Mayen Creek

Napa Valley AVA

The elegance of California's top varietals in every sip.

This month's Gold Medal Selection, Mayen Creek, offers our members a unique opportunity to explore the Napa valley wine trail with a new wine entity that is offering its initial release. Mayen Creek's very existence is the product of a varied set of circumstances that occurred in Napa Valley. The principals of Mayen Creek are Michael Imseld and his wife May, who both happen to be practicing attorneys in Napa Valley. Imseld is an Ohio native that came westward in the 1970's with a psychology degree from Ohio State. A couple of years later, he started taking law courses and was admitted to practice after passing the California bar. He admits that his decision to move to California made a distinct change in his general lifestyle.

'Out in California, everyone was into drinking wine and visiting the Napa wineries on weekends,' he recalled. 'Once I tried wine, I found I really liked it and started the normal progression from whites into reds. It was truly a great learning experience.'

For the next two decades, Michael Imseld practiced law and enjoyed his wine. In 2004, he met his future wife May, a native of Singapore who was also an attorney. May's mother lived in Napa and, according to Imseld, May was then intensely smitten by the wine bug. Through one of May's acquaintances at the Napa Valley College viticultural program, the two started paying close attention to the wine industry. When they were married in July of 2004, wine had become an important part of their relationship. May's Napa College friend was one Shahin Shabibi, the colorful and energetic owner of nearby Stonehedge Winery, who eventually opened a myriad of possibilities to the newlywed couple. After a great deal of discussion and planning, the couple decided to do something about their wine fascination in January of this year.

'To be honest, we could never have pulled it off without Shahin's help and counseling,' Imseld declared flatly. 'He told us there were many different approached to the wine business and it was very difficult to become successful without really good planning and a strong set of values.' Shabibi next took the Imselds full course, first helping select the grapes and drawing from his knowledge of consumer likes and dislikes. Cabernet Sauvignon from the nearby Rutherford region was selected, arguably the finest Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to be available in Napa Valley.

'We wanted our first release to be something special,' offered Michael Imseld. 'Everyone knows the reputation of Rutherford cabernet and the grapes Shahin found seemed almost too good to believe. For the Chardonnay, we detoured down to Coastal California and located some really splendid Chardonnay grapes from Monterey. They were abundant in ripe fruit and perfectly suited to our needs. We all felt these grapes allowed us to make a style of wine that we would be able to duplicate in succeeding years.'

Mayen Creek's initial release will constitute a little over 3,000 cases, a figure that was agreed upon by both the Imselds and Shabibi. 'Everyone wanted to start out rather conservatively,' informed Shabibi. 'Too many wineries make the initial mistake of over extending themselves at the start and they find themselves playing catch up. We decided that Mayen Creek start a bit smaller and gradually build up.'

The plan is for Mayen Creek to begin limited distribution within California in 2008 and gradually expand to selected markets within the next five years. The patterned growth will allow Mayen Creek to carefully control its quality, the single most important aspect to owner Michael Imseld.

'The more people I talk to in the wine business, the more I realize how hard it is to control your quality from year to year,' added Imseld. ' I have made it clear to Shahin that top quality is most important to May and me.' Mayen Creek eventually hopes to plant it own vineyards on property that is in May's family that is located in the Wild Horse Appellation just outside the city limits of Napa. ' The land is just perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon, the varietal that is close to both of our hearts.'

The time for that is not too far off, and will probably depend on the growth and viability of Mayen Creek, which is named for a small creek running through the Wild Horse property. It is all part of a grand adventure for Michael and May Imseld that could one day prove quite rewarding.

Mayen & Michael Imfeld of Napa Valley.

Picture of Mayen & Michael Imfeld of Napa Valley.

Every new project must have a heart and soul to succeed, and in the case of Mayen Creek, that honor must certainly go to its namesake, Mayen (May) Shueh Imfeld. May is a native of Singapore who immigrated with her entire family to the United States in the late 1970's after passing the bar as an attorney in Singapore.

At the time, May's brother Willie was a student at Pacific Union College, a small liberal arts college located in the forested hills in Angwin, above Napa Valley. May's father chose to live in Napa Valley so as to be close to Willie's school and the family immediately took roots just as Napa Valley was energizing its incredible popularity explosion among America's and the world's consuming public. As for May herself, she soon found that she enjoyed wine and became interested in finding more about its history and background. When she moved to San Francisco in 1982, she took a wine appreciation course through UC Berkeley's Extension Program and the rest is history. She literally fell in love with wine and saw some deeper meaning for her life in her own involvement with it. After a period of two years, she passed the California Bar and was admitted to practice as an attorney.

Nine years ago, in 1998, she fulfilled a dream of her own and was instrumental in her family's purchase of hilly property located within the Wild Horse Appellation, just outside Napa's city limits. She envisioned this acreage as the key to her long term goal of entering into the wine business.

An intensely spiritual individual, May points to a Bible passage from Proverbs 31 that loosely says that 'Wife buys land...then plants vineyards'. She admits to being a dreamer of the highest magnitude. 'We are all dreamers in one way or another,' she began. 'What I also am is a visionary. I see things as being able to happen.' Her life changed completely when she met and married attorney Michael (Mick) Imfeld three years ago. The couple was married on her family's property and then rode off on a motorcycle into the sunset.

'We are so much in love,' May continued, 'Mick and I lead almost a charmed life. It is also nice that he agrees with me that without a vision, people will perish.'

Immediately after buying the property, May enrolled at Napa Valley College under the guidance of Dr. Stephen Krebs. It was her way of learning even more about wines and their nuances. Seated next to her was Shahin Shahabi, the owner of Stonehedge Winery. The two became fast friends and May eventually announced to Shahin that she and her husband intended to produce wines some time in the future.

After several years, Shahin suggested the couple try using another of his companies, Napa Wine Arts, if they were truly interested in getting into the wine business. May and Michael jumped at the chance and the real planning for the project started in earnest. 'Even thought I believed it was possible, I had some doubts,' May confided. 'Most people who know me know that I feel I never have my feet on terra firma.'

Once the details were worked out and the grapes purchased, May set down with her husband and Shahin to develop the final product. Since her husband's taste runs toward the heavy, overtly fruity and her own tends toward a more finessful Pinot Noir style, it was necessary for the Imfelds to find a common ground for the style of their wines. Shahin was very influential in helping us through those difficult times, and now we think we really have a winner. It is also a style that we can easily duplicate when our winery grows larger.'

May sees Mayen Creek growing in the future and adding additional varietals to its repertoire. She wants to expand Mayen Creek in order to realize her ultimate dream of building an orphanage in China. 'That,' she exclaimed, 'would exceed anything I have ever intended to do with my life.' May feels that Mayen Creek might just possibly be the vehicle to such an end and is willing to go on record in that regard.

'Anytime someone feels so intensely about something, it usually comes true,' she added without hesitation. 'My vineyard is very much a vineyard in the sky.'

Fueled by such determination and enthusiasm, there is no way Mayen Creek will not succeed.