Beckstoffer. the name carries with it great – and grape – expectations.
Quality, prestige, and distinction are synonymous with the iconic wine industry moniker. Tuck Beckstoffer, son of Napa Valley pioneer Andy, is fully aware of the heightened anticipation that originates with his storied Napa Valley surname, and he welcomes the expectation that comes with every popped cork of his various Tuck Beckstoffer Estate labels.
You see, Tuck is the real deal, confident in his vinous pedigree and self-assured in his knowledge of the land, of the grapes, and the winemaking process. He grew up in this valley, having arrived in 1975 at the very beginnings of the wine industry boom, and he knows every inch, every soil type, and every weather pattern. He spent his youthful days on back-country roads and amongst the vines, cultivating metaphorical and literal roots that run deep, and developing a respect for the land that would eventually translate to the bottle.
“You could say that my love for farming was innate, or at least came by way of relentless practice,” said Tuck. “I grew up with hands in the Napa soil, boots among the vines, and I often worked side by side with the vineyard workers – the grapes coming into maturity as I did. It was a youth spent exploring the land, slowly uncovering its rich history, and developing a deep reverence for it.”
This reverence led to his career of seeking out the best land in the valley. Much like his father, Tuck is first and foremost a farmer, trained to recognize the inherent value and potential in vineyards that produce grapes and varietals that tell a ‘sense-of- place’ story. And for more than three decades after setting foot in Napa, he was content with land hunting. But the love affair with grape growing eventually led to an affair with the art of winemaking; only after mastering the art of the first craft did he turn his attention to the second, producing his first bottle in 1997. Neither a whim nor a passion project, this first bottling was a natural culmination of a life lived on the land, among the vines, carefully tending to its fruit.
“Winemaking remains for me one of the only art forms that allows expression on the palate of everything I love about this land and my work within it,” said Tuck.
“Each sip of wine provides an indelible memory. This has been the case for me since producing my first bottle.”
Today, Tuck is one of the few Napa Valley stewards who is both a grower and a winemaker. This duality provides him a deep understanding of the winemaking process and leads to a novel approach – one that begins in the dirt and culminates in the bottle – all the while respecting the wine- making traditions of the past and the shared successes and failures among fellow craftsmen and women.
“With a deep respect for everything that came before me, I continue to farm and practice winemaking as a way to pursue excellence on all levels and create an experience worth having, consuming, and remembering,” said Tuck.
“It’s this quest that keeps my team and me thoughtfully moving the industry forward, carefully refining the process over time, and searching for ways to demonstrate the very best of what this valley can be.”
With one eye on the future, and with the knowledge that he has always felt most at home within the vineyards, Tuck has worked hard to build around him a team that can carry-on his growing vision for the Tuck Beckstoffer St. Helena Estate and for the valley. This team is a highly-skilled group of wine industry and hospitality professionals with innate skill, excitement for the craft, and contagious curiosity for the process – each of whom matches Tuck’s quest for excellence.
Head winemaker Shawn Johnson recently took the reins after working closely alongside consulting wine- maker Philippe Melka. Under Tuck’s direction, Johnson guides the wine- making team and overall process with a seasoned, steadfast hand. “Shawn brings a wealth of experience and a fresh approach to both the winery and the vineyard,” said Tuck. “He shares the same vision that I’ve had since day one: to start with land, ripe with story and possibility.”
Serving as chief operating officer of the Estate is Nathaniel Dorn, selected by Tuck to lead and propel the Estate visitor experience forward. Nathaniel’s leadership and hospitality acumen are widely admired. Formerly the director of three Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood, and part- owner of The Charter Oak restaurant, Dorn’s relationship with exceptional service began at age 14 while working at Chateau du Sureau and Erna’s Elderberry House Restaurant where the five-star European approach made a deep impression. An eventual degree in architectural and mechanical design and drafting provided him an unmatched approach to detail and design, and subsequent positions within some of the country’s top resorts and restaurants further established his thoughtful approach to hospitality. “Nathaniel is the perfect person to take the reins at the Estate,” said Tuck. “He is renowned for his expertise in creating exceptional teams and delivering unforgettable experiences, and he is leading us forward in our commitment to a culture of true service and awe.”
That service can be found within every Estate visit, where intimate tours and private tastings are led by seasoned sommeliers who bring to life Napa’s history, illustrate how grape growing translates to every bottle, and provide background on winemaking techniques. Opened in 2016, The Estate exudes a genuine and congenial warmth; every 1.5-hour tour is private, exclusive, and tailored to particular interests. Included in each visit is a tour of the estate vineyard and winemaking facility followed by a cave tasting of estate wines. Highlighted is Mockingbird, the winery’s flagship wine and consummate expression of devotion to craft. “Mockingbird is the expression of everything we love about our land, our work, and our valley,” said Tuck. A Cabernet Sauvignon derived from the most select barrels at the Estate, Mockingbird is organically farmed in the eastern Oakville mountains at 1,400 feet—an elevation well above the fog line—producing a wine of power, elegance, and longevity. “With each sip, this wine tells my story of growing up among the vines,” said Tuck. “As a farmer, I believe that a wine’s individuality comes from the vineyard and its complexity from blending various vineyards into one harmonized whole that truly reflects our Napa Valley home and this wine is the truest expression of Napa Valley.” “The portfolio of wines is a tribute to Tuck’s experience over the years, each label a chronicle of a varietal that he loves or a distinct piece of land that he discovered,” said Dorn. “Every guest has a different wine that they gravitate towards, and each palate can delight in some- thing unique. We are not an estate driven by one varietal, and this is a testament to Tuck’s deep curiosity and his commitment to the craft.”
“When I look back at my youth and ahead toward the future, I see one valley and a dream now realized,” said Tuck. “That valley is both the land of my youth and also the valley that I hope to hand over to the next generation of growers and farmers. That dream is, and has always been, to live on the land and carefully tend for it – the land yielding ripe fruit and that fruit telling a story of this time and this place. And then, at the end of a long day, to put that story to your lips, consume it, and gratefully share it with others.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION www.tuckbeckstoffer.com
Article By: Fran Miller // Photos By: Lowell Downey – Art & Clarity