Napa Valley AVA
Best of Class & Gold Medal winner - West Coast Wine Competition.
It isn’t very often that you find a pair of Oregonians owning a winery in Northern California, but that’s exactly the case of Richard and Leslie Mansfield of the emerging Mansfield Winery of Napa Valley. Richard met Leslie when she visited him while writing one of her eighteen cookbooks (to date). She wanted to feature him and his Garden Valley Winery in a chapter of her book on Oregon wineries. Richard took immediately to the attractive writer and even told a close friend the next day that he intended to marry her sometime in the future. The couple married in 1995 and made their home in Napa Valley where Richard operated a consulting business for top Napa wineries.
Mansfield’s own career has stretched for nearly three decades and included a three-year stint at the prestigious Geisenheim Wine School, located on the Rhine River in Germany’s Rheingau Region. Mansfield also earned his masters in Viticulture and Enology at Geisenheim and eventually returned to his native Oregon where he founded his own winery and saw it grow to be the state’s sixth largest. After being forced to close due to a problem with a partner, Mansfield moved in 1995 to Napa Valley and took a job handling the Cabernet and Merlot at Stag’s Leap Winery on Napa valley’s eastern side. Three years later, he accepted a position as winemaker/general manager at Bill Hambrecht’s new Dry Creek facility named Bradford Mountain Winery in Sonoma County. By 2005, Mansfield was named winemaker/operations manager for the prestigious new Palmaz Winery back in Napa. During this period, he had begun making small amounts of his own wine, Mansfield Winery, as early as 2000, using a custom crush facility and actually making the wines with the help of Randy Dunn and other noted winemakers. His initial production was a minute 125 cases that was released in 2003. Mansfield Winery has now doubled its production and will bottle around 1500 cases during the current year. A modest goal of around three thousand cases has been projected by the year 2015.
“We really aren’t interested in growth for growth’s sake,” Richard Mansfield informed. “We are much more concerned in maintaining our quality and completing our current project." The ‘project’ referred to involves the restoration of the last remaining “ghost” winery in California. The old winery was located almost 2 ½ years ago and was basically a collection of old stone buildings and neglected acreage. The property dated back to 1876 and was the original site of the Franco-Swiss Winery that operated with much success prior to the turn of the twentieth century but was left to decay a number of decades ago.
“When we first saw the old place, we were unsure of its historic nature,” Mansfield added. “When we walked through the building it was basically stone walls and little else. One room even had a resident owl that didn’t seem to like intruders.” The restoration will take several years to complete, but the upside for the new home of Mansfield Winery is remarkable.
“We hope to be able to restore our place to its former elegance. We know it will take some time and a lot of TLC, but we are prepared to do whatever it takes.” Leslie Mansfield, who is also originally from Oregon, handles all the sales and marketing for Mansfield Winery, but continues her career as a noted cookbook author. Her new Lewis and Clark Cookbook, Historic Recipes from the Corps of Discovery and Jefferson’s America, is the official cookbook of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration and is already in its third printing. She has also authored a nine-part series on wine country entertaining, pairing delicious foods with exquisite wines. Since its initial releases, Mansfield Winery has been the recipient of numerous awards and medals including a number of Best in Show awards that has made the fledgling company a remarkable success. In addition, the nation’s wine press has taken a liking to the Mansfield Winery evolution that added great exposure to the company’s wines.
Yet, it seems that Richard Mansfield himself is unfazed by his winery’s relatively rapid emergence onto the national wine scene.
“If you look at our label,” he pointed out, “you will see a collection of old antique books. It’s like I’ve always said, ‘old books, old wine and old friends--- they are the best.’ I really believe in the adage and I hope that others do too.”