Cabell’s career started in Burgundy, France picking grapes during a semester abroad. After graduation, he returned to Burgundy to work in vineyards throughout Cote de Nuits. Cabell had the privilege to work some of the very last vintages under Jacky Truchot and Henri Jayer. Cabell attended Lincoln University in New Zealand, earning graduate degrees in Enology and Viticulture. Cabell’s passion for cool climate viticulture and methodical winemaking led to winemaking positions at Dumol, Alder Springs Vineyard, and Kosta Browne. Two decades of harvests have led Cabell to turn farming, science, and the elements of nature into one craft.
Cabell’s winemaking philosophy is that of “Grower First.” Under Cabell’s guidance, the small, year-round vineyard team at Coursey Graves farms over 90% of the fruit harvested from the Sonoma and Napa vineyards. Cabell approaches winemaking with an intention to preserve freshness and a concept of purity and ageability. The result is a wine deeply tied to both a moment in time and Cabell’s culminating vision.
“I want to advance the perception of exceptional California wine. I want to be a leader in the new wave of winemakers focused on ageability and terroir. I want to show that great wines don’t come from a zip code; they are born from remarkable soil, climate, viticulture, and winemaking."
After 3 decades as the Founder/CEO of Convey Compliance Systems in Minnetonka, MN, John Graves refocused his efforts to his two passions: philanthropy and wine.
THE GRAVES FOUNDATION
After the sale of his business, John and his wife, Denise, established the Graves Foundation with a focus on closing the equity gaps of underprivileged youth in Minnesota. The foundation pledges to programs aimed at the prevention of youth homelessness, assisting young adults transitioning out of foster care, and addressing racial equity and access in education.
VINEYARDS AND WINERY
As an avid collector of wines, John’s interest eventually sparked a desire to create the kinds of wines he had sought after. In 2015, John purchased 40 acres overlooking Bennett Valley. Partnering with Cabell Coursey, they revitalized the estate’s small, south-southwest blocks of Bordeaux and Rhône varietals with a focus on soil quality and vine health by way of organic viticultural practices. Choosing vines and adapting practices to match the character of the site, they capture the quintessential structure and site-specificity that rocky, volcanic soils and marine-influenced vineyards are famous for.
Graves Vineyard, Bennett Valley
High up the slopes of Bennett Mountain, the Graves Vineyard is nestled among coastal oak encinals, climbing 800 to 1500 feet above the hills and swales of Bennett and Sonoma Valleys. Steep grades and a soil composition of 90% volcanic basalt, andesite, and rhyolite stone mixed with small amounts of clay loam allow for deep roots and perfect drainage. Elevation, south-southwest exposure, and coastal influences funneled through Crane Canyon, allow for maturation and flavor development of the grapes grown here.
Graves Vineyard, Oakville
The Oakville name is synonymous with excellence. Located on the western foothills, the 1.75-acre Coursey Graves Oakville Vineyard is surrounded by Napa Valley royalty. Ideal soil, topography, and climate converge here, creating an environment that makes Oakville the treasure of Napa Valley.
Along the western margin of the valley just below the Mayacamas range, the soil is composed of ancient Pacific sea bedrock, greenstones, sandstone, limestone, and shales. Just far enough south to receive regular morning fog from the San Pablo bay, the spring and summer days warm slowly, but the vines bask in full afternoon sun. And when temperatures begin to peak, the bay blows cool breezes north to Oakville to begin again the cooling cycle of night that preserves the color and acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon from the Coursey Graves Oakville Vineyard is classically rich and exotically beautiful with almost endless discovery.
Howell Mountain Vineyard
At an elevation of 2200 feet, the Coursey Graves Howell Mountain Vineyard is organically farmed by hand. Another abundantly sunny, yet cool site, the vineyard owes its distinctive climate to its altitude. Evenings are warm, but the days are a reprieve from the hot valley floor. Rocky, rhyolitic soils are porous, and dry. Cooler springs cause buds to break late, and warm summer nights produce fruit that demonstrates balance between acidity and sugar. All of which translates into wines with firm structure and depth, restraint and vibrancy, and incredible intensity and aging properties.