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‘Rare air:’ Why selling this Napa Valley estate could help it reach cult wine status

·4 min read

A four-generation farming family, who has grown grapes on its prized Howell Mountain property since 1969 and whose wines have been produced by an acclaimed winemaker for 24 years, is selling its “near cult status” Napa Valley vineyard and estate for $7.9 million.

“This near cult status, 34-acre, three parcel estate has slightly under eight acres of vineyard planted with the potential to add two more acres,” according to the official property listing. “Now, it is your turn to reach the Cult Status that the estate has been destined to attain.”

The Lamborn family grows zinfandel and cabernet sauvigon grapes on the rich “terroir” of Howell Mountain, which was the first American Viticultural Area designated in Napa Valley and is one of the most prestigious wine regions in the country.

In addition, Heidi Barrett produces the family’s fine wines. She is the only winemaker to have achieved consecutive 100-point scores from wine critic Robert Parker for Screaming Eagle Winery and Dalla Valle Vineyard’s cult wines.

The right buyer, with enough cash on hand, could elevate the estate’s wines to “cult status” by adding a third component to the equation, according to listing agent Damian Archbold of Compass real estate firm.

“If you look at all the wineries that have achieved that (cult) status, they’ve gotten there, essentially, by doing three things,” he said. “First of all, the terroir has to be there. The land itself has to really produce the type of fruit grapes that that could demand that status. The second thing is, it’s what you do with the terroir, so the winemaker has to be really well-respected and perhaps has earned that status already. And in this case, Heidi Barrett, has earned that status.”

The upcoming vintage will be Barrett’s 25th year making wines for the Lamborns.

“And she wouldn’t be there if the terroir was incapable of producing that kind of wine that she would put her name behind,” Archbold said. “And she does, she’s put her name behind it.”

A third and final component could allow Lamborn Winery to achieve the cult wine status it’s destined to achieve, according to Archbold and its owners.

“And so then you might ask yourself, well, why hasn’t it achieved cult status?” he said. “Why aren’t they selling their wines for the same price as Screaming Eagle or some of the other cult status wines. And the reason really is the third component. If you look at the wineries that have achieved that status, most of them started out with very wealthy owners. And those owners had a goal of finding the best wine maker and buying the right terroir, with the idea of creating that type of a wine, and they had the marketing power, represented by the dollars that they have to encourage that status.”

Well-heeled wineries are able to invite the top wine critics to their properties and “wine and dine them,” Archbold said, as well as spend lots of advertising dollars directed at their target audience.

“There are a number of farmers in the Napa Valley (whose) wines are every bit as good as some of the cult status ones — because of the terroir and because of the winemaker — that never achieved that status because they’re really just farmers, and they’ve maybe had the land for multiple generations like the Lamborns have,” Archbold said.

The Lamborn estate is located at 1984 Summit Lake Drive in Angwin, California. The property borders other famous Howell Mountain wineries, such as Dunn and Outpost.

“What’s really unique about this property is it’s surrounded by some wineries that have achieved that kind of status,” Archbold said. “You could throw a rock and almost hit Outpost, which is a cult status winery. Very close is another one — Randy Dunn is one of the most famous winemakers and very, very famous in Napa Valley. And they’re next door as well. And, Robert Foley is right down the street as well, almost next door. So, you know, these, they’re in rare air up there.”

The estate features a primary Mediterranean-style country home built in 1999 with a wrap-around patio and deck and gorgeous views of the trees, vineyards, mountains and valley floor. Gardens and a bocce ball court are located below the patio.

A second home on the property was built in 1987 and remodeled in 2014.

The homes total seven bedrooms, six baths and 5,071 square feet of living space.

The vineyard and building location was carefully designed for the construction of a cave complex underneath the vines stretching the length of the property.

Archbold said interest in the property has been strong, although nobody has popped the cork yet.

“I’ve sold two wineries in the past year,” he said. “And then I have two other private listings of wineries right now. I have never had as much interest in a winery as we’ve had in this one. We’ve had over 20 active visitors. We’ve got three or four people that are actively looking at purchasing it, but no one’s pulled the trigger yet.”

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