Scores of Napa Cabs are adorned with austere labels as part of their prominence but Hoopes Vineyard sports a feisty terrier (Dante to be specific) jumping through a wine barrel hoop which is the perfect signal of what you're about to enjoy with one of their fine vintages. The wine itself is a reflection of old world farming and vintner integrity while the whimsical label reflects a new world passion and approachability for wine - this is a beautiful melding of worlds.
This experience is the result of the Hoopes family vineyard entering its next generation of stewardship with Lindsay Hoopes. She represents what's happening often in Napa Valley today, as many family vineyards are entering their second and third decades of production, resulting in the need to pass the baton. Lindsay grasped hers years ago for the family vineyard which includes eight sites across the Valley and nearly as many varietals.
Taking the reigns of a family business represents a seminal moment and turning point - it poses the question of what do you honor and what do you evolve? In some ways, the question of what to honor was easy for Lindsay. She was brought up farming, so a respect for the vines and tradition is core, believing wine should get its beauty from nurture, not manipulation. In today's mass market, this is becoming the exception versus the norm. Thankfully, Lindsay is not alone in the Valley with those sharing these values and integrity for the fruit.
Having such conviction is important given the rare gift vintners have in Napa's dramatic geology, especially the Valley floor in Oakville where the Hoopes estate resides. Alluvial, volcanic, clay and silt all play a part in defining this region's unique character. This is an ideal playground for Hoopes winemaker, Anne Vawter, who hails from such icons as Paradigm and Heidi Barrett. Anne sums it up simply, "I love working with the fruit from Oakville. It's my viticultural solar plexus. I have made wines up and down the Napa Valley but no other appellation is as exciting".
So, the question of what to honor has been answered but what about evolve? Lindsay has extensive passion on many fronts to grow Hoopes and ensure the legacy. Despite growing up amongst the vines, she didn't immediately follow in the footsteps of Spencer Hoopes, her father and vineyard founder. She is quite accomplished in the fields of law and business with multiple advanced degrees, along with extensive international travel and cultural expertise. Add in the creative influence of her mother, Barbara, who runs her own design firm with stunning residential projects across wine country, and you have a fully charged left and right brained visionary in Lindsay.
Some key drivers of her vision to evolve Hoopes include international exposure and distribution. Many craft production vineyards in Napa have the majority of their cases snapped up locally, so bringing Hoopes to thirteen different countries to date has been quite a feat. Also, keeping the agricultural soul of Napa alive through the community ranks as a high priority. As affluence and gentrification increases, Lindsay wants to ensure the Valley's family legacies and relationships aren't lost to corporate advances. The consequences stretch beyond Napa itself into the integrity of wine overall, ensuring science and profit don't supplant art and craft. "We take a 'farmers first' approach to respect the terroir and ensure the wine maintains a sense of place", says Lindsay on their philosophy. "It's important we keep the 'ag soul' [agriculture] alive and reinvest in the community" which drives her dedication to Oakville and Napa overall.
In addition to her passion for the land, being a woman and mother brings even more perspective to the next generation of Hoopes. Soon after welcoming her adorable new son to the world this summer, Lindsay was back at it with the little guy in arm who seems to find time amongst the vines quite blissful. This all serves a critical role for helping other aspiring female winemakers forge their path in Napa and grow the footprint of women in the Valley. Like many other facets of our culture and country, they become better as they grow more diverse and evolved.
All said, success in Napa isn't just about what hits your palate but how it got there. This is the ultimate responsibility of the next generation of wine growers, more so than a family business alone. Recognizing what's at stake is the driver for Lindsay as she wakes every morning and tackles the day - striving to take Hoopes and the Valley to new places, yet ensure the integrity and community of Napa remain well nurtured.
We hope you soon have the pleasure of enjoying one of Hoopes' fine vintages and appreciate the passion behind the label. While they don't currently have a tasting room, there is some exciting news in the works to remedy that in the near future as they just closed on a tasting room in Yountville with a bucolic view of the countryside (stay tuned for more details). In the meantime, you can contact them for special tasting events and buy directly online here.
-Mike Casey // The 29 Napa