THE BRAND

A virage is a bend or curve in the road, a change in perspective.  Literally translated: a banked turn, as on a mountain road.

Our turn in the Napa Valley winemaking road banks right–in the Bordeaux blending tradition.

Trained in St. Emilion, our first winemaking advisor modeled Virage on the great wines of Right Bank Bordeaux.  Inspired by the supple texture and complexity of Right Bank blends, we grow Cabernet Franc and Merlot where these varieties thrive in Napa Valley.  Our primary vineyard in Northeastern Carneros, with multiple knolls and unique soils, is its own tiny valley–protected from the stiff ocean winds that ravage lower-lying Carneros, but enjoying a tempering gentle breezes flowing north off San Pablo Bay.  This special corner of Carneros provides a long ripening season, slowly layering a tapestry of flavors, maintaining acidity, and naturally keeping alcohol in balance.

Bordeaux:  The Blending Tradition

Our philosophy follows a traditional Bordeaux model.  By laws designed to protect the region’s reputation, all Bordeaux red wines are blends of (up to) five closely-related grape varieties–Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.  Planted according to site, the varietal wines are then blended to create a balanced expression of each vintage (year).  The percentage of each varietal used to create perfect balance each year is not considered important to Bordeaux producers, and usually not provided on the label.  Plantings follow the soils and climate, however, so there are typical regional patterns.

Collectors roughly divide Bordeaux by the river running through it;  on the Left Bank, to the south, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the blends, while the northern Right Bank is largely planted to Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Petrus (100% merlot) and Cheval Blanc (planted about 2/3 Cabernet Franc and 1/3 Merlot) are two prized Right Bank producers, from the sub-appellations Pomerol and St. Emilion, respectively.

Blended American Wines

Unable to use the word “Bordeaux” on a wine label to describe a Bordeaux-style blend, creative American producers began promoting and labeling individual grape varieties.  Well marketed, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape–a hardy 17th century cross of ancient Cabernet Franc and vigorous Sauvignon Blanc–has become nearly synonymous with Napa Valley, where it produces great wines in a great many sites.

With 33 different soil series (compared to 4 in all wine regions of France), plus an extraordinary range of micro-climates, we believe the Napa Valley can hardly be defined by just one Bordeaux grape variety.  Check out Napa Valley Vintners’ Napa Valley AVA Soil Series for a graphic image of the rich geologic diversity of the Napa Valley.

What cooler climate growers know:  a long, slow ripening season creates well-structured, supple wines of striking complexity–all at lower sugar (alcohol) levels.  In Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon thrives in upvalley heat, while Cabernet Franc and Merlot can achieve their full depth of character potential grown closer to tempering marine influence.

From the cooler side of Napa Valley,

8 Responses to THE BRAND

  1. Barbara Cameron says:

    Beautiful pictures! Makes me want to be there. Can’t wait to see this bottle and enjoy it’s contents!

  2. Emily says:

    Thanks Barbara! I can’t wait to have a bottle to show you. I’m meeting with the label designer tomorrow and I hope he’s feeling creative!

  3. Ron B. says:

    Issues with the website? Nothing seems to be loading. I hope signups haven’t closed already!

    Your story is fantastic. I too was bitten by Bourriquot about 10 months ago, and managed to snap up a couple of cases of 04-06 during the downfall. Thank you for taking the inspiration and running with it – I’m looking forward to the first Virage release.

  4. Emily says:

    Hi Ron!! I’m insane for the 2004 Bourriquot. Know that we hold that wine as the standard for Virage. I was not as fond of the 2006, but maybe it needs more time. You’ll love our 2007, and YES, issues with the web holding page not loading today!!!! We’re runnin’ with it alright, and sometimes we’re runnin’ a bit fast! I’ve got your email ON THE LIST; you will not be left out!

  5. Cool project, glad I stumbled onto this! As much as I like the concept of the wine, the business model is perhaps the most creative part. Usually I read about a Napa start-up and it goes as follows: spend exorbitantly on land and McChateau, hire many famous consultants, ignore these costs, Cabernet Sauvignon, cult-style. But the last thing the world needs is another $150 Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s refreshing to see a different sort of project that eschews warm to hot climate Cabernet Sauvignon (large diurnal flux is no doubt important, but how many people know northern Napa is most similar to Southern France in heat summation–and would they pay a premium for Languedoc Cabernet?) for cool-climate Cab Franc and Merlot. I wish you luck with this project! I will be much less worried about depleting my Bourriquot stash now that there is a producer to continue the legacy.

  6. Thank you for stopping by my blog! If my photos made you want to move to Atlanta, yours is making me want to move to Napa Valley! And I love our “Right Bank” connection. :) I never realized there was one in Bordeaux as well!

  7. lyssa says:

    Emily! Not sure if you have a tasting room or not – coming up today with a group of friends and would love to see you and your winery!!! Email me if you are around!!
    Lyssa

  8. jkirmsen says:

    Hey Emily, Lost my phone and thus your number. I have an empty keg here for pick up whenever you’re in the city. Wine was great, people loved it. -Jason Fat Angel

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