Part 1: Charting a New Course in Coombsville
In 2015, Paul Maroon helped form the Save the Family Farms initiative with the focus on preserving the Napa Valley’s small family vineyards, which are the backbone of the agricultural history of the region. The key driver behind this is to ensure that small producers can remain viable and competitive for future generations to come.
Save the Family Farms has advocated for equal access to conduct and host onsite tastings, in order to increase direct to consumer sales. Institutional wineries have a competitive advantage over smaller producers due to the large amount of capital required to build tasting rooms. Costs often exceed several million dollars and the hurdles to get the approvals and, ultimately, the construction of a facility can often exceed five years. As a small family vineyard, this often is untenable.
Maroon Wines is rooted in the history of the region and embodies the intimacy that customers from around the world seek out. Based out of Coombsville, Maroon purchased the 37 acre estate over twenty years ago, and released his first vintage in 2010 after he also purchased and sold 300 acres in Pope Valley. Maroon had a passion for wine ever since he was a child making it with his uncle in Pennsylvania. His career led him to the Bay Area, as both an entrepreneur selling medical devices and a partner in several SF restaurants, which was his entry point into the wine business.
Sadly, in October of 2019, Maroon passed away leaving the winery to his wife Renee, who was primarily focused on her day job as a family therapist. Kara Krushin, General Manager of the winery, would take over most of the business-related tasks and functions to keep the winery on a steady trajectory. “Paul was more than the owner of Maroon—he was a friend and mentor,” said Krushin. “His personality was larger than life and made Maroon into what it is today.”
Maroon Wines’ vineyard is situated in a bowl-shaped depression topped by an extinct volcano, Mt. George. The grapes benefit from a slower and more even ripening due to their location in the southern part of Napa Valley. “Here, the fog burns off later in the day and frosts are less likely to occur. Our land is a mosaic for rocky volcanic soil and rich gravely loams, which provides both easy drainage and water access for our vines,” said Krushin.
As mergers and acquisitions continue throughout the Napa Valley, the competitive gap will continue to widen for small producers like Maroon Wines. The coordinated effort of the Save the Family Farms initiative will help ensure small producers remain in business, continue their operations, sell more wine and gain more access to consumers. As part of their operating model, the organization is looking to get local legislation modernized. “We are asking for the Winery Definition Ordinance to be reevaluated, as it was passed in the late 1980’s, and the wine industry is in a completely different place now, particularly with the rise in direct to consumer and online sales,” said Krushin.
Tourists traveling to Napa have continued to look for smaller, more intimate experiences, especially those who have visited Napa Valley previously. Many people have been to the bigger wineries and want to find wines that they cannot easily find in retail outlets or restaurants. “They want to purchase something unique that has a story attached. Save the Family Farms will allow an introduction of our small wineries to an entirely new group of consumers,” noted Krushin.
Coombsville has remained a hidden gem within the context of Napa Valley. The majority of the wineries have a small town feel where you can sit down and have a glass of wine directly with the owner or the winemaker. There is a lack of pretentiousness and the area exudes old-school Napa, where farmers are the vintners. It’s a tight-knit community of neighbors and friends.
Don’t be a stranger.
2014 PJM Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon- Released on founder Paul Maroon’s birthday, this Coombsville estate vineyard wine honors his legacy in the Napa Valley. Flavors of blackberry, black currants and a touch of cocoa round out this polished wine. The wine goes best with a special occasion to celebrate the ones you love. Pair it with steak and potatoes or whatever captures that familial moment.
2014 Reserve Zinfandel- dark fruits on the nose. Flavors of raspberry and blackberry followed by a nice long finish. At 14.4%abv, this wine would go great with a succulent braised pork.