I recently had the pleasure of having dinner at the Red Pony in Franklin with California vineyard owner Tom Gamble. He calls himself a farmer, but what he farms are some of the finest grapes in Napa Valley. Gamble family holdings include blocks (vineyards) in several of Napa’s most hallowed sub regions: Mount Veeder, Rutherford, and Oakville.
We began the evening with appetizers, the current vintage (2015) of Gamble Vineyard sauvignon blanc (SRP 25.00), and Tom describing the vineyard on his family homestead where the very wine we were drinking was grown. Gamble talked about the soil, topography, and vine management like the third generation farmer he is.
Just as we were sipping the sauvignon blanc Tom brought with him from the winery, we looked up to see our server carrying a bottle of 2011 Gamble Sauvignon Blanc to a nearby table. That gave Tom an excuse to do a little table-hopping—much to the surprise and delight of the diners.
Tom decided to order a bottle from the 2011from the wine list for us—just to compare. He was pleased that the structure and fruit in the earlier vintage had held up beautifully. Not surprising perhaps, considering the quality of the fruit went into the bottle. Tom likes to say, “Good wine begins on the vine.”
There was certainly plenty of good wine that night as we moved on to a 2013 Gamble Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP 50.00) with the beef tenderloin and bacon-wrapped elk. Tom and winemaker Jim Close strategically selected grapes from some of their favorite cabernet sauvignon vineyards in the valley to produce a robust, but beautifully balanced wine brimming with black fruit, plum, and chocolate. Twenty months spent in oak was like sending this beauty to finishing school.
Hard as it was to put down the cabernet, we next turned our attention to Gamble’s classic Bordeaux-style blend, 2013 Paramount Red Wine (SRP 90.00). Made up of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and petit verdot (fermented and aged separately) Paramount comes together like a symphony of aromas and flavors.
The evening passed quickly—as it tends to do with good food, good wine, and good conversation—but we kept returning the subject of the land (I’m a farm boy, too). When I asked Tom how Napa Valley was coping with recent flooding, he touched the screen of his phone and up popped real-time video showing torrents of water overflowing the road below his family homestead.
When I asked about his house, he said, “Oh, it’s fine. The old timers in my family knew where to build.”
Indeed they did.