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Farmer first policy guides Napa winemaker

Farmer first policy guides Napa winemaker

Note: Wildfires have ravaged California’s wine country in recent weeks. I want to have all of the facts before I write about it. It’s still too soon to say how the fires will affect wine production. The good news is most of the winemakers I’ve talked with had harvested about 90 percent of their grapes before the fires.

When I meet winery owners I am always listening for the story behind their wines. Over lunch with owner Tom Gamble of Napa Valley’s Gamble Family Vineyard, his unique story resonated with me when he said, “I’m a farmer first.”

(My own family is rooted in Arkansas agriculture, which was the seed for my adventurous passion for wine study.)

Gamble’s story confirmed one of my firm beliefs: The essence of a great wine starts with the guiding hand of agriculture.

In 1916, Gamble’s grandfather Launcelot Gamble first began cattle ranching and growing crops in Napa County. He passed not only his land but his fervor to his sons, Launce and George (Tom’s father.) As a third-generation Napa Valley farmer, Tom bought his first vineyard in 1981, taking on the task of farming some of the valley’s most sought-after grapes. The meticulous detail to agriculture and respected farming practices resulted in the opportunity to sell his grapes to vintners.

More than 20 years later, Tom founded Gamble Family Vineyards with the goal of producing wines that express the epitome of grapes coming from the distinct Napa Valley terroir. His shift from farming grapes to bottling his own wines was not an easy decision, “I didn’t know much about winemaking or wine sales, but I knew I had the land to work with.”

Tom practices a holistic approach to farming and winemaking focusing on the specific soil and climate of the Napa Valley. His wineries are certified Napa Green and Fish Friendly. With over 175 acres of grapes growing in some of the most sought-after regions (Oakville, Mount Veeder, Rutherford and Yountville) his grapes come to the winery ready to be made into astounding wines.

As we sampled his wines I could taste his commitment to his craft.


  • 2016 Gamble Family Vineyards Rose, California (about $22 retail)


  • 2012 Gamble Family Vineyards Paramount Proprietary Blend, California (about $90 retail)