Sometimes you meet someone and you are an immediate part of the family. This was the experience I had on a recent trip to Napa Valley where I visited with the founders and owners of Rocca Family Vineyards. Greeted with open arms welcoming me and my group to not only their two beautiful vineyards, but also their home for a wine tasting and dinner, owners Dr. Mary Rocca and Dr. Eric Grigsby showed true California hospitality.
In 1989 Mary and Eric moved to Napa and had the idea that one day they would purchase land to create a world class vineyard. The couple met when Mary was in dental school at Boston University’s School of Dentistry, where she was one of the first women to earn accreditation from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. They moved together to Rochester, Minnesota where Eric trained in Anesthesiology and Pain Management at The Mayo Clinic. They both established successful practices there, but Eric knew that one day Mary would want to move back to her California roots. They moved their practices in 1989, and in 1996 they started to look for land to start their vineyard. In 1999 they found their first vineyard in the middle of the Yountville AVA in Napa. In 2000 Mary sold her dental practice to devote full time to growing the winery and Rocca Family Vineyards was born.
Eric maintains a successful, nationally recognized, Pain Management practice in Napa, while also working as a farmer, father, businessman and partner to Mary and the winery. He and Mary see eye to on their goals for the property with dedication to the land being at the forefront. They believe that making great wine starts in the vineyard, and that focusing on quality with sustainable and organic farming will produce a distinct, impressive wine. Their team believes this as well, from original winemaker Celia Welch Masyczek to current winemaker Paul Colantuoni and vineyard manager Sergio Melgoza, holistic farming practice guides the work throughout the vineyard.
Mary’s original goal of producing “excellent, family-owned wines from our
pristine fruit that comes from our estate vineyards” has paid off as today they produce both highly acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from their vineyards under their own label, but also some of Napa Valley’s best wineries seek them out to purchase their grapes for their wine, including Vineyard 29 and Hall Winery.
And if the two were not busy enough with raising four beautiful children, the medical practice, the vineyards and winery, as well as running the Palace Market grocery store in Point Reyes, CA that had been Mary’s mother’s until Mary took it over in 2000, the duo started a foundation truly close to their hearts. In 1997 they developed The HealthRoots Foundation to provide health education and patient care in under-served areas of the United States and abroad. The Foundation aims to assist with community development and encourage sustainable health care improvements. Their most recent work has been in Malawi, Africa.
Their wine production is still small, around 2000-2500 cases produced from their two vineyards a year. Their 2007 wines will be released in early fall of this year. We had a special sneak peak of their Grigsby Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, and their Collinetta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, along with the 2006 Bad Boy Red blend, and their 2006 Grigsby Cabernet Sauvignon and Collinetta Cabernet Sauvignon over a special dinner and tasting at Eric and Mary’s home in Napa’s hills overlooking the Valley. Paired with a Caprese salad, grilled meat and veggies, incredible Model Bakery bread with Napa Valley Olive Oil, and freshly grilled peaches from their peach trees, rustically served around the family table. The experience was memorable, and the wine, divine.
2006 Collinetta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – A smooth, smooth wine from the R0cca Vineyard in the Coomsville area to the east of Napa. I am a 2006 Napa Cab fan, and this one shines with deep blackberry, cherry and currant. Aged 20 months in small 65% new oak barrels, the wine has hints of coffee, nuts and chocolate. An expressive wine with bright fruit and subtle tannins, a great representation Rocca’s wine and the first from this vineyard.
2006 Syrah from the Grigsby Vineyard just off the Silverado Trail in Yountville. I love a Syrah that has rich smoked meat and bacon fat aromas, as this one does, followed by spicy, red cherry and ripe plum flavors on palate with a long, juicy finish. Perfect with anything done on the grill.
The 2007 Collinetta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is still a little green, as we tasted just after the wine had been bottled, with some initial green pepper aromas. The fruit is a bit tight right now and deeply concentrated, but in the next few years the wine will soften nicely, enhancing this expressive and elegant wine filled with black cherry and blackberry flavors married with cedar and chocolate from 19 months in small French oak barrels.