Staglin Family Vineyards
Situated at the base of the western slopes of Mount St. John, the tallest mountain in the Mayacamas Range, this sixty-one acre property is located in an alluvial fan containing rich volcanic soils. With ideal soils, microclimate, and location, the estate's potential was recognized by some of the first Napa Valley settlers and was planted to vineyards in the mid 1860s. Today the property is home to the Staglins, fifty-one acres of vines, an underground winery, the historic homestead, a solar array, and the many critters that inhabit this certified organic estate.
Completed in 2002 our 24,000ft² underground production facility is customized to enhance the unique characteristics of this vineyard. Situated under a steep hillside overlooking the vines, the winery's underground construction minimizes its impact on the local ecosystem. The old oak trees on the hillside are unharmed by the caves deep beneath them. These modern caves provide naturally gentle storage conditions with a cool constant temperature and mild humidity. We use less electricity to cool the winery and lose less wine to evaporation.
The spacious facility allows winemaker Fredrik Johansson the ultimate flexibility to tailor the winemaking techniques for optimized quality. The facility is customized to care for the wine throughout its production including de-stemming, meticulous sorting, fermentation, barrel aging, and finally bottling.
During harvest, the crush pad hums with activity. The grapes are harvested before dawn under lights and are gently carried to the winery in small lug bins. As the sun rises accompanied by the lively Mexican music the crew begins to sort first the clusters and then individual berries to be sure only the perfect grapes makes it in to the fermentation tanks. We spend a lot of time and effort in the vineyard to achieve maximum fruit quality and intensity. With a genuine respect for this land, this care and attention to detail carries through in all of our production practices to showcase the best attributes of each of the estate’s varietals and vintages.
The Staglin Family Vineyard has a 130 year heritage of viticulture and a rich social history based on an extraordinary procession of owners through multiple generations.
In 1868, 47 year-old John Steckter, and his wife Mary E. Harris Steckter, purchased a 367 acre parcel for $34 an acre from Serranus Clinton Hastings, one of the wealthiest pioneers and capitalists of early California. They cleared the land and built a large wood frame residence and several barns on their new farm where they propagated 60 acres of grapes surrounding the home, dedicating the remaining acreage for cattle and wheat. In 1877 a local newspaper described their Rutherford property as, “a fine dwelling upon the rising ground near the foothills.” In this home John and Mary raised their six children—four daughters and two sons.
After the death of John Steckter in 1904, Mary was forced to sell the property due to litigation, at which time it passed through several different owners before it was purchased in 1922 by Frank G. Manley, a mysterious gold and oil tycoon who made his fortune in the territory of Alaska while on the run from the law in Texas. He and his wife Lucile and their extended family lived in their country estate amongst the vineyards, walnut trees, and prune orchards.
In 1963 the land was sold to the Sullivan family with marriage ties to the de Latour family who owned Beaulieu Vineyards. Already having a home, the Sullivans parceled off the house and sold it as a separate home site. Under the watchful eye of Andre Tchelistcheff, the prune orchard was removed and new vines were planted for Beaulieu Vineyards’ exclusive Georges de Latour Private Reserve label. After the death of Louise Sullivan in 1984, the property was left to her stepson Walter H. Sullivan, Jr.
In 1985, the Staglin family purchased this historic estate on the Rutherford Bench. It seems incredible that after much searching this unique parcel became available to the Staglins by sheer word of mouth and good timing.
With a strong respect for the former proprietors, the Staglins have worked closely with Andre Tchelistcheff to bridge his knowledge of this unique land. In 2007 they purchased the original Steckter home, reuniting it with the surrounding acreage of which it had been a part for 140 years.
Garen and Shari were able to purchase this Rutherford Bench estate in 1985 after spending many years learning about wine together, first through his parents at meals where they served good California or Italian wines, and then later when Garen went to Stanford Business School and Shari would go north to visit. They would often spend a day in Napa Valley, where their dream began to one day have a vineyard and make wines of great quality. In 1968 they married, went to Vietnam, Japan, Washington, D.C., and then New York where their first child Brandon was born in 1971.
When it was time to move back to California in 1975, one of the key criteria for where to live was proximity to wine country, so he and Shari chose Lafayette, CA, only one hour from Napa and 3 hours from Tahoe for skiing. 1979 proved to be a year of prosperity for the Staglin's, giving birth to their second child Shannon. This year also marked their purchase of their first company. After many years of rapid growth, they were able to sell a portion of this business, creating capital to finally pursue their dream and become owners of a premier vineyard in the Napa Valley.
By the end of 1985, the dream came true with the purchase of the historic 50 acre vineyard owned by Beaulieu Vineyards and an adjacent 12 acre parcel. Using their contacts and background, Garen and Shari built a business and marketing plan that remains the foundation of Staglin Family Vineyard: family ownership, commitment to quality, and a personal approach to selling and encouraging memorable experiences. Brandon and Shannon grew up on the property, pursued their education and have both returned with new perspectives and experiences to rejoin the family business. Today all members of the family work in day to day operations of the vineyard and winery. Shannon serves as President, Brandon as Director of Marketing Communications, Shari as Chief Executive Officer and Garen as the Public Relations Manager. They hope to cultivate this tradition for many generations to come.
Our winemaker, Fredrik Johansson, works closely with vineyard manager David Abreu to carefully farm the land and coax optimal ripeness, complexity, and intensity from the vines with each harvest. Fredrik is focused and passionate about making wine. He previously worked with consulting winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, taking the traditional route of an apprentice to acquire his knowledge and expertise. He began his education at Nicholson Ranch in Sonoma, continued it at Two Hands Wines in Australia and honed it further at Outpost Wines on Howell Mountain, where he also oversaw several of Thomas' consulting projects, including Schrader Cellars and Maybach Family Vineyards. Now that Fredrik is at Staglin, he says, “My goal is to make the best possible wine with the fruit from this vineyard without letting what I do in the winery get in the way. It's such an amazing vineyard that I feel a responsibility to help it express itself to its fullest.”
Andre Tchelistcheff's wisdom is a constant goal, his words continue to be an important tool for making the best wine possible from our estate. Not surprising since Tchelistcheff was so familiar with the terroir of the Rutherford area, the first to pinpoint the unique flavor profile of wines produced from fruit grown on the Rutherford benchlands.
At Staglin Family Vineyard we can also offer you and your guests an intimate gathering and convivial atmosphere. Garen, Shari, Brandon, or Shannon will graciously welcome you at the historic Steckter homestead and will act as your host for a lunch, dinner, or even a cooking class.
Experience the estate, savor the wines, enjoy the conversation, and dine on the delectable creations of Northern California's finest. Our friends and celebrity chefs including Jan Birnbaum of Epic Roasthouse, Michael Chiarello of Bottega, Ken Frank of La Toque and Cindy Pawlcyn of Cindy Pawlcyn's Wood Grill, Mustards, and Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen have prepared amazing meals for guests at the estate. Surrounded by organic vineyards and gardens we will work with you and the chef of your choice to put together an unforgettable menu featuring the bounty of this land. We look forward to creating memories with you that will last a lifetime.