It was the early 1990s and Flora Springs had been in business for just over ten years when I decided we needed to have a tasting room on Highway 29.
There wasn’t quite as much tourism in Napa Valley as there is now, and I wanted a place right on the highway where people could easily visit us. I bought a building – an old HVAC shop – just south of the old Dean & DeLuca gourmet grocery (now Gary’s Wine & Marketplace) in St. Helena. I cleaned it up, installed a circular bar, hired an artist to paint some wall murals, and opened up for tastings.
But business was slow. I kept hearing folks say they hadn’t “noticed” the tasting room, even people who stopped at Dean & DeLuca. I decided to do something about it. My wife, Carrie, and I had recently visited Barcelona and seen many of the buildings designed by renowned architect, Antoni Gaudí. I loved the flow and imagination of his structures, the fanciful nature of his designs.
You can guess what happened next.
When I returned to St. Helena I consulted with a local architect, and together we designed a new Tasting Room that echoes, in Gaudí-like fashion, the look and feel of a wine cave set into a mountainside. We used bent plywood to give the structure its curvature and painted the outside to represent geologic striations in the earth.
Inside we created separate tasting areas made to feel like private rooms in a wine cave, and installed a curved tasting bar with a modern bistro vibe. The rooftop, which has magnificent views of mountains and vineyards to the west, feels like a comfortable living room, a place where people can relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
Wine Tasting in Saint Helena
Thanks to my son Nat, our Tasting Room has gotten some upgrades recently, and I’m excited about the improvements. I always wanted it to be a place where people could indulge their sense of sight as well as taste and smell. Most of all, I want the Tasting Room to inspire curiosity and delight, to be the place where people come to learn more about the legacy of Flora Springs.
Note: The article excerpted below was originally published in the Napa Valley Register and can be found here.
‘I’ll tell you a story,” John Komes said. He was standing in front of a colorful painting that depicts Flora Springs Winery, which he and his family launched in 1978 in a pre-Prohibition ghost winery in St. Helena.
“We decided we wanted a painting,” he said, recounting how the family invited Cynthia Fitting, an artist living in Sacramento, to come to Flora Springs to talk about a project.
“When she was leaving, her car wouldn’t start.” Fitting flagged down an employee, just leaving the winery, to ask for a jump. Too busy, the man replied, and he hurried off to a sales meeting.
Fitting got the commission and produced the vivid, charming painting, which portrays the winery and its people…”Read more.
One of the many reasons Napa Valley is such a superb region for growing wine grapes is its incredible diversity. Although a mere 30 miles long and several miles wide, the valley is home to a wide range of microclimates and a vast array of soil types. Over the years, this diversity has led vintners and growers to create defined grape growing areas within Napa Valley. These areas, which reflect their regional designations, are called American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs.
The Napa Valley is itself an AVA having received its own designation in 1981. It is California’s first recognized AVA and the second in the United States. Over time, sixteen “nested” AVAs have been designated within the Napa Valley AVA. Flora Springs owns and farms vineyards in five of these, including the St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Oak Knoll and Los Carneros AVAs.
“Kairos is just south of the Stags Leap District, kind of wedged between the Stags Leap, Oak Knoll and Coombsville AVAs,” says General Manager Nat Komes. “So when we bottle the Out of Sight Cabernet, we use the Napa Valley appellation on the label. But that doesn’t have any bearing on the quality of the vineyard or wine.”
In fact, there are plenty of properties renowned for high quality grapes and wines that do not lie within a nested AVA. Examples include sites that are between the St. Helena and Howell Mountain AVAs as well as vineyards found east of Oakville in the mountainous area known as Pritchard Hill.
For now, says Nat, “The Kairos Vineyard is a perfect example of the quality that can come from areas outside the nested AVA system.” For proof, look no further than Flora Springs Out of Sight Cabernet Sauvignon.
Arrive at your scheduled time, and park in front of the tasting room and call the phone number posted out front. One of our staff members will bring your wine out to your car.
Wine Club Members, please contact Madeline Nossiter at 707-967-6724 or firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate shipments or pickup of your wines.
Our staff is onsite 10 am – 4 pm, Monday – Saturday and able to safely and conveniently fulfill your wine order. Please allow at least 24 hours for us to get your order ready for you. Thank you for supporting our small family-owned winery.
