PlumpJack Winery was founded by former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, businessman and philanthropist, Gordon Getty and partners. This property is located on the eastern side of the Oakville Cross Road; nearby prestigious neighbors include Screaming Eagle, Groth & Rudd. This winery is only one part of the entire complex of PlumpJack holdings including restaurants, cafes, clothing, and resorts including in Carmel and Lake Tahoe (Squaw Valley). Plumpjack used to own the Carneros Resort, near the city of Napa.
PlumpJack’s beginnings were in San Francisco; in 1992 they opened a wine shop called PlumpJack Wines in the Fillmore District. Today they also operate a second wine shop in Noe Valley (San Francisco).
The PlumpJack property dates back to 1881 – originally known as Mt. Eden Winery. Former owners, James and Anne McWilliams began Villa Mt. Eden Winery in 1974 with their founding winemaker Nils Venge. Twelve years later they sold the brand – the wine was no longer made on site and then eventually the Villa Mt. Eden brand was moved to what is now Conn Creek Winery, later started producing all non Napa wines and today no longer seems to be in business.
And then the PlumJack Group purchased the 42-acre property – their first winery in the Napa Valley (today they also own Cade, Odette Estate and Cade at 13th Vineyard. Long associated with PlumpJack, John Conover (who we originally met with) joined the team in 1999 as their General Manager. John later would be instrumental in developing both Cade and Odette Estate (and is a partner in those wineries).
All their holdings are named after items from the Shakespearian era and Plump Jack is the nickname Queen Elizabeth gave to one of the fictional characters that appeared in several of Shakespeare’s plays. It is also a play of the same name that Gordon Getty wrote.
The drive in to PlumpJack is along a very narrow winding road directly through the vineyards. Tour buses and large limo’s are not allowed so theoretically group sizes should be small at the tasting counter, however there are often limos & buses in the parking lot and the tasting room can really fill up at times especially on Friday afternoons and Saturdays. The winery is small as far as Napa Wineries go; the tasting counter is intimate and there is a gift shop adjacent to the tasting counter. There is always a high energy vibe at the tasting counter which if crowded spills outside the door onto the grounds. PlumpJack is wildly popular with the late 20’s, 30’s and early 40’s crowd. No appointments are necessary – just drive in.
PlumpJack is a pioneer in the valley in the use of screw cap enclosures rather than corks. They first introduced this capsule on one of their most premium wines, a 1997 Reserve Caberent Sauvignon, Oakville at the Napa Valley Wine Auction. They bottled 50% of this wine as screw cap – a tradition that continues for select wines. There are several benefits to this type of closure; the most important one being the elimination of cork taint – trichloroanisole (TCA) and bottle consistency. Hopefully more and more wineries will start using these capsules as peoples “perceptions” of screw caps on wine change.
PlumpJack offers several tasting experiences including their current release tasting at the bar – or the more intimate current release tasting at either the vineyard patio or garden courtyard and the even more secluded Hilltop tasting (which also includes a taste of library wines).
Over several visits, we have enjoyed a diversity of wines including the excellent 2006 PlumpJack Reserve Chardonnay. Compared to most area wineries you pay a bit more for this Chardonnay but its worth the price. It undergoes no malolactic fermentation, sees little oak during it’s aging and is not “oaky” or buttery – rather it is a crisp Burgundian style wine with pretty aromas of pineapple and pear on the bouquet with similar flavors on the palate.
The 2005 PlumpJack Syrah comes from Stagecoach Vineyards high on Atlas Peak as well from the cooler Carneros region. Blending fruit from two radically different vineyard sites has its advantages. The Carneros fruit helps provide the acidity while the Stagecoach vineyard contributes structure and overall pleasing fruit aromas and flavors.
In general, the PlumpJack Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is a robust wine yet retains its balance – this seems like a contradiction to say this in the same sentence. However in this case the muscular tannins are well balanced by the bright vivid fruit and good acidity.
PlumpJack owns several other wineries in the Napa Valley. Odette Estate is located along the Silverado Trail in the Stags Leap District and the original CADE Estate Winery is high on the slopes of Howell Mountain.
In 2016 PlumpJack acquired a historic property on Howell Mountain – what was originally Brun & Chaix Winery, followed by Chateau Woltner and most recently Ladera Winery. This winery was built with rock quarried from fairly close to where it stands – it inactive during prohibition and later revived. Tastings can be arranged at any of these other properties (both CADE properties are by appointment only).
PlumpJack is active in the Northern California philanthropy scene & supports a variety of charity organizations. For more information and or to join one of their Falstaff Society wine club membership options, visit: www.plumpjackwinery.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing a *MAJOR* update.
Winery & Grounds
Plumpjack Wine & Spirits, FILLMORE San Francisco
Photos coming soon!
Plumpjack Wine & Spirits, NOE VALLEY San Francisco
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PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn
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