BRAND Napa Valley

Cult Wine: BRAND
Winemaker: Philippe Melka
Proprietor: Ed Fitts
Inaugural Vintage: 2009
Annual Production: 300 cases
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Napa Valley
Other Wines: None
Estate Vineyard: Yes
Grape Source: 100% Pritchard Hill


Well above the cloud line on Pritchard Hill, the BRAND Estate overlooks Lake Hennessey and the entire Napa Valley. BRAND’s twelve acres of Cabernet Sauvignon family vineyards are planted in red soil surrounded by massive boulders. Volcanic and well-drained, this soil produces small, deeply flavored grapes with thick skins, making for great profundity in the bottle. Add to this an enviable amount of sunshine and a more liberal air circulation than that of the valley floor, hence more consistent ripening and better cluster health, and you have what Brand’s winemaker, the renowned Philippe Melka, calls “the best of both worlds: Oakville sophistication with the extra intensity of a hillside.”

Pritchard Hill, high in the Vacas Mountains, home to Colgin, Ovid and Continuum, to name a few, is “the best grape-growing region in Napa you’ve never heard of” according to the Wine Enthusiast. It is not an appellation and is so off the beaten path that it may well never be. Yield is low and only 340 acres are planted. So Pritchard Hill wines are labor-intensive and scarce.

BRAND’s owner Ed Fitts and his partner Deb Whitman have been working for six years to prepare a Cabernet Sauvignon that fully expresses the unique terroir of Pritchard Hill. Their 2009 vintage, which the Wine Spectator calls a “dense and gutsy debut,” was offered in 2012. Their logo, the double horseshoe, reflects their equestrian passion, the rugged beauty of their horses, and the iron-rich soil which imbues their wine with such grace.

BRAND is divided into 12 blocks each with very specific soil types and orientations requiring the use of custom clone and root stock combinations. The grapes are fermented in small stainless steel tanks on the skins, then aged in 83% new French oak barrels from four different cooperages in order to acheive balance and complexity. The wine is bottled using gravity flow without fining and filtration.

"Over the last 18 years,” says Phillipe Melka, “I have been involved in very few projects where I've felt from the start that there was something special, like BRAND.” On the palate, the wine is incredibly pure and rich with multi-dimensional flavors of sweet blackberries and espresso. Tannins are well integrated showing finesse, fine texture and softness. The finish is lingering, a perfect tribute to the magic of Pritchard Hill.

Winery Website

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