When Karen Crouse first set eyes upon the Mount Veeder land she now calls home, her reaction was, “A shambles, a disaster. I could see no beauty and certainly no revenue.” That was in 2007. Fortunately, her husband Greg could envision the vine- yard it would become, so with fingers and toes crossed, they went ahead.
Perhaps a bit of magic was involved as well, since shortly after their purchase, the economy tanked. But because “nothing in my life has come easy,” Karen dug in for the long haul…literally. At the height of the 2009 recession, Mount Veeder Magic Vineyards was founded and Karen got her boots dirty as one of the few female grower-owners in Napa Valley. Today, Mount Veeder Magic Vineyards triggers very different emotions in Karen. As CEO, vintner and grower in the family business, she speaks with devotion and pride about being “deeply connected to my land, my vines, my grapes.” What happened? In two words: ideation and drive.
A new concept in selling rare, ultra- premium Mount Veeder wine (only one percent of all wine produced in the Napa Valley comes from Mount Veeder) by the barrel’s-worth was fueled by Karen’s high level sales and marketing background at American Express. Over the years, client relationships had turned into friendships and she believed that just 20 clients would define success in her new, and very limited production, wine venture.
Other than a hint of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon is the sole varietal planted on 16 select acres of the site’s 80 acres. Those vines produce as few as 25 barrels a year— by design. Mount Veeder Magic Vineyards is the only wine company offering Mount Veeder Cab specifically destined for serious collectors’ private cellars.
Seven different soil types at elevations ranging from 800 to 1,100 feet support 20- and 30-year-old vines. “My grapes are complex before we start the winemaking process,” Karen notes. “I have excellent partners and farm Six Sigma-style with precision and attention to the highest level of detail.” The vineyard is hand- farmed, hand-picked, and the wine is hand-crafted by Jeff Fontanella. Each bottle is labeled by hand as well.
The next iteration revolves around elevating the bespoke and customized wine label designs. In collaboration with a young artist, Matias Marroquin, whose work is inspired by truly uninspiring topographic maps (more magic here) a whole new message of connection and perspective is taking root. The goal is to make a deeply personal connection between the hands that make the wine and the hands that bring the wine glass to the lips.
We see Karen’s arms symbolically holding a cluster of grapes while cradling the vineyard, delivering a message of heartfelt hope and joy through illustration. It’s a work-in-progress, for sure, but there’s no rush. Like all great wines, magic may take a little more time.
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Article By: Laurie Jo Miller Farr