Toolbox Wine Company was the inspiration of Katie Hamilton Shaffer and was a joint partnership with Thrace Bromberger (co-owner of Gustavo-Thrace winery) and Nancy Otton (proprietor of Ramspur Winery). However, note that Toolbox was acquired in early 2013 by the Jell Hill Wine Group. (we will update this review accordingly during our next visit to the Jeff Hill Winery.
It was during a wine tasting girls night out when Katie came up with the idea to start her own winery and decided upon the name, “Toolbox”. “Serious wines, playful marketing” is their tagline.
Toolbox has added their own definition to this word.
– tool?box (t l b ks )’
1. A case for carrying or storing tools.
2. When you’re tired of being screwed by high priced wines.
The original founder, Katie is a whirling dervish of energy who is extremely involved in a number of projects that focus on helping others. She is originally from the town of Davis (about 45 minutes from Napa) – it is rare to meet someone in the Napa wine industry who actually grew up in Davis – versus the numerous winemakers who attended UC Davis for several years for their wine education.
She came to the Napa Valley to pursue her passions in food and wine. Originally she wanted to become a chef but soon started working for several larger Napa based wineries. It was at one of these wineries that the daughter of a friend was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a rare disease. Katie took action and created a support network from scratch in the form of “Erika’s Dream”, a non profit foundation. Katie also helped launch Wine, Women & Shoes with Napa vintner, Elaine Honig and promoted the organization to National prominence.
She enjoys fundraising and work that directly helps others, so she eventually switched to working for non profits and other charities. Today Katie maintains an event and fundraising schedule that two people together would have a hard time keeping up with. She is also filming a TV show called Feast it Forward (currently in its pilot phase) – with the focus being on Napa lifestyle and vintners and some of their charitable causes. The show’s tagline is “philanthropic living for foodies & winos”. Visit: www.feastitforward.com
Toolbox Wine Company sources grapes mainly from both Napa and Sonoma. Their wines are some of the most reasonably priced wines in the valley. Total production as of now is about 10,000 cases but they certainly have the fruit sources to grow in the future.
The 2009 Clarskburg (southwest of Sacramento) Pinot Grigio was blended with Muscat. The bouquet shows citrus – orange peel, cut grass and notes of honey (perhaps from the contribution of the Muscat varietal). This wine has good viscosity and length on the finish. The 2010 Clarksburg Pinot Grigio, while only a year younger is a totally different wine. It has no Muscat and is 100% varietal. Notes of pear and red apple show on the nose – it is fairly balanced for such a young wine and has more crispness to it then the 2009 vintage.
The 2007 Oak Knoll District Chardonnay has nice tropical overtones on the nose as well as notes of melon. It is a rich wine yet has decent acidity. Good viscosity and notes of citrus on the lingering finish. This is an easy drinking wine.
The 2007 “Mianti” is a play on Chianti and drinks like one. Think Italian, think pizza – then pair this wine with your meal. It is 90% Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot from Sonoma County. Lots of dark fruit shows on the bouquet including black cherry along with some spicy pepper notes. The nose is also somewhat earthy. High toned fruit shows on the palate – flavors of plum and red berry. This wine has great acidity. Dusty tannins anchor the finish.
A new higher end, limited production wine is their signature series, called Thirst. This Cabernet Sauvignon is being released in conjunction with former San Francisco Giants baseball player JT Snow. Proceeds are being being raised from the sale of this wine to support JT’s Snowman Fund. This is Toolbox’s “show wine” – the label is made entirely of engraved pewter!
Toolbox has a number of partners including Habitat for Humanity. As Katie says, “we are building houses and good will, one bottle at a time” – a dollar from every case of Toolbox wine sold is donated to Habitat for Humanity. With a name like Toolbox an obvious choice for a sponsor is Snap-On Tools. Despite her involvement with a number of charities, Katie is always on the lookout for new partners and charities to work with.
The wine was made at Hill Wine Co in St. Helena. NOTE: This brand may no longer be producing. Stay posted for more details.
Video from Cellar Angels:
NOTE: This review has been archived.
REASON: Was purchased by another winery which went bankrupt. Stopped producing wine commercially
Sherrie Miranda says
I can see why they went bankrupt! I opened a 2012 bottle of red table wine & it tasted terrible. Either 2012 was a bad year or it is because of the screw off top.
So, can you use bad wine for cooking?
Debi Henson says
I just had a bottle of 2012 Kitchen Essentials Sustainably Grown Red Wine with my husband. It cost $8 and was worth three times that, in my opinion. I’m sad that Toolbox is gone. I’m going back to buy the rest of it!
While Toolbox is no longer around and this review has been archived for years, Katie is NEVER far from numerous exciting wine related projects! Look for her new project (the retail headquarters for Feast it Forward) opening most likely later this year or into next year across from the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. Multiple small brands will be represented.