The Titus Story
Life in the 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 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 along the valley floor. California's wine industry had yet to achieve its enormous potential, and land was 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 is poorly suited to our warm, up-valley microclimate. The vineyard needed a change.
Lee loved what was happening in Bordeaux at the time, and decided that those were the grape varietals he wanted to plant. 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 they 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.