Nearly 300 feet of ancient riverbed gravel lies directly beneath the topsoil of Larkmead Vineyards. This well-drained environment provides our valley floor location a rare character typically found in hillside vineyards. Our mornings receive a thin, rolling fog coming to us via the Chalk Hill Gap in Knights Valley while our afternoon temperatures tend to be the warmest in Napa Valley. We cool down drastically in the evening, making the diurnal shifts somewhat extreme.
“Our farming practice utilizes a ‘systems’ approach, meaning that we treat the vineyard as a single component of the larger surrounding ecosystem.”
-Nabor Camarena, Vineyard Manager
The soils at Larkmead are colluvial fans that extend from the Mayacamas and the Vaca mountain ranges and border both Selby Creek and the Napa River. The main difference between this site and other sites bordering Napa waterways is that at Larkmead most of the finer materials and topsoil have been "washed out" and carried down the valley, leaving high gravel concentrations and mid to large aggregate cobblestones. This gives Larkmead its unique character, resembling a rocky hillside vineyard.
These soils are naturally low in vigor and combined with our targeted low yields result in wines that are truly an expression of the soils and vineyards. Although there are four distinct soil types at Larkmead, the amazing geology and diversity results in many soil subtypes with varying amounts of rock and gravel. It is this rock component that has the most impact on the division of the vineyards and we target these different areas with different rootstocks, varieties and clones to amplify the geology and wine attributes.
Our three vineyard parcels total 110 acres and are under the masterful care of Vineyard Manager Nabor Camarena and Consulting Viticulturist Kelly Maher. Their shared passion and philosophy of balance and holistic farming have allowed our unique and diverse estate to perform to its true potential.
THE VINEYARD TEAM
Vineyard Manager Nabor Camarena: Nabor Camarena was born and raised in the small town of Arroyo Seco, located in Jalisco, Mexico. Growing up in a farming family which focused on row-cropping, Nabor's interest in agriculture was sparked early. After graduating from high school, he realized the limitations of remaining in Mexico and followed the example of an older brother that had left for Napa Valley in the 1970's.
Nabor began his vineyard career as a laborer and having natural talent, he gained skills rapidly and began to take on more critical roles becoming a foreman and then eventually becoming a vineyard manager. Nabor has a vast knowledge of grape growing and has worked for quality sites such as Hyde Vineyards and The Donum Estate. He has been a great addition to the team and brings a critical level of detail and balance to the vineyards of Larkmead.
“Larkmead is fortunate to have one of the most diverse soil profiles in all of Napa Valley. As caretakers of this historic vineyard site it is in our best interest to approach our farming practices with an emphasis on soil health in order to extract the true expression of each area of the estate.”
– Kelly Maher
Viticulturist Kelly Maher: Kelly Maher was raised in St. Helena, California and is a second generation vintner. He started working in the vineyards as well as the wineries at a very young age and after graduating from St. Helena High School, he went on to Fresno State to study both Viticulture and Horticulture. After Fresno State, Kelly pursued studies in Viticulture as well as Plant Physiology at U.C. Davis.
After completion of school, Kelly served as Director of Vineyard Operations for the Clos Du Val Wine Company and then went on to become Director of Vineyard Operations for Domaine Chandon. He ventured into his own consulting business in 2002 and has consulted in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, France, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico. Kelly brings a lot of different experiences to Larkmead and is a specialist in clone/rootstock interactions, which is vital due to both the diversity of the soils as well as the varieties grown at Larkmead.
You don’t often find a contiguous 110-acre vineyard in Napa Valley with so much diversity. From our soil profiles to the topography and colluvial fans, Larkmead is blessed with a rare site. As we have gotten to know the vineyard better, we are beginning to realize that we don’t have a single site, but multiple terroirs that impact the style (flavor and texture) of our wines.
“Historically, Larkmead was great due to the sum of its parts; today we aspire to shine a spotlight on the individual parts and exceed our previous expectations.”
