Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards: A Diamond in the Rough

Peter Thompson, owner of Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards, casually guides me along a steep, winding dirt path. “We’re almost there,” he remarks. The narrow trail opens to a large redwood deck overlooking his vineyards and a soaring panoramic view of the Napa Valley 1,900 feet below. Peter takes a deep breath and says, “Welcome to my office.”

It took Peter over three years of intense searching to find the location which is now the Andrew Geoffrey Vineyard. Purchased in 1995, the vineyard rests at the top of Napa’s highly acclaimed Diamond Mountain.

He removes the lid off a classic Weber grill and ignites a heaping pile of charcoal. “How do you like your meat cooked?” Peter asks. As he arranges an assortment of imported cheeses and seasonal vegetables on a picnic table, we talk wine.

“I saved my money for twenty-four years. This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” Peter states. Named after his two young boys, Andrew and Geoffrey, the winery has released its fourth vintage. With winemaker John Gibson, formerly of Vine Cliff and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, they are crafting the style and caliber of Cabernet Sauvignon expected to come from Diamond Mountain.

“I built this deck because I wanted to have a place where friends could come to taste and just enjoy. What better place to use than this spot right in front of our vineyard,” he said. “When we all get together, everyone pitches in on the meal,” he said.

From the cooler, Peter removes a handsome cut of Chateaubriand. “I’ve become good friends with the butcher,” he chuckles while he places the meat onto the grill. “This is great for me ’cause I get to pour wine, talk to people and do something I love…cooking,” he says.

Peter opens his wine. We both sit at the picnic table to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He pours the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. Blended with 7.5% Cabernet Franc and 1.5% Petite Verdot, the garnet color hugs the glass and comes on strong with a bouquet of bright raspberry fruit. The wine’s mid-palate delivers a comfortable amount of red currant spice and finishes with long silky tannins.

Peter spreads onto a cutting board an assortment of cheeses; 2 year old Irish Cheddar, smoked Fontina, single-cream Brie and Morbier. The Morbier, a French semi-soft cow’s milk cheese rounds the tannins to expose more of the ripe red fruit.

Peter then removes the steaming vegetables and roast. As he draws a knife across the Chateaubriand, clear juices run onto the plate. “Oh gosh, I think you’re going to like this. It’s like butter,” he boosts.

Thompson shows me a bottle of his 2003 Cabernet and remarks, “I’ll pour the first glass, after that you’re on your own.”

The ’03 Cab is noticeably different from the previous vintage. Slightly darker in color, the nose is jammy and the palate is full of dark fruit such as blueberry and cherry. The tannins reveal a chewy mouth feel and linger for almost a full minute. The blend is slightly rearranged from the ’02; 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petite Verdot.

Peter reveals the reasons Diamond Mountain is such a unique ‘terroir’. “This mountain is known for the silky tannins and the minerality it gives to its wines. See what looks like moon dust?” he asks while pointing to the vines. “That’s volcanic ash. The white soil reflects heat and helps to ripen the grapes,” he said. By leaving more of the canopy on the vines, we protect more of the cluster from the sunlight.”

His attention to detail certainly carries through to his wines. Andrew Geoffrey Vineyards place their juice into French Oak, 80-100% new, for two years before bottling. Once bottled, the wine gestates for another eighteen months before being released.

Tucked away on top of a luscious green mountain, far away from everyday life, the Andrew Geoffrey vineyard sits like a hidden gem.

By James C. Claus
© 2008 Artisan Wine Tours, LLC