Living the Dream

Back when John Raudabaugh was growing up in New Orleans, he wouldn’t have dreamed that one day he’d own a boutique winery in the Napa Valley. But that’s exactly what John and his wife Joyce are doing with 12C Wines, their Cabernet Sauvignon series from Rutherford’s exclusive Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard. A pragmatic and plain-spoken man, Raudabaugh says it came down to friends and good luck.

“We’ve had a lot of good friends in the Napa Valley,” says John during a phone interview from his home in Idaho. “Between having Mike Smith as a winemaker, Beckstoffer fruit and getting ranked in the Wine Spectator several different times, those things are beyond my dreams.”

Like many others, the Raudabaughs became fascinated with the CBS drama Falcon Crest, so they visited the Spring Mountain mansion in St. Helena.

Later,  when  the   winery was for sale, “we toyed with the idea of buying it,” John says. But their young family came first.

In 2006 at a Spring Mountain Vineyard relaunch party, John and Joyce met marketing executive Leah Smith and her winemaker husband Mike Smith of Myriad Cellars. The couples became friends and decided to launch a wine brand. A brainstorming session over margaritas at Ana’s Cantina in St. Helena led to brand name 12C– the door number of a condo the Raudabaughs once owned in Hawaii. When Leah realized that 12 Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit) is the ideal temperature for storing red wine, John and Joyce were sold.

They launched 12C in 2007, a stellar year for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. British wine journalist Jancis Robinson called 2007 wines “elegant and balanced.” The Wine Spectator magazine rated 2007 a near-perfect year, scoring it 99 points out of 100.

Tucked away at the bottom of the Rutherford bowl, the Georges III Vineyard is one of Napa Valley’s unofficial grand cru sites, along with To Kalon, Las Piedras, and Dr. Crane. Georges de la Tour, the founder of Beaulieu Vineyard,  dubbed the site Vineyard No. 3 when he bought it in the 1920s. Napa  Valley  winemaking legend André Tchelistcheff crafted award-winning wines from Georges III in the 1960s and 70s. Luckily, Raudabaugh approached Andy Beckstoffer for Georges III fruit in 2006, just before the vineyard became popular again. Smith, who has earned many 100-point scores, uses 100% Cabernet Sauvignon for 12C. “Beckstoffer Georges III grows the most amazing Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Smith. “I don’t need to blend with it. It’s a stand-alone Cabernet Sauvignon terroir.” The wine reflects the Rutherford Dust character, which John describes as “uniqueness in terms of smokiness and … an anise taste.” Many Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons– especially ones from lauded vine- yards–cost $200 or more a bottle. But John didn’t want to go that route, stating “We want it to be tasted and enjoyed.”  The Cabernet Sauvignon is $99 a bottle, while the   Reserve   Cab is $125. Both pair with everything  from a New York steak or juicy burger to bitter- sweet chocolate.

There’s a high demand for the 200 to 300 cases they bottle each year, but Raudabaugh is happy with his boutique label. He proclaims,

“Our goal is not to be big; it’s to have a quality offering.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION // 208-250-6040

NOTE: 12C Wines will be changing proprietorship in late Spring 2020. The brand and wine portfolio

will remain the same and Mike Smith will continue in his role as winemaker.


Article By: Marica C. Hunt