Launching Prothro Family Wines has been filled with many great experience and stories. But, in truth, the genesis of Prothro Family Wines goes back to 1991 when we started making wine in a small, 2-car garage in Los Gatos, California. Back then, we made wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Contra Costa County, and the El Dorado AVA. Since we were big zinfandel fans, we made a lot of it, but also managed to make other wines as well like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Mouvedre, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each year, we made between 200 to 300 gallons and our garage was filled with French and American oak barrels and wine making equipment. The barrel smells were fantastic! We did everything by hand…from picking grapes to fermenting to pressing to barrel aging to bottling. We learned by doing and, although we made our share of mistakes, we made some really great wines. In the end, we gained a lot of experience and learned that it was possible for two people to make great wines in their garage. Along the way, we got advice from some very acclaimed winemakers including Burt Williams at William Selyem, Kent Rosenbloom at Rosenbloom Cellars, Dexter and Val Ahlgren at Ahlgren Vineyards, Ken Burnap at Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards, and the crew at David Bruce Winery. We established a network of growers that gave us access to some really special vineyards and, from 1991 to 1998, we developed a thick rolodex of resources, wine labs, home winemakers, and consultants. We never sold our wines but they became our house wines and our party wines, and they got us through 2 pregnancies (well, got Bruce through 2 pregnancies). Our wines were shared with friends, neighbors, restaurants, and coworkers. We made our wine strictly for fun and because we really liked being part of the journey a wine travels as it goes from buds to clusters to grapes to wine and ultimately to the glass.
In 1999, we put our winemaking interests on hold while we focused on family and careers. Now that we are almost empty nesters, we decided it was a great time to get back to making wine again. So, after nearly a 16-year hiatus, we obtained a small interest in a winery, enlisted a consulting winemaker to help guide us, and we started making it again.
Prothro Family Wines is a small, boutique winery with very limited production. We offer our wines directly to our customers. There are no distributors, no retail, no tasting rooms, no restaurant wine lists. We are not a large corporation nor do we have investors. We get to make each decision along the way…from the vineyards we use to the style of our wines to the final blends in the bottle. We design our labels and corks, we write each word on the website, and we even choose the type of bottles we use. We make decisions together as a team each step along the way to ensure Prothro Family Wines is truly a husband and wife endeavor. No venture backing. No investors. No friends and family money. Just the two of us… and our customers.
If you like really big, super rich, very fruit-forward, high alcohol, hyper-oak infused wines then you may not like ours. However, if you appreciate wines that are balanced and structured, wines that are graceful, wines that express fruit, tannin, and acid with integrated oak, then you’ll really like our wines. We strive to create wines of balance, wines that express the vineyard, and wines with structure. We want out wines to be graceful and built to age. Wines to drink today and hold for tomorrow.
If you ask us to describe what we look for in a wine, we’d tell you that we look for a full expression of the wine across the entire palate. What does that mean? It means we want the wine to unfold as it enters your mouth and progress across your tongue so that it activates your sensory perceptions all the way to the back of your throat.
We find a lot of the wines today are great on the front and mid palate, they are high in alcohol and oak and fruit, but they fall off on the back palate. When wines fall off on the back palate, they are incomplete and they leave you lacking a full sensory experience. We want our wines to give you their full expression across your entire palate. We want the tannins to be subtle with bright acidity and fruit. We want our wines to have a lingering finish. We want our wines to leave you wanting more.
Since we live in Texas, we are often asked if we are making wines in Texas. As much as we love our adopted state, our wines are not from Texas. They are Napa Valley wines sourced from some of the top vineyards and appellations across the Valley. They are no longer made in our 2-car garage but in a state- of-the-art facility that makes wines for a who’s who list of clients and brands (confidentiality precludes us from mentioning the clients but it is impressive).
We start with grapes from premium vineyards and focus on care and attention throughout the whole winemaking process... but real craft comes with blending the wine to create a full, complete, and balanced experience!
