Just when you think there’s nothing new under the sun, leave it to an innovative Napa winemaker to create a unique offering that focuses on the vessel that houses his wines as much as the wines themselves. Lawrence Fairchild, a Nebraska farm boy, studied soil science and bought his first small vineyard in 1999, which happened to be just above Harlan’s legendary Bond Melbury parcel. I spoke with Fairchild about the concept, which is simply called “Stones,” and he said his goal, first and foremost, was always “to produce the single-highest quality possible.” He has enlisted some of the best helpers in the business along the way, including his current winemaker, Philippe Melka, whose background in geology resonated with Fairchild.
Each bottle in the stones collection has a hand-designed and -stamped zinc label.
One of the throughlines of the Stones project is, as the name implies, minerality. Vineyards are chosen for their ability to produce Cabernet Sauvignons that offer Bordeaux-like balance with a characteristic chalkiness that is a hallmark of the region. The other running theme is the vessel that houses these beautiful wines, each involving 18 months of design to form the hand-illustrated label before it’s hand-pressed in paper-thin zinc in France and applied to each bottle, again, by hand.
The meticulous care that goes into each bottle is reflected in the glass. I tasted the 2016 Stones 3, which comes from the Oakville Tench Vineyard. On the nose, it offers notes of black currant, violet, cocoa nib, and a compelling hint of truffle-like umami, and perhaps even coffee, underneath — with a lithe minerality, of course. At $375 a bottle, the wine and its presentation are intended to be a singular experience, very small-production and as highly allocated as you might expect.
Fairchild has a clear affinity for Clone 4, which is known for its large, lush fruit and tight clusters, as well as its ability to deliver age-worthy opulence, and that elusive paradox of power and finesse.
In 2019, Fairchild upped the ante even further with “Perrarus,” which is Latin for “very rare, exceptional, an unrepeatable moment in time.” These bottles are “editions of one,” says Fairchild, large-format vessels of hand-blown glass, limited to one per member via lottery for $11,500.
Fairchild made the decision early on to “base production volumes on quality, not quantity,” and he has ample vineyards for crafting wines at the highest quality using only about 20 percent of the grapes produced. In other words, he can be highly selective, and he is.
Singular hand-blown glass bottles house the Perrarus collection of wines.
These wines are available only to private members, and an added value of membership is access to the Stones Library Program, under which any Stones wine can be re-ordered within five years of release, having been aged under careful supervision and control.
A “Black VIP Membership is by invitation only, limited to 500 clients, and includes invitations to Stones “”Night of Perrarus Michelin Star dinners, including those at Le Bernardin and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and Blackberry Farm in Tennessee.
Even though these wines have a rarified air both in and out of their artful bottles, Fairchild likes to connect with each collector personally, which makes the whole affair all the more appealing. He is equal parts accessible and encyclopedic, and a conversation with him about his passion project(s) will expand the way you think about Napa wines.