Napa Valley is a place like no other: a fantasy land, a place of indescribable beauty, where history and modernity exist in perfect harmony. Acres of vineyards stretch and swerve against the timeless mountains that frame the valley. Mondavi, Beringer, Krug, Inglenook - properties that have earned this place its renown - coexist with the modern structures of stainless steel and glass. It is a place for which words do little justice; a place you must experience. And for many years, it was a place that seemed simply out of reach for Lance and myself.
Lance and I first traveled to Napa Valley in 2007 in the company of our parents who, being wine enthusiasts themselves, showed us how to properly taste our way through Napa. Dad knew all the tricks: a typical day began by “helping” the waitstaff at Domaine Carneros open the front gate, and ended with “just one last tasting” squeezed in at some winery he knew of that was licensed to stay open later than the rest.
As I matured (in terms of my wine knowledge, budget and inability to handle the 2 pm wine haze), I started to look for more out of Napa. The knowledge I gained in business school only fueled my interest, and Lance and I began to consider how we might turn this passion for wine into a venture of our own. Our marathon tasting days were whittled down to just two or three appointments, where we really got to understand the winery, the winemakers and the process. Our focus shifted, allowing us to taste more while drinking less (as unbelievable as that might sound).
Two years ago, Lance, Dad, and I made our very first attempt at winemaking, buying some grapes and taking them to a facility that processed, stored, blended and bottled our wine. In future posts, I'll delve more into that experience, but suffice it to say, that is not where I think we needed to be. Our ability to buy wine from outstanding vineyards and winemakers will undoubtedly yield a better product than what an accountant, an economist Army officer and a doctor could possibly make.
Today we have done something monumental - something our 20-something selves back in 2007 never thought possible: we are launching our own brand! Claudine Wines is the culmination of our collective experiences, trial and error, and desire to be a part of the world that still seems surreal almost a decade later.
As we move ahead in our venture, I look forward to pulling back the curtain on the industry a bit and - most of all - putting a bottle or two on your table that you can enjoy with your family and friends.
As the recipient of many well-intentioned but unused wine gifts, I feel compelled to act on behalf of all wine drinkers.