The Chang family purchased a one-of-a-kind
property atop famed Pritchard Hill in Napa in 2010. They redeveloped
the vineyard and built a winery with architectural design elements
informed by the land's topography. Each section of the winery has a
distinct design of its own, and each is as visually striking as the
next. The winery exhibits the perfect marriage of creative design and
Visitors to Nine Suns are treated to spectacular
views and in the tasting room engage in a casual, down-to-earth
experience with wines that merit serious attention. Hospitality is the focus
here. You will not experience a host rattling off statistics about oak
percentages and discussing pump-overs while pouring wine for ten other
visitors. Instead, you will be privately toured by either Jason or
Flora, who oversee the winery. Their focus on personal interaction and
relationship development has allowed Nine Suns to thrive in an area
Colgin, Bryant Family, Chappellet, Continuum, David Arthur, and Ovid
Jason and Flora recognize that wine is not just about
quality and craft but about people and their experience with the wine,
which, in part, inspired their new passion project – Plinth.
I recently spoke with Jason and Flora
about their unconventional path to wine, passion for eno-hospitality,
and their new undertaking:
Can you tell me a little bit about your upbringing and how you both got into the wine industry?
Jason and Flora candidly admit they had little
to no experience in the wine industry prior to 2010. The project
started as a family land purchase investment to produce grapes to sell
producers. However, once the Chang family realized the potential for
developing the land into more, they elected to create the winery and
bottle a small amount of wine under their own label. Jason and Flora’s
entrepreneurial spirit driven by their business acumen and love of
hospitality led to their interest and passion for wine. Jason holds an
MBA from the University of Michigan and is a former Pricewaterhouse
Coopers management consultant, and Flora is a registered pharmacist and
recent Wharton MBA graduate. Jason and Flora themselves lead all aspects
of day-to-day operations at the winery while also serving as proud
parents to Hudson.
Can you explain the Nine Suns concept and what sets you apart from other Pritchard Hill wineries?
Jason and Flora admit they have no desire to
compete with neighboring wineries with famed labels – some of which
established themselves in the late 1960s and early 1970s. They
recognize their neighbors' remarkable success, but they know emulation
of their approach -- rooted in a different time and era -- is not a
winning strategy. Instead, they noted that they have to have the
confidence to do something different. They gush as they discuss how
Nine Suns is anchored on experience. As they are now celebrating their
tenth anniversary, they share with pride that they have customers who
have been coming to them since they were a construction pile. They
continue to return not only because of the wine's caliber but because of
their relationship with Jason and Flora.
When was the Plinth brand created, and how did it come about?
The inaugural 2017 vintage features a Sauvignon
Blanc and a Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet was released last month,
and the release of the Sauvignon Blanc is imminent. Plinth is an
architectural term representing a foundation. Plinth's focus is on the
fruit and the wine, for which the foundation is Pritchard Hill coupled
with finds from the Napa Valley floor. The wanderlust character adorned
on the Sauvignon Blanc illustrates a collection of experiences one
garners during travel. Jason and Flora’s vision (pre-COVID) was to share
an experience outside of Napa, a sort of virtual winery where they
could take Plinth on the road and allow it to serve as an “accouterment
to experience.” While COVID-19 has disrupted that roadshow, for now,
they continue to have great success as their first allocation of the
Cabernet immediately sold out.
Do you use similar winemaking philosophies with Plinth and Nine Suns, or are they treated differently?
Jason and Flora note that the Plinth Sauvignon
Blanc spends time in oak, providing a more concentrated taste juxtaposed
to the Nine Suns Sauvignon Blanc that features a bit more crispness of
fruit. The Nine Suns Proprietary Red is a Bordeaux style blend that is
lavishly layered and focuses on advancing a balanced structure. In
contrast, the Plinth is a 100 percent Cabernet incorporating Pritchard
Hill fruit with the Napa Valley floor. The Plinth wine also comes in at
a slightly more accessible price point than the Nine Suns wines. All
the wines are irresistible. While different vintages, below is a quick
write-up to illustrate the variety across the spectrum of offerings.
The Nine Suns 2012 Proprietary Red ($250)
is a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, and 11% Petit Verdot
and the rest Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Arguably one of the best
vintages for this wine, it is utterly mesmerizing and beautifully
illustrates the concentration and depth of Pritchard Hill fruit. The
nose presents itself with a pleasing degree of complexity, showcasing a
bouquet of lilac and violet, with a hint of currant and cedar box. On
the palate, a generous core of blackberry, blueberry, and cassis
complements the fine-grain tannins and smooth finish. It is
approachable now but has ample cellaring potential. 99 Points
Plinth 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon ($185) is a perfect expression of the Pritchard Hill meets Napa
Valley floor style. Lively aromatics sit atop a beautiful structure
with firm but well-integrated tannins and generous acidity. The palate
bursts with notes of vibrant black cherries, blackberries, blueberries
with hints of dry herb and crushed stone which emerge as the wine
evolves in the glass. It ends with a bone-dry finish. You can enjoy it
now with a good decant or put it away for long-term aging. 95
Plinth 2017 Sauvignon Blanc ($75) is a beautiful balancing act between the bright citrus flavors
of the Sauvignon Blanc with the barrel fermentation's rich elements.
The wine has an incredibly rich texture and mouthfeel that is balanced
with bright acidity. Notes of preserved lemon, citrus, and melon hit
every part of the mouth, and the finish only leaves you wanting more.
Enjoy over the next 4-5 years. 94
How do you distribute your wine? Where can people buy it?
Both Nine Suns and Plinth are almost exclusively
direct-to-consumer. For more information, visit www.NineSuns.com and