Estate Notes: On observation, hues of plum and crimson appear in the glass. Aromatics of chocolate, coffee, raspberry, and bramble are encountered on first taste. Hints of dry herbs emerge as the wine is allowed to evolve in bottle and glass. Smooth and robust texture, plush tannins, and balanced acidity lend to a prodigious finish and wonderful expression the Pritchard Hill terroir.
At nearly 1,400 feet above sea level on south-sloping acreage, HOUYI Vinyeard sits above the fog line, basking in the morning sunshine. Twenty-two acres are planted primarily to Bordeaux varietals, with several Rhone blocks. HOUYI’s oldest vines were planted in 2004.
Situated in the Vaca Mountains – the eastern-most range of the Napa Valley – the Hambright soils of HOUYI Vineyard originate from volcanic basalt ﬂows. Since the end of the last ice age, when sea levels began rising and 120” of annual rain was common to the area, boulders began to take on a rounded shape. Continued intense weathering pulled potassium and iron-rich minerals off the rock face, leaving today’s spherical boulders ﬂoating in a sea of red clays.
To develop and farm HOUYI Vineyard, vast quantities of boulders were excavated from the top ﬁve feet of soil. Stones remaining below the ﬁve-foot datum provide deep ﬁssures for grapevine roots to forage down, seek out moisture and draw nutrients. These geologically young, inhospitable, yet intensely mineral-rich soils are what give HOUYI vines their superior vigor and the fruit its extraordinary concentration.
The Chang family bought the former Spanos-Barberian Ranch on Pritchard Hill in 2010 and rechristened it Houyi. Since then, the Changs have spared no expense in redeveloping their vineyard and building a winery on site. Much of the fruit is sold to other producers, but the Changs bottle a small amount of wine under their own label, Nine Suns. Philippe Melka is the winemaker for the 2017 vintage. (winemakers for prior vintages include Sam Kaplan, Benoit Touquette and Helen Keplinger)