Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards is located towards the top of Diamond Mountain Road and features some of the best views in the entire northern part of Napa Valley. This site is a vineyard only as there is no winery located here – rather the wines are made at a small family owned winery in the southern part of the valley. The vineyard and brand was founded by vintner and retired lawyer, Peter Thompson (no relation to Peter Thompson Wines in Penola, South Australia). Peter is one of the hardest working vintners in all of the Napa Valley.
The name of the winery comes from the first names of Peter’s two sons, Andrew and Geoffrey. Following in his father’s footsteps, Andrew is a lawyer in the San Diego area and Geoffrey studied at the Culinary Institute of America and is an accomplished chef currently working in Chicago.
The 66 acre site (16.5 acre vineyard) sits at almost 2000 feet and usually receives a light dusting of snow each year. One year there was enough snow to take sleds down the hill in between the vine rows. Peter has held a coveted permit to plant more vines on his property for many years and did so in mid 2021. This additional acreage was planted to clone 169 Cabernet Sauvignon. In addition to grapes from the property used for his own wines, Peter also sells grapes to several premium Napa Valley based wineries and has sold or is selling to notables such as Jackson Family Estates (Cardinale and Lokoya brands), Haber Family Vineyards and Gamble Family Vineyards.
The vineyard used to be accessed via a well cleared trail through chaparral. The short trail ended at a deck which afforded one 180 degree spectacular views of the Napa Valley and nearby mountains including the tallest, Mt. St. Helena. In 2020 the Glass Fire severely burned through the Diamond Mountain District including through Peter’s property and incinerated the deck. Another deck similar in size (approximately 1,000 square feet) has since been rebuilt, slightly above the site of the original deck (which is now planted to grapevines).
Peter first fell in love with the Napa Valley while attending college at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. During a trip north in the early 1970s to attend a USC Stanford football game, his friends took him to Napa Valley for some wine tasting. He remembers visiting all six wineries along Highway 29 but wasn’t able to visit Christian Brothers in the old Greystone Winery building because his visit was on a Sunday and they were closed. Knowing next to nothing about wine he soon became hooked by the industry. His career was non-wine related (other then an educated consumer of wines) until 1999 when he retired from law in San Diego.
During the mid 1990’s he spent 2.5 years looking for a prime piece of hillside Napa Valley property before settling on the totally undeveloped brush covered land on some of the highest and most rugged slopes of the Diamond Mountain Appellation. He remembers first visiting the property – parking his vehicle because he could drive no further and walking down a brush-covered fire road. He was able to see glimpses of the valley far below through all the trees but had no idea of the spectacular views from here until he actually cleared the land for the vineyard.
Because of the elevation of the site, the vineyard has less temperature variation than lower elevation sites and the vines are typically above the valley fog. This was ideal during the cooler and wetter 2011 vintage in particular, when unusually cooler temperatures and an abundance of fog blanketed the valley and the lower slopes. Peter recalls critics had already released their negative reviews of the 2011 vintage even prior to harvesting his own grapes! For the record, 2011 was an excellent vintage for Andrew Geoffrey.
And the site has numerous exposures ranging from north and south facing to vines planted in a westerly direction (unusual in the fact that the slopes on Diamond Mountain typically face east.
In addition to law, Peter’s background is also in geology having worked a year for an oil company. The vineyard is composed primarily of volcanic ash (hence the whiteness of the rock in the vineyard) along with tuff and tufa. One can almost call this site a moonscape. The volcanic ash has a chalk-like very fine texture and when dry and the wind blows, it quickly becomes airborne. As a result of the soil composition, the vineyard is extremely well drained. There is absolutely no shortage of rocks on the property; this is among some of the most rocky vineyard sites that we have visited in Napa Valley.
Each part of the vineyard was carefully planted based on soil type in relation to which varieties and rootstocks would grow best. The vineyard is predominately planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (78%) with smaller plantings of other red varieties including Cabernet Franc (18%) and Petit Verdot (4%). Water is available on the property but it is located extremely deep; a well reaches a depth of 850 feet.
Three individual clones of Cabernet Sauvignon are planted and during wine making, each clone is treated separately. As a result, the individual clones are fermented and aged apart from each other – this gives Peter’s veteran consulting winemaker (John Gibson) additional options when crafting the final blend. For instance if there is a block of the vineyard that isn’t up to their quality standards, it will be left out of the final blend.
Typically only one wine is produced each year – a delicious mineral laden Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine will always be predominately Cabernet Sauvignon but will be blended slightly with several of the other varieties growing in the vineyard, depending on the vintage. Single 100% varietal bottlings of Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot are only available to club members as these are usually produced in quantities of only 25-50 cases each vintage and are not made every year.
The current release Cabernet Sauvignon tends to receive a bit more age then many wineries’ current releases. Unlike wineries that are sold out of library wines, Peter holds back some of his older vintages and refreshingly, they are available at the same price as his current releases.
The 2012 Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark red in color offers both an opulent and an elegant bouquet with aromas of blackberry jam and ripe black cherry complemented nicely by hints of vanilla. There is a sweetness to the fruit aromatics but not an over-ripeness. Also darker sweet desert spices and additional redolent aromas of old cedar box. On the palate shows darker fruit notes including plum and blueberry. A fine showing of polished and chalky tannins runs the profile of the palate – structurally, shows a noticeable density of tannin which lingers on a very long finish along with notes of cedar and dark spice. This is a very balanced offering.
The 2014 Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is dark garnet in the glass – reveals dark fruit aromatics including blackberry; the bouquet also shows notes of saddle leather, bacon fat, truffle oil, black licorice and some spices including cardamom and clove – but the aromatics are primarily about the gorgeous fruit. A slight bit savory in its aromatic presentation. Offers plenty of depth and layers on the palate. The tannins are more tightly woven then the 2012 (a younger wine) but still shows that classic Andrew Geoffrey structure – fine-grained with density, slightly chewy on the finish.
The 2003 Andrew Geoffrey has a solid backbone, rich in black fruit including dark cherry with a wonderful supple mouth-feel. This is a premium Napa Valley hillside grown wine.
Peter often takes the Andrew Geoffrey wines on the road (to select locations across the country and sometimes internationally) – hosting intimate winemaker lunches or dinners at restaurants or people’s homes. He is a talented chef; we had a peak at his menu and the entrees are sure to make one’s mouth water including the Gran Padano Italian cheese, a special sausage he sources from a premium purveyor in San Francisco, a dry rubbed Chateaubriand and a delicious arugula salad (the recipe created by his son Geoffrey).
Peter also hosts special wine, food and travel cruises focusing on specific regions within Europe. These are small river cruises – the focus of the wines on board are select vintages of Andrew Geoffrey. Guests also can choose to accompany Peter on pre and post trips either before or after the river cruise.
With very few exceptions, the wines are not distributed and are only sold direct. A limited number of large format bottles are available. For more information or to join the mailing list, visit: www.andrewgeoffrey.com