Teachworth is a private exclusive wine estate located in the hills of the Diamond Mountain District. It was run by Joan Teachworth (she died far to young in 2017); she and her husband Walter (also deceased) were originally from Galveston, Texas. With the intent to enjoy a slower lifestyle and be closer to the wines they enjoyed to drink as well as raise a young family, they moved to the Napa Valley in 1991.
However as a number of those who have relocated to Napa in the past, what we call the “Napa allure” kicked in and they soon decided to produce premium wines, similar in quality to the wines they had been enjoying for years from nearby wineries. They purchased 75 acres of rugged undeveloped land on the slopes of Diamond Mountain (a few minutes drive from the town of Calistoga). Several mine shafts are built into the hillsides, remnants of early miners (possibly exploratory shafts for cinnabar ore (quicksilver). The Teachworths built their home high on the slopes and developed the property including planting 2 acres of vineyards in 1997, entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon ranging in elevation from 700 to 850 feet.
Walter designed and built the small winery on the property with a very focused intent: produce limited production wines from estate grown only fruit and implement an extended aging program (up to three years in barrel and another 1-2 years in bottle before releasing). The first vintage of Teachworth was from 2000.
Joan was born and raised in Nebraska and for some twenty plus years divided her time between Galveston and the Napa property. She told us she was first introduced to fine wine in the 1970’s, a time when she and Walter refined their palates by drinking renowned French producers Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Latour. Of course back then, they were spending under $10/bottle for these wines.
Walter was born in Houston and began his real estate business in 1962 in Galveston by designing and building an apartment complex; he later built or purchased other real estate. Today their son Jon Christopher manages the family business and lives in Galveston while their daughter Laura is an interior designer who lives in San Francisco.
Historically this was one of the smallest producers in the Napa area as their typical annual production was a little over 100 cases. Three wines were made – one each from their two vineyards and a final estate blend from both vineyards. Two distinctly separate organically grown vineyards with specific soil and sun conditions on the property comprise their final 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. These distinct vineyards, despite being located so close to each other produce different styled wines; one is called Rattlesnake Hill and the other Manzanita Ridge. Both steep hillside vineyards total almost two acres so the availability of premium grapes is very limited.
2013 was the last year three wines were produced from the estate – moving forward production focuses on a single estate blend of their two vineyards as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain and a Pinot Noir. Total production is still small – although it has now grown to around 500 cases per year.
One vintage saw a production of merely one barrel of wine due to a mass infestation of wild turkeys which devastated their almost ripe crop. Another year the raccoons got into their vineyard and enjoyed much of fruit.
The estate has some of the best views in the valley and is exquisitely landscaped with azaleas and rhododendrons, six waterfalls cascading down past the steep lengthy driveway and a beautiful reflecting pond surrounded by tall palm trees. The entrance to their very small cave also features waterfalls creating a nice ambiance under the surrounding trees.
The micro winery on site contains a small barrel room, a semi-outdoor ‘tank’ room and limited space within the cave for aging wine (one of the smallest winery caves in the valley). Each of their two vineyards are fermented and aged separately until the final blend which occurs just before bottling. Noted wine maker, Phil Steinschriber was their founding consulting winemaker (noted for his long time work as vineyard manager and winemaker at Diamond Creek Vineyards).
During one of our earlier visits, we tried a vintage directly from the barrel; the Manzanita Ridge showcases a more opulent nose of the two wines with plenty of depth on the palate. Rattlesnake Hill was already well layered with flavors of blackberry and subtle chocolate overtones. Despite being very young wines of course, they both are already showing nuances of how they will be tasting in several years. And the Teachworth estate wines are noted for showing a certain savory quality that tends to be consistent from vintage to vintage.
The 2013 Teachworth Estate Blend is dark crimson in the glass with an appealing bouquet featuring plenty of aromatic layering. Shows notes of milk chocolate, tobacco leaf, cassis, a sweetness of fruit and as the wine breathes a dessert spice influence is revealed including cinnamon and toffee notes. Very well balanced on the palate, shows both red and darker fruits along with very well slightly dusty integrated tannins and a lingering note of darker spices on the finish.
In years past, Teachworth would age their wines in New French Oak for 30+ months and then another year or two in the bottle before releasing them commercially. As a result, their current releases were often 5 and 6 years old – wines that saw extended aging before being released to the consumer. The wine making team has since dialed back the amount of time for oak aging and the wines are released slightly younger then in years past.
Note the specific yellow color of the label – Walter used to enjoy drinking Cutty Sark Whiskey – this is the same shade of yellow on their bottles. Their wines are sometimes found in higher end wine shops in the Napa Valley. For more information and to join their mailing list, visit: www.teachworthcabs.com
NOTE: this review has been identified as needing an update.