Larkmead’s vineyard is bordered by Selby Creek and the Napa River at the conjunction point of two colluvial fans that extend from the Mayacamas and the Vaca mountain ranges. The main difference between this site and others bordering Napa waterways is that most of the finer material has been "washed out" and carried down the valley. The result is that nearly 300 feet of ancient riverbed gravel lies directly beneath the topsoil. This well-draining environment provides the valley floor location of Larkmead with a rare character typically found in hillside vineyards.
“Our farming practice utilizes a ‘systems’ approach, meaning that we treat the vineyard as a single component of the larger surrounding ecosystem.”
-Nabor Camarena, Vineyard Manager
These soils are naturally limited in vigor and, when combined with targeted yields, create wines that are uniquely expressive.
The mornings at Larkmead receive a thin, rolling fog that comes to us via the Chalk Hill Gap in Knights Valley. Afternoon temperatures tend to be the warmest in valley, and the evenings cool down drastically, making for somewhat extreme diurnal shifts.
The vineyard parcels total 110 acres and are under the masterful care of vineyard manager Nabor Camarena and consulting viticulturist Kelly Maher. Their shared passion and philosophy of balanced, holistic farming have allowed the diverse estate to perform to its true potential.
THE VINEYARD TEAM
Vineyard Manager Nabor Camarena: Nabor Camarena was born and raised in the small town of Arroyo Seco, located in Jalisco, Mexico. Growing up in a farming family which focused on row-cropping, Nabor expressed an interest in agriculture from an early age. After graduating from high school, he followed the example of an older brother and headed north to Napa Valley.
In the vineyard, Nabor gained skills rapidly and began to take on more critical roles, rising first to foreman and then to vineyard manager. He now possesses a vast knowledge of grape growing and has worked for quality sites such as Hyde Vineyards and The Donum Estate in Carneros. He has been a great addition to the team and brings a critical level of detail to the vineyards of Larkmead.
“Larkmead is fortunate to have one of the most diverse soil profiles in all of Napa Valley. As caretakers of this historic vineyard site it is in our best interest to approach our farming practices with an emphasis on soil health in order to extract the true expression of each area of the estate.”
– Kelly Maher
Viticulturist Kelly Maher: Kelly Maher is a second generation vintner and was raised in St. Helena, California. He started working in the vineyards and wineries at a very young age and went on to study both viticulture and horticulture at Fresno State. Following graduation, Kelly pursued graduate studies in viticulture and plant physiology at U.C. Davis.
After school, Kelly served as Director of Vineyard Operations for the Clos Du Val Wine Company and then went on to become Director of Vineyard Operations for Domaine Chandon. He launched his own consulting business in 2002 and has worked with clients in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, France, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. Kelly brings a range of experiences to Larkmead and is a specialist in clone/rootstock interactions, a vital skill due to the diversity of the soils and varieties at Larkmead.
You don’t often find a contiguous 110-acre vineyard in Napa Valley with so much diversity. From the seven soil profiles to the topography and the presence of colluvial fans, Larkmead is a rare site. Over time, the knowledge of the vineyard has deepened, and the winemaking and viticultural teams have come to realize that Larkmead isn’t so much a single site as multiple terroirs that each lend to the production of a distinct wine.
“Positioned in the narrowest part of the valley, our soils and terroir are heavily influenced by the junction of the Mayacamas and the Vaca Range and the intersection from the Napa River. The convergence of these colluvial and alluvial fans provides an incredible amount of diversity that allows us the ability to make wines as nuanced and complex as the land they are sourced from.”
-Avery Heelan, Winemaker
|Cabernet Sauvignon||69.4 acres||63.0%|
|Sauvignon Blanc||12.4 acres||11.3%|
|Cabernet Franc||8.0 acres||7.3%|
|Petit Verdot||5.6 acres||5.1%|
|Tocai Friulano||1.1 acres||1.0%|
A Block: A Block represents the heart of Larkmead’s wine program and the pinnacle of their Cabernet Sauvignon production. It contains the rarest of the soil profiles (Cortina gravel) and also sits at the highest point on the property. Without question this is a choice parcel of Cabernet Sauvignon and the wines tend to offer a bright, high-toned, "hillside" aromatic profile, bright acidity, and cutting tannins. The nose typically displays the signature Larkmead aromas of cassis, menthol, dried herbs, black tea, and cedar with subtle amounts of graphite and licorice.
B Block: B block is home to the Larkmead winery and the place where guests are welcome. Surrounding the winery on three sides, B Block is Merlot dominant with smaller amounts of Sauvignon Blanc. Its loam based soil produces broad and dense wines that maintain vibrant acidity. It is also one of the lowest yielding parts of the site, and therefore produces wines of great intensity and expression, but of limited quantity.
C Block: Across the road and over the river, Larkmead's C block grows six of the seven grape varieties planted on the vineyard. Framed by the river woodland on two sides, this block emits a peaceful air. It features both the most fertile soils and the coolest average temperatures, and the resulting wines tend to display a broad, mouth-filling texture, soft sweet fruit, and elegant tannins. The flagship wine of the C Block is the LMV Salon, which in recent vintages has been the most transparent wine in the portfolio.
Sustainability is an important concept at Larkmead. Since opening the winery doors in 2005, there has been a conscientious approach to both the interior spaces and the external environment. It is paramount for Larkmead not only to respect the land and the community, but also the future.
1 Surveying the restoration of Selby Creek.
2 We use a cover crop of red clover, vetch, fava beans, mustard and wild radish.
3 Our rooftop solar panel array provides more energy than the winery requires.
4 Flame weeding in the vineyard, an organic method of weed abatement.
5 Honeybees in the C Block provide biodiversity and delicious wildflower honey.
These efforts and more were commended when the Napa Valley Department of Environmental Management and the Association of Bay Area Government's Green Business program dubbed Larkmead in 2011 a "Napa Green Certified Winery” and in 2017 the vineyard received “Napa Green Land” certification.
In addition to the “Napa Green” certification, Larkmead works with Ann Baker, daughter of Cam and Kate Solari Baker, on planting native species throughout the estate. Ann holds a masters degree in landscape architecture from UC Berkeley. Within the past ten years, the estate has seen the population of common pollinators (bees, butterflies and hummingbirds) grow exponentially. In addition, Ann has been instrumental in the restoration of Selby Creek, a seasonal waterway that borders the estate. For the first time in memory, steelhead have returned to the creek to spawn in the newly-reinforced eddies and pools.