The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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{ }  7 "In 1991, I bought 40 acres and planted [Krupp Estate] vineyard and thought I'd have that and my practice the rest of my life," he said, "but growing grapes was more fun than my medical practice." Dr. Krupp credits a professor at Stanford with turning him onto wine. He also took classes at U.C. Davis and Napa College, read innumerable books and would eventually learn most of what he knows from the people who would become his clients—winemaker rock stars like Paul Hobbs, and Caymus's Chuck Wagner—then later from consultants like Ann Kraemer, Bob Gallagher, Aaron Pott (who made wines for Jan), and today from Stagecoach's Viticulturalist, Gabrielle Shaffer—with several influences in between. Hoping for something beyond his first 40 acres of vines, in 1991 he happened upon an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle for 750 acres, spread across a few miles, at 1,200 to 1,750 feet up the Vaca Mountain range. "Jess Jackson, Bob Miner, Warren Winiarski all looked at it," but all turned it down, Krupp explained as we careened passed the first rows of Stagecoach vines, the summit of Atlas Peak drawing nearer. The reason? No one had been able to find water in that part of Pritchard Hill, "and there were too many rocks. So, I took it on, naively." Krupp hired a team of geologists who identified five potential water sources. Braving the harsh landscape, they drilled down 300 feet in each spot—nothing, nada. "But then we contacted Jonathan Newman—a water witch," Krupp continued. First, he told Krupp where to find an underground river. And in the very spot, 430 feet deep, there was indeed a fairly deep river. Newman then suggested Krupp return to the original five wells to con - tinue digging down to 500 feet. They did, and miraculously, each well contained water—plenty of it. Then, the problem was getting in and out. There was no "road" to speak of. And the process of building the one that exists today would surely have deterred most—but not Jan. After negotiating with 28 neighbors, and some 135 notarized legal documents later, a road was built— but it led straight to the middle of nowhere. Dynamite Hill When he found the property, it was nothing but mountain shrub brush—the "thickest briar patch you've ever seen," and there weren't any surrounding vineyards. But for the next five years, the Krupp brothers (Jan and his brother Bart are partners in Stagecoach) spent seven days a week clearing 125 acres and removing boulders, while planting 100 acres of vines each year. At last estimate they figured some two billion pounds of rocks had been removed—some crushed for gravel to build their roads, some sold and most stacked—the famous rock piles of Stagecoach—a visual reminder of the effort it has taken to conquer Mother Nature. By the turn of the century, about 530 acres had been planted, mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon and a substantial amount of other Bordeaux varieties, as well as some Syrah, Chardonnay, Marsanne, Viognier, Roussanne, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Sangiovese. As of today, Stagecoach covers 1,400 acres with 658 acres planted to vine. The price to plant those vines has varied considerably through the years. Initially, costs ran Krupp around $30,000 to plant certain blocks; lately, it's a staggering $250,000 per acre. "We try to put those [quarter-million-dollar] blocks in the hands of some of the world's best winemakers, and try to charge an appropriate amount for the work that has gone into them," Krupp explained. With that kind of overhead, a $20,000-per-ton price tag for truly coveted grapes is easily understood. The pedigree of winemakers who have long-term con - tracts for grapes from the Atlas Peak AVA and Pritchard Hill areas of Stagecoach Vineyard reads like a list of célé- brités vignerons: Aaron Pott, Dave Phinney, Heidi Barrett, Helen Keplinger Jean Hoefliger , Kirk Venge, Mark Herold and others over the years from Chappellet and Pahlmeyer. And it goes on and on, as does Dr. Jan Krupp's destiny to conquer still-unconquered parcels of land, which explains why he recently acquired property above the highest planted areas around Atlas Peak and is in the process of obtaining permits to grow grapes. If modern science made it possible, it seems as though Krupp would try to plant vines in some ethereal, undiscovered cloud-based terroir. And if anyone could do it—he probably could. My journey with Dr. Jan Krupp through Stagecoach con - tinues in more detail on, with an in-depth look at the farming principles, rootstocks and vine training, along with tasting notes from what is arguably one of Napa's own "Grand Cru" sites. – J.C. "In 1991, I bought 40 acres and planted [Krupp Estate] vineyard and thought I'd have that and my practice the rest of my life,but growing grapes was more fun than my medical practice."

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