Katie Hayne Simpson, one of the owners of Chase Cellars said, “We gave our babies a huge haircut this year, and it wasn’t easy.” She was referring to the 117-year-old Zinfandel vines on the property her family has owned for almost 150 years. “Their arms were breaking off, and we needed to retrain them, and redirect the energy to the right places.”
It’s uncommon to find vines that old and vineyards that have been owned by one family for that long in Napa Valley. It’s truly a historic vineyard, so a little trepidation in pruning the vines is warranted. Chase Cellar’s St. Helena property epitomizes post-Civil War Napa Valley. The original family members who owned the land, William Bowers Bourn, Sr. and Sarah Chase Bourn, owned the Empire Mine, which was the largest hard rock mine in California. They purchased the vineyard in 1872, thus beginning their involvement in the fledgling wine industry. By 1889 they’d built Greystone Cellars, now home to the Culinary Institute of America.
With this amazing pedigree, it’s impressive that the family has kept the vineyard and residence much as it was when originally purchased. Today, William and Sarah’s great-great-granddaughter, Katie, lives in and runs daily operations from the cottage her family used over a century ago as a country retreat from San Francisco. The vineyard name Hayne comes from Katie’s great-grandmother Maud (daughter of William and Sarah), who married William Alston Hayne.
This boutique winery at the base of the Mayacamas mountain range is an unpretentious symbol of Napa Valley heritage and a hidden gem that pays homage to a time of life lived at a slower pace. A visit to the winery is a unique opportunity to walk amongst some of the most storied vines in the valley. The first sip of Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel can captivate the heart of the most avid Cabernet collectors, but perhaps that’s because the wines have been handcrafted by winemaker Russell Bevan since 2014.
Katie attributes much of the label’s success to Bevan. “He’s a true artist, coaxing and developing flavors unique to each site he works with, allowing a sense of place to come through each wine.” Katie refers to him as “a Rockstar who’s elevated the entire portfolio.”
Bevan explained his role as a “personal and passion project with the intention of crafting the most elegant Zinfandel in the world.” Jeb Dunnock of JebDunnuck. com recently awarded Bevan’s 2016 Hayne Vineyard Reserve Zinfandel with 97 points. The truth is in the land, the voice of the vineyards, and the stories they tell throughout the generations. A tasting under the olive grove goes beyond Zinfandel and may include a balanced, beautiful, distinctly California blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, Sarah’s Petite Blend, named for Katie’s mother. Be sure to visit the winery in harvest, and taste berries of 117-year-old and 30-year-old vines side-by-side.
According to Katie, the entire team operates the Chase/Bourn/Hayne family legacy “with a sense of joy and pride,” which is almost palpable in the vineyard, as they encourage visitors to touch the old vines, and share the family’s deep history in Napa Valley.
Layne Randolph. Napa Valley Life Magazine, June 2020