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V Madrone Cellars

Napa Valley AVA


It is Jean’s talent and the Tilleys’ vision and passion that have resurrected this historical site and ‘ghost winery’ into the legend it is today

The story behind V Madrone Cellars is one you can only find in wine country. With a rich history compounded in layers and rooted in historic tales of fierce Native American hunting grounds, wild west pioneers, a pre-prohibition winery, and a resurrected ‘ghost winery,’ this is an estate with one of the greatest tales in Napa Valley.

The tales of this estate date back to the 1830’when the area surrounding the present-day V Madrone winery and vineyard was home to the Wappo tribe. In 1883, a German couple by the names of August and Frederika Hersch acquired the property and built a Victorian house and winery. The original winery name was ‘August Hersch Winery’ and the couple produced small amounts of wine. When August Hersch passed away prematurely, the winery and its cooperage were sold and several owners later, the winery was lost to history in the years following Prohibition.

In the early 20th Century, the property was transformed into a popular lodge and restaurant and it became widely known in the 1930’s as “The Madrones,” named after the plethora of twisted red bark Madrone trees scattered around the estate. The property was eventually passed down by several families until Chris and Pauline Tilley, the current owners, acquired it in 2001.

Chris Tilley was born and raised in Napa Valley and had always dreamed of being a farmer. His prior career was in the property casualty insurance business, and his wife Pauline, native to Dublin, Ireland, was an attorney who had spent years on Wall Street practicing public finance law. The two were married at a Napa Valley resort and spent their honeymoon in the surrounding wine country. It was during their honeymoon that they found the 8-acre V Madrone estate and its abandoned ‘ghost winery’ for sale and decided to purchase it.

In 2002, following an extensive review of the terroir of the estate, the Tilleys planted a small 3.5 acre vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon and began producing small amounts of wine. In 2004, thanks to the diligence of renowned local historian, John Kelly, the lost legacy of August Hersch was rediscovered and the Tilleys learned the property was eligible to become a winery once again. V Madrone Cellars was declared a Napa County Historical Landmark in 2007, and the following year, on December 6, 2008 (the 75th anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition), the winery was officially opened for business. The name ‘V Madrone’ combines the legacy of the 19th century vineyard and the 20th century lodge.

The Tilleys work with consulting winemaker Jean Hoefliger, one of Napa Valley’s brightest winemaking stars, to craft the wines for V Madrone Cellars. Born and raised in Lausanne, Switzerland, Jean has honed his talents abroad in Bordeaux, France, South Africa, and Switzerland, and in Napa Valley at such luminaries as Spring Mountain Winery and Alpha Omega. His zeal, knowledge, innate ability and scientific training has allowed him to transform grapes into countless world-class wines. It is Jean’s talent and the Tilleys’ vision and passion that have resurrected this historical site and ‘ghost winery’ into the legend it is today. We are excited to introduce this winery to our Platinum Wine of the Month Club members. Cheers!

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