Kirkland Ranch Winery
Napa Valley AVA
Before you get sidetracked with stories of cattle, campfires and the like, keep in mind that Kirkland Ranch’s first priorities are always wine oriented.
To many Napa Valley visitors approaching from the East, their first perception of the valley are Kirkland Ranch’s immaculate plantings that suddenly sprout up as Highway 12 twists and turns on its westerly route through Jamison Canyon towards Napa. The Kirkland Ranch plantings, at this point slightly over 130 acres, represent a small percentage of the family’s gigantic land holdings in Napa Valley. The good news is that over the next few years, a good deal more of the valuable acreage is slated for planting in one varietal or another.
The Kirkland Family story is another of the modern wine industry sagas that is worthy of more than a passing note. The entire Kirkland property is over 2,300 acres and was originally a cattle ranch, part of the Suscol Rancho of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a major historical figure in California’s early history. A remnant of the past, the old stagecoach road connecting Napa and Suisun, still exists today beyond the high ridges north of the winery itself.
Fifteen years ago, a three-acre test plot was planted and today, 130-plus verdant acres are under vine. Concentration has focused on the big three varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay, but several other less apparent varietals are also found on the property. Kirkland’s proximity to the cooling influences of San Pablo Bay and the resultant moist breezes of the Carneros assure a quality aspect for the resulting fruit that many Napa growers most surely envy.
The winery itself is a thing of beauty, rising as it does majestically from the vineyards, situated on a small Plateau directly across from the entrance to Chardonnay Golf Club. The building is state of the art, regarded by many as the finest winery constructed in the Napa Valley in the past decade. Kirkland’s high capacity operation permits a great deal of flexibility and the company enjoys many custom crushing contracts as part of its everyday business.
The unique conveyer belt system employed in the Kirkland crusher is one of the keys to Kirkland’s initial success. First, only half-ton bins are used for collecting the picked fruit, thus protecting the fruit from crushing under its own weight. The berries arrive “unjuiced” at the crusher. Next, the conveyer belt system moves the fruit along, much slower and gentler than the traditional screw system. This permits closer scrutiny of the crop and better sorting, and also allows for the delivery of unlacerated fruit in whole clusters to the press or destemmer.
Such attention to seemingly minute detail is not uncommon for Kirkland Ranch Winery, which is very much a family undertaking. While much of the management of the sprawling concern falls to Larry Kirkland, on any given day five generations of Kirkland can be found in various capacities around the grounds.
The theme at Kirkland Ranch Winery is definitely right out of the old west, where a down-to-earth, unpretentious lifestyle mirroring the generations of strong families who traditionally worked the land and cattle is still in effect today. Old West Round Ups, where the herds grazing behind the ridges are brought down to the front of the ranch still take place annually, with friend and family taking part. Legend has it that the idea for the winery originated at just such an event nearly two decades ago.
Before you get sidetracked with stories of cattle, campfires and the like, keep in mind that Kirkland Ranch’s first priorities are always wine oriented. Their boundary neighbors are Stag’s Leap, Far Niente, Grgich, Robert Mondavi, Raymond and Merryvale, and that’s serious company by anyone’s estimates.
The Kirkland Winemaker is Richard Tracy who has many years of experience within the wine business and is well respected by his peers.
Kirkland Ranch Winery’s first estate-bottled wines appeared early in 2000 and have brought a great deal of attention to the storied property. The 1997 Kirkland Ranch Merlot is a marvelous example of the quality level the winery has initially achieved. Gold Medal Wine Club is delighted to share this newfound treasure with our Platinum Wine Club members. Your next visit to Napa Valley should include a stop at this showcase place, soon destined to become a fixture at the highest echelons of Napa Valley wineries.
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members
Our family is pleased to offer you our 1997 Kirkland Ranch Merlot. The fruit for this wine was grown as a field blend, similar to a coffee blend. There are three soils in this block of Merlot as well as three different clones of Merlot. We have discovered that the French method of field blending works better for cultivating grapes with our soils and climate. Field blending also allows the fruit to develop complexity and depth in a natural way.
We have combined great personnel and technology with the family environment in our winery to continue reaching our quality goals from the vineyard to the bottle. We are on a quest to discover how we can abstract the nuances of the soil and climate from our fruit, and which foods pair best with each of our wines.
Join us in this discovery process. If you have comments or want to share your food pairing with us, please contact us at www.kirklandranchwinery.com. Our facility may be new and large, but our family of five generations on this ranch is small. There are seven of us working here and we need your help in learning about our wines.
We hope you enjoy this Merlot on a crisp evening with a warm meal-perhaps lasagna, beef stew or pork tenderloin.
Chris Kirkland Davison