My last visit with Titus Vineyards was in 2019 when this Napa Valley winery celebrated fifty years of growing grapes in the Napa Valley. Recently I met with Eric Titus and sampled the wines harvested in 2019. The vintage is one of Titus Vineyards’ best; therefore, the fifty-year celebration is still being honored today as we taste the wine of that marvelous 50th-anniversary vintage.
Since 2019 Titus Vineyards felt the effects of the Glass Fire. Luckily most of their grapes were harvested early. The 2020 vintage, although smaller in quantity, also reflects another exceptional year. Due to the reduction in volume, the wines are likely more concentrated.
As I wrote in my last article, Titus Vineyards exemplifies a family’s determination to maintain the integrity of the land they purchased in 1968. In addition, they aspire to sustain the quality of wine, giving testament to the Napa Valley terroir. Today in Napa, many wineries sell out to big conglomerates. I still find it refreshing to discover wineries that continue to maintain wine-growing traditions from generation to generation, similar to what one encounters in Europe, especially Italy, Spain, and France. In this case, it is a tribute to this Napa Valley winery.
On both occasions, sipping the wine, I had a one-word descriptor for the wine, balance. The balance I perceived in the wine also represents the balance that has sustained this family-owned vineyard for 50-plus years. Balance is accomplished through farming practices, the winemaking process, and ultimately the taste we savor in each bottle of wine.
Titus Napa Valley Winery History
Titus Vineyards is comprised of a 50-acre vineyard located at the base of Howell Mountain on the Silverado Trail in the St. Helena AVA. The legacy of this vineyard dates back to 1841 when Dr. Edward Bale receives a land grant of 18 acres. Through the years, the land passed hands to the likes of Charles Krug and Eli York. Dr. Lee Titus, a Sonoma radiologist, and his wife Ruth purchased the land in 1968.
The Titus Vineyards’ first harvest occurred in 1969, well before Napa Valley and St. Helena became AVAs. Titus sold their grapes to various Napa wineries, including Beaulieu and Cuvaison, until 1990. That same year Titus produced their first vintage as a Napa Valley winery. By 2015 they open their winery. Today, brothers Eric and Phillip Titus oversee the winery’s farming and production. Phillip also is the winemaker at Chappellet Winery.
A Team of Brothers
Eric joined the family business in 1997. As a child, he worked in the vineyards, but before entering the wine business, he pursued a career in Marine biology and received a doctorate in biology. Today he is the general manager and vineyard operations manager. Under his helm, Eric utilized some of his background in applied science and environmental aspects in vineyard practices. These include sustainable farming, dry farming, and reducing the human footprint in the vineyard, with most activity done by hand. This philosophy allows for the grape to reveal its true expression.
With brother Phillip and winemaker Stephen Cruzan, the goal is to produce wine that showcases the unique qualities and characteristics of each lot and block of the Titus Vineyards. With their prowess, they establish the overall balance that is prevalent throughout the Titus portfolio of wines.
Titus Napa Valley Vineyard
Today Titus owns two vineyards. The largest, a 50-acre parcel, The Ranch Estate, lies on the banks of the Napa River, sitting between Silverado Trail on the east and the Napa River west at the base of Howell mountain. This vineyard contains sandy, well-drained alluvial soils. Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel are the main varietals planted in this vineyard.
The Ehlers Estate Vineyard, a 10-acre property, sits between the Napa River and the hills of Spring Mountain. The vineyard consists of rocky volcanic soils planted with the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Sauvignon Blanc. Other varieties include Petite Sirah and Zinfandel.
The logo consists of an amphora set against three diamonds. It is Greco Roman reference to Titus, the emperor, and also represents ancient enology. If one looks closely, the amphora’s placement against the diamonds is like a T, which ultimately stands for the family name and the winery. The logo symbolizes a coat of arms for the Titus family and their vineyards.
New to Titus
The winery is branching out. In 2021 they sourced fruit from a Santa Rosa Vineyard to produce Viognier. Unique to the Viognier. In the near future, Titus will create a Pinot Noir from the Russian River near Graton.
Titus Vineyard White Wine
2021 Sauvignon Blanc: I found a brighter, warmer style compared to a previous tasting of the Sauvignon Blanc. On the nose, floral and fruity aromas prevailed. The flavors leaned toward tropical with a fatter mouth feel and some creamy notes caused by aging in neutral oak. It displays more depth and texture compared to other Sauvignon Blancs. The grapes come from a portion of the vineyard with a warmer climate. The addition of a tiny percentage of Viognier integrates and enhances the wine.
Titus Cabernet Franc
2019 Cabernet Franc blends Cabernet Franc with a small portion of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot. The Cabernet Franc grapes come from a cooler area of the vineyard. Each variety ferments separately and is brought together at six months. The wine ages from 18 – 20 months in both French, Hungarian and American Oak, with 50 percent being new oak. American oak represents 10-15 percent of the oak used. Hungarian oak is tighter-grained and brings a softness to the wine. The wine exhibited depth with flavors of blackberries mixed with a savory component and accents of pepper on the finish.
2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley utilizes two different clones, 337 and See. Clone 337 has less extraction, while the See clone offers grapes with thicker skins, more herbal notes, and red fruit, creating a wine with a more traditional style. This Cabernet consists of Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot. The Petit Verdot and Malbec comes. The wine ages 20 months in French and Hungarian Oak with 60 percent new oak. I found a wine with more concentration, bright fruit, and pepper on the finish.
2019 Family Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon uses grapes from the Ehlers Lane Vineyard. Those vineyards are situated on a knoll, lying closer to the base of the hills. This location is more challenging because the soils are rockier. The vines produce small berries with lower yields and, thereby, more concentrated. The wine combines 90 percent Cabernet with Petit Verdot and aged for 22 months in French oak. I found this wine more brooding with flavors of black currant, mocha, and Expresso as compared to the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Titus legacy lives on as we imbibe the beauty of their vineyards while enjoying the balance and perfection of the Titus wines, especially vintages like 2019 and 2020.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer was hosted to the wine sampled. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.