Reid Family Vineyards has been making wine commercially since 1996, but their roots run much deeper in the area than that. A family member originally moved to Knights Valley (just north of Napa Valley) in the late 1840s when land was given to him by well-known California military officer and explorer, John C. Fremont. This was a time when Grizzly bears still roamed what would eventually become “wine country”.
Their direct lineage Napa Valley family roots trace back to 1862 when proprietor and Winemaker Kirk Reid’s great-great grandparents met in what was then called Napa City, at the Napa Hotel and eventually settled in Calistoga. In those days the Napa Hotel was able to accommodate horses, buggies and carriages for weary travelers who would have had to travel for many hours to reach the hotel, due to the primitive transportation options. We spotted a notice in an old issue of the Sacramento Bee advertising accommodation coaches would leave Benicia at 7am in 1859, be ferried to San Francisco and then be ferried up to Napa arriving late in the evening that same day and then continue on up to White Sulphur Springs Resort in St. Helena.
Yosemite and the naturally occurring Geysers (in Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties) were especially sought after attractions by those on the East Coast who were visiting California in the mid to late 1800s. Kirk’s great-great grandparents would host visitors and then guide them by mule up to the geysers.
Kirk and his family moved to Napa Valley in 1978 from Los Altos He practiced medicine in Napa for 35 years, had an office on Trancas Street, but is now retired, but winemaking is his serious “retirement” job. Kirk served in the Philippines in the Peace Corp (taught Biology there in his early twenties), made several trips to the USSR in the late 1980s including to Telavi (now in the country of Georgia and a prominent winemaking region). At the time, Reid was attempting to form a sister city relationship between Napa and Telavi. And Kirk’s wife Karen also served in the Peace Corps, in the very remote Caroline Islands (part of Micronesia).
The Reid family purchased this property in the early 1980s, the site of an old prune orchard. For many years Kirk raised llamas including selling the animals at auctions. This family business was called Napa Valley Llamas and was originally started with a stud llama called High Society they acquired from a property in Oregon. At one point they were raising 40 animals.
Kirk also made home wine. By virtue of living in Napa he knew a number of vineyard owners and winemakers; in other words, wine making expertise was not hard to find. He has learned wine making “by doing” over the years. And today his two sons Kevin and Bay are involved; Kevin assists with social media and marketing and Bay helps his father with the wine making and oversees direct to consumer sales. Bay previously worked at Jessup Cellars in Yountville.
The winery and property are technically in the city limits of the western part of Napa and sits in the low foothills of Mt. Veeder and the southern end of the Vaca mountain range (forms the Western spine above Napa Valley floor). The encroaching city is nearby; to reach the winery one drives through a number of residential neighborhoods.
The winery cellar itself is one of the best examples of “how to” build a small winery in Napa Valley. It is modeled after a number of traditional French Chateau’s – even down to how the barrels are stacked, handled and racked. Taking full advantage of their southern “terroir” in Napa Valley and some of the best insulation money can buy – this above ground winery requires no air conditioning. Being located in the Napa city limits, the site is not far from the cooling influences of the nearby San Pablo Bay.
For several hours in the very early morning (usually around 2am) the winery automatically opens vents in the walls near the floor with a fan that turns on. During this time the warm air is sucked out of the winery near its roof and the cold air is sucked in and fills the entire winery. After several hours the vents close, the fan shuts off and the winery remains very cool through the entire day. Even on 100-degree days – the inside remains at or near cave temperatures.
When looking at how much it would cost to put in a system to manage the winery waste – Kirk began to do some research. He discovered a unique system which was still in its early design stages through a student doing research at Sonoma State University (in neighboring Sonoma County). Kirk soon had it installed after discovering this “test” system for managing waste was much cheaper than standard winery waste management systems. Waste from inside the winery passes through oyster shells to neutralize acidity and then is piped into the ground and delivered to 20 redwood trees around the property – providing additional nutrients. Judging by the health of these trees, this system is working very well.
As a result, Reid Family is the only winery currently in Napa County with this unique system; their winery is also a test site for the Napa County Department of Environmental Health.
