About Lamborn Family Vineyard
There are points in everyone's lives that revolve around self-reflection: Am I happy with what I'm doing? Is my life heading in the direction that I want it to? Did I really need that cheesecake? Some of these "reflective stages," if you will, are more serious than others. Robert (Bob) Lamborn, our hero of the story, was in one of these serious stages when he made a life altering decision. He had no idea of the legacy he was about to create.
Recently divorced, Bob Lamborn, a Private Investigator in the San Francisco Bay Area with security clearance in both the CIA and FBI, made the conscious decision that his life needed more structure and complexity. What better industry to add structure and complexity (he was already well-balanced and getting better with age) to Bob's life than the wine industry! Bob convinced his son, Michael, to purchase with him two separate but adjacent plots of land on Howell Mountain, an eastern appellation of the Napa Valley. Having no idea what they were getting themselves into, father and son team, Bob and Mike, purchased respectively 25 and 15-acre plots of land at 2,200 feet in elevation in 1971. Of the forty purchased acres, a total of 14 were actually plantable.
The two men, along with other friends and family members, put their heart and soul into clearing these ruggedly beautiful plots of land into what are now majestic mountain top vineyards. After thorough research, both vineyards were planted to Zinfandel. Bob and Mike knew they needed a name for their wine. Of all the potential ideas, one stuck out the most to them: Lamborn Family Vineyards. It was a perfect name, simple and true to the business. Despite the fact that the majority of their friends told them the name made them sound like a couple of guys making wine in a garage, they went ahead with it anyway. Thus, the very first "Family" winery label was created. Many wineries have since followed suit. The first vintage, 100 cases, came in 1982, and was crafted by family friend and neighbor Randy Dunn. 1983 marked the first commercial release of Lamborn wine at around 350 cases. Production was kept very small and all excess fruit was sold while the Lamborns established their market. 1984 brought about 500 cases and production levels slowly increased each vintage until it reached a peak of 2,700 cases in 1992. Not a lot has changed with Lamborn Family Vineyards in the last 30+ years. They continue to focus on their Number One goal: producing modest quantities of estate grown Zinfandels and Cabernets of a superior quality at an affordable price.
Cinderella story? Not quite. On one fateful Sunday in October, 1991, as he was returning home to Oakland from two weeks of harvest, crush, and fermentation at the vineyard, Bob was met with the reality that most people only see in nightmares. What seemed to be all of Oakland, Berkeley, and the surrounding area, was completely engulfed in flames. Sadly, the infamous Oakland Firestorm of 1991 had destroyed not only Bob's entire house, but also every worldly possession and memento he had collected throughout the years. Distraught, fatigued, and covered in Howell Mountain's red dirt, Bob and his two Weimaraner dogs stayed with his son Mike and daughter-in-law, Terry, until he could get back on his own two feet.
The reality of the Oakland Firestorm was not forgotten in time, however, but immortalized on the back label of the Lamborn's 1991 Zinfandel vintage. Entitled the "Phoenix Vintage," the back label pays tribute to the trials and tribulations of this stage in Bob's life, and his rising "out of the ashes." This marks the first Lamborn vintage to be recognized with a title, and is a tradition that continues this very day. Each vintage is given a title with the explanation on the back label, summarizing an event or circumstance that encompassed that particular growing season. These explanations are meant to be both informative and entertaining, and are something that Lamborn Zinfandel fans look forward to vintage after vintage.
1996 brought forth two changes in the Lamborn Family Wine Company. First, Bob sold his vineyard and entered semi-retirement, however he still acted as a consultant. It was next to impossible keeping him out of the vineyard during harvest. The second change, and a very welcome one, was the addition of the extremely reputable winemaker Heidi Barrett joining the team. Making a formidable reputation for herself as winemaker for such "cult" wineries as Screaming Eagle and Grace Family, Heidi's well-deserved and established reputation precedes her. Her winemaking techniques are consistent with their winegrowing practices: focusing on quality and having a lot of fun in the process. The Lamborns now average about 900 cases a year of handcrafted Howell Mountain, Estate Grown Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
As it was in the beginning, Lamborn Family Vineyards remains a true "family" business. Mike and Terry continue to pass along responsibilities to their sons Matt and Brian, who represent the third generation. Matt, with his masters in landscape architecture and natural affinity for "things that grow," finds the responsibility for the vineyard operations right up his alley. Brian, who has headed-up marketing and sales for the past 13 years, now also enjoys the "excitement" that the administrative side of running a winery provides. It has always been true that "young blood" brings in new and innovative ideas, and this certainly is optimistic for the future of Lamborn Family Vineyards. Mike and Terry will play an active role in the annual activities of the business. There are now five "youngins" in the fourth generation who thoroughly enjoy Howell Mountain's red dirt.
