Vineyards. This beautiful 61 acre property is located just west of the Silverado Trail in Oakville. The property is the same size as when John (1902-1990) and Joan (1908-2001) bought Tench in 1965, the same year John retired as Shell Oil executive. He was born and raised in the United Kingdom in the small village of Bromfield (known as the place where the first Hereford cattle were raised in 1802).
Nevertheless, the agricultural influence of real estate has certainly changed over the years. When John and Joan owned the property, it was known as Bromfield Farm – there was even an inscription on the Silverado Trail indicating this (the family still has this old inscription). At that time, plums, pears, nectarines and walnuts were planted. To celebrate their farm heritage in the United Kingdom, they also raised some Hereford cattle locally. John planted the first grapes on this site at the end of the sixties.
John and Joan’s youngest son, Brian, married Adair from Napa Valley – the couple eventually took over ownership and continued to sell grapes. The first vineyard referred to as Tench was produced by Niebaum-Coppola (Inglenook Winery) in the 1980s.
Today Brian and Adair’s daughter Margaret Tench and her husband Rem Reigersman live on the estate and supervise the vineyard. They met in 1997 while both were studying at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. In 2017 they founded Tench Vineyards with their first harvest. And in 2016/2017 they built a state-of-the-art wine cellar and caves on the site – both for their own wines and for a small group of other top manufacturers.
Margaret’s rich heritage is deeply rooted in Oakville with Tench Vineyards (John and Joan were her paternal grandparents), but even deeper in California with her mother’s parents in 1848 in the Napa Valley. One of their ancestors, John McCracken, his wife Rebecca and their three children travelled through the United States in a covered wagon in 1846. On their journey they joined a group of Donner’s who were stranded by the early snowfall in the Sierra Nevada. However, the McCrackens were part of another team that chose a different route and arrived safely at Sutter Fort in the autumn of 1846.
A year later, the family moved to Sonoma – gold was discovered there in 1848 by James Marshall – and because they were already living in California, they started the national and international gold rush – again to the Feather River to search for gold. After a successful return to Sonoma, they bought a number of plots – one of which John eventually sold to General Vallejo, who became part of the Vallejo Lahrima Montis estate.
Other family members owned and operated the Napa Journal (the first issue of the Napa Journal was published on 16 May 1890).
Soils change dramatically from east to west, with red stony ferruginous soils characteristic of the oak slopes in the east and Pritchard Hill above, and alluvial and clayey soils in the west. As you walk through the rows of vines, the dividing line between these two remarkably different types of soil is fairly easy to see. This is the most important part of Oakville – its immediate neighbours are Screaming Eagle, Gargiulo Vineyards and Harbison.
Winemaker Russell Bevan has been producing tench wine since the beginning. When Ram and Margaret were living in New York, Ram noted a short article about the sale of Cal and Dorothy Shawkett’s property east of Oakville Hill to Peter Michael by Peter Michael Wines; this was in 2009. A paragraph at the end of the article drew his attention; it stated that winemaker Russell Bevan, by selling this vineyard, would no longer have access to the grapes and had already contacted some of the vineyard’s neighbours. Brake called Russell shortly after reading the article, and the two men finally met and walked onto the field together. It only took one visit to Russell, and he was addicted – before he became a winemaker at Tench Vineyards, he started buying grapes from the site for his own brand, Bevan Cellars.
Tench Vineyards owns one of the few sauvignon blanc plantations in Eastern Oakville – only about one hectare of the variety in the lower part of their property – planted in two clones, Clone 1 and Musk. The yield was finally low – despite the small block, 2019 was harvested twice, fully fermented in stainless steel, and then the two clones were mixed. Normally only about 50 boxes are produced. 2019 Sauvignon Blanc medium yellow Tench Vineyards, offers a wide range of attractive aromas, including honeysuckle, pineapple, lemon / lime zest, a very subtle hint of cut grass – as it opens more, the flavors become more tropical. Balanced by a round viscosity, the wine has citrus aromas and a remarkable brilliance in the aftertaste.
This wine has the varietal elements of the Sauvignon Blanc, but also contains space and plenty of sunshine in this part of the valley. Or more simply, as Margaret claims, it’s our sunshine in a glass of wine.
The 2018 Tench Bromfield Vineyards is a mix of Merlot; a dark ruby in the glass with lively blackberry and boysenberry aromas, complemented with dark chocolate and grahamcracker nuts. There’s a lot of aromatic depth here. On the palate, the wine impresses with its balance and unusual depth. It lingers on the brightness of the young fruits and their acidity, with tannins that are still a bit tight (but with a rather fine texture). Stay focused on black fruit and dark herbs, including white pepper. In any case, a remarkable wine.
It should be noted that the Merlot of this site is exceptional.
Their Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is located in the most rocky part of the vineyard, in the southeastern part of their property, next to the Silverado Trail. The stones here are treated with respect – they are never removed from the vineyard, but stacked under the vines. Aries calls this block his sidewalk. You can understand why he talks about it – as soon as he walks through the vineyards.
2018 Tench Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon (with 12% Petit Verdot) dark purple in the glass; has aromas of rose petals, dust and dried stones, a sweetness of blackberries and some dried herbs. Becomes slightly spicy as the wine continues to breathe. On the palate, the flavours of raspberry, black cherry and blackberry are clearly present. It shows brilliance, richness and a delicate balance in the mouth at the same time. Full in the mouth with pleasant, well-integrated tannins. However, it offers a sticky texture that does not appear dry, astringent or running. It’s a good wine that deserves to be sought.
Tench Vineyards continues to sell the majority of its grapes to a very select group of producers who typically produce Tench Vineyards wines. Tench Winery’s production at the time of this overhaul is only about 500 cases per year. The wines are sold directly through the members’ mailing list. Visits by appointment for serious wine lovers and collectors. For more information, please visit: www.tenchvineyards.com.
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