We like to share stories of wineries practicing outstanding land stewardship throughout the year, and you can find a bunch of those stories archived here.
But we especially like to share such stories on Earth Day, and this year, we’d like to shine the spotlight on Volker Eisele Family Estate, which is is situated in the Chiles Valley District of California’s Napa Valley.
The 400-acre estate was originally part of the Rancho Catacula land grant, given to Joseph Ballinger Chiles in 1843 by the last Mexican governor of California. The Chiles family later sold a portion of their land to Francis Sievers, a German pioneer.
In the 1870s, Sievers founded Lomita’s Vineyard and Winery on the site. The original winery building, some of the tanks, and the original press remain on the property.
During the early 1970s, Volker Eisele was a graduate student in sociology at the University of California in Berkeley. He found weekend respite from the pressures of academia in the tranquil foothills of the Napa Valley. Enlightened by the peaceful beauty, he and his family moved from their Berkeley home to plant their seeds in the breathtaking estate on which the vineyard is located. In 1974, Eisele became a scholar of grape growing.
Cloaked in frequent Pacific fog, and with elevations of 600-1,200 feet, the Chiles Valley District is one of the cooler areas of the Napa Valley, resulting in a long growing season. The valley’s perfect Cabernet Sauvignon climate enhances the development of wines with subtle flavors, full body and overall complexity.
The estate’s 60 acres of vineyards grow at elevations of 900-1,100 feet on east, west and south-facing slopes, as well as on the valley floor. Soils vary from clay-loam to shale. After purchase of the vineyard property, the Eiseles began an extensive redevelopment and restoration of both the vineyard acreage and the riparian corridors.
Presently 72% of the vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% to Merlot, 10.5% to Cabernet Franc, 3% to Semillon and 2% to Sauvignon Blanc. Seven different Cabernet clones have been incorporated to provide diversity of flavor.
Since 1974, the Eiseles have enriched the vineyard soils through use of organic farming practices. No herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers have been used.
The vineyard is certified as organic by both the California Certified Organic Farmers and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. It has been set back from the property’s creeks to substantially increase riparian vegetation. Oaks and other native tree species have been planted on the creek banks to prevent erosion.
Volker Eisele dedicated much of his life to mastering the art of sustainable organic viticulture. His passion for grape growing and land preservation serve as a beacon to others. He was past president of the Napa County Farm Bureau and the Napa Valley Grape Growers, and the recipient of several prestigious awards.
Liesel, Volker’s wife, winery partner and landscape architect, brings an entirely different dimension to the winery. She concentrates on the aesthetics of the family estate as well as the horticultural well being of plant life in Chiles Valley. Her firm has designed the landscape plans for many residential and commercial projects, including numerous wineries in the region.
Alexander Eisele grew up on the vineyard and, as a small boy, often snacked on the juicy fruit right off the vine, refining his taste buds at an early age. His choice of career was no surprise. Alexander, who is fluent in German and Spanish, obtained his degree in International Business and is well equipped to manage the challenge and complexity of a family vineyard and winery. With his business degree, foreign language skills, refined wine palate and love for the land, Alexander has committed himself to continue in his father’s footsteps by growing high-quality organic wine grapes and producing elegant estate wines.
Catherine, Alexander’s wife, is a Napa native and has been exposed to wine and vineyards since childhood. Her degree in Global Studies with an emphasis on Latin America, extensive world travel, as well as years spent working for an accounting firm in St. Helena, have prepared her well for her various roles. Catherine’s focus on sales and marketing, guest experience and palate enlightenment make her an integral part of the winery’s team.
Simon Finn and Tristan Wolf, Alexander and Catherine’s children, are the fourth generation of the Eisele family to roam the land. From wandering through the creek beds to eating fruit right off the vines, they are growing to appreciate the beauty that surrounds them and the flavors of high quality organic wine grapes — just as their late grandfather did for more than four decades.