Paradigm Winery is located on Dwyer Road just south of the Oakville grade in Oakville. Ironically, one of the “best” ways to find this winery is to look for the sign in front of Dwyer Road just off of Highway 29 that says “No Wineries This Road”. This sign works extremely well to discourage the typical visitor driving down Highway 29 to enter this small road. However if you have an appointment ignore this road sign and drive into the winery parking lot about 1/2 mile west.
Both of the owner’s roots (Ren & Marilyn Harris) are entrenched in the Napa Valley – with Marilyn’s family dating back to 1890 (her grandparents actually came to Napa from Italy to grow grapes) and Ren’s family first immigrated to California in 1769. Ren is 6th generation Californian and is a direct descendant of Maria Ygnacia Lopez de Carrillo (Maria Carillo for short) who was given a land grant, Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa site of what is now the city of Santa Rosa. Carillo Adobe, dating from 1837 is the oldest structure in the city of Santa Rosa, still barely standing, its worn down remnants are of another era.
The Harris’s have been growing grapes in the Napa Valley since 1964. It is very unusual to find those who started in the Napa wine industry in the 1960’s still actively involved in the day to day operations of their winery. Such is the case with Ren & Marilyn – they both started growing grapes when they were young and today are often found at the winery. Ren, used to be in charge of hosting most of the tastings (he has stepped back from this since); his brother Greg with his Sam Elliot like gravelly voice helps host tastings on the weekends. Visits are always limited to small groups (typically no more than 6 people), by appointment for serious wine enthusiasts.
And much overdue, in 2021 Ren was chosen as the Napa Valley Grower of the Year. His contributions to the agricultural community over the years have been noteworthy; in 1972 he founded the California Grower Foundation (now the Ag Health Benefits Alliance) and in 1975 along with others, helped found the Napa Valley Grapegrowers organization. From 1975 through 1977 he served as the Napa County Farm Bureau president.
Maria Carillo Adobe, Santa Rosa
The Harris’s purchased their property in Oakville in 1976 – at that time part of their land was planted to Pinot Noir (certainly not an ideal variety for this warmer part of the valley). Until 1991 when they released their first vintage, they sold grapes and did not make any wine commercially. Noted winemaker Dick Petersen provided consultation in regards to winery equipment needed as well as layout of the production facility. He originally was going to be Paradigm’s winemaker but later recommended his daughter, Heidi Peterson (who was just beginning her career). She has made every vintage since 1991 – Paradigm was one of her earliest clients – her first client was Dalla Valle. Well-respected architect, Jon Lail designed the winery.
Also beginning in the early 1990s was a winery no one had heard of at the time called Screaming Eagle. Ren worked in real estate with Screaming Eagle founder Jeannie Philipps. She had just begun Screaming Eagle and has having problems with a fermentation – Heidi was recommended to be her winemaker – and for some time she was making both Screaming Eagle’s wine (the founding winemaker of this iconic wine) and the Paradigm wines.
Most wineries take their name from the owner’s last name – not so with the Harris’s. They held a contest to allow others to come up with a name. A gentleman from Calistoga suggested the name Paradigm which means an “example that serves as a pattern or model” or in the case of their wine, is a “pattern for perfection”.
Fifty five vineyard acres surround the winery and as of our latest update to this review, their focus is on four different wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, a must produced variety considering their location in Oakville, arguably the heart of Napa’s Cabernet Sauvignon country, Merlot, Zinfandel (extremely rare to find an Oakville Zinfandel producer) and Cabernet Franc. All wines produced are estate grown.
Oakville has some of the most coveted ground in all of the Napa Valley; nearby vineyards include Harlan Estate (can be easily seen in the hills from the back of the winery looking west) and Opus One. Paradigm currently still sells the majority of the grapes from their vineyards to other premium wineries including Groth, Nickel & Nickel and Far Niente. We have walked through parts of their vineyard on a number of occasions; the vines in the particular block we visited are planted much higher off the ground than most Napa vineyards – first, this makes it easier on the workers for harvesting the fruit and secondly allows for additional airflow through the vineyards and a longer hang time (lower vines means the fruit is closer to the ground’s influence which means slightly warmer temperatures over time). With the effects of global warming, perhaps other vineyards will start trellising like this.
