Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Groth Vineyards – A Family Run Winery in Oakville, California

Groth Vineyards and Winery was founded by Dennis and Judy Groth and it has remained a family operated since their first crush in 1982. Their 121 acre Oakville Estate was originally planted in 1972 by Justin Meyer and Ray Duncan, the founders of Silver Oak Cellars. From it they produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. In special years they make a “Reserve” bottling of Cabernet Sauvignon. 

In 1982, they added a 44-acre Hillview Vineyard located south of Yountville which was originally planted in 1975, a prime source for the winery’s Chardonnay and Merlot. Between 1999 and 2003 Groth Vineyards replanted all 54 acres of their Cabernet Sauvignon in Oakville with new clones, rootstocks, and new trellising.

Groth Winery - May 2013

Barrel Room - May 2013
Barrel Room - May 2013

When I first visited Groth Vineyards back in October 2005 the estate building was colored Pepto-Bismol pink and the barrel room was rather small. A year later in 2006 they rebuilt their barrel cellars, crush pad, the fermentation areas and repainted the winery to terracotta (a HUGE improvement!).

Groth Winery - October 2005
Barrel Room - October 2005

Before getting into the wine business Dennis and Judy, who are natives of the Santa Clara Valley, had been married for twenty years. Dennis was an escalating partner at Arthur Young and Company and was one of the key architects that built Atari, a consumer electronic company, into a 2 billion dollar company. In 1984 Atari was sold and the following year Dennis, Judy, and their three children moved from San Jose to the Napa Valley where they built their home and then the winery on the Oakville ranch. Dennis Groth has also served as President of the Napa Valley Vintners and Chairman of The Wine Institute. This service included years as a board member of both trade groups, as well as a Trustee of the Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, California. 

Insectary Garden
The original winemaker for Groth was Nils Venge (later he founded Venge Vineyards) who for over twenty years produced top-of-the-line Cabernet Sauvignons in California. This included the phenomenal 1974, 1976, 1977, and 1978 Villa Mt. Eden Cabernet Sauvignons as well as the 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1986 Groth Reserve Cabernet Sauvignons. In fact, Robert Parker gave the 1985 Groth Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon the distinction of being California’s first 100 point wine.

Today, Michael Weis is the winemaker and he continues Groth’s legacy of producing premium wines. Michael obtained his undergraduate degree from UC Santa Barbara in 1969 and a Master’s degree in Microbiology from UC Berkeley in 1971. Afterwards he did graduate studies at U.C. Davis and then worked as an experimental enologist for Robert Mondavi, as winemaker for Vichon Winery. He then joined Groth Vineyards in 1994.
While visiting I sampled the following wines:

The first pour was the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is a blend of 97% Sauvignon Blanc and 3% Semillon. On the nose this wine displays lemon, grapefruit and a hint of chalk. On the palate it is light, crisp but not overly sharp. Some Sauvignon Blanc/ Semillon blends tend to lose their crispness and become almost Chardonnay-like but this was remains wonderfully refreshing. It has a long finish that ends with a chalky minerality. 
The second sample was the 2011 Estate Chardonnay. The fruit was whole cluster pressed then the juice was transferred to French oak barrels, 30 % of which were new, for fermentation and aging. Although this wine did not undergo maloactic fermentation it was aged eight months sur lie, then the wine was racked off the yeast lees, blended and finished for bottling. On the nose I picked up subtle notes of popcorn, piecrust and hazelnuts followed by pears and apples. On the plate it is medium bodied, crisp and has a medium+ length finish. This wine sells for $29 a bottle.

The next two wines I sampled side by side:

The third wine was the 2010 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Merlot. This wine is deep, dark purple at the core and on the nose it has aromas of plums, black currents, dusty earth, dried black fruits and a hint of pepper. On the palate it is silky soft and fruit forward on entry with medium body and mouth-watering acidity. This wine sells for $57 a bottle.

The final pour was the 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot. On the nose this wine displays red fruits, cherries, a hint of rose petal, cedar and vanilla. On the palate it has silky tannins on entry but then grip the gums. It is medium bodied and has ample acidity with a prolonged finish that finishes with a hint of tobacco and oak. This wine sells for $125 a bottle.

What is really interesting about these two wines is that you would expect the 2010 to have more cherry notes than the 2009 Reserve since it has significant more Merlot. I preferred the entry of the 2010 but the finish of the 2009 with its tobacco notes which come from the extra year of ageing. Both were fantastic wines.
To see more pictures of the Groth Vineyards and Winery, check out Erik Wait’s Wine Country Photography at:

To visit or for more information:

Groth Vineyards

750 Oakville Cross Road

Oakville, CA 94562

Phone: 1-707-944-0290

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