2014 Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Our 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet comes from the historic Beatty Ranch Vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards on Howell Mountain. Mike Beatty, the owner, makes and produces Howell Mountain Vineyards wines from this vineyard. This Cabernet is pure Howell Mountain with great structure, red fruit characteristics, a full palate experience, clean acidity, subtle tannins, and integrated French oak. The wine is bright with wonderful expression of fruit and a great nose. It can be enjoyed immediately but will also age and develop more nuance. Ronda and I spent 7 hours blending the wine over 2 days to get the final blend just right. The final blend is 89.5 percent Beatty Ranch Vineyards Cabernet, 4.5 percent Petit Verdot, 3 percent Malbec, 2.5 percent Merlot, and 1 percent Cabernet Franc. Each component plays a specific role in the overall taste, smell, and mouthfeel of the wine and we recently opened the first bottle post-bottling to see how it is progressing. It was stunning—balanced, structured, a nose of cassis, current, dried red cherry and plum with a hint of oak and cedar. It was juicy but elegant. It was seductive. It was soft like velvet.
This wine may be a once in a lifetime opportunity for us since, due to a variety of reason, we were not able to gain access to Beatty Ranch Vineyards in 2015 or 2016. There are 25 cases—just 300 bottles—available.
2016 Yountville Morgaen Lee Vineyard Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
This Sauvignon Blanc is heavenly. Sauvignon Blanc is our go-to white wine and the Morgaen Lee Vineyard is a great vineyard and is used by many acclaimed wineries, such as Ghost Block. Our Sauvignon Blanc is mainly stainless steel fermented and aged. However, we blended in 7 percent barrel aged Sauvignon Blanc for a hint of oak and creaminess and 1 percent Chardonnay to elevate the weight in the mid-palate. The resulting wine is bright and clean with a hint of oak, wet stone minerality, melon and citrus, and a touch of hay. Think New Zealand with an expression of Napa Valley. Think richness and complexity is a very versatile wine. There are just 25 cases—just 300 bottles—available of this wine as well.
We have our 2015 and 2016 Cabernet in the barrel. For future vintages, we will shift to Broken Rock Vineyard (at the base of Atlas Peak and 800 feet above the Silverado Trail—valley floor opulence with hillside structure). Broken Rock yield opulent wines with dark fruit characteristics but gives us wines of balance and structure. We also have a 2016 Reserve Cabernet from the historic Georges III vineyard in the barrel. Georges III was originally planted in the 1870s and was for years the primary source for the BV George de Latour Reserve Cabernet and is classic Rutherford Cabernet. Neighbors are Round Pond and Caymus. Georges III is a Top 5 Cabernet vineyard in Napa and we are blessed to have access to it.
In 2017, we will expand again and offer a Cabernet Franc from the prestigious Stagecoach Vineyard, which is a Top 10 vineyard in Napa. This wine will be in addition to the Broken Rock and Georges III Cabernets. Stagecoach is a wonderful vineyard at the top of Atlas Peak and is used as the source of wines from wineries both big and small. We had a barrel sample of the 2015 Stagecoach Cabernet Franc and fell in love with its aromatic nose and dense but soft fruit in the mouth and vowed to include a wine like this in our offerings.
In all years, we will continue to offer the Morgaen Lee Sauvignon Blanc because we love these wines and love this vineyard.
You can follow us on Facebook, twitter, and Instagram (@prothro_family_wines). We will use social media to announce upcoming events, share new developments, and post new pictures and stories. If you post pictures drinking or enjoying Prothro Family Wines, please hashtag us - #prothrofamilywines – and these pictures will feed to our website under the Social page.
Speaking of the Social page, we will use this as a quasi-blog site. We will share stories, notes, and thoughts as well as playlists. These playlists are intended to share music around our wines or the seasons or special events. You can email us your playlists and we will include those on the site.
Our hope is that Prothro Family Wines will be part of your experiences and stories because…Life is About the Experiences You Have and the Stories You Tell…and the Wine That You Drink!
Thank you for your support, encouragement, and interests…and for enjoying our wines!
Bruce & Ronda