Tastings are held in a small room in the back of the winery our in a covered space outside – both spaces feature west facing views of the nearby Mayacamas mountains. A lengthy window inside their tasting room offers bucolic views overlooking the hills and vineyards. A commemorative plaque hang on the wall from Thai Airways (their wine has been served on board in the past) and from Yosemite National Park recognizing Paradigm’s previous contributions to this park.
Two wines usually being poured form the bulk of their production – a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot. Both are stylish big wines, but very approachable upon release and can easily be consumed now without having to cellar them although aging these wines is certainly not a bad idea and they have the track record to prove that their wines age extremely well. All their wines are blended.
Those in the know, already know this: Paradigm is one of the best premium wine values in all of Oakville.
Paradigm produces a thoughtfully made rosé of Merlot. This wine ferments slow and cold – often up to 6 weeks. The 2018 Paradigm Rosé of Merlot is salmon orange in the glass offering bright and pretty aromatics including strawberry and citrus blossom. Not a light rosé, this wine has a beautiful texture – a creaminess or a softness if you will. Excellent acidity. One of the finer rosé of Merlot wines we have tried from the Napa Valley.
The 2014 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon is dark ruby in the glass; brimming with ripe and appealing dark fruit driven aromatics offers redolent notes of ripe blackberry and dark cherry and milk chocolate. A presence of oak is noticeable but complements rather then detracts from the fruit aromas. This is a classic rich and opulent bouquet from an Oakville grown Cabernet Sauvignon. Supple on the entry and across the palate, this wine is layered and showcases a richness of fruit focusing mostly on darker fruit flavors. Expertly balanced, features well-integrated tannins that linger with a slight spicy character on the finish. We love smelling this wine – but its flavors are just as enjoyable.
The 2016 Paradigm Merlot offers appealing and layered fruit-forward aromatics but also plenty of other aromatic threads including dust, dry gravel, sage, a hint of cigar smoke, cedar box and red licorice. Brings us back a few years to our summer vacations – sitting outdoors on a hot summers day on a warm wooden dock overlooking the pond of a family friend’s property in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Smooth and supple but with plenty of layers on the palate – very nice acidity throughout with a lingering tartness of red cherry and some darker baking spices.
Paravines is a relatively new offering with the first vintage from 2012 – always a Merlot Petit Verdot blend. The 2014 Paradigm Paravines (81% Merlot and 19% Petit Verdot) is aromatically appealing with plenty of fruit showing on the bouquet – bright aromatics along with notes of chocolate and vanilla. Plush across the palate – drinks very well by itself with flavors of ripe blackberry. Shows an intensity of fruit without heavy structure. Firm but finer grained tannins anchor the finish.
During one of our earlier visits to Paradigm Winery, we tried the 2005 Paradigm Merlot (soon after its release) blended with 5% Cabernet Franc which helps provide some structure on the finish. This wine has great acidity and lively fruit with a pleasing earthiness found on the palate complemented nicely with a textural suppleness across the palate. The finish is slightly spicy with soft tannins and a noticeable intensity of flavor that lingers for quite some time.
The 2004 Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with 8% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc. This beautiful wine shows very well in the glass; it is crimson red ruby in color with an elegant nose full of fruit aromas. The palate shows plum, blackberry and various spices. The mouth feel is so silky smooth and anchored by delicate tannins.
Paradigm donates 1% of their total gross profits to an organization called 1% For The Planet – funds from businesses who participate in this are distributed to organizations protecting the environment worldwide. Paradigm was the one of the first ten businesses to participate in this and the only Napa Valley based winery involved.
Also of note is a special project in which all vintners in the Oakville sub-appellation contribute finished wine from their individual vineyards to be blended & then bottled in 3 Liter bottles. These bottles are hand numbered, etched and a number of them are sold to raise money for various charities. This wine is made at Paradigm – there may be a bottle or two on site.
For more information and or to join their wine club, visit: www.paradigmwinery.com