Valley Legend is owned by Greg Lawson. His family has been in the Napa Valley for nearly 40 years. Greg’s grandfather was the first president of Beringer Winery after this winery was purchased from the Beringer Family by Nestle in 1971. Greg’s family is still very much in the wine business. His brother Jeff works for a large wine distributor in Santa Barbara and his other brother Rob is a former CEO of Napa Wine Co where today he is their winemaker as well as winemaker for a number of select Napa brands. As expected, Rob helps craft the Valley Legend wines. Mark Beringer (formerly at Duckhorn) is one of Greg’s childhood friends and is also the winemaker.
Perhaps the name “Valley Legend” might lead you to believe this wine is named after a certain secret wine legend that exists in the Napa Valley. Actually, no – in this case, “legend” refers to a chart on a map explaining the symbols used. All bottles show the latitude and longitude of their source vineyard’s location which can easily be plugged into Google Earth or similar programs – even down to the specific vineyard block. The outline of Mt. St. Helena, the tallest mountain surrounding the Napa Valley is also represented on the label.
Making wine commercially has been a dream held close to the vest for Greg for many years. His passion about wine and artisan winemakers is clearly evident when you talk to him. In 2003 the timing was right and he and his family moved back to the Napa Valley. Greg initially helped make wine in 1985 at Vichon Winery (now Diamond Oaks) in Oakville and worked more recently at O’Shaughnessy Winery high on Howell Mountain.
The wines are made in their vineyards; they only source from vineyards that meet their exacting standards of approval. Their picking decisions are critical and once the fruit is in the winery they secondary sort both by machine and by hand. This is a very meticulous process in which they remove all stem jacks, leaves and raisins. The focus is on using only ripe clean berries in their fermentations.
Valley Legend’s focus is to showcase Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from a variety of top vineyard sources in various Napa sub appellations. The first commercial vintage was from 2006. By 2010 they will have released three Cabernet’s – from Oakville, Atlas Peak and from Conn Valley and plan to continue to release 3 distinct Cabernet Sauvignons each year. Each of these wines are limited in production, typically around 200 cases.
Valley Legend’s first wine was sourced from Narsai David’s vineyard in Conn Valley (east of the town of St. Helena). If Narsai’s name is familiar perhaps you may know him from his national radio and TV shows (also the food editor for KCBS, a San Francisco radio station) – he is a noted author and culinary authority (based in San Francisco).
As Greg says, “my number one word in winemaking is balance”. He stays away from the overpowering “wow” wines that are high in alcohol and overwhelm your palate with the overripe fruit or wines that have the huge mouth drying tannins. Greg thinks the pendulum from high alcohol wines is moving in the other direction back to more moderate food friendly wines such as the wines he produces.
The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon is medium to dark ruby in the glass. A touch of Malbec and Petit Verdot are also blended in the wine. It has an elegant nose, hints of graphite, espresso and sweet notes of blackberry, that are slightly brambly. As the wine opens up more dark fruit is revealed. Blackberry, blueberry and hints of tobacco show on the well layered palate.
There is good structure to the finish with fine grained broadly distributed tannins, the finish is balanced and slightly smoky and earthy with lingering berry fruit. It is recommended to decant this wine for at least an hour prior to drinking. While we tried this wine when it was just a baby, it has already developed nice character and will be interesting to see how it evolves over the next few years.
You can find their wines locally at St. Helena Wine Center and at V Wine Cellars in Yountville. V Wine Cellars was actually the first retail outlet to carry their wines. They also have a mailing list. Visit: www.valleylegend.com