Leaf & Vine was founded in 2010 by father son, Tim and Rick Keith. The family grew up in Salem Oregon but for many years had a family connection to Napa Valley; Tim’s grandfather, Edward Keith owned the Bar 49 Ranch in Chiles Valley and ran a children’s camp from the 1950s through the 1970s (a property that is now owned by Maxville Lake Winery). Tim and his siblings would often visit the ranch during the summer.
When thinking about a career Tim pondered going to the University of Oregon and pursuing a business degree. But then he had moment of “clarity or insanity” as he recalls based on a conversation with his grandfather who convinced him to move to Napa Valley. Tim did so in 2000, living on his grandfather’s ranch. Eventually he went to UC Davis and graduated with a degree in Viticulture and Enology. Through his familiarity with Chiles Valley, he took a job at Green & Red, helping make their Zinfandel followed by several years as a winemaker at Quixote Winery.
His early career in Napa Valley helped shape his winemaking philosophy. The focus of Leaf and Vine is on single vineyard, single varietal wines. In the winery, his style is fairly minimalist – fermenting with non-inoculated yeasts (indigenous) and bottling the wines unfined and unfiltered. He tends to age his wines up to 30 months in barrel and then another year in bottle before releasing.
Tim says, “I make wines that the grapes give me” and he does not try to manipulate the fruit or ‘go backwards’ once the grapes are in the winery.
Tim has made the wines in a variety of locations including at Paradise Ridge Winery in neighboring Sonoma County (burned down in the October fires of 2017) and Treasure Island (San Francisco). Looking to move closer to Napa he reconnected with vintner Vic Borassa who has made wine in an industrial park in south Napa for many years. Through the grapevine he discovered a warehouse next to Vic’s winery was for sale. Tim purchased the warehouse in 2014 and made his first vintage there in 2015. Tim also runs a small wine making consulting business and uses the space to make wine for several small clients as well as leases the space to select clients who make their own wines here.
On occasion, as one has to balance the economics of doing so, Leaf & Vine produces some one-off, unique and highly intriguing wines. One year Tim produced one of the most interesting and unique Chardonnays in all of Napa Valley. He sourced this variety from the 4-generation family-owned Thomson Vineyard in Napa’s Carneros district (a family that began farming here in 1938). Post primary fermentation this wine is aged in a variety of ways including in neutral French oak (with infrequent battonage) and in stainless steel drums.
And several barrels are aged ‘vin jaune’ like with the Savagnin grape in the Jura region in eastern France in that the ullage or head space is not topped off while the wine ages. As a result, the wine ages under a film of yeast called voile in French (helping protect the wine from oxygen as the ullage grows larger due to evaporation. Starting with 60 gallons in a typical barrel, by the time the aging is complete this barrel will have lost approximately 20 gallons. The evaporation is great. The amount of wine going through malolactic fermentation varies depending on the vessel.
Another year Tim produced a skin contact fermented Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley resulting in a wine that is neither grassy or green or tropical, like a number of higher alcohol Napa Valley produced wines of this variety.
The few Napa Valley based producers who produce wine from Albariño often source grapes outside of the county. There is not much Albariño in Napa Valley; four sites we are aware of that grow this variety include Stewart Ranch next to Highway 29 just south of the city of Napa, Artesa on the Napa side of the Carneros District, on V Sattui’s Hibbard Ranch in the deep end of Carneros and a hillside planting in Deer Park owned by Fleury Winery. The 2021 Leaf & Vine Lodi Albariño, Terra Alta Vineyard is medium to deep gold in color; the pretty bouquet is sweetly fruited meets citrus in its aromatic approach. It offers scents of mandarin, tangerine an orange zest, honeycomb, apricot, ripe yellow peach, mango, vanilla, caramel and brown sugar. The palate is soft and features a rounded texture and echoes some of the aromas as flavors including mandarin, apricot, honeycomb along with apple and pear. This wine lingers brightly with a rich long-lasting and ripe fruit-filled finish. It drinks very nicely by itself.
The 2019 Leaf & Vine Napa Valley Chardonnay, Buhman Vineyard was fermented in a combination of stainless steel tank and oak barrels. This vineyard is in Carneros and is owned by the long time in Napa Valley, Buhman family, perhaps most locally known for their cattle which was one of their original businesses before they ventured into wine. This bottling was then aged for 7 months in tank. This wine is deep gold in color; its aromatics are powerful, diverse and well-layered. It offers plenty of tropical scents including both floral and of fruit. Mango, baked apple, pear, papaya, honeycomb, caramel, vanilla, melted butter, crème Brule and citrus blossom all make for a very enticing and richly endowed bouquet. Deep in the aromatics is a subtle note of fresh pine branch. The palate is rounded and slightly creamy in its textural approach, complemented by flavors of ripe pear, apple, mango, an orange zest nd honeycomb. This wine finishes with a persistent richness and a lingering slight warmth of alcohol.
