Napa Valley AVA
Renowned wines from some of Napa Valley's best small vineyards.
It wasn’t too long after Hagafen (pronounced Ha–gah–Fen) Cellars was founded that it received a call from the White House. The time was Ronald Reagan’s first term in office and wine was needed for a dinner honoring then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The winery complied and since then the kosher wines of Hagafen Cellars have graced White House tables and events numerous times. Such honors come with being the first kosher winery established in California. That was in 1979, and the winery’s first production was a mere 300 bottles.
Today it has grown to an 8,000 case annual production and its wines have ranked amongst California’s finest for several decades.The word Hagafen is Jewish for ‘the vine’. The winery’s initial ownership group included Ernie Weir and his wife Irit, who later bought out all the existing partners when they decided to grow the winery to its present size.
Weir is originally from Los Angeles, where he attended UCLA and received a degree in sociology. He had experienced his initial exposure to viticulture while working on a kibbutz in Israel as a young man. It seemed only natural that he would one day pursue a career in the wine industry to feed his desire.
He enrolled at the heralded University of California Davis and later graduated with a degree in viticulture. Early in his career, he was fortunate to work with Domaine Chandon Napa Valley where he learned the fine art of making sparkling wine. This expertise carried over to Hagafen Cellars where Weir produces several types of sparkling wine. His Hagafen Cellars Brut was actually selected as the only wine served for President Barack Obama’s 2010 Hanukkah party that was attended by numerous national and international celebrities and even members of the US Supreme Court.
Today’s Hagafen Cellars occupies a total of twenty-one acres in Napa Valley, and sources from eight different vineyards in Napa Valley. A tiny tasting room completes the family-style setting where visitors can enjoy samples of Hagafen Cellars’ award winning wines.
“We are located right down from the famous Stag’s Leap Appellation and about 20 yards from the Oak Knoll District,” Ernie Weir related.
Hagafen Cellars contracts the remainder of its grape needs from assorted growers around Napa Valley. The winery itself is set back off of the Silverado Trail in a natural setting that has been compared to a heartland farm. It maintains its identity and purpose by producing a wide assortment of wines for a growing customer base.
Weir has been quoted as saying that he interferes as little as possible with the soil and that he feels that factor creates a balance that minimizes the chemical and erosion impact by using modern farming techniques while maintaining the age-old wisdom of balance and the traditional values of conservation and land stewardship.
That said, it’s also a fact that Hagafen Cellars produces some incredibly good wines and is particularly noted for its Cabernet and Pinot Noir.
Weir refers to his wines as being made in “old Napa style” that respects the lineage of the vineyards and employs only classic winemaking techniques. Newer, more modern winemaking approaches are not for the likes of Ernie Weir.
Weir is a sincere throwback to vintners of an earlier day. He has been repeatedly quoted as saying, “passion, soul and enjoyment – without all three, you don’t have a fine wine.”
While all of Hagafen Cellars’ wines are kosher, Ernie Weir proudly points to the fact that almost 75% of his sales are to non-Jewish customers. While he has also consulted for a large number of Israeli wineries, his opinions and methods are considered well founded within the California wine community.
The fact that Hagafen Cellars is now approaching the 35-year mark in longevity speaks for itself. Only wineries that have provided exceptional wines and can provide remarkable resumes tend to last that long in today’s competitive market. Hagafen Cellars is a tribute to a man who wanted to do his own thing in the wine industry in a manner in which he was truly comfortable. Time and the high accolades that have accompanied his wines have proven Ernie Weir accurate in his initial premise that if you make really good wines, people will purchase them.
“Those are two of Napa’s most productive growing areas. The grapes that we grow on our own vineyards are really first rate and account for about half of our production.”
A Personal Note from Ernie Weir
Dear Platinum Series Members,
We hope you will enjoy this Napa Valley Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc, grown on our Vichy Ranch in the new Coombsville AVA and produced at our nearby winery on the Silverado Trail.
Hagafen Cellars is located in the Napa Valley, in the heart of California’s premier wine grape region. Less than a mile south of the famed Stags Leap District and twenty yards from the Oak Knoll District, our well-drained soil is ideal for the growth and production of ripe and rich, intensely fruity small lot estate bottled wines. My wife, Irit, and I have owned and operated the winery since its inception in 1979. In the ensuing years, we have grown from a small partnership producing wine with grapes from Winery Lake Vineyard, then owned by Rene DiRosa, to a well-established wine company whose wines are distributed throughout North America and overseas. Since 1980 our wines have been served on numerous occasions at the White House to visiting foreign dignitaries.
My daily involvement in the two sides of wine production, grape growing and winemaking, ensures the superb quality of our wines. Fine wine starts in the vineyard with careful vineyard management. I strive to take maximum advantage of the Napa Valley’s natural geology and climate to produce the best wine varietals. I interfere as little as possible with the soil, creating a balance that minimizes the chemical and erosion impact by using modern farming techniques while maintaining the age-old wisdom of balance and the traditional values of conservation and land stewardship. Once harvest is completed, I undertake the second part of my job, winemaking. This presents an interesting challenge every time since each year the growing season and harvest are unique and different. I never seek to change what Nature has provided. My goal is to showcase the best that our land has produced.
We look forward to meeting you here in Napa at our winery and tasting room.
About the Vineyard
Hagafen’s 2011 Napa Valley Pinot Noir comes from the tiny Montington Vineyard in the up and coming Coombsville AVA. This southeastern corner of the Napa Valley is made up of gentle rolling hills and thin soils that are ideal for growing a wide variety of world-class grapes. Hagafen began sourcing Montington Vineyard Pinot Noir in 2011 and with the great success of this vintage, will continue to use the vineyard for all of their Pinot Noir needs for the foreseeable future.
Coombsville itself is a bowl-shaped depression, cradled by the foothills of the Vacas Mountain Range and flanked by the town of Napa and the Napa River. Its cooler weather is moderated by its close proximity to San Pablo Bay, with fog covers settling more frequently and burning off later in the day than Napa’s northern sub-appellations. Coombsville’s daily temperatures can be as much as ten degrees cooler during the hot summer months, which helps preserve acidity levels and promotes an even ripening period - both of which are key factors in producing premium Pinot Noir fruit.
Ernie Weir - Owner & Winemaker
Since the founding of Hagafen Cellars in 1979, Ernie Weir has had daily involvement in the two sides of wine production: grape growing and winemaking. His close attention to detail from grape to glass has ensured the superb quality of Hagafen wines and the international critical acclaim his wines have garnered is a testament to his remarkable knowledge and skilled techniques as a winemaker.
Weir takes maximum advantage of the Napa Valley’s geology and climate and produces a variety of wines from multiple sub-appellations in the Valley. He interferes as little as possible to allow his Hagafen wines to be true representations of the appellations and vineyards from which they are from.
Ernie Weir is undeniably a pioneer in California’s wine industry, opening the first kosher winery in the state and having multiple wines grace the tables of The White House.
Weir has been quoted as saying, "As a Jew, I thought it was important to produce a first-rate kosher wine. As a small producer, I looked for a niche that would make me unique and that would separate me from the 300 other wineries in the area.” Now, nearly thirty-five years since Hagafen opened its doors, it seems Ernie Weir has achieved just that.