The Crane Assembly
There is little reliable record of who originally planted the historic vineyard that The Crane Assembly's winemakers work today. It is believed that this is due to wine pioneer GB Crane in 1885, who was one of the first winemakers to move to the Napa Valley in the mid-1850s and was the first to introduce European varieties to the region. The gnarled and weathered bush vines that are still cultivated in this vineyard today are over 150 years old. Despite their fragility, their durability over the decades is a testament to their resilience and quality.
Today's The Crane Assembly winery was founded in 2012 by longtime friends, winemakers Dave Phinney and Kevin Fox, with the support of business partners Bryan Sandoli and Darryl Browman. Dave Phinney has made a name for himself in the USA as one of the most gifted blenders of grape varieties from different vineyards. In addition to his creativity in blending wines, his bottles often come with unique and unusual labels. The vineyard managed by The Crane Assembly is now one of the two oldest commercial vineyards in the Napa Valley. It goes without saying that he is part of the Historic Vineyard Society, an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of California's oldest vineyards.
Traditional grape varieties
The historic vineyard of the winery now has eight hectares of vines. Of these, four hectares are planted with mixed black grape varieties. As early as the 19th century, the vineyards in the Napa wine-growing region were traditionally planted with a mixture of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignan and some other lesser-known grape varieties such as Alicante Bouschet, Mourvedre and Valdiguie. Because of their depth of colour, the wines from these vineyards were called "The mixed blacks". Over time, due to disease, some of the older vines died and were replaced by new ones of the Zinfandel variety.
In addition to the mixed varietals, the vineyard includes a 4-acre block of Cabernet Sauvignon. Petite Sirah vines are cultivated on 1.4 hectares as well as two rare rows with Merlot. There are a total of five separate blocks in which the hand-picked range of varieties from the historic vineyard grows. Luckily, Dave Phinney and Kevin Fox saw the potential of the old vines when they bought the estate. Many other winegrowers would have replaced the old vines with new vines, probably of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety, due to their rather low average yield. Dave Phinney and Kevin Fox prefer to tell the old stories of this traditional Napa Valley vineyard. In addition to GB Crane's historic vineyard, Phinney and Fox process grapes from two other distinctive vineyards in the region: The "Morisoli Vineyard" in Rutherford, which was also planted in the late 19th century, and the "Tofanelli Vineyard" in Calistoga, which has been in existence since was one of the most important terroirs in California in the 1920s.
The Crane Assembly wines
Originally, the two winemakers wanted to press a blend from their vineyard. However, while fermenting their first vintage, 2012, Phinney and Fox found that the Cabernet Sauvignon had an exceptional flavor on its own. Therefore, the two winemakers decided to create several wines and bottle the Cabernet Sauvignon separately. Today, The Crane Assembly focuses on three wines: Disciples, made from grapes from older Napa Valley vineyards. Den El Coco, a mixture of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. And said Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes for Disciples wine come from Morisoli and Tofanelli Vineyards, both of which have excellent pedigree, both historically and in terms of the quality of the fruit produced. The name "Disciples" (younger) goes back to the thought that the grapes from these younger vineyards can be considered "younger" of the old vines.
The composition of the Disciples changes from year to year. Sometimes it's a pure blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, sometimes it also contains Charbono, Grenache, Syrah and Merlot. Its bouquet is correspondingly different and complex. The El Coco is a mixture of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah in the glass and reveals an intense bouquet with the aromas of ripe berries, which are accompanied by subtle notes of chocolate, coffee and sugar. On the palate it is extremely soft and pleasant and has a special finish thanks to its gritty tannins. The bouquet of the Cabernet Sauvignon shows a ripe elegance with a hint of vanilla and coffee beans. On the palate it is a powerful wine, which also develops aromas of blackberries.