Cathiard Vineyard’s Inaugural 2020 Releases

USA, California, Napa Valley

Cathiard Vineyard’s Inaugural 2020 Releases

2020 was a tough first vintage to kickstart this new venture. However, having walked the vineyard and visited the new facilities twice, the potential for greatness at this estate is clear.


In January 2020, Florence and Daniel Cathiard, owners of Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, purchased the homestead and historic winery that was once the residence of Napa Valley winemaking forefather Louis M. Martini from the Komes family, owners of Flora Springs. The purchase did not include the Flora Springs name, which suited the Cathiards since they wanted to establish their name in Napa Valley: Cathiard Vineyard.

I took the opportunity to visit the vineyard and winery reconstruction in February 2022 with the general manager and head winemaker Justine Labbé and again in March of this year, when the Cathiard’s were visiting the property just before the launch of their first 2020 releases. 

“We have 220 acres in total,” said Florence Cathiard. “58 acres are currently under vine, and we have plans to plant six more.” 

The vineyard is located in the Mayacamas Mountains, on the front side of Bald Mountain. Technically it is mainly within the Rutherford AVA, although it is right on the St. Helena border, and one block is within the St. Helena AVA.

The partly sloped vineyard extends up to an altitude of 650 feet (200 meters) and has mature vines, including a couple of blocks of free-standing old-timers that are on St. George rootstock. The Cathiards have torn down the eyesore of an outdoor tank farm, replaced by a state-of-the-art refit to the historic stone winery, decked out with small upright and inverted conical vats. Justine worked with the dedicated cooper at Smith Haut Lafitte to adjust the toasting levels of barrels made especially for aging the wines from the Cathiard Vineyard.

The first vintage, 2020, was bottled in August 2022. I asked Justine how they managed the extreme heat episode during the Labor Day weekend that year.

“We used shade cloth on the vines, with no de-leafing until 2 days before harvest,” said Justine. “After 3-4 pm, we are in the shade for most of the blocks. We did a little irrigation just prior to the Labor Day heat event to give them some water to cope.”

As for the Glass Fire that started on the 27th of September 2020, which had a devastating impact on wine yields and quality in Napa Valley that harvest:

“We started picking the 9th of September and finished the 3rd of October. We had to get rid of one block due to smoke taint—a Malbec block. We rinsed the grapes before fermentation and were very careful with the skin contact. After one year of aging, we racked the wines and altered the oak use.”

Given the challenges of this vintage, the quantities of their first releases are ambitious by Napa 2020 standards, including around 750 cases of the flagship Cabernet Sauvignon, 1250 cases of the next tier “Founding Brothers” label, and 2500 cases of the third-tier blend called, “Hora.” The Cathiards are developing and mailing list membership and distributing the wines via the Place de Bordeaux.

The Cathiards have put together an amazing team.

2020 was a tough first vintage to kickstart this new venture. Having walked the vineyard and visited the new facilities twice, the potential for greatness at this estate is clear. What’s more, the team the Cathiards have put in charge of winemaking is amazing: Justine Labbé aided by Fabien Teitgen (winemaker at Château Smith Haut Lafitte), Michel Rolland (consultant winemaker), assistant winemaker Ryan Montgomery (from Australia), and California consultant Frederick Ammons (formerly the winemaker at Rudd Estate). The signs favor a fast upward trajectory for Cathiard Vineyard, meaning this is a mailing list to hop on now!

Article & Reviews by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW
Photography by Svante Örnberg

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