Nemerever Vineyards was established in the heart of Oakville in 1997 by Bill and Ginger Nemerever. Both live in Boston although they spend some of their time in Napa Valley at their vineyard. Bill is a long-time money manager and investment banker who has enjoyed a successful career in the world of finance. Their early exposure to Napa Valley came when they lived in Mill Valley for several years in the 1970s (Marin County). They would often drive up to Napa for wine tasting and to meet vintners.
Several decades later they would rent homes in the valley for a month or two at a time and discussed eventually owning a piece of Napa and retiring here. Ginger spotted an ad in the St. Helena Star (local newspaper) listing a property for sale in the heart of Oakville; fortunately, she and Bill were the first interested party to respond to the ad. They realized that land prices were not going down and decided to purchase a 10.1-acre piece of property just off of Oakville Cross Road.
The site was an old dairy farm; at the time of their purchase only Block One was planted to vines. With the help of their neighbor and friend Justin Meyer (co-founder of Silver Oak Cellars) they chose specific root stock and clones to plant out several more blocks. Today they have two blocks planted on the valley floor (Block One and Block Two) and another planted on the hillside (Block Three). Despite each block being located close to each other, the soils vary dramatically from the floor to the hillside. The valley floor contains alluvial clay soils while their hillside block contains a remarkable amount of rock with a thinner topsoil. There are literally piles of rocks lining the vineyard rows here. As of our latest update to this review, the oldest vines on the property date from 1992 in Block 1 and are trellised in an uncommon for Napa Valley, Geneva Double Curtain (a horizontally divided canopy). The vines have been managed by Pina Vineyard Management since the 1990s.
Early on they sold fruit to Silver Oak Cellars and Robert Mondavi Winery; today they still sell the majority of the fruit, holding back small amounts for their own use.
This is certainly one of the smallest producers in Napa Valley with a physical cave winery; until the 2019 vintage, they produced two wines each year: the primary Cabernet Sauvignon from the hillside block and a second wine, a barrel selection called Complement from all three Cabernet Sauvignon blocks (with the block percentages varying from year to year). Between the two wines, only 250 cases are produced annually.
Bill tried a wine he enjoyed many years ago at the old Brava Terrace restaurant just north of St. Helena. That wine was from a local producer, Judd’s Hill. Looking to acquire more he searched around the valley, eventually calling Judd’s Hill Winery. He enjoyed their style of wine and got to know proprietor Art Finklestein and ultimately hired him to be his winemaker (the team at Judd’s Hill made the Nemerever wines until 2014).
The size of their property is just about at the minimum acreage needed to build a winery per county regulations (10 acres minimum in the county of Napa). They built a 4,000 square foot cave; this is one of the larger spaces to production ratio wineries in the valley. Crush and fermentation take place outside the cave. Well-regarded winemaker Jeff Ames would often drive by on Oakville Cross Road when the cave was being drilled; one day he reached out to Bill. After their initial talk, they kept in touch and when the cave was completed, Bill invited Jeff to make a barrel of wine from grapes on the property. There was no wine making equipment yet on site, so Jeff ended up renting some equipment including a hand press (not the easiest way of making wine).
Liking what he tasted, Bill soon hired Jeff who has been the winemaker since the 2015 vintage. Along with the change in wine making, so too has the style of Nemerever Wines. While not as lean or restrained as before, the wines are still extremely balanced and perhaps highlight more of the richness of the vineyard and site than the prior vintages. The earlier vintage wines we tried were mostly in the 13% alcohol range.
