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Gamble Family Vineyards

Columnist: Karen Hart
August, 2018 Issue
Columnist

Karen Hart
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Gamble Family Vineyards
7554 St. Helena Highway
Napa, Calif. 94558
(707) 944-2999
www.gamblefamilyvineyards.com

Hours:
Open Monday-Saturday (last appointment 2:30 p.m.)
Tasting Fees: $75 per person (waived with purchase)
Wines Offered: 2015 Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Paramount red wine blend, 2014 Family Home Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2014 Cairo Cabernet Sauvignon
(Selection changes daily.)
Reservations: Required. Call (707) 944-2999
Picnics: No
Pets: No

Did You Know? Gamble Family Vineyards follows a holistic approach to farming and winemaking. Owner Tom Gamble focuses on sustainable practices, a strategy that provides a return that reinvests in the land. His winery and vineyards are certified Napa Green and Fish Friendly, an important aspect since the Napa River and Conn Creek run through the property.

Farming first isn’t just a platitude for Tom Gamble, the man behind Gamble Family Vineyards, located off St. Helena Highway in Napa Valley. It’s a philosophy and a way of life. A third-generation farmer, Gamble has been influenced by his ancestors since childhood. “My most lasting memory of childhood is dirt,” says Gamble. “Playing in dirt. Walking in dust behind the tractor.” His childhood days often began before sunrise herding cattle and working irrigation lines.

The Gamble family story begins in 1916 when his ancestors staked claim to a parcel of land in Napa County to raise cattle and farm. Nearly a century later, Gamble founded Gamble Family Vineyards, a boutique winery committed to producing Bordeaux varietal wines, inspired by the old world from several notable estate vineyards including Oakville, Yountville, Rutherford and Mt. Veeder.

At the winery, Gamble continues his ancestors’ “farming first” tradition. And if you happen to encounter Gamble, he’s likely to greet you with a wide smile, wearing his jeans, a collared shirt and a straw cowboy hat with his dog, Koa, by his side.

Nestled on the property among the vineyards, the winery resembles a traditional 19th century farmhouse. When guests arrive for a tasting, they’re greeted at the front door with a welcome wine before beginning a tour of the winery.

On this mild summer afternoon, the welcome wine happens to be a splash of the 2015 Heart Block Sauvignon Blanc, which is an experience in itself—fragrant with aromas reminiscent of citrus and ripe stone fruit, it has a creamy, lush mouth-feel. The Heart Block vineyard is at the center of his Yountville property and the center of Napa Valley. “The Robb Report gave it a perfect score. I farm Sauvignon Blanc like a high-end Cab, and I have the bills to prove it,” says Gamble with a grin. The Heart Block is a wine geared for a collector and matures well, and improves with six to eight years of aging.

The tour involves visiting the vineyards, crush pad, wine lab and barrel room, known as the “spice rack,” where they use barrels from 20 different cooperages, which provide varying toast levels. On occasion, guests are offered a taste straight from the barrel and you may even encounter Winemaker Jim Close, who began his career in the southern Languedoc region of France. His fingerprint is on every bottle of Gamble Family Vineyards since it was founded in 2005.

After the tour, guests are invited to a private seated tasting to learn more about the fine art of winemaking in one of the two intimate tasting salons, and Gamble and Close often join their guests. The 2014 Paramount is a red wine blend that features a photo of young 5-year-old Tom in a straw cowboy hat. “It’s because this one is all about me,” says Gamble with a laugh. The Paramount is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and has juicy aromas of raspberry and rhubarb and soft rounder mouth-feel with velvety tannins. “The Paramount is our most eloquent wine,” says Gamble. “The French would say it’s a feminine wine.”

Gamble wines offer a restrained elegance with moderate alcohol, and Close’s philosophy is to craft wines that are delicious upon release, but also age well. “Rich, round and voluptuous—that’s the Holy Grail,” says Close. “Our wines pair well with food and are delicious on their own.”

Next we try the 2014 Family Home Cabernet Sauvignon, which is deep inky purple in color. Complex and layered, this Cabernet has a bold smoky black cherry aroma with notes of spiced plum and thyme, with a layered earthy structure and savory notes.

Gamble is a membership-driven winery, and wines range from $90 to $200. “We make wines that are good and approachable on a wine list, in terms of price,” says Gamble. “And we over-deliver on value.”

Finally, we end with the 2014 Cairo Cabernet Sauvignon, a small production wine reserved for members. “This is our most generous and hedonistic wine,” says Close. The Oakville fruit is sourced from the vines right outside the winery on thin fluvial soils over very heavy clay. “You have to let the vines struggle,” he adds. This Cabernet is beautifully complex with concentrated flavors of blueberry, leather, cream soda and cardamom.

Next time you’re in Napa make a reservation for a tasting at Gamble Family Vineyards where Tom Gamble continues his family’s farming first philosophy. A true steward of the land who’s committed to sustainable farming practices, Gamble is a farmer with soil running through his blood. “I stand on broad shoulders,” he says. “And my legacy is to make these shoulders even broader.”



 

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