Krupp Brothers Winery was founded as a partnership between Dr. Jan Krupp and his brother Bart as well as ownership coming from a Gordon Getty trust as well as other investors. The brothers (with Jan being the face of the business) are known for developing a sizable property (Stagecoach Vineyards) located nearly at the end of Soda Canyon Road in Atlas Peak. At its ‘peak’ the property featured some 600,000 vines planted on over 1100 acres. Krupp Brothers sold this entire property in early 2017 to Gallo Family Winery.
When we first visited Stagecoach Vineyard, Jan told us that he loves growing things; after growing up in New Jersey and then graduating from Yale University he left for California for medical school and was exposed to California’s long growing seasons; as a result, he never left the “golden state”. A professor at Stanford also introduced him to wine and he would often make trips up to Napa Valley from the San Francisco Bay Area. Wanting to take his passion for wine to the next level, he moved to Napa in 1991 (commuting to his medical practice until he stopped practicing in 1998), and then purchased 40 acres in 1994 on Atlas Peak. An ad in the San Francisco Chronicle for 750 acres caught his attention – the property being nearby to his existing 40 acres. Other vintners had previously looked at the property but were not interested because of what they presumed to be a lack of water on the site not to mention the extremely rocky terrain.
Jan hired a world-renowned geologist who identified several potential water sources, but when he drilled, he found nothing. A friend turned him on to a water witcher, (not Marc Mondavi) but Jonathan Newman. He identified an underground river on the site. Jan had the previous wells extended deeper and sure enough they reached the water source, providing them with plenty of water to develop the site.
That was just one hurdle cleared – 28 individual property owners surrounded Jan’s landlocked site. Jan had to negotiate with his neighbors ultimately resulting in being allowed to build a road onto the site. And then there was the gargantuan task of planting this challenging site to grapes.
During our first visit to the property, we jumped in Jan’s Land Rover, and he drove us through hundreds of acres of grapes on dirt roads with grapes in all directions as far as one could see. He originally had the land cleared for planting in the early 1990s.
Jan told us about rocks the size of his own vehicle which were moved. This was a major undertaking and Jan estimates over 2 billion tons of rock were moved to make way for the vineyards. There were vineyards planted in the area in the late 1800s but those owners did not have the equipment to move the large rocks and they just planted around them. After present-day workers blasted the huge rocks with dynamite, it would then take weeks or longer to further clear the sites. And finding a use for all the blasted rock, they built a number of roads on site.
In the early years of the Stagecoach Vineyard development, it’s brand and location were off the radar of most Napa wine consumers. And selling grapes to area wineries was a very tough sell. Jan told us he had to call nearly 40 producers/wineries before one actually decided to take a chance on his grapes. This certainly changed as Krupp Brothers increased their production, other vintners purchased their grapes, their vines matured, and the word got out that these grapes were producing world-class wines. At its peak over 90 wineries were purchasing grapes from the property to use in their own wines.
Jan’s son Josh was their winemaker at the time and convinced his father to branch out into other wines besides the core varieties of Cabernet and Merlot. As a result, Krupp Brothers now makes a well-rounded selection of wine including several nice white wines (a Chardonnay, a White Blend and a rosé – usually of Syrah. Their total production at the time of this update is around 2,500 cases per year but they have plans to grow this over time.
After the vineyard tour, we sat down with Jan and tasted through several of his wines. We started our tasting with several whites including his Marsanne, a delicious structured floral wine with a slightly viscous mouth feel and flavors of peach. For a white wine, this has a very long finish. Not every Napa winery makes a Marsanne, and it was a treat to taste it. We also had the privilege of sampling their Black Bart’s Bride before it was released. Again, this is a delicious white composed of Marsanne, Viognier and a lesser amount of Chardonnay.
The 2021 Krupp Brothers Black Bart Viognier is medium yellow in color; the bouquet is highly aromatic and overtly floral in its aromatic character. It offers scents of spring florals including orange blossom and honeysuckle and with sweetly-fruited stone fruits including peach and white nectarine along with pineapple, mango and papaya. It offers a light creamy texture with a noticeable brightness but no tart characteristics. The palate is ripe but not overripe and offers rich flavors of pear, melon and vanilla. These flavors continue to persist for quite some time on the long finish. We have seen a number of Napa Valley white wines push the envelope recently in terms of alcohol; this wine is one of them at 15% alcohol.