During this unusual time our entire Flora Springs family wants you to know that your well-being is our top priority. We are not able to offer wine tastings or other wine experiences right now, but are looking forward to when we can. We can’t wait to see you!
Flora Springs Tasting Room
677 S. Saint Helena Highway
Saint Helena, CA 94574
The third generation of Napa Valley’s Komes-Garvey family is taking the helm here at Flora Springs. Our family-owned winery with a history dating back over forty years will be led by General Manager Nat Komes, son of Flora Springs Co-Founders John and Carrie Komes. Nat will be joined by his cousins and Proprietors, Michelle Dolge, Nadine McIntosh, Lisa Meyers and Jeannine Ross. Sean Garvey, son of Co-Founders Julie and Pat Garvey, will continue in his role as vineyard manager.
“My cousins and I are excited about this new chapter of Flora Springs. Our long time club members and customers should know that the high quality of our wines will not change, nor will our tradition of warm hospitality. If anything, as we put our spin on it, Flora Springs 2.0 will be even better,” says Nat Komes. “I also want to say that we’re very thankful to our parents and grandparents for giving our generation the opportunity to carry on their legacy. They’ve worked hard to pave the way for us.”
With a new leadership team in place, 257 acres of prime Napa Valley vineyard land and an ideal Tasting Room located on Highway 29 in St. Helena, Flora Springs is well-poised for our next chapter. Our family’s vineyards span six sub-appellations and include: P&J Vineyard in St. Helena; select blocks of the Komes Ranch in St. Helena & Rutherford; Garvey Family Vineyard in Rutherford; Windfall Vineyard in Rutherford; Crossroads Ranch in Oakville; Kairos Vineyard in Napa Valley; Red Hen Vineyard in Oak Knoll; and Sunset Knoll Vineyard in Carneros. These vineyards are the consistent, long time sources of Flora Springs’ popular, highly-acclaimed wines, including our flagships, Trilogy and Soliloquy, as well as our Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons.
“My sister Julie and I along with our spouses founded and grew Flora Springs from the ground up, but the wine business has changed since we began,” says John Komes, who noted that the sale of the Komes Ranch was a matter of estate planning. “Our family’s third generation grew up in this business and has a great understanding of it. It’s time for us to pass the baton to them.”
With estate properties stretching from the cool, rolling hills of Carneros to the famed sub-appellations of Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena, Flora Springs produces varietal wines ranging from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and other red Bordeaux varietals. As a family that came to the wine business as farmers first, our love of the land influences everything we do. Our environmental stewardship led us to embrace sustainable and organic farming early on. Learn more about our vineyards.
“We’re excited to have found Château Smith Haut Lafitte and the Cathiards, a well-known family from Bordeaux with a long history in winemaking, to take over the stewardship of this beloved property and 58 acres of vines in Rutherford, Napa Valley. We look forward to watching them nourish this land in the years to come,” says John Komes, speaking on behalf of the Komes-Garvey family. “This represents a bright new chapter for Flora Springs where our family’s next generation can be laser focused on excellent winemaking, customer service and hospitality.”
While Komes Ranch was first established in 1977 by Jerry and Flora Komes, our legacy dates back to the late 1800s when wine grapes were first planted by the Rennie Brothers. James and William, immigrants from Scotland, planted 60 acres of grapes and built a stone gravity flow winery. When Flora and Jerry came upon the property at the end of West Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena, it was Flora who saw the magic hidden behind the decades of neglect, overgrown ivy, and the shifting rock walls of the old ghost winery. They purchased the property from Louis M. Martini.
In 1978 John and Carrie Komes and Julie and Pat Garvey, along with their parents Jerry and Flora, were among Napa Valley’s first post-Prohibition pioneers as they founded Flora Springs Winery, naming it after Flora and the natural springs that run through the land.
The depth of this history reminds us that as stewards of this land, our family’s commitment to its health and vitality will be felt far into the future. Over the years, we have welcomed esteemed neighbors including Dana Estates, Sinegal Estate Winery, and now Cathiard Vineyard, who share our commitment to environmental stewardship.
