Rocca Family Vineyards owns two vineyards, one in Yountville and one in the Coombsville appellation just north east of the town of Napa. There are no winery facilities on either property; their wines are made at local winery. For about four years, Rocca maintained an open-to-the-public tasting room on Main Street in Napa until they closed this in early 2009. Currently, tastings are by appointment – eventually planning to be held at a historic Victorian in South Napa in a charming old house that was built by General Vallejo.
Rocca is owned by husband wife Mary Rocca and Eric Grigsby. Mary is a former dentist who retired to devote her full time efforts to this winery and Eric is a noted pain management Doctor based in Napa who founded the Napa Pain Institute in 1992. He also operates the Spine and Pain Center of Kaui, in Hawaii. The Their Yountville Vineyard is named after him (the Grigsby Vineyard) and their Coombsville Vineyard is called Collinetta (or translates to “little hill”) with a defining physical feature also being an old stone chimney that is now surrounded by vines.
Their original intent was not to make wines, rather to manage their vineyards and sell all the fruit to growers. However, when you own not one but two premium vineyards in two separate Napa sub appellations, it eventually makes sense to make your own wine.
Their first vintage was from 1999. While all their red wine comes from these two vineyards they do sell some of their grapes to other area vintners, usually holding back about 40% of their grapes for their own wines (they currently produce about 2,000 cases annually). One unique feature in their vineyard management is the use of draft horses among the vineyard rows. This is “quiet farming” compared to a tractor, environmentally friendly, and in addition – these animals are not as heavy as a tractor, therefore are much more gentle on the land.
Their focus is on reds and in our opinion the primary hallmark of Rocca’s wines are their incredibly soft luscious mouth feels with a richness of fruit but often featuring delicate tannins anchoring the finish. Their wines do not overwhelm the palate and are meant to be consumed now. Part of this mouth feel comes from how they handle the fruit and the wine making of course – during harvest and fermentation they handle the fruit as minimally and gently as possible which helps avoid some of the harshness you sometimes find in red wine. In addition they do not filtered and minimally fined as maximum flavor is a key component to their wines. Each of their Estate Cabernet Sauvignons are 100% varietal.
The Bad Boy Red was a wine with a memorable name – Eric’s photo is pictured on this label. The name hints at an interesting story behind this wine. In 1999 during a pump-over on one of the tanks one of their employees accidentally blended in 10% Zinfandel into their Merlot. These were meant to be stand alone wines and they had no ‘backup’ wine so they decided to bottle this. The short story despite this “bad boy’s mistake” is this wine turned out to be a hit and they have produced it every year since then. Sometimes accidents work out for the best! This is an excellent steak wine that is priced very affordable for Napa standards.
The 2005 Bad Boy is a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot. There are nice notes of blackberry, blueberry and black cherry throughout the palate. The soft entry of fruit continues all the way to the finish and then lingers nicely.
The 2004 Syrah is a winner. It is not the normal big peppery Syrah traditionally made. It is dark in color – almost black featuring rich ripe fruit. Smoky oak and dark fruit aromas are found on the bouquet with lots of rich ripe layered fruit on the palate. Like all of Rocca’s wines this one melts in your mouth. During our latest visit they even had a 1999 Syrah (their first vintage) and this was tasting like your more classic Napa Syrah. This older vintage features a noticeable sweet note that permeated throughout the palate mixed with toasted oak and big fruit flavors.
The 2013 Grigsby Vineyard Merlot might be mistaken for a Cabernet Sauvignon in a blind tasting. Wonderful fruit both on the bouquet and palate. Features a ripe bouquet, yet an elegant one. Shows aromatic notes of plum, raspberry, blackberry complemented by subtle notes of milk chocolate. Balanced across the palate, this wine features the Rocca hallmark silky soft tannins on the finish.
If you are a white wine drinker – perhaps you will be convinced to come over to the red side after drinking Rocca’s wines. Their tannins are always well managed, the flavors are always excellent and the feel on the palate incredibly smooth – like liquid velvet.
And speaking of white wines, after 15 years Rocca decided to produce their first white wine- a 2014 Chardonnay from a cooler part of Sonoma Coast in neighboring Sonoma County. They continue to produce a Chardonnay each year. The 2014 vintage is pleasing for what it does not have – it is not buttery, not oaky and not even creamy. It is a very balanced wine that simply tastes delicious with a richness of flavor – along with great acidity.
While drinking well young, their Cabernet Sauvignon’s tend to also age. Due to their limited quantities, their wines often sell out quickly. Interested parties can join their mailing list through their website.
For premium Napa red wines, their wines are priced well for the quality – especially from a boutique producer such as this one. The Rocca wines have won top honors in several stateside based blind competitions as well as one in Bordeaux France.
Mary and Eric also oversee the Grigsby-Rocca Foundation which has provided medical help to some of the poorest regions in Africa. For more information visit: www.roccawines.com
Rocca Wines Introduction