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The Under-the-Radar Excellence of ADAMVS Napa Valley


Cypress House, ADAMVS Napa Valley

No strangers to winemaking when they founded Napa Valley’s ADAMVS, Denise and Stephen Adams had perfected their vinous technique as proprietors of the highly esteemed and historic Château Fonplégade in the legendary Saint-Émilion wine region of Bordeaux where Denise organically and biodynamically oversees their vineyards. The two Francophiles met more than three decades ago on a blind date and subsequently married in the Dordogne. Today, the duo splits their time between the Napa Valley and France, where they painstakingly renovated and revitalized their time-worn, World War II-ravaged chateau, and in doing so, earned the respect and esteem of the residents and vintners of their adopted country. 

Château Fonplégade

That same attention to detail is found in their American ADAMVS venture (the Latin name means ‘borne from our red earth,’ a more-than-fitting reflection of the estate’s high elevation vineyard blocks comprised of iron-rich red soils) where Denise utilizes the same sustainable farming techniques that she implements at Château Fonplégade. “I knew when we started ADAMVS that to do right by the rich tapestry of Howell Mountain elements, we had to farm responsibly and in harmony with our mosaic of five vineyard sites,’ said Denise. ‘In our hand-tended vineyard, we practice a simple but exacting philosophy – that there are no shortcuts; excellence is earned through hard work and fervent, passionate attention to the smallest details.”

Those exalted Howell Mountain elements include altitude, rolling hills, unique microclimates, and five prominent soil types that serve to produce balanced fruit. ADAMVS’s 27 acres are planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon with nine hand-selected clones spread over an array of exposures and elevations. The remainder are plantings of three small blocks of Sauvignon Blanc used in their French oak barrel fermented, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, crafted in an age-worthy style to produce a wine of textural and aromatic complexity. 

The winery’s lush, high-end estate Cabernet Sauvignon bears the ADAMVS name while two additionally superb Cabernets follow-suit with their own apt Latin titles: TÉRES, meaning ‘round, smooth, polished,’ and QUINTVS, meaning ‘five,’ and featuring barrel selections from each of the property’s five soil types. All three possess the purity, precision, and elegant tannin structure that produce the finest Cabernet Sauvignon, yet each offers its own unique expression of the spectacular ADAMVS estate. And each is a prized addition to the collections of wine lovers the world over. 

Denise Adams. Photo by Kim Carroll

To actualize her vision of creating the highest quality Napa Valley wines, Denise assembled a ‘top-of-their-game’ crew, each of whom appreciates the remarkable characteristics of ADAMVS’s Howell Mountain terroir and shares the passion for organic and biodynamic farming. “Our extraordinary team is singularly focused on building a great wine estate which uniquely expresses our land,” said Denise. That team includes Winemaker Alberto Bianchi, General Manager Kit Gilbert, Director of Estate Relations and Hospitality Amy Particelli, and Consulting Winemaker Philippe Melka, who is routinely named as one of the world’s top viticultural talents and whose Bordeaux background and consultancy with numerous Napa Valley wineries made him a natural choice for Denise.  

Bianchi joined the team in 2021 following an extensive, months-long search for a winemaker who would not only steward ADAMVS wines in the cellar, but rear them from the moment of their inception in the vineyard, working closely alongside Melka. Raised in Milan, Italy, Bianchi’s passion for the vine and wine began at age seven while helping his grandfather craft Barbera in his cellar, wine that the family enjoyed throughout the year. It is not just the act of winemaking that captures Bianchi’s interest, it’s also the “romantic and heroic” nature of viticulture in extreme sites that drives him today. He believes that the vineyard is the heartbeat of a winery.

Denise & Stephen Adams

The ADAMVS guest experience is as special as its wines, taking place in either the innovative and stunning Cypress House Tasting Room or the adjacent Wine Library. Both were designed – with Denise’s input – by San Francisco architect Kurt Melander. An open glass room surrounded by a freestanding cypress log wall sculpture, the Cypress House is an iconic structure of distinction that artistically filters light. The Wine Library resides in a 12-inch solid concrete wall structure revived from a historical agricultural building by Melander who removed each piece of wood from the original, numbered them, cast them in concrete, and then reconstructed the layout. The building conceals a jewel box-like space containing a small tasting room and the Adams’ wine collection. A completely retractable roof (the inspiration of which came to Denise in a dream) creates an al fresco atmosphere. These two iconic structures combine modern and classic elements to create spaces of nuanced beauty that are experienced differently depending on the season, time of day, light, and all the natural elements that make Howell Mountain an ideal home for Cabernet Sauvignon.

ADAMVS Bee Boxes

Denise Adams at Château Fonplégade

The artisan ADAMVS method of farming extends beyond the soils, vines, and orchards to every aspect of the business, ensuring a vibrant ecosystem in harmony with its community and environment. The property features blue bird boxes, an extensive insectary and free range chicken and sheep. Honey is captured from the cache of beehives, olive oil is pressed from the property’s olive trees, fig jam is made from the fruit trees and handmade teas come from the herbs in the Biodynamic gardens.

“We have a tapestry here that creates the perfect convergence of geology and geography, which in turn creates beautiful wines,” said Denise. “As dedicated vintners, our mission is clear – to create profound wines with longevity, elegance and a purity of expression. That expression is of this beautiful place. It’s a privilege for us to do so. It’s the ultimate for me.”

Photos courtesy of ADAMVS





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