Titus Vineyards is a family owned winery and vineyard purchased in 1968 by Lee & Ruth Titus. Today the family owns 50 acres of land (40 planted to vineyard) just north of Deer Park Road next to the Silverado Trail and also a 10 acre vineyard, off of nearby Ehlers Lane. Their primary property is quite historic; the original vineyards on site were planted in the 1880s. In the early years the Titus’s began selling grapes to several well-known Napa Valley wineries including Charles Krug and the Napa Valley Cooperative (the site of present-day Hall Winery). Today they still sell a portion of their harvest to other vintners. Charles Krug has been buying grapes from Titus since the mid 1940s from an original contract merely based on a handshake. This is certainly one of the oldest privately owned vineyard contracts in Napa. Over the years Titus has sold grapes to other well-known wineries including Beaulieu Vineyards and Cuvaison.
Their vineyard grows on the valley floor and is near glass mountain, which is appropriately named after the shiny black obsidian rock in the area. During vineyard walks one can often easily see lots of this rock scattered among the vines. One side of the vineyard is bordered by what is probably Napa’s only peach orchard and the other side backs up against the Napa River. Their vineyard off of Ehlers Lane is also on the valley floor but sits up on a small knoll planted on extremely rocky soils. In this regard, despite the vineyard being located on the valley floor, it is almost more like a hillside vineyard based on the soil type.
Before owning their Napa Valley property, Lee (a Radiologist) and Ruth (a nurse) lived in Sonoma where Lee operated his medical practice. In 1975 they moved to Napa Valley. A number of varieties that don’t really exist in Napa Valley anymore were already planted including Mondeuse, Burger and Golden Chasselas. In addition, for a number of years they grew one acre of Concord grapes (the largest such planting we have ever heard of in Napa Valley).
With both the foresight as well as a previously acquired taste for Bordeaux varietals, these are the types of grapes they replanted in the early 1970s.
Currently several of the older varietals are dry farmed. Ruth and Lee had four sons and today two of the sons, Eric and Phillip oversee the vineyard and winery operations.
Today it is somewhat rare for a vineyard of this size to be managed “in house” rather than hiring one of the numerous area vineyard management companies. However by managing the vineyard themselves they have complete control of all aspects of their property. In addition, they both grew up on the property and know the vineyard nuances like no one else. It is Eric’s job to deliver premium grapes to his brother Phillip, who has been their winemaker since day one.
Titus Vineyards released their first commercial vintage in 1990 (600 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon) and even after all these years of producing high quality wines, they are still one of Napa Valley’s best kept secrets. The focus of their wines is on varietal designated red wines blended with fruit from both their St. Helena estate as well as other premium vineyard sites around the valley. We have found some of their red wines to be highly approachable in their youth from a textural point of view, yet often quite savory and showing plenty of oak influence. They are also wines that always show great color extraction.
The 2019 Titus Vineyards Cabernet Franc is 86% Cabernet Franc, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Malbec. The Cabernet Franc was sourced from their estate vineyard at the winery along with from the beautiful Sugarloaf Vineyard, south of the city of Napa. This wine is dark ruby in color; the fruit aromatics are dark, initially showing ripe blackberry and dark licorice with overtones of mocha, cocoa and other assorted baking spices. It also shows hints of sage and white pepper as the aromatics evolve, becoming more savory. The aromatics are fully ripe and do not have any ‘greenness’ that sometimes wines from this variety can exhibit. It is extremely flavorful across the palate and very balanced (especially for such a youthful wine at the time of our tasting). Finishes with a light to moderate grip of tannins and darker savory spice notes. The finish is juicy and mouth watering.
The 2019 Titus Vineyards Malbec is a blend of 86% Malbec, 8% and Cabernet Sauvignon 6% Petit Verdot from two vineyard sites, Beckstoffer’s Melrose Vineyard and Stagecoach on Atlas Peak. This wine is deep purple in color and quite opaque; it immediately offers floral aromatics of violets along with ripe plum and underlying hints of mocha. As the wine breathes more oak influence shows on the bouquet (cedar). This wine is plush on the palate with intense dark flavors including plum and dark cherry. The tannins are noticeable, dusty, drying and persist with toasted oak, cedar and hints of dried tobacco leaf. The finish is quite savory.