All their wines are named after family including their children, Kirk’s wife, his grand kids and even Bay’s wife Erin has a wine named in her honor. The labels for all their wines are silk screened including using real gold for an image of a Merlot tendril. The hospitality space is an old barn which dates from 1890. Kirk planted the vineyard entirely to Merlot in 1992. His neighbor had recently planted Merlot and Duckhorn was buying Merlot from a nearby vineyard. Kirk describes himself as a “varietyaholic” and over the years has budded a good portion of the Merlot over to what is now 7 varieties. Kirk also uses rice straw around each of the vines to help control erosion in the vineyard and keep weeds down.
We have enjoyed a number of their wines over the years since our first visit to the property; these are hand-crafted in the truest sense of the word and are very limited production bottlings. If we were to assign a single word to describe their red wines, it would be savory, as we often notice these characteristics both on the bouquet and the palate of their bottlings. And aromatics are an extremely important part of Kirk’s winemaking.
The 2021 Reid Family Kyla’s Sauvignon Blanc is named in honor of Kirk and Karen’s daughter; primarily Sauvignon Blanc, there is a small amount of Viognier in this bottling. This wine is medium straw in color; its floral and fruit aromatics are immediately the ‘star of this show’, offering notes of jasmine, lychee, melon, apricot and haystack. This wine shows more weight than many Sauvignon Blancs from Napa Valley with a creamy texture complemented nicely by flinty mineralities, bright acidity (without being lean) and lingering flavors of apple, pear and citrus, including lime. The finish is very refreshing.
Ovidia is Karen’s middle name. The 2021 Reid Family Ovidia Rosé is predominantly a rosé of Merlot with a touch of Sauvignon Blanc in the blend; it was fermented in stainless steel tanks. This wine is salmon copper in color; the bouquet offers aromas of freshly cut grass, lemongrass, citrus blossom and some steely mineralities. The texture is slightly creamy accompanied by flavors of raspberry, gooseberry and a lemon zest. It finishes with a burst of lingering brightness. This bottling is balanced, crisp and clean. This wine is best paired with the sultry and soft sounds of a gentle James Taylor song, preferably Carolina in my Mind.
The 2019 Reid Family Erik’s Cabernet Franc is a beautiful wine. It is medium to dark ruby in color; the savory bouquet initially offers earthy and mushroom notes which then transition into dark spices including crushed pepper, cloves, toasted oak, dried herbs and a hint of cardamom. The palate is dominated by higher toned fruit flavors including cherry and cranberry. This is a medium bodied wine that lingers with dry, light gravelly in-texture tannins along with some notes of toasted oak on the mouth-watering finish. Its namesake is in honor of Erik Stenberg, Kyla’s husband who tragically passed away at age 38 in 2018.
The 2019 Reid Family Kevin’s Cabernet Sauvignon is dark ruby in the glass; its initial aromas are meaty, brambly and include truffle oil and leather. As the wine evolves, it continues its savory showing including of darker spices (crushed peppercorn and toasted cedar) framed by dark plum. It’s a brooding bouquet and certainly needs some time to open. The palate offers flavors of black raspberry, cherry, plum and blackberry. The tannins are somewhat gravelly in their texture, with a slight dryness and are long lasting. The finish is earthy with some notes of toasted oak and a brightness. Balanced.
The 2019 Reid Family Erin’s Petite Sirah (named in honor of Bay’s wife) is dark ruby in color; the bouquet offers aromas of dark chocolate, chocolate brownie, dark plum and black licorices. Deeper into the aromas are some subtle notes of mocha. The aromas are dark, dark, and dark. The palate is well layered, focused on a diversity of fruit flavors including blackberry and boysenberry. Those looking for a wine to pair with a well-marbled steak right off of the BBQ would enjoy this bottling. The tannins are chewy, gravelly and linger with some darker spices.
