Modus Operandi Wines is operated by Jason Moore, a Texas transplant to the Napa Valley. Jason worked for several years in the restaurant industry waiting tables at fine establishments while living in Dallas and during this time earned his real estate license. He would wait tables by night and sell real estate by day. Ambitions of going on to a successful career in real estate were slowly squelched when he realized this was something that he was just not passionate about. Racking his brain for a career that would combine “fun” and education with something he was already passionate about clicked one day when his wife said “how about doing something with wine”.
This seriously hit home and within months they had sold most everything they owned and moved to Davis, California with the possible intent of attending UC Davis (prominent enology and viticulture programs) down the line. While in Davis he started to learn as much about wine as possible by immersing himself in wine making books, talking to other UC Davis enology and viticulture students and those in the industry. Being a hands on guy and describing winemaking as “art supported by science” he eventually decided he needed to get some hands on experience.
What turned into a fortuitous event occurred at a wine tasting. He met a Napa vineyard owner who had bought a piece of land for a vacation home which happened to have a sizeable vineyard. At the tasting, this gentleman told Jason about his vineyard and that he knew next to nothing about vineyard management and winemaking. Jason asked if it would be ok if he took his second crop and the reply came back that he could have the entire first crop.
Many things are often said at tastings and you never know if someone is serious or not. Several months later Jason approached this man and the deal was still on. In addition, he bought Jason all the necessary wine making equipment and setup a small lab containing everything he needed in a garage. Jason was able to put all his theory and studying to the test and he made several garagiste produced vintages. During this time he was still working in the hospitality industry, in this case at the well regarded La Toque Restaurant which at the time was located in Yountville.
These were extremely long days in Napa (while still commuting between Davis) – besides his job at La Toque and his own wine making project he was also on the wine making team at Viader where he furthered his winemaking experience. It is clear that Jason has a well focused passion for his art and truly enjoys wine making. Working with a number of small lots he has the flexibility and interest to experiment with different yeasts, barrel programs and a number of other wine making techniques using grapes from the same vineyard. This experimentation is more of a long term philosophy by over time choosing what works and applying this to future harvests.
His first vintage was in 2004 and 2009 will be the first vintage at “JuiceBox”, a state of the art new “business park” winery located in south Napa. A number of wines are made here including several already well established brands. Jason also makes wines here for a few other small boutique producers.
We met with Jason soon after he returned from visiting small family owned vineyards in France – as he says, his plan is a long term one for his own wine. He wants to pass this business down to his family similar to how generations run small wineries in France, Italy and other European countries. He currently makes three labels; Modus Operandi, Vicarious and Antithesis.
The 2008 Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from an organic vineyard in Rutherford. This wine strikes a very nice balance between the more grassy New Zealand styled Sauvignon Blancs and the Napa more fruit forward versions. It is a wine that is a result of several years prior experience using fruit from this vineyard as well as testing different yeast regiments and barrel programs. This wine saw both tank and barrel during its aging, is pale straw in the glass with excellent aromatics including notes of citrus blossom and honeysuckle. The palate is not overly creamy or for that matter too lean. It is crisp and clean with a super long finish leaving lingering notes of citrus on the palate including grapefruit.
All of the Modus red wines are blends – the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is from some excellent vineyard sources including the Rocca Vineyards in cooler Coombsville (just east of the town of Napa), Merlot from Oakville and a bit of Cabernet Franc from the Crocker Starr Vineyard in St. Helena. This is a dark wine with lots of black fruit showing on the nose as well as touches of cocoa powder and cedar. The entry is soft and juicy but builds up structure rather quickly by the mid palate leading to a finish with broad dusty tannins. Jason is very careful in his tannin management and his red wines do not display huge chalky tannin based finishes, rather they are meant to be enjoyed now and with food.
The 2007 Vicarious is a unique red blend including the majority varietal being Cabernet Sauvignon as well as smaller amounts of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot. This wine will be released in October 2009. It is a wine that over delivers for the price. It is a soft and voluptuous wine that is extremely dark in color. In our opinion, this is the type of wine that will probably appeal to a wide variety of palates. It shows dark berry fruit, dark chocolate and is a good candidate to pair with something gamey or something BBQ’d. Rounded dusty tannins anchor the pleasing finish.
His Antithesis is a very unique proprietary red wine which combines two varietals we have not yet seen in a wine from a Napa producer. If you are lucky to get your hands on this wine you can test your palate to try and identify these two red varietals! The Antithesis is made in such small quantities that is sells out rather quickly.
Collectors take notice: an extremely unique and rare wine is the Modus Operandi Collection Series wine. For three years in a row at a wine dinner Jason asked the proprietor of Tonnellerie Sylvain, Jean-Luc Sylvain if he would sell him a extremely limited production barrel called Collection. After describing the special attributes of how he would make and market this wine, i.e, it would be see extended barrel aging, special bottling etc – Jean-Luc relented.
Jason purchased his first Collection barrel in 2010 and is allocated merely one barrel a year. These are some of the world’s most expensive barrels of their size. Sylvain has access to a specific forest in France where only one ancient tree is cut down each year. Jason inscribes the approximate year the tree was planted along with the year it was cut down. These are trees that date back to the 1600’s.
Modus Operandi wines are generally distributed in a number of select restaurants in certain states nationwide including California, NY and Florida. Their total production is currently under 1000 cases. As expected you can find the wines at La Toque Restaurant in Napa and also V Wine Cellars, an upscale wine shop in Yountville. Modus maintains a wine club. A bonus for being a member are the small lot wines – these are made from the individual components that will appear in the final blends.
Also of note is Jason’s Sauvignon Blanc made it to the White House. It was served at President Obama’s first State Dinner for the Prime Minister of India.
As of July 2015 Modus Operandi offers their wines in a tasting room called The Wine Thief that features small production Napa based vintners. This tasting room is located on the corner of 1st and McKinstry Streets directly across from Gott’s Roadside Hamburgers and the Oxbow Public Market.
Wines are available for tasting by walk-in at the tasting counter, or from one of two automatic dispenser wine stations (by the taste, by the half glass or by the glass). Appointments can also be made to try the current release of their wines in one of the two private rooms on site. They also can arrange tastings at the winery in St. Helena where they make the wine. For more information, visit: www.moduswines.com
Video by Cellar Angels