Rutherford Estate Vineyard
Our Rutherford Estate is comprised of a total of 30 acres, 22 of which are planted with the five traditional Bordeaux varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. In addition to our Rutherford Estate, we have 128 acres at our Persephone vineyard in Pope Valley and another 11 acres at our Dutch Henry vineyard in Calistoga.
When Tony Peju purchased the 30-acre “Stephanie Vineyard” in 1983, it had been producing wine grapes since the early 1900s and some of the vines much longer. Originally planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Colombard, the fruit was sold to a number of wineries by the vineyard’s former owners.
Peju continued to sell grapes initially and continued to improve the vineyard through greater attention to canopy management, trellising and irrigation. He also changed the name to the “H.B. Vineyard”, the initials of his wife.
Ideally situated between Highway 29 and the west bank of the Napa River, the vineyard is part of the Rutherford Appellation, a six square mile region famous even by Napa Valley standards. Nearby are the historic vineyards of Inglenook, Robert Mondavi, Beaulieu and Caymus. The Rutheford H.B. Vineyard soil is deep and well drained, formed by three alluvial fans which supply gravel and sand to the valley floor’s deep loamy soil. Water flows easily through the soil and drains to the river.
Rutherford is at the valley’s widest point and so has longer sun exposure and therefore a higher radiant value than other parts of Napa Valley. UC Davis categorizes the area as Region II. Despite the warm growing temperatures, the vines are cooled in the evening by the northern reaches of San Francisco (San Pablo) Bay. A typical summer day sees evening temperatures drop by 40-50 degrees. Cool night temperatures allow the fruit to ripen slowly, maturing tannins and balancing acids in the long growing season. Rain in Rutherford comes mainly in the winter months, 26-36 inches annually, filling the aquifers and reservoirs which are necessary in the valley’s irrigated vineyards.
It is perfect terroir for wine grapes. But even in such a grape paradise there can be problems. Like most of the old plantings in Napa Valley, Peju’s vines were originally planted on root stock not resistant to the devastating phylloxera louse. In addition, the old vines were coming to the end of their productive years and the blocks of Colombard were not the ideal varietal for Rutherford. In 1990 the decision was made to replant.
Tony Peju was making wine himself by then and winning gold medals and critical accolades. He realized the greatest flavors in his wines were coming from an original 5.5 acre block of Cabernet Sauvignon. These particular vines thrived in the Rutherford climate producing complex and multi-layered wine with unique characteristics. He replanted primarily with cuttings from that block, now called the “HB Clone”, and complemented the vineyard by growing Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the classic Bordeaux blend.
Today’s H.B. Vineyard is an outstanding example of Napa Valley viticulture. Vines are trained on vertical shoot position trellises and carefully manicured of excess lateral canes and leaves. Irrigation begins in late spring, tapering off at veraison (turning of color) so the plant focuses energy on ripening, not growth. To intensify flavors, superfluous grape clusters are “dropped” allowing those remaining to get full benefit of the vine’s photosynthesis. Harvest can take place in several passes as crews select clusters at optimum ripeness.
“Whatever we hope to achieve in the bottle begins in the vineyard,” says Tony Peju. “We are fortunate to have found this vineyard and its ideal conditions for our reserve wines.”