Tamayo Family Vineyards
We realized when we first tasted their wines, that it was a question of when we could feature them, not if we should.
For several years now we’ve watched the Mayo Family Winery grow from a tiny winery into a small winery. The difference is that now, at 3,500 cases annual production (and growing), the winery is finally producing enough wine to expand their distribution beyond the tasting room. We realized when we first tasted their wines, that it was a question of when we could feature them, not if we should. Case-in-point is this month’s featured Gold Medal winning 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a power-packed, full-flavored 100% Cabernet, that pulls no punches. And with just 198 cases produced, it’s truly a rare find.
The Mayo Family Winery estate is located in Bennett Valley at the foot of Sonoma Mountain, two miles northwest of the Sonoma Valley village of Glen Ellen. The property was purchased by Henry and Diane Mayo in 1984. After building their home, the idea of planting vineyards was a constant thought. However, it wasn’t until 1990, after considerable research and discussions with longtime local growers, that Henry planted 7 acres on his property to Chardonnay grapes. He named the site, Laurel Hill Vineyard, marking the beginning of the Mayo Family Winery.
In 1994, the Mayo’s harvested their first crop from the Laurel Hill Vineyard and produced their inaugural Chardonnay which was produced in an old barn on the property that they had converted to a makeshift winery.
Over the next four years, the Mayo Family Winery underwent a number of changes. The plan had always been to increase production by adding other varietals. Although there were plenty of grapes available from many sources in the area, a conscious decision was made to keep production low and focus on grapes from selected vineyards that were best suited to the specific varietals the Mayo’s wanted to produce.
During this span of time, the Mayo’s secured long term commitments for grapes from well-known vineyards such as, Sangiacomo Vineyard in Sonoma County to produce Pinot Noir; Peter Haywood’s top-notch Los Chamizal Vineyard on the base of the Mayacamas Mountain; and. Leach Vineyard in northern Sonoma Valley for Merlot.
And in 1998, the winery seized an opportunity to purchase the 10-acre Ricci Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, home of some of Sonoma County’s best Zinfandels. This particular Zinfandel vineyard was planted in 1960 and it’s head-pruned, old-clone vines are producing intense, richly flavored grapes.
With the varietal picture taking shape, this year the Mayo’s also built a brand new 6,000 square foot winery, complete with the latest wine-making equipment. The new facility will allow the winery to eventually increase production to 10,000 cases and help ensure a consistently high quality product.
Even as small as it is, the winery outgrew founders Henry and Diane Mayo several years ago. In 1995, they convinced their son Jeff to join the operation. “It didn’t take much convincing,” says Jeff, smiling broadly. “If there’s a better place on earth to live and work than Sonoma Valley, I’m not aware of it.” Jeff grew up in Sonoma County before heading to USC to earn a degree in Finance. Following graduation, he took a position in the Acquisitions Department for half-a-billion-dollar company, Lewis Homes. Within two years he became the company’s youngest Vice President in their history. Does he miss that stressful fast-paced life? “I consider myself very lucky,” he says. “I don’t mind doing any of the work that is demanded at a small winery. And when a business is as small as our winery is, you get to see the results of your efforts almost immediately. That’s satisfying.”
Today, Henry Mayo focuses primarily on the farming aspect of the winery operations. Jeff Mayo runs the day to day operations, which means doing a lot everything—sales, marketing, pouring at wine events, even driving the fork lift! And just this year the Mayo Family Winery hired Napa Valley native and 18-year wine industry veteran, Chris Stanton to direct the winemaking.
Winemaker Jon Engelskirger is a native Californian, who has had the good fortune of experiencing first hand the remarkable development of California wine over the last 30 years.
Born and raised in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park, Engelskirger grew up with a profound connection to nature and found it only natural that his career would mirror this ongoing passion. After obtaining a degree from the Department of Enology and Viticulture from California State University, Fresno, Engelskirger honed his craft while working at a number of vineyards throughout Sonoma and Napa Valley. Most recently, he was for nine years the winemaker at Turnbull Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley where he had the ability to test his skills while working with some of California’s finest vineyards.
Engelskriger has now found a home with Tamayo Family Vineyards where his winemaking philosophy mirrors that of the Tamayos’: coaxing the best from the earth and the vineyard and carrying it through to the final product.
Letter to Platinum Series Wine Club Members:
Our 1996 Mayo Family Winery ‘Los Chamizal Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon is the surest confirmation yet that our philosophy of ‘Grapes First” is the key to making superior wine. Peter Haywood planted this vineyard in 1972. Since then, the grapes produced by this vineyard have been among the most coveted in all of Sonoma Valley. Located above the town of Sonoma in the foothills of the Mayacamus Mountains, the Los Chamizal Vineyard produces Cabernet grapes of world-class quality. We think this wine demonstrates just how great a vineyardist Peter Haywood is.
This wine is rich, creamy, full-bodied, and packed with flavor, while its structure will allow it to age wonderfully for years to come. This 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon saw no fining or filtration. It aged in French oak barrels for 22 months before bottling on August 17, 1998.
It is our family’s philosophy that to make the best wines possible, one must seek out varietals from vineyards appropriately planted to the appellation, then handle carefully the results of such a vineyard. Upon tasting this, our finest Cabernet ever produced, we hope you will agree we have stayed true to our philosophy.