The 2021 Krupp Brothers Chardonnay was fermented in 50% stainless steel tanks and 50% oak barrels. It is medium to dark gold in color; the aromatics are sweet including a noticeable honeycomb component along with warm butter, caramel, vanilla, ripe pear, apricot and crème Brule. Simply put, this wine smells like dessert. The palate is equally rich, supported by a rounded but not a viscous texture and flavors of ripe melon, yellow peach, pear, apricot and plenty of baking spices. Its acidity complements the flavor and texture nicely. This is an intense and flavorful showing. The finish is rich and long-lasting. This wine is 15.5% alcohol.
Enjoy Syrah? One of Krupp Brothers Winery’s most limited wines and often highly coveted by collectors is their Black Bart Syrah. In doing some research on their Atlas Peak Property Jan discovered that the stagecoach robber Charles Earl Bowles (otherwise known as Black Bart) robbed several Wells Fargo Stagecoaches near his property. Black Bart would never rob passengers directly, rather he would only target Wells Fargo stagecoaches. He was a prolific and a polite holdup man – robbing some 28 Wells Fargo stagecoaches in a span of 8 years. And after two of his robberies, he left a piece of paper on scene written with a poem. And in addition to being named after a stagecoach robber, this wine is an homage to Jan’s brother, Bart.
The 2020 Krupp Brothers Black Bart Syrah (100% varietal) is deep ruby and opaque with an amaranthine rim; this wine’s bouquet smells like something that would make you jump into a pool of nothing but but what is contained within this bottle. It offers sage, pepper, a woodsy spice, violets, dark cherries, blackberry and boysenberry. The aromatics are darkly fruited along with additional layers of dark olives and old cedar. If we were to categorize this bouquet in two words, it would be, ripe elegance. It has loads of aromatic layering; we are not uncomfortable using the word hedonistic to describe its aromatic character. The palate is dark, juicy and mouth watering with darker fruits. It is also savory and lingers with gravelly lightly pixelated tannins, dried herbs, dryness and tobacco leaf on the finish. Choose your pairing on the BBQ: lamb, duck or rabbit.
The 2020 Krupp Brothers Wheelman Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal. This wine is deep ruby and nearly opaque; it’s bouquet sports aromas of plum, blackberry, cherry, leather, cardamom, old cedar box and chocolate. On the palate it shows flavors of cherry, dark raspberry and plum. The tannins are finely grained and almost chalk-like in their textural feel. Lingers somewhat savory and spicy with a noticeable dryness. Very balanced. And either at the winery or sometimes at the tasting room is an example of a penny-farthing, otherwise known as a high wheel. This type of bicycle features a large front wheel and a small rear wheel and was a popular mode of transportation in the 1870s and 1880s. The version Krupp Brothers owns was designed and built by a gentleman who built a number of these for parades in Disneyland. This wine is 15.5% alcohol.
The 2014 Krupp Brothers The Doctor is a very unique red blend of 35% Tempranillo, 26% Cabernet Franc and 24% Cabernet Sauvignon (the blend percentages vary from year to year). This wine offers plenty of fruit on the bouquet including some herbal notes, a hint of spice and dark chocolate. On the palate there is appealing juicy fruit flavors with good acidity – mostly red fruits including plum, cherry and raspberry. The finish lingers for quite some time and is not out of balance.
The 2014 Krupp Brothers Synchrony is a red blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Cabernet Franc. This wine is a barrel selection, and the varietal percentages vary from year to year. The barrels chosen for the final blend represent what the winemaker feels are the best barrels of the vintage. Shows dark reddish/purple in the glass and floral on the bouquet with notes of violets – as it opens it reveals ripe fruit aromas including red and black cherry and blackberry. A hint of spice also follows. It is very flavorful and balanced in its youth. Shows a fine tonal structure on the finish with polished tannins.
The M5 is their most premium wine and is made from the same block of grapes each year. The clone for this came from noted vintner, Hermann J. Wiemer (Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York) who originally acquired cuttings from Château Latour in Bordeaux, France. The 2014 Krupp Brothers Syrah needs some time to open in the glass; it shows blackberry notes and is somewhat briary on the bouquet along with hints of tea leaf and dark chocolate. This is a quintessential robust mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that steak lovers will enjoy. This wine is surprising soft on the entry but definitely shows some muscle down the stretch.
