Roy J Maier
Napa Valley AVA
91 Points Wine Spectator, 90 Points Stephen Tanzer
This month’s Platinum Series Selection is dedicated to one of the early pioneers of music and a man who parlayed his music career into an international business for the music world. Roy J. Maier was a saxophonist with the Paul Whitman Orchestra, arguably the hottest band of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ era of music. At one point during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Roy left the orchestra to form Rico Reeds, a company that produced reeds for various musical instruments. The company prospered and grew and soon became the finest of its type in the world, with operations in several countries.
Rico Reeds became a Maier family-owned company and Roy’s son and grandson followed their fathers into the business. Roy J. Maier died in 1981, and when the company was finally sold in 1996, his grandson, Richard Maier, decided to get into the wine business.
“It was sort of a natural progression,” offered Maier, an engaging 60-year-old. “It turned out that our cane plantations required the same exact climactic conditions as did grape vines, and our main cane plantation in Alexander Valley was completely surrounded by grape vines.” It is also quite true that Richard Maier and his wife Patty were seriously into wine before they decided to get into the wine business. To Richard, it was again quite simple.
“All the time I was involved with growing cane, I used a number of experts to help with the technical side of growing. Practically all of these skilled people were also in the grape growing business and on each of my trips the conversations would always turn to grapes and then wine. It seems as if I was destined to be in some aspect of the wine business, it got to be in my blood.” The Maier’s began the St. Helena Road Vineyards by acquiring some 60 acres on the west side of the Mayacamas Ridge in Sonoma County. The east side of the mountain is called Spring Mountain and is the home to numerous high caliber wineries. The Maier’s property sits at a coolish 1600-1800 foot altitude and has a fabulous southwestern exposure. A number of Bordeaux varietals were planted on about eighteen and a half acres in 2000 according to Maier, “because those were the wines we liked to drink.”
The first 500 cases of the new St. Helena Road Vineyards rolled out three years later and were immediately hailed by both the wine media and judges in various wine competitions. Since then, not a great deal has changed at the tiny bucolic winery. Production has gradually risen and will continue to do so until it reaches the 3,000 case level.
“We are entirely independent as far as growing grapes is concerned,” Maier added. “We are content to live with what the ground provides us. We neither buy nor sell our fruit, and we never will. We are completely estate grown and bottled and that’s not going to change.” The attractive labeling featured on the Roy J. Maier Label deserves mention. The distinctive name sits on a black background with notes from a famous George Gershwin musical that was Roy J. Maier’s favorite piece as well as the theme song for the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Care to identify the song? As far as the actual wine is concerned, Richard Maier brims with pride when he disclosed that only 575 cases were made and that all new French Oak was used and that only free run juice was included in the St. Helena Road Vineyards signature wine.
“It was our pleasure to have produced this amazing wine,” Maier went on. “It’s the very best we can make and it is dedicated to the memory of the man who made all this possible. Not all of us can say that we were able to fulfill a long time desire to honor our family patriarch. We feel lucky that we have been able to do so.”
Maier handles the daily overseeing of all vineyards and also makes the wines with the help of consulting winemaker Mike Hirby (Sherwin Family Vineyards, Rockledge Vineyards, Realm Cellars and others). Patty Maier keeps the office side of the business running smoothly. Oldest son Ryan, 27, is the California state representative for the winery, while the Maier’s youngest son Daniel, 22, is already a golf prodigy in Sonoma County who might also join the company after his golfing days are concluded.