Napa Valley AVA
Rutherford Bench is Napa’s prime growing area for Cabernet Sauvignon.
Charlie Sawyer’s compelling desire to return to his roots was the main inspiration for his founding of a family named winery located right on Highway 29 in Rutherford. The winery is the centerpiece of a 40-acre vineyard that accesses the Napa River and is considered prime property in an area referred to by local growers as the Rutherford Bench, Napa’s prime growing area for Cabernet Sauvignon.
The newly renovated main winery building is a former redwood board and batten barn that dates back to the Prohibition Era, and which modern technology has turned into a state-of-the-art gravity flow winery.
Charles Sawyer and his wife Joanne are actually Floridians (Jacksonville), where Charles operated numerous businesses, mostly related to the propane gas and mechanical contracting fields. More recently, the computer software business beckoned and has also proved successful for the couple. Raised in rural North Carolina, Charles spent a great deal of his youth on his grandparent’s farm in South Carolina. This long time affinity for the land ultimately resulted in the couple’s investment in Napa Valley.
After attending the heralded Napa Valley Auction in the mid-1980’s, the Sawyers decided to take their time in locating a site with enough acreage to fit their need and desires. A number of Napa vintners have provided help and inspiration including Caymus Winery’s’ Justin Meyer, Paradigm’s Ren Harris and Screaming Eagle’s Jean Phillips. Even with such prestigious help, Charles Sawyer is determined to create his own niche within the California wine business.
“We want to produce our own style of wine. Everyone brought certain ideas, and definite thoughts about their own style. We wanted to produce something specific and decided to take our time.”
Four years later, in early 1990, the Sawyers came across the property that comprises today’s Sawyer Cellars. The acreage is planted mostly in Merlot with a smaller amount of Cabernet Sauvignon that produces classic blending potential.
The grapes for this first Estate Grown release are hand-selected from a small corner of the vineyard that Charles Sawyer and Winemaker Brad Warner feel produces the finest grapes. Only a little over 600 cases of the 1996 Sawyer Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon was bottled and the item has been strictly allocated since its release.
The light yielding 1996 vintage will always be remembered for its early harvest date that was cradled by a warm winter and unseasonable May rains during flowering and berry set. When August and September turned out cooler than normal, conditions were perfect for an extremely early harvest. The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes used in this wine were hand-picked in late September, among the earliest date for picking the usually late hanging varietal.
Sawyer Cellars has now been open for over a year and Charles Sawyer can finally reflect on his winery’s accomplishments to date.
“We will always continue trying to improve our vineyards and wine quality,” he states resolutely. “We’ve done a great deal of experimenting since we began and we are now beginning to see some results. We want to capture the quality of the (Rutherford) Appellation. We intend to produce a wine that is a good deal more approachable than some of the others here in Rutherford.”
According to many insiders around Napa Valley, Charles Sawyer’s aforementioned intention is well on its way to fruition. The Sawyer Cellars Estate Grown 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine emanating from a near perfect growing area clearly in the hands of dedicated people who have already displayed an unusual devotion to the vintner’s art. The 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon is destined for a suitably regarded place on many Napa Valley score sheets in much the same manner as its showplace barn/winery is already considered an outstanding destination for visitors to Napa Valley to enjoy.
Gold Medal Wine Club’s Platinum Series is delighted to be able to share this extremely rare offering with you.
Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members:
This 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon is our first Estate Grown release. Brad Warner, our winemaker, and I hand crafted this wine with a great deal of pride and excitement. It is very special to us and I hope it will be to you.
These grapes came from our favorite ‘corner” of our forty-acre vineyard. The rootstock, clone, and soils are a perfect match for our style wine.
Having made only 150 cases of Cabernet per year since 1991, we moved our production of this special wine up to 622 cases. Hand harvested at 25.2 Brix sugar and ideal acid and pH balance, we were excited about this wine from the beginning.
We hand picked these grapes and sorted each cluster. It is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot, aged in French oak for 18 months. A gentile press using a basket press makes this wine very approachable now, but will age beautifully over the next eight to fifteen years.
We are anxious to share this award winning ‘Pride” of Sawyer Cellars with you. Enjoy!!
With best wishes, Charles Sawyer, Sawyer Cellars