Napa Valley AVA
94 Points, Top 10 Bordeaux Varietal Wine of 2008, & Champion of Value!
Neither George Bravante nor his wife-to-be Nancy had any idea a trip to Napa Valley nearly thirty years ago would have a profound effect on their lives. At the time, George was part of the Bass Family (oil & real estate company) of Ft. Worth’s real estate division. The New Jersey native was simply visiting the Howell Mountain area of Napa when he decided he really liked what he saw.
Shortly thereafter, he purchased a piece of property simply because he liked the view.
“It was then that people started telling me that some rows of vineyards would look really good in this meadow below the spot we intended to build a house,” Bravante recently recalled. “We thought about it and agreed. Once I started into the farming end of the business, I found I really enjoyed it and the rest, as they say, is history.”
That was in 1980. By 1996, George Bravante was selling fruit to the likes of Robert Mondavi and other top Napa Valley wineries. Again, close friends began telling him that he should make some wine on his own. After all, the Howell Mountain Appellation (awarded in 1984) was among the most coveted in Napa Valley and the home to such winery powerhouses as Dunn, Turley, La Jota and many more. Rugged and remote, Howell Mountain was arguably California’s top Cabernet Sauvignon growing area.
“When we made the decision to get into the winery business,” Bravante continued, “I went to my old college roommates from the University of South Carolina to get them to invest. Luckily, they were all executives for major companies and were eager to become part of an industry that was in the process of exploding.”
Another piece of property had been added to Bravante Vineyards bringing the number of acres under vine at the Bravante estate to a little under eighteen, a sizeable amount of land by Howell Mountain standards. As a footnote, all the vines on Bravante Vineyards were planted by George himself, to his own standards.
Next, the process of actually making the wines was begun. Bravante and his partners decided on a risky course for their new project. They decided to produce wines of a style that they enjoyed drinking---in deference to the accepted Howell Mountain style that could possibly age for many decades. Bravante Vineyards chose a softer, more accessible approach that was well structured and more pleasurable to the palate.
Bravante Vineyards’ first release of only 350 cases came in 1996, and was received with lukewarm attention by the wine trade.
“Our first wines were just okay,” Bravante added candidly, “It wasn’t until Duane Dapper became our consulting winemaker that everything began to click.”
Dapper is a UC Davis graduate with a resume a mile long that included Grgich Hills and Rombauer to name a couple. His mark on Bravante Vineyard’s portfolio became immediately apparent. The winery began chalking up huge scores in industry periodicals and numerous awards in top competitions. In addition, the respected Wine & Spirits magazine named Bravante Vineyards its 2007 Winery of the Year, a distinctive award from the prestigious periodical.
Bravante Vineyards has grown to a 2,500 case winery and has recently opened its own showcase facility on Howell Mountain. The winery was carved into the side of a section of the mountain that affords a constant 56-degree temperature at all times.
“We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished,” Bravante added. “We took a simple plan and it came out better than anyone expected. Our capacity is now around 3,000 cases so we have some additional growth possible in the foreseeable future. We are also able to receive visitors and now have a complete story to tell, and that makes our operation more complete.”
Nancy Bravante works alongside her husband and handles the financial end of the business, an all-important aspect of the small winery.
George Bravante thinks all the pieces are now together.
“Duane Dapper is such a great individual to work with, and he is completely down to earth. His wines speak for themselves and everyone likes what he is doing,” he finalized.
Likes might be an understatement if you look at the high numbers Bravante Vineyards wines have garnered during the past four years. The entity has taken its place among Howell Mountain’s revered wineries and has kept to its open, approachable style in the manner Bravante and his partners chose to pursue.