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Pine & Brown Winery

Napa Valley AVA

Showing what clever planning and attention to detail can be accomplished in even the smallest of settings

Like many other college students, Tom Rees needed a job to help his finances during school. The Omaha, Nebraska native entered the hospitality business when he managed a job waiting tables while attending IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). Rees eventually earned a degree in chemistry, a field that is closely related to wine production. While in Indianapolis, he also worked for a top retail wine shop (Conn’s Fine Wines) where his job called for a familiarity with wines, both from California and abroad.

“I couldn’t recommend a wine I knew nothing about, so I learned a great deal about the great grape and its cousins around the world,” Rees, now 46, recalled. “I was particularly interested in the great California Cabernets and the wonderful châteaux of Bordeaux. These wines had a great deal in common and suited my own taste. I found both fascinating.”

Fast forward to the early 1990’s and Rees and his wife Angel are involved in her family’s McDonald’s franchises. After six years, he decided a career in hamburgerology wasn’t his first choice and he decided to switch to the wine industry.

Tom Rees applied to a number of California wineries and landed an internship at the sprawling Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley. A two-year stint at the well-respected St.Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery and a much longer position with top producer Rombauer Vineyards (where he was associate winemaker) convinced Rees he was destined to have his own winery some day in the future.

“We had two children and had moved to Napa (City) for better schools for our kids,” informed Rees. “I found an old house dating back to the 1880’s. It contained a barn/garage that was practically falling down. I knew at first glance it was exactly what I wanted.”

For the next summer, Rees and his two sons literally tore down the unusable structure and built their own winery. But, the winery permit for such a structure within the city limits (and in a residential area) of Napa would only allow for 200 square feet, a miniscule space for a winery.

“It basically meant we could only produce eight barrels a year within our premises,” Rees explained. “That’s only 200 cases. With that tiny amount of cases to work with, we couldn’t afford to make a mistake.”

The rest is what makes the basis for a good movie.

Rees named his new winery Pine & Brown for the two streets that intersect at his location in Napa City. He designed a simple label that showed the streets intersecting and began making wine. His first release of 200 (you guessed it) cases occurred in 2011 and met with rave reviews. Pine & Brown Winery was on its way!

“I am a firm believer that if you can’t make a great wine from great fruit and really good barrels you shouldn’t be in the business,” he added. “We use grapes from several sources of extremely high quality. I spent a good deal of time researching the type of wines that were being made from this fruit so I had a good understanding of what I needed to do to produce a great wine. We have a long term contract with Garvey Home Ranch and buy small lots from other top growers. I am only interested in locations that produce two tons of fruit or less. I am also keenly interested in terroir and the manner it influences the fruit. I tend to be quite selective in what I buy.”

With the incredibly competitive infrastructure that exists within the California wine industry, it is important to point out that Pine & Brown Winery might just be the smallest winery in all of California. Tom Rees is comfortable with that fact since he is the winery’s only employee. “My wife Angel helps out with the sales and marketing and my two boys (Joe and Luke) work during harvest time. It tends to be a great deal of fun (and work) for everyone involved.”

Pine & Brown Winery is an important cog in the machinery of wine-conscious California. It shows what clever planning and attention to detail can be accomplished in even the smallest of settings. Tom Rees is living his lifelong dream and will happily share his experience with anyone who asks.

We are delighted to share this amazing winery with our Platinum Wine Club Selection members. Enjoy!

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> Members,

I’d like to introduce you to Pine & Brown Winery, a tiny craftsman winery built in 2011 with my wife and two sons and tucked behind our old farmhouse at the intersection of Pine and Brown Streets near downtown Napa. Each vintage we produce eight barrels of Cabernet Sauvignon from fruit that’s carefully sourced from small, family-owned vineyards in the Napa Valley and surrounding hills. Our goal is to make Cabernet Sauvignon in the Bordeaux tradition with excellent aging potential and a very specific expression of place. We obsess about every small detail and do pretty much everything the hard way, but it’s out of love for the craft and respect for the fruit. I’m also very fortunate to have relationships with talented growers who own and manage some of the best vineyard sites in the world.

Most of the fruit that went into the 2013 Cabernet is sourced from two organically farmed vineyards in the Rutherford appellation, one in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains and another located in the center of the valley. The steep hillside block is quite rocky with miniscule yields and produces dark and concentrated wine. The fruit from the valley floor provides lovely red berry and spice characteristics that are framed by highly wound tannins. A small block of Cabernet Sauvignon from high up in the Soda Canyon near Atlas Peak was added in 2013 and contributes spicy black currant flavors to the blend.

During the first few months in barrel I was struck by the massive structure and dark color of the wine. While it was pretty obvious early on that 2013 was going to produce very age-worthy wines, it was hard to know if the fruit would ever be able to keep up with the tannins. Finally, after two years in barrel and another year in the bottle, the ripe blackberry and currant flavors are really coming forward and integrating with the dusty tannins that make Rutherford such a special place for Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m really looking forward to watching this vintage evolve over the next decade, and I hope you enjoy it as well!


Tom Rees