Memento Mori was founded through a stong friendship between Hayes Drumwright, Adriel Lares & Adam Craun. Hayes and Adrial met while in high school when living in Alvin, Texas. Hayes attended Boston University where he met Adam as freshman while both were on the swim team. All three became very close friends. While at college and only 21 years of age, Hayes was diagnosed with an aggressive cancerous tumor. The tumor had grown so fast and so large that it cut off its own blood supply.
Hayes came face to face with his own mortality, survived and realized the importance of ‘now’ following the incredible relief after being given a clean bill of health from his doctor. Inspired, he soon arranged a meeting with Adriel and Adam – they all made an agreement that regardless of life’s direction, they would embrace life to the fullest and pursue their passions.
All have gone on to have extremely successful careers – Hayes founded Trace3, a technology company and is a prolific entrepreneur, Adriel became CFO of 3PAR, a data storage company which was eventually sold to Hewlett Packard and Adam works in It sales and management.
Eventually the men began spending time in the Napa Valley drawn to its wines of course but also its beauty and lifestyle. During one of their trips they met vintner, Juan Mercado of Realm Cellars. If one is interested in making wine in the Napa Valley and is of a certain age, who doesn’t meet Juan early on in one’s exploration of the region?! Juan has been a mentor to a number of vintners we have met with over the years. Inspired by the wines Juan was producing from some of the valley’s best vineyard sites without actually owning any vineyards at the time – at one point Hayes queried his two friends with, “what are we waiting for”.
Juan made an introduction to grape grower Andy Beckstoffer – a coveted and rare opportunity to make a favorable impression and convince Andy to sell them grapes. Their meeting just happened to be during the time that Adriel was in the middle of negotiations to sell 3Par – during the meeting he had step out to take an important phone call. Fortunately Andy was very much in tune with the potential sale of 3Par and was impressed by the men’s story and interest in producing wine from premium vineyards.
He sold them a small block of grapes from his Georges III vineyard in Rutherford – they made only 150 cases during their inaugural 2010 vintage. Well-regarded winemaker Sam Kaplan (Arkenstone, Nine Suns) has been their winemaker since day one. This vintage was the only Georges the III wine ever made by Memento Mori – as such it has become somewhat of a collectible wine. As of our latest update to this review, the Memento Mori wines are produced at the state of the art Arkenstone Winery on Howell Mountain (which is where we first met Adam and later followed up with a visit to their tasting salon).
Later they were introduced to Benoit Touquet (winemaker at Realm) who helped them secure fruit from additional premium vineyards including Las Piedras, Dr. Crane and Weitz. Presented with wines from each of these vineyards during blending trials, the three men decided they preferred the wine as a blend rather then vineyard designates (counter to producers who typically produce vineyard designate wines from these particular coveted sites).
Memento Mori in Latin translates to, ‘remember that you have to die’ – a name they chose to create homage to their philosophy of living dating back to the brush with mortality Hayes faced when he was diagnosed with cancer.
The 2015 Memento Mori is a blend of grapes from Beckstoffer’s Dr. Crane and Las Piedras Vineyards, Oakville Ranch and Weitz vineyards. Dark ruby color in the glass. The bouquet is inviting and simultaneously powerful with aromas of blackberry, cedar box, darker baking spices, cinnamon, leather, white pepper and dust. Immediately noticeable is the suppleness on the palate, it is seamless from start to finish with a plushness on the mid palate. There are no harsh edges whatsoever even structurally. Finishes like velvet with rounded polished tannins. Good acidity, especially noticeable on the finish.
Continuing to seek fruit from premium vineyards, in 2017 they started purchasing fruit from the esteemed Vine Hill Ranch. Each year their signature wine is a singular wine – the best expression of Cabernet Sauvignon from that year’s particular source vineyard sites. But they also produce very limited productions of other select vineyard designate wines.
Tasting Salon, Napa
In 2018 Memento Mori opened a tasting salon in Napa’s Tannery Bend district (just a few minutes drive south of downtown). Prior occupants were Favia Wine – the brick building dates from the 1920’s and is next to the old wooden Sawyer Tannery building dating from the 1880s (once the largest tannery west of the Mississippi and where Nappa Leather originated from). Napa’s leather industry began along this part of the Napa River in 1869 and is in a part of town named after both a bend in the Napa River and the old leather tannery.
Visits are highly personalized and are for serious wine collectors and enthusiasts.
The wine is sold via a mailing list, the wines are released once a year in September, direct to consumer (through the tasting salon) and also are selectively distributed. Locally you can find the wine at premium wine shops including the K.Laz Collection, V Wine Cellars, 750 wines and Acme Wines. Select vintages are also available at the French Laundry.
Beginning in 2014 they produced extremely limited quantities of Dr. Crane and Las Piedras vineyard designates – (24 cases of each wine).
Total production has been growing – as of our latest update they produce around 1000 cases per year. For more information and to join the mailing list, visit: www.mmwine.com