When we first visited Napa, we couldn’t help but notice an abundance of similarities to our native wine region of Stellenbosch in South Africa. An overwhelming feeling of familiarity provided us with a sense of place and belonging. The two mountain ranges that define the Napa Valley, draw stark comparisons to one another. Although the lushness of the western Mayacamas range, with its vibrant green hillsides, is stunning, it is the picturesque backdrop and topography of the eastern Vaca mountain range that reminds us of our South African roots. For that reason, our family felt confident that this would be the foundation for ELLMAN.
Our vineyard is a 20-acre, west-facing parcel along the historic Silverado Trail. We are nestled at the base of Soda Canyon in the shadows of Atlas Peak. Because the vineyard is planted in an ancient riverbed on the bench of the Vaca Mountains, the vines benefit from traits of both the valley floor and hillside characteristics. The soil is strewn with cobbles and rocks, stressing the vines and offering optimal drainage. Planted in 1999 to a sought-after suitcase clone of Cabernet Sauvignon, the combination of gentle slope, rocky soils, and old-world clonal material cooperate to produce wines of richness, complexity, and elegance.
Michael attended Alfred University, in upstate New York, and received a B.A. degree in history. He was first exposed to agriculture after moving to California’s Mendocino County in 1972 where he worked for Mendocino Vineyards Company. An opportunity arose to move to Napa, as a vineyard supervisor of a large agricultural development in Pope Valley. Gaining experience with every aspect of vineyard development and production, Mike was offered a job managing 500 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley for Beckstoffer Vineyards. This position provided the chance to farm some exceptional vineyards, and introduced Mike to many of the valley’s top winemakers. Michael Wolf Vineyard Services was founded in 1997, and provides a full range of vineyard management services. The company has over 40 clients, including independent growers and wineries, representing over 650 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley.