Crichton Hall Vineyard
Napa Valley AVA
One of the Top Ten Oaked Chardonnay’s in the world.” - Quarterly Wine in Review,
There are several factors that distinguish the modern Crichton Hall Winery of Napa Valley from many of its contemporaries. First of all, Crichton Hall has downsized itself in the name of quality and has also benefited from a change in ownership that was completed internally.
Started in 1983 by Englishman Richard Crichton, the fledgling winery was initially a product of much-respected Far Niente winery owner Gil Nickel. The 50-acre property was originally a cattle ranch and was sold to Crichton and his American wife Judith Hall. The couple’s surnames served as the name for the new winery.
For the first two years, the Crichton’s resold their fruit to Far Niente as Richard completed his oenology studies at nearby UC Davis. He assumed the position of winemaker upon the release of the first Crichton Hall wines in 1983. From the beginning, Crichton also took in a number of limited partners (literally from all around the globe) that allowed the new entity to produce extremely high quality Bordeaux-style wines that he had first experienced through his English background.
For the next two decades, the winery slowly grew until it reached its maximum production of around 3600 cases soon after the turn of the century. Along the way, an enterprising couple from Oklahoma, Larry and Linda Bump, also became limited partners.
Larry Bump was an executive with an international pipeline and engineering company who had first experienced Algerian wines while living in Libya. When assigned to England, his taste and expertise rapidly improved.
While most of the other limited partners were associated with Crichton Hall for purely financial motives, the Bumps soon developed a passion for both the winery and the Napa Valley lifestyle.
Along the way, the Bumps managed to buy out the other limited partners, completing the agreements in mid-2000. Then, in February 2003, the Bumps made and offer to buy out Richard and Judith Crichton and assume ownership of the winery.
Their daughter, Tina, 41, now runs the winery and serves as its general manager.
Tina was a math major and Vanderbilt graduate who had also earned a masters from Columbia. She had started drinking wine while in college and admits that the wines sent from Crichton Hall were far superior to those wines she could afford to drink as a student. As her family’s interest in the winery began to expand, Tina was drawn closer to the prospect of becoming involved in the wine business in an ongoing manner.
“It was almost a natural thing to do,” she recently explained. “My Dad was ready to retire from his international company and he has always wanted to operate a family business. They were enjoying the business more and more and they wanted to replant all our vineyards. We decided as a family that buying Crichton Hall was good for everyone.”
Tina had worked for the Al Gore campaign in 1988 and later for the National Security Agency but came west to help out with the 2002 crush. When her family decided to buy Crichton Hall,
Tina Bump jumped head first into the new family business.
“It’s been a wonderful experience working closely with members of my own family,” she explained. “I knew nothing about the wine business but everyone helped me learn. What other business allows you to have a business conversation with a family member and end the conversation with a simple ‘I love you?’”
Tina’s younger sister Tricia, 35, is also an important facet of Crichton Hall, serving as operations manager and generally taking care of the business aspects of the entity.
Crichton Hall’s approach is one that numerous wineries would enjoy embracing. Case production has been cut back to around 3000 cases, and should start creeping up slowly and the new plantings begin producing usable fruit.
“From this point one,” Tina Bump added, “we definitely want to stay focused on the estate aspects of our winery. We will continue to produce Bordeaux-type wines and will particularly emphasize our Reflection (label) releases in the future.”
Crichton Hall is also delighted with winemaker Brian Mox, who served as Laird Family Vineyards winemaker and consulting winemaker for notable wineries such as Voss and Riboli before assuming the duties at Crichton Hall. He brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm for the new Crichton Hall.