When Tom Burgess arrived in the Napa Valley, he began a quest for the perfect vineyard site where he could cultivate the fruit that yields the Cabernet Sauvignon wine he loved. His passion became a life’s work. Burgess acquired the Souverain estate from Lee Stewart and hired Bill Sorenson as his chief winemaker who remained Burgess Cellars’ winemaker for 41 vintages. Bill’s tenure is one of the longest in history of the Napa Valley. When Tom and Bill retired, Tom’s son Steve Burgess assumed the mantle of Director with Winemaker, Kelly Woods.
The story of Burgess tells of geologic time and Napa Valley history, 150 years of growth rooted in the stony soil of Howell Mountain and culminating in the elegant wines of a new century.
Tom Burgess established Burgess Cellars in 1972, but the slopes of Howell Mountain were first planted in 1870 by Italian-speaking immigrants from the Swiss canton of Ticino. The Ponchetta & Rossini families, in the way of their Alpine homeland, cultivated vines on the rugged mountainside at extreme elevations. With the same ambition and imagination, Lee Stewart planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Sirah grapes on Howell Mountain’s steep hillsides, naming his winery Souverain, meaning “sovereign.” Subsequent Napa Valley greats also saw the high promise of the land. Before starting the historic Stag’s Leap and Grgich wineries, Warren Winiarski and Mike Grgich each learned his trade at the Estate known today as Burgess.
In 2020, Steve Burgess passed the baton to Gaylon Lawrence, Jr., upholding a 150-year tradition of family ownership. Gaylon entrusted the legacy of the Howell Mountain vineyard to Winemaker, Meghan Zobeck and Estate Director, Garrett Hales. Meghan and Garrett strive to honor the heritage of the Napa Valley through regenerative farming practices that will preserve the health of the vines and the “magic” of the wine from generation to generation.