Sire Estate was founded by Thomas Buck in 2012. He grew up in Concord in the east bay and graduated from the football powerhouse, De La Salle High School. This high school is operated by the Christian Brothers, who also own Mont La Salle on Mt. Veeder in Napa Valley. While in high school he was introduced to Napa Valley through yearly retreats at Mont La Salle and visits to Greystone Cellars (now home of the Culinary Institute of America). After high school he attended Sonoma State with the intent on becoming a teacher. He studied literature and creative writing and graduated with a B.A. in English, and a Minor in Communications. And he was a DJ on the side, primarily for stage productions.
His introduction to the world of fine wine came as a tour guide, a part time gig while in college to help pay off his student loans. He recalls his parents were never into fine wine, rather they drank boxed wine. Thomas remembers family debates about which White Zinfandel was favored, that from Sutter Home or from Beringer.
He was ‘bitten’ by the wine industry and began hanging out at small wineries in both Napa and Sonoma County, befriending the owners or those working in production. He offered to help one winery with harvest and was put to work immediately cleaning winemaking equipment. His curiosity morphed into passion which led to an obsession in trying to learn as much about the business as he could.
Ultimately he never became a teacher, rather he joined his former college roommate in Marin County helping drive clients as a chauffeur for Beau Limousine. The owner of the company suggested that Thomas start offering tours in Napa, driving limousines. The company expanded and Thomas moved into roles as operations manager, then sales and marketing director, and finally partner. He became full owner in 2003. The company changed its name slightly; he has grown Beau Wine Tours into one of the premiere and largest luxury tour companies in both Sonoma and Napa Valleys.
Based in Sonoma, the company offers a wide range of vehicles including sedans, sprinters, SUVs and coaches. Working with clients, they create customized itineraries focusing on regions, wine preferences and education. The company prides themselves on hiring professional and knowledgeable chauffeurs who focus on customer service with a simultaneous role as ambassadors of both Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Beau Wine Tours also offers pickup and drop off from San Francisco to both Sonoma County and Napa Valley as well as airport pickup and drop off services. And we have often seen them being used as the transportation provider of choice for larger wine related events.
The focus of Sire Estate wines are on single vineyard, single varietal and single clone bottlings. The first vintage of Sire Estate was a tiny production of Cabernet Sauvignon from Caldwell Vineyard in Coombsville in 2012. While this was their first vintage, their first commercial release was a 2013 Houyi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Pritchard Hill. The 2012 bottling was going to be released in 2017 but the Glass Fires postponed the release until 2018.
From 2012 until 2022 Sire Estate produced only Cabernet Sauvignon. Starting in 2023, two new single vineyard and varietal wines will be introduced to the portfolio, a Cabernet Franc and a Chardonnay from neighboring Sonoma County’s Fort-Ross Seaview appellation.
The name Sire reflects the purebred nature of their wines, terroir driven and tied to a specific site, showcasing the purity of the variety while simultaneously reflecting vintage variation and avoiding winemaking techniques to mask these characteristics. The word sire is an old English word for father or king dating back to the Middle Ages. The king was responsible for carrying the family blood line from generation to generation. And its a term still in use in animal breeding, primarily for dogs and race horses. The attractive silver colored label was deigned by Napa based Gauge Branding.
Through Philippe Melka who was still assisting with winemaking at Caldwell Vineyards in 2012, Thomas was introduced to winemaker Julien Fayard. The first few vintages of Sire Estate were produced at Arkenstone Winery on Howell Mountain. Today the Sire Estate wines are produced at Covert Estate in Coombsville overseen by Fayard.
While Sire does not own vineyards, their sources are from some of Napa Valley’s most premium and well-known sites. These wines are built with power, ripeness, layers and plenty of the ‘wow’ factor in their youth. But with that said, they are also meant to be very cellar worthy. They are texturally driven wines with tannins that while make themselves known, never cross into the territory of being unbalanced. And all of the bottlings we tried are well extracted; they do not lack in color and are dark and opaque.
The wines are all aged in 100% new French oak barrels (a diversity of coopers) typically between 20 to 22 months. Sometimes depending on the vintage, the wines will be moved to neutral oak barrels for a short period of time prior to bottling.
