Château Smith Haut Lafitte Buys Flora Springs Estate in Napa
January 22, 2020
Château Smith Haut Lafitte owners Daniel and Florence Cathiard announced yesterday that they completed the purchase of an historic estate winery in Rutherford, California. Originally founded in 1885 by the Scottish Rennie Brothers, and located on the lower slopes of the Mayacamas mountains, the estate includes 59 vineyard acres plus 200 forest acres. It was previously the home of Flora Springs.
The purchase does not include the Flora Springs brand which will be retained by the Komes and Garvey families. The Komes and Garvey families will move the brand to a nearby winery to continue operations. John and Carrie Komes and Julie and Pat Garvey established Flora Springs in 1978 at Komes Ranch. They are retaining the Flora Springs name; still own more than 275 acres of other vineyards in Napa Valley; will retain the Flora Springs tasting room on Highway 29; and will continue to make Flora Springs wines.
Since its purchase by these two ski champions thirty years ago, Château Smith Haut Lafitte has become one of the leading first growths of Bordeaux. The Cathiards intend to to apply to the historic Rutherford estate the same recipes which made for success in Bordeaux "low yields, organic farming of the grapes, meticulous vinification with extreme attention to details."
In an email, Florence Cathiard told Wine Business Monthly she had been visiting wineries in Napa for the past couple of years.
"Last August we had “a coup de foudre” for the historic one block estate founded by the Rennie brothers in 1885, belonging since 1977 to the Komes & Garvey family under the name of Flora Springs," she said. "We think the terroir is exceptional. Since the wines we shall be making there will be different, we did not buy inventory and brand. Our first harvest will be in 2020 with the help of Fabien Teitgen who, like us, has now one foot each side of & American west coasts."
Cathiard said Ben Morken, a US oenologist & agronomic engineer who already trained at Smith Haut Lafitte, will start as winemaker on April 1, based at “Cathiard family estate” in Rutherford. Smith Haut Lafitte head winemaker Fabien Teitgen will overlook the production, traveling from Bordeaux to Napa several times a year.
"This new adventure reminds us of our beginnings at SHL 30 years ago and we have exactly the same expectations," Cathiard said.
"Daniel and I already went to Napa three times since August to close this deal, we will undertake important work at both the winery and the main house on the estate in order to receive our guests," she said. "We will spend a month between July and August this year to overlook improvements. ... No doubt we will be in Napa a few times a year to cherish this new project."
Cathiard said a final decision on a brand name for Cathiard estate will come later, with a possible first release in 2022.
The 280-acre estate includes 59 acres in Rutherford (with some of it in St Helena) and was founded in 1885, originally, by two brothers from Scotland, the Rennie brothers. It was subsequently purchased by Jerry and Flora Komes in 1977, and John Komes set up Flora Springs in 1978.
International Wine Associates represented the Komes and Garvey families and initiated the transaction.