When Napa Valley lawyers and winery owners Mike Bee and Jim Peterson wanted to start their own winery in the valley, a lot of folks scoffed at the idea. After visiting Napa and talking to many people in the trade, the men were encouraged to modify their idea of building a full-fledged winery and decided to take a more modest approach.
First, they set about finding the right wine maker which led them to Ray Coursen, then the winemaker at Napa Valley’s Whitehall Lane. Coursen, a giant of a man with a prodigious appetite for red wine (more about this later), was not only a fine winemaker, but had worked many years in the vineyards so he was aware of where the best grapes were being grown. After some coaxing, Coursen took on the task of producing Falcor wines and produced the first vintage in 1996 with a Burundian-style Napa Valley Chardonnay.
Mike and Jim were very pleased with the result. That led to a stable of limited production wines (about 500 cases for each varietal) including two Chardonnays, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Le Bijou ( a Bordeaux-style blend) and a Rose. Mike’s son, Ryan, is Falcor’s general manager and works out of a small Napa office. In addition to his duties, which include criss-crossing the country to open new markets, Ryan is overseeing the building of Falcor’s small winery and upscale tasting room which is scheduled to open in August in the southern portion of the Napa Valley.
I had the pleasure of visiting with Mike, Jim and Ryan a few years ago in Napa and tasted through their line of wines with wine maker Ray Coursen. After tasting the Falcor wines, Ray opened a bottle of his Elyse Morisoli Vineyards Zinfandel which we proceeded to empty in short order. Ray then took me next door to a long metal building chock full of Elyse wines, many of which were in l.5 liter bottles. When I asked what his plans were for this fortress of wine, he looked at me and said, “I plan to drink it all myself.” I don’t think he was kidding.
Later, we took a few l.5 liter bottles of Falcor and Elyse to accompany a wonderful leisurely, three-hour lunch at Bistro Jeaunty in Yountville. You can find the entire line of Falcor wines at fine wine shops around the state. The best way to purchase Elyse wines is through the winery online or by searching the Internet for merchants that will ship it to you.