Peter Michael Winery: The Crown Jewel of Knights Valley
In the heart of California's wine country, nestled on the border of Napa and Sonoma counties in the Knights Valley AVA, you'll discover a winery that has captured the essence of paradise in a bottle. Peter Michael Winery, established in 1982 by the visionary Peter Michael and his wife, Margaret, is a name known among the ranks of excellence in the world of fine wine. Their exceptional wines, particularly the Au Paradis series, have garnered acclaim from critics and wine enthusiasts alike. Let’s dive into the inspiring story of the devotion behind these heavenly wines.
The Au Paradis vineyard is located in the prestigious Oakville American Viticultural Area (AVA) within the Napa Valley. Oakville is renowned for its ideal grape-growing conditions, and it is home to some of Napa Valley's most celebrated wineries. The Cabernet Franc from this area grows right next to the famous Maya wine of Dalla Valle. The combination of climate, soil, and exposure in this region creates an environment conducive to producing exceptional wines.
One of the most distinctive features of the Au Paradis vineyard is its soil. The terroir is characterized by "rocky red Boomer loam," a soil type that has weathered from volcanic rock, clay, silt, and sand. This soil imparts a distinct mineral quality to the grapes and adds to the depth and complexity of the wines. Great wines are born from great soils, and Au Paradis exemplifies this.
Sir Peter Michael - From Tech Entrepreneur to Winemaker
Peter Michael's journey to becoming a revered vintner is nothing short of remarkable. With a background in technology and the founding of the digital picture company Quantel in the UK, he arrived in California during the early days of the Silicon Valley tech boom. While it was a world apart from his tech ventures, he soon found himself drawn to the world of winemaking.
Sir Peter's education and early fascination with wine began alongside his father in the vineyards of Bordeaux and Burgundy. However, it was during a performance by Peggy Lee at the Fairmont Hotel in California that the seeds of inspiration for Peter Michael Winery were sown.
On that evening in San Francisco, Sir Peter and his colleagues shared a Chardonnay that would later make history in the Judgment of Paris competition, surpassing the finest wines of France. This transformative experience not only reshaped his European perspective on exceptional wines but also kindled a burning passion within him to craft terroir-driven wines of unparalleled quality, as rich and unique as the California soil itself.
In 1982, Peter and his wife Margaret embarked on their vinous adventure. Their journey commenced with the purchase of a stunning property in the Knights Valley AVA, perched at a lofty elevation of up to 2,000 feet above sea level. This higher altitude creates cooler growing temperatures, which yield wines with an elegant old-world style. Their winery released its first vintage in 1987, marking the beginning of a remarkable legacy.
“When I looked at the creek, looked at the mountain, listened to the noise of the birds, I thought this is the most extraordinary place on earth. But I couldn’t have imagined just how well it would work and how lucky I was to have found it.” – P.M.
Peter Michael Winery is a family-owned estate and is now run by Peter's son, Paul, and his wife, Emily. Their dedication to preserving the winery's heritage and commitment to producing world-class wines has been unwavering.
Robert Fiore, the winemaker, brings a wealth of experience and a deep connection to the land. After fostering his knowledge in France and smaller Napa wineries, he spent three years working with Tim Mondavi as part of the small winemaking team creating Continuum Estate wines in 2016. His geological background and passion for terroir-driven winemaking make him a perfect fit for the Peter Michael team.
Au Paradis – Heavenly Wines
One of the crown jewels of Peter Michael Winery is the Au Paradis series. The name, meaning "In Paradise" or "In Heaven" in French, aptly describes the experience of tasting these wines:
JS99 “Stunning really. Give it time, if you can keep your hands off it.” 2019 vintage Au Paradis
JD99 “The 2016 Au Paradis is borderline perfection in a glass and shows the incredible quality both of this estate and the vintage. .. this full-bodied, structured, concentrated effort that reminds me of a First Growth Pauillac.” 2016 vintage Au Paradis
JS99 “Classic texture. So fabulous to taste now but will age beautifully for decades to come.” 2013 vintage Au Paradis
Exceeding Critical Acclaim
Notably, three of Peter Michael's wines have ranked in the top 10 of Wine Spectator's Top 100 list, and since the 1995 vintage, an impressive 14 wines have received ratings of 98 points or higher from the renowned wine critic Robert Parker. But the excellence of Peter Michael wines has extended beyond the wine world. Peter Michael Chardonnay, in particular, was served at the White House in 1991 during a dinner honoring Nelson Mandela. This was just the beginning, as their wines graced White House dinners on several other occasions, including a notable one in 1997 honoring Queen Elizabeth.
Pursuit of Excellence
Peter Michael Winery, with its extraordinary journey from the tech world to the terroir, embodies the pursuit of excellence and a deep appreciation for the California land. The Au Paradis series, with its exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon, showcases the fusion of tradition and innovation, resulting in wines that are truly heavenly. Whether you are a wine connoisseur or a casual enthusiast, Peter Michael's Au Paradis Wines offer a taste of paradise that is sure to leave a lasting impression.