Chaix Wines: Under the Radar

John Chaix and his sister Kathy Chaix in the historic Chaix Family Vineyard.

Family-owned Chaix Wines has history on its side

At a recent pouring of Chaix Wines, a man inquired about what was being served as he received his glass.

With a certain amount of indifference, he listened as Kathy Chaix of Chaix Wines told him how the Cabernet Sauvignon was from the family’s Napa Valley vineyard in Rutherford; hand-selected and handmade.

“The guy was kind of skeptical when I told him it was a family label,” Chaix said. “He had that ‘oh, another Mom and Pop winery” kind of attitude.”

Then, as he walked away, he tasted the wine … and quickly turned back to ask her for more information on where he could buy a few bottles.

It’s a reaction she’s gotten used to in her hands-on approach to the sales and marketing of Chaix Wines, which originated from the rich Chaix family history of producing acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In the mid-1800s, Chaix’s great-grandfather, Adrien Pierre “A.P.” Chaix emigrated from the Provence region of France with his brother, Jean V., to California after hearing stories of the agricultural splendor of the Napa Valley.

The duo bought vineyards in Rutherford, Oakville and Howell Mountain. In 1909, A.P. purchased another vineyard, an 80-acre parcel in Rutherford, and cultivated grapes there with cuttings he brought from the famed French Medoc region – specifically, and exclusively, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

“It’s the perfect land, the perfect soil for Cabernet,” Chaix said. “A.P. knew the area that’s now called the ‘Rutherford Bench’ at the foot of the Mayacamas, with the volcanic soil and incredible climate, was the place to grow Cabernet.”

Since the first harvest at the Chaix Family Vineyards after A.P. purchased the land more than 100 years ago, Cabernet Sauvignon from many acclaimed Napa Valley winemakers has featured grapes from the Chaix parcel on the Rutherford Bench. The Chaix vineyard has stayed family-owned and operated since inception, and for decades, the family has heard the praised given to labels featuring grapes grown by Chaix.

After years of listening to the accolades, in 2008, Kathy Chaix and her brother, John, had the idea to produce wine bearing the Chaix name. They polled the rest of the family, and everyone was on board, leading to the production of 50 cases of Chaix Cabernet Sauvignon, which was distributed primarily to friends and family beginning on the 100th anniversary in 2009 of A.P.’s purchase of the property.

“In the Chaix family, we’ve always been growers, and everyone was excited when we said ‘what if we make our own wine?” Kathy Chaix said. “We’ve been growing for more than 100 years, so everyone had the attitude of ‘let’s try this out.’”

The overwhelmingly positive feedback Chaix Wines received after that first run led to expanded production in 2009, which featured the first commercial vintage of 300 cases. By 2012, Chaix Wines bottled 420 cases as the word of mouth spread about the quality of the carefully crafted Cabernet Sauvignon.

Chaix Wines utilizes the talents of second generation winemaker Sam Baxter, the head winemaker at Terra Valentine Winery in St. Helena, where the Chaix Cabernet Sauvignon is produced. Baxter, whose father was also a winemaker, earned a Fermentation Science degree at U.C. Davis and gained experience after graduation at vineyards in California and Australia

“Sam hadn’t worked with Rutherford grapes before, but we knew how talented he is and he was excited to work with us, and we’re excited to have him,” Kathy Chaix said. “The wines he produces are a great expression of our vineyard – 100% Cabernet, food-friendly, bold and fruity … all the things we wanted.”

Chaix Wines feature the characteristics of traditional Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, with the Rutherford grapes providing the classic “Rutherford Dust” element of bold fruit, tannins and black, juicy richness, and a long, lingering finish balanced with depth and brightness. Wine enthusiasts are exposed to those flavors at the many events where Kathy Chaix herself pours samples and tells the story of Chaix Wines. Like the once-skeptical sampler from that recent pouring, those wanting to purchase Chaix Wines are directed to the Wine Club at  HYPERLINK “” The 2010 vintage is sold out, but the 2011 vintages of Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon have just been released and are available. The 2012 vintage will also be available in the near future.

“We’re not yet working with distributors because we’ve had great success with our Wine Club and our grassroots marketing,” Kathy Chaix said. “People like to discover those great under-the-radar wines, and we think it’s kind of sexy to be under the radar.”

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