Napa Valley AVA
A significant player in the Napa Valley wine industry
Practically every aspect of tiny Marita’s Vineyard is treated like a member of the Bulmaro Motes’ Family – a family that has evolved into a significant player in the Napa Valley wine industry.
As an introduction, Bulmaro Montes ,62, is a remarkable man who left his home in Oaxaca (in Southern Mexico) to join his father Manuel in the art of growing and maintaining vines at the prestigious Joseph Phelps Vineyards. The senior Montes always dreamed of having a vineyard and winery and imparted the feeling for work and industriousness to his son. Bulmaro learned quickly and was promoted some eight year later to the position of vineyard manager. He controlled a number of Phelps’ iconic wines, Insignia and Backus to name a pair. Bulmaro continued his rise at JPV and was ultimately named Vice President for Operations, a position from which he finally retired in 2003. His passion for growing and his father’s long-held dream lead directly to the establishment of Marita’s Vineyard, a prime 2.6 acre site in the old Coombsville growing section of Napa Valley that seemed perfect for the Montes’ desires.
“We are basically farmers,” Bulmaro Montes advised during a recent interview. “We know the land and are willing to work hard to make really fine wines. We have all been doing it for so long, it seems almost unreal that we are now doing it for ourselves. The opportunity to purchase the plot in Coombsville came along and we jumped at the opportunity.” Marita’s Vineyard (named after his daughter Mara) is a small production entity that makes two wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon called Marita’s Vineyard and another Cabernet blend named SOMA. It is the Marita’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon that Bulmaro Montes takes special pride in producing.
“The Cabernet is exactly the style of wine that I prefer for my own pallet,” he explained further. “I have always enjoyed rich, bold wines. Actually, the bigger the better, but there can be no roughness in the wines. That is an aspect we take care of in the vineyards.” Beginning with an initial release of only 400 cases nearly a half decade ago, Marita’s Vineyard has not actually grown since its inception. The Montes philosophy involves utilizing only their vineyard’s finest grapes and limiting production to whatever the vineyard provides. Bulmaro Montes was astonished at the initial grand acceptance of Marita’s Vineyard wines when first released.
“I was both surprised and very, very pleased,” Montes revealed. “The time was very critical and the wine business was not in great shape. For us to be so positive at the winery’s beginning at our price level was most reassuring. It is also nice that our success has continued since that time.”
It could almost be said that Marita’s Vineyard has become a darling of the wine industry, both in periodicals and tastings. High marks and extensive praise has made Marita’s Vineyard wines quite scarce outside California.
Bulmaro runs the small Marita’s Vineyard operation with the help of his brother, Manuel, Jr. a former engineer and best friend, who he calls, “my right hand man.”
The Montes brothers share the duties and are partners in the ongoing operation of the vineyard. Through an extensive tasting program developed by the family, outsiders have the chance of exploring some of the intricacies of wine tasting and wine pairing. A unique approach that includes family-prepared high quality Mexican cuisine along with an assortment of Montes family wines is offered to the general public and is served at the Montes’ modest home on the outskirts of Napa.
To assure highest quality in their wines, the Montes brothers hired top winemaker Kurt Niznik as the consultant winemaker. Yale educated, Niznik is the former winemaker for the well-respected Caldwell Winery and has worked at the likes of Acacia Winery and Luna Vineyards. He runs a wine consultant operation for a few customers and utilizes the cave space at Caldwell Winery for his clients.
Bulmaro and Manuel Montes, Jr. have come a long way in a relatively short time with their first class operation. Their success has not changed much around Marita’s Vineyard and the brothers still put in full days plying their trade. Bulmaro Montes is particularly pleased that his grandson Maro, 15, seems interested in one day entering the family’s wine business.
“That would complete our father’s dream,” he confessed. “It would be a fitting end to all that we have worked and hoped for. What more could anyone ask?”