The 2014 Leaf & Vine Carneros Chardonnay is golden yellow in the glass. From the bouquet, one quickly recognizes this is a unique Napa Valley Chardonnay. Certainly distinctive, presumably one could quickly pick this out of a lineup of traditionally made Napa Valley Chardonnays. This bottling shows aromas of hazelnut, browned sugar, cooked pear, kumquat/orange peel, dessert spices and tropical fruit. A pleasing roundness is immediately noticeable on the palate. Shows intense flavor and character complemented nicely with acidity which is especially noticeable on the finish. The intensity and flavor of the fruit may trick one into thinking this wine has some residual sugar, but in reality, there was none left after fermentation. This is a highly unique Chardonnay worth seeking out.
The 2019 Leaf & Vine Leaf & Vine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Quail Ridge Coombsville was fermented using existing yeast on the grape skins in open top oak fermenters. After the fermentation was completed it spent another 10 days soaking on the skins. This wine was then aged for 34 months in neutral French oak barrels. This wine is dark ruby, purplish and very opaque; the aromatics are Napaesque for this variety offering scents of dark chocolate, chocolate brownie, Graham cracker, mocha and ripe dark fruit including blackberry and boysenberry. This wine smells like dessert, or like the kitchen during winter holidays at our aunt’s house when she was in a particularly energetic mood for baking. As compared to the bouquet, the palate is surprisingly savory and somewhat briary, offering flavors of plum, blackberry and crushed black pepper. It’s texture is a noteworthy aspect, felt immediately and lasting the length of the palate – showing chalky, dusty, drying and savory tannins which continue to persist for quite some time, ultimately outpacing the fruit.
The 2013 Leaf & Vine Napa Valley Merlot is from Napa’s least known appellation and one we rarely see wines from – Wild Horse Valley. Along with Carneros, it is one of Napa’s only two sub appellations to encompass part of two counties, Carneros in both Napa and Sonoma and Wild Horse Valley in both Napa and Solano County. This wine is highly aromatic showing bright fruit with notes of red cherry, dust and mocha. It is very approachable and shows a red core of fruit across the palate. Well integrated tannins anchor a long finish.
One of their more popular wines is the Quartz Block Zinfandel from Amador County and is one of the vineyards that Tim has been working with almost from the very beginning of Leaf & Vine. These vines are dry farmed and historically are harvested around the same time each year. After several years of drought and a very hot vintage, the grapes were ready and harvested earlier than normal in 2013 – in early September. Tim enjoys the brambly characteristics this variety often shows.
The 2013 Leaf & Vine Zinfandel offers sweet aromas of raspberry and cherry liqueur with a kiss of toasted oak influence including notes of mocha. It is ripe yet retains noticeable acidity. Somewhat tight tannins linger for quite some time.
Based on vineyard sources, Leaf & Vine also produces other wines from Napa Valley including an Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon. Sometimes when special vineyard sources become available for whatever reason (located through Tim’s strong Napa winemaking network of friends), he will make one off wines such as an Oakville Cabernet and a sparkling wine, also from an Oakville.
In May 2018, Leaf and Vine partnered with two of Tim’s winemaker friends, Jason Holman of Holman Cellars and Kevin Cadle of Cadle Wines to open Rebel Vintners, a spacious and inviting tasting room located on the corner of Coombs and 1st Street in downtown Napa. Visitors can stop by without needing an appointment and taste at the bar or choose one of the sit-down options (tables). The vibe here is inviting with conversation easily flowing between those pouring the wines and those enjoying them. Tim is often here behind the counter. With a commercial kitchen on site and a strategic partnership with locally based Monday Bakery, they offer guests the options to taste with small bites, charcuterie and cheese plates and various baked goods.
And for those looking to imbibe in something other than wine, they also offer ciders on tap.
The tasting room changes its vibe somewhat after 5pm and becomes more like a wine bar and a lounge space, serving wines by the glass with games showing on the big screen opposite the wine bar. An old school gaming machine is available for anyone old enough who wants to relive their past gaming prowess with games such as Pac-Man, Frogger and Galaga. And for those looking to just hang out for a while, especially in the evening, order a bottle of wine and play one of the board games on site.
The annual production varies somewhat and has ranged between 800 and 2000 cases a year. The wines are selectively distributed in Oregon and Washington and are available through their website. For more information, visit: www.leafandvine.com