Theorem Vineyards. Proprietors Kisha and Jason Itkin first visited the Napa Valley in 2008 from their home in Houston. While on one of their subsequent trips to the valley, they found themselves falling in love with the wines, the scenery, the region’s history and the lifestyle. They pondered the question “should we start looking at real estate” and Kisha recalls thinking “I didn’t want to go home”. After calling a few local real estate offices, they were shown one piece of rugged land on Diamond Mountain but due to its location it was going to be difficult to build a winery. They were shown a second property next door which already had an existing winery and an intriguing historical pedigree. They purchased the 30 acre winery parcel in 2012 and purchased the neighboring parcel a year later.
We first visited this property around 2006; much has changed here since vintner Richard Graeser operated his small winery and tasting room in the historic schoolhouse on site. Over the past few years the Itkin’s have overseen the remodel of what is one of the oldest schoolhouses in the north part of the valley (dates from 1878) and the neighboring Cole House (dates from 1888). The once prominent red barn has since been removed, with the footprint of this original building replaced by an overhead trellising that is now home to a variety of plants providing shade.
But most impressive is perhaps the new winery that is currently under construction. Rather then drilling a cave winery into the hill, they chose to excavate a cellar into the ground on the side of hill and build a winery on top. This is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2018 (hopefully in time for that year’s harvest).
Those who have recently touched this property in regards to the vineyards are based on personal connections and referrals – conveniently, the brother of their real estate agent is viticulturist Kelly Maher. He initially visited the property and recommended vineyard manager Josh Clark (who oversees the vines). Josh then referred them to acclaimed winemaker Thomas Brown who has made all their vintages.
Currently their focus is on a single 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the oldest vines on the property. Their inaugural vintage was in 2012 – a very limited production of only 55 cases. Production will continue to grow as some of their replants and new vineyard blocks come into maturity. Ultimately they would like to be producing several thousand cases a year of multiple wines.
At the time of our visit, 9 acres are planted to vine – nearly all Cabernet Sauvignon with a one-acre block of Merlot. The property is diverse in terrain and their vineyards take full advantage of this with numerous exposures. These are vineyards with excellent views at times – facing the rocky palisades on the opposite side of the valley and overlooking Mt. St. Helena to the north east. Additional blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon will bring their total vineyard acreage to around 19 acres. Incidentally, this is the furthest north vineyard in the Diamond Mountain AVA. The vines are planted at an elevation from about 1,100 to 1,300 feet. A number of their existing Cabernet Sauvignon vines are in the range of 30-35 years old.
Their soils are volcanic, well drained and are often quite red. While the the vines are not completely dry farmed – they are able to keep their water usage to a minimum. The property is beautiful – not only for it’s history but also it’s landscape – with a nice balance of open space, vineyards and tall forest (Douglas Fir and some very stately redwood trees).
The name Theorem has several meanings as it relates to their property and story. It is a tribute to the old schoolhouse (and the math that was presumably taught in it’s one room interior) and is also an homage to Kisha’s own career where math plays an important role – as a geophysicist and engineer (she previously worked as a reservoir engineer).
The legal phrase, Voire Dire is listed on every bottle; it comes from Old French derived from Latin, meaning ‘that which is true’ and in the United States refers to the process of jury selection. This ties into Jason’s career as a lawyer and as Kisha pointed out “multiple glasses of wine tend to lubricate the tongue and also produce the truth”.
And the key that prominently shows on the front of every bottle refers to unlocking the history of the property as well as it’s potential. As they have settled in to the property, both Kisha and Jason continue to discover it’s history and at times come across historical items left or lost by prior owners.
The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is dark ruby in the glass. It has rich aromatics – opulent aromas that are somewhat briary. Layered and very pretty. A wine you don’t want to stop smelling. Earthy somewhat on the palate with flavors of blackberry. Focused concentration and intensity of fruit. A very balanced wine that is quite enjoyable to drink. Only 55 cases were produced.
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon reveals an elegant nose that is about the fruit rather then the oak – notes of blueberry and blackberry with gentle aromas of chocolate. Supple initially on the palate, this wine quickly gains complexity – it is well layered focusing more on darker fruit flavors (plum) then red fruits. Textured chewy tannins persist for some time. Excellent balance between flavor acidity and structure. Very good steak wine. Very good vintage. A bigger wine then their 2012 showing.
In the early stages of their production their wines are sold direct to consumer via their wine club and mailing list. As production expands the wines will be selectively distributed to retail and restaurants. With production to eventually grow, and a commitment to this property and their wines – now is a good time to get on their mailing list and or seek out these limited production impressive early vintages.
For more information, and to join their mailing list – visit: www.theoremvineyards.com