Burgess Cellars Celebrates a Milestone with Speeches, Friends and a 45 Year Vertical Tasting
“It truly was one of Napa’s special evenings”, said vintner Steven Burgess, of November 3rd. Alongside his team and family, Steven had hosted Burgess Cellars’ 45th Anniversary Celebration & Library Tasting.
The evening was joyous, delicious, and sentimental. Fans and friends poured into the Barn at Farmstead Restaurant in Saint Helena, greeted by Steven Burgess, winemaker Kelly Woods, and near to 45 years of library wines. The spirit of founder Tom Burgess was there… Steven wore his father’s tie and his father’s favorite American made Allen Edmonds shoes as a nod to his dad.
Faces old and new had words to share of this four and a half decade journey. In a speech, former Burgess Cellars vineyard manager Jon Dodge spoke of the early days in the yet to be proven Napa Valley. (Jon Dodge full blog.)
“The prestige hadn’t quite come on board yet. I don’t think it was the big leagues just yet.”
Jon laughed and recalled 1979, the first of twenty harvests he’d go on to do at Burgess. Young Steven Burgess had just received a camera for his birthday and was taking pictures.
“He caught a picture of me looking so miserable…. and the look on my face was ‘what the hell am I doing here?’ Because the first week was like an 80 hour week!”
Tom Burgess, Jon remembers, was supportive and gave him a wide opportunity to learn. Tom purchased a second patch of land, and they embarked on developing a vineyard from scratch, which would become Haymaker Vineyard, the second of today’s two Burgess Cellars estate vineyards.
“That was really the opportunity to lay it all out on paper. It was pre-computer times. You would lay it out on a map and draw it by hand. Later you’d go out there and try to drive that thing on a tractor, and you’d think who designed that thin!” Dodge laughed.
Also making a speech was Matt Reid, Napa Valley winemaker, and another tie to Tom Burgess. Matt’s father had attended Miami University in Ohio with Tom, long before wine and Napa became a way of life. Later, Matt would pursue this same path.
“Tom had come out here and fell in love with wine and decided that’s what he wanted to do, and he did it,” Matt shared. “I pretty much did the same thing, but I had Tom to call for help and guidance. He did it on his own.”
As the crowd listened to speeches, they also heard of the future of Burgess Cellars. Winemaker Kelly Woods, who joined the winery in 2013, told of her journey from a child with veterinarian ambitions, to wine, to head winemaker at one of Napa’s most historic mountain family wineries.
“It’s been a great journey and I feel very honored and privileged to be able to make the wine for such an incredible family and winery that has been around for 45 years now. I’m happy to carry on the tradition of the Burgess Cellars brand.”
Steven Burgess opened the cellar, the real cellar, for this special evening. A four and half decade vertical tasting was the centerpiece of the event, starting with the founding Burgess Cellars vintage of 1972. Many of these wines are no longer available to the public, and may only come out again for the golden anniversary.
The 1972 was an obvious hit, and each guest aimed to taste this pioneer vintage. At the same table emerged a crowd favorite, the 1976, which was showing perfectly with great complexity.
At the current releases table, all crafted by Kelly Woods since her arrival, the 2013 Mountaineer was a standout. Many spoke to how this wine is an amazing blend, and congratulated Kelly on how well she is crafting these mountain wines from historical vineyards.
Fans, friends, community winemakers, and journalists all tasted through 45 years of wines, and all were overwhelmed by this rare palate experience. While the event was festive, filled with food, music and people, guests savored and took time with this vertical tasting.
Matt Reid poured at the 1970s table and shared, “I was surprised how much people remembered about the weather in those long-ago years. I heard a lot about how various droughts must have contributed various characteristics to the wines.”
As guests departed from this special evening, Steven Burgess turned his attention to the next 45 years:
“The future is going to be even better and better.”