The 2013 Sire Estate Houyi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 7 is deep ruby/purple and opaque. The bouquet is elegant showing aromas of violets, a dust character, bramble, blueberry and dark raspberry. As it evolves in the glass it opens to notes of espresso and chocolate. The palate offers an impressive intensity of still fresh fruit flavors 10 years post vintage at the time of our tasting. A product of this particular vintage, 2013 hillside wines from Napa Valley were generally boisterous and extremely youthful upon release. Thomas recalls this wine was youthful even several years after it was bottled – reminding him of how it showed when he tried it straight from the barrel. The palate offers dark-fruited flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and dark plum with an accompanying note of tobacco spice on finish. The tannins are gravelly, rounded and densely packed, but take more of a back seat role at this age. Still, they parallel the fruit for quite some time on the extended finish. Lingers with a note of dust. This wine is showing extremely well at this age but has years more of life with the proper cellaring.
The 2017 Sire Estate Nash Vineyard Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon clone 337 was the only year this wine was bottled under Sire Estate. It was harvested 5 days before the Tubbs Fire began and subsequently was already in tank. It is deep ruby and opaque with an amaranthine rim. The bouquet is sweetly fruited with notes of blueberry, boysenberry preserve, dark licorice, and a layer of dried herbs including sage. This wine smells fresh with loads of fruit, 6 years post vintage at the time of our tasting. Layered across the palate with both fruit and texture, one can clearly feel a certain density of tannins. They are well-packed and show a gravelly, grainy and lingering dusty almost chalky character which outpaces the fruit on the finish. This is seriously good juice with flavors of blueberry, boysenberry, blackberry and tobacco spice. This wine is high octane at 16.2% alcohol but the higher alcohol is not readily noticed. Thomas recommends to pair this wine with duck, in particular the dish served at Animo Restaurant in the town of Sonoma.
Sleeping Lady Vineyard is located on the valley floor on the west side of Highway 29 a few minutes south of Yountville and is owned in a partnership between the Bettinelli family, long time farmers in Napa Valley and Brion and Ronda Wise (BRION Estate). The vines were originally planted by Larry Bettinelli who was Napa Valley Grower of the Year in 2016. The vineyard is named after a feature in the foothills of the Mayacamas mountains to the west of the property that somewhat resembles a sleeping lady (we’ve been told its easier to see this feature from the air then from the ground).
The entire property is 110 acres with 52 planted to vines; the vineyard is primarily planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (95%) with the remainder to Cabernet Franc. The vines grow in alluvial deposits with gravel located underneath topsoil. Julien has been an integral part of promoting this vineyard having made some of the first single vineyard designate wines from the property.
The 2021 Sire Sleeping Lady Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby and inky purple in color; the attractive aromatics showcase a purity of fruit, floral notes including violets and lavender, Santa Rosa plum, boysenberry, blackberry pie and a note of dry earth. The darkly fruited palate features a plushness with flavors of dark cherry, plum, blackberry, mulberry and a dark tobacco spice lingering on the finish. The resolved and rounded tannins are remarkably well integrated for such a young wine. They linger with a light grainy, and gravelly texture. The finish is bright, intensely flavored, shows a light drying character and provides loads of long lasting pleasure.
The 2019 Sire Estate Houyi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon clone 4 was released four years post vintage. This wine is deep ruby, purplish in the glass and definitely opaque; the aromas offer notes of dark chocolate, blackberry, boysenberry and licorice accompanied by some subtle influences from its oak aging including darker baking spices and espresso. Still the oak is a complementary character here with the fruit showing brightly both on the bouquet and the palate. During our tasting, we noted a lovely tension between flavor, acid and structure. This bottling is ripe, layered and complex with an extended finish highlighting both texture and fruit. Dense, chewy and long lasting this wine needs plenty of air to fully open in its youth. In addition to the fruit, the finish lingers with layers of chocolate, espresso, and roasted coffee beans. This wine is built to age. The last vintage of Sire Estate Houyi Vineyard was in 2022, as a result of the sale of the property to Realm Cellars.
Early sales were almost entirely by word of mouth followed by placement in top local restaurants including Charlie Palmer Steak Napa, Valette in Healdsburg, the French Laundry, Press & Torc. The wines are sold primarily direct to consumer as three bottles housed in handsome wooden cases. Other retail locations within Napa Valley that may have select Sire Estate bottles are Vintner’s Collective in Napa, ACME and Monica Stephens at Studio 1299a, both in St. Helena. Total production during a normal year is around 500 cases.
Tastings are hosted at Covert Estate by appointment. For more information, to schedule a visit or to purchase wine, visit: www.sireestate.com