Laird Family Estate
Our story begins nearly sixty-four years ago outside of South Boston Virginia as twelve-year-old Ken Laird drove his mule wagon through tight rows of sticky, fit-to-be-harvested tobacco leaves. As the gooey bundles were thrown up onto the wagon, little Ken led his mule team to the curing barn. It was there, with his grandmother, great uncles, and cousins, where they would stoke smoky curing fires for their prized tobacco. Ken would be the third generation Laird to carry on the farming tradition.
While growing up to be a big city mechanical engineer in New York City, Ken held on to family tradition by buying his first Napa Valley parcel in 1970. This neglected piece of land, adjacent to Tubbs Lane in Calistoga, held 70 acres of worn-down prune trees. With Prohibition forty years gone and Napa Valley positioned to re-emerge as viticulturally significant, Ken decided to develop the orchard into a grape vineyard.
While knowing just short of nothing about viticulture, Ken was also $150,000.00 short to properly develop the orchard into a respectable vineyard. Picking up a tattered phone book, Ken went to the yellow pages and found eight listed wineries…Robert Mondavi being the only one he recognized.
With a phone call, Robert Mondavi himself agreed to walk the property. After the two men discussed soils, vines, yields, irrigation, and proper pruning, Robert agreed to finance a deal with Ken if he would plant 50% Gamay. The deal was struck with a resulting vineyard of 50% Gamay and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr. Mondavi guaranteeing Ken’s Cabernet “to be the highest harvest price paid in the Valley.” The support and encouragement of Robert Mondavi would allow Ken to return to his passion: his family farming heritage. And the rest is history.
Winemaker Julian Gonzalez' experience in the world of winemaking started the harvest of 1994, when he accepted part-time positions at both Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Dominus Estate working as a cellar worker. He alternated working mornings in one place and afternoons at the other. From harvest of 1994, he moved through various positions at Louis M Martini, Chateau Potelle, Vine Cliff, Paul Hobbs Winery, Mi Sueno Winery and Paul Hobbs Consulting.
In 1996 Julian began to become passionate about the wine industry while working at Chateau Potelle. In 2000, Julian was promoted to cellar master at Vine Cliff, and four year later he was promoted to assistant winemaker at Paul Hobbs Winery. Finally in 2007 he was able to achieve one of his dream goals; Julian was entrusted with the position of consulting winemaker at Paul Hobbs Consulting.
For consulting winemakers Paul Hobbs and Julian Gonzalez, the attraction to help the Laird’s craft their own wines began simply with their family. With Ken having over 40 years in the business, they recognized that he truly understood the ‘ins-and-outs’ of the industry and were able to meet the unique trends and challenges of the wine business. Paul and Julian saw Ken’s determination and knew he was in it for the long run, not simply for hobby’s sake. They also believed the combined vineyard expertise of Ken and Sales Manager Justin Ward was tough to beat. Lastly, there was a shared vision and goal to produce great, estate wines.
With Ken and Justin’s concentration in Napa and Carneros vineyards, Paul and Julian has sought to produce wines that are “a window to a place.” Suscol Ranch is different in expression from Cold Creek Ranch as Red Hen Ranch is from Flat Rock Ranch: each a subtle yet distinctive vineyard voice. And with every year there is an intense drive to understand, react to, and work with each vineyard to reach its full potential. This process, lead by winemaker and vineyard manager, is crucial for the execution of successful wines.
Paul Hobbs and Julian Gonzalez have crafted wines that draw attention to detail. They ask to be savored slowly so the inherent intricacies of each wine may be recognized. They are not of overwhelming fruit immensity but wines of elegance and polish, reflective of their origins.
Laird Family Estates offers an amazing Facility Tour and Barrel Sampling Experience. Tour our production facility with a professional and learn the process of winemaking from the vine to the bottle. You will see our custom crush facility as if you were working harvest. Walk in the shoes of a winemaker through our enormous fermentation room, smell the French oak in our barrel chai and see what goes into popping a cork. Finish the tour with a barrel sample of our upcoming vintages and taste the wine before release. We look forward to your visit!