While Napa Valley is typically known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, there’s a hidden gem called Elkhorn Peak – the oldest and most developed vineyard in the area – producing exceptional, small batch Pinot Noir.
Located in Jamieson Canyon near the south end of Napa Valley, Elkhorn Peak Cellars’ story began in 1983 when Owner Ken Nerlove and his partners purchased an old sheep ranch. Enter the experimentation phase. Ken planted the first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in the area, a decision driven by the region’s ideal microclimate of early morning fog, cool, consistent temperatures and bay side breezes.
For five years after the first harvest in 1987, Ken’s meticulously farmed grapevines earned a reputation for producing high quality, small production fruit and put Jamieson Canyon on the map as a recognized growing region of quality.
In partnership with Winemaker Kent Rasmussen, one of the most respected Pinot Noir winemakers in the Napa Valley, Ken started the Elkhorn Peak Cellars label ten years after planting his first vines. The name honors the Elkhorn Peak Mountain, the tallest mountain in Jamieson Canyon situated directly behind the vineyards.
Elise Nerlove, Ken’s daughter serves as the Vice President of the non-profit, Save the Family Farms whose mission is to keep small, Napa Valley family farms viable for future generations amid a wave of corporate takeovers.
On May 5, 2022, after 5 years of work, Save the Family Farms successfully passed the Micro-Winery Ordinance in Napa County. The Micro-Winery Ordinance establishes a streamlined approval process for wineries that produce less than 5,000 gallons of annual production (approximately 3,000 cases of wine or less), and has created the new Micro-Winery designation for Napa Valley’s smallest producers. Elkhorn Peak, producers of outstanding Pinot Noir and more since 1983, is currently working towards its official Micro-Winery designation, and will be one of the first official Micro-Wineries established in Napa County.
With an annual production of just 600 cases of estate Pinot Noir, the winery has no desire to expand. Their winemaking philosophy is one of high quality farming, low fruit yields and a hands-off approach. You can only find their highly rated wines on their website or through their Wine Club – and for a limited time, on Cellar Angels.
A visit to Elkhorn Peak Cellars also offers a peek at Ken’s collection of antique slot machines, antique cars and meticulously managed gardens! This is most definitely one of Napa’s best kept secrets!