World Class Wines Since the Turn of the Century
As they ready to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their O’Brien Estate winery in 2020, would Barb and Bart O’Brien do it all over again? “In a heartbeat,” says Barb, who with Bart and their two children moved from the Los Altos Hills ‘at the turn of the century,’ as Barb playfully states, to become Napa ‘farmers.’ It was a long-held dream of Barb’s; she’d grown up surrounded by open spaces and endless blue sky and yearned to replicate that feeling of freedom. So, on their third date, she took Bart to Napa and declared her desire to someday live in the verdant valley.
Having fallen in love on their first date, Bart, a serial Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur, knew that one day he’d make Barb’s dream come true. And in 2000, he bought a 40-acre property in the Oak Knoll district – a fully self-contained estate with a functioning winery, 33-acre vineyard, home, and lush gardens. The winery dated to 1978 and its prior life as a prune and walnut farm dated to the early 1900s, but as valley newcomers, the O’Briens were viewed with a bit of suspicion. “We were the new kids on the block,” says Barb. “We had no legacy and had to start from scratch. It was hard to be taken seriously; we had to prove ourselves.”
And prove themselves they did. Initially, they sold their grapes to other high profile wineries. It wasn’t until the then general manager of neighboring Silver Oak approached them with a request to use their facility for his own winemaking (in exchange for making them some wine from their estate grapes) that they realized the quality of their own yield. Their wine was stellar. So stellar that Robert Parker awarded the 2013 Unrestrained Reserve 98 points and said of the 2008 Merlot that it “was as good as Merlot could be.” Parker’s continued annual plaudits grace the walls of the O’Brien Estate tasting room.
All of the grapes used in O’Brien Estate wines are grown on the estate vineyard and bottled in the winery adjacent to Barb and Bart’s home. This full integration of the grape to bottle process allows them to craft extraordinary wines. Their portfolio also includes lush estate sauvignon blanc, chardonnays, cabernet sauvignons, and Bordeaux-style red blends that are difficult to procure. O’Brien Estate wines are not found in stores or restaurants and are sold exclusively to their 3,000 members as well as to those who schedule private, seated tastings in Barb and Bart’s welcoming backyard vineyard setting where the sun is warm, the breeze is cool, and the stresses of life recede. It is no wonder that O’Brien Estate is consistently rated as one of the top wineries to visit in the Napa Valley.
Article By: Fran Miller