“It was love at first sight,” Florence Cathiard told Wine Spectator, noting that visiting the estate—beautiful and rural, surrounded by forest—reminded her of when she first saw Smith-Haut-Lafitte.
Today the Komes-Garvey family remains committed to innovative sustainable and organic farming practices over our family’s 257 acres of prime Napa Valley vineyard land, exceptional winemaking, as well as customer service and hospitality at our popular Tasting Room in St. Helena. As a family that came to the wine business as farmers first, our love of the land influences everything we do. Every day we pay tribute to Flora’s love of all things living, and of ensuring that the land she loved is here for the next generation, and the next. It is an integral part of our heritage as well as the legacy we leave.
The Komes & Garvey family would like to thank our loyal friends and neighbors by inviting all Napa County residents to join us at our tasting room in St. Helena January 11 & 12. Enjoy a 2 for 1 wine tasting and a 10% discount on purchases with a two-bottle purchase. Valid for Napa residents and one guest with proof of residency.
The modern design of our Tasting Room mimics the hillside caves and natural springs of our Estate winery, located just down the road. Here you’ll find our Vineyard Courtyard picnic area and Rooftop Lounge, both with stunning views of vineyards and western hillsides. Our Cave Rooms are available for private group tastings hosted by our friendly, informative hospitality staff. Learn more about The Room.
We look forward to seeing you!
Flora Springs Tasting Room
677 S. Saint Helena Highway
Saint Helena, CA 94574
Note: The following article was originally written by Chris Macias and published in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 30, 2018 and can be found here.
The Napa Ghost Wineries You Can Visit
Trek around Wine Country, near its luxury hotels and fine-dining destinations, and you’ll find the remnants of wineries that date back to a time when Napa wasn’t so flush. These are vestiges of the Dark Ages for California wine. They’re known as ghost wineries, not because they’re haunted (though that’s up for debate in some cases), but because they serve as an important link between Napa’s early years as a wine region and the bustling destination it is now.
Napa Valley had a thriving wine industry in the 19th century, with more than 140 operating wineries opened by the final decade. But starting in the late 1880s, the region was hit with a triple blow that left the local wine industry reeling for decades. First, an outbreak of the lethal grapevine virus phylloxera crippled wine production for 20 years. Then the Great Depression arrived, which dovetailed with Prohibition from 1920 to 1933.
This half-century of setbacks left many California wineries in ruins. Although a few were able to stay in business by selling sacramental wine or grapes for home winemaking, the industry had withered to about three dozen by the time Prohibition was repealed. Many of the buildings remained vacant for decades, falling into ruin. Halloween notwithstanding, Napa’s ghost wineries are worth visiting any time of year. They’re scattered throughout the valley, offering a peek into a storied history and a spirit of perseverance that defines the area.
Here are a handful of the ghosts you can visit:
Flora Springs: This former home of the 1900 Rennie Brothers Winery in St. Helena, suffered a one-two punch at the turn of the 20th century. Not only were its vineyards hit by phylloxera, but a fire in its wine cellar decimated its production capabilities. After decades of inactivity, the property was purchased in the mid 1970s and renamed Flora Springs. The ghost winery has since been renovated and serves as a production facility, which visitors can see during tours of the Flora Springs estate. Flora Springs plays up its ghost winery heritage with Halloween releases including All Hallows’ Eve Cabernet Franc and Ghost Winery Malbec…
We have officially picked all of our Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc for the year. We started the Pinot Grigio on August 15th, and finished the Sauvignon Blanc on August 31st.
We then started harvesting the Lavender Hill Chardonnay in Carneros on September 6th. The very next day, we received Merlot from the Estate. This is the earliest date on record for reds.
The last week was pretty crazy…Phoenix-like temperatures in the 115 degree range! On top of that, the valley was blanketed with smoke from a fire burning in Butte County. Fortunately, both have subsided and we are back to average harvest temperatures once again…at least for the time being.
We will be bringing in additional Merlot, as well as Petit Verdot from Oakville, on Monday and Tuesday. Then we will finish up with the last of the white grapes on Wednesday.
The harvest has been pretty fast and furious thus far – keeping things exciting. We were very proactive with our irrigation regimen before and during the heatwave, so the fruit is still in excellent condition. We are extremely pleased with the quality thus far, and expect to make some fantastic wines!