Redmon Wines is a small St. Helena based producer focusing on small lot wines – typically wines with a production of under 300 cases. Their total annual production is only around 1500 cases. The winery is owned by Lisa Redmon; as a sole proprietorship, she wears all the ‘hats’ that comes with owning a small winery. This includes wine making decisions, input into vineyard management and overseeing the sales and distribution. Lisa is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area but has lived in Napa for 40+ years.
The roots of Redmon began when Lisa’s father Tom moved the family to the Napa Valley in the early 1970’s and purchased the only “fast food” restaurant in all of the northern Napa Valley – the A&W in St. Helena. This will remain the only fast food restaurant in St. Helena as it was grandfathered in before an ordinance prohibiting fast food restaurants in the town. A number of family members worked at this restaurant over the years including Lisa when she was a child. She recalls her father talked to her teachers at St. Helena high requesting she leave class 20 minutes early to work the lunch shift at the restaurant (across the street from the high school) and she would go back to school with her lunch – naturally a hamburger. The family owned the A&W for some 35 years before eventually selling it. Using the profits from the restaurant, in the early 1990’s Tom purchased a 3.5 acre vineyard directly behind and west of Corison Winery – a short distance in from highway 29 in the town of St. Helena.
This small vineyard is entirely planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and many of the original vines dating back to the late 1960’s are still in production (clone 6 planted on St. George rootstock – a phylloxera resistant rootstock). Any Cabernet Sauvignon vines still commercially producing from the 1960s growing in the Napa Valley or older are in a very select group of company. Others in the valley we know of that are 50 years or older include some vines at Scarecrow Vineyard in Rutherford, at Spring Mountain Vineyards, MACDONALD Vineyard in Oakville and perhaps the oldest still producing in the Napa Valley, the Monastery block in the famed To Kalon Vineyard with original vines dating back to the 1940s – owned by Constellation (Robert Mondavi).
Eventually Lisa took over the management of the vineyard from her father. At the time the vines were all head trained without trellising, the rows were planted 10 feet apart from each other and the entire vineyard was dry farmed. Lisa added trellising to the vineyard – retrained the vines completely, added new rows of vines in between the old rows and brought in irrigation as needed. Today their farming is a nice mix of both traditional and contemporary practices. And in a tribute to the old head pruned vines and her family name, the R in their label is roughly in the shape of what the old vines looked like after about 1/3 of each vine had to be cut away to begin the process of trellising. And as expected the R is red borrowing from Lisa’s last name – designed in tribute to the history of the vineyard.
The vineyard sits on the edge of the valley floor on what is known as St. Helena bench land – some of the valley’s premium vineyard real estate. The soils are composed of gravelly deposits that have washed down from the nearby Mayacamas mountains over the eons as well as volcanic soils. Nearby neighbors include Corison Winery and a Del Dotto owned vineyard.
The label began as a very small production in 1999; initially 25 cases (about a barrel) of home wine were made in her garage and then released as a commercial vintage two years later. Lisa purchased Home Winemaking Step by Step and still owns the original winemaking equipment she used for this inaugural vintage – a plastic bin, the 4-pin bottling device and the corking machine. The wine was truly hand crafted and even each of the bottles was numbered by hand.
Lisa enjoyed wines for many years but before co-founding Redmon, she hardly considered herself knowledgeable about wine at the time. By virtue of living in the Napa Valley and being surrounded by vines as well as having the opportunity to develop a small vineyard – she discovered the “Napa allure” that often turns wine neophytes into oenophiles. And she is extremely passionate about her business and willing to share some of what makes the Napa Valley unique with those that she meets.
For many years Redmon focused on one wine – a 100% estate varietal Cabernet Sauvignon. However Lisa has since expanded production to include other wines from select vineyards in the valley. These ‘source’ vineyards are not owned by Redmon but are farmed by family run businesses and are located on both valley floor and hillside locations.
When researching the style of Chardonnay she wanted to produce Lisa didn’t have far to look. Collecting a number of Napa Valley grown Chardonnays – she participated in several blind tastings. Ultimately Lisa began producing a lighter styled, food friendly wine that saw only partial malolactic fermentation and no new oak during its aging. The result is a wine that is crisp, clean, yet retains some weight on the palate and pairs well with a variety of foods.
The 2009 Redmon Wines Chardonnay shows a pleasing bouquet mostly dominated by citrus including Meyer lemon and orange blossom – there is an underlying component however of tropical fruit which helps temper the citrus aromas. The mouth feel is clean with some weight, but it is in balance. The mid palate is clean – the finish has some richness to it and is well endowed with various baking spices.
The 2008 Redmon Wines Cabernet Sauvignon based blend has some Merlot (for softness) and Cabernet Franc to add a additional complexities including some spice. The nose shows ripe slightly jammy aromas including blackberry and blueberry. The palate is approachable upon entry with dusty tannins starting about the mid plate. The finish lingers with broad fairly coarse tannins as well as both red and black fruit.
The 2009 Redmon Wines Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is much darker then their red blend. The bouquet is seductive and elegant while offering deep dark fruit aromas including blackberry, black cherry as well as cassis. As the wine opens additional aromas of both dusty chocolate and some vanilla are revealed. The mouth feel is immediately soft and velvety – it is rounded with a delicious backbone of fruit anchoring from start to finish. The finish is more delicate than the blend and has plenty of length.
The 2016 Redmon Wines Merlot is from a vineyard on Spring Mountain at about 2,000 feet; immediately offers aromas of mushroom, coffee grinds, earth notes and warm leather – diverse and somewhat savory in its aromatic presentation. Let the wine breathe – more fruit aromatics come forward. On the palate the entry is rounded and soft but well layered with flavors of plum, blueberry and other red fruits. Offers a lovely texture from start to finish with a liveliness that lingers – both acidity and fruit along with hints of tobacco leaf. This is a well layered wine from this variety – showing more depth then found in a lighter style Merlot.
Lisa also owns another small property in St. Helena which was the site of an old winery; this could be very valuable some day if she wanted to make wine on the property (all production is at a state of the art winery in Oakville) as all winery bond permits are grandfathered in. This old winery was known as the Fountain Winery and was founded by two Germans in 1876 and operated until 1911. It was still standing as recently as the early 1990s before it was demolished. One of the founders, George Fountain was mayor of St. Helena for a period of time.
This winery produced mostly whites from the owners 40-acre vineyard until Prohibition. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 the winery briefly served as a fruit distillery. While the old winery is no longer here – an old barn is still standing (dates from 1899) and with some retrofitting and remodeling, this would make an ideal winery facility. And in another piece of history relating to this property – the residence on site used to be located on site of the old Sunny St. Helena Winery (now Merryvale) and was one of the Mondavi family homes in the 1930’s. This home was moved to the Redman Ranch in 1951.
Sales of the Redmon wines are direct to consumer – through a mailing list and wine club. Visits are for typically for those already on her wine club or for serious wine enthusiasts. Lisa has personally met many of her customers over the years.
Plans are in the works to open a jointly operated tasting room in the city of Napa (downtown). We will visit this tasting room and update this review once we have further details.
To join their mailing list and or wine club (a 6 or 12 bottle option shipping twice yearly – can be customized based on preferences), visit: www.redmonwines.com
Redmon Vineyard St. Helena
A&W St. Helena