After 18 years at the Napa Wine Company in Oakville, in July of 2012 we moved to our current custom crush facility at Jericho Canyon in Calistoga, Napa Valley. A simple, yet beautiful, state of the art redwood structure houses stainless steel tanks, a destemmer, a press, and all sorts of other ridiculously expensive equipment. The winery leads to a 6,000 square foot cave which was drilled into the hillside. The caves provide a cool, energy efficient, and humid space for barrel aging our wines, with the underground storage reducing wine evaporation up to 60%. Our wines are very happy here in this beautiful winery; taste for yourself!
4 Acres to Zinfandel, 4 Acres to Cabernet
First purchased back in the early 1970's, our remote vineyard sites required years of preparation. Bob Lamborn planted the first vines in 1979 which produced our first vintage in 1982. Situated along the ridgeline at the 2,200 foot level, the deep red volcanic loam provides mineral rich and nutrient poor soils, ideal for red grape varietals. With a mere eight acres under cultivation, we have the distinct luxury of watching each and every vine, week in and week out. This intense "child care" lets us make needed adjustments vine by vine to assure our vineyard produces the very best grapes possible. Sustainable agricultural practices and organically registered products are employed to further the health of the vineyard and positively impact fruit quality.
Our vineyard is approximately 25 minutes from St. Helena, "The Heart of Napa Valley." Winding your way up past the 1,400 foot elevation you enter the boundaries of the Howell Mountain AVA. Situated at 2,200 feet above sea level lies Lamborn Family Vineyards.
Surrounded by forests of oak, madrone, dogwood, and pine, our convenient yet remote location allows us the pleasure of sharing the land with such neighbors as black bears, mountain lions, wild turkeys, and Bigfoot himself. The latter has been embellished a bit, however we wouldn't be surprised at all if we saw him up here.
Our Vineyard Orientation
Our vineyard site projects off the ridge in a northerly direction and has a 1,000 foot perimeter drop-off of 50 degrees on three sides. During extreme cold periods, natural air moves across the vineyard protecting the vines from frost when other vineyards are in jeopardy. While Napa and Pope Valleys can frequently be blanketed with a thick layer of fog, we enjoy early morning sunlight and warm temperatures. During the growing season we are about 10 degrees cooler during the day and 15 degrees warmer at night. Our vineyard has a unique mesoclimate unlike any other on Howell Mountain.
Our Trellising System
What is a trellis? The grapevine is a natural climber. To grow, it needs something its tendrils can cling to. In our case it is a trellis system, or stretched wires. This greatly effects how many clusters will be produced. Following a research model developed by viticulturist Dr. Richard Smart of Australia, the vineyard was completely re-trellised in February 1999. This concept of separating the vine canopy combined with vertical shoot positioning allows maximum sunlight penetration to the fruit and to the wood. Dr. Smarts research has shown this to be highly beneficial to both fruit quality and quantity. We are in total agreement.
Owner / Grower: Mike Lamborn
Winegrowing - romantic? No, it’s more like “down to earth”. Vineyard operations are key to each vintage; Mike spends hundreds of hours each year nurturing the vineyard and adjusting it to the conditions of each growing season. Winery and vineyard administration makes the physical work seem easy.
Winemarker: Heidi Peterson Barrett
Heidi Barrett is truly a well-recognized and highly respected master of her art. She joined the Lamborn Family Wine Company team in 1996, bringing her individualized expertise to the family's 4 acre Zinfandel and 4 acre Cabernet vineyards while adding a varietal dimension to her wine repertoire.
As it is with many of the world's finest treasures, "balance" is the essence of their greatness. Heidi's winemaking approach follows this very philosophy. "I prefer to utilize a combination of traditional and modern techniques in my winemaking. One of my goals is to maximize the unique characteristics of each estate vineyard, guiding the wine to achieve its highest potential while always focusing on quality and balance."
Dark, ripe fruit flavors of cherry and raspberry are just a couple of the indigenous qualities of the Lamborn Vineyards that Heidi captures in each bottle. However, the most commonly found varietal characteristics, very much native to these vineyards, is the pepper and spice. Zinfandel fans will enjoy this in each vintage of these elegant wines hand-crafted by Heidi Barrett.
A Stellar ResumeIn addition to Lamborn Family and her own projects, La Sirena and Amuse Bouche, Heidi is also currently making wine for such wineries as Paradigm, Au Sommet, Fantesca, and Kenzo Estate. Past clients include Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Vineyard 29, Hartwell, Oakford Vineyards, and Barbour.
Heidi's Educational BackgroundIn 1980 she received her degree in enology from the University of California at Davis. While attending Davis, Heidi assisted Dr. Ann Noble, known for her development of the aroma wheel. Winemaking internships in Germany and Australia added further to an already strong experience base.
Press & Award
Our 2010 Vintage VIII Cabernet Sauvignon received 95 points from The Wine Enthusiast magazine.
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