Next Door Wine. The founding of Next Door Wine begins with Jeff Clarke; originally from New York he has spent a long career in the world of tech and was a former CEO of Kodak. Having enjoyed fine wines for many years he bought a house in Calistoga in 2005 with four surrounding acres. This property had never been planted to vines before; in 2007 he decided to plant this land (0.9 of an acre) entirely to one clone of Cabernet Sauvignon. The first vintage of Next Door Wine was from 2010.
Among Napa Valley boutique producers it is fairly unique to find a brand jointly owned by multiple couples. Friendships must be solid, so must a shared passion for wine for the small brand to remain in business. Such is the case with Next Door Wine – the founding partners include Jeff and his wife Suzette, Ralph (also from the high-tech world) and his wife Christine and Rick and his wife Anna.
Jeff and Suzette are avid collectors of rare books including a number of first edition books, author signed books and some historically intriguing books and guides to the Napa Valley and Calistoga. They located what is an early printed “travel brochure/booklet” promoting the virtues of “Calistoga Springs” dating from the 1870s (see photos below) with a number of pages extolling the benefits of mud baths, hot springs and text roughly describing a four-hour trip from San Francisco (where the temperatures will be in the 50s) to Calistoga where the temperatures probably will in 80s by an early afternoon summer’s day. Some things have not changed.
The name “Next Door” was coined by a man known for his influence in the world of tech, Evan Williams. Evan has long been associated with the San Francisco Bay Area tech scene having originally coined the word “blogger” as well as having co-founded Twitter.
While pondering what to name their new wine during a dinner at the vineyard property in Calistoga with Jeff and Suzette and Evan – Evan inquired about their next-door neighbors. Jack informed him that the well-established Chateau Montelena (producers of world class wines) was located almost a stone’s throw to the north of their own property. The name “next door” appropriately describes their vineyard location, since it is next door to many premium vineyard properties in this part of Calistoga with Chateau Montelena being just one of them. And it is a name that has a neighborly feel to it; wines are best enjoyed when shared with friends, family and neighbors.
Their vineyard was certified organic (CCOF) in 2018 and is entirely micromanaged with most of the management done by hand. They farm the vines organically and do not use synthetic pesticides or herbicides. The cover crop is cut by hand. While the land grows premium vines it also grows plenty of rocks. During a recent walk of the vineyard, we saw numerous volcanic as well as alluvial small rocks.
After picking the grapes by hand they are then hand sorted in the winery. The first few vintages have been educational for the partners based on various nuances that each barrel imparts to the wine.
A number of barrels from various French coopers are used in the aging program; over time they have been able to select which coopers they want to keep using and which ones won’t be used again.
General Manager Dom Pochee was with Next Door wines from 2012 through 2022; he joined the team early on to help market the wine. He has lived a whirlwind life centered around wine and the world of gastronomy. Raised in London he was bitten by the wine bug early on influenced by his uncle, Ahmed Pochee a prominent businessman in London’s wine world. Ahmed founded Oddbins, a hip wine retail outlet that after was sold to Seagram’s ultimately grew to nearly 280 retail outlets.
After taking a memorable backpacking trip to Asia (in which unfortunately he contracted dengue fever in Thailand) he returned to London to find his uncle in ill health. Dom soon took over the business managing it before Ahmed died in 1999. After this, Dom began several other food delicacy businesses (olives, truffles, etc.) focusing on Italian and Spanish sources.
For 10 years he marketed Next Door Wine and simultaneously ran Global Wine Advisers, a company that distributes mostly Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot noir from California producers (mainly Napa and Sonoma) to high end resorts in the British Virgin Islands and other Caribbean destinations (including some of the Next Door wine).
The 2021 Next Door Rosé Grenache Santa Barbara County is blended with smaller percentages of Counoise, Syrah and Mourvèdre. This wine is medium copper in color; minerally, fresh, fruity and zesty, this bouquet is immediately expressive upon opening. It offers scents of citrus blossom, lemon infused water, lime juice, freshly mowed lawn, wild strawberries and raspberry. Bright, refreshing and balanced across the palate this summertime sipper goes down far too easily. Like the bouquet, the palate is citrus flavor driven including notes of grapefruit and lime. The finish lingers with what we can best describe as a light perceived herbal sweetness, perhaps like a hint of anise which is a characteristic often inherent in Grenache.
Santa Barbara based winemaker Doug Margerum crafted this rosé; as of the latest update to this review, one of his Margerum tastings rooms is located in Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara, owned by Bill Foley (Foley Estates) who also owns several wineries in Napa Valley. The wine world is small; and we are always looking for connections outside of Napa Valley to wineries in the valley through ownership or heritage.
