The Heart of a Farmer
With a reputation for producing world-renowned wines, Napa Valley is rooted in agriculture. Where the phrase “from grape to bottle” encompasses the backbone of the industry, the perfect pairing combines earth with artistry. For Lampyridae Vineyards, the site highlights the beauty of the winemaking process.
Located twenty-five hundred feet above the Napa Valley floor, Lampyridae Vineyards is the highest elevation vineyard on Mount Veeder featuring 35-acres of mostly volcanic ash soil. Growing grapes at this elevation creates distinct wines, with a uniqueness of flavors and character that separates this property from all others.
A true diamond in the rough, proprietors John and Ashley Derr saw its potential in its infancy in 1996 when they purchased their dream property. With a desire to truly understand the property, they lived on the land for two years before they began the vineyard development. By this time, their focus was clear on varietal placement in the correct aspect and soil types, while optimizing the right light exposure.
Starting in 1998 and working over the next 18 years, they developed their property into 14.5-acres of vineyards producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, Zinfandel, and Petit Verdot.
“I have been farming since I was 15 years old, and Ashley had a background in horticulture and entomology,” said John Derr. Their background studying insects led them to come up with the name Lampyridae – the Latin word for a “family” of insects commonly called fire- flies, which is aptly named, as the property’s view of twinkling lights on the valley floor resemble fireflies.
Raising their three children on the property, the Derrs supervised every aspect of the business. From planting their first grapes to working side by side with their employees at John Derr Farming Company, the quality of their grapes garnered the attention of premier clients such as Beringer Vineyards, Fontanella Family Winery, Handwritten and Kind Cellars. In addition to their dedication as growers, Ashley and John’s passion led them to create their own labels with the talent of two esteemed wine- makers. A Cabernet Sauvignon, handcrafted by Aaron Pott, and a Grenache, one of the very few Grenaches grown in Napa Valley, in collaboration with David Yorgensen.
“Since we met in college, we knew that farming our own land was our passion that we wanted to pursue,” said Ashley Derr. “After we developed Lampyridae, we wanted to give back as well as produce a variety that we loved.”
Pairing their love of land, family, and charity, the Derrs created the Communication Block Wine Project, which supports the education of children who need technology to communicate through the Napa Valley Kids Connect program, promoting academic achievement for children who have severe communication needs. A passion project co-founded by Ashley, the project would produce a very limited production Cabernet Sauvignon from the highest block on the property. Acclaimed Mount Veeder vintner and grower, Aaron Pott, has donated his talents in producing the Lampyridae Vineyards Communication Block wines.
“Whether growing grapes or producing wine, we are all farmers. It’s the most important component and shines through each vintage,” said John Derr.
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Article By: Valerie Owens