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Entrance to winery from Monticello Road.

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Cave entrance to the Jarvis winery



The Jarvis winery ( was born from my life’s experiences. Early experiences in Oklahoma pretty well charted my life’s direction. Being raised in that landlocked state stimulated my interest in sea travel and in tropical vegetation, both of which were missing in Oklahoma. Being a dry state, there was no wine in Oklahoma. Travel, particularly in France, stimulated my interest in wine which eventually led to my founding a winery. I gained my initial interest in geology from my father, an independent oil man. This interest was further whetted by a fabulous course in geology at the University of Oklahoma. This interest in geology led to my building a cave, which houses the winery.

A writer for a wine magazine wrote the following article: “William and Leticia Jarvis have an abiding love of the finer things in life. They love wines as a celebration and as part of the finer things in life. It might well be said that the same internal gyroscope that allows the Jarvis family to support their interest in opera allowed them to quietly evolve rather than thunder into building a winery. There was no initial quest to find the optimum growing conditions, plant a flag and proclaim, ‘Here is where we will build our world-class winery.’ Rather, they located their weekend home in a beautiful spot high above the Napa Valley. The soils of their mountain retreat were of well-drained volcanic origin. They noted that the altitude and closeness to the San Francisco Bay brought a coolness to the site, and deduced that a vineyard would do quite well up there.”

The writer continued: “From these initial observations, a vineyard was intelligently planted and the rest literally fell into place. The grapes turned out to be of the highest quality. If the grapes were this good, why not go to the next step and estate bottle their own wine? A brilliant solo performance calls for an encore. So too did the grapes of Jarvis Vineyards call for vinification, high above the valley floor.

“This is how the star was born. It was not destined or predetermined by some marketing executives with strategies and hyperbole. Say what you will now about the striking Jarvis caves, but the beginnings of this wine and this winery were humble and unforeseen, and fortunate to have been both guided and well-nurtured to the present state.

“In the final analysis, the estate, the caves, and the wine itself are simply a result of an outreach of an individual who loves the finer things in life and wishes to help these things come into being for life’s pleasure and enjoyment’s sake alone.”

They didn’t set out to have the most original and interesting winery in the Napa Valley, even though some people believe it did turn out that way. The winery was the result of a mindset of building things right and in good taste, using a technical background, travel experience, and finally, very important, the money—over $20 million. This amounted to about $300 per square foot of cave, pretty expensive space in 1992, but some really elegant space at that. Of course, this includes the cost of landscaping, the creation of a beautiful meadow leading up to the cave entrance, plus all the infrastructure for a yet to come above ground stone building.


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