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A New Era for a Pedigreed Coombsville Vineyard

A New Era for a Pedigreed Coombsville Vineyard

Wines from the oldest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines in Napa Valley shine with the Haynes Vineyard inaugural release.

Carlton McCoy | Photo Credit: Jon Troxell

Carlton McCoy Jr., Master Sommelier and CEO of Lawrence Wine Estates, was in his office in Napa on a Saturday in 2019, when he received a call from a local realtor about a house for sale in Coombsville with a “little vineyard on it.” Eager to get out of the office, he met the realtor at the Coombsville property to take a look. It was the Haynes Vineyard – the same vineyard that famed Napa vintner Warren Winiarski, now in his 90s, had introduced him to six months prior and said, “If you ever have the opportunity to buy this vineyard, pay whatever it takes, because you’ll never find anything in Napa like this.”

The listing agent was a residential realtor and had never sold a vineyard in her life. In fact, it was listed for sale on Zillow. As the agent was telling him that the vineyard was planted to the mispronounced “went” clone Chardonnay, McCoy excused himself to call the Lawrence family. Recognizing this as a true unicorn moment, Lawrence Wine Estates purchased the Haynes Vineyard in 2019 for “a fantastic price,” according to McCoy.

Conventional wisdom would assume new owners would rip out the old Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines and plant the more profitable Cabernet Sauvignon as fast as they could. Not Lawrence Wine Estates. Says McCoy, “Lawrence Wine Estates’ overall vision is to preserve the history of legacy Napa Valley wineries and commit to a sustainable future.” This meant working with 1967 plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the soul of Haynes Vineyard.

“Haynes represents the very best of American Chardonnay, akin to a white Burgundy Grand Cru, if I’m being honest,” he continues. “The truth is, these old vines are a gift and defy traditions, trends, or outside influences. Simply put, there is no wine in Napa that tastes like Haynes.” 

The Beginnings of the Haynes Vineyard

The Haynes family had owned their eponymous Coombsville vineyard since the 1870s. In fact, it was the first piece of land that Nathan Coombs, one of the original settlers of Napa, sold from his land purchase in 1847. The property was a cow pasture and the site of the Haynes’ family home through the 1960s, until André Tchelistcheff and Louis Martini approached Patricia Haynes with their ideas.

André Tchelistcheff, one of the first trained winemakers in Napa, made a push for planting Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the southern parts of the region, such as Carneros and Coombsville, where the cooler-climate regularly clocks in 15-25 degrees cooler than St. Helena. 

Tchelistcheff and Martini explained to Haynes that her property was an incredible site, and that she’d make more money growing grapes than raising cattle on it. In 1967 they planted Wente clone Chardonnay and Martini clone Pinot Noir in what is now known as the Haynes Vineyard, the oldest vineyard planting in Coombsville. 

A Fresh Take on Haynes

Photo Credit: Haynes Vineyard

The 27-acre Haynes Vineyard is one of, if not the, coldest sites in Napa Valley. It’s covered in fog most days and in a complete wind tunnel, making it ideal for viticulture. Says McCoy, “The Haynes old vines give miniscule yields, while the wines show intensity and power, yet with freshness and acidity.”

The new Haynes Vineyard brand is a collaboration between McCoy and winemaker Nico Cueva, formerly of Kosta Browne. Cueva, looking for a new opportunity, left Kosta Browne after it was bought by Duckhorn. With this new project, McCoy wondered who would know how to make the type of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that this site could express. He thought of Cueva. 

The two walked the vineyard and discussed what they would do if there were no boundaries. After two hours, they hatched a plan to honor these heritage vines, and Cueva was in. 2020 was the inaugural vintage of Haynes Vineyard wines, including three expressions of Chardonnay from their Forgeron, Corazon, and Vigneron lines. “Haynes seeks to both honor and innovate the classic winemaking style of Napa Valley through low intervention winemaking to craft wines of intent,” says McCoy.

The Biodynamic Commitment

Lawrence Wine Estates are the largest biodynamic farmers in Napa Valley, with 450 acres of Demeter certified vines. Their philosophy includes practicing no-till farming and dry farming in almost all of their sites, and using natural ferments and minimal intervention in their winemaking. 

“The decision to convert our vineyards to biodynamic farming was one of the first I made when I joined LWE,” says McCoy. “Biodynamic farming brings us closer to our land and teaches us that the vines are just one part of a complex ecosystem. It reminds us that we ourselves are a part of this ecosystem. We live here in the community and, on a more human level, we don’t want to spray poison around our homes.”

A Nod to Heritage with a Bright Future

Haynes Vineyard is not Lawrence Wine Estates’ first foray into Napa Valley; Heitz Cellar was the first in 2018. They are now also owners and stewards of Stony Hill, Burgess, Brendel, and Ink Grade. More recently, Lawrence Wine Estates acquired Margaux-based Château Lascombes in Bordeaux.

With a bullish backing of old vines at Haynes, experimentation is also a part of the plan. New plantings include Mourvèdre, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. “On the south-facing slope, we have planted a small amount of Cabernet as we are simply curious,” Explains McCoy. “To be honest, we aren’t sure it will ripen every year, as Haynes is the coldest site in Coombsville.” 

Lawrence Wine Estates maintains a commitment to heritage Napa, while also looking to the future. Says McCoy, “Haynes is a place with its own story to tell, and we have the honor and privilege to both preserve the land and launch a new brand to bring the stories of one of the world’s greatest vineyards to life.”