-Dan Petroski, Winemaker
The Larkmead estate lies at one of the narrowest points in Napa Valley. The vineyard almost spans the entire breadth of the valley floor from Highway 29 to Silverado Trail with the Napa River dissecting it in half. This excites us from the winemaking perspective because it offers diversity in the soils due to centuries of alluvial flow. What we are left with today is a vineyard in three parts and four soil types - sand, silt, clay and gravel. Each parcel is defined by its typicity – i.e. its flavors and textures due to each parcel’s unique soil and microclimate.
|Cabernet Sauvignon||69.4 acres||63.0%|
|Sauvignon Blanc||12.4 acres||11.3%|
|Cabernet Franc||8.0 acres||7.3%|
|Petit Verdot||5.6 acres||5.1%|
|Tocai Friulano||1.1 acres||1.0%|
A Block: The heart of our wine program. The pinnacle of our Cabernet Sauvignon production. The rarest of our soil profile (Cortina). Also, the highest point (altitude) on the property. The A block is without question our “best” parcel on the property for producing Cabernet Sauvignon. Our "A" block produces wines which offer a bright, high-toned, "hillside" aromatic purity, acidity and tannin cut with classic Bordeaux flavors that have become signature Larkmead characteristics - cassis, menthol-mineral, dried herb, black tea and cedar with subtle amounts of graphite and licorice.
B Block: Our home. Where we produce our wine and welcome our guests. The "B" block, which surrounds the winery on three sides is Merlot dominant with Sauvignon Blanc planted outside the tasting room porches. These loam based soils produce broad and dense wines that maintain vibrant acidity. The quality of the Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from this parcel of the vineyard is quite serious and produces profound wines. This portion of the vineyard ranks as one of the lowest yielding parts of the site; thus producing wines of great intensity and expression, but unfortunately, of limited quantity.
C Block: Across the road and over the river, Larkmead's "C" block grows six of our seven grape varieties planted on the vineyard. A confluence of our most fertile soils and cooler temperatures; this block maintains a quiet form due to the creek and river woodland that frame two sides of the vineyard. We love the wines from this section of the vineyard because they provide us with broad, mouth-filling appeal, pure fruit softness and sweet, elegant tannins. The flagship wine of the C-Block, LMV Salon, in recent vintages has been the most transparent, pure wine we have made.
The winemaking and tasting room facility at Larkmead is designed as an efficient and effective workplace. Since opening our doors in 2005 the staff at Larkmead has always been conscientious in our approach to our space and the environment around us. It has been paramount for us to respect not only our land and our community, but also our future.
1 Victor mowing mustard grass in the spring.
2 We use a cover crop of red clover, vetch, fava beans, mustard and wild radish.
3 Our rooftop solar panel array provides more energy than the winery requires.
4 Flame weeding in the vineyard, an organic method of weed abatement.
5 Honeybees in the C Block provide biodiversity and delicious wildflower honey.
At Larkmead, we've taken quiet, but deliberate steps to accomplish our goals - from our transition to organic farming in 2016 to supporting energy efficiency by giving back over 50% of our energy to the Napa County grid through our solar panel installation.
These efforts and more have been recognized during an inspection and audit of our facility and we are proud to say that we were informed by the Napa Valley Department of Environmental Management and the Association of Bay Area Government's Green Business program, Larkmead has been recognized as a "Napa Green Certified Winery."
The mission statement for the program is in line with our business philosophy and we look forward to continuing to implement beneficial environmental practices through preserving and enhancing the environment of the Napa Valley.
In addition to our “Napa Green” certification, we have worked with Ann Baker (the daughter of Cam Baker and Kate Solari Baker) on planting native species throughout the Estate. Ann holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture from UC Berkeley. Within the past ten years, we have seen the populations of common pollinators (bees, butterflies and hummingbirds) grow exponentially. In addition, Ann has been instrumental in the restoration of Selby Creek, a seasonal waterway that borders our Estate. For the first time in memory, steelhead have returned to the creek to spawn in the newly-reinforced creek eddies and pools.