Evolution and Consistency: The Story of Bryant Family Vineyards
Nestled atop Napa's prestigious Pritchard Hill, Bryant Family is an iconic producer renowned for its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. Since its first vintage release in 1992, this small-yet-exquisite winery has achieved rapid success, becoming highly sought after by wine enthusiasts. Founder Don Bryant acquired the 13-acre vineyard, enlisting the expertise of acclaimed winemaker Helen Turley and vineyard manager David Abreu to lead everything from grape to bottle. The all-star duo of Turley and Abreu set the stage for an extraordinary entrance. Dive into the charm of one of Napa's original cult wineries.
From Hobby to Profession
Founded in 1985 by Don Bryant, Bryant Family Vineyards began as a 13-acre parcel on Pritchard Hill, overlooking Lake Hennessey.Initially meant to be a home and a wine-producing hobby,Don quickly recognized the vineyard's true potential and fully committed to producing the best wine possible, leading to immense success. Today, Bryant Family Vineyards is celebrated as one of California's esteemed "Grand Cru" sites.
A Journey Forward
Don's journey to success saw a turning point when he enlisted the expertise of renowned winemaker Helen Turley. Her influence propelled Bryant Family Vineyard to the national stage, receiving impressive scores between 1994 and 1996, culminating in a monumental 100-point score in 1997, cementing its cult wine status. However, after the 2002 vintage, Helen Turley and Don went their separate ways when a lawsuit was filed between Turley and Bryant Family Vineyards.
Following Turley's departure, Don brought in the renowned French consultant Michel Rolland to work alongside tenured vineyard manager David Abreu, marking a new era for Bryant Family Vineyards. Over time, the winery collaborated with various talented winemakers, including Philippe Melka, Ross Wallace, Mark Aubert, Helen Keplinger, Todd Alexander, and Marc Gagnon. Today, the winemaker is spearheaded by the young and up-and-coming Kathryn Carothers, who has been the head winemaker since 2018. Despite changes in winemakers, the all-star tandem of David Abreu and Michel Rolland has remained, and the wines have retained their remarkable consistency, a testament to the Pritchard Hill vineyard and its "Grand Cru" status.
The Shining Star
The estate's "Grand Cru" vineyard, which produces Bryant Family Vineyards' flagship wine, has undergone strategic changes over the years to optimize ripeness. Resting on the slopes of Pritchard Hill, the vineyard was originally designed for the ease of farming. On the advice of David Abreu, the Bryant Family team began replanting the vineyard between 1996 and 2006, enhancing the grapes' potential with volcanic soils and cooling breezes from Lake Hennessey, protecting the vines from hot canyon winds.
The Bryant Family estate vineyard is planted with 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. The high elevation, 800-2000 feet above sea level, and the volcanic clay loam soils are the key to the aromatic, rich, and classic characteristics of a Pritchard Hill wine. Many wine experts can even determine which wines are grown in the iconic region based on their unique characteristics.
This vineyard produces wines with extremely high aging potential, putting vintages from the 90s and early 2000s at the perfect stage for drinking, and the younger bottles perfect for collecting. The low production and high demand for these iconic bottles make them a rare find.
Art of Vinification
The grapes are handled with meticulous care and undergo a rigorous selection process that includes only the best grapes from their estate vineyard into their flagship wine. The remaining grapes are bottled into their "DB4" label. They also make a wine named after Don Bryant's wife, Bettina, using grapes from some of David Abreu's top vineyards, which Don says rival that of his own vineyard. The vinification at the Bryant estate is done with the utmost attention to detail, using a collection of state-of-the-art temperature-controlled vats that coincide with specific parcels, allowing the winemaking team to vinify on a parcel-by-parcel basis.
Even with the winemaking team's meticulous care in the winery, it's the vineyard that truly shines the brightest at Bryant Family Vineyards. Don Bryant attributes a great deal of the winery's success to David Abreu, who has overseen the vineyard for well over two decades. He also gives kudos to the great Michel Rolland, whose knowledge and expertise have helped a carousel of winemakers maximize the vineyard's potential. When you put it all together, you get one of the greatest wines in Napa Valley.
Cult Icon Atop Pritchard Hill
Over the years, prominent critics have continued to sing praises for Bryant Family Vineyards, and the wines have backed up their claims. They showcase an intensity of flavor, power, and texture built on the backbone of one of California's great "Grand Cru" vineyards. Whether you're a savvy collector or a young connoisseur, there's never a bad time to add a bottle of Bryant Family Vineyard's estate Cabernet Sauvignon to your cellar. We suggest bringing home a half dozen (or more!) to enjoy over the coming years. Happy drinking!