Rafael et Fils
Oak Knoll, Napa Valley, California
Founder Georg Rafael got into the hotel industry after living in east Berlin, ultimately running the Regent Hotels in Hawaii. After falling in love with the Napa Valley and meeting and befriending such Napa luminaries as Warren Winarski, Georg and his wife Rosie purchased 50 acres of land in 1982 in the southern part of the Valley, on a bench right up against Mt. Veeder in what is now the Oak Knoll district. At the time, the land was being used for cattle grazing. This stunning piece of land, on the same bench as the Mayacamas mountains, has a top elevation of 500 feet and is significantly cooler than vineyards located up valley.
Over the next four years, Georg and Rosie planted grapes, mostly Cabernet, with the intent of becoming grape growers, ultimately planting 23 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and two acres of Chardonnay. For 15+ years, they sold their grapes to producers such as Duckhorn, Robert Mondavi and Far Niente. The beginnings of Rafael et Fils as a label date to about 1996 when Tom Farella of Farella Family Winery convinced the couple to bottle their own wine. Tom became their winemaker and stayed in that role until 2009.
Georg’s son Marc joined the business in 2009 when the family realized that they had about eight thousand cases of unsold Napa Cab dating back to the late 1990s. Needless to say, Marc, who studied economics in London and winemaking at UC Davis, had no problem selling through the stock. Today Marc is the sole proprietor of Rafael et Fils. Despite the fact that their first vintage was produced more than 20 years ago, Marc feels like he is building a startup.
Marc’s philosophy is to create 100% varietal specific wines from the family vineyard in Oak Knoll as well as a vineyard to the north in Mendocino County. The focus is on wines that are old world in style – showing more restraint when it comes to ripeness, level of alcohol and feature long aging. With a track record of over 20 years, these are wines that have proven to age very well.
For more information on the estate, check out the website or visit Napa Wine Project
Rafael et Fils Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Warm weather in late winter led to an early bud break. Unfortunately, a cold spell in May caused uneven fruit set and much lower than normal crop yields. Continued drought left rainfall at 75% of normal. The weather was close to ideal with sunny days and cool evenings. Harvest started about two weeks early and allowed for picking at optimal ripeness. Overall quality was exceptional.
The vineyard is located northwest of the town of Napa just within the boundary of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA. Bordering Mt. Veeder, it’s a unique, highly prized hillside location with southern exposure and steep slopes that dramatically rise to well over 400 feet in elevation. Sitting in the Dry Creek alluvial fan, the well drained soils on the upper terraces are stony, volcanically derived, transitioning to silty clay loam on the lower portion of the site. The Cabernet Sauvignon vines are planted on 110R rootstock, using Clone 7. Yields are low and the vines are meticulously cane-pruned to optimize vine balance between vigor and yield. Vineyard practices are certified Napa Green Land and Fish-Friendly Farming, one of the most comprehensive environmental certifications in California.
Our philosophy is that minimal intervention in winemaking practices allows for the best expression of the unique characteristics of the vintage as captured in the grapes. The 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes came from two different blocks at the top of the Rafael estate vineyard. The grapes were destemmed to tank and fermented on the skins for two weeks. The fermenting wine was gently pumped over twice a day. The wine was then pressed off of the skins and put in French oak barrels, 30% new, and aged for 23 months before being bottled. ML fermentation proceeded naturally to completion in barrel.
The wine is a profound ruby purple in color. Classic aromas of boysenberry, cassis, clove and anise are initially expressed. With time in the glass, complex notes of cedar, dark cacao, leather, graphite and plum are also revealed. The wine has a laser-like intensity, velvety tannins and elegant structure that allows it to be enjoyed on its own or with food. The experience is capped off by a rich, smooth long finish. Additional layers of complexity and luxuriance will be revealed over multiple days. The wine will age gracefully for 15-20 years.
Harvest Dates: September 16, 2015, Sugar: 26.2 degrees Brix, Titratable Acidity: 5.9 g/l, pH: 3.7, Alcohol: 14.5%, Cases produced: 434.
Rafael et Fils Pinot Noir Lauren Creek Anderson Valley 2016
The 2016 vintage was close to ideal with mild weather throughout the growing season. Harvest started about two weeks early and allowed for picking at optimal ripeness. Overall quality was exceptional.
Elke Home Ranch Vineyard
The Elke Home Ranch lies just west of Boonville, CA in the Anderson Valley. The Anderson Valley is known for sparkling wine, cool weather white wines and Pinot Noir. The Elke Home Ranch is planted to four different clones of Pinot Noir, including renowned Pommard and the extremely rate heritage clones, Stang and Elliott. The vines are meticulously cane-pruned to optimize vine balance between vigor and yield.
The grapes were selected from the Pommard and Elliot clones. They were picked at relatively low Brix for a balance point with restrained alcohol and a touch higher acidity than most other red wines. 80% of the grapes were gently destemmed into fermentation bins. The remaining 20% were placed in one of the fermentation bins, without being destemmed, as whole clusters. The wine was aged for 10 months in French Oak barrels with less than 20% being new, the intent being to add complexity without overt presence of new oak. The wine was racked once and bottled unfiltered.
The wine is a beautiful red color and slightly opaque. It initially exhibits vibrant aromas of rose petal, violets, fresh strawberry and pie crust. With time, the wine evolves to reveal flavors of wild mushrooms, cedar, rhubarb, and black tea. The wine exudes a bright elegant structure with a medium weight mouthfeel and velvety softness. Fabulous flavors of cherry and tart raspberry seem to linger forever in the finish. Drink now or age for 10-15 years. The wine is an excellent pair with food.
Rafael et Fils Chardonnay Napa Valley 2017
The vineyard is located northwest of the town of Napa just within the boundary of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA. It’s a unique, highly prized hillside location with southern exposure and steep slopes that dramatically rise to well over 400 feet in elevation. Yields are low at between 2 to 3 tons per acre in the well-drained soils. Twenty five acres in plantings are primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon with a small block planted to Chardonnay. The vines are meticulously cane-pruned to optimize vine balance between vigor and yield.
The Chardonnay grapes were picked relatively early for maximum flavor, refreshing crispness and restrained alcohol, but not so early to lack body and mouthfeel. The grapes were whole cluster pressed away from the skins and fermented slowly at cool temperature in barrel to retain varietal flavors. Malolactic fermentation was left to its own devices. The wine was aged in neutral barrels on the lees for 10 months prior to bottling. Lees stirring was employed during aging.