Virage founder Emily Richer discovered wine in culinary school at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley. Wine added another layer of flavor and inspiration for cooking and sharing meals with friends. The idea of wines as an expression of place creates a vehicle to access culture and travel the world--right in one's own kitchen. A farmer at heart, Emily is inspired by wines anchored in a place--and produces wine to share her discovery of those places.
Before starting Virage, Emily worked thirteen years in the Napa Valley, first as a cook, then as assistant to author and wonderful wine educator Karen MacNeil (The Wine Bible), followed by many years consulting with Napa Valley wineries. Clients included Quintessa, Icon Estates, Langtry Estate, Rudd Winery, Beaucanon Winery and others. Intrigued with the Bordeaux tradition and its art of blending, Emily saw opportunity in the still largely varietal-driven marketplace in the US. When investor partners offered the chance, she launched Virage with a focused mission of mining the cooler side of Napa Valley with a Right-Bank Bordeaux style blend, grown in hillsides of Northeastern Carneros and other cooler-climate sites.
Virage, a French word meaning 'a turn in the road,' or a change in perspective, reflects both our adoption of the Right-Bank blending tradition and the specific location of our early vineyards, located just above the turn in the road onto Hwy 29, before one travels upvalley into the warmer climes producing many brands of Cabernet Sauvignon. The inaugural 2007 vintage was released to critical acclaim, and we started spreading the word one bottle at a time. Most of the wines are sold directly to customers. Our operation is simple; handcraft every bottle, and hand pack every shipment. If you click "Contact Us" on this site, you'll hear back from Emily. The business goal is a sustainable operation with accessible pricing, a reason for being, and a place at the table. This is one fabulous dinner wine that evolves over the course of a meal--and days after, if any remains.
In 2010, the first Dry Rosé was produced, a wine that elevates first courses and light, fresh meals to become celebrations in themselves. Nothing like the sparkle of salmon-pink in the glass --with or without bubbles. Our Dry Rosé bears no resemblance to the sweet, focus-group driven pink liquid that is sold by millions of gallons to Americans who don't know otherwise. Dry Rosé is like a mediterranean breeze in your glass--aromatics of dried herbs and delicate fruits laced with minerality that pins the refreshing flavors to the earth below. Did you know: in France, more rosé wine is consumed than white wine! Long a fan of Bandol Rosé, Emily was lucky that a kind grower allowed us to pick a small block of grapes-- never before harvested!--growing down a northern slope that just didn't ripen up well enough to produce a quality red wine. This happy experiment of 50 cases or so launched an unstoppable mission to share crisp dry rosé with every possible convert who crosses Emily's path, in a grocery store, at an art gallery, at a wine festival, or on this website. It's really tough to get Emily to stop talking about the subtle nuances of great dry rosé.
Grown in northeast Napa Carneros hillsides, grapes enjoy an extended growing season in the marine-influenced climate and soils, resulting in optimal ripeness that delivers a wonderful depth of flavor and a savory minerality, maintaining vibrant natural acidity