In 1968, a young radiologist and his Piemontese wife, pulled the trigger on three parcels of vineyard land just north of St. Helena. Neither Lee nor Ruth Titus could have possibly known at the time, but the purchase would prove to be one of the most prescient in St. Helena history.
Forty-five years later, almost every family fortunate enough to have made a similar investment has cashed out, seduced by 10-20x returns. But when Phil Titus entered UC Davis's School of Enology, and later, when Eric left a career in marine biology to join his brother in St. Helena, the die was cast. The Titus's stood pat.
"The math doesn't really work," Eric told us at the family's understated farmhouse on Silverado Trail, less than a mile up the road from our Meadowood bungalow. "If we sold the property and sent the after-tax proceeds to the Vanguard bond department, we'd probably double our annual return on the property. What can I say? We grew up tending soils that are packed with rock. When I look at what's going on all around us, sometimes I wonder if some of the rock didn't end up between our ears!"
The math gets worse. Here's why. Phil Titus, of course, is one of Napa's most celebrated winemakers. For a couple of decades, Phil has authored Chappellet's lavish Pritchard Hill Cabernets, some of the most powerfully concentrated, marvelously age-worthy collectables in the valley. Not surprisingly, Phil's St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignons are cut of similar cloth. As a result, the Titus Cabernet Sauvignon release dates are, by design, a year behind those of his neighbors.
"Phil's a purist." Eric lamented. "His Cabernets age for decades. That's great for the collector, but it wreaks havoc with finances. Our cash flow makes my banker friends wince. Something had to give. That's why I kept opening bottles that spring night in 2010. Phil never gets drunk, but that night, I certainly popped a cork too many!"
At 2am on April 16, 2010, Eric Titus laid out his plan. Phil would continue to make the estate-grown and -bottled Titus Cabernets as he always had. But, now, the brothers would launch a second brand, called Andronicus.
All of the Andronicus fruit would be purchased from further south in the valley where yields were half those of primetime St. Helena. In the cellar, Phil would continue to push the envelope on concentration, while mindful of softening tannic underpinnings. "We could buy fruit for far less than what it costs to farm our own. We'd keep our costs variable -- and we'd be able to release Andronicus a year before our estate Cabernets." Then Eric smiled, and shook his head. "Phil went along with everything. Except the part about BUYING THE FRUIT! He insisted we use his own estate-grown Cabernet, at least in 2010. I have high hopes for the program, but in 2010, we're losing our shirts on Andronicus."
Eric insists that in subsequent vintages, his headstrong brother has agreed to work with purchased fruit, but for this inaugural release from Robert Parker's "epic" 2010 Napa Valley harvest, every Andronicus cluster was drawn from the 50-acre St. Helena oasis, first purchased by the radiologist and his Piemontese wife in 1968.
Deep purple in color with explosive aromas of blackberry preserves, black cherry and cedar, the attack is rich, round, supple and voluminous. Packed with crushed black fruit compote, velour-like in texture, the finish remains soft, round and sumptuous.