Napa Valley AVA
Following in his father's footsteps, Kirk Venge steers the new winery into the hierarchy of Napa Valley wineries
Many youngsters dream of being firemen, policemen, or even movie stars. Not so for Kirk Venge (pronounced Ven-ghee), who remembers exactly when he accurately predicted his future business path. Venge was only four years old when he determined his potential fate.
“My family was at church and a questionnaire went around about what each child wanted to do as he got older,” Venge, now 42, recalled recently. “I answered, ‘winemaker,’ and thought nothing about it. In our family, you could say that wine was of paramount interest to everyone.”
The Venge family is well known to just about anyone with a serious interest in Napa Valley wine and winemaking. Kirk Venge is the fourth generation of his family that emigrated from Denmark around 1940. After stopping in New York, Kirk’s great-grandfather and grandfather moved to Los Angeles and eventually started a wine import business. In 1945, Kirk’s father Nils was born and was brought up in the world of wine distribution.
Nils Venge attended UC Davis and after graduation began a career as a renowned winemaker with a resume that included Sterling Vineyards, Villa Mt. Eden, Charles Krug, and Groth Winery. In 1976, Venge also partnered with his father-in-law in purchasing a 17-acre Cabernet property in Oakville that would form the basis for the family’s Saddleback Cellars, the entity that would one day form the basis for Venge Vineyards.
Kirk Venge followed his father to UC Davis and earned a degree in Viticulture and Enology and worked for Mumm Napa while attending school. He also spent a year in New Zealand and honed his winemaking skills before returning to Napa Valley.
During this time, 1992 to be exact, the Saddleback Cellars name was formally changed to Venge Vineyards, a move that propelled the new winery into the hierarchy of Napa Valley wineries. Many awards and accolades followed and, in 2003, Kirk Venge became the winemaker for his family’s named winery.
“I was pleased the family had the confidence to give me control of the winery’s future,” Venge stated. “Following in my father’s footsteps was great for my career, but it was also a little tough. Many people thought our wines were still Nils’ products, and the wines were judged and evaluated on that basis. I wanted to do my own thing, and it all took some time.”
Kirk has proven to be as talented a winemaker as his father, making wines in his own style, with a vision to build on the family legacy.
In fact, Venge Vineyards has hardly skipped a beat. Awards and accolades have been plentiful and, in 2008, Kirk achieved his lifelong dream and acquired full ownership of Venge Vineyards. The following year, he took a giant step by purchasing a twelve and a half-acre Cabernet ranch in the foothills of the Palisades Mountains in Calistoga to serve as Venge Vineyards’ new home. The property includes a state-of-the-art winery operation and an old house that accompanied the land now serves as the tasting room, giving the estate a complete look and feel.
“I was finally able to produce wines that I could call my own,” Venge related. Kirk’s talent and skill as a winemaker is reflected in the well-balanced style of all of his wines. His philosophy of “making wine in the vineyard” is found in every bottle. Kirk works closely with grape growers to attentively develop the highest quality fruit possible from each vineyard he works with. He knows that the best wines can only come from the best grapes, so it is no wonder his focus has always been on the vineyard first.
For the record, Venge Vineyards is just one of Kirk Venge’s myriad of winery responsibilities. He is now one of the most recognized and sought-after winemakers in Napa and Sonoma, offering his winemaking talents to several other California wineries including Hunnicutt, Macauley Vineyard, Mirror, Bacio Divino, JAX, and B Cellars, just to name a few. He has earned countless accolades for his wines and has been named One of the Top 20 Young Winemakers in the World by Food & Wine magazine. He is certainly following very closely in his father’s footsteps and continuing the Venge family legacy of excellence in winemaking.
We are proud to share one of Kirk Venge’s latest achievements with our Platinum Wine Club members. Cheers!
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It is with great honor that I am writing to you for the second time in our winery’s history! Our first feature in your shipment highlighted our Scout’s Honor Red Blend and I find it fitting that we are now following that up with the flagship of our Napa Valley winery - Cabernet Sauvignon. In total, we make thirteen different wines at Venge Vineyards - five of which are Cabernets from distinct regions throughout Napa Valley. All of our Cabernets are produced in our state-of-the-art, gravity fed winery where the hand-sorted berries are divided into small lots and fermented in a combination of stainless steel, concrete, and open-top French barriques. This process of division makes for ideal diversity in complexity before barreling down to air-dried, medium + toasted new French oak barrels. At twelve months of aging in barrel, we begin the six-month process of making the single vineyard lots and our appellation blend of Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our first vintage of Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon was made from the 2008 vintage and we knew we had an instant hit on our hands. In the last seven vintages produced, not only has it proven to be a wine distinct enough to earn recognition among the industry’s top critics, the wine will age for 10 to 15 years, while being drinkable upon release.
Our 2015 Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon is crafted from seven superior Napa Valley vineyards located in four distinct appellations: Calistoga, Oakville, Chiles Valley, and Rutherford. It is a beautifully concentrated, powerful wine not to be missed by the collector and enthusiast alike. Fresh roasted coffee, sweet cassis, and aromatic blue fruits lead the way to full bodied deliciousness. The 2015 vintage is dense and compact, with firm tannins that fully support the cascade of mouth coating flavors. The finish is remarkably lengthy and complex. This wine is approachable upon release and cellar worthy in proper aging conditions.
I hope you enjoy our Silencieux Cabernet Sauvignon as much as we do. Should you find yourself planning a trip to Napa Valley, please plan to come and taste the bounty of our labor and experience our wine country hospitality.
Kirk P. Venge, Proprietor & Winemaker
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
As I’m writing this address to you all, I’m looking outside my office window at the busy ground breaking for the new Venge Winery in Calistoga, the northern-most appellation of Napa Valley. These are very exciting times for our company and I am very proud to introduce us to those of you who may be new to the brand. In 1992 my Father Nils Venge started the Venge wine label under the roof of his Saddleback Cellars Winery in Oakville. In 2003, I took over the winemaking duties for our namesake bottling and later in 2008, I acquired the label on my own. This harvest, 2010, we will live the dream by “bringing our barrels home” and crush grapes into our new gravity flow facility!
It is with great pleasure that I present to you the 2007 Scout’s Honor. This is a wine that my Father invented back to 1995 when we lost our beloved Yellow Labrador named Scout. He was the quintessential winery dog, always ready to put a paw out to greet visitors coming to Saddleback. We had to make a wine named after him! That inaugural bottling I recall was roughly 90% Zin and 10% Sangiovese. Over the next 11 years, the wine has made some delightful transitions to where it is today. The ’07 is a blend of 55% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 13% Charbono and 11% Syrah. We think it is delicious and have been graced by some very complimentary reviews too (Parker/Wine Advocate 92 Points, Connoisseurs' Guide 93 Points).
I hope you enjoy the wine and it leaves a lasting impression! Scout’s Honor is my true “go to” wine for any occasion. We pour hours of hard work and passion in everything we do and I hope it shows. Should you find yourself in Calistoga. I welcome you to give us a ring and come in!