Napa Valley AVA
An incredibly special artisan producer with substantial ratings
More than twenty-five years ago, Ken and Teresa Bernards began their quest to make superior Burgundian varietals through their smallish Napa Valley winery operation, Ancien Wines.
The couple undertook different paths toward opening the winery. Ken was an Oregonian who became interested in the wine industry while pursuing a degree in Chemistry from Oregon State University. In 1986, Ken experienced his first harvest in Napa Valley and immediately realized he had been bitten by the insatiable wine bug. He ultimately decided to cast his fate in the Napa Valley where he met his wife Teresa who had grown up among the vineyards of the storied growing area. As far as working experience is concerned, Co-Founder Teresa Bernards can list the likes of Mayacamas Vineyards and Far Niente Winery on her resume as well as supervising various bottling crews throughout the Napa Valley.
A trip to Burgundy in the early 1990’s convinced Ken Bernards that his future lay in the production of great Burgundian varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A local French roadside sign that proclaimed certain vineyards as ‘les Anciens’ became the inspiration for his initial entry into the wine business. For the record, sometime along the way Ken Bernards became an expert in viticultural and clonal research that he has put to good use in the development of Ancien Wines.
The Bernards named their venture Ancien (former in French) Wines as a tribute to earlier peoples who have toiled the land growing grapes and making wines for the past 8,000 years. Artwork by local Napa Valley primitive artist Jim Hubert (who unfortunately died in 2015) lends support to the brand’s penchant for bringing together the finest fruit to make unique and meaningful wines.
“We start in the vineyards,” informed Bernards, “and we got to extremes in finding what we consider the perfect terroir for our grapes. We select from Carneros, Coombsville, Russian River, Sonoma Mountain, Sta. Rita Hills and the Willamette Valley of Oregon, arguably the best growing AVA’s in our country for Burgundian varietals.”
The Bernards’ philosophy involves partnerships with many growers that agree to strict standards for growing the fruit. This long-term approach has reaped huge dividends for Ancien Wines in the form of multiple awards and extremely high scores in competitions and wine industry periodicals. The fruit used for this month’s Platinum Wine Club selection from Ancien Wines is their 2014 Carneros Chardonnay — a perfect example of Ancien Wines’ distinctive approach. Two Carneros vineyards, Toyon Farm (on the Napa side) and the Sangiacomo Vella Ranch (on the Sonoma side), are older vineyards with great reputations that trace their roots (literally) back to Louis Latour’s renowned Corton Charlemagne Vineyard in Burgundy. These heirloom clones are low yielding and produce grapes that in turn are made into wines with intense style, depth and structure, prerequisites for truly exceptional wines. Add in the fact that the 2014 vintage was a product of California’s prolonged drought (the vines work harder under drought conditions), you have the makings of a world-class wine.
Ancien Wines continues to produce small lots of great wines for their loyal followers who are content to be able to purchase a few bottles of the normally allocated wines.
The winemaking chores at Ancien Wines are under the direction of Humberto Ghivarello, a native of Santiago, Chile. He began interning with Ancien Wines during the 2011 harvest and returned two years later to work under Ken Bernards’ tutelage as an assistant winemaker. Humberto Ghivarello was elevated to winemaker in 2015 and has become a highly respected member of the winemaker fraternity in the esteemed Napa Valley.
Ancien Wines is a well-conceived and thoroughly directed small batch producer that plays an important role in the ascent of terroir-driven wines. We know you will enjoy this month’s excellent Platinum Wine Club selection from Ancien Wines. Salute!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It is a pleasure to share my Quest with all of you. My interest in wine and especially Pinot Noir developed in the formative years of Oregon's Willamette Valley wine production, being and Oregon native. As a transplant to California, by the way of career opportunity in Napa Valley, I discovered the unique melange of soil and climate that makes up the Napa and Sonoma areas from the coast to the Bay.
The imprint that each soil type and climate overlays on the resultant wines inspired my Quest to search for and discover the best vineyards and most unique sites in various viticultural areas. I choose to not always follow the "herd" but to objectively evaluate each terroir in which we work. Thus our decision to partner with Bill and Angela Mink back in 1995 to plant 2.5 acres of Pinot Noir in what is now formally known as Coombsville. We had subsequently stretched our range from Santa Barbara county to Northern Oregon, but Coombsville remains perhaps the most unique expression of Pinot Noir in our lineup. It is at once opulent yet age worthy and given time to develop in the glass inevitably offers a mouthwatering experience that invites another glass and another bite. Sharing and enjoying wines like these is what it's all about!