While working as an electrical engineer in the tech industry, Tom Porter dreamed of one day owning a vineyard and making his own wine in Napa. "They would be out in Silicon Valley for weeks at a time and weekend up here," Tim Porter says of his parents, Tom and Beverly Porter. "They fell in love with the lifestyle. My father kept saying, 'One day, one day.'" Tom Porter is a big Bordeaux fan, and he wanted an elevated hillside vineyard to grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. After a four-month search over the valley in 2005, Tom found his dream location in Coombsville. He purchased the 20-acre parcel of land from grape grower and producer Richard Perry and got to work on his winery. 

Tim Porter in his family's vineyard

Porter built a 17,000-square-foot cave underneath the hill where the now 34-year-old Syrah vines grow. "Most of the caves in Napa and Sonoma are used for barrel aging," says Tim. "There's a handful of wineries that actually make the wine in the cave. It was designed to be the ultimate boutique winemaker’s facility." The fermentation tanks are small with open tops, and the team, led by consulting winemaker Ken Bernards, minimizes the fruit's handling. Porter Family Vineyards makes a variety of wines, including Chardonnay, Rosé, an estate Cabernet Sauvignon, and several red blends—all with unique artful labels and two wines with a special mission to give back.

Children from Amani play soccer in Tanzania (image from @amani_kids

Philanthropy is important to the Porters, and since the 2008 vintage, they have donated 100% of the proceeds from their Amani red blend to the Amani Children's Home in Tanzania. "We came across the Amani organization in 2005 and over the years have watched a grass roots non-profit grow from supporting 60 children to over 650, and it's been amazing,” Tim reflects. “The kids design the label, and we donate everything else. So, for the $42 we charge for the bottle, $42 goes back to the kids. We've produced 12 vintages of Amani over the years, that's roughly 7,000 bottles of wine that have made it around the country to help build exposure to the organization." [Learn more about Amani’s mission here.]

A bottle of Porter Family Vineyard’s Heartworks blend (image from @webuildhearts

They also support HeartWorks Inc., the world’s largest consortium of researchers, donors, families, physicians, and employees dedicated to curing congenital heart defects. Like the Amani label, all the proceeds from the HeartWorks blend are donated to its namesake institution and the kids who are participating with the organization design the wine labels. [Learn more about Heartworks Inc. here.] “We make our wines with our hearts," Tim says. “It's not a commercial place. It's a family passion. The wines are made with love."

The fossil with sandpiper prints found at Porter Family Vineyards

How to Taste: Contact the Porters through their website if you would like to visit the family.  

Known For: Its sandpiper logo. During the excavation of the 17,000 square foot cave, a slab of compacted volcanic ash had separated from the ceiling roughly midway through the cave. The stone was found to have fossilized sandpiper tracks on its face. Paleontologists at UC Berkeley dated the tracks to the Miocene epoch, which is five to 20 million years ago, based on the depth of stone separation and the geological history of the region.

The fermentation bay in the cave at Porter Family Vineyards

“The hill actually began as a shoreline millions of years ago,” says Tom. “Over the millennia, it was uplifted into the hills above our vineyard, and then much later slumped downhill to its present location. The tracks of that tiny bird, once on the surface of a sandy beach that was catastrophically covered with volcanic ash, were only discovered when we dug into the hillside to create our winery. Buried many feet below the surface, it was a reminder that we are not the first to tread this ground, nor will we be the last. And it is our responsibility to steward this land in a way that protects and preserves it, not just for our children, but for the planet.”

A tasting set up at Porter Family Vineyards

Wine Club 411: The wine club sends out shipments twice annually, during the spring and autumn seasons. Members have the option to select either six or twelve bottles per allocation and can personalize their choices according to their preferred wines.

Fun Fact: Not only is Tim integral to the success of Porter Family Vineyards, but he was also a crucial player in establishing the Coombsville Vintners and Growers as an association. In 2010, Tim along with Rebecca Sciandri, Curits Strohl, and Tracey Reichow founded the organization and served as its initial board members. 

Photos courtesy of Elan Villamor and Porter Family Vineyards 

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