After leaving the US Marine Corps in 1964, Dick Grace became a stockbroker in San Francisco while he and his wife, Ann, raised Kirk, Mark and Kim in the suburban comfort of Orinda. By the mid-seventies, when the children were teenagers, the idea of moving to the country was holding some allure, and a rundown Victorian that was just out of their price range became both their challenge and their haven. In today’s world full of boutique wineries it is hard to believe that the Napa Valley of 1976 really ever existed. At the time, it was just another agricultural region where prunes and walnuts were as viable a crop as grapes, and pig farms dotted the landscape.
Planted with cuttings from the famous Bosché vineyard not far away, Grace Family vineyards started out as a family hobby. The first harvest was picked by family and friends in 1978 and taken to nearby Caymus Winery in the back of a station wagon. Charlie Wagner, the late Caymus patriarch, tasted a bunch of those first 1978 grapes and exclaimed, “You know, Dick, this is damned fine fruit!” And so one of the Napa Valley’s first vineyard designated wines came to be produced. Grace Family Vineyards was on its way.
With interest in California wines blossoming, Grace Family Vineyards quickly became the first “cult” wine, which was just as much a surprise to Dick and Ann as to anyone else. That said, let’s not forget that Dick’s military experience, enhanced by a perfectionist attitude, ensured that no corners were cut. Even if this was to be just a hobby, it had to be done right. It was most fortuitous and serendipitous that the family had settled upon a micro-climate and soil eminently suitable to making stellar Cabernet.