Continuity of Quality: Herb Lamb Vineyards
Herb and Jennifer Lamb never intended to be winemakers. When they purchased their tiny 7.5-acre Napa property in 1987, their goal was simply to farm and sell the 5-acres of Cabernet Sauvignon they had planted. And for ten years, that they did exceedingly well, providing their sought-after grapes to vintner Ann Colgin, whose Herb Lamb Vineyard bottlings sell for up to $400 per bottle at auction.
It was 1997 when Herb and Jennifer decided to capture their vineyard magic in a premium Cabernet Sauvignon under their own label, Herb Lamb Vineyards – the grapes of which were and are currently sourced from what Jennifer calls the vineyard’s, ‘sweet spot’ – 13 northeast facing rows that gather sunlight a bit longer than other vineyard blocks, resulting in more fully ripened grapes with great consistency. Only 300 cases of HL Cabernet Sauvignon are produced each vintage. The winemaker? Michael Trujillo, who once sourced grapes from the Herb Lamb Vineyard for his own Karl Lawrence label.
“We really did just want to be farmers when we first purchased this land,” said Jennifer, who, after Herb’s death in 2014, continues to maintain the property, the label, and the iconic mystique of her prime terroir, located in the foothills of Howell Mountain at 800 feet elevation. She calls the area ‘no man’s land’ as its boundaries are not defined by a particular AVA. “Herb and I were just lucky enough to own a piece of land in this beautiful valley, and then, recognizing how bountiful the viticultural aspects were, we became vintners. And then it got into our blood – the joy of working the vineyards, working with wineries, and sharing our wines with the public. The pride of ownership in something personally created from the ground up is tremendous.”
The high-caliber continuity of the Herb Lamb Vineyard and the quality of its fruit is unquestioned, as evidenced by celebrated vintner Thomas Rivers Brown’s current patronage; he sources Herb Lamb Vineyard grapes for his Rivers Marie wines. But despite her desire to share the vineyard wealth, the majority of Jennifer’s grapes are now reserved for her HL label and companion label Two Old Dogs, the small quantities of which are sold primarily to fans who comprise the winery’s mailing list of 1000. Jennifer spends a fair amount of time traveling the country and sharing the HL name via private events. A St. Helena tasting room is open by appointment only, where, if timed right, lucky guests might enjoy HL library tastings. Jennifer recently delved into her stash. “I’ve got tiny amounts of wines dating to 2008.
These bits and pieces are wonderful historical indicators of our vineyard’s capabilities. It’s more than I could ever drink,” she said with a laugh. “So, I’ve decided to share it.”
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Herb Lamb Vineyards