Napa Valley AVA
A tribute to the inspiring and influential fathers in Jim McMahon's life, Athair crafts limited production wines from some of the most respected, sought-after vineyards in all of California.
It wasn't as if he wasn't around wine his entire life, but Jim McMahon really didn't know what he wanted to do with his career after completing college. Born and raised in wine-happy Sonoma, McMahon always figured to follow in his father's footsteps and become a dentist. He enrolled at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and eventually earned a major in Biology and graduated in 1997. He thought about continuing his education and attending dental school, but realized he was tired of academia. A conversation with one of his friends about his future proved to be providential in making the right decision for his future.
"My friend told me it was apparent to him that I needed to do something creative and produce something that would be meaningful to me," related Jim McMahon. "He pointed out that I had an excellent palate for wine and the job could always be performed in shorts and jeans. He struck a chord, and I suddenly realized he was right, and I began looking into the wine industry. I found a spot around Paso Robles where a small winery was located. Paso was in its infancy at the time, and I got my feet wet in helping around the winery. My second job was with Kenwood Vineyards and it really changed my life. Mike Lee was the winemaker at Kenwood and was something of a legend in the business. I learned a great deal from him as to how to do things correctly in a winery."
That was twenty-two vintages ago and Jim McMahon has become an incredibly well credentialed winemaker. His career includes stops at the highly-respected Napa winery, Luna Vineyards, where he was winemaker and came under the influence of innovator Mike Drash when the winery secured numerous high scores and medals. After that stint, he became winemaker at the prestigious William Harrison Vineyards & Winery in St. Helena where his Athair wines continue to be produced to this day.
The first release of his own winery, Athair Wine, came in 2004, and amounted to around 200 cases. "We always intended to be small and be involved in a scenario where we could control our own destiny," he went on. "Since I am Irish, I chose the name 'Athair,' for the winery with great care. I have been fortunate to be blessed with three incredible men whom I called father. Athair is the Gaelic word for father and it is my tribute to these three men, each of whom helped form my life. I always say that you should enjoy a glass of Athair and raise it in toast to the fathers in your life."
The Athair Wines label carries through the fatherly tribute. The striking black label carries an Irish symbol that gives authenticity and sentiment to the image.
McMahon's wife, Courtney, indirectly led to the founding of Athair Wine. Her father, Tom Keith, was an ardent wine lover and amateur winemaker when the couple met. After their marriage, Jim McMahon and Tom Keith both felt a commercial winery was a natural fit. The result of this association became Athair Wine.
The winery has carefully selected the fruit from which its wines are made, including from such famous vineyards as Beckstoffer Georges III for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiacomo for its Pinot Noir. When it comes to style for his wines, Jim McMahon offers a mixed bag. "I love great balance in my wines," he explained. "I feel it's a combination of new and old winemaking styles. I want my wines to possess good traits and characteristics."
When it comes time for final blending, McMahon gathers a mixture of family and friends together to taste the blends and offer their opinions. In the end, however, it is Jim McMahon who makes the final decisions on how the wine will be made.
We hope you enjoy this wonderful Athair feature in our Pinot Noir Wine of the Month Club and raise a toast to your fathers. Cheers!
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
We are delighted to share our 2012 Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon with you!
You might be wondering, why the name ‘Georges III?’ This 300-acre parcel was first purchased by Beaulieu founder Georges de Latour in 1928 and named Beaulieu Vineyard Number 3. It was this vineyard that launched BV into the world of producing fine Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon in the late 1970’s. The Georges III Vineyard remains one of the most iconic vineyards in the Napa Valley and we are so fortunate to have the opportunity to source these grapes and produce this wine.
I am a believer that all great wines begin in the vineyard and it’s my job to create a wine in which the vineyard is able to tell its story. Our 2012 vintage is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon showcasing the famous “Rutherford Dust” aromatic profile. From my early days in the wine industry at Kenwood Vineyards, I heard the mystical phrase, “Rutherford Dust” from my mentors and colleagues. It’s a description of the terroir of the Rutherford AVA and another reason this vineyard is so highly acclaimed.
Athair is the Irish Gaelic word for “Father.” The name honors three very important fathers in my life: my late father, Jim McMahon Sr., my late step-father, Peter Baylacq, and my father in law, Tom Keith. I grew up in Sonoma Valley and my father was passionate about wine. The history of the Georges III ranch and its impact on BV Winery brings back fond memories of my dad’s love for BV wines sources from this vineyard. I try to honor my father in all of the wines I produce, and I know he’d be a fan of this vintage!