It seems like only yesterday that we arrived at our seven-acres in the foothills of Howell Mountain in St. Helena with big dreams.
In 1987, Jennifer and Herb Lamb purchased a 7 acre rocky hillside, ranging from 600 to 800 feet in elevation, with a slope of 20-50%, just below the Howell Mountain designation. They cleared it of trees and rocks and graded wide terraces in preparation for planting the King of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon. Their dreams became a reality with the first fruits of their labor in 1991, giving a modest crop that was sold to neighboring winemakers. With an average yield of less than two tons per acre, they recognized that this was no “get rich quick” scheme, and neither one quit their day job. Winemaker Michael Trujillo chose the unique quality of the fruit for inclusion in his new wine venture, and by 1992 Ann Colgin and her winemaker Helen Turley selected the vineyard fruit as the sole source for her signature wine, Colgin Cellars, continuing to purchase Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon grapes for the next 15 years.
With much encouragement, Jennifer and Herb took the leap from grape grower to wine brand in 1997 and produced their first 50 cases of HL Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to rave reviews. Farmed sustainably with minimum intervention, the vineyard was cultivated with respect for the land and animals who inhabit it and is still certified with Fish Friendly Farming. Only 200-300 cases of HL Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon were produced annually from the same few rows of the north-east facing hillside estate vineyard, creating vintage-distinctive wines year after year. Also from the vineyard, a Two Old Dogs brand Cabernet Sauvignon was established in 2008, followed by a Sauvignon Blanc and later a Rose.
Tragically, Herb passed away in 2014, and Jennifer continued to manage production of the vineyard and wines as well as the distribution and marketing of the HL Vineyard and Two Old Dogs wines.
But, looking forward to retirement, in 2018 Jennifer sold the Two Old Dogs label and leased out the Herb Lamb Vineyard grape production, making 2016 her last year of HL Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Two Old Dogs wine production. She entered into a long-term lease of the vineyard with noted winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown who added Herb Lamb Vineyard to his exceptional vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon from Rivers Marie wines.
Jennifer has been through a lot of changes since then, and is not only determined, but resilient. In 2020, the Glass Fire swept through the upper Napa Valley, taking her home, wine cellar, barns, equipment and vineyard.
In the middle of Covid, with no home and no income, she was determined to get the burned vineyard removed, completely renovate the electrical, plumbing, fencing, irrigation and hillside terraces, and fully replant an organic and regenerative vineyard. All this amazingly happened in less than 6 months. She also added over 1,000 native pollinator and hedgerow plants to replace the tragic loss of the complete hillside to fire.
With the start of 2024, Thomas Rivers Brown is thrilled to extend his lease of the vineyard for the next 10 years. Finally, the vineyard is once again producing an exceptional crop of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and offers a great future for everyone involved!
Herb Lamb Vineyard is owned by Herb’s widow, Jennifer Lamb, who has completely replanted the vineyard after the devastating Glass Fire of 2020. Originally from Pasadena, she attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the early ’70s as an Ag Science major. There, she met Napa native Herb, who, after graduation with a degree in Soil Science, took her home to his sleepy community of Napa Valley to start a life together in agriculture. They quickly established jobs in the growing wine industry, gaining valuable connections and knowledge.
Jennifer began forging relationships with the Valley’s wineries and vineyards through her own tour business, Wine Country Tours, in the early ’80s. She then expanded into the Hospitality, Public Relations, and Marketing arms of the industry, where she stayed for more than 20 years. In 2002, she left the corporate wine world to focus her energies and passion on Herb Lamb Vineyard and its wine production and marketing.
Herb spent his youth in the Napa Valley, working in the hay fields, walnut and prune orchards, a fruit dehydrating plant, and even a local feed store. After graduating Cal Poly 1975 with a degree in Soil Science, he and his business partners opened the Napa Valley Ag Supply, one of the first agricultural chemical businesses in the Napa Valley. Herb’s intimate knowledge of the valley, its soils and growers in the area was unmatched. In his 35 years of work, he knew every gate code in the valley and became acquainted with nearly every vineyard manager, winery owner, and ranch dog. His experience with many of the finest vineyards in the Valley led him to choose the rocky hillside parcel in 1989 to plant the vineyard of his dreams. He passed away on December, 12, 2014 (In loving memory…).