The 2018 Titus Vineyards Petite Sirah is a blend of 85% Petite Sirah, 13% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is deep purple in the glass and extremely opaque; the bouquet is as dark as the color with black fruits including spicy plum skin, boysenberry, violets, lavender, dark licorice and chocolate brownie. It is a beautiful layered bouquet that is highly enjoyable to smell. This wine offers intense flavor without the heavy structure that this variety can often exhibit. The juicy and mouth watering finish shows plenty of fruit along with a noticeable density of tannins with a firm but rounded texture. It also lingers with notes of crushed black pepper. This wine should age quite well; lets come back to this bottling in 10+ years.
The Titus Sauvignon Blanc is one of Napa Valley’s more pleasing warm weather styled Sauvignon Blanc wines. It is made from about 3-acres planted close to the Napa River on their property. The 2014 Titus Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc was blended with 2% Viognier from neighboring Sonoma County. This wine is not made in the green or grassy often New Zealand referenced wines from this varietal. Shows pretty fruit forward aromatics that tend to be more tropical rather then citrus-like. Becomes more tropical as the wine opens – with aromas of peach, pineapple, honeysuckle. Very clean and beautifully balanced across the palate – shows a softness of texture with a lively finish offering decent acidity.
The 2006 Titus Vineyards Zinfandel is blended with Petite Sirah to fill in “any holes” that Zinfandel might have as well as add some nice coloring. This is a lively zesty wine and not the least bit jammy. It has briary aromas including blackberry and raspberry leading to a “fun” fruit and spice driven palate that leaves you only wanting more. Note that their last estate Zinfandel was the 2017 vintage (their Zinfandel was pulled out and replanted to Cabernet Sauvignon).
Cabernet Sauvignon is their “flagship wine” and is always blended with several other Bordeaux varietals. The 2016 Titus Vineyards Family Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon offers pretty aromatics – in our tasting notes we wrote “chocolate covered cherries” – milk chocolate with other baking and dessert spices. Also cedar box. Well layered with plenty of depth on the palate this robust offering lingers with heady tannins (both grape and oak). Big fruit and plenty of acidity make this a wine that can be laid down for quite some time.
Titus Vineyards also produces a very limited production wine simply called “Lot 1”.
The 2004 Titus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is a robust wine; it is a very unique blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot with a touch of Zinfandel and as you would expect from these two “big” varietals when combined, produces a wine of power and strength and dark color. However the tannins do not overwhelm, rather they are integrated nicely. Most impressive are the delicious and concentrated fruit flavors including plum and blackberry.
Titus Vineyards strives to make red wines that are full bodied – the varieties and vintages we have tried over the years are a testament to the quality of their vineyards and decades of wine making experience.
All their wines were made at Chappellet Winery for many years located in the hills east of Rutherford and also at Laird Estate, just north of the city of Napa. However, their own winery was completed towards the end of 2015 and all production has been moved on site. The winery is raised above the vineyards – all the soil used for the winery’s elevated base was cave tailing spoils donated from the drilling of caves for other wineries.
Titus also produces a very limited olive oil made from a number of different olive varieties that surround parts of the property. Be sure to ask about their wine club which can be personalized to match your tastes – in other words unlike other area wine clubs you are not locked into what the winery decides to ship you.
Also of note is their pricing; based upon Napa standards their wines are priced rather reasonably; this good price is passed on to the consumer based upon the fact they have owned their vineyards for a long time.
Note the dual sided wind fan that sits among their vineyard – easily seen to the West as you pull in the parking lot. As far as we know this is Napa Valley’s oldest still operating wind fan machine, installed in 1951; Phillip told us he read an article in the St. Helena Star dating from 1957 mentioning the installation of this fan on the property. At the time it was billed as cutting edge new technology for the valley helping mitigate temperatures during certain times of the year. It is still used during cold periods, usually in March or April.
If you have a number of extra hours in your day check out Titus TV which began with harvest 2008 and was filmed through harvest 2010. While the video clips are now old, they are entertaining and educational featuring Eric & Phillip Titus with real behind the scenes coverage of what actually happens during harvest. You can view this directly here: www.ustream.tv/channel/titus_tv When the videos were being filmed live (no new videos are being added), viewers were able to submit their questions real time.
Visits are typically for wine club members or serious wine enthusiasts with tasting held in the Vista Room – a sizable space overlooking their vineyards through large glass doors. Weather permitting, these doors will be opened; a semi outdoor space can also be used for tasting.
Current production is about 10,000 cases; several of their wines are selectively distributed in parts of the U.S. including the Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and the Sauvignon Blanc. Other wines are very limited production and are generally only available at the winery or direct to consumer. For more information and to join their wine club (in addition to wines, membership also gains access to winery hosted events – we have attended several of these casual events over the years – they are lots of fun), visit: www.titusvineyards.com
Driver’s Lounge (permanently closed)