The 2019 Next Door Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga Napa Valley is deep ruby in the glass; the bouquet offers a pleasing union of both fruit and additional spice characters. These include aromas of Santa Rosa plum, wild blackberries picked at their peak of ripeness, i.e. in late summer, dark cherry accompanied by chocolate, mocha, coffee bean, coconut and vanilla. Fresh, savory and already balanced in its youth, this wine delivers plenty of pleasure across the palate with flavors of red cherry, currants, red plums and raspberries. The tannins are already well-integrated and linger with a lightly grainy texture which is felt more on the front of the palate that the back. And we noticed a light warmth of alcohol on the back of the palate. Medium to medium plus acidity. For best results, cozy up to a warm fire and enjoy several glass of this wine on a cold winter evening. 246 case of this wine were produced; it was aged for 24 months in 50% new French oak and 50% neutral French oak and then aged for another year prior to release.
The 2013 Next Door Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color; the bouquet is ripe and dark and sweetly fruited including aromas of blackberry jam, boysenberry, Pakistani mulberry, and an accompanying layer of chocolate and mocha with a light note of toasted oak. We tasted this wine 10 years post vintage; there is nothing shy about the bouquet and its arms were stretched widely as soon as we opened the bottle. A mouthful of fruit, the palate offers flavors of dark cherry, plum and blackberry. This particular year in Napa Valley produced robust well-textured and often a bit tightly woven wines in their youth – bottlings that needed time for the tannins to be tamed. This wine is in a sweet spot right now still showing loads of fruit supported by grainy but rounded tannins which are well integrated into the persistent finish. We always enjoy when the both the fruit and the tannins parallel each other on the finish rather than one dominating – and that is clearly the case with this bottling.
The 2012 Next Door Cabernet Sauvignon shows bright, lively and fresh aromas in the glass with notes of chocolate covered red cherries, a red liqueur, cedar box and a dusty nuance. Initially it is a bit closed/tight on the finish but that is to be expected; this wine is just a baby at the time of this review. Give it time to open (or decant it) and both the bouquet and palate will open up nicely. Overall, this is a fairly well-balanced wine for being so young. On the finish the tannins begin on the front of the palate and linger for some time but are not coarse in their textural feel. Only 262 cases of this wine were produced.
In 2012 they purchased fruit from “next door” – one of their bordering vineyard neighbors (also a small producer who dry farms his vineyard) decided to sell most of his vineyard’s fruit that year. They purchased his Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot and made a blend which they call their Calistoga Blend. Only 35 cases of this wine were made. The 2012 Next Door Calistoga Blend shows an elegant and somewhat floral bouquet with notes of violets, black licorice and mocha as the wine continues to open. It is soft on the entry, with a juicy mouthwatering palate. Bright acidity. The finish is lively with well-integrated tannins. This wine drinks well young.
The 2018 Next Door JB Cabernet Sauvignon is from another small vineyard in Calistoga. This wine is deep ruby and nearly opaque in the glass; the bouquet is dark with aromas of plum, blackberry, bramble, cherry, mulberry, mocha and a persistent woodsy + dark baking spice nuance. The palate is primarily dark fruited and somewhat echoes the bouquet with flavors of dark plum, cherry, blackberry and boysenberry. The tannins showcase a rounded, light grainy and persistent drying/dusty texture on the short to medium length finish. It also lingers with a note of dried tobacco leaf, wood spice and dark pepper. This is the second release from this dry farmed vineyard; the intent with this wine is to produce a lower priced bottling, primarily for restaurant and retail accounts. You are going to be hard pressed to find a single vineyard, less than 100 case production Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at this appealing price point.
The prices for their wines are among the better value to price ratios for single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from a Napa Valley boutique producer.
Their first white wine (non-estate) was a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley and was released in early summer 2015. In more recent years, they have begun producing additional wines including from non Napa Valley vineyards.
Most of their wines are sold direct although they do have a tiny bit of distribution at select restaurants in the San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Florida – as well as on Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the Caribbean and select other British Virgin Island locations. And locally, select wines are available at Calistoga Wine Stop.
Next Door Wines is part of the Calistoga Wine Growers Association and participates in several consumer tastings each year including in Calistoga and in San Francisco.
Total production from their one acre typically ranges from 150 cases in a light year to around 250 cases. And several hundred cases from their non estate bottlings. For more information, to join their mailing list or to purchase wine (available in minimum case increments), visit, www.nextdoorwine.com