Napa Valley AVA

92 Points - Wine & Spirits Magazine, 90 Points - Steven Tanzer

She is considered a true citizen of the world and a remarkable success story by her peers within the wine industry. Nevertheless, when the factual story is told, Delia Viader credits her late father Walter with setting the guidelines that have enabled her life's work, known simply as Viader, to gain its rightful place among then world's greatest wineries. Born in Argentina into a Spanish diplomatic family, Delia Viader took the academic approach to life as a youth. She graduated from the Sorbonne with a philosophy degree and came to the United States where she added several degrees from the likes of MIT, UC Berkeley and finally the agronomic leader, prestigious UC Davis. She admitted to becoming interested in wine 'around the time I became of legal age.' Prior to that, Delia's family enjoyed wine as a matter of course with their meals, so her introduction to the grape occurred at an early age.

She had children at an early age, and her tenure at UC Berkeley prompted her to consider the Napa Valley as a plausible setting to raise her family. 'I was thinking about a business that would allow me to have my children nearby and that was located in a rustic setting,' she admitted. 'Yet, I also wanted to be close to the obvious advantages of culture and society. Since there are only a few places that can grow world-class grapes necessary to produce the type of wine I wanted, I really had few choices. Napa fitted the bill perfectly and I made the move in the mid 1980's.' But her father wielded a firm hand and forced her to develop a strategy that could prove successful in a business environment as competitive as the wine industry. He made her produce a 5-year-plan with sales projections and potential costs.'My father wanted to make sure I really wanted to do it and that I could conceivably make a living for my family,' Viader explained. 'Remember, the mid 80's was not the trendy time in the wine business that exists today. The economy was not that stable, there was double-digit inflation and the entire decade was considered as near drought stage. He even established a benchmark for progress that I had to meet.' To make things even more difficult, Delia Viader aspired to produce a wine that rivaled her favorite commune in Bordeaux, St. Emilion. 'I wanted a wine that wins you through seduction,' Viader admitted. 'A wine good enough for a second and third glass.' Pulling a number of strings together, she settled on a piece of property high (1200 feet) on Howell Mountain and began her winemaking career. She emulated a European design for her vines (up and down) on the steep hillsides that required mostly hand farming.

The first Viader release from the proprietary estate of 1200 cases occurred in 1989 and featured a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, two of the most common grapes utilized in St. Emilion. Viader's first wines were met with critical approval and her march toward world recognition was definitely on its way. The past two decades have been very kind to Delia Viader and her remarkable winery. Viader wines have been compared favorably to many of the greatest French Chateaux and would be considered a first growth were such a system in existence in the United States. Production has risen steadily and will surpass eight thousand cases this year. It's possible that Viader will one day reach the 10,000 ' 12,000 case level that most French first growths produce, but there is no specific timetable in Delia Viader's grand plan for such an occurrence. She credits the wonderful vines Howell Mountain has sustained for her success with the adage, 'Everything really happens in my vineyards. It's up to me not to mess it all up in my cellar.'

Delia Viader is also pleased with the fact that several of her children have followed her into the family business. Son Alan, 27, is the director of operations and his wife, Mariala, is Viader's executive chef. Daughter Janet, 25, handles all the sales and marketing and son Alex, 14, will also join the team, according to Delia, 'if he's smart." The Viader Family is a tight-knit group that has already accomplished a great deal, but continues to seek out even higher goals. To many, their wines are among the finest in the entire world.