David Graves and Richard Ward met in a brewing class at UC Davis school of Enology. They both recognized each other’s talent and decided to join forces to make wine.
Graves and Ward released their first vintage of Pinot Noir under the Saintsbury label in 1981. At the time, Carneros was not yet a recognized AVA, and its reputation for producing Burgundian varietals had not yet taken hold. This was soon to change.
In 1983, Carneros was granted AVA status. At the southernmost section of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Carneros is the coolest AVA of each of these two regions. The moderating breeze that flows off the adjacent San Pablo Bay allows for a longer growing season for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are historically early ripening varietals.
Carneros’ clay-loam soil tends to be shallow and relatively unfertile. This also perfectly suits Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, because if left unchecked, both of these varietals tend to grow out of control.
Through experimentation and knowledge, Graves and Ward were able to pick a clone that was very well suited to their vineyard’s climate and terrain. In 1995, Saintsbury began experimenting with single varietal Pinot Noirs for their Brown Ranch Vineyard.
The success of this wine led to a collection Vineyard Series Pinot Noirs, which showcase some of the best vineyards in Carneros. Saintsbury’s 2002 Brown Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir was given 92 points in issue number 33 of the Pinot Report.
Saintsbury is open for tours and tastings by appointment Monday through Saturday.