How does a rural cattle farmer from Nebraska become an esteemed Napa Valley vineyard owner? The route from grazing to grapes was a peculiar one for Lawrence D. Fairchild, owner of Fairchild Winery.
Lawrence left Nebraska for the east coast when he was working on a foreign affairs committee on Capitol Hill, but then decided to head back west in 1990. Still quite young at the time, he ended up in San Francisco, and soon after bought his very first property in 1994 in Saint Helena, the heart of famed Napa Valley. Almost a decade later, since 2004, Fairchild and his team has been producing the high-quality wines they’re known for—the same types of wines the Drink Dine Do team recently tasted at Atlanta’s STK for a Napa Valley wildfire relief event.
For oenophiles who follow the industry, you may like to know that Philippe Melka, one of the top 10 winemakers in the world, does all the winemaking for Fairchild Winery, which now has six vineyards in Napa Valley. Melka is a native of Bordeaux, France, where wine flows freely.
Hand-Harvest and No Pesticides Make All the Difference
“It’s extremely important that the quality is there,” Fairchild says. To achieve that quality, they farm organically, which means there are no chemicals or pesticides in the growing process. However, Fairchild Winery does not certify organic (it’s tricky). Basically, with these farming methods, wine drinkers can rest assured they’re sipping on a very natural grape that has zero chemical alterations—unlike those alarmingly giant strawberries you’ve seen at the supermarket. The Fairchild team also hand-harvests all their grapes.
“We can maintain [the quality] through other methods, but we’re chemical free in the vineyards,” he says.
Most of Fairchild Winery’s vineyard are located in the Lake Hennessey region, which means slightly cooler summers and warmer winters and less moderated temperatures. Additionally, because there’s more minerality in soil around the lakes, Fairchild also deals with a little bit of volcanic soil. What all that means for his types of wines is he is able to hang the fruit longer (in a less-hot climate), resulting in better flavor the longer you hang it.
Millennials and Wine
“It’s more socially interesting,” Fairchild says of Generation Y’s recent preference for wine over other types of drinks, such as cocktails. “I think there’s just sophistication on the palate,” he says, “I think once you get smarter… The wines are made better at more reasonable price points.”
Of course, Fairchild’s own wines don’t exactly fall into that category, but the respect for millennials seeking quality, affordable wines shines through. “There’s more of those wines being made… and I think they’re getting more a sense of the wines.”
Top 4 Wines from Fairchild Winery
At the Napa Valley wildfire relief event at STK, Fairchild poured up four of the winery’s top wines. We obliged. Below are what we tasted and their descriptions.
2015 Sigaro Cabernet Sauvignon: Sourced from Fairchild’s distinctive, hand-cultivated Napa Valley vineyards on the south-facing slopes of Lake Hennessey, this full-bodied, masculine, and structured wine ages beautifully in the cellar. A very deep, inky-purple color, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Sigaro delivers ripe cassis, black plums, and fragrant earth notes with touches of bay leaves, mossy bark, and tobacco leaf. It’s medium- to full-bodied with a rock-solid frame of wonderfully fine-grained tannins and lovely freshness, and it has a great core of vibrant black fruit flavors, finishing long and pure.
2015 G·III Cabernet Sauvignon: Honoring the great winemaking tradition of the famed Napa Valley Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard, the 2015 vintage source fruit from the same vineyard for this complex, limited production offering. It’s a deep garnet-purple colored product with a beautifully expressive nose of baking spices, dusty soil, garrigue, and dried Mediterranean herbs over a core of warm black currants, black cherry pie, and blackberry tart.
It’s supplemented by a gorgeous, earthy character with firm, chewy tannins and well-balanced freshness, finishing long with a pleasant meatiness coming through—just the way a tasty Cab-Sav should be.
2015 Stones Number 2 Cabernet Sauvignon: The 2015 Stones No. 2 from Perrarus Blocks 1 & 2 on Pritchard Hill (on the north side of Lake Hennessey) displays a deep garnet-purple color and vivacious nose of cassis, blueberries, with nuances of cinnamon stick, incense, and cedar chest. Full-bodied, it has a firm frame of grainy tannins, and it finishes nice and long.
Stones Number 3 Cabernet Sauvignon: From the Tench Vineyard in Oakville, Stones Number 3 has an opaque garnet-purple color and is profoundly scented of crème de cassis, blackberry compote, and dried mulberries with suggestions of dusty earth. Full-bodied and firmly constructed with generous black fruit, it finishes long and savory.
Learn more about Fairchild Wines at fairchildwines.com.
If you’d like to donate to help vineyards such as Fairchild Winery recover from the devastating wildfires that swept the valley, head here to donate. Because a world without wine would be very boring!