Groth Winery is medium sized winery, located in the heart of the famed Oakville district and was founded in 1982 by Dennis Groth, who was a partner for 13 years at Arthur Young & Co and was also a former Atari executive (at one point was their Chief Financial Officer) and his wife Judy. Both are natives of the San Jose Bay Area – they moved to the Napa Valley in 1985.
Groth Winery was almost not built here as the Groth’s were extremely close to purchasing a vineyard in Sonoma County, however when driving from Sonoma County to Napa County at the summit of the narrow Oakville Grade they were “sold” by the beautiful vineyards they saw in the distance on the valley floor. The 121 acre property was already planted when they acquired it in 1981 – to both Cabernet Sauvignon and Napa Gamay (Valdiguié) and both varieties were being sold to other wineries at the time. Justin Meyer, winemaker for Silver Oak Cellars oversaw the planting of this site in the mid 1970s.
Dennis wanted to try wine from some comparable vineyards (to ascertain the quality of his own property). He tasted a 1978 Villa Mt. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon (which was being produced from the site that is now home to PlumpJack Winery) and was so impressed that he ultimately contacted the winemaker of that particular wine, Nils Venge who he eventually hired. Like many other wineries have done, before their physical winery was completed they produced their wine by renting space at other wineries including at Bouchaine and Monticello. Their first harvest at their own winery was in 1990.
Nearby neighbors in this premium vineyard neighborhood include Silver Oak, Screaming Eagle, PlumpJack and Nils own winery, Saddleback Cellars. Not bad real estate indeed.
While it is easy to associate Groth with only their Oakville property, since 1982 they have also owned the Hillview Vineyard located slightly north of Silenus Winery on the west side of Solano Avenue. The property is 44 acres of which about 38 are planted to vine including Chardonnay and Merlot. And despite being only a 10 minute drive from the winery, this is a much cooler site then their Oakville vineyard.
Dennis has been heavily involved in the wine industry since founding Groth and has served as President of the Napa Valley Vintners and Chairman of The Wine Institute.
In 2007 major work was completed on the winery; an expanded crush pad was built as was a second state of the art tank room which contains smaller tanks for more hands on management. In addition their reserve barrel room was remodeled. Groth owns two vineyards; the estate vineyard (nearly 100 acres) which produces the fruit for their iconic reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the Hillview Vineyard (44 acres) located further to the south in Yountville which produces the fruit for their Chardonnay and the Merlot which is used for blending.
Groth specializes in estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – and based on their excellent reputation for these red wines, some people are not even aware that they do produce white wines. We have been here several times and during our latest visit we sampled the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (by case production, their most produced wine) and the 2006 Chardonnay.
The 2007 Groth Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc is a delightful summer wine with noticeable notes of citrus and cut grass on the nose followed by a rounded mouth feel with some nice weight on the mid palate probably in part from the sur lie aging. Stone fruit and additional citrus flavors are present with a slightly tropical presence on the finish (note that 4% Sémillon is blended in the wine).
The 2006 Groth Vineyards Chardonnay sees no malolactic fermentation and carries a nice weight and creaminess on the palate. The honeysuckle nose and melon aromas lead to a palate that is dominated by an explosion of fruit flavor ranging from melon and stone fruit to additional tropical notes.
2005 was an excellent year for red wine from Napa, especially from Oakville. This was the first year since 1999 that Groth produced a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Reserve Cabernet’s incorporate only the highest quality fruit from select blocks within their estate vineyard. After 20 years of managing the same estate vineyard they have a pretty good idea of which blocks consistently produce the “best” fruit. The reserve wine always has at least a year of bottle aging before being released.
The 2005 Groth Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a big wine with lively acidity and shows bright fruit from entry to finish. While showcasing the fruit, this inspired wine does not showcase huge tannins. Rather, this valley floor produced fruit shows tannins that are well managed and complement food. Blackberry, black cherry and slight notes of cedar round out the mid palate. The finish is long and clean. This wine will age very well.
Groth’s early sales spike can be directly attributed to one man’s praise – Robert Parker. In 1984 Parker wrote complementary notes about their wines – and such was Parker’s influence that it immediately resulted in a rapid increase in sales of their wines. And then the next year was a momentous ocassion in Parker’s own career. Parker awarded his first 100 point score to an American winery for their 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – made by Nils Venge. A large format bottle of the award winning bottle is on display near their Reserve tasting room. Nils has since gone on to consult for many other premium Napa wineries as well as operate his own wineries, Saddleback Cellars and Envy. His 100 point score certainly set a high standard for Groth as their reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is only made during certain years when it meets their exacting quality standards. During some periods they will go 4 to 5 years without making this wine – a serious commitment to quality.
Winemaker Emeritus Michael Weiss and their vineyard manager have both been with the winery for many years. This dedication by key employees to a single winery is invaluable as it builds consistency into the wines as well as their intimate knowledge of the actual vineyards. Michael has over 30 years experience of working with Oakville fruit including time spent at Robert Mondavi Winery.
Suzanne Groth (Dennis & Judy’s daughter) is president and CEO of the winery. She is also an artist (graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Oregon with a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history). Look for her colorful artwork on display at the winery – prints of some of her works are also available. She produces a painting for every Reserve Cabernet release.
Groth maintains an “insectary” which is located to the side of the actual winery. Over 40 different species of plants were selectively chosen based on each plant’s ability to attract beneficial insects which then act as natural predators to the harmful insects within the actual vineyards. This garden includes a number of small trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses. Groth has long practiced sustainable farming and this is just one more example of their commitment to this type of beneficial agriculture. Brochures listing the types of plants growing in the insectary are available from within the winery.
Whenever we drive by we refer to this winery as the “pink presence” as due to its unique salmon color (perhaps pinker in its early years but since faded somewhat by the sun), as it certainly does strike an imposing image rising above the green vineyards. It is one of the Napa Valley’s most easily recognizable wineries.
Guests can either make an appointment for just a tasting or also for a tour. Tours are given twice daily, are separate from the tastings and require an advance reservation. Allow at least an hour for the tour which includes tastings of the white wines as well as their famed Cabernet Sauvignon. As with winemaking, the actual tour starts in their vineyards and gives you a good overview of the inner workings of a small to medium sized winery with visits to their tank facility and reserve barrel rooms.
The special reserve tasting is often held with one of the Groths. This experience takes place in the Reserve tasting room. This is a unique opportunity to taste some of their well-known Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (this wine when produced typically sells out extremely quickly).
For more information or to signup for one of their wine clubs (members enjoy typical wine club perks including discounts on the wine), visit: www.grothwines.com
Groth Winery + Hospitality
Groth Oakville Vineyard
Photos coming soon
Hillview Vineyard, Yountville
Photos coming soon