Breckenridge Wine Company
Napa Valley AVA
"We will continue making great wine in small amounts as we have since we began."
It all began as a couple visiting the Napa Valley from Southern California several times a year and eventually being drawn into the ambiance and lifestyle of the area.
“We actually loved the place and the people we met,” recalled Les Breckenridge, who co owns Breckenridge Wine Company with his wife Karen. “At one point we bought some land with the idea of moving up to Napa Valley in a few years, building a home and developing the property.”
But, according to Breckenridge, the couple’s plans changed dramatically.
“We decided not to wait and found a lovely home in St. Helena that fit our needs. It had some property with it and we decided to move immediately,” he added. “That was in 1990 and we’ve been here ever since.”
Two years later, Les and Karen Breckenridge planted a modest 1 ½-acre vineyard on their land and chose the venerable Cabernet Sauvignon as their varietal. “Cabernet Sauvignon was the wine we most enjoyed drinking and our location was actually on the valley floor that was part of the St. Helena AVA. Great Cabernets were being made all around us and we felt it was the correct varietal for our small operation. We named the vineyard Jen-Mar Vineyard in honor of our two daughters, Jennifer and Marnie. We hoped the fruit from it would be exceptional,” he explained.
The initial attempts at winemaking (mostly for friends and acquaintances) were incredibly successful and the couple decided to devote their efforts more commercially toward making a truly exceptional wine. Along the way they employed Jim Barbour to handle the vineyard operations and Bruce Devlin as the winemaker.
Both were wine industry veterans and Devlin brought an imposing resume with him that included stops in South Africa, Germany and Australia along with a number of top wineries in California (Ballantine Vineyards, Three Clicks Wines).
“We have been quite fortunate in that our wines have never received less than a 91 in any ratings,” related Les Breckenridge. “That’s a great tribute to Bruce’s winemaking skills and Jim’s efforts to insure the best possible fruit from our small vineyard.”
The Breckenridges are originally from Southern California and made their living in the healthcare industry while serving as hospital administrators. Both partners have master’s degrees from UCLA and Les Breckenridge still owns an assisted living facility in Maryland.
But Breckenridge Wine Company is very much a family affair. Karen assists with marketing the winery’s wines and developed an impressive label for the entity. “Our name had too many letters to wrap around a bottle,” Karen Breckenridge explained. “So I found a more vertical way of explaining just who we are and what’s in our bottle.”
The small production of Breckenridge Wine Company varies with the volume of fruit their idyllic vineyard produces. “It can vary greatly,” informed Les Breckenridge. “Take 2011 for instance. We were only able to produce around 100 cases. The next year, 2012, we produced 200 and that is about average for us. Since a bountiful vintage doesn’t necessarily translate to a quality year, we always have our fingers crossed until the fruit is harvested.”
The winery uses only new French oak each year and stores the wine for a minimum of 24 months.
The style is what Les Breckenridge terms, “big, classic California.” He attempts to produce a wine with moderate fruit that provides richness and complexity in each bottle.
Les and Karen Breckenridge are thrilled with the prospect that their daughter Marnie, an accomplished opera star, will one day join the marketing efforts of the winery. The lovely soprano has performed around the world and is rumored to carry bottles of her family’s wine on every singing engagement to the delight of her musical accompanists and fans.
This is the proverbial icing on the cake for her father who entered the wine industry because he enjoyed the camaraderie that developed when tasting wines at trade events. He terms the feeling a “fellowship of sharing with people who become lifelong friends.”
Companies like Breckenridge Wine Company are few and far between due to small production. In the case of this Napa Valley gem of a winery, very little will change in the future.
“We once considered making a Sauvignon Blanc to go with the Cabernet, but decided against it. We will continue making great wine in small amounts as we have since we began.”
Bravo, Les Breckenridge. Would if there were more like you in the business.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
The Breckenridge Wine Company produces one wine, a super-premium Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon sourced exclusively from the small vineyard surrounding our home in Napa Valley. We are situated in the peerless Saint Helena appellation. Jen Mar Vineyard was planted in 1992 and we have been making delicious wines since 1994. The vineyard is planted to 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, for which we selected the elite Bella Oaks Clone. It is farmed by noted perfectionist and Napa Valley vineyard manager, Jim Barbour.
Produced in minute quantities, the Breckenridge Cabernet Sauvignon, Jen Mar Vineyard wines are an expression of the exceptional vineyard site, the focus on excellence, a meticulous growing regimen, and the finest Napa Valley winemaking traditions of Bruce Devlin, consultant and winemaker. Our winemaker, Bruce Devlin, has been making wine for over a decade in the Napa Valley. After receiving a degree in Fermentation Science from UC Davis, Bruce gained experience in the wine world working for Boschendal in South Africa, Louis Guntrum in Germany, and Tatachilla in Australia, but it was Napa where his experience began and that has drawn him back to California for good.
Bruce currently consults for several wineries in Napa, and has a long list of accolades under his resume. He has numerous high scoring wines in publications from the Wine Advocate to Wine Enthusiast, including a few wines hitting Wine Enthusiast’s - Wine & Spirits’ Top 100 Wines of the Year. He also has accolades from Robert Parker. Bruce began his work with us in 2005. He has helped us meet our ever-present goal of enhancing concentration of flavors. His superior skills and efforts have enabled us to continue our tradition of bringing rich, complex and exceptional quality wines to the Breckenridge label. The 2013 vintage production was 250 cases.
We hope you enjoy our 2013 vintage as well as other Breckenridge Wines in the future.
To your health and happiness.
Les and Karen