This winemaking couple discovered Sangiovese while eloping in Tuscany in June 2001. Their holiday-turned-honeymoon evoked their love for the varietal and a passion to find and make it “California style.” In 2015, a close friend introduced them to an opportunity to acquire Sangiovese fruit from a premier grower off Bennett Lane in Napa Valley. Their aspiration soon came to life, and they launched 601 Cellars, memorializing that inspirational date in history with the name of their wine label.
The husband and wife duo took the helm of the winemaking process from punch downs to blending trials, with mentorship from some of Napa Valley’s award-winning winemakers along the way. Barb Spelletich of Spelletich Family Winery took the newcomers in and taught them the ropes of winemaking and production, and more recently, industry veteran, Rudy Zuidema, winemaker for Shadybrook Estate. In 2018, he introduced them to some exceptional fruit in Pope Valley and Rutherford’s McGah Vineyard. Rudy’s three-decade career making wines for premier wineries in Napa Valley and experience producing fruit from these vine- yards has been instrumental for 601 Cellars to take things to the next level.
From the beginning, the foundation of 601 Cellars is centered on the close connections that come with sharing great wine with people you love. It’s the quality of those relationships that have kept the momentum going. From the origin of the fruit, production and winemaking, even the whimsical artwork on each label is created by a close circle of talented artist-friends. “The only reason we got here is through the support of others,” said Laura.
“The collaboration with people we know, don’t know, and have gotten to know has been the most rewarding aspect of this vintner journey.” – Laura Larson
Now in their fourth vintage, Brian and Laura have no intention of changing 601 Cellars. “Our objective is not to compete with the top Cabernet producers of Napa Valley. We want to make wine you can enjoy with a pizza on a Tuesday night,” said Laura. “And we never want to make enough that our friends and we can’t drink,” she quips.
Joking aside, these Napa Valley new- comers know how to craft delicious wines. Their inaugural 2015 vintage received a Gold Medal from the San Francisco International Wine Competition and sold out in its first year. “It’s incredibly humbling,” said Brian, “watching people’s reaction when they taste what we have created and discover they’ve found some- thing beyond Cabernet from Napa Valley.” Producing less than 150 cases, 601 Cellars is sold on allocation. The portfolio includes 100% Sangiovese labels from Napa Valley and Sierra Foothills, and in fall 2019, a Napa Valley Super Tuscan (Sangiovese-Cabernet- Merlot) and single vineyard Grenache from both Rutherford and Sierra Foothills.
NOTE: This article originally appeared on napavalleylife.com
I market, photograph, write about, and (mostly) drink wine.