Napa Valley AVA
Their wines are garnering more accolades and reviews than ever
Bill Frazier can point to a decision made by the Robert Mondavi Winery back in 1993 as being pivotal in the ultimate development of his incredibly successful Frazier Winery in Napa Valley.
The time was over twenty years ago, and Frazier was about to harvest the first fruit from his newly planted vineyard that he called Lupine Hill Vineyard, located just outside the Napa City limits. The acreage had been pronounced first rate and the fruit was by all standards among the best in the area. Mondavi representatives committed to purchasing the Cabernet and Bill Frazier’s career as a winegrower was about to take off. Then in mid-summer, a phone call informed Bill that Mondavi was oversupplied and would not take his nearly ripe grapes.
Frazier ultimately kept some of the fruit and sold the remainder the following year, but the experience taught him that he must ultimately control his own destiny. He had made wine on a personal basis for the past fifteen years, but Bill felt he wanted to take his love for the grape a step further.
His stint as an Air Force pilot stationed at nearby Travis AFB during the mid 1960’s had introduced the New Yorker to the delights of the vine. By 1977, Bill Frazier was already a pilot for United Airlines and had moved to Napa Valley. He started making wine for his own use and even took classes to learn more about perfecting his hobby.
In 1981, Bill decided he wanted to live in the country and located a fifteen-acre parcel just outside Napa City that was totally plantable. Two years later, he completed a home on the property with the intention of later planting some of the acreage and becoming a grower.
“I have always done things of my own volition,” Frazier recalled. “I guess I’m a risk taker at heart. I am always looking to do something that is new and exciting.”
Five years later, with the approval of experts who pronounced his property perfect for growing grapes, Frazier made the investment and planted his first vines. Soon after, he embarked on a course that would assure him of a steady demand for his grapes.
In the summer of 1995, Frazier settled on winemaker John Gibson whose resume listed Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Vine Cliff among others. One of the aspects that interested Gibson was the Lupine Hill Vineyard itself along with the finished wine that Frazier had made himself.
Gibson signed on as consulting winemaker and the small operation took off (current winemaker is now Kirk Venge). Production of the 1995 first release was a mere 850 cases, and was produced at Michael Haven’s new winery in Yountville. The following year, Frazier Winery moved up valley to the Napa Wine Company where the wines were produced under an alternating proprietorship until 2001. Meanwhile, Bill Frazier was able to acquire another larger (46-acre) parcel of land adjacent to his first property. He immediately planted another 11.5 acres giving Frazier a total of 21.5 acres under plant.
The new acreage’s fruit was included in 2002’s production and the winery’s case total rose accordingly, to the 5,000 case level. A complete winery facility was completed in 2001, and the Fraziers utilized the site until just a few years ago in 2011. At this time, it was decided to have daughter Kim Frazier and her husband Adam Catalano take over the business management and run it alongside Bill. Kim is a UC Davis graduate and was previously involved with the national marketing for Frazier. She took over the general management and operations, while Adam chose to focus on the sales and marketing. Bill has remained the face of the winery and is still very much involved on a daily basis.
With these changes also came the decision to sell the Frazier estate property. By doing this, the Fraziers could have the flexibility of sourcing small amounts of high quality fruit from various top-notch vineyards in the Coombsville, Napa Valley area. They have also cut back on their production size. Today, Frazier Winery produces just 1,500 cases per year, a level they feel absolutely comfortable with and plan on maintaining for the foreseeable future.
With the help of Frazier Winery’s new consulting winemaker, Kirk Venge, the Frazier family wines are garnering more accolades and reviews than ever, which confirms they are certainly doing something right. With such credentials and accompanying raves from wine experts and competitions, we expect to see Frazier Winery’s marvelous releases for a long time to come.