The 2019 Nemerever Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is deep ruby in color; the aromas are open in their youth and expressive. The bouquet offers notes of sweaty leather, light notes of crushed peppercorn, spicy dark plum and some meaty and forest floor notes. If we were to choose one word to describe its aromatic profile, it would be savory. As it continues to evolve in the glass, the fruit aromas become more pronounced showing dark cherry and blackberry along with some subtle darker baking spices. The palate offers flavors of dark cherry, red plum and black raspberry. Its texture is soft and supple, featuring ripe, rounded and very well resolved tannins for such a youthful wine at the time of our tasting. This bottling lingers with a light dark and woodsy note, black pepper, some alcohol and darker fruits. We’ve had a number of 2019s which were still showing tight in their youth; this is not one of them. Shows as 15.5% alcohol, higher than other Nemerever bottlings we have tasted.
The 2015 Nemerever Cabernet Sauvignon Complement is deep ruby in color; the bouquet offers a very appealing interplay between ripe fruit and barrel influenced baking spice characteristics. It shows notes of ripe blackberry, boysenberry, mulberry, black fig, milk chocolate, cocoa powder, Graham cracker and molasses. Let this wine breathe; the fruit becomes more dominant over time. This bottling offers primarily darker fruit flavors including blackberry and plum. The barrel influence shows more on the bouquet than the palate. The tannins offer a light gravelly feel, a plush texture which is nicely integrated into the fruit-filled finish. This wine is at a very good place right now; we tasted 7 years post vintage and of a number of the Nemerever library wines we tried dating back to 2002, was our favorite. We also sampled this wine from the barrel about 2 months before bottling in 2017; at that time, it was extremely aromatic showing layers of darker fruit notes. On the palate it was already approachable on the entry, with a mid-palate richness and lingering earthy tannins.
The 2013 Nemerever Cabernet Sauvignon Complement is a medium to lighter bodied wine which includes grapes from all three blocks. The bouquet offers a floral note – perhaps violet; the nose is very elegant. It offers flavors of red cherry, cranberry, red currant and cedar plank spice complemented by a mouthwatering acidity. This bottling is very food friendly. It shows fairly soft tannins along with a lingering tartness.
The 2014 Nemerever Cabernet Sauvignon offers notes of fig, cherry and a slightly chalky dustiness on the bouquet with a hint of cedar. Features higher toned fruit on the palate with flavors of red cherry and cranberry. The palate is balanced and seamless, showing great acidity; there are no harsh edges here. The tannins are well-integrated complemented by a hint of lingering oak influence on the finish. This is a slightly bigger wine then the Complement of the same vintage. Only 13.2% alcohol.
One of the best wines they made according to Bill was their 2007 vintage. This wine shows an elegant bouquet with some age characteristics to the aromas; it shows pretty fruit aromatics complemented with sweet dessert spices including brown chocolate. Balanced on the palate, this wine offers complexity and long lasting still youthful tannins. In our opinion this wine still has plenty of life ahead of it and drinks younger than the actual vintage date. And that is one of the hallmarks of the Nemerever Wines; they age well. The 2005 vintage has aged particularly well; we tasted this wine 17 years post vintage.
Like many producers in Napa Valley in 2020 due to smoke taint resulting from the fires, Nemerever did not produce wines. However, they did harvest their grapes and sold them to an Oakville producer who used them for making brandy.
The wines are available locally by the glass at La Toque restaurant in the city of Napa. Bill also has a distributor in Massachusetts. Consumers take note of their library wines; they have a number of older vintages still for sale.
Their first vintage was in 1998; despite producing wine for over 20 years, this is still one of Oakville’s hidden secrets.
Visits are by appointment for serious wine enthusiasts and are typically held with Bill when he is in town, but sometimes with their assistant winemaker. For more information and to join their mailing visit, visit: www.nemerever.com
Brian Phelan says
This Brian Phelan, Peter Lacaillade’s Paine Webber partner. Fascinating what you are doing. I had good friend Chris Clifford, another Boston guy who was a founder of Berkshire Partners, who started Redwood Hills Vineyards out there but the fire took its toll!! Who is your Mass. distributor? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and cell 508-527-1431. I will tell Peter that we connected.
Congrats on the venture
Brian – thanks for the note. I’ve passed it onto Bill directly.