Building a Legacy on Mount Veeder

Being good with his hands led Brian Nuss to winemaking. Or at least that’s the way his son Tyler explained it.

The Nuss family just completed their 20th vintage of making wine in the Napa Valley for their Vinoce label. His parents Brian and Lori Nuss were New Jersey “hippie kids who moved to Venice Beach, California in the 1970s,” Tyler said over Cabernet Franc at the new tasting room in the historic Napa Tannery.

They met comedian and actor Robin Williams at a party, and he hired Nuss and his late brother, Bobby, to build two houses on his PymRae estate on Mount Veeder. Brian managed the estate for 30 years. On the advice of his friend, Robert Craig, Brian Nuss planted Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot vines with the help of Efrain Ponce on Mount Veeder in 1990.

A few years later, after Craig launched his wine label, he suggested Nuss set aside some PymRae fruit to make his own wine. And that’s how Vinoce was born in 1996. Nuss drew from his Italian heritage for the name, which means “wine nut” (vino + nocce.)


For that first vintage, Brian made 120 cases of Cabernet Franc blended with a  little  Cabernet  Sauvignon  and  Merlot. In 2003, they debuted a Mount Veeder  Cabernet Sauvignon, and they also make a lively and tropical Sauvignon Blanc sourced from St. Helena. Tyler Nuss said he grew up on Mount Veeder, playing among the vines, and later helping his dad in the vineyard.

Over time, Nuss kept adding Cab Franc to his  blend.  “He  liked the way it grew at high elevation. It has a nice balance between tannin and fruit,” said Tyler. “It’s multidimensional. My Dad was a bit of a trendsetter as far as Cabernet Franc goes.” In 2013, Keith Emerson came on as associate winemaker, and their flagship wine was relabeled as Cab Franc since that grape was  now 85% of the blend.

The plush 2015 Cab Franc opens with aromas of full dark plums, figs, and Christmas spice that melds into red fruit and spice, with savory cocoa, strawberries, and goji berries on the finish.

Now, Vinoce’s Veeder fruit  comes  from an 8-acre estate vineyard near PymRae on the old Wall homestead. Nuss purchased and planted that site in 2013.

While their vineyards are up on Mount Veeder, the Nuss family wanted the tasting room to be easily accessible. Tucked away south of downtown Napa, the Vinoce tasting room has a woodsy, industrial vibe, with tables made from barrels and reclaimed wood and metal cafe chairs softened by timeworn Persian carpets and 70’s soul tracks. A vintage popper makes fresh popcorn where visitors can grab a Heath Ceramics bowl and help themselves. But the showpiece is the view of the Napa River and nesting birds.

“It’s a very chill tasting room,” said Rachael Buckingham, who’s the marketing manager and Tyler’s fiancée. “We have guests come and spend two or three hours relaxing and having a glass of wine or a bottle. We paint the picture of Mount Veeder right here in Napa.”



Article By: Maria Hunt