Napa Valley AVA
Best of Show, Best of the Best, 5 out of 5 Stars - Quarterly Review of Wines magazine
Robert L Pepi’s road to the ownership of this month’s Platinum Series Wine Club selection, Eponymous, is uniquely different from that of many other high profile winery owners. As son and partner of the famous Napa Winemaker Robert Pepi, Robert (who prefers Bob) is now 56, and a much used winery consultant to the likes of Whitehall Lane, Andretti Winery and a host of others.
His family has been considered among Napa Valley’s elite wine families for the past three decades, particularly in the development of high quality Sauvignon Blanc. The Robert Pepi Winery was sold to Kendall-Jackson in 1994 and remains a part of the giant winery’s portfolio to this date.
Bob Pepi started off as a medical school student, until, in his own words, “at least eighteen medical schools decided I didn’t fit their curriculum.” His father had bought property in Napa Valley as far back as 1966 and was a grape supplier to a number of top Napa wineries. Bob and his Dad started Robert Pepi in 1981 and grew the winery to around 28,000 cases prior to selling it to Kendall-Jackson. Bob credits his initial college exposure in chemistry and science with helping his early winemaking techniques.
Sometime in the early 1990’s Bob met another winemaker named Jeff Booth who was also involved with Stimson Lane. The pair collaborated on the first Conn Creek Anthology, a Meritage blend that won rave reviews and was considered the finest wine ever produced under the esteemed Stimson Lane hand.
“About six years ago a piece of mountain-like property became available through the well-respected vineyard manager Javier Renteria that I had always had my eye on,” Pepi confided. “Even thought it was only three hundred feet in elevation, it contained incredible rocky soils and came with a great southwestern exposure.”
Pepi acquired the vineyard that became the foundation vineyard for his Eponymous project. For the record, Eponymous is pronounced (Eee-pon-ah-mos) and basically means someone who has given his name to something that has become famous. To Bob Pepi, it cleverly means a term for use by a winemaker who is unable to use his real name on a wine he owns.
Shortly thereafter, the fruit from another incredible vineyard on top of legendary Mt. Veeder known as the MacAllister Vineyard also became available. At 1750 feet, it was one of the highest vineyards on the entire west coast. “It sits a mere 200 feet from the top of the Mayacamas Ridge and is capable of producing fruit that rivals any in the entire world,” Pepi explained. He immediately contracted for this vineyard that was planted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. “As soon as I acquired the rights to this fruit it was apparent we had the basic ingredients to mirror the wonderful wine we had made as Conn Creek’s Anthology. I contacted Jeff who is now a very successful winemaker consultant in his own right and we agreed to do the Eponymous project.
Success has again smiled on Pepi as his new wines have won successive rave reviews and scored extremely in recent competitions.
“With fruit the quality of the MacAllister Vineyard, I believe it is possible to compete with any wines made in this area, regardless of price,” Pepi explained. “We have the team in place (Renteria and owner Chris MacAllister) that will insure our quality for a long time in the future.”
Production at Eponymous has risen from its original release of only 674 cases to between 1100 –1300 cases this year. Since the vineyards are now in full production, Pepi expects the figure to rise to around 2000 cases next year. He is not adverse to growth for Eponymous, but prefers to “wait and see what happens ahead,” before committing to increased production for his pet project. Right now, he enjoys high demand for his wines that are only available on a limited basis.
Bob Pepi seems to have it made from several viewpoints. He still considers himself a “homeless winemaker” and refers to his brand was “nameless by choice,” but he is clearly in control of his destiny. He has succeeded in making some extraordinary wines that have caught the fancy of everyone in the wine world and seem destined for even greater heights.
It is our pleasure to introduce you to Eponymous. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
There are many fine wine-producing areas in the world, and I have been fortunate to have made wine in some of these, but one variety that is grown as well if not better in Napa Valley than anywhere else is Cabernet Sauvignon. When I had the opportunity to enter into a long-term arrangement with an exceptional vineyard, I seized it.
The vineyard is located in the eastern hills of Napa Valley, north of the city of Napa. It is predominately a steeply terraced, very rocky site with southwesterly facing exposure. The unforgiving soils, exposure and climate combine to create a wonderful site for Cabernet Sauvignon.
My family purchased vineyards in Napa Valley over 35 years ago, and I have been making wine for almost 25 years with over 30 harvests under my belt. I was fortunate to make my own wines at Robert Pepi Winery with my father in 1994. Since 1996 I have been a consulting winemaker mainly in Napa but also in Argentina and Colorado with success and as much fulfillment as I could hope for.
Eponymous means “one for whom or which something is or is believed to be named.” My fanciful definition is “a play on words by one who is unable to use his family name on his own bottle of wine.” Salute!
Robert Pepi, Jr.