The Far Niente Winery – Breaking The Mold.
The origins of winemaking in California’s Napa Valley stretch further back than many wine lovers may imagine. In fact, the first wines were produced in the Valley in around 1861 when Charles Krug opened a winery there. The success of his endeavors led to the rapid expansion with another 140 vineyards quickly putting down roots. However, the optimism of those heady days proved to be built on nothing more than hope and dreams. The nascent winemaking industry in the Valley was dealt a series of body blows that were to see it disappear. Economic conditions, prohibition, and diseases and pests all contributed to the disappointment of those first pioneers. It was not until around 1933 that the wine industry in the Valley began to recover – and not until the late 60’s that some of the output from recognized estates was on even footing with the best produced in France.
This was the evolving environment that found Larry Maguire (now CEO and President of Far Niente winery) revitalizing the winery, which was established in 1885. Far Niente had closed down in the face of the unbearable economic pressures brought to bear by prohibition. By 1982 the winery was back in the game, releasing its first bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay – wines which are still the foundation of its success.
Maguire was the driving force behind the Far Niente success but he not only took the helm at the Far Niente winery but also became a partner in sister operations such as Nickel & Nickel, Dolce, EnRoute and Bella Union.
The Far Niente winery was one of the first in the Napa Valley to commit itself to a more environmentally friendly approach to winemaking. Wine production conforms to strict organic principles and the estate operations are powered by a solar system that produces more energy than the estate actually requires.
Far Niente has so far bucked the trend of Napa Valley wineries to produce reds that stray into the territory of heavier alcohol content releases. The wines from this estate very rarely clock in at over 14.5%. The reason for this according to the CEO is that the mid-level alcohol content allows for a balanced wine. Indeed the wines from the estate are elegant, with a subtle power and weight and strong acids mid palate. A great example of this is the 2013 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon which is widely available across the United States. The oak and acids soften the alcohol bump and the tannin forward nature of the wine leading to rich berry flavors and a silky finish.
The difference between Far Niente and its sister operations and many others in the Napa Valley is that their wines are the result of grapes grown in a single vineyard. This necessitates incredible attention to the terroir – and lends each wine a fabulously unique presence. Anyone tasting the wines from this vineyard will have no doubt that they are one of a kind – easily distinguishable from the increasingly ‘cookie cutter’ attitude towards production that is, unfortunately, coming to characterize many of the larger California producers.