T-Vine Cellars was founded by Greg Brown in 1992. In 2008 he sold separately both the T-Vine Cellars label as well as the physical winery. T-Vine is currently owned by three partners – all of whom have been in the wine industry for some time and are vintners in their own right. During the transition stages, their wine was made at a winery in the southern part of the valley however with the opening of their tasting room in Calistoga – their first harvest at this location will be in 2013.
Rather than use his last name for the name of his winery as a number of proprietors do, Greg chose something that represents his own life philosophy. The “T” in T-Vine stands for Trinity which represents the body, mind and spirit of anything – in this case producing limited quantity hand crafted wines. Their logo cleverly incorporates this “T” into the shape of an old vine.
The impetus for starting the winery was because Greg enjoyed wine since college and after a rising corporate job at Bank of America he decided to dramatically change careers and took a $7/hour job as a cellar grunt. From here he started learning more and more about how to make wine and then started making his own at Etude Winery in the Carneros region, under the tutelage of vintner Tony Soter.
Our first visit was during the best time of year to see a winery in action which is during harvest and T-Vine was bustling with grapes fermenting in bins, juice in the tanks and bunches being de-stemmed. As Greg told us, he is a winemaker who truly loves to taste his own wine. During his time at T-Vine, he was a very hands on winemaker often tasting the wine during its aging and working on various blends. Some of T-Vine’s wine-making influences came from Southern France including aging wines in oak for less than a year. This idea behind this is to let the fruit show itself as the main component in the wines, rather than introducing additional flavors from oak.
T-Vine offers quite a number of various wines and all are reasonably priced by Napa standards. They produce about 4500 cases a year (each single vineyard wine is usually produced in quantities of several hundred cases) and make a large variety of hand crafted varietals including several beautiful Grenache wines. T-Vine was the first Napa winery to make wine from this varietal. Greg fell in love with this wine while in France sitting on a park bench. He was offered a sample by a local sitting next to him – and decided he wanted to make this wine someday. Grenache is not often found in the valley which is a shame considering the dominant fruit this varietal can express.
The 2009 Grenache contains fruit from probably what are the main Grenache vineyards in Napa (there certainly aren’t too many vintners growing this varietal in the valley). This wine is composed of fruit from high on Mt. Veeder as well as valley floor vineyards in Calistoga. The wine sees no new French Oak and its absence of oak is certainly noticeable in the bouquet and on the palate. The wine making philosophy with Grenache in regards to the type of oak used on this varietal – “the older the better!”
The bouquet is fruit driven with aromas of raspberry, cherry cola, floral notes – hints of rose petal. As the wine opens a slight earthy component reveals itself. The grapes for this wine are usually the last to be harvested – the alcohol is certainly higher (usually between 15.2 and 15.5%) but the explosion of fruit certainly helps mask this. Fernando says, “this wine is meant to express the fruit in the bottle rather than the barrel.”
The 2005 Primitivo was the first vintage of this varietal produced under their unique Psychedelic Rooster label. This is one label that you won’t forget after seeing it the first time! The Primitivo is only available from the winery and is a thrilling experience of concentrated fruit flavors complemented with subtle nuances of toasted oak.
The 2008 Merlot is sourced from Calistoga. You can tell this wine is going to have some power, in this case merely by glancing at the dark color in the glass. Its surprisingly soft on the entry but quickly gains layers of flavor. The wine is all about the dark fruit, blackberry and black cherry with notes of coffee and mocha especially towards the finish. It has good structure with a lingering lively finish.
Now for the dessert. That would be their 2008 Zinfandel. The bouquet is pungent, ripe with very fruit forward Zinfandel aromas. Notes of licorice, plum, chocolate and just a slight spicy characteristic show. The wine was fermented completely to dryness but with the amount of fruit it represents one can almost be fooled into thinking it is slightly sweet!
Being a Napa based winery you almost have to make a Cabernet Sauvignon and T-Vine does; their Cabernet is sourced from neighboring Sonoma County from one of the area’s premium historical vineyard sites. It is the hillside Monte Rosso Vineyard which was founded by Napa’s Louis Martini in the late 1930’s.
In mid 2013 their new winery and tasting room opened at 810 Foothill Blvd. (HWY 29) about 1/4 mile south of the stop sign in Calistoga. Rooms both downstairs and upstairs can accommodate more intimate private tastings. One side of the winery is the highway – the other side is a vineyard. While they do not own that vineyard – they certainly have good views. Tastings can also be conducted outside, weather permitting.
You know a bottle of T-Vine wine by the back label. It always reads, “My favorite days in life are nothing special, rather those in which I find joy in the ordinary rhythm of my existence… those in which I am simply content in my place.” For more information visit: www.tvinecellars.com