to a wine-making family (where he only spent several years of his childhood). He moved with his family to the Napa Valley in 1985 where his father became the General Manager of Dominus Winery in Yountville. Growing up immersed in both the French and the American wine world perhaps it was natural that he followed his family’s wine pursuits.
He earned his degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis and then moved to France to continue his education through the University of Bordeaux working at famed wineries such as Petrus and ultimately completing his Masters Thesis at the storied Domaine de la Romanee Conti. Returning to the Napa Valley he joined winemaker Andy Erickson’s team – assisting him make wine at a number of Napa’s most premium properties including Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle among others.
There is something to be said for working on a property since it’s inception – especially the vineyards. Morgan has been able to fine tune details both in the vineyard and in the winery based on the maturity of the vines, differing vintages and the specific terroir on this estate.
His attention to detail is highly focused in the winery – using technology to complement and perhaps backup his own observations both in the vineyard and in the winery. While the technology is nice to have (and this winery certainly uses it), Morgan is quick to state that the human observation of the vineyards is critical. He walks the vines often looking for things out of the ordinary; in the winery they use automatic pump overs, each tank is equipped with it’s own pump (which saves time and prevents possible contamination or blending issues) but he finds he needs to taste the wine more often – checking for flavor development, tannins levels and other important attributes during the actual wine making.
Marciano Estate produces five wines – their total production is around 1200 cases annually (they tend to hold a sizable percentage of wines back for their Library). We tried the following three wines:
Their Sauvignon Blanc vineyard is separate from the rest of the vineyard – this block sees a lot of shade and Morgan often has it picked several times during harvest to ensure he is only picking the grapes when they are ready. They ferment this varietal in concrete eggs (also used in their red wine program). These ‘eggs’ are state of the art with the heating and cooling system built directly into the ‘shell’ or in the concrete rather then being an external device.
The 2015 Massiglia Sauvignon Blanc was made to preserve the freshness and liveliness of this particular varietal. The wine was not stirred on the lees post fermentation – was aged in both new French Oak, 25% stainless steel barrels and 50% neutral oak. This wine is bright golden in color; it reveals a delicious bouquet bursting with aromatics including green apple, more subtle notes of pineapple and as it opens a diversity of citrus aromas show including lime. It is balanced with lingering sweetness and tartness along with very subtle notes of toasted caramel.
The 2013 Massiglia Red Wine is dark ruby in the glass revealing a voluptuous nose with an elegant core of fruit woven throughout the bouquet. Black currant, cassis and more – this wine is well layered aromatically. Darker fruit shows – black currant, black cherry with flavors of cassis anchored by earthy tannins – with nuances of smoke on the finish. Ample structure with plenty of flavor.
The 2013 Marciano Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – their flagship wine is from the best blocks on the property. This vintage/wine is also blended with 7% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. It is ‘generous’ as Morgan puts it – generous in aroma and flavor. It is quite dark in the glass with sweet aromatics showing blackberry, elegant cedar notes and mocha. The tannins, are dusty, earthy in nature – they do not necessarily have a course feel on the palate but provide plenty of structure to the long finish. Balanced but big, yet still retains some elegance.
A very unique offering from a Napa based winery is Kosher wine. We know of only two other true kosher producers making wine in the Napa Valley (Hagafen & Padis – which is made at Hagafen). Morgan oversees the entire wine-making for this wine but does not physically touch anything related to making this wine (tanks, barrels, the wine itself). Rabbi’s are brought in from Berkeley to do the hands on work as needed. Demand has been high for this premium rare wine (Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) and production has increased accordingly.
Also of note, Maurice (along with his brother Paul and Christian Navarro – a noted wine expert) – purchased one of Los Angeles’s iconic wine shops, Wally’s Wine & Spirits in 2013. They have since opened a second branch of Wally’s in Beverly Hills (a diverse and excellent selection at this store from personal experience and attending a Napa winery release here) and are in the process of opening a third Wally’s in Santa Monica.
The wines are available through their mailing list and also at select restaurants in both the Napa Valley and Los Angeles including Meadowood and The French Laundry and at Spago and Cut in Beverly Hills. And of course at Wally’s.
For more information about the estate, their wines and olive oil please visit: www.marcianoestate.com