The 2019 Reid Family Theodore’s Blend is named after Kyla’s son Theodore; it is a blend led with Cabernet Sauvignon along with Petit Verdot and Malbec. The wine is dark ruby in color featuring an elegant bouquet with a pleasing union of both fruit and secondary aromatics including dark plum, old cedar box, pepper and leather. This balanced bottling features both red and darker fruits. The finish offers dense, persistent and dark tannins accompanied by dark fruit and spices including notes of pepper. The finish is savory. This wine is clearly one of the crowd favorites; one woman was so impressed with its characteristics, that she succinctly commented during one of our visits, “I just want to sleep in this wine.”
The 2012 Reid Family Kyla’s Cuvee is a 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Viognier. Viognier is a very aromatic variety but becomes a bit more subdued when blended with Chardonnay but still offers plenty of pretty aromatics in the glass. Tangerine blossom, other citrus and as it opens it shows a touch of tropical notes including yellow pineapple. On the palate it is crisp and clean with lingering flavors of green apple. This wine does not see any malolactic fermentation and no oak.
The 2010 Reid Family Erik’s Zinfandel is blended with 5% Petite Sirah. The bouquet bursts out of the glass featuring big ripe fruit aromas including ripe blackberry, and an almost a cherry liqueur note; the nose would lead one to believe this wine is high in alcohol and probably jammy on the palate. Not so at all. The wine is under 14% alcohol and medium bodied. Some spicy notes show mid palate with lingering fine-grained earthy tannins showing on the finish.
The 2010 Reid Family Kevin’s Cuvee or as Kevin calls it, his “flagship Bordeaux blend” shows both red and dark fruit aromas on the bouquet. Hints of vanilla show deeper into the aromas. As the wine breathe, a beautiful baking spice aroma comes forward. A sweet core of fruit shows on the palate; this is a lively wine. Incidentally the 2011 vintage, the “Pops Blend” is named in honor of his Karen’s father who had recently celebrated his 100th birthday.
The 2011 Reid Family Karen’s Cuvee is named in honor of Kirk’s wife and is a unique blend of Syrah and Zinfandel. Kirk describes this as his Mozart wine – one of his more pretty and delicate bottlings. It is rounded initially with a softer palate and is certainly easy to drink. The palate shows more red fruit than black fruit. The tannins are there but are soft and feel comfortable on the smooth finish.
When reflecting on what he enjoys most about the wine industry, Kirk realized that gatherings of family and friends to help at the winery – either bottling, or during harvest and enjoying good food and wine are what means the most to him. Looking to incorporate these events for potential customers, Reid Family came up with a novel ideal several years ago.
They are the only winery we know of in Napa Valley offering a “Bottle a Barrel” program. For a set price per bottle – one can reserve a day (well in advance and typically a Saturday) with Kirk and he will oversee the production of one barrel of wine (this is 24 cases). The wine will then be bottled and will be yours to take home. Group sizes for these events are usually in the 30-40 range but do vary in size. A number of corporate planners have used this program for their clients or teams.
A few years after they began producing wine commercially, they found themselves purchasing fruit – and their production was above 1000 cases. As Kirk told us, “It wasn’t so fun anymore” and today they focus on mostly estate fruit. Production is usually around 1200 cases with plans to eventually grow to about 2,000 cases per year. They have no distribution whatsoever – all wine is sold through their wine club. Visits are for serious wine enthusiasts and include a stop in their cellar followed by a sit down tasting in the old bar.
Truly one of Napa Valley’s most memorable, fun and intimate wine + musical experiences are when Bay picks up a guitar and leads visitors into some classics, including John Denver’s, Country Roads followed by some additional songs which significantly ratchet up the intensity level. This experience is best enjoyed later in the day with family and friends.
And Reid Family is home to the annual Crush MS event (founded in 2014). The goals of this nonprofit are to leverage the wine community to raise funds and awareness to eventually find a cure for multiple sclerosis. Funds raised from their various events are donated to Stanford University for immunology research and to programs that directly benefit people living with MS. Kirk and Karen’s son Kevin was diagnosed with MS in 2002.
A very limited number of library wines are held back each year. To join their wine club, to schedule a tasting or for more information visit their website: www.reidfamilyvineyards.com