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Lawer Family Wines - Napa Valley


The Lawer Family estate vineyard consistently produces award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon

The collection of wine labels that comprises Lawer Family Wines requires some explanation to understand their identity and meaning. Starting at the beginning, Lawer Family Wines is owned by an Alaskan couple, Betsy and David Lawer, and their daughter Sarah. David Lawer is a lawyer and Betsy is the Vice Chairman of the 1st National Bank of Alaska.

The couple became interested in wine when annually visiting Napa and Sonoma Valleys during Alaska’s cold winter periods. During Thanksgiving, the entire Lawer family gathered in different locations around wine country. This allowed the Lawers to traverse a good deal of Northern California’s wine regions before becoming involved (along with a number of other investors) with the sale of the then defunct Folie a Deux Winery in 1995. The introduction to California’s wine industry proved rewarding for the couple and the Lawers decided to attempt to locate some acreage that they could purchase on their own. In 2002, a remarkable property that totaled nearly 106 acres became available just outside Calistoga, in the upper reaches of Napa Valley. It contained a neglected vineyard that the Lawers were told could be easily worked into production. The deal was completed and Betsy and David Lawer began the process of becoming growers in the Napa Valley.

“All we intended to do was grow some really top fruit to sell to some of the local wineries,” confessed Betsy Lawer during a recent interview. “Well, once we got started, everything began to fall into place. The fruit we were producing turned out to be top quality and we decided on taking everything to the next step.” The couple decided on producing a series of wines, each expected to fulfill a particular niche. The process also involved finding a home in which to make the Lawer Family Wines. The couple settled on The Ranch, a top flight production facility just south of St. Helena that served a number of high caliber clients around the valley. Winemaker Scott Harvey (who had been at Folie a Deux) agreed to make the first Lawer Family wines.

Three years ago, the Lawers enlisted the services of renowned winemaker Larry Levin to fill the winemaking position at Lawer Family Wines. Levin’s resume was almost legendary and included names like Franciscan Estates, Mt. Veeder Winery and Dry Creek Vineyards just to name a few. Then, the fun began. Betsy Lawer chose to honor her father’s Alaskan heritage, and Three Coins, Hooker, and Duck Shack became distinct brands within Lawer Family Wines. Each has an incredible story attached and provides a unique look into the Lawer Family background and personality. Hooker is dedicated to her husband David, and is an amusing story in its own right.

“I felt each brand had a story to tell and what better way to do it,” Betsy Lawer added. “We love Alaska and we want to remember it whenever possible. The people up there are great and it’s a wonderful place to live.” Betsy admits to coming south once the cold weather starts in her home state. She considers herself a banker with an avocation, and applies strict rules to the Lawer Family Wineries portfolio.

“We run a tight ship regarding the winery. We keep our overhead extremely low and our quality high. We also listen to the dictates of the market as to which way we go with everything,” she said. The company’s first release of almost 1,000 cases came in 2003 and was met with instant success and rave reviews. The wine industry quickly opened its arms to the fledgling winery.

Was this early achievement expected?

“Not at all,” she replied. “In fact, we were all surprised, thrilled in fact. We knew our Syrah vineyard was special, and that our land was prized for its volcanic content. We are firm believers that everything starts in the vineyard, so we are blessed with that aspect of our operation.” Production levels have risen to around 2,000 cases, with the possibility of adding more volume in the future.

“Whatever the market decides, we will listen,” Lawer finalized. “It would be unwise to do anything else.”


  1. Lawer Family
    2007 Cabernet Sauvignon
    Lawer Family
    Three Coins
    Napa Valley

    $23.00

    $30.00
    Double Gold Medal
    id: 937
    Special
    Gold
  2. Lawer Family
    2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
    Lawer Family
    Three Coins
    Napa Valley

    $23.00

    $30.00
    Best of Class - Gold Medal
    id: 948
    Special
    Gold
  3. 0
    2007 Chardonnay
    0
    Three Coins
    Napa Valley

    $18.00

    $24.00
    Double Gold Medal
    id: 947
    Special
    Gold
  4. Lawer
    2007 Chardonnay
    Lawer
    Breakaway Hooker
    Napa Valley

    $18.00

    $24.00
    3 Gold Medals
    id: 950
    Special
    Gold
  5. Lawer Family
    2010 Chardonnay
    Lawer Family
    Three Coins
    Napa Valley

    $18.00

    $24.00
    Special Selection
    id: 949
    Special
    Gold

The legendary winemaker Larry Levin

Three years ago, David and Betsy Lawer chose Larry Levin to be the winemaker for their Lawer Family Wines. In doing so, the couple selected the very best that California had to offer. Levin’s career is almost legendary, with prior stints at Dry Creek Vineyard, Quintessa Winery, Mt. Veeder Winery, Franciscan Estates Winery and Estancia Estates Winery under his belt. Levin is a UC Davis graduate with a degree in Fermentation Science. He is considered a winemaker’s winemaker, and usually gets the most out of the fruit he has to work with. An unusually high number of Levin’s wines have been top award winners for several decades. Levin also served as a consultant for Veramonte in Chile, one of the few Americans to have spread his expertise across the Atlantic Ocean to South America.

