Brian Nuss’s passion for wine came from building homes on Mount Veeder. As a general contractor, he built many homes in the bay area. Building the home for comedian/actor Robin Williams finally brought Brian to Napa Valley to live. He took his first step into vineyard management when Robin asked Brian to oversee the vineyard development. That vineyard PymRae became the catalyst for Brian owning his own winery Vinoce Vineyards, and focusing on highlighting Mount Veeder Cabernet.
Brian named his winery Vinoce, pronounced veen-O-chay, which he interprets to mean “wine nut.” The name reflects his German Italian heritage. Nuss means nut in German, and Noce refers to nut in Italian. Brian became a wine nut the day Robin got him into farming.
The first vintage of Vinoce in 1996, a blend, occurred after Brian oversaw planting 25 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
Robert Craig, Hess Collection Winery, mentored Brian initially, and he suggested that Brian set aside some PymRae fruit to make his Vinoce wine.
In 2013 Keith Emerson, winemaker at Vineyard 29, came on as Associate winemaker and later winemaker.
Today Vinoce’s Mount Veeder Cabernet grapes come from an 8-acre estate vineyard known as Wall Vineyard near PymRae that Brian purchased in 2013.
Vinoce is known for its Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, but they also produce Cabernets from Oakville and St. Helena. In addition, Vinoce’s portfolio includes two white wines, both Sauvignon Blanc. One is a Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and the other is Lucky Penny Sauvignon Blanc.
The Wall Vineyard is located in the northern portion of the area. Grapes from Mount Veeder are very different from the valley floor. Described as mountain fruit, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc have more structure with firm tannins and acid profiles. These characteristics are caused by the elevation, gravelly shallow soils causing the vines to stress, and the long growing season. The wine typically emphasizes black fruit, graphite, and a piney, sappy resin quality, which makes the wine powerful and complex.
In 2013 Brian purchased 20 acres on Mount Veeder’s Wall Rd. The vineyard sits above the fog line at 1700 ft in elevation. Soils consist of Clay loam and blue shale deposits. The Cabernet Sauvignon is Clone 4, while the Cabernet Franc is clone 443.
For Brian, the goal for his Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon and his Cabernet Franc results in producing wine whose expression defines the rugged hillside slopes of Mount Veeder, showcasing the balance, power, and uniqueness.
Vinoce Tasting Room
In 2019, Vinoce opened its tasting room in the old Sawyer-Tannery building in Napa’s historic Tannery Bend District which overlooks the Napa River.
Lori’s Lucky Penny Sauvignon Blanc
This Sauvignon Blanc is dedicated to Brian’s wife, Lori, who passed away in 2016. The story behind the wine tells it all. In 2010 Brian and Lori were at a Giants game; just before the end of the game, Lori found a penny. The Giants won the game right after they found the penny, hence the name lucky penny.
Lori’s Lucky Penny Sauvignon Blanc: The grapes come from a single block in the Ashe Vineyard in Oakville. The wine ages for 10 to 11 months in 60% new and 40% one-year-old oak barrels. The wine exudes a creamy richer mouthfeel yet has nice acidity. The texture reminds one of Crème Brulee.
Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder: Consisting of 95% Cabernet and 5% Cabernet Franc, this wine ages 60% new French oak for 18 months. The wine presents itself as juicy and fruit-forward with black fruit, cedar, and pine. There is a herbaceous quality to the wine. Think olive tapenade meets pine resin.
Mount Veeder Cabernet Franc
2019 Cabernet Franc Mount Veeder: Blending 90% Cabernet Franc with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine ages in 60% new French oak. The Wall vineyard site for Cabernet Franc produces loose clusters of small berries. On the nose, aromas of pepper, tobacco, cedar, and cigar box give way to the complexity of the dark fruit flavors.
Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received hosted wine samples. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.