Crane Family Vineyards | A Tradition of Family Winemaking in Napa

Crane Family Vineyards | A Tradition of Family Winemaking in Napa

Crane Family Vineyards

The view from Crane Family Vineyards, overlooking Don Raffaele Vineyard

There simply aren’t enough Napa Valley producers you can visit where you’ll be greeted by the proprietor themselves, at their home, to discover their unique story and the wines produced as a result of their own hands-on efforts. But that was just the case when I visited Crane Family Vineyards on a crisp, sunny late summer morning.

Proprietor Tom Chiarella was quick to greet me and welcome me to his cozy, rather idyllic front patio which overlooks much of the 7 acre Don Raffaele Estate Vineyard surrounding his home, as well as commanding views of Browns Valley. It was here in 1990, on this beautiful property nestled in the foothills of Mount Veeder, that Tom’s parents Peter and Frances decided to build their home in one of the most beautiful places in America.

Crane Family Vineyards

When searching for that perfect piece of property, Peter Chiarella, a financial executive in his professional life, was quick to realize that it didn’t hurt their prospects that the adjacent vineyards were selling their fruit to highly sought- after producers, and that their property to be possessed steep slopes and soils closely mirroring those in Pomerol.

Crane Family Vineyards initially caught my attention because they offer a selection of affordably priced Napa Valley wines for sale in select Trader Joe’s locations (California only), but they also offer a selection of premium reserve estate wines that merit attention. The following were the standouts…

Crane Family Vineyards

Crane Family Vineyards Alison’s Cuvee 2014: A blend of 70% Merlot, 9% Cab Sauv, 8% Petite Verdot and 13% Malbec. Pours a pretty, deep garnet in the glass. Intense aromas of sweet kirsch and black raspberry are laced with coffee and subtle hints of molasses. In the mouth, its sweetly fruited and nicely delineated for a wine at this price point. Bright acids bring this medium bodied effort to life, allowing the kirsch and black raspberry flavors to build with solid persistence in a smoothly textured package. Finishes dry with just a hint of spice and tannin. A really solid value that’s widely available to Trader Joe’s shoppers in California. 523 cases produced.

Score: 90 | Price: $29.99 (Available at Trader Joe’s)

Crane Family Vineyards

Crane Family Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: Produced from 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot, 2% Petite Verdot and 3% Malbec. Pours a deep, vivid ruby shade in the glass. The nose is brimming with violets, sweet cassis, raspberry and licorice aromas. In the mouth, the palate is dense and creamy, with rich black currant building against a backdrop of dusty cocoa, spice, and smoky cedarwood. Nicely balanced, with just enough acidity to match the generosity of the fruit. Finished with solid length, good spice and a whiff of tannic grip. If the oak weren’t a touch heavy handed this would have scored even higher. 149 cases produced.

Score: 90 | Price: $65

Crane Family Vineyards

Crane Family Vineyards Reserve Cavaliere 2012: This reserve blend is comprised of 73% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petite Verdot and 7% Malbec. It pours a deep shade of garnet. The nose reveals an intense bouqet revealing ripe currants and black cherries laced with flowers, coffee and vanilla. The mouthfeel is broad and generous, with a smooth texture and a juicy core of smoky dark red fruit. Supple and approachable, yet with a solid refined tannin structure. Possesses good length, with hints of smoke, spice and dusty tannin lingering on the finish. The Cavaliere was the most elegant and refined offering throughout my tasting.

Score: 91 | Price: $75

If you’re assuming that I received special treatment during my visit to Crane Family Vineyards because I’m a blogger, I wouldn’t hold it against you, but I would assure you that this was simply not the case here. Sure, it’s true that I occasionally receive special treatment when visiting a producer; but I am very careful to not only not let that alter my perception but also to keep that in mind when writing about an experience – as not all visitors might have the exact same experience.

But what I love so much about Crane Family Vineyards is that if you are willing to take the time to visit and learn about Crane Family Vineyards, you too will have the pleasure of meeting with the proprietor yourself, at his home, on his cozy patio. That you’ll be soaking in the views of his gorgeous property would be enough reason to visit, but when paired with Tom’s company and his compelling estate wines? It’s a wonder I ever left.

The Specifics | Crane Family Vineyards

Location: Browns Valley, Napa Valley, CA

Tasting Fee: None

Included in the Tasting: A selection of current release wines.

Wine Prices: $20 – $75

Winemaker: Alison Green Doran

Appointment Required? Yes. E-mail to schedule a visit.

Time to Allot: Approximately 60-90 minutes

Should You Go? If a more intimate tasting experience tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Highway 29 sounds appealing to you, then I recommend a visit to Crane Family Vineyards.

**Wines were submitted as media samples for purposes of review. No other consideration was received for publishing this article.

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4 thoughts on “Crane Family Vineyards | A Tradition of Family Winemaking in Napa

  1. John Ingersoll

    Great article FF! Tom is both a neighbor and friend of mine and I recall how excited he was to host you after the Lodi blogger’s conference. I was happy to see your visit summary come across and I think you nailed it – both the charm of the place and the quality and affordability of the wine. Living in Napa, I have an extensive collection of Napa wines and the Crane Family whites and reds hold up against all of them.


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