Roy Estate was established by Shirley and Charles Roy, two East Coasters, who, like so many others, fell in love with Napa Valley, caught the wine bug, and never looked back. Sadly, Charles passed away in 2010, but not before he was able to watch the beautiful, small domaine come to life. Since then, Shirley has continued to run the estate with great success.
The Roys’ foray into winemaking began in 1999 when Shirley and Charles purchased golfer Johnny Miller’s beautiful estate in the Soda Canyon area. At the time, the Roys were planning to build a home at the nearby Silverado Country Club, but the beautiful design and sweeping views from Miller’s property won them over. Once settled in, they thought it would be great to plant a few acres of vines, enjoy the views, and sell the grapes off to various wineries.
Pina Management came in to plant five acres in 2001, but seven months into the project they brought some interesting news: Superstar winemaker Helen Turley was taking on a select number of small projects and she was interested in their property. Even as East Coasters, the Roys knew this could be big, so they invited Helen and her “dirt doctors” to come have a look. Turley’s team drilled about 300 holes all over the property and three months later they told the Roys that they wanted to start winemaking there. The caveat was that the Roys would have to do all the planting to Turley’s exact specifications, which meant ripping out the five acres just planted. But it was Helen Turley, so what choice did they have? In the end they planted 17 of the estate’s 42 acres — 12 to Cabernet Sauvignon, four to Merlot, and one to Petit Verdot.
The property itself sits in the foothills of the Vaca Mountains on the valley’s southeast side. Atlas Peak is to the east, Oak Knoll to the west, and Stags Leap to the north. The area is influenced by moderating winds from the San Pablo Bay that have the dual effect of warming during cold spells, and cooling on hot summer days, allowing a longer, more even ripening period for grapes. Grassi Wine Company, just down the road, experiences some of the same effects of this unique micro-climate.
The shape of the property is also quite distinct. It consists of two ridgelines divided by a creek that runs down from Atlas Peak. Gently rolling hills slope down from the ridgelines creating a valley in the center of the property. It was winemaker Philippe Melka who first viewed each side as a unique terroir, referring to the “Right Bank” and “Left Bank,” respectively — inspired, no doubt, by his Bordeaux origins. Melka also put forth the idea of creating two wines of equal quality to express the dual nature of the property. The Proprietary Red and Cabernet Sauvignon cuvées are the result.
The vineyard consists of 17 blocks, with soil types and exposures varying throughout. Soils near the center of the property are less rocky, with alluvial deposits from the creek. The slopes, however, are made up of 85-95% volcanic cemented ash/rock — this ground is so hard that the Pina teams had to pound it with Caterpillar D10s to rip the vineyard so they could plant. All harvesting is done block by block, by hand. The whole process typically takes over a month as all of the various parcels ripen at their own pace.
The wines are richly layered and fairly modern in style, combining seamless purity and elegance, with depth and concentration. The Cabernet — the “Left Bank” expression of the property — is usually a bit more muscular and dense than the more elegant and supple Proprietary Red. Overall it is a terrific small estate where the diversity and complexity of California’s terroirs are beautifully captured and expressed.