Nestled in the Oakville hills along the Silverado Trail, our Oakville estate and Los Carneros vineyards produce small lots of intensely-flavored handcrafted premium Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery was founded in 1871 and resurrected in the late 1980s, like the ‘phoenix from the ashes' in the Vine Cliff symbol, by the Sweeney Family.


The Oakville Winegrowers Association says of the Oakville Appellation (which was granted AVA –American Viticultural Area – status in 1993, three years after Vine Cliff’͛s first Cabernet Sauvignon release) “Napa Valley’s diverse, well-drained soils, sun-drenched summers and cool, dry falls make much of Napa Valley a superior place to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. All wine grapes are finicky in their own quirky ways, and minute differences can be the reason between good wines and great ones.

When it comes to growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville isn’t too hot; it isn’t too cold. It’s just right. That’s why Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville so perfectly expresses the essential qualities of Cabernet Sauvignon in deep, complex wines with the structural integrity of acid and tannin that preserves the best wines for decades.”

The Oakville Appellation is home to some of the great California Cabernet Sauvignon producers besides Vine Cliff such as Joseph Phelps, Groth, Far Niente, Plumpjack, Rudd, Miner as well as Peter Michael, Silver Oak, Screaming Eagle, Harlan and Dalla Valle.

“A semi-circle of inaccessible rocky side-hills, in the canyon in which nestle the buildings, has, by the energy of man, been turned into a useful and picturesque piece of property. Hundreds of tons of rock have been patiently gathered off the hillsides, which now teem with grapevines. Truly does it look…as though the finger of enchantment has been pointed at its frowning, rocky surface, and changed into a thing of beauty and joy forever.”

Description of the Estate – 1873

Vine Cliff has continuously made the small farming improvements that lead to
superior fruit at Oakville.

The Vine Cliff winemaking team implemented programs for vertical shoot positioning and lateral removal to improve crop quality. Canopy is managed to provide air circulation, to expose “cool side” clusters to more sun while shading “hot side” fruit. Rather than having a preset watering schedule, the team monitors vine stress through a process called “pressure bombing” and adjusts the watering cycle on an almost vine-by-vine basis. The goal is to encourage even ripening throughout each block.

Vine Cliff also introduced natural pest control methods. Perches were placed throughout the vineyards to invite the hawks and owls, natural local predators, to forage. Two bird houses were constructed to accommodate kestrals.

The Sweeney Family has planted 1,364 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon to the acre at the Vine Cliff Oakville estate. Vine configuration (vertical trellises) and clonal selections that are low in vegetative growth and low in yield sacrifice quantity for quality. Along with the famous Oakville terroir, this farming approach gives Vine Cliff Cabernet Sauvignon powerful fruit flavor and low tannins, creating some of the Valley’s most elegant wines, approachable on release, but capable of developing exceptional complexity with bottle age.



The Sweeney Family decided that if they were going to make Vine Cliff Chardonnay in the Napa Valley, the Carneros district provided the best climate. The extreme temperature swings (diurnal shift) of daytime highs to nighttime lows that the upper Valley experiences rarely affect Carneros, making it the ideal location for thin-skinned varietals like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Vine Cliff’s 20 acre Carneros vineyard lies in the heart of the Los Carneros appellation. Following nearly two years of development work, including the construction of a reservoir, irrigation, drainage and trellising installation, this site on Carneros Creek was planted in May of 1999.

Using the lay of the land and soil types as guides, five separate Chardonnay clones (varieties) were selected to plant: Dijon clones 76, 95 and 96 give the wine sweet aromatics of peach and nectarine stone fruits with a soft creamy texture. The “Old Wente” clone adds floral notes of lavender, exotic tropical fruits as well as structure and length. And the trusty UC Davis clone 4 adds hints of fresh squeezed orange juice, lemon and gives the palate incredible body, concentration and richness.



John Wilson joined the winery in mid 2017 from the Russian River Valley producer, Thomas George Estates, where he had been Winemaker since 2014. While at Thomas George, he designed single-vineyard Burgundy and Rhone style wines. Prior to Thomas George Estates, John was Assistant Winemaker under winemaker and mentor, Ted Lemon, at Littorai Wines, a premium single-vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay producer from Anderson Valley and Sonoma Coast.

While working as Cellar Master at Outpost Wines and Rivers-Marie Wines, John worked directly with winemaker and mentor Thomas Rivers Brown to produce top rated wines for Brown’s winemaking clients which include Schrader Cellars, Maybach Family Vineyards and Seaver Vineyards. This experience allowed John to work primarily with Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from nearly every appellation within Napa Valley for five consecutive vintages. He is focused on producing premium wines which showcase vineyard, vintage and varietal character.

John holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He has worked and traveled extensively throughout the wine regions of Oregon, Chile, Argentina, Piemonte, Rhone and Rioja.

“John’s passion for making great wine is in his working DNA. He comes from working his way up the winemaking chain which will make him an essential partner in our process,” added Nell Sweeney.


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