White Rock Vineyards
Napa Valley AVA
Complex and concentrated wines from Napa Valley
White Rock can trace its history all the way back to 1870, when a Doctor named Pettingill established a vineyard and winery at the Napa Valley location. Stone blocks of white volcanic ash (hence the name White Rock) were cut from the mountain and formed into the original stone winery building.
Another hundred years passed until the present owners, the Vandendriessche Family, decided to reincarnate the White Rock Winery of the 19th Century. A total of thirty-six acres were planted. Four Bordeaux varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon (16 acres), and five acres of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot were planted on twenty-one hillside acres. The new owners were careful to plant on three terraced hillsides that featured northern and western exposures to assure the most possible sun.
Henri Vandendriessche, a man of Belgian descent, founded the modern White Rock Vineyards. The new entity introduced its first wines in 1985, a solid 2,000 cases that were met with rave reviews. In 1988, Vandendriessche bore out a 6,000 foot cave to serve as the winery’s new home. White Rock Vineyards has hardly looked back since.
Henri Vandendriessche still serves as White Rock’s General Manager but he has passed the baton to his two sons, Christopher, 43, and Michael, 41. Christopher Vandendriessche is now the winemaker of the family’s winery, and brings a top notch resume to the job. Christopher is a graduate in enology from the University of Bordeaux in France, a rarity for an American. He also apprenticed at the well-regarded Chateau Pape Clement, a stalwart property in the Graves region of Bordeaux. In addition, Christopher served time with the noted Rioja Spanish entity, Sra. Remelluri. Returning to Napa Valley, Christopher worked for two years at the well-respected Luna Vineyards. Michael is still vineyard manager for the entity today.
“I believe I have been very fortunate to enjoy the teaching available in France and Spain,” noted Christopher Vandendriessche. “Each country has slightly different techniques and I have been able to adapt these to my own style of winemaking.”
At White Rock Vineyards, it is all about the terroir of their property that produces such distinctive fruit.
“We are fortunate to have all our Bordelaise varietals planted in volcanic ash, a composition that differs greatly from that of the Napa Valley floor. We farm all our vineyards organically and are able to produce really superior fruit.”
The wines of White Rock Vineyards are made solely from its own vineyard fruit, making the entire operation estate bottled. Today’s production at the winery has not really increased a great deal since White Rock’s inception.
“We will produce around 2,500 cases this year,” Vandendriessche added. “To us, it’s all about quality and our ability to control that quality. We have learned to trust ourselves in the most important matters and not other people.”
White Rock Vineyards’ approach is that of a small historic vineyard that produces world-class wines on an ongoing basis. As a second generation winemaker and owner, Christopher Vandendriessche has developed a style for his wines that he feels fits the vineyards.
He consults with his family when the final blends are selected. Along with his father Henri, brother Michael sits in and also sister Anne-Marie who is a master cheese maker in her own right. While Christopher is the winemaker, all family members have a say in the final White Rock Vineyards wines.
“I have always believed that the opinions of a group are better than a single opinion,” he stated. “All my family has good palates and I respect their viewpoints. Our wines have been successful for many years so I believe we are doing something right.”
Vandendriessche is also modest when it comes to scores for his wines. “I don’t expect to get a 98 on every single wine,” he confided. “What I do expect is consistency from vintage to vintage. Our customer base is fiercely loyal to our wines and expects nothing less.”
White Rock Vineyards is truly a family affair. This past harvest, Christopher’s young son and his brother Michael’s two young girls all willingly helped with the harvest. According to Vandendriessche, a good time was had by all.
“These are exciting times around the winery,” he finalized. “I have been able to do my own thing and make wines our customers love. It is quite satisfying and inspires me to continue doing what I do best.”
A Note from Christopher Vandendriessche
Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members,
At White Rock Vineyards, we have always strived to maintain the highest possible standards, while producing world-class wines, here in the Napa Valley. The first plantings on the property were in the 1860’s, when the property was named for the white volcanic ash that was discovered to be the soil type here on the estate. The unique soil type, which is low in nutrients and high in minerality, allows our grapes to show fruit that is full of dark fruit flavors and rich deep tannins.
My parents, Henri and Claire Vandendriessche, purchased the estate in 1977. They raised me and my brother and sister here on the property, where we were able to be involved in the farming and winemaking at an early age. Being a second-generation wine grower, I am excited to be working alongside my brother Michael to produce complex and concentrated wines from the land that we were raised on.
This 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a small bottling I did with fruit sourced from the upper blocks of our steep Napa estate. The rocky hillside is home to some of my favorite vines on the property, some of which my brother and I planted in high school. I hope you find the wine to be deep and supple, with pronounced notes of fruit and spice, aged appropriately, and showing beautifully.
Winemaker, White Rock Vineyards