One year they forgot to pick a row of these coveted grapes and made a port-style wine.
The 2017 Krupp Brothers Just Dessert Wine is medium amber in color; the bouquet will immediately draw dessert wine enthusiasts in with is opulent, generous, diverse and sweetly fruited and accompanying baking spice aromatics. And smelling this will most like elicit a satisfactory sigh of appreciation. It reveals scents of warm honey, crème Brule, ripe apricot, butterscotch, vanilla, brown sugar, ginger snaps and toasted mature coconut meat. One does not want to stop smelling the bouquet, but the palate awaits. It reveals rich, intense and concentrated flavors of apricot, peaches in syrup, orange marmalade, baked pear, crème Brule, vanilla and honeycomb and brown sugar. Its texture is creamy but not viscous or syrupy, and that is a very important distinction when describing dessert wines. We would like to see a bit more acidity to balance the intensity of flavor and residual sugar. Even in a 375ml bottling, this wine has years of life ahead of it. This wine is a blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Sauvignon Blanc from Stagecoach Vineyard; each variety was co-fermented in stainless steel and then aged in neutral French oak barrels.
In May of 2017, Krupp Brothers announced the purchase of Kitchak Cellars following the sale of their Stagecoach Vineyards to Gallo Family. The sale included the entire property and the Kitchak Cellars brand and remaining inventory; Kitchak Cellars was founded in 2005 by Peter Kitchak who produced his first wines at what was Crushpad Winery in San Francisco. Kitchak Cellars finished the winery on this property in 2010. When the sale was made to Krupp Brothers, all production on Kitchak Cellars ceased.
The winery is located on Hardman Lane which bisects a number of vineyards, but Krupp Brothers Winery is the only physical winery on this road. Nearby neighbors include a vineyard owned by Stagecoach, William Hill Winery and Razi Winery. The property is in the Napa Valley Appellation (no sub-AVA, but if this ever were to become a sub appellation, it might be called The Silverado Bench.
This estate property was home to a dairy farm in the 1950s; one of the additions at that time was the construction of Lake Cynthia. This small pond has a positive effect on vineyards; it provides a moderating influence during the coldest winter months (no fans are needed on site) while nearby vineyards have to use fans for frost control. It also offers additional reflection of sunlight on the nearby wines. The property has a Tuscan feel to it with the stone winery and barrel room and Italian looking home.
One of Napa Valley’s smallest caves is drilled through part of a tiny hillside leading to a hospitality room. Weather permitting, an ideal spot for enjoying the Krupp Estate wines is outside overlooking the small lake surrounded by vineyards. Serious wine enthusiasts can request an appointment and visit on site – allow about 90 minutes for a tour and tasting.
Tasting Room, Napa
Visiting Napa Valley and interested in tasting the wines without needing an appointment? Krupp Brothers Winery maintains a tasting room in the Oxbow District – just east of downtown Napa in what previously was home to Mason Cellars tasting room (now a label owned by the Trinchero family). Address: 714 First St, Napa. This space offers table and bar seating in a contemporary setting. Parking is curbside along nearby streets in what is called the Oxbow District of downtown Napa.
In June 2023 the windows facing 1st street were removed and changed to accordion style windows which when full extended open up the space nicely. Patrons can now easily have casual conversations with passing pedestrians on the sidewalk and or be treated to the occasional vehicle with windows down showcasing their sound system. A photo booth is available for customers which prints out polaroid photographs. This space is pet friendly and sometimes pets will accompany their owners in posing for a photograph.
A small room behind the main tasting space was converted into a semi-private lounge seating up to 6 people. Posters of some of their most iconic labels are available for sale. These posters are framed and hang on one of the walls of the tasting room.
Several tasting flights are offered daily including the Signature Tasting, Reserve Tasting and a Library Tasting. And select wines are served by the glass or by the bottle.
Parking is curbside on nearby streets if available or in an overflow open-air lot within a short drive (near Oxbow Public Market).
Old Atlas Peak Estate Property
Stagecoach Vineyards (no longer owned by Dr. Krupp)
Curious to see how a vineyard prepares rocky soils for eventual planting – watch these “rock” videos!