Vin, Vino, Viticulture: 8 Questions with Fairchild Napa Valley Founder Lawrence Fairchild
For wine collectors, some of the toughest acquisitions are cult Cabernets from Napa Valley’s most prestigious producers. Beyond being made in minimal quantities, these wines have been allocated to past buyers long before the grapes have even been plucked from their stems.
Now through a series of new partnerships, Preferred and Elite Access members who book a trip to Napa Valley with XOJET can not only acquire these wines, but can visit the estates—most of which are not open to the public—for exclusive tastings and bespoke experiences.
One of these wineries is Fairchild Napa Valley, created by Lawrence Fairchild and composed of two sought-after portfolios: Fairchild (G-III and Sigaro) and the Stones series. Raised on a farm in Nebraska, Lawrence spent the early part of his career working in Washington, DC, before letting his love of wine lead him to Napa Valley. Since then, two of Fairchild’s Cabernets have received a perfect score of 100 from Robert Parker. In 2011, he launched the Stones label, single-vineyard wines heralded for their exceptional and rare terroir.
We sat down with Lawrence, who took a break from his busy harvest schedule, to find out just what goes into creating these highly rated, nearly impossible-to-get wines.
Fairchild Napa Valley and Stones’ Cabernets are some of the most highly sought-after wines in the world. How did you create such a sensation in less than 10 years?
For the first few years, nobody knows who you are. But if you’re creating wine of great quality, the rest will fall into place. The palates of our clients are incredible; they know if a wine is of the highest caliber. Fortunately, our wines show extremely well. Each has been rated between 95 and 100 points by Robert Parker, with two scoring 100. All have aging potential well into the next 20 or 30 years as well. Since our wines are all allocated and not available for retail or restaurants, I am fortunate to have met almost everyone who owns the wines.
What goes into producing great wine?
Whether we’re producing Fairchild G-III, Fairchild Sigaro, or wines within the Stones portfolio, we start with fruit from some of the most exclusive blocks in Napa Valley. Grapes for the 2013 Stones No. 1, which received a perfect 100 points from Robert Parker, came from the Perrarus Block 1 – Las Piedras vineyard in St. Helena; the 2014 and 2015 vintages of Stones No. 3 came from the Perrarus Block 3 – Oakville Tench Vineyard, which shares a fence line with Screaming Eagle. Our grapes are chemical-free and hand-harvested. Our winemaker, Philippe Melka, along with Assistant Winemaker Maayan Koschitzky, who came to us from Screaming Eagle, understands how to make wines of the highest tier.
The packaging for the Stones wines is stunning. What went into creating it?
I knew from the beginning the only tier that interested me when producing wine was the highest tier, and we wanted to create product packaging executed to that level. To that end, the bottles, labels, and boxes for Stones, which are sold in three-bottle sets, were all designed to the level of Hermes and Cartier. Each label is hand-illustrated, hand-pressed in France, hand-polished, and hand-applied. This wine is intended to be beautiful both inside and out.
Stones is a unique name for a wine. Is there a story there?
The Perrarus Block 1 – Las Piedras Vineyard in St. Helena, one of our earliest Stones vineyards, translates to “the Rocks, the Stones.” Clients beginning with the barrel samples always referred to the wine as “Stones.” Based on that, we developed the product name.
I understand that you enjoy cooking. What are some of your favorite dishes to serve with your wines?
Duck confit, steak au poivre, and foie gras all go very well with any of our wines. I’ll also sometimes prepare a tri-tip roast that’s marinated for 24 hours and grilled on a bed of fresh rosemary. I am a real foodie and love to share that with our special clients.
If you happen to be unavailable for chef duty, where do you suggest clients eat when they’re in town?
We are so lucky here to have so many great restaurants in the Napa Valley. I enjoy Chef Chris Cosentino’s Acacia House, Bistro Jeanty, Bouchon, and Auberge du Soleil. I’ve also been known to pop into Meadowood Grill for fish tacos and Goose & Gander for chicken wings and fries.
What do you do with your very limited time off?
My all-time favorite activity is walking in the vineyards. I grew up on a farm and really appreciate the agricultural side of the business. I love golf, but need to play “wine golf,” as it makes up for my average play. Our clients are very important to us and I enjoy entertaining them whenever they are in the Napa Valley. I’ve been known to cook for them as well. We also participate in a number of wine charity auctions. The wines can raise a lot of money for cancer and other important causes in a short amount of time.
What’s next for Fairchild Napa Valley?
We have been very fortunate to have built an exclusive vineyard portfolio and clientele. The 2016 vintage to be released in 2019 looks like it will be off the charts. We are also launching a Chardonnay in 2019 or 2020. It will be under the Stones label and Burgundian in style—most like a Meursault—aged in new French white Burgundy barrels. I tasted it on Friday and the acidity is perfect.
*All photos courtesy of Fairchild Napa Valley.
Written by Katie McElveen