“Make premium wine in Napa” was not originally on the retirement list for Charles and Shirley Roy, the husband and wife duo behind Roy Estate, an exclusive producer of high quality reds. Native East Coasters and lifelong entrepreneurs, the couple fell in love with Napa Valley for its beauty and climate long before they were able to retire there, and long before it occurred to them to get into the wine trade at all.
It’s not the mid-‘60s anymore, when Napa was a free-for-all rural farmland, isolated, wild and barely recognized for its winegrowing potential. Settling in Napa to try a hand as winemakers today a laborious, difficult and downright crazy endeavor.
But it can be done—done with excellence and elegance that became the trademark of Roy Estate, the love child of a livelihood for Charles and Shirley Roy.
Not too many East Coasters do the wild-West-frontier-exploration nowadays. But the Roys never followed the traditional life path. Independent thinkers of the same caliber, they both built and changed status quo and reinvented their life paths a few times over to follow their ambitions. And succeeded in all their endeavors, learning and building legacies together. Naturally, Napa proved to be just an opportunity to delve into another adventure.
After selling their successful executive suite business in 1998, the Roys had the time and the funds to pursue a years-long desire—retire to Napa. In 1999, they bought a ranch, just south of the Stags Leap District—and Roy Estate was born. The original plan was to enjoy themselves in their beloved Napa and grow grapes to sell to other wineries. That is, until they realized, with the help of the renowned winemaker Helen Turley, what jewel of a land and microclimate they acquired. In 2004, the Roys hired a skilled winemaker Phillipe Melka, and there was no looking back. With Philippe’s guidance, the decided to focus on making only two high-quality reds from estate grown fruit—a Cabernet Sauvignon and a proprietary blend. Their new careers as vintners had begun.
“It’s been an amazing journey”, says Shirley Roy. “It’s about what’s in the bottle. It needs to show the best expression of the vineyard. And it’s a very labor-intensive process.” I ask, would they do it over again, start Roy Estate from scratch, knowing all they know now? Shirley’s answer? Absolutely.
What strikes the most about Roy Estate wines is elegance, which seems to be on the sidelines these days in the quest for ever bigger, bolder, more alcoholic reds. Too many producers are conforming to a happy medium of tastes, a safe ground of softer, fruitier Cabernets.
Yet when comes to wine, elegance is the reason we search for that perfect bottle. It’s about the right balance of everything in a glass. Elegance is beautiful because it’s simple. It doesn’t need shiny objects or big brands to attract attention. It’s understated, elusive and difficult to achieve. But once perceived, it is instantly understood.
Roys’ reds achieve that state perfectly. The wines integrate passion and restraint. The yin and yang. The best of both styles—French subtlety and ripe Napa grapes. The rich, luscious fruit kissed by the abundant California sunshine is skillfully made into wine of a Bordeaux-like finesse—it doesn’t overpower, it doesn’t jump out of the glass with flavor, it doesn’t push. It caresses your taste buds and opens up slowly, then envelopes your senses with rich layers of black fruit, earth, cocoa and pepper.
Roy Estate wines are handcrafted with care to be enjoyed—in a way wines made a century ago were meant to be enjoyed—with food carefully made to dance around the wines, and with good company to share the experience.
Timeless. Complex. Age-worthy.