Smack in the middle of Pritchard Hill, the brightest rising star above the Napa Valley.
After selling the Calistoga vineyard he’d farmed for a decade, Greg Melanson bought this Pritchard Hill property in 1988. At that time, Chappellet and Long Vineyards were the only other growers on the slopes above Lake Hennessey. Melanson and his family settled on the property, building a house in 1991, and gradually developed the vineyard to eleven planted acres.
Cabernet Sauvignon clones 7 and 337 are a wonderment here. So much so, that Melanson recently decided to plant all blocks to these star producers, pulling out the Syrah and Chardonnay he inherited from the property’s previous owner.
The mountain site is rugged, its Sobrante Loam soil studded with volcanic rock. At an average elevation of 1,200 feet, the vineyard sits above the fog line and benefits from maximum sun exposure all day. The presence of Lake Hennessey to the northwest is a moderate cooling influence in the afternoon, when breezes blow over its surface and into the nearby hills.
“I may not have the most sophisticated palate, but I can definitely tell when a wine is made with a majority of my fruit. It’s quite distinct.”
Today, the property is surrounded by some of the most buzzed-about winegrowing estates in Napa Valley, including Colgin, Ovid and Continuum, to name a few. “If you look at a map of Pritchard Hill, this property is literally right in the middle,” Melanson says. “We’re real lucky to have ended up here.”
Although he has a list of well-known vintners anxious to buy his grapes, Melanson is content that, for the moment, it’s all spoken for. He appreciates walking the vineyard, discussing the fruit and gleaning new insights into what makes the site so special. “We got along well from the start,” he says. “I knew Tor by reputation long before we were introduced. He’s got a lot of knowledge and is willing to share it.”