Passion, Purpose, and Palate Appeal—Discovered

How can one woman’s dream stimulate people’s senses and encourage them to live a fulfilling life? Julie Johnson, the owner, winemaker, and chef of Tres Sabores (“the three flavors” in every glass: the vine, terroir, and spirit of the company around the table), has crafted a lifestyle and made it her career to inspire others by respecting her land and appreciating its natural gifts.

The small, women-led farm and winery, located on the western Rutherford Bench, features an estate vineyard planted in 1972. Tres Sabores produces a diverse portfolio of wines ranging from a classic Cabernet Sauvignon to an elegant Zinfandel, a savory Cabernet Franc, and a hillside Sauvignon Blanc full of zest, and two delicious Rhone varietals: Picpoul Blanc and Petite Sirah. Whether grown in the Napa Valley or other appellations, all celebrate their distinctive, native terroirs and the serious, hands-on craftsmanship needed to express their best qualities. Along with her former partner in Frog’s Leap, Julie purchased her estate in 1987. In 1991 the vineyard and orchards on the property became the first to be CCOF certified organic in the region. In 1999 she founded Tres Sabores to focus on Zinfandel and the stewardship of an enticingly complex and diverse land and soon started making wine. Today, she continues her quest to practice authentic, regenerative agriculture and loves sharing her winemaking and farming methods with anyone who visits. “We are always making discoveries about our native, cultivated lands and hope to immerse guests in all of our passions: from a love of wine to soil health, and dry farming, to bringing sheep into the vineyard, gardening, cooking, and more,” Julie said.

Indeed, a visit to Tres Sabores is designed to engage people with every feature of the thoughtfully managed property. Upon arrival, visitors are likely to be greeted by the resident Golden Retrievers, Shetland Sheep, and even Rosie the goat. Swallows, bluebirds, hummingbirds, and hawks fly through and over the vineyards. Guests enjoy the sights, smells, and tastes of everything from the fragrant lemon trees, olive oil produced from the 120-year-old olive grove to vinegar and brownies made from the orchard of pomegranates.Julie fully believes that people not only love good wine but enjoy being “hands-on” when they visit a winery. As part of every Tres Sabores wine tasting, guests are seated right beside the vineyard and are welcomed to join her or a member of her team in the vineyard to sample cover crops or ripening grapes, taste fermenting wine on the crush pad or herbs from the garden and participate in an organic growing demonstration. Julie said, “I always tell people to step into the vineyard to find and feel the energy, the ‘synergy’ that comes from engaging with the land in such a personal way.”

Julie’s mission at Tres Sabores is all about paying the passion forward. “My goal is to continue to work with the land, nourish it, and leave it in the best possible shape for generations to come. I’m proud of the way my children have embraced our sustainable practices and am excited to see what the future holds.”


Story By: Nicole Marino // Photos courtesy of Tres Sabores