Napa Valley AVA
An historic vineyard on the eastern floor of Napa Valley
It all began more than thirty years ago when Pennsylvania-born Rich Czapleski and his wife Carolyn purchased an historic vineyard on the eastern floor of Napa Valley. The vineyard was extremely old and contained Zinfandel vines that were almost 100 years old.
“I was advised to pull out the Old Vine Zin,” owner Rich Czapleski recently recalled, “But a phone call from Robert Mondavi implored me to keep the vines. It seems he had been buying the grapes from the former owner and had made some award-winning wines from them. He also pointed out the historical perspective of the vines so I decided to follow his advice.” Czapleski, now a sprightly 73, became interested in wines by drinking them.
“I came out west as a 20-year-old,” he explained further, “and went to the University of San Francisco to study finance. My career took me to the Pacific Stock Exchange where I toiled for the next thirty-five years as a floor trader. My friends and acquaintances were always drinking good wines and many of them were top Bordeaux. During my off time, we were so close to Napa Valley that we tended to go up there all the time. After a while, it all became second nature to me.” Along the way, Czapleski picked up the nickname “Ducky.” More on that a bit later in our story. When he and Carolyn began looking for a potential wine-oriented piece of land, they eventually settled on a twenty-five acre site located at the Northwest Corner of Dunaweal Lane and the Silverado Trail on Napa Valley’s eastern side. The property was the original homestead of Captain Reason P. Tucker, the person credited with the rescue efforts of the ill-fated Donner Party in 1847.
Tucker built his formidable residence on his property in 1859 and it became the social center for the entire area for many activities in the late 19th Century. He planted Zinfandel vines that are still alive and productive to this day. The Czapleskis are only the fourth owners of the property. Since their purchase of the land in 1983, they have replanted all varietals except the Old Vine Zin, all in Bordeaux varietals.
At first, all the fruit was sold to high caliber existing entities like Ravenswood and Richard Peterson. When the couple decided to operate a winery, they opted for Rich Czapleski’s nickname and Canard Vineyard was born. The first wine Canard Vineyard produced was, quite naturally, an Old Vine Zinfandel. From the original production of only 250 cases, the winery has grown to about 1800 annual cases.
“Every drop we produce is estate,” Rich Czapleski proudly stated. “We still sell to some other wineries, but we utilize most of our grapes ourselves.” About four years ago, Adam Fox was hired to run the winery, “so that Carolyn and I could travel. We love to travel and one cannot run a winery from afar.”
Awards and platitudes have come in bunches for Canard Vineyard. Over the years, the small winery has become a leader in high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. Canard Vineyard wines are not easy to come by. Demand is so strong that Canard operated an allocation club and allows only limited bottles to its members. Only a handful of top restaurants are allocated a few cases and there is no retail presence for the winery.
“We are very fortunate to have great vineyards and an excellent Bordeaux-trained winemaker in Brian Graham. We have always had a fondness for great Bordeaux and our winery is totally-oriented toward that style of wine,” Czapleski added. Carolyn Czapleski is a talented interior designer and helped shape the now-famous Canard label. She also takes part in the events that are scheduled by the winery. Rich Czapleski also speaks fondly of a potential five-year plan that will increase the production to around 3,000 cases, the most he intends to produce. “Our vineyards speak for themselves as far as natural terroir is concerned. We have always adhered to the old axiom, ‘if you take care of the vines, they will take care of you.’” Son Adam Czapleski is also involved in the family’s operation and will succeed his father when and if Rich ever steps down. This is an ideal situation for the effervescent Czapleski who considers Canard Vineyard as his family’s gift to the wine-loving world.
Canard Vineyard is a treasured winery that continues to impress the entire wine world. It is our pleasure to bring it to you as a Platinum Wine Club selection.
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
You have just received one of my favorite bottles of wine, the 2010 Canard Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Not only was this a great vintage for Cabernet in Napa Valley, but all the conditions were ideal on our estate to produce an incredibly elegant, age worthy wine that will be talked about for years to come.
Canard Vineyard has been making small production, hand crafted wines for over 32 years. When I purchased the 25 acre property, I made the decision to focus on quality over quantity. Taking a nod from our 125 year old Zinfandel vineyard, which produces the most incredible wine, I realized the quality of the wine was directly related to the fact that the vines have never been irrigated. By “dry farming,” the roots are forced to find their own water source which creates smaller, more intensely flavored grapes. This is a bit of a lost art form because the yield off the vines is much smaller, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Truly great wines start in the vineyard. Add a French trained winemaker, who believes in structure and balance, and we have all the makings to create exceptional wines of distinction.
Like all our wines, I wish I could make more. But for now, we only make wine from what we can grow on the estate. So enjoy this limited production 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and please share it with your friends and family.
Rich “Duck” Czapleski