In 1980, Barbara and Jim Richards were living in Midland, Texas, and began thinking about a second home. They had an interest in wine and started looking for some property in the Napa Valley to build a home and plant a small vineyard. They realized their dream in 1983 when they found a property located five miles west of St. Helena and over 2,000 feet above the Valley floor near the top of Spring Mountain. Vineyard exposure is generally east with many variations, and the soils are derived from the Sonoma volcanics and from Franciscan sandstone. Total acreage is 20 acres with 15 acres planted.
In 1985, after clearing, ripping, and terracing about ten acres, they planted 3,555 bench graft Merlot vines, and 945 Cabernet Sauvignon vines. By 1987, the Richards’ recognized their previous absentee landlord role was insufficient to monitor the vines. So, Barbara came to manage things from January through harvest, while Jim would come to help when he could get away from his business as a petroleum geologist. Their first small harvest was sold to Conn Creek Winery. In 1988, they planted another 2,300 Merlot vines in their last five acres of vineyard.
The early ‘90s were momentous for the Richards’. By 1993, Barb and Jim had moved into their new home in the vineyard, and Pride Mountain Winery released a 1991 Merlot, made from their grapes blended with Pride’s Cabernet Sauvignon fruit. The Richards’ agreed to sell their grapes to the Prides beginning in 1994 and their wine maker, Bob Foley, agreed to make wine from part of the grapes into Paloma Merlot for the Richards’ new label, debuting their Merlot-based blend in 1996. Also, Barb and Jim decided to plant a block of Syrah to see how it would do, and by 1996, they started making the wine commercially as well. Unfortunately, they’ve since pulled up the small Syrah vineyard, and replanted with Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2000, the Richard’s finally decided to construct their own winery on the property. A few years later, their son Sheldon joined them in the business, and to this date the Richards’ Paloma Merlot still stands as one of the enduring benchmarks of the variety in California, and indeed the world.
Join us as we talk with Barbara Richards about Paloma – their early years, and what it was like to basically become pioneers on Spring Mountain, and well as Merlot’s place in Napa Valley.
For more info on Paloma Vineyard: www.palomavineyard.com
Sponsor- Gold Medal Wine Club: www.goldmedalwineclub.com
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