Château Fonplégade in Saint-Émilion and ADAMVS in Napa Valley may be oceans apart, but their thoughtful winemaking approach has a shared excellence
Denise Adams and her husband Stephen did not intend to become winemakers, yet somehow they are now stewards of two very different wineries in two of the greatest winemaking regions in the world. Château Fonplégade in Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, came with a storied history and a distinguished wine-producing tradition that needed reviving, while ADAMVS in Napa Valley, California, was an opportunity to start from scratch. But the two vineyards have common ground; they are farmed biodynamically, benefit from pooled knowledge and produce wines of great distinction.
“We weren’t thinking about owning a property, but when we discovered the beauty and soul of Château Fonplégade it was as if we had a calling,” says Denise, who divides her time between the two estates in France and the US. “It was a Premier Grand Cru Classé that had fallen on hard times, so we put our entire beings into restoring the property back to its former glory. Our American friends would tease us about spending all our time in France, but with the experience we gained in one of the finest wine-growing regions in the world, we felt ready to fulfil our vision of producing a Premier Grand Cru Classé on Howell Mountain in Napa Valley.”
The couple founded ADAMVS on the forested Howell Mountain AVA (American Viticultural Area) in 2008, having discovered Château Fonplégade in 2004. Château Fonplégade’s wine combines Merlot and Cabernet Franc to express the property’s diverse soils, producing a fine wine of unparalleled energy and finesse. Likewise, the ADAMVS estate produces exceptional terroir-driven Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, which draw on the property’s five different soil types to create wines of concentration and complexity.
“Our wines at both properties have a vibrant elegance and a purity of distinction that comes from the way in which we farm,” explains Denise. “We take a holistic and intellectual approach and allow the terroir to speak for itself. This creates wines with a true sense of place.”
Biodiversity is essential to the conservation of the terroir. Each of the vineyards is biodynamic and heavily wooded, allowing bees, insects and birds to flourish. Chickens have space to roam, and cows and sheep graze in the fields. These idyllic storybook farms engender healthy soils that nourish the vines to fashion unforgettable wines.
There are shared winemaking principles across the properties, adjusting to the different climates and varietals. Both wineries use French oak barrels, age wines for up to 24 months and employ indigenous yeast for the fermentation process. The human touch is essential – “Each vine gets touched by our hands over a dozen times during the growing season,” says Denise. And the knowledge acquired in farming and winemaking is readily shared across the teams, too.
Oenophiles can see this for themselves when they visit either vineyard – indeed, many experience both. Visits are arranged by appointment, with the itinerary customised to suit the needs and interests of the individual. “Having guests on the property is very rewarding as every artist needs appreciators,” says Denise.
“We love spoiling our guests and ensuring everyone experiences the vineyard, which is the heartbeat of everything we do.