Tucked away in the Northeastern end of Napa, lies Chiles Valley AVA. Perched 1000 feet above, it is slightly cooler than the Napa Valley floor. With only a handful of wineries, Chiles Valley is remote and peaceful. Maxville Winery, in Chiles Valley is a luxury destination for those seeking the exceptional wines of Napa Valley. Maxville Winery is gifted with a beautiful and serene setting, away from the hustle and bustle of Highway 29 that runs through the main Napa corridor.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Chiles Valley and was immediately drawn to the beauty of the AVA. Slightly off the beaten path, it is full of rolling hills, wildlife, birds, lakes and of course vines. When I was asked to have dinner with George Bursick, the new winemaker at Maxville Winey, I was thrilled. Having experienced Chiles Valley first hand, I knew I was in for a special evening.
George Bursick has an impressive career in winemaking spanning several decades in Napa and Sonoma. George went to University of California at Davis, where his graduate thesis was on wine body, viscosity and making wines with more texture. This has been his signature drive over the span of his winemaking career. After graduate school George joined McDowell Valley Vineyards in Mendocino where he was the first to make a labeled Syrah in California.
In 1985 George was hired by Ferrari-Carano, where he spent a long and successful 20 years. When he started with Ferrari-Carano the volume was zero, when he left the volume had grown to 350,000 cases. At Ferrari-Carano he made award winning Chardonnay(Wine of The Year – Wine Spectator) and Pinot Noir. He was later approached by his friend Judy Jordan to direct J Vineyards’ Russian River and Sonoma Coast project, where George made world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In the last year, George has joined Maxville Winery. George is not just a winemaker, but he is a talented musician and singer.
George’s goal and vision for Maxville is to bring new ideas to the vineyards, new ideas to grape growing and new ideas to the fermentation techniques. Working with Maxville Winery was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. George says “Maxville is a magnificent property offering a luxury lifestyle approach to the wine experience.”
Only 5-6 wineries are in Chiles Valley. For years the area was a grape growing region for the wineries in Rutherford and Oakville. Now people are putting more attention to varieties and clones and Chiles Valley has emerged as a premier region. Before, Chiles Valley was a workhorse region, with just growers. Now winemakers are realizing the specialness and the quality of the region and several new wineries have been established.
Maxville wines are made with grapes from the Chiles Valley that are situated well above the Napa Valley floor. This allows for a longer growing season, which encourages full phenolic maturity, giving the grapes tremendous complexity. This elevation makes for exceptional wine from Chiles Valley and specifically Maxville Winery.
The Maxville Ranch is 1000 acres, with 150 acres planted. There is a beautiful, modern tasting room. The current owners have spared no expense and have renovated and rebuilt the property. They built 30,000 square feet of caves, installed state of the art computer controlled tanks and many other distinguishing touches.
Maxville Winery is a special place. The concept of the winery is to preserve the land and preserve the heritage of the Native Americans. They are approaching the tasting room concept differently than other Napa Valley wineries. Instead of the glitz of Highway 29 and everyone tasting wines in elaborate tasting rooms, they are doing a respectful project for the land. The property has a mediation center, a yoga studio, and a Buddha garden with warm springs. There is a 50 acre lake with custom made canoes for a floating tasting experience. There are ATV’s on property for guests to discover hidden waterfalls and plant life. With a 1000 acres, there is so much to explore.
We tasted four wines over dinner and great conversations, The Maxville Sauvignon Blanc 2016 is made with 100% Estate Grown “Musqué” clone that is bottled at the ranch. The complex nose is richly expressive with meyer lemon aromas. The palate has flavors of lemon cream and guava with a crisp minerality.
The red wines were equally impressive. The Petite Sirah stole my heart, with notes of black fruit and smoked meats. The wine was solid and earthy. The Cabernet Sauvignon was extraordinary, it was an elegant yet classic Napa Cabernet. The Cabernet Franc was a showstopper. It was bright, vibrant and very food friendly. The Cabernet Franc had fragrant earthy aromas, and a palate that exploded with tobacco, sweet spice, and dark chocolate.
Look out for George’s wines with his first vintage at Maxville in 2018. He says 2018 was a fantastic year with a long slow growing season. The longer the grapes hang on the wines, the more concentrated they get. He is pretty excited for 2018 vintage and after trying the exceptional lineup of Maxville Wines, I am looking forward to the next vintage and hopefully taking a little Zen retreat at Maxville Winery in the near future.