The Vision that became Thomas Knoll

My wife, Sandy, and I fell in love with the Napa Valley early on, when a serendipitous career opportunity brought us here soon after our graduation from UC Berkeley in 1983. Having both grown up in an urban environment, we instantly knew that we wanted to settle and raise our family "among the vines." At the time, little did we know that children were not the only thing we were destined to raise in this beautiful valley.

It didn't take long before our love of the Napa Valley also extended to its world-famous wines. Our passion, specifically for Cabernet Sauvignon, soon evolved into a drive to make the very best wine possible. We had the vision; what we needed was the fruit.

In 1997, we purchased "Thomas Knoll", the 4-acre property that became our home and, eventually, our estate vineyard. The land was perfect for growing high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon - hard volcanic rock soil on a slight slope facing east. We were fortunate to find Mike Seitz, the perfect vineyard manager to help us through the process – a young, energetic person with similar passion and drive. Together, we identified the ideal clone for this growing region and, in 1997, planted our first vines. Tragically, however, Mike died in a vineyard accident soon after, but we are forever indebted to him for sharing his talent and passion with us and our wine is a testament to that.

With Mike's contacts I was able to obtain fruit from two of Napa's most highly-regarded vineyards: Morisoli Vineyard in the Rutherford Bench and Anapurna Vineyard in the Stags Leap District. Mike had also introduced me to Steve Reynolds of Reynolds Family Winery, one of Napa Valley's top winemakers and an all-around great guy. Steve agreed to assist me with Thomas Knoll, the name my family and I had chosen for our family brand.

In 2003, five years after we planted our vines, we began to take the wine from vineyard to bottle with the help of Steve and our three children. The fruit was allowed to stay on the vine as long as possible, and was picked at exactly the right brix. After hand-sorting, the crushed fruit was cold-soaked with dry ice before fermentation for 3 5 days to extract as much color and character from the skins as possible. Initially, some juice went to tank and some to bin but, last year, we started fermenting directly in our new French oak barrels.

By fermenting each lot separately with specially selected yeasts, we could then selectively blend to create the perfect complexity. After pressing the individual lots, we transferred the wine to 50% neutral and 50% new French oak Marchieve barrels produced with a medium toast. Care was taken during the 18-months of barrel aging to avoid contaminating or "bruising" the wine. We then racked into tanks with pressured lines of nitrogen carefully and slowly, never using large volume pumps.

Steve lent his expertise and palette to creating our final blend. In 2003, our estate fruit comprised 60% of the total blend, with the rest coming from the Morisoli and Anapurna vineyards.

This wine is complex with hints of chocolate and chili from the Thomas Knoll vineyard and Bing cherry subtleties from the Stags Leap fruit. We invite you to enjoy the love and passion that my family has put into crafting this wine!

Thomas Knoll is a place. It is also a point of view— that a wine made with the best grapes and the best practices can express both the land it was born in and the individuals who craft it.

—Sean Thomas, Winemaker


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"This wine is complex with hints of chocolate and chili from the Thomas Knoll vineyard and Bing cherry subtleties from the Stags Leap fruit."