“growing up on the ranch, we farmed grapes, apples and prunes. we did all the work ourselves, except for the occasional help dad would bring in during peak times. like most kids, i wanted to play ball with friends rather than farm crops or do other chores. but in hindsight, the experience gave me a strong work ethic and skills i have used throughout my life.
one of dad’s lessons was the understanding nothing came free. when it came time to get my first car, he tossed me the keys to a 1963 oldsmobile that didn’t run. if i wanted the car, i’d need to rebuild the engine. i was desperate to drive so i tore it apart, put it back together and learned a lot about auto maintenance in the process. that knowledge came in handy when i first started my vineyard management company and couldn't yet afford a mechanic.
as i prepared for college, i wasn’t sure i wanted to grow grapes for a living. to be honest, i thought the life of a parole officer might be exciting. so i enrolled in the criminal justice program at california state university-chico. as luck would have it, i was required to spend a few days riding with an officer who filled me in on the low pay and scarcity of jobs. that convinced me to stick with grape growing and what i knew best, and i transferred to uc-davis.
uc-davis is only an hour away from napa valley and i worked on weekends driving a tractor for laurie wood, a viticulturist widely credited as one of the best grape farmers of our time. after graduation, i joined him full time and became one of the few people developing vineyards in the valley. looking back, we were either brave or crazy but became well-known for developing difficult vineyard sites, including hillside projects no one else would take. it wasn’t long before we planted many of the vineyards on spring mountain which then was an up-and-coming ava. when laurie retired in 1990, i left to start barbour vineyards.
the decision to produce wine is something no vintner takes lightly. the commitment to quality is immeasurable, especially if your name is on the bottle. at the time, i was farming about a thousand acres of grapes around the valley and not sure i had enough energy at the end of the day to work my own vineyard. but the prospect of enjoying a bottle of cabernet in the style i enjoy most and made from my own vineyard was too tempting.
i planted the first block of barbour vineyard in 1992 and produced a first vintage in 1995 of just 50 cases. the first several vintages were made at grace family where i grew my production to 100 cases. gradually, i added more vines and celia and i now make about 300 cases each year, depending on mother nature and her generosity.