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Buoncristiani Family Winery - Napa Valley

94 Points from industry leader Wine Spectator

Some wineries have good stories to tell, others contain great narratives that make them memorable and seemingly bigger than life. Such is the case with Buoncristiani Family Winery, a fledgling Napa Valley producer that has been making waves the size of a tsunami with its wonderful wines. Buoncristiani Family Winery is also about as family-oriented as possible, with four Buoncristiani brothers involved in its operation. Brothers Matt, Jay, Aaron, and Nate are the winery’s owners and only employees, something that is also somewhat of a rarity.

“We all have purple arms and purple feet,” asserted Jay Buoncristiani, the winery’s full-time winemaker and informal spokesman. “When we started doing this, we all agreed to do the work ourselves to be able to insure the quality we wanted to achieve.” It all began as a part time hobby for their father, Robert, who started making wines in his two-car Napa garage a number of years ago. When the winemaking process was completed, the equipment was moved out and the structure was returned to its original garage state. This scene was reenacted for many years and many of Robert’s wines earned high awards in wine fairs and competitions.

In 1995, the four brothers started to take an idea they had to the next level. They agreed to work together to attempt to produce a commercial wine that would carry the family name. By 1999, the family garage had become a bonded winery, among the smallest on record in either Napa or all of California. In 2001, Buoncristiani Family Winery released its first 300 cases of OPC Cabernet Sauvignon (named for the boys’ maternal grandfather Jack, Ol’ Pa’s Claret). While the family’s fraternal side traces back to Tuscany, there is great attention paid to blends and family preferences with regard to Buoncristiani Family Wines.

Today, all of the four brothers work in the wine business for different entities, and only Matt and Jay work full time on Buoncristiani Family Winery. However, since only family members touch the wines, the place can truly be called a family-only winery as opposed to a family-owned winery. In 2005, the business moved to larger quarters and into a cave space winery in the Coombsville area of Napa Valley, a space they share with other smaller wineries. What is unique about Buoncristiani is the amount of accolades and awards they have managed to garner for their efforts.

“It sort of seemed to us that we should do well with our wines,” added Jay Buoncristiani. “After all, our wines were doing well where we all worked. (Jay was at the time winemaker for the prestigious Hess Collection and is currently a consulting winemaker to a number of Napa wineries.) The business has also grown and currently produces around 3,000 cases per year. At this time, Buoncristiani Family Winery will continue to expand at a slow rate until it reaches the 5,000 case mark where its growth will level off.

“We have talked it over a number of times, and at 5,000 cases, we can still control everything ourselves, and that is extremely important to all of us,” Buoncristiani continued. “That way, we can still build for the future and turn our dream into something special.” The ‘future’ means Buoncristiani’s own winery site, which is scheduled for 2013, and not really that far down the road. By plowing all the profits back into the business, the four brothers will eventually have the means to erect a winery complex that is worthy of the killer wines they are currently producing.

“We want to share our passion with our friends and customers,” finalized Jay Buoncristiani. “We have a number of long term grapes contracts with some of the finest small growers you can find in Napa, so we should have the correct fruit to take us to the next level. Everything we do is completely hands on, and that is simply not going to change.” The entire family is also tremendously proud and excited about the recent results of a private Napa Valley tasting that featured a large number of wineries that produced wines between the $50 and $100 per bottle price. When the blind tasting was completed, Buoncristiani Family Winery was declared the winner by Jay Buoncristiani’s array of colleagues, arguably the most difficult judging panel imaginable.

The incredible success of this small family winery is a tribute to their resoluteness and ability to work together under not always ideal circumstances.

  1. Buoncristiani
    2007 Syrah
    Napa Valley


    94 - Wine Spectator
    id: 782