After leaving the US Marine Corps in 1964, Dick Grace became a stockbroker in San Francisco while he and his wife, Ann, raised Kirk, Mark and Kim in the suburban comfort of Orinda. By the mid-seventies, when the children were teenagers, the idea of moving to the country was holding some allure, and a rundown Victorian that was just out of their price range became both their challenge and their haven. In today’s world full of boutique wineries it is hard to believe that the Napa Valley of 1976 really ever existed. At the time, it was just another agricultural region where prunes and walnuts were as viable a crop as grapes, and pig farms dotted the landscape.
Planted with cuttings from the famous Bosché vineyard not far away, Grace Family vineyards started out as a family hobby. The first harvest was picked by family and friends in 1978 and taken to nearby Caymus Winery in the back of a station wagon. Charlie Wagner, the late Caymus patriarch, tasted a bunch of those first 1978 grapes and exclaimed, “You know, Dick, this is damned fine fruit!” And so one of the Napa Valley’s first vineyard designated wines came to be produced.
Grace Family Vineyards was on its way.
With interest in California wines blossoming, Grace Family Vineyards quickly became the first “cult” wine, which was just as much a surprise to Dick and Ann as to anyone else. That said, let’s not forget that Dick’s military experience, enhanced by a perfectionist attitude, ensured that no corners were cut. Even if this was to be just a hobby, it had to be done right.
It was most fortuitous and serendipitous that the family had settled upon a micro-climate and soil eminently suitable to making stellar Cabernet.
dICK & aNN gRACE, fOUNDERS
Some 43 years Dick and Ann Grace first arrived with their young family first arrived in the Napa Valley. They fell in love with the property that is now Grace Family Vineyards Estate and without hesitation purchased this iconic land. In 1976 they planted our original one acre vineyard. Their first vintage was in 1978. From these serendipitous beginnings came Grace Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Their wines were renowned for their refined elegance, complexity, and balance, but perhaps more importantly their ethos of philanthropy and doing good was instilled from day one. With a key focus on quality the production has always been limited, but despite this a significant proportion of the annual production has been donated to charity auctions around the world.
hELEN KEPLINGER, wINEMAKER
Helen Keplinger was appointed winemaker at Grace Family Vineyards in August 2014. She was a natural choice as her philosophy of making classically structured wines that reflect their origin aligns with the Grace family tenets. Helen will direct the production of the Grace Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and Blank Cabernet Sauvignon. She will also steward the winemaking for Lynn and Kirk Grace’s project, Wise Acre Vineyard and collaborate with vineyard manager Kirk Grace in the ongoing organic viticultural protocols for the three acres of estate vineyard that are planted entirely to the Bosché clone of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Named “Winemaker of the Year” by Food and Wine magazine in 2012, Helen is one of very few American winemakers who have worked extensively in Europe. She spent three years in the Priorat region of Spain at Cellers Melis before making Napa Valley her home, where she has worked with several wineries, including Bryant Family Vineyard, Arrow & Branch and Kenzo Estate. She and her husband, D.J. Warner, also have their own brand, Keplinger Wines, which emphasizes single vineyard Rhone variety wines. Helen holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from Smith College and a Master of Science Degree in Enology from the University of California, Davis.
2016 Grace Family Estate
Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Drinking Window 2022-2045
250 Cases Produced
OMG. Blackberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, licorice, and spearmint. Mint, too. Full-bodied, so tight and poised with super tightness and focus. Phenomenal depth and composure. This shows real Napa character that harkens back to the Heitz Martha’s 1968. Benchmark to consider. Better after 2023. 100 Points.
James Suckling, May 2019
Even better from bottle than it was from barrel, the Grace 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is a real head-turner. While so many 2015s are flashy, the Grace is powerful, structured and inward, all qualities that will serve it well during what is likely to be a very long life in the cellar. Beams of tannin and bright acids give the wine a level of tension and translucent energy that is exceedingly rare in this vintage. Low yields seem to have concentrated both the fruit and structural elements, resulting in a brilliant, towering wine loaded with personality and class. Winemaker Helen Keplinger is doing magnificent work in bringing Grace back to the top in Napa Valley. This is a tremendous showing from Keplinger and proprietor Dick Grace. Don’t miss it!—Antonio Galloni at Vinuos. Tasting date: December 2017
2015 Blank vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Drinking Window 2020-2035
280 Cases Produced
Blank’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford) is a very beautiful and idiosyncratic wine. Inky, intensely aromatic and highly nuanced, the 2015 has a lot to say. Raspberry jam, kirsch, mint, rose petal and the eucalyptus notes that are so typical of this wine are all finely knit in this subtle, understated Cabernet Sauvignon. The bright, red fruit profile and distinctive savory notes give this mid-weight Cabernet Sauvignon lovely freshness. Silky tannins add to the wine’s gracious, polished personality. The Blank Cabernet Sauvignon emerges from a tiny property in Rutherford planted with Grace clone Cabernet that originated in the famed Bosché Vineyard. Helen Keplinger continues to do terrific work in coaxing every drop of potential out of this site.—Antonio Galloni at Vinuos. Tasting date: December 2017
Fall 2019 Blank Vineyard 2016
Spring 2020 Grace Estate 2017