Wine is about taking in the moment to make your moment memorable. It becomes part of the winetasting experience and the significance of winemaking. In the case of Napa Valley winery Eleven Eleven Wines, it represents a flash in time when one has the opportunity to enjoy their wine. This theme represents the meaning behind the name Eleven Eleven and the philosophy Ellie Anest’s winery hopes to obtain.
The story of how Eleven Eleven began is unique. It did not start with a desire to make wine; Ellie Anest and Carol Vassilliadis created a partnership for real estate investment properties, building a portfolio of short-term rentals.
The first property they purchased included a 3.5-acre vineyard in the Oak Knoll AVA. Needless to say, they got hooked on the vineyard and the idea of making wine from their vineyard. It was a time to make your moment for Elle.
When opportunities come forward, Ellie always tries to take advantage and make her moment. Another door opened when a second vineyard became available, a 16-acre property, again in the Oak Knoll AVA. Luck was still with Ellie when she discovered a property with an abandoned winery and additional undeveloped land near the city limits of Napa, giving Ellie both a winery and a tasting room close to the Downtown Napa district. Eleven Eleven has the best of both worlds, being an urban winery and a traditional winery experience due to the vineyard location so close to town.
Ellie Arnest Story
Ellie grew up on a working farm in Nebraska but moved to San Diego for college. While in San Diego, she met Carol Vassiliadis, and they quickly became close friends. With a background in accounting and finance, Ellie’s career path took her to work for many Fortune 500 companies and mid-sized and small businesses. Today, Ellie’s focus is on her winery.
Carol Vassiliadis Story
Born and raised in New York, Carol started at Penn State but transferred to San Diego State College after her parents moved to San Diego. She majored in English and speech. After graduating, Carol taught English at the high school level in both San Diego and Pasadena. After marrying Laki Vassiliadis, she and Laki built a real estate business in San Diego. She is very involved in philanthropy. Her interest in a new investment ignited when Ellie approached her with the idea of investing in a new business venture, Eleven Eleven Winery.
Eleven Eleven Winemaker Kirk Venge
The next step on their path to making wine was finding a winemaker. That winemaker is Kirk Venge. Kirk has made winemaking his life’s pursuit and represents the third generation of his family to do so; Knud Venge, having immigrated to the US from Denmark, comes from a winemaking family. Kirk grew up in Rutherford, helping his father, Nils Venge, in the family vineyard. Kirk attended the University of California, Davis, and graduated with a degree in Viticulture and Enology. During his studies at Davis, he focused on vineyard management and winemaking. During this time, he interned at Mumm Napa Valley.
Kirk then traveled to New Zealand to work harvest at Rapaura Vineyards in Marlborough. He returned to work at Mumm for another season before joining his father and the Venge Family Reserve wines. Kirk helped restore and build Venge Vineyards at the historic Rossini Ranch Property. In 2008, Kirk took over as owner and winemaker of Venge Estate Vineyards and Winery, moving operations to its current location in Calistoga.
Besides his winemaking role at Eleven Eleven, Kirk is the consulting winemaker for several other boutique wineries in the Napa Valley area.
Kirk pays homage to the Eleven Eleven theme by saying, “This wine and our chance meeting are no coincidence. The road here is behind us, and the path ahead is unknown. Together, we share this moment. The Time is now.”
Napa Valley Winery Eleven Eleven Wines – The Name
Naming Eleven Eleven was intentional. The meaning behind the Eleven Eleven is astrologically driven. In numerology, the significance is that all four numbers are the same, especially when you think of a digital clock where the numbers line up exactly twice a day. For the spiritual, they say to make a wish at 11:11 because the universe is aligned and luck is with you.
Laki’s Vineyard, the original property purchased in 2012, cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon. The 16-acre parcel, known as Destin Vineyards, lies along the Napa River and is planted with Syrah, Riesling, Merlot, and Malbec grapes. The Eleven Eleven Vineyard was purchased in 2013 and 2014 and planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc.
In addition to the three estate vineyards, Eleven Eleven sources grapes from Vivio Vineyard, Bennett Valley in Sonoma. The vineyard supplies the Syrah for Rosé. The Bestoffer Melrose Vineyard in Rutherford provides Eleven Eleven with Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Dutton Ranch’s Mill Station Vineyard in the Russian River Valley is home to Eleven Eleven Chardonnay.
Both Calesa in the Petaluma Gap and Bicigalupi Goddard Ranch Vineyard in the Russian River Valley are sources for Pinot Noir. Old Vine Zinfandel comes from Moss Creek in the Capell Valley of Napa Valley. Finally, Saddleback in Oakville supplies the grapes from the Late Harvest Zinfandel.
Eleven Eleven Wines
Beckstoffer Sauvignon Blanc 2022: Beckstoffer is famous for their Cabernets, but of late, they are also growing Sauvignon Blanc at their Melrose Vineyard in Rutherford. True to Eleven Eleven’s theme of making your moment and some luck, Eleven Eleven was one of the first to source Sauvignon Blanc grapes from this 40-year-old vineyard. After aging for six months in stainless steel and French oak, 20% new, the wine delivers a light, crisp demeanor and tropical and citrus nuances.
Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2021: This Russian River Chardonnay barrel ferments and ages 14 months in French oak, 25% new. The wine, with its bright acidity and some viscosity, exhibits ripe citrus fruit with accents of honeysuckle.
Bacigalupi Pinot Noir 2019: This wine is unique and special because the grapes ferment in the sun during the day. At night, the bin is brought inside. The Pinot ages 16 months in French oak, 40% new. The result is an unfined and unfiltered wine showcasing ripe, plush fruit with herbaceous qualities accented by some savory flavors.
X-I Cabernet Sauvignon 2020: By far my favorite, the wine consists of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% mix of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. These varieties all come from the Eleven Eleven Wines Estate vineyards. The wine ages 22 months in 80% new French oak. I found a nicely balanced, softer Cabernet, Kirk Venge’s take on a Bordeaux blend. Both red and dark fruits combine and produce a wine with a smooth, elegant texture.
Tasting through the Napa Valley Winery Eleven Eleven wines, I felt a synergy, mainly because all the examples were very approachable and classic iterations of the varietals. The wines are solid, high quality, and high value. All these attributes help make your moment.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted winetasting luncheon with Eleven Eleven Wines. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.