Betsy Lawer generates a great deal of personality and energy when she speaks.

It is quickly apparent that she is the driving and motivating force behind Lawer Family Wines. She met her husband David while they were students at Duke University in her youth and has shared a mutual love affair with him and the wine industry for a number of years.

‘I tend to make most of the decisions about the winery,” she injected playfully, ‘and David does what he loves most — plays golf.” Betsy Lawer has injected a good deal of her definitive personality and family history into the winery’s three brands. The Three Coins brand is named for her father’s practice of dropping three marked coins into the sluice box at the family’s claim in the foothills of Mt. McKinley to test water pressure.

The Duck Shack brand is a tribute to the thousands of picturesque structures located on mudflats, marshlands, and flyways throughout our country. These small places serve as gathering places for both families and good times, both important elements in Betsy Lawer’s mindset. The Hooker brand is dedicated to her husband, David, now an excellent golfer, but formerly a standout hooker on the Duke Rugby team during his college days. Her father was also a former rugby player. In his eyes, that simple fact made David a suitable husband for Betsy.

The three preceding paragraphs present a keen insight into what makes Betsy Lawer a special woman. Not only is she on the board of the world famous Smithsonian, but she also serves on the board of the 12th District Federal Reserve Bank.

‘I tend to be quite proactive,” she offered. ‘I also like to see just where my adventures take me and that’s the real fun of it all. If something makes sense to me, I like to follow it through to its conclusion. ” She has also put together a fabulous management team, from well-respected John Pina (vineyard management) to nearly iconic Larry Levin (winemaker) to insure the future quality of Lawer Family Wines. Betsy is also looking around for a tasting facility to be located in or around Calistoga.

‘Calistoga is one of the really fun places in Napa Valley, but not everyone comes all the way up the valley to see for themselves. We were going to build something on our property but we decided to respect the traditional values of all our neighbors and place it in or around Calistoga. That’s my next project.”

The new tasting facility will certainly not be Betsy Lawer’s last project. People with her keen sense of business and extreme joy of life are hard to find and even harder to control. Betsy Lawer is good for the California wine industry and good for wine itself.

While her winery project is still in the developmental stages, Betsy hopes that future business upturns provide the basis for extensive expansion. She would like to be a 10,000 case winery in the not too distant future, but is careful in planning any future expansion.

Lawer has also repeatedly stated that such growth will never occur at the expense of quality, a consideration that she has insisted on since entering the wine business. Would that more vintners share her enthusiasm and genuine respect for the wine industry. It would make the entire wine experience all that much more fun for everyone involved.

About The Region

Lawer Family Wineries own a large 106-acre estate that is located above the upper Napa Valley City of Calistoga. The property has 20 acres under vine and is actually located in the Franz Valley area, a part of the Knight’s Valley Appellation. Knight’s Valley is highly attractive to many Napa Valley wineries for its tremendous fruit quality and versatility. Lawer Family Wines intends to plant additional Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the near future that will provide additional vineyard designated fruit. At the present time, the company buys a limited amount of fruit from different sections of Napa Valley, but this fruit falls under the jurisdiction of the Napa Valley Appellation.


Marinated Flank Steak


Ingredients

Flank Steak, about 20-24 oz. for 4 people
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup soy sauce
Garlic, to taste
Chopped onion, to taste
Chopped fresh rosemary, to taste
Worchestershire Sauce, to taste


Instructions

Mix all of the ingredients and put it in a zip lock freezer bag with the flank steak to marinate. Allow the meat to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours, flipping the meat once to ensure all sides are evenly coated. Grill the flank steak on the barbecue, approximately 5 minutes per side. Take the meat off the grill and slice in thin strips, cutting across the grain. Serve with roasted potatoes and grilled vegetables, and enjoy!




Mussel Appetizer


Ingredients

1 large onion, chopped
Garlic, to taste
2 cubes of butter
1 cup Three Coins Chardonnay
5 lbs. uncooked mussels (about a dozen mussels per person)
2 cups whipping cream


Instructions

In a large pot, sauté a large onion and garlic to taste in two cubes of butter, until the onion is soft. Cover the bottom of the pot with at least an inch of the Three Coins Chardonnay. Add 5 lbs. of uncooked mussels. Cover and steam the mussels until they open. Pour off 2 cups of the liquid from the pot into a sauce pan. Put the cover back on the mussels to keep them warm. Bring the cup of liquid from the pot to a boil in a saucepan. Then reduce the heat to simmer and add 2 cups of whipping cream. Divide the mussels into bowls. Pour an equal amount of the cream sauce over the mussels in each bowl. Garnish each bowl with chopped parsley. Serve with freshly crusty bread and the Lawer Family Three Coins Chardonnay. Enjoy!



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