Poggi Wines (pronounced po-gee) was founded by Tom and Lauri Poggi. Based in Calistoga, they operate one of the smaller estate vineyards in all of Napa Valley – approximately half an acre on the valley floor which is equivalent to approximately 450 vines. They purchased this property in 2004 and have made wine from the estate every year since other than 2008 when a severe frost destroyed the majority of their crop. For the first 10 years they made home wine; the early years were with the help of long time Napa winemaker Nile Zacherle. Their property backs right up to Kenefick Ranch, a proven vineyard that provides grapes for a number of premium clients in the valley.
Tom was born in Chicago but raised in Oregon (where he graduated from the University of Oregon in Eugene). Laurie is originally from Minnesota. Both looked for property in ‘wine country’ for about 5 years – spending most of their time looking in the Sonoma Valley but seeing properties that often-needed significant work. Eventually they were shown a piece of property in Calistoga – an acre with a home that they could move into without needing to do significant upkeep. They were attracted to Calistoga because it is often less busy than the rest of Napa Valley, it’s strong farming roots, and the fact the property was in a rural area but within a very short drive into the town of Calistoga.
And during their trips to the area, they would often explore other wineries in the region. Laurie recalls their first-time wine tasting in the upper part of the valley; being attracted to a rather eclectic property, Tudal Winery (now home of Napa de Oro) tasting with the founders, Arnold and Alma in a ‘shed’ next to the vineyard.
At the time of purchase the property was planted entirely to Syrah. Ultimately, they decided to graft over the vines to Cabernet Sauvignon with a tiny portion grafted over to Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Each of these other varieties is only a single row in the vineyard, together totaling about 15% of their tiny plot.
Their vineyard is called the Twin Palms Vineyard for obvious reasons but is not to be confused with the Three Palms Vineyard owned by Duckhorn, located slightly to the south of their property. Two stately palm trees grow on the eastern edge of their vineyard, but the name has even more significance; Laurie is one of two identical twins and Tom’s initials are “TP”. Their location is among some of Calistoga’s most highly sought after vineyards – the historic Eisele Vineyard is a short walk away, Kenefick Ranch borders their property and Kelly Fleming Winery is located within eyesight of their home (as are stellar views of the Palisades to the east).
Besides producing premium grapes, the Napa Valley also often produces a significant number of rocks. The former owner used to call this “rock vineyard” for all the rocks he would harvest from its soils – that is not unusual in this part of Calistoga, we have seen the number of rocks that the Eisele Vineyard produces.
After making home wine for a number of years, and realizing the quality of their vineyard, they both asked themselves, “wouldn’t it be fun if we started making wine commercially” – they hope to keep their production small and keep this project fun. Their first commercial release is from 2014; today they produce 60 to 95 cases of each wine. They are certainly one of Napa Valley’s smaller producers. Being small has its own unique challenges including trying to find a custom crush facility up valley that will accommodate and keep such a small producer and the economies of scale when purchasing materials. As a result, they have made the wine at a number of wineries. Eventually they purchased their own dedicated tank and let the winery they currently produce wine in, use this as needed.
They were introduced to their consulting winemaker, Ignacio Blancas who was the long-time winemaker at Calistoga based Summers Estate Winery (now owned by Brasswood Estate) through their former vineyard manager Placido Garcia. Today Ignacio makes their wine (he calls this vineyard his ‘test kitchen’ due its small size) and also oversees the management of their vines. He also introduced them to a vintner on Diamond Mountain where they purchase fruit for their Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tom and Laurie had no prior experience operating a small wine brand before to moving to the Napa Valley. The past few years have been a significant learning curve but one they have been very open to. As relative “newcomers” to the wine world, their graciousness, zest for life and eagerness to learn goes a long way in this business.
Rather than outsource certain parts of the business, Laurie decided to learn as much as she can. Today she handles their sales and marketing and compliance (not always easy with regulations often differing state by state) and created the concept design for their label.
The 2018 Poggi Twin Palms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in the glass; its aromatics are lively and fruit forward in its youth showing notes of ripe blackberry, boysenberry and blueberry. Influences from the barrel aging complement the bouquet rather than detract. The focus is on the fruit with more subtle notes of old cedar box and white pepper. Savory on the palate, especially on the finish, lingers with flavors of black fruits including plum and dark cherry along with dried herbs and some darker spice notes. The texture is an appealing component of this wine, featuring rounded, finer grained tannins that feel almost silt-like in character. This wine is already nicely balanced in its youth.
The 2018 Poggi Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color; the aromatics are immediately powerful and focused on ripe fruit including of blackberry and dark cherry with hints of black licorice and cassis. Also shows notes of dried herbs, dust and of sage. Features a richness of flavor across the palate; flavors of spicy Santa Rosa plum and black currant are framed by a savory, dark finish with gravelly grape and oak tannins that persist for some time. Also lingers with darker peppercorn. This wine is big but balanced and, in its youth, would pair perfectly with a ribeye right off of the BBQ. Texas steak lovers looking for a hillside grown wine with loads of character would immensely enjoy this bottling.
The 2017 Poggi Twin Palms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is 86.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5.5% Petit Verdot, 4.3% Cab Franc and 3.5% Merlot. The bouquet is highly appealing and includes a union of fruit aromatics complemented nicely with subtle influences of oak barrel aging. Offers berry aromas similar to the 2018 vintage including ripe blackberry and boysenberry along with cassis. As the wine breathes offers additional notes of milk chocolate, mocha and espresso. The palate is superbly balanced (we tasted 4.5 years post vintage) with absolutely no harsh edges. Shows flavors of cherry and red currant on the finish anchored by well-integrated grape and barrel tannins. If we had to guess, perhaps this vintage/bottling has a slightly higher acidity than the 2018 Twin Palms. This wine spent 22 months in 100% French oak of which 50% were new barrels.
The 2017 Poggi Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal. The bouquet offers a ripeness of both dark and red fruits but not an over ripeness. The aromas show ripe blackberry and blackberry pie along with more of a baking spice note than in the 2018 vintage including cardamom and some subtle vanilla and mocha undertones. The palate features primarily darker fruits loaded with layers of flavor. Features a noticeable intensity of fruit anchored by robust, grippy and lively tannins which persist for quite some time on the finish. This wine’s mountain ‘character’ is clearly on display in this vintage. This bottling was aged 22 months in 100% French oak, of which 50% was new barrels. This is a special wine and perhaps our favorite of all their wines we have tried to date.
The 2014 Poggi Twin Palms Vineyard is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% each of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petite Verdot. Shows notes of toasted cedar, sandalwood and berries on the bouquet. On the palate this wine is supple with a seamless quality running the length of the palate with both fruit, acidity and tannins. Presents flavors of red cherry and raspberry with lingering red fruit flavors complemented by soft polished tannins.
The 2014 Poggi Diamond Mountain is 100% varietal Cabernet Sauvignon – the wine is dark in the glass with aromas of cassis, dark cherry and as it opens further – hints of smoke and mocha. Slightly perfumy. Very balanced on the palate showing a complexity of flavors with mostly darker fruits. Offers decent acidity and earthy, noticeable (more on the front of the palate than on the finish) tannins.
Recognizing the fact, they are a newer producer and despite making wine from their vineyard for a number of years already, they have priced their wines quite reasonably. Their wines are mostly sold direct; at the time of this review the only retail outlet in Napa Valley that carries their wines is Calistoga Wine Stop in the town of Calistoga. Poggi Wines is a member of the Calistoga Winegrowers Association and attends and pours wine at several of the member events each year. For more information and to purchase wine, visit: www.poggiwines.com