Ru Vango Winery is formerly known as Kieu Hoang Winery; the name and branding change was made in early 2022. As of our latest update to this review in late 2022, this winery is again for sale. We look forward to updating this review as ownership, wines, and names change. The name Ru Vango translates in Vietnamese as ‘road to art’. Prior to that, the winery was known as Michael Mondavi Family Estate and before that it was owned by Mahoney Vineyards, owned by Carneros winemaking pioneer, Francis Mahoney (whose current operation, Carneros Wine Company is based only about 1/2 a mile from Ru Vango Winery). The property is located about 2 miles from busy Highway 12/121 and being caught in traffic is the ideal excuse to take a break and visit the winery. This 30-acre site is surrounded by rolling hills planted with vineyards including 10 acres to Pinot Noir (easily seen from the deck behind the hospitality center) and 6 acres of Chardonnay. This is the quintessential looking Carneros property.
Founder Kieu Hoang immigrated to the United States in the mid 1970s from Vietnam. He founded and built a successful pharmaceuticals company (focusing on blood plasmas) doing business both in the United States and in China. He became interested in wine – especially as it relates to wellness. He lives in the Los Angeles area. In early 2021 Kieu Hoang sold both the Kieu Hoang Carneros and Spring Mountain wineries and properties to Garden Grove (Orange County) based Dr. Michael Dao of Dao Medical Group, a health care clinic servicing the community of Garden Grove. Address: AMD Plaza, 9191 Westminster Blvd., Garden Grove.
The first wines bottled under Ru Vango were a 2019 Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon followed by a 2020 Chardonnay and a rosé. And the label has significantly changed since the Kieu Hoang wines; it is now an image of bird similar to the look of a phoenix.
The hospitality center is spacious, elegant and was completely redesigned after Kieu Hoang took over the ownership. Howard Backen, a prominent Napa wine country architect was hired to help with the redesign and upgrade of the hospitality center. Too many tasting rooms in the valley are cluttered; this one is refreshingly not setup that way.
During Kieu Hoang’s ownership, a number of decorations were added inside and outside the hospitality center. The most prominent of these was the large wine bottle artwork which was located outside near the parking lot. This was in the shape of a wine bottle but was made up of many normal size bottles. A massive stump of a Eucalyptus tree used to greet visitors as they entered the tasting room.
As of our last visit to the property, the hospitality center houses beautiful art from Vietnam born and Los Angeles based, Daniel Winn through a partnership with Winn Slavin Fine Art gallery in Beverly Hills. Dr. Dao is friends with Winn; walking into this space at times, feels like an art gallery.
The Kieu Hoang wine brand was founded in 2012 (before the purchase of this property) with wines initially only exported to China. With the acquisition of this Carneros property they now sell their wines to the domestic market in addition to exporting to China and other parts of Asia. The majority of their wines are made from Napa Valley, but in the past, they have produced California designate wines (including a sparkling wine) and also wines from Italy.
Their packaging and shape of their bottles is some of the most unique and innovative we have seen; these are available in different colors, creative shapes and sizes. Each bottle is essentially a piece of artwork. Also, of note the hundreds of tiny circles that appeared on the Kieu Hoang wine labels; these are a representation of what plasma looks like under a microscope. And one might also construe these as being images of tiny grapes.
For several years, Chinese actress Li Bing Bing was a spokesperson for the Kieu Hoang Wines and her image appeared in a number of their promotional materials at the winery and in an advertising campaign they initially ran at several area airports.
Tasting notes coming as soon as these wines are released, sometime in 2023 or 2024.
The 2017 Kieu Hoang Chardonnay Carneros was sourced from their estate property. This wine was fermented in three different vessels: stainless steel, concrete and neutral oak barrels. It was allowed to go through partial malolactic fermentation. This is not a California styled oaky and buttery bottling. It is medium gold in color; the bouquet offers light aromatics of honeysuckle, pineapple, and bruised apple. The palate is mineral driven, with some flinty notes and is complemented nicely with a light creamy texture. The focus on this wine is on the fruit rather than cellar manipulation and it is still showing nicely 5 years post vintage date at the time of our tasting.
The 2013 Kieu Hoang Purple Label Cabernet Sauvignon is bottled in an extremely unique bottle; the middle of the bottle contains a prominent indent. This was done on purpose to represent the 6.1 earthquake as this vintage was in barrel when that temblor hit in the early morning of August 24, 2014. This wine is dark ruby in color; the bouquet is extremely aromatic showing scents of dark cherry, black licorice, sweet prune and a darker spice note found deeper in the aromatics. The palate features a pleasing mix of both red and darker fruit flavors weighted towards red fruits including currant and cherry. The silty and dense textured tannins show a firm grip and linger slightly dry with notes of tobacco spice.
