Napa Valley AVA
93 Points - Wine Enthusiast magazine
In the mid 1980’s Charleston, WV attorney Michael Bee began home winemaking as a hobby and soon became enamored with the varied aspects of the intriguing wine industry. As he gained knowledge and developed more interest, he began taking weekend trips to northern California with his wife to see for himself what made the wines of Napa and Sonoma so good to the palate. In 1991, Bee joined forces with several attorneys in Charleston and put together a new firm. One of his new partners was Jim Peterson, a friend who also possessed an overt interest in wines and who had been visiting Napa Valley for several years.
Some three years later, the friends became partners in a new winery venture located in the Napa Valley. The pair sought out noted winemaker Ray Coursen (Elyse Winery and Whitehall Lane) and secured some long lasting contracts for superior Napa fruit. With great hopes for the future, the new project’s first wines were made in 1995. Peterson’s young daughter, Katelyn, provided the name for the new winery. She called it Falcor, named after her favorite bird in the 1984 saga NeverEnding Story. Falcor’s dictum of ‘never give up and good luck will find you’ seemed a truly good omen to everyone connected with the fledgling winery.
For the next few years, Falcor made limited amounts of wine that were intended for friends and acquaintances and mostly for the two owners’ consummation.
As the quality of the wines grew, Michael Bee realized he needed someone to run the operation. His son Ryan, now 30, had graduated with a BA in Business from the College of Charleston (SC), and had worked a number of different jobs in the high-end restaurant sector. Already familiar with wines in general, Ryan moved to California in 2000 to handle Falcor’s sales and marketing.
Falcor’s first commercial release of 500 cases occurred in 2001 and garnered an incredible 93 rating from the Wine Spectator, a particularly noteworthy feat for a first release.
“We found it almost surprising when we got such high marks for our initial wine,’ admitted Ryan Bee. “The very fact that we are such limited production works against us with national periodicals and wine writers. The big magazines want wines that are available for all their readers. We only made 500 cases and could only be found in a small number of states.”
With accolades flying, Falcor gradually increased its production to its present level of 4,500 cases, still very small by industry standards. Distribution is limited to but ten states, with quality, not demand, dictating any further increase in production.
And more importantly, according to Ryan Bee, Falcor is where the term hand made, a term overused in the wine industry, really means something
“Our wines are really labor intensive,” he explained. “For instance, we separate our fruit into whole berries that are put into half-ton bins. It is then necessary to punch them down four or five times a day. We don’t really pump them, since pumping them produces harsher tannins and our wines are of the soft and velvety nature. It takes a lot of labor to do it the way we do, but the results are fantastic.”
Another secret of Falcor’s continuing success comes from the fact that the winery possesses a number of ‘evergreen’ contracts for fruit with some of California’s top producers. The evergreen contract renews itself every three years and provides long-term security for the winery in an arena of escalating demand for really premium grapes.
“Everyone at Falcor believes that quality begins in the vineyards,” Ryan Bee added. “Our twenty-seven acres provide us with some of the finest fruit available anywhere.”
Ryan Bee is proud of the fact that he is the winery’s only full time employee, but points out that the entire Falcor team has a hand in producing the winery’s award-winning wines. Along with the owners who still take an active part in the winery, Ray Coursen and Larry Bradley provide the viticultural expertise that figures to provide Falcor with continued tributes and compliments for the future.
As of right now, Ryan Bee is living the life that dreams are made of. Falcor Winery is serious lip talk for numerous winery insiders and Bee continues to sell every bottled produced. Every winery in California wishes for some of the same.