Sciandri Family Vineyards (pronounced “she-andri”) is one Coombsville’s ‘hidden’ gems, located at the edge of rolling hills bordering the 850 acre wilderness Skyline Park. They are located only about 10-12 minutes from the city of Napa but this location feels far removed from any urban environment.
This small family owned vineyard (22 acres total) is planted to slightly over 4 hillside acres. The Sciandri’s (Ron and his wife Roberta) moved here in 1989 after looking for 4-5 years for a unique place to live in the valley. Ron spent a career with the fire department in San Francisco, beginning in 1969 – eventually becoming Captain, Battalion Chief and ultimately the Assistant Fire Chief. Soon after moving here, Roberta asked Ron about his plan for “landscaping” their property – his answer was to plant grapes – their first grapevines were planted in 1999. And for those who knew Ron, he was a great farmer who truly enjoyed showing visitors to the property his efforts including a number of fruit trees, vegetables in raised beds – and of course his vines.
All members of the immediate family are involved (three generations) in various aspects of the business from vineyard to bottle (total production as of our last update is under 800 cases). Building a young business such as this from the ground up brings with it a certain amount of personal satisfaction but to already have multiple generations involved will hopefully instill pride and the desire to keep the business within the family for decades to come.
The family oversaw the vineyard management for several years; today they employ one of the top vineyard managers in the valley, Javier Renteria. Before vineyards grew here this was open pasture land. For several years the Sciandri Family sold fruit to several area producers. Tasting the wines that used grapes from their property validated the quality of their particular terroir. In part, this was the impetus to begin crafting their own wines.
Enter Don Baker, a Napa winemaker who has been making wine in the valley for many years including stints at Merryvale and William Hill Estate. He is a UC Davis graduate who has International wine making exposure with some time spent in Chile helping to develop vineyards and a winery for Jackson Family Wines (Kendall-Jackson). Having tried some of Don’s other wines, the Sciandri Family knew that his wine style would be ideally suited to their own preferences.
Ron’s focus for Sciandri was to produce only estate wines and for a number of years they did so. The 2006 was their first release – a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. With other red varietals planted on the property they also produce a Bordeaux styled blend. In a tribute to their Italian heritage, the small block of grapes planted near their house comes from their family vineyard in Italy. It is very likely that some of the obscure varietals growing here are the only ones growing in all of Napa. One of these varietals historically only grows in and around their ancestral village in northern Italy. These few vines have special significance to the family, not only are they a connection to their heritage but fruit from these vines is co-fermented every year with the rest of their vineyard.
This hillside vineyards are rocky; the grapes/clonal choices planted on site produce small fruit with concentrated flavors. The Coombsville region is located in the southern part of Napa Valley closer to the San Pablo Bay’s cooling influences which means their harvest dates are generally among the last in the valley. The moderate cooler climate of this part of the Napa Valley ensures a very long hang time. Remarkably, some Coombsville growers have picked Cabernet Sauvignon into the first week of November (depending on the vintage).
Their daughter Rebecca has worked in a number of winery related jobs over the years – even for one of their Coombsville ‘neighboring’ wineries. Ron used to say he couldn’t afford to pay her – but ultimately it was decided that she focus her efforts on the family winery. Today she is their only full time employee. In part, Rebecca worked with another Coombsville vintner Tom Farella to obtain the region’s sub appellation status (granted in late 2011 and still Napa’s ‘newest’ AVA). Coombsville is a an area located approximately east of the town of Napa; it is mostly composed of gentle rolling hills planted to numerous vineyards. The soils are volcanic and generally are very well drained. A number of premium wineries own or lease vineyards from the region; most of the vineyards here are very small. Unlike a number of other AVA’s in Napa, there are no wineries here that allow tastings by walk-in (all are appointment only).
Despite Ron’s opposition to making wine from grapes not grown on the property – and heaven forbid…a white wine, Rebecca was instrumental in creating a Rosé and a Sauvignon Blanc. Over the years she learned that she could not present this idea directly to her father, but rather approached their wine maker Don – who then presented the idea to Ron as his own idea. Ron saw through this of course, but ultimately he relented and they created a Rosé from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes grown on site. For later vintages of the Rosé they sourced Syrah grapes.
And if her father wasn’t interested in producing a Sauvignon Blanc, Rebecca decided that she would. She has earned another title in the wine world; winemaker – her first wine for Sciandri Family Vineyards was a 2016 Sauvignon Blanc.
The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is noticeably dark in the glass with a very elegant bouquet that shows aromas of plum and red cherry along with a note of dustiness. The palate is smooth and balanced from start to finish showing dark fruit – black cherry and blackberry. The finish is anchored by soft smooth delicate tannins that slip over your tongue like silk. One of their winemaker Don Baker’s axioms is to show varietal characteristics without the wine being dominated by oak. In other words as one winemaker told us, these are wines that have that “delicious” factor rather than the “wow” factor. He has made this vintage well in that regards, there is just a hint of oak towards the finish as well as notes of cocoa powder. As a result this is a wine that does very well with food.
Their packaging represents the family’s history. The wine label is blue (how many blue labels can you find on wine bottles – not many) but this color is traditional and it is designed well (with significant input on the design from Rebecca). The colors are taken from the flag flown in their family’s village in Italy. This village is named Quercia which means Oak in Italian; – an oak leaf on the label portrays a number of individual grapes – each of these grapes represents a family member involved in the winery.
You can find their wines locally at V Wine Cellars in Yountville. They have distribution in Los Angeles mainly because family member Ago Sciandri owns several very well regarded Italian Restaurants ( www.agorestaurant.com ) – for more information about Sciandri Family Vineyards visit: www.sciandrivineyards.com