Gandona was founded in 2006 when Manuel and Cristina Pires purchased the former Long Vineyards on Pritchard Hill. Pires grew up in Portugal where he spent many seasons on his grandfather’s farm, and he later headed up a major international security company. But Pires was drawn to the Napa Valley, which reminded him of Portugal’s celebrated Douro wine region where his grandfather farmed. Pires hired consultant Philippe Melka as winemaker and Jim Barbour as vineyard manager. Both men are widely admired in California and elsewhere. Melka started his career at Château Haut Brion and worked in most of the major winemaking regions of the world before settling in Napa Valley. Barbour has been vineyard manager for Grace Family and Pride, among many others. Gandona produces Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines, though Pires has also planted a block of Touriga Nacional grapes which are used to make a Port-style dessert wine. Robert M. Parker Jr. has rated the Gandona Cabernets in the mid-90s.
Napa Valley AVA is the most famous winemaking region in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. With nearly 43,000 acres of vineyards and more than 300 wineries, it is the heart of fine wine production in the United States. Winemaking started in Napa in 1838 when George C. Yount planted grapes and began producing wine commercially. Other winemaking pioneers followed in the late 19th century, including the founders of Charles Krug, Schramsberg, Inglenook and Beaulieu Vineyards. An infestation of phylloxera, an insect that attacks vine roots, and the onset of Prohibition nearly wiped out the nascent Napa wine industry in the early 20th century. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s Robert Mondavi and other visionaries were producing quality wines easily distinguishable from the mass-produced jug wines made in California’s Central Valley. Napa Valley’s AVA was established in 1983, and today there are 16 sub-appellations within the Napa Valley AVA. Many grapes grow well in Napa’s Mediterranean climate, but the region is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay is also very successfully cultivated, and about 30% of the AVA’s acreage is planted to white grapes, with the majority of those grapes being Chardonnay,