Upstart Napa Winery has Loyal Following in Williamson County
As fajitas sizzled in the cast iron skillet on their Calistoga, Calif. car-camping campfire, Suzanne and Shane Pavitt sipped and savored a glass of wine, while day dreaming out loud. It was a beautiful time on their newly purchased property, and its possibilities overflowed with promise.
As with anything she does, Suzanne Phifer Pavitt was revving up for a new passionate pursuit of making the couple’s dreams come true. This project would be most special. This project would be one filled with love of the land, appreciation of the wine its grapes would produce, and would lend itself to becoming a legacy for their future children.
Together, Suzanne and Shane built not only a homestead but an incredible and unique winery. From the floating, century-old walnut bar to the hog fencing chandeliers and the reclaimed Wyoming snow wood that lines the walls, these mindful details come alive as visitors walk through the doors. Even what can’t be seen, like the recycled blue jean insulation in the walls, has been carefully considered. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t come fast. What began as a conversation during their weekly “date night,” became a successful, Napa-certified green winery that hosts visitors who enjoy the winery’s two flagship varietals, the Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon and the Date Night Sauvignon Blanc.
“In 1999, we developed everything from ground up,” says Suzanne. “I (began to) serve as the general contractor and it took six years for permits.”
But they persevered and built the winery, though it took even more years to get the vineyard permit. The couple’s winery farms about 950 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Temple Family Vineyard in the Pope Valley. For their 900 cases of Sauvignon Blanc, they farm the Juliana Vineyards, also located on Pope Valley. As Suzanne shares, they “cooperatively farm the grapes. (The vineyards) own the land and we farm the fruit.”
They’ve been farming that land annually since 2005, and have never looked back.
Suzanne has also never looked back on her former career in hi-tech. Though she and Shane did not come from a wine background, they have a shared passion that more than makes up for the previous lack of experience. As a result of the winery, the couple has been able to leave their former careers and dive successfully into not only their wine business, but also establishing a closer family bond with their children, Jackson William, 14, and Rhett James, 13. While Suzanne runs the day-to-day business operations, Shane is acting CFO, works harvest and is able to be sure their boys are attending time-consuming sports practices, year-round travel team football games, dirt bike races and more.
This family business has captured the interest of so many over the years, including a group of wine connoisseurs from the Nashville area, led by David Kemp, a Williamson County orthodontist.
“In 2009, I had the opportunity to participate in a retreat that was centered in Napa County,” says Kemp. “The organizers had been told that a former Tennessee/Georgia girl was making some amazing Cabernet Sauvignon in Calistoga, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself to Suzanne.”
The Kemp and Pavitt families connected immediately and later that year Kemp hosted a wine event in his Middle Tennessee home that featured Phifer Pavitt’s flagship Date Night Cabernet Sauvignon. In the years since, Kemp has organized more events in order to introduce local friends and restaurateurs to the Phifer Pavitt label.
“We are so crazy about the wines from Phifer Pavitt that we joined a group of mutual friends in blending and bottling a barrel of the inaugural Phifer Pavitt Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon,” says Kemp. “We stayed at the Phifer Pavitt winery earlier this year when we tasted, blended, and bottled this amazing blend of her 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon.”
Shane’s uncle, George Francuch, was instrumental in drawing the Phifer Pavitt label. Suzanne encouraged him to draw a strong woman to represent the winery because she knew that he would be able to create a woman from an era, like Patsy Cline’s, who did it all during the day and cleaned up, putting on a beautiful dress at night. “I wanted a woman who was approachable and appreciated by a man, but also to a woman’s palate,” she says.
The Phifer Pavitt Winery continues to deliver a special kind of moxie to its customers at each and every visit. “I really designed this whole experience to be very intentional and authentic,” says Suzanne. “At the end of the day, I hope (visitors) feel a very personal experience, because I have literally overseen every detail and my fingerprints on design are evident at every corner of the property, whether its the gates, the exterior of the winery or the interior of the tasting room. When you come on the property, you’re coming into my house.”
More information is available online at PhiferPavittWine.com.