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D.R. Stephens Estate

Napa Valley AVA


"We intend that our wines be able to compete with any wine in the entire world.”

For a number of years, real estate executive D.R. Stephens lived in the Napa Valley and made many friends. A number of these friends were in the wine business and conversations often included new releases and honors garnered by his friends’ wines.

In 1995, Stephens decided it was time to venture into the wine business himself and purchased a 35-acre site that included an old olive orchard. He set about to grow his own grapes and produce his own wines. The company’s first release of only 140 cases of Chardonnay occurred in 2001 and was immediately recognized as really top quality by both the wine industry and consumers alike.

Fast forward to today. The D.R. Stephens Estate is a proven entity with numerous accolades, a bevy of highly rated wines and top scores from the wine industry’s assortment of periodicals. D.R. Stephens Estate has ascended into the rarefied air of the highest quality producers within Napa Valley.

“My father decided that he would do whatever was needed to make the best possible wines,” informed Justin Stephens, the winery’s proprietor and managing partner. “Everything we have done at D.R. Stephens Estate was planned with the long term in mind. We intended that our wines be able to compete with any wine in the entire world.”

The younger Stephens has put together a world-class winery team to accomplish those ends. “Our management team is something of a cliche,” Justin Stephens continued. “They do all the work, they really do. They provide us with great tools and the result is a fine portfolio of wines.”

The team includes two Michaels. First, there is Winemaker Michael Hirby, an early associate of Les Behrens (Behrens and Hitchcock) and formerly winemaker at Realm Cellars. Also included is Michael Wolf, who serves as vineyard manager. Wolf’s composite includes the likes of Bond Estates, Duckhorn Vineyards, Harlan Estate, Lewis Cellars, Vineyard 29 and Scarecrow Winery to name a few industry icons.

The original winery label was designed by D.R. Stephens and remains in use to this day. It is an old style label with the original Stephens home serving as the background.

Over the years, D.R. Stephens became less active in the winery business and eventually left it in the hands of his son and employees. D.R. Stephens sadly passed away earlier this year (February of 2020), but his legacy certainly lives on.

“I worked with my father for several years until he was sure that his goals and mine were properly aligned,” Justin Stephens added. “Once he was satisfied, he let me take care of the day to day details. I am proud to carry on the D.R. Stephens Estate tradition in his memory.”

Justin Stephens also heads his own winery, the successful Hunnicutt Winery, which is located just five miles up the road on the Silverado Trail, just north of Saint Helena. The devastating Glass Fire that recently burned through Napa Valley (October of 2020) unfortunately reached the Hunnicutt property and caused significant structural damage. Once the smoke clears, the Stephens family looks forward to rebuilding and welcoming visitors back to the property to continue sharing their life’s calling.

Looking to the future, is there a chance of expansion for D.R. Stephens Estate?

“I think we are both active and passive in that regard,” responded Justin Stephens. “There are really few sweet deals available around Napa Valley, and the prices asked make the decision to buy very difficult. You simply cannot put money into property that will at best break even in the process.”

Currently around 2,000 cases of wines are produced annually by D.R. Stephens Estate. In addition to the company’s fabled Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir are a part of the estate’s portfolio. The grapes are sourced from the winery’s two estate vineyards, Moose Valley and Walther River Block, in addition to two special nearby sites, the Silver Eagle Vineyard in Green Valley and the Star Vineyard in Rutherford.

We are thrilled to feature D.R. Stephens Estate and their award-winning 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to our Platinum Wine Club members. We know this wine will remain within your memory for some time to come. Enjoy!

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Dear Platinum Wine Club Members

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> Members

The D.R. Stephens Estate 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley featured in this shipment is sourced from our two estate vineyards. The Moose Valley Vineyard in St. Helena and Walther River Block in Rutherford. My father planted the Moose Valley Vineyard in 1996 to Cabernet Sauvignon. The original Walther River Block was planted in 2001 at approximately 1.75 acres and expanded to 6.8 acres in 2013.

Our original plan was to start this bottling with the 2011 vintage. However, with the challenges presented by that growing season, we declassified all of our grapes and began with the fabulous 2012 vintage. The 2017 vintage was a warm year with plenty of moisture the preceding and succeeding winters. It was a very even growing season with the exception of an extended heat spike that began Labor Day weekend. Careful canopy management was required to avoid sunburn. Our Consulting Winemaker, Mike Hirby, and production team, led by Shaina Harding, gently coaxed generous fruit, the hallmark of this bottling, out of the vine to produce a dense and powerful wine.

I am a firm believer in decanting young wines - even whites, like Chardonnay - so would recommend giving this wine a couple hours of air should you open it in the next seven years. This wine should provide great pleasure for the next ten to thirteen years.

Thank you kindly,

Justin H. Stephens

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> Members,

Included in your shipment is our D.R. Stephens Estate 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon DRII. We have been farming a vineyard in St. Helena, Moose Valley Vineyard, since 1996, and another in Rutherford, Walther River Block, since 2000. Historically, these two vineyards were kept separate throughout the production process and constituted individual vineyard designated bottlings bearing their respective names. With the 2004 vintage, we decided to introduce a third wine that married these two vineyards, hence the “II.”

The 2008 vintage was remarkable in that we experienced one of the coldest spells during bud break history. This was followed by a substantial heat spike in May, accompanied by dry winds while the vines were flowering. Both of these events conspired us to reduce the crop dramatically. Damage throughout Napa ranged from complete vineyard decimation to substantial potential crop loss – no vineyard was unscathed. Fortunately, these factors play a role in quantity, not quality, and after this challenging start, Napa Valley experienced near-perfect growing conditions. Arguably, this natural crop reduction served to concentrate flavors. The 2008 DRII certainly reflects this.


Justin H. Stephens