The Titus Story
Life in 1960's Napa Valley (and indeed the world!) was much simpler than it is today. Lee Titus and his family came to California from Minnesota during the Depression. After graduating from Fresno State and serving in World War II, Lee attended medical school and became a radiologist. Meanwhile, Ruth Traverso was growing up in San Francisco's North Beach, where her parents, immigrants from the Piemonte region of Italy, were involved in the family's bakery business. During family vacations in Calistoga, Ruth helped friends harvest their grapes, giving her a love for Napa Valley and a kinship with grape farming.
Years later, having fallen in love, married and settled in the town of Sonoma with their four sons, Lee and Ruth began acquiring fifty acres in three separate parcels just north of St. Helena on the valley floor. California's wine industry had yet to achieve its enormous potential, and land was still affordable for the right purchaser. The vineyard Lee and Ruth Titus acquired in 1968 was originally planted to Mondeuce, Burger, and Golden Chasselas (varietals all but forgotten today) alongside more well known varietals like Pinot Noir, one that was poorly suited to the warm, up-valley microclimate. The vineyard needed a change.
Lee loved what was happening in Bordeaux at the time, and decided that he wanted to plant those same Bordeaux grape varietals. And so it began, with Lee holding a book on Bordeaux in one hand and planting grapevines with the other saying, "you boys are going to need this some day." At that time, planting Malbec and Petit Verdot for example, was relatively unheard of and probably considered risky. Now, Phillip and Eric absolutely appreciate their father's foresight.
It would be more than twenty years before the brothers crushed fruit for production of Titus Vineyards wines. Although they hoped one day to build a family operated winery, Lee and Ruth spent those interim years raising their sons and growing grapes for other wineries, including Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Quail Ridge, and Pine Ridge.
Ultimately, Lee and Ruth left the creation of Titus Vineyards wines up to their sons: Phillip works as winemaker for Titus Vineyards, while Eric manages the business and vineyards.
Titus Vineyards places equal importance on both our viticultural and winemaking practices, embracing the belief that it takes great grapes to make great wine, and emphasizing the partnership between the brothers.
In addition to our portfolio being almost exclusively red wines, all of our wines are blends. This is the cornerstone of our winemaking philosophy. We believe blending varietals completes a wine, offering a superior expression of the primary grape variety, vintage, vineyard and region. This blending philosophy has become our hallmark of style, and influences our approach to every wine we make.
Eric's viticultural approach is based on low-intensity farming techniques that avoid pesticides, biocides and unnecessary fertilization. Eric believes that production of high-quality fruit begins with carefully matching the proper rootstock and variety to the particular soil of each vineyard block. Young vines are patiently trained into maturity with little emphasis on fruit load in the early years. In mature vines, yields are kept moderate in order to maximize the evenness and rate of ripening. Shoot thinning, fruit load reduction, selective irrigation and canopy management all aid in optimizing our fruit quality.
Following harvest the grapes are de-stemmed only, rather than crushed, leaving a higher percentage of whole berries in the fermenter. This method allows Phillip increased control over tannin extraction and prevents the seeds from breaking and releasing harshness into the wine. A 48-hour cold soak is followed by high fermentation temperatures and long pump-overs, with the goal of extracting as much color, flavor and structure as possible without over-extracting tannins. Grapes stay on the skins for 10-20 days before pressing. Once pressed, Phillip keeps the free run and press wine separate to evaluate the quality of each, with press wine rarely blended back into the free run. The resulting wines are aged in barrels for up to 2 years at 58 F, allowing them to mature and develop gracefully.