Founded in 1969, Cuvaison is one of the pioneering wineries that shaped the modern era of California winemaking, helping to catapult Napa Valley onto the global stage as one of the world’s most revered wine regions. Five decades later, Cuvaison remains true to its pioneering roots. Still an independent, family-owned, working winery today, Cuvaison is dedicated to making estate-grown Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from its acclaimed vineyard in the cool Los Carneros appellation of Napa Valley. Recognized as quintessential expressions of cool-climate Napa Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Cuvaison’s wines offer seamless balance, vibrant fruit and vineyard-inspired character and complexity.

History & Ownership

In 1967, after several years of making his own home wines, Thomas Parkhill traveled to Napa Valley in search of high-quality grapes, where he met winemaking legend, Louis Martini. Martini pointed him westward towards a Pinot Noir vineyard in Los Carneros. Two years later, Parkhill, and Thomas Cotrell founded Cuvaison, with Parkhill making Cuvaison’s inaugural vintage of Napa Valley Chardonnay—a varietal focus that has continued for the past five decades.

In 1979, Cuvaison was acquired by the Schmidheiny family of Switzerland—fourth generation vintners who still own the winery today. The Schmidheiny family immediately cemented Cuvaison’s focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir by acquiring 400 acres of highly prized land north of San Pablo Bay in Napa Valley. The site was selected both for its ideal mix of clay and loam soils, and for its unique marine-influenced microclimate, where wind and fog from the bay result in summer temperatures that rarely exceed 80o F, providing ideal conditions for Burgundian varietals and Sauvignon Blanc. These unique conditions—which make Los Carneros the coolest region in Napa Valley—resulted in it becoming the first American Viticultural Area in California to be established based on its climate in 1983.

In the four decades since its founding, the Napa Green-certified Cuvaison estate vineyard has been thoughtfully sculpted into a mosaic almost 40 blocks of Chardonnay and more than 20 of Pinot Noir, along with smaller blocks of Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Syrah. The vineyard currently has 210 planted acres featuring state-of-the-art viticultural methods and materials, including higher vine density, modern trellising, and hand-picked clones and rootstocks that are tailored to the elevation and soil type of each block. Neighboring iconic sites like Hyde and Hudson, it is a grand-cru caliber vineyard that has evolved through a constant process of refinement into one of Napa Valley’s finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards.

In order to preserve the character and complexity of the estate’s diverse palette of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Cuvaison built a new 32,000-square-foot winery in 2009. Built to handle numerous small lots, the winery was designed to the specifications of Cuvaison’s talented winemaker, Steve Rogstad, a master of Los Carneros Chardonnay and Pinot Noir who has guided Cuvaison’s winemaking since 2002. Fully temperature controlled, the smart-shed winery includes an optical sorting system, gravity flow, three concrete eggs, and more than 60 tanks for individual fermentations. As a result, each individual vineyard block has a vessel specifically selected for that wine.

In 2016, three years ahead of Cuvaison’s 50th anniversary, Dan Zepponi was named president and CEO of Cuvaison Estate Wines. The son of famed vintner Gino Zepponi, who cofounded ZD Winery, Dan grew up in the wine industry. Having worked in every area of operations from the vineyards to the winery, Dan is a “winemaker’s president,” who practices a root-to-wine approach to making wine. Just as important, as a wine country native, Dan recognizes the pivotal role that Cuvaison played in shaping the modern era of Napa Valley winemaking.

“When you look at the world’s most revered wineries, there are several common threads,” says Dan. “They are often independent, family-owned wineries that have spent generations focusing on a few core varietals, while nurturing a remarkable piece of land. They are also wineries that helped to pioneer and define their regions, making wines that captured the imagination of wine lovers with an intimate sense of place. These have always been Cuvaison’s values, and they are the foundation we are building on as we look toward our next fifty years.”

The History of Cuvaison Estate Wines:

  1969:   Cuvaison Winery established
  1979:   Thomas Schmidheiny (Swiss) purchases Cuvaison Winery in Calistoga, plus 400 acres of undeveloped land in the heart of Napa Valley's Carneros
        1991:   Replanting begins with the focus on block-by-block farming for primary varietals, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir
  1998:   Historic Brandlin Vineyard in the rugged Mount Veeder purchased; focused on Cabernet Sauvignon
  2004:   New state-of-the art winery is built on Carneros estate
  2007:   Installed 1,428 solar panels and implemented green initiatives in Carneros winery
  2009:   New tasting room and barrel rooms built on Carneros estate
  2012:   Cuvaison Winery of the Year, Wine & Spirits