I’ve traveled the world experiencing insider tours of wineries and enjoying the most amazing luscious wine and food extravaganzas. I’ve sipped with superstar wine makers, had my picture taken with celebrity winery owners and gawked at one-of-kind car and crystal collections. I love all of it of course, but one thing I’ve learned is when it is all stripped away, winemakers and winery owners want you to love their wine. It doesn’t matter if it is $150 a bottle, $3,000 a magnum or $200 a case, creating great wine is about capturing magic in a bottle.
I recently experienced magic in a bottle and called the winemaker to find out more. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this luscious, perfect wine was made by two brothers whose souls have been intertwined with grapevines their entire lives. Bulmaro and Manuel Jr. Montes, owners of Marita’s Vineyard were born with the magic in their hands.
Their father, Manuel, starting working for Joseph Phelps Vineyards in 1973 and didn’t stop until he was 90 years old. His son, Bulmaro, worked for Joseph Phelps Vineyards for over 30 years. Seasoned vineyard managers are considered to be rock stars in the wine world. And both Manuel Sr. (deceased) and Bulmaro are highly respected in Napa Valley. Manuel Jr., a mechanical engineer and rather famous water witcher (douser) also worked for Phelps.
The fabulous wine that I tasted came from a special bit of microclimate in the Coombsville area of Napa. Bulmaro told me that he knew exactly what he was looking for when he bought his 2.6 acre bare parcel in 2002. After all, he had access to every vineyard in California when he purchased grapes for JPV. And after traveling many times to France, he knew that it was possible to make great wine from a tiny vineyard. He called it Marita’s Vineyard after his youngest daughter.
It generally takes 3-4 years for a new vineyard to mature enough to make good wine; as well, the vineyard’s readiness is especially important to winemakers who believe strongly that great wine is made in the vineyard not in the laboratory. Bulmaro and Manuel’s magical hands are the only ones to touch the vines; they plant, prune and nurture every vine themselves. Consulting winemaker, Kurt Niznik, is also part of the winemaking family.
Marita’s Vineyard’s first harvest was in 2004 and although Bulmaro bottled it at the insistence of his excited daughters, he never released it. He and his brother worked their magic with the vineyard for another year, and in 2008, they released the 2005 Marita’s Select Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It is sold out except for a few bottles available for library tasting. (Parenthetically, Wine Enthusiast rated it 95 points, pretty amazing for a first release.)
I love touring a gorgeous castle and savoring a meal prepared by a Michelin-star chef but sometimes, when the fanciness of Napa is stripped away, it’s the best experience of all. The Montes family Ranchito is nothing fancy, it’s not a faux chateau nor surrounded by exotic gardens, imported statues and sybaritic fountains. Unpretentious and welcoming, guests can taste the Marita’s Cabernet Sauvignon with homemade Spanish-influenced food. And it is smack in the middle of the vineyard.
Tasting Notes: 2006 Marita’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
A rare wine that will please experienced and inexperienced palates alike. It’s complex and interesting, tempting a second sip, and a third until the oenophile is finally satisfied that it is as wonderful as they suspected, and then they just sit back and enjoy the lingering finish and soft yet structured tannins. The non-oenophiles are there after the first taste, giggling and smiling and saying, wow, this is different, it’s accessible…I get it.
$150 Available exclusively from Maritasvineyard.com or at the tasting room.