As Luna celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2020, they feel fortunate to be leading a Napa Valley winery with a unique range of Italian varietals.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “Wine and friends are a great blend.” And what’s true for wine is also true for running a winery.
Friendship, collaboration, and trust have been the winning formula for Luna Vineyards President Andre Crisp and Chief Winemaker Shawna Miller. As Luna celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2020, they feel fortunate to be leading a Napa Valley winery with a unique range of Italian varietals.
Since the beginning, Luna’s owners have known what many others like Steve Matthiasson, Massican, and Larkmead have discovered relatively recently: Italian varietals and the Napa Valley are a match made in heaven.
“We enjoy Italian varietals because they’re fun and unexpected,” Miller said.
With the many Italian immigrants who founded Napa’s wine community, it’s not surprising that Sangiovese was once a popular varietal. Back in 1961, Joe Heitz started his brand with a Grignolino vineyard in St. Helena. Mike Moone founded Luna Vineyards in 1995 and planted Ribolla Gialla, Sangiovese, and Pinot Grigio. His bet paid off; legendary wine critic Robert M. Parker Jr. said: “There is no better Pinot Grigio being produced in the New World than Luna’s.” The wine is a benchmark even today: Luna’s Pinot Grigio is crisp, with ripe stone fruit, minerals, and flowers, making the wine satisfying and refreshing at once. “This is Pinot Grigio at its best,” said Crisp.
The Napa Valley gets more sunshine than Italy, so the grapes get riper. But Miller said volcanic soils and the marine layer allow the grapes to slowly develop while retaining freshness and acidity.
As good as the Pinot Grigio is, Luna’s star is the Sangiovese. They make a Classico, an elegant, food- friendly wine with a body similar to Pinot Noir. The single-vineyard Riserva Sangiovese shows dark fruit and spice in a satiny texture. It’s aged in 70% new oak from France and Hungary, just like Brunello. The Super-Tuscan blends 50% Oakville Sangiovese, 30% Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, and 20% Howell Mountain Merlot. It’s a supple and structured wine with notes of vanilla, dark berries, and plums.
Rather than following a formula, Miller blends the wines by taste. “She always blends by taste, and there’s this consistency and brightness on these red wines,” Crisp said. Miller is looking forward to a 2020 trip to Italy and learning more about these classic Italian varietals. “Andre and I are proud to be considered pioneers in Napa’s resurgence of Sangiovese,” said Miller.
They’ve declared 2020 the Year of Sangiovese. With all their Sangiovese wines fully allocated as of 2015, Crisp said they’re looking forward to decades of more success built on their yin-yang partnership. “Shawna is this amazing artist-chemist who finds the most obscure and weird, nerdy ‘no way it’s not going to work, don’t blend that’ and then blends it and gets 95 points. We’re so proud of what Shawna has created.”
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Article By: Maria Hunt