Napa Valley AVA
95-Points, The Beverage Tasting Institute
It can be easily acknowledged that Napa Valley’s heralded Jarvis Winery is one of the most unassuming stories in the wine business, given the laid back prospective of owner Bill Jarvis.
A native Oklahoman, Bill Jarvis left home in pursuit of academic fulfillment, first at the University of Oklahoma and next at the United States Naval Academy Class of 1948. Later, he also attended both Stanford and the University of California undergraduate programs and was one of the early success stories of Silicon Valley in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Jarvis developed his own telecommunications business, specializing in international commerce.
Twenty-five years ago, he met and married his wife Leticia, a native of Puebla, Mexico. The pair traveled extensively in Europe, frequenting on a part-time basis their favorite area around Reims in the Champagne region of northern France.
After their son William was born, the Jarvises spent summers in Spain where they came to appreciate Spanish wines and also the art of Zarzuela, or Spanish Opera. The time spent there was to have a pronounced influence on their future lives.
When Bill Jarvis finally sold his electronics business in the early 1980’s, his travels took him to the nearby Napa Valley.
“I really had no idea of making wines until my family and I came to Napa,” Jarvis recently explained. “If was any idea we would eventually be in the winery business, I think we would have certainly had more perceptions from our time spent in Europe. Before we made our decision, we mostly drank and enjoyed wines.”
The Jarvises first planted a thirty-seven acre vineyard on land they acquired and began their role as growers to an ample assortment of wineries. It wasn’t long before their grapes gained wide acceptance from local wineries.
“The results of our plantings were so encouraging that people started lining up for our grapes. They felt the grapes were of the absolutely finest quality and a number of our customers began encouraging us to build our own winery,” Bill Jarvis added.
Construction on Jarvis’ spectacular winery complex began in late 1991 and lasted for the better part of the next four years. In 1995, the Jarvis Winery opened its doors to celebrate the family’s first decade as active participants in the booming Napa Valley wine industry.
While the successes of Jarvis are now part of modern Napa wine history, there is much more to Bill and Leticia Jarvis’ role in Napa Valley.
In 1995, the couple renovated a 100-year-old stone building in downtown Napa and opened the Conservatory, a unique music and dance establishment that offers prospective students an opportunity to attend masters classes in the various arts that make up operas. The Baroque Dance Workshop also offers excellent educational and theatrical presentation opportunities.
But it is essential to realize that wine is still the most important element in the Jarvis Family’s broad perspective. The Jarvis Winery’s philosophy is short and simple. “We aren’t trying to be original,” Bill Jarvis elucidated. “We basically stick to tradition. We realize that everything in the wine business takes years to complete and that quality begins with the amount of sunshine the vines get each year. We really haven’t expanded our winery very much since we opened and are quite happy with our present level of production at around 8,000 cases. We don’t buy a single grape from anyone else and our spacing is among the best in the valley.”
Jarvis is particularly proud of the 11-foot spacing he employs in his vineyards. He feels this allows for maximum exposure to sunlight, his single most important prerequisite for a really great bottle of wine.
Jarvis Winery also holds their wines back an extra year (few wineries in Napa or anywhere else match this practice), time that allows more development in Jarvis’ prized wines. Another innovative fact is that Jarvis does not advertise its wines, preferring instead to stand on word of mouth referrals and gained reputation.
Jarvis employs Dimitri Tchelistcheff (son of legendary winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff) as winemaker. Along with Bill Jarvis, the two make all-important decisions regarding final blends for their wines.
Bill Jarvis is the epitome of a successful Napa Valley winery owner. He and his wines are basically understated and he enjoys their role as well as his part in the present and future development of cultural Napa Valley.
He is in many ways, a truly happy man.