It seems like only yesterday that we arrived at our seven-acres in the foothills of Howell Mountain in St. Helena with big dreams. The rocky hillside, ranging from 600 to 800 feet in elevation, was cleared and wide terraces were graded in preparation for planting. Our dreams have become a reality — we've just recently celebrated 25 years of grape growing in the Napa Valley.
The first fruits of our labor arrived in 1990 with a modest crop that was sold to neighboring winemakers. With an average yield of less than two tons per acre, we recognized that this was no “get rich quick” scheme. By 1991, Michael Trujillo of Karl Lawrence Cellars had discovered the unique quality of our fruit for inclusion in his new wine venture. The following year, Ann Colgin selected our vineyard as the sole source for her signature wine, and continued to purchase Herb Lamb fruit for the next 15 years.
With much encouragement, we took the leap from grape grower to wine brand in 1997 when we produced our first 50 cases of HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon to rave reviews. We chose winemaker Micheal Trujillo to help craft our wines and have been blessed with his expertise ever since. Sustainable with minimum intervention, our vineyard is farmed with respect for the land and animals who inhabit it. Herb Lamb Vineyards is certified as both Napa Green and Fish Friendly Farming. Only 200-300 cases of HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon were produced annually from the same few rows of our north-east facing hillside estate vineyard, creating vintage-distinctive wines year after year.
But, looking forward to retirement, Jennifer sold the Two Old Dogs label and leased out the Herb Lamb Vineyard grape production, and 2016 was our last year of HL Cabernet Sauvignon wine production. She still owns and lives on the property and is gratified to know that Jim Barbour Vineyard management will continue to farm the vines, while Thomas Rivers Brown will selectively choose only the best fruit for his Rivers Marie wines.
Herb Lamb Vineyards is owned by Herb's widow, Jennifer Lamb, who continues to nurture this cool-climate hillside property that consistently produces some of the finest wines in the Valley. Originally from Pasadena, with no prior agricultural background, she attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the early '70s as an Ag Science major where she raised hogs and farmed row crops. There, she met the Aggie of her dreams, Napa native Herb, who after graduation 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 Vineyards and its labels.
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 with a degree in Soil Science in 1975, he and his business partner opened the Napa Valley Ag Supply, one of the first agricultural chemical businesses in the Napa Valley. Herb's intimate knowledge of soils and growers in the area were 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 our rocky hillside parcel to plant the vineyard of his dreams. He passed away on December, 12 of 2014 (In loving memory...).
Michael Trujillo, as Director of Winemaking for Sequoia Grove, was one of the first winemakers to create a wine from the young vines at Herb Lamb Vineyards in 1991. He has been purchasing our grapes for his own labels ever since.
When Jennifer and Herb chose to create their own wines with the 1997 vintage, reflecting on Michael's knowledge of the vineyards and his expert ability to craft a notable wine, he became their first choice to create the HL Vineyards Cab and has been crafting each vintage ever since.
A personal and professional friend of Jennifer and Herb's since the 1980's, Jim Barbour, is also an outdoorsman and devoted fly fisherman. When he's not working in a vineyard, he can be found barbecuing in his backyard, relaxing in his cabin, or knee-deep in the running waters of a stream fishing.
In his 30-plus year career, he has planted and managed some of the Napa Valley's most regarded vineyards, worked with its most respected winemakers, and has been essential to the creation of some of its most well-regarded wineries. We are thrilled to now be working with Jim and Barbour Vineyards management to lead Herb Lamb Vineyards' sustainable vineyard into its next phase. It's an exciting time and we're looking forward to elevating the quality of our fruit with many of his team's excellent ideas.
The fruit for our signature HL Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and our Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon are both sourced from different sections and rows of our seven-acre hillside vineyard. Located at the base of Howell Mountain just east of St. Helena in the Napa Valley, the north-facing property offers cooling evening fog and morning breezes.
We recognized the quality of this land immediately — its rocky soil and mostly gravel loam, made up of weathered, tuffaceous rhyolite, is excellent for drainage. The steep hillside vineyard has between 20-50% slope at an elevation of 600-800 feet, making mechanization near to impossible, so it is almost entirely worked by hand. The vineyard is sustainable, with minimum intervention — it has been farmed with respect for the land and animals who inhabit it.
Originally terraced and planted in 1988 on AXR rootstock with Clone 7 bud wood, the Herb Lamb team initiated a selective replanting program about twenty years later, with the goal of continuously maintaining the long-term health of the vineyard. The entire vineyard was systematically replanted over a period of five years, keeping the original Clone 7 bud wood while pairing it with the healthier St. George rootstock.