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PlumpJack Winery - Napa Valley

91 Points - Wine Spectator magazine

An unlikely business alliance between two prestigious San Francisco families has produced a prominent Napa Valley winery that has garnered numerous critical accolades since its inception in 1995. It all began in 1992 when Gordon Getty (of Getty Oil and Getty Museum fame) decided to cast his lot with then youthful Gavin Newsom and open a small wine shop at the corners of Fillmore and Greenwich in San Francisco’s storied Marina District.

Getty’s main passions in life were music and wine, but not necessarily in that order. The initial shop flourished and three years later the fledgling company purchased an incredible property in Oakville (the highly respected former Villa Mt. Eden Winery) and named it after the wine store that had already been called PlumpJack. It seems that the artistic Gordon Getty had once written an opera fashioned after the Shakespearian character Jack Falstaff that he called PlumpJack. The name carried certain panache and the winery name soon followed its retail counterpart. At the time, no one envisioned this to be the foundation of a youthful, dynamic company— a business that today lists several restaurants, two wine shops, two boutique clothing stores, two luxury resorts, and a trendy club, along with the aforementioned PlumpJack Winery, in its highly visible portfolio. It is also interesting that several of the businesses carry the PlumpJack nametag or a derivative thereof.

What’s more, Gavin Newsom is currently the mayor of San Francisco, elected in December of 2003 becoming the city’s youngest mayor in history – no mean feat for the persuasive and personable 42-year old (who was reelected for a second term in 2007). It’s up in the air whether Newsome’s future will remain in politics and public service, or if he will become more involved with his PlumpJack Winery enterprise. Only time will tell. PlumpJack Winery’s persona embodies the feeling and spirit of its owners and staff. From the marvelous artistic flair that Gordon Getty has provided from its inception to Gavin Newsom’s keen sense of business discipline, it is immediately evident that PlumpJack and its incredible wines are an amazing reality in today’s competitive wine industry. It is also a given fact that Getty and Newsom have provided the winery with effective leadership and a style of management that is both confident and highly qualified. Starting with its original release of less than 1,500 cases in 1995, the winery has grown steadily until it has reached its present capacity of just under 10,000 cases.

“We are where we want to be,” remarked PlumpJack General Manager John Conover. “First, we have reached our winery permit’s level and, secondly, they aren’t building any more Oakville.” Facetiousness aside, PlumpJack Winery literally sits among the true giants of Napa Valley. Its neighbors include Screaming Eagle and Dalle Valle, modern icons whose wines usually sell for hundreds of dollars per bottle.

“We have also tried to offer tremendous value and service,” Conover added proudly. “In our restaurants, we offer our wines at retail price plus one dollar (in deference to many restaurants that mark up 200-300%). We also stick to our core values. We want our customers to be greeted by people with great enthusiasm and passion for what they are doing. We even give our staff at the winery an award for failure.” Failure? “Yes,” Conover affirmed. “We firmly believe that you must first fail before you can ultimately succeed. In the end, it’s the person’s success that we care about and our employees have embraced the concept.”

Interestingly, the words and resolution involved seem quite natural when taken in context with PlumpJack Winery. The company is a fresh, hip, dynamic entity with loads of youthful energy oozing from every portal. PlumpJack turned every head in the wine world when they bottled their $135 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve with a screw top closure – the first luxury wine producer to do so. Even though the decision involved cork integrity (an alarming 10% of all wines are considered “corked” or undrinkable when opened), the move raised eyebrows both in this country and abroad.

PlumpJack’s owners fully supported the move and, the fact is, PlumpJack makes some great wines that are always in high demand. Because of this fact we know you will enjoy this month’s Platinum Series selection from PlumpJack. A good many wine industry insiders feel it would be uncool to think anything else.

  1. PlumpJack
    2006 Merlot
    Carneros, Oak Knoll & Howell Mtn
    Napa Valley


    91 - Wine Spectator
    id: 577