Gamble Family Vineyards Farms Grapes With the Future in Mind
The focus on farming means every bottle is better
Tom Gamble is a third-generation Napa farmer whose grandfather, Launcelot Gamble, is never far from his mind. He’s a vintner too of course, but the land—and how he cares for it now and for future generations—guides every decision he makes.
“My grandfather began cattle ranching and farming in 1916,” Gamble, the first person in his family to grow grapes commercially, says. “He farmed a variety of crops for many years, and in 1955, he acquired a piece of land in Oakville.”
While a very small portion of that Oakville land would later become the Family Home Vineyard, and the foundation for his entry into the wine business, Gamble says that it’s his grandfather’s vision and ethos that defines his winery, Gamble Family Vineyards, today. The elder Gamble passed his trade, and also his passion for conserving and improving the land they farm, onto his sons, Launce and George. (George is Tom’s father).
“My father was one of the first in Napa County to create food plots to support wild animals’ nutritional needs during the lean summer months,” Gamble says. Launce and George were extraordinarily passionate about highlighting and preserving the rich diversity of birds in the region; together, they penned a book, “Birds of Napa County,” which was illustrated by Hermann Heinzel.
Similar: Rodney Strong Vineyard
Tom Gamble grew up at his father’s hip on the ranch, working, listening and learning. When he was 20 (this was 1981), he bought his first vineyard, a new chapter in the Gamble family’s farming story began.
After finding success growing grapes commercially for other vintners, Gamble took on the farming at Family Home, originally planted by his mother and stepfather in 1997, with the understanding that he would continue and strengthen their commitment to sustainability. He’s made other vineyard purchases over the years, and now has 175 acres under vine in Oakville, Yountville, Mt. Veeder and Rutherford. In 2005, Gamble took the ultimate step and decided to make wine from the grapes he meticulously farms for others.
Today, alongside winemakers Philippe Melka and Maayan Koschitzky of Atelier Melka, Gamble and his team craft each bottle to be a celebration of Napa’s unique terroir. But the land, and what he does with it, continues to define what Gamble sees as his legacy for the future.
“I was a drafting member of both the Napa Green and Fish Friendly Farming programs,” he explains, adding that the urgency to find more ecologically friendly initiatives has only increased over time.
“We are planting vines right now with climate change preparation in mind,” Gamble explains. “That means 4×3 vine density, vines that are lower to the ground, weather-resistant rootstock and adjusted row orientation. We are increasing the practice of cover crops because it promotes cooler soil temperatures.”
He’s also experimenting with unexpected but climate-resistant and promising grape varieties, including Ambulo Blanc and Koshu.
The wines themselves range from the delicious every day (the 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, at $35 is fantastically light, crisp and dry, all stone fruit, honeysuckle and cream; the $60 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is rich, complex and balanced, with notes of black raspberry, cassis and espresso) and the rarefied special occasion. (Look for the 2016 Cairo, a Cabernet Sauvignon with 3% Petit Verdot, it is pure Napa decadence, with blueberries, brambleberries clove spice, violet and rosemary).
If you want to see and taste the Gamble vision on-site, start with your rolodex, because it’s invite only. The intimate vineyard and winery location is tucked away off Highway 29 and only open to guests by referral from a member, winery partner or select concierges.
But if you do get there, you’re likely to meet Gamble himself, and you’re definitely in for an informal, but delicious and luxurious private tasting unlike any other in Napa. You’ll not only be able to taste a range of wines, some exclusive to the tasting room (ask for the Mary Ann, a Bordeaux blend named for his mother), but you’ll also emerge with a deeper understanding of the agricultural heritage that defines every nuance in the glass.