Laird Family Estate
Napa Valley AVA
By the 1990’s, Laird vineyard holdings exceeded 2,000 acres and the Laird Family was considered among Napa Valley’s highest caliber growers
With the emergence of so many fledgling wineries on the California wine scene, it is refreshing to be able to feature an idyllic story from one of Napa Valley’s early iconic properties, Calistoga’s Laird Family Estate.
The saga began more than seven decades ago in Halifax County, Virginia, a stone’s throw from the North Carolina state line. The Laird Family’s patriarch, Ken Laird, was part of his family’s tobacco growing business. His early experiences in agriculture would remain with Laird throughout his lifetime.
Laird later became an engineer for Union Carbide in New York City, but in 1970, Ken and his wife Gail purchased their first parcel of land in Napa Valley. They found an old, neglected prune orchard and turned the site into grape vineyards. With the help of none other than Robert Mondavi, the worn-down tract became the foundation of the Laird Family Estate. Mondavi provided a long-term contract for fruit from the property for his fast-growing collection of fine wines.
By the 1990’s, Laird vineyard holdings exceeded 2,000 acres and the Laird Family was considered among Napa Valley’s highest caliber growers and were in great demand by the valley’s top producers. One of their properties, known as the Red Hen Ranch Vineyard, was located north of Napa City. The winery was built there to enable the family to compete in the premium wine business.
Why enter the ultra-competitive wine market?
“As growers, we were so dependent on wineries to buy our grapes,” answered Rebecca Laird, third generation co-owner and general manager of the company’s Laird Family Estate. “There were occasions where we experienced a good deal of unsold fruit. By the late 1990’s, we decided it was time for a fall-back position for our product. The idea of a winery operation seemed quite opportunistic to my father and the winery became a reality. In terms of the development of our company, the winery actually came first.”
Laird Family Estate’s initial offering came in 1998, with the release of some 4,000 cases. As you would expect, wines with the pedigree of the Laird fruit quickly became the darlings of Napa Valley with high scores and top awards in competitions. This success has continued to the present day and will probably continue over the next century. Present production of Laird Family Estate wines is around 20,000 cases, a level considered as a ‘sweet spot’ for the company that has no intention of increasing the number in the future.
“Don’t get us wrong,” added Rebecca Laird. “My father’s passion was always on the grower side of the business. He decided early on that no more than two percent of our fruit would find its way into our Laird Family Estate offerings. Nothing has changed since inception and that figure (2%) has remained constant.”
What do you consider Laird Family Estate’s greatest achievements?
“That’s hard to say,” was her answer. “I’ve always believed in my father’s ability to figure out what was viable and what had the most chance for success. Take the Carneros growing area for instance. Dad was one of the first to invest in property along Cuttings Wharf Road in the 1970’s, before it was awarded AVA status in 1983. He saw the great potential for the area for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as grape varietals that would prosper in the foggy and inhospitable soils of Carneros. He saw it as an opportunity and took advantage of it. Today, Carneros fruit is among the most prized in Napa and Sonoma and continues to produce numerous award-winning varietals.”
The label for Laird Family Estate has changed very little since it first appeared. “Laird, in the Scottish language, means Lord, and we wanted something simple and dignified for our brand,” continued Rebecca Laird. “Our label is a simple circle with a grape leaf cluster on the bottom and our community of followers seem to love the simplicity.”
Along with her brother, Justin Laird, the company’s president, Rebecca Laird seems extraordinarily happy with Laird Family Estate’s standing in the wine business. The company’s collection of fine wines ranks above most of its competitors in the incredibly competitive Napa Valley wine arena.
It is with great joy that we introduce our Platinum Wine Club members to the 2016 Yountville, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Laird Family Estate. This remarkable wine is one of a portfolio of quality wines that expresses the great terroir that exists within the confines of Laird’s vast collection of 42 different wine growing locations.
We trust this experience will be remembered for a long time. Enjoy!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It’s been quite some time since you have heard from me - about 18 years, to be exact.
As I write this today, the winery is buzzing. Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Grigios, and Pinot Noirs to make Rosé are coming in from all around the Valley.
I’m excited to share with you our 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. While we have hung our hat on single vineyard wines since our inception in 1999, truthfully, wines made from multiple locations are a lot more fun to make. Finding a small percentage to blend in from just the right vineyard is so gratifying! With over 42 vineyards in our portfolio, we have much to choose from.
This wine is a blend of our two best Yountville ranches, Flat Rock and Mast Ranch, and another gem from Oak Knoll, our Dry Creek Ranch.
Please enjoy it and know how much we enjoyed making it for you.