The 2013 Kieu Hoang Emperor Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District was bottled in a clear whiskey bottle; to keep the light away from the wine inside, they keep these bottles well wrapped until sold. This bottling is dark ruby in color with some brickish notes. It presents very pretty aromatics with an interplay between primary fruit and secondary aromas from the barrel influence. It shows notes of boysenberry and dark plum along with clove, hints of pepper, cinnamon stick and dried tobacco leaf. The palate offers layers of similar fruits as on the bouquet along with chocolate, and hints of caramel and peanut brittle on the finish. The tannins are densely woven but not course in their textural profile.
The 2014 Kieu Hoang Proprietary Red Blend is 60% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were sourced from Rutherford and this wine was aged for 4 years in French oak. This bottling is medium to dark ruby in color; the aromatics are generous including of bramble, cherry cola, dark licorice, baking spices and as the wine continues to breathe, hints of chocolate. It shows plenty of red fruit tones across the palate including of cherries and various berries. It is flavorful but without any heavy accompanying tannin structure (medium bodied). Finishes savory with bright acidity, red fruits and some light notes of black pepper.
The 2012 Kieu Hoang Sauvignon Blanc shows tropical notes including honeysuckle on the bouquet along with some floral aromatics. The palate offers white pineapple, and melon with a pleasing richness showing mid palate through to the finish.
A number of their wines are labeled by color. The 2012 Kieu Hoang Red Label is Cabernet Sauvignon with fruit sourced from Calistoga and Yountville. It initially shows both herbal and smoky notes on the bouquet and then offers notes of red currant and red licorice. As the bouquet breathes, it reveals some intriguing baking spices.
The 2010 Kieu Hoang Red Blend is very aromatic in the glass – showing higher toned fruit aromas with notes of cranberry, red currant and hints of baking spices. On the palate there is a red cherry tartness complemented with well-integrated tannins and hints of mocha on the finish. This bottling shows very good acidity. This wine needs to be paired with food.
Ru Vango, Spring Mountain Estate
Kieu Hoang also owned the former Guilliams Vineyard in the Spring Mountain District (he purchased the site in 2014), before selling it to Dr. Michael Dao in 2021. Former owners John and Shawn Guilliams moved here in 1978 from the San Francisco Bay Area. Vineyards were originally planted on this site in the 1890s but were completely abandoned during the 1930s and the forest had reclaimed most of the land by the time the Guilliams arrived. As a result, they cleared part of their property to eventually plant vines (7 acres of vineyards).
They wanted a quiet location to build a house and raise a family, but both did not have jobs at the time. Not having a background in the wine industry, John found work at a cooper and started building wine barrels. Soon John was making home wine with his co-workers; eventually he and Shawn decided to bottle their wine commercially and their first vintage was from 1985. A small winery is located on the lower level of the family home on site overlooking the vineyard.
Their driveway is extremely sharp and if one is driving west towards St. Helena on Spring Mountain Road one will have to pass the driveway, turn around in the small dirt pull out, head back in the opposite direction and then enter the driveway. The property is located at an elevation of about 2,000 feet placing this and nearby Spring Mountain vineyards as some of the higher sites in Napa County. And the property does receive a bit of snow here most winters. Remarkably the home and winery survived the devastating Glass Fire which severely burned a large portion of Spring Mountain in 2020.
The space is sometimes used for private events and select tasting for wine club members.
All visits to their Carneros based winery are by appointment; when you arrive, choose from two tasting flights. One features mostly California produced wines while the other “reserve” tasting features all Napa Valley wines. During several visits to this property over the years we have always noticed tour groups frequent the tasting room, often from San Francisco based tour operators.
And if the weather is nice – take a glass with you and enjoy the wine and views from a comfortable chair on their wrap around open air porch which overlooks the calming and quiet rolling hills of the Carneros. Unlike many wineries which prohibit guests bringing food onto the grounds, Ru Vango welcomes guests who want to bring food to enjoy with their wines or following a tasting.
Q Sushi & Kieu Hoang Wine Lounge, Westlake Village
While Q Sushi is no longer associated with the ownership of Ru Vango Winery, we keep our notes here for historical records. In 2016 the Q Sushi & Kieu Hoang Wine Lounge opened in the Shoppes at Westlake Village; this is mere minutes from the 101 and just south of Thousand Oaks. Plenty of parking and plenty of seating both indoor and outdoor on a small terrace. Come for a special Happy Hour menu – available between 4-6pm. Highlights of our meal were the Brussel sprouts, raw oysters, Shishito peppers and various sashimi.
A beautiful bar serves a variety of innovative cocktails. A number of Ru Vango’s own wines are available by the glass or bottle as are select wines from other California producers and a couple from outside of the state. Also, plenty of beer and sake selections.
Ru Vango has decent international distribution including in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. For more information, to purchase wine, to schedule a tasting or to join one of their club offerings, visit: www.ruvango.com