Maroon Wines was founded by Paul Maroon with his inaugural vintage dating from 2008. The story of the wine goes back a bit further than this. Paul grew up in Pennsylvania (Lebanese heritage) where he helped his father with their family’s produce business. His first introduction to wine was helping his uncle make wine in Pennsylvania. After earning a college degree on the East Coast he came to California for his MBA. After graduating he started selling medical supplies including pacemakers. He worked very closely with hospitals and doctors and ultimately started his own company – specializing in new types of medical devices.
This was a successful business; looking to return to this agricultural roots he moved up from the San Jose Bay Area to the Napa Valley. Simultaneously he purchased property just north of the city of Napa in what is now the Coombsville appellation and three hundred acres on the backside of Howell Mountain in Pope Valley (since sold to the Michael Mondavi Family so Paul could focus on his estate vineyard). Paul became friends with Chris Corley, winemaker at Monticello Winery and also the Crauford Family.
The seeds of the Maroon label actually began with Crauford Wine Company – a women only owned winery that produced their first vintage in 2000. Paul sold them grapes from his property and ultimately he bought them out when they wanted to retire. Chris made all vintages under the Crauford label and continues making the Maroon Wines.
For ten years Paul had a lucrative contract with Joseph Phelps to sell them the Cabernet Sauvignon from his Coombsville vineyard. These grapes were used in their Insignia blend. Before the contract ended, Paul made under two barrels of wine for himself and realized the quality of fruit his vineyard could achieve as a single varietal, single vineyard wine. The contract was not renewed and as a result, his first commercial vintage of Maroon Wines came two years later in 2008.
The focus of Maroon is usually on single varietal, single vineyard wines. Chris’s philosophy is to introduce as little wine making manipulation as possible from the vineyard to the bottle. Along with their “estate” vineyard Maroon sources from a variety of premium vineyards in the valley including from Monticello.
Our initial visit was the day after Coombsville became the most recent sub appellation within the Napa Valley; it is nice to no longer have to say the “soon to be Coombsville appellation”. The views from the estate are fairly unique to Napa – from their hillside location they have a straight shot all the way up the valley to Mt. St. Helena anchoring the northern end.
The property is 35 acres of which approximately 10 acres are planted to vine – entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon. The area boasts good terroir for vines – nearby neighbors include Robert Craig (long time and well-known Cabernet producer in the Napa Valley) and Sodaro Estate. There is a reason vines will never be planted on one side of their property; one of their neighbors is the Napa Country Club.
The 2009 Chardonnay is from the Oak Knoll district in Napa (150 cases). Only 30% of this wine went through malolactic fermentation – “everything we love about Chardonnay,” Maroon’s General Manager Kelly Darter told us – not over oaked and not too buttery either. The bouquet is somewhat tropical along with aromas of citrus blossom. The wine has a lean entry but gains layers of flavor quickly by mid palate through to the finish. It is a lively wine with a long complete finish that shows just a whisper of vanilla.
The 2009 Maroon Vineyard 100% Cabernet Sauvignon reveals an elegant bouquet with an inviting smokiness, black licorice, blackberry, toasted oak – and becomes a bit more floral as it opens. It is obvious right away that this wine has great mouth watering acidity (all natural in this case). This wine is already really balanced for being so young.
Maroon hand crafts a number of very small production wines from vineyard sources that may change from year to year. While the vineyard sources may change, their wine making philosophy does not – focusing on creating 100% varietal wines (no blending). These wines are often only made available to their wine club.
Case in point is a their unique by Napa standard wine – the 2007 100% varietal Petit Verdot. Very few producers in the valley make a 100% Petit Verdot from this varietal – preferring instead to use it as a blending grape. This wine was originally going to be used in a blend but it showed so well by itself it was bottled as a stand alone varietal. It should also be mentioned that Petit Verdot is always among the highest priced grapes by ton.
The 2007 Petit Verdot is a dark inky black wine in the glass. It shows a “pretty” aromatic bouquet with ripe plum, blackberry and truffle. The palate offers a richness of fruit that is often so characteristic of this varietal. Layers of chewy ripe black fruit ripple through the palate from start to the end. The firm structured tannins are slightly course and anchor a deliciously long finish.
The 2013 Malbec is very ripe on the bouquet but this ripeness does not necessarily carry through to the palate. This wine is fairly balanced for being so young at the time of our tasting. 2013 was also the year they introduced a Merlot for the first time.
Visits are for serious wine enthusiasts and collectors of limited production wines and are always with either Kelly (Maroon’s General Manager) or Paul. Their total current production hovers around 10,000 cases. While they are selectively distributed in Texas, Georgia and New York as well as restaurants in San Francisco, Maroon does sell direct. They offer a wine club which features a variety of wines – usually with a production of under several hundred cases. These special select wines are only available to their wine club.
For more information and or to join the wine club, visit: www.maroonwines.com
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