Interview with Jessica Link, Davis Estates' President
Davis Estates is the culmination of a lifelong dream.
With a passion for being around people, and a rare opportunity to purchase land in the Napa Valley, Mike Davis and his wife Sandy jumped at the opportunity to start a winery. Mike has a long and fond association with the Napa Valley.
Growing up in San Mateo County just south of San Francisco, his family spent summer vacations at the Napa Valley Ranch Club. In the span of a few years, they purchased vineyards in Rutherford, Calistoga Carneros and Howell Mountain and thus began the start of Davis Estates.
In 2011, the Davis family purchased the century-old estate winery and began their ambitious restoration project to create a distinguished winery.
In 2016, Davis Estates opened its doors to the public and has been serving up world class wine and food experiences in Calistoga ever since. We interview Jessica Link, President of Davis Estates.
What type of wine do you specialize in?
Jessica Link: We specialize in Cabernet, we make 4 AVA Cabernet Sauvignons: Howell Mtn, Oakville, Rutherford and Calistoga. In additional we also make Zephyr, Mike Davis’ favorite wine, a Bordeaux blend that changes every vintage based on what mother nature provides.
Share a popular tasting experience.
Jessica Link: While all of our tasting experiences are special, the Cave Tour and Tasting gives guests the most complete picture of our historic property, offering a glimpse of how Davis Estates developed.
Our Estate Hosts walk guests through our estate designed by Howard Backen, which includes our cutting-edge winery and 11,000 square feet of caves. With sweeping panoramic views of northern Napa Valley and the spectacularly scenic estate grounds, guests comfortably enjoy a wine and food pairing tasting either inside the elegant tasting space or outdoors on the veranda from the relaxing porch swings.
Davis Estates’ wine and food pairing tasting provides guests with a flight of Davis Estates’ current release wines paired with a series of seasonal delicacies that have been artfully created by their Executive Chef, Mark Caldwell, to showcase their wines versatility.
What is unique about Davis Estates’ winemaking technology?
Jessica Link: We utilize a proprietary software called WineSentry that allows for control of everything in the cellar and caves and can be accessed remotely or on site.
We have a monitor in our winemaking office from which we access this program while on site, we call it “Mission Control”. This software not only allows for cave climate/environment controls but tank controls as well. All our tanks have automated pump and sparging systems for pumpovers, and WineSentry allows us to create specific schedules.
Our technology allows us to remotely control our entire heating and cooling system for the whole winery, graphs all historical data of each tank and all alarms, and can send text or email alarms for temperature changes to specific parameters we set for individual vessels.
All these controls so readily accessible allow for micromanaging of tank and cellar environments which permit for low energy consumption and allow us to be a little more environmentally friendly while putting our wines under a microscope.
Tell us about your winemaker.
Jessica Link: Our winemaker, Cary Gott, in the fourth generation in his family to work in the California wine industry. Winemaking has always been his passion, and he’d be the first to tell you that he’s proud to say that he completed his 53rd harvest in winemaking in 2021. Today, in addition to working at Davis Estates, he’s also a consulting winemaker for some of the best wineries in the area.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your winery?
Jessica Link: At Davis Estates, our attention to detail is uncompromising—from farming, winemaking, the facility, all the way to the final product in the bottle. The exquisite wines are the foundation of everything we do. When those wines are paired with small bites artfully crafted by our Executive Chef and combined with the attention to detail from our hospitality staff, guests feel like they have experienced something very special. We take these things very serious, yet we are always having fun.
Do you remember the first time you fell in love with wine?
Jessica Link: I became captivated during my first blind tasting trial prior to blending with the winemaking team. The panel of employees were only told the variety of the wine, but not the purpose of the tasting. I was still a very novice wine drinker at the time, and I was amazed at the differences the panel experienced while tasting the various wines.
The winemaker presented a series of the same wine, each aged in a different barrel from various coopers and toast levels. I was absolutely amazed at how much variation we all tasted that resulted from just one simple change.
Describe the winemaking approach at Davis Estates.
Jessica Link: At Davis Estates, we simply appreciate what Mother Nature gives us in the grapes and use that to make the best wines possible. We are lucky to work with grapes from some of the very best AVAs that California has to offer, so we like to let that speak for itself and rarely head into a harvest with any type of direction in mind.
We like to think making wine is like cooking without a recipe, and it’s incredibly rewarding to enjoy the final product.
Favorite Food and Wine Pairings?
Jessica Link: Though I enjoy our wines and appreciate each for its own unique characters, my personal favorite variety is Cabernet Franc.
Davis Estates’ Cabernet Franc is truly made in the vineyards, and I’ve learned that it takes the right terroir to make a balanced, fruit forward and approachable wine. Our Classic Chase is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The powerhouse Cabernet Franc, combined with the subtle notes of Merlot, come together to create a wine that is both complex yet so easy to sip and enjoy.
I find Merlot to be a highly underrated variety, yet it makes exceptional wine. I love seeing it make a come-back for consumers and sharing this wine helps show how exquisite it is. On a side note, the wine is named after Mike & Sandy’s first grandson, Chase.
Mike named it Classic Chase after deciding to make a classic Cheval Blanc blend, and then added a youthful spin, including by showing a bear riding a tricycle on the label.
I have been enlightened by the creativity of our Chef, his soups, sauces and pairings are not only delicious but entirely thought provoking. He loves to stretch the boundaries and thinks outside the box, but he also enjoys the classic.
Zephyr (our Bordeaux Blend) with Chef’s famous Wild Mushroom Bisque and Crème Fraiche. This is the only food pairing that has been repeated multiple times in the past 5 years.
Our Calistoga AVA Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Savory Pt. Reyes Blue Cheesecake with a Blueberry-Honey Gastrique
Sauvignon Balance with Chef’s Tiger Prawn Noodles, I can honestly say that was my first-time having shrimp “pasta.”
Share a memorable story about working at your winery.
Jessica Link: I learned in my first month of working with Mike Davis, that there is no meeting more important to him than sitting and visiting with guests. In the middle of a business meeting, which I thought was important, Mike noticed guests on the patio and promptly ended the meeting, choosing to visit with the guests until the end of the day.
I truly appreciate that he wants to personally visit with our guests and our guests feel so special when they get to meet him. But I now know to schedule meetings before and after our tasting appointments.
Do you have any winery traditions with your team?
Jessica Link: We started Fun Fridays, and once a month our “Fun Committee” plans an activity for the entire team. We’ve carved pumpkins, done an egg toss, played dodgeball, had a wood airplane competition and an Easter egg hunt.
We all enjoy the camaraderie so much, we chose to keep Fun Fridays! I always look forward to what the Fun Committee will come up with next.