Growing up in Panama as the middle child of five, Mark Herold’s parents told him he could be one of three things: a lawyer, priest, or doctor. Never one to color inside the lines, Herold decided to be a chef and headed to France for culinary school. However, the kitchen wasn’t a good fit, and he soon realized his parents' dreams by obtaining a Ph.D. Only Herold didn’t become a surgeon but rather an expert in sturgeon: his first Ph.D. was in bio-nutrition of aquaculture, and he intended to raise fish for caviar. This didn’t suit him, so he enrolled at UC Davis, obtaining his second and third Ph.Ds in biology and ecology.
While at Davis, a professor introduced him to the farming side of wine-making, and Herold was instantly smitten. Upon graduation, he was fascinated with enology and headed straight to Napa, where he convinced some new friends to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in their Coombsville vineyard. “This was revolutionary at that time. Napa is still developing in the '90s. Wine is starting to become a household item,” Sierra Millet, Mark Herold Wines’ hospitality manager, explains. “He does his first harvest, and jimmy-rigs his hot tub in his garage at his house. He barrels that, releases that wine in 1998 under the name of Merus, and it’s is the best garage wine Robert Parker's ever had.”
The rest, they say, is history. Herold sells Merus and continues to make a name for himself as a consulting winemaker. Today, he makes wine for several wineries per year and at his namesake brand, which launched in 2010. “His whole concept and idea behind his wine-making are to create a taste of place, and that is a moment in time, a vintage captured within a bottle,” Millet says of Herold’s style. “Each of those vintages had beautiful days, and it's how you showcase the wine to express that—it’s one of his talents. There's a lot of artistry within the science, but that’s his passion.”
How to Taste Mark Herold Wines: Herold’s tasting room in downtown Napa is one of the few places where you can walk in and taste without an appointment (groups must be smaller than six). Experiences range from a three-wine flight to a Coombsville vineyard tour of Herold’s original Merus block, including a four-release tasting with a cheeseboard.
Known For: Superb Cabernet Sauvignon. Herold’s motto is “live large, drink well,” and he wants everyone to enjoy an opulent, elegant red. Collectors go crazy for his reds because they are drinkable now and built for longevity. The current Coombsville release is lovely and will evolve beautifully over the next 15 to 20 years.
Wine Club 411: Millet manages the wine club, which ships thrice yearly with spring, fall, and holiday releases. Choose between a three, six, or 12-bottle shipment and act fast. Herold’s wines always sell out: His latest Oakville Cab sold out in nine months. Club members are invited to a couple of parties a year, including the upcoming Herold Harvest Celebration on October 8.
Fun Fact: Herold and his wife live in Coombsville on the property initially owned by Napa’s founding father, Nathan Coombs.