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Ilona Thompson
 
December 25, 2016 | Ilona Thompson

Perseverance Pays Off

Millions of tourists take in the idyllic splendor of Napa Valley each year. And seldom is the visitor who does not fantasize about becoming a winery owner. Yet the reality is stark. As the local joke, oft repeated has it: “If you want to make a million in the wine business, start out with three.”

When Henry and Olga Patland visited Napa, they too fell in love with the region and gradually developed a determination to pursue their passion for wine.

Henry Patland’s family (two grandmothers, his parents, a sister, and himself) emigrated from Ukraine in 1978. They arrived in California in 1979, when he was just 12 years old. Five years later, he entered UC Santa Cruz, where he studied computer engineering and met his future business partner, Wade Ogle. Together, they would build an innovative high-tech business, Integral Solutions. The success of that company would ultimately finance Henry’s other passion, wine.

Olga’s family also emigrated from Ukraine, and she and Henry met in college, where she had pursued degrees in communications and marketing. They married in 1989. In the late 1990s, with the stresses and demands of starting a business and a family in tandem, the only vacations Olga and Henry could afford were the day visits to nearby Napa Valley. They quickly learned to appreciate great wine, but did not have enough funds to acquire it. They frequented small vineyards and artisanal, “mom and pop” wineries; the brands which were completely hands-on. Over the years, they watched the evolution and the success of such businesses. They were intrigued, inspired and infatuated, and they began to dream of owning their own winery.

Then, in 2007, Henry received an offer to buy his company. By fateful coincidence, during that time, he and Olga also discovered a Soda Canyon vineyard, “Terra del Cuore” (Italian for “Land of the Heart”) True to its name, it captured their hearts. It was, for them, the perfect property.

Atop a terraced mesa, on 36 acres at 1600 ft. elevation sits a troika of breathtaking, Mediterranean-style houses. The expansive views stretch as far as San Pablo Bay and Mt. Diablo. The grounds include fruit (such as pomegranate) and olive trees, cypresses, and oleander. Flowerbeds and vines further enhance the landscape. The property held massive untapped potential.

However, the offer to buy Integral Solutions fell through. Undaunted, the couple was so captivated by the site that they knew that there was no turning back. They acquired Terra del Cuore from Jack Daniels, founder of Wilson-Daniels, who was relocating to Cabo San Lucas.

Their first task at hand was hiring a winemaker who understood their vision and the challenges at hand. Henry sat down with their vineyard manager, Javier Renteria, and told him that he was looking for a winemaker. Javier asked what kind of wine Henry wanted to produce. His answer was, “bold, complex, rich, layered, delicious, smooth, balanced, Napa Valley-style wine.”

“I know the right guy for you!” Renteria responded. That guy was Jay Buoncristiani, previously the head winemaker at The Hess Collection.

So, in 2007, Patland Estate Vineyards was born. At the time, the property was planted to international varietals, such as Merlot, Petite Syrah and Sangiovese. The original estate blends, crafted in 2007, were made with those grapes. The following year, the coincidence of a trip to South America and their winemaker’s recommendation to convert the winery’s acreage from these varietals to Malbec led to a replanting effort.

Today, 100 percent of Patland’s boutique estate bottlings are made from Malbec. Initially they planned to only make red wine. They wanted to produce the fine wines their younger selves had wanted to drink, but could not afford. However, today they also produce Chardonnay, Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc from grapes sourced from several vineyards in Napa.

At the same time, the estate’s branding began to take shape. Their eldest son, Michael, created labels inspired by paintings the family acquired from a Bay Area artist who was originally from Croatia. Then a trip to Jerusalem yielded a momentous find, a silver coin that dated to 67 C.E. and had the image of a pomegranate on one side. Their Napa property had come planted with a number of pomegranates, which reminded Henry of Ukraine. Olga decided that the fruit would become a central symbol in their wine packaging. Now, the image of the coin is embossed on the front label of all their wines.

Many wineries strive to create highly coveted, small production, hard-to-find wines that sell direct to consumers. The Patlands currently produce around 2500 cases per year and plan to cap production at 5000, which makes for adequate scale, yet keeps the operation small enough to hand-craft the wines. In his own words:

Patland Estate Vineyards started as a labor of love. My wife and I found ourselves with the amazing opportunity to start making wine, and we were determined to make the best wine we could. While we hoped everyone else would enjoy Patland wines, our highest priority was to make wines that we ourselves would be proud to drink. Since we began, I’ve been pleased to see great interest and involvement from my children. As a result, what began as a hobby has now transformed into a real family business. We hope that the future will involve many more generations of the Patland family, and that soon the name will sit among the Napa Valley greats.

Their son Michael has taken an active and avid interest in the business, designing an exceptional visitor experience. Customers can taste in the Caves at Soda Canyon, where the wine is actually produced. Or they can select a tasting at the Patland Estate – Terra Del Cuore. Regardless, the setting is always gorgeous. The wines are delicious and selected based upon the guests’ tastes and the season. They strive to add a “personal touch.”

But, in the end, it is all about the wine. And Patland Estate Vineyards has received numerous awards and excellent industry recognition, attracting the attention of savvy wine aficionados. Their limited production, handcrafted wines, are beautifully made, true to their varietal character. The couple’s persistence and passion have paid off.

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