Parallel Wines is the only Napa winery with a direct association between Park City, Utah and Napa Valley. In an homage to skiing, Parallel refers to the lines first left after an initial run down ski slopes. The label is creatively designed and reflects these “ski lines”. The winery is owned by four couples all whom have a strong interest in wine. They met in Park City and have developed long term friendships that carried over into this mutual business. Their first vintage was released in 2003.
They initially specialized in a single vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon each year – they now produce an accompanying wine, a Chardonnay from the Russian River in neighboring Sonoma County. Much of the fruit for their wine comes from their spectacular 62 acre vineyard located above Lake Hennessey. In addition, they have contracts with other growers in the valley. This is in the same general mountain area as other well-known Napa wineries including Colgin Cellars and Chappellet Winery (the nearby Pritchard Hill region).
The climate in this region is in part dictated by the moderating influences of the lake below allowing very even growing conditions and moderating temperatures throughout the growing season. Only 7 acres are planted on site – the vines are in very well drained soils which when combined with their particular Cabernet Sauvignon clone produces very small grapes with rich concentrated flavors. No wonder this particular hillside area of the Napa Valley is so highly coveted by wineries.
However even prime hillside vineyard properties have their quirks. One section of the vineyard is named the Turkey block as one year, one night before harvest a flock of wild turkeys descended and devastated most of this block. This is certainly not the first time we’ve heard of this happening in the Napa Valley.
Philippe Melka has been the winemaker since day one (Parallel is one of his older Napa consulting projects – he was named winemaker of the year in 2005 by Food & Wine Magazines). Philippe grew up in Bordeaux, earned his degree in Geology at the University of Bordeaux and later his Master’s degree in Agronomy and Enology. His first wine job was at Château Haut Brion in Bordeaux. His first introduction to the Napa Valley came in 1991 as an intern with Christian Moueix, proprietor of Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux and Dominus in Napa Valley. Philippe came to Dominus to study soils – then spent a few years as a traveling winemaker and ultimately settled in the Napa Valley in 1994.
In what would become the start of a long and successful wine making career, his first two wine making / consulting jobs were in 1995 at Seavey Vineyards and at Lail Vineyards (both of whom he is still involved with today). He also began Atelier Melka in 1995, a wine consulting company specializing in creating limited production premium wines for a variety of well regarded brands – mostly based in the Napa Valley. Atelier in French means an artist’s studio or workroom (where specific skills are taught and passed down). But today he has plenty of help; Atelier Melka employs several accomplished winemakers.
Highly respected vineyard manager, Jim Barbour has also been on board since the beginning. Jim wasn’t always sure he wanted to work in the wine industry. Prior to college he was leaning towards being a parole officer and actually attended Chico State in their criminal justice program. Learning about the low pay and tough job conditions, Jim then transferred to UC Davis.
At UC Davis he completed his studies and upon graduating with a degree in plant science, returned to the Napa Valley. He worked for Napa vineyard management pioneer Frank (Laurie) Wood from 1975 to 1989 helping control 1200 acres of area vineyards. After Laurie retired in 1990, that same year Jim branched out on his own and began Barbour Vineyard management company; today his company manages over 500 vineyard acres in Napa and he has been responsible for either planting or maintaining some of the top vineyards in the valley including Blankiet, Fantesca, Grace Family, Chiarello, Casa Piena, Hundred Acre and many more. And over the years Jim has worked with some of the top winemakers in all of Napa Valley.
The 2005 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with 8% Merlot & 1% Petit Verdot. This wine is dark ruby in color with a rich complex nose that includes floral and black current aromas. The elegant mouth feel is soft and full bodied with black cherry, chocolate and a cigar box type smokiness that completes the finish.
Due to the overwhelming response they received for early vintages (based on price to quality ratio) they ultimately established a wine club. Lastly, their 2006 lot earned the 9th highest bid at Premier Napa Valley, a trade only fundraiser held annually in February. Not bad for a winery that was fairly new at that time.
All their wine is made at Brasswood Estate in St. Helena (where tastings are by appointment). AS of our latest update to this review, three tasting options are offered including the Après Wine Tasting (featuring three current releases + a tate of a library wine), the Lunch & Wine Tasting which includes the same tasting flight as the Après Wine Tasting but with a selection of food from Brasswood Restaurant, and a Vertical Wine Tasting which includes a vertical of their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon or all Cabernet Sauvignon.
For more information or to join their wine club, visit: www.parallelwines.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a **major** update.