Eighteen months after the Boyds purchased the property, both of their companies relocated. Sitting on 22 acres of pristine Napa Valley soil, Stan and Joan saw their opportunity and took it. “That was the kick out of the corporate nest we needed,” Stan says. “I took a few classes and enlisted the help of some of my local winemaker friends. In 2000, we produced our first 24 cases of wine, and the Boyd Family Vineyard was born.”
Today the couple spends their days making handcrafted wine they sell at their kitchen table through a few private tastings a week. Visitors to the house are warmly greeted by the Boyds and their two 100-pound Labradors, Gus and Stockard, and then ushered into the dining room where Stan and Joan take visitors one glass at a time through the wines they produce. Stan says that the signature style of his wines is balanced and varietally correct, and the wines feature well-managed, soft tannins. “I don’t like a wine that is so tannic it makes your lips stick to your teeth,” he says. “Since I’m the winemaker, I want to make my style of wines.”
Stan’s style of wines seems to have found fans in critics and consumers alike. In December 2009, respected wine reviewer Robert Parker, editor of The Wine Advocate, rated both their 2006 merlot and syrah an 87 (out of 100) and the 2006 cuvée a 90, calling it a “deep, full-bodied, lush, heady, sexy wine.” Of the 1,500 cases the Boyds produce yearly, 95 percent are sold to individuals on their mailing list, most of whom have sat at the Boyds’ kitchen table, sharing stories and tasting wine. “I always had a passion for wine,” Stan says, “but becoming part of this community and making wines has been more rewarding than I ever could have imagined.”
While being part of the Napa Valley community is the endgame for many a hopeful vintner, it was the beginning for Lisa Redmon, with one exception: Wine isn’t what brought her family to Napa. They came, instead, for the root beer.
“My father owned the local A&W,” she explains. “I grew up going to school with kids from winemaking families, but I spent my afternoons serving soft drinks.”
It wasn’t until after Redmon graduated from college, got a job and met her husband, Scott Mangelson, that she started to develop her palate for good food and fine wine. “That’s when it hit me,” she says. “We had this gem of a vineyard in our family, and it was not being used.”
That vineyard is a 3.5-acre parcel of land her father had bought as an investment in the 1980s. With help from wine consultants and aided by Scott’s degree in biochemistry, Redmon Wines has grown to produce 350 cases of cabernet and 185 cases of chardonnay per year. In 2009, their 2006 cabernet was named by the St. Helena Star as one of the top six best in Napa Valley and won a double gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Lisa and Scott’s wines may be garnering big-time honors, but the farmhouse where guests are allowed to try the wines is the antithesis of a big-time winery’s. In contrast to long lines of patrons standing shoulder to shoulder as samples are poured across a bar at a furious pace, Lisa invites her guests to sink back into a soft couch, snack on Spanish almonds and sip. As they do, she eagerly talks about the elements of the wine and the history of the property, which includes a 100-year-old pre-Prohibition winery barn.
Lisa and Scott currently produce their wines off-site, but future plans call for restoring the historic barn and furnishing it with winemaking equipment. “Our goal is to produce 4,000 cases,” Lisa says. “That’s the amount we need to sell in order to do this full time for a living.”
After visitors are done tasting her full-flavor, smoothly finished wines, Lisa takes them out to see the red barn as it stands now. She points out the remnants of the antique rail tracks once used to move the fruit and barrels, expounds on the classic tin roof and makes sure everyone gets a good look at the old A&W sign from her childhood, hanging in the barn window. It’s a perfect symbol of the spirit of the microboutique movement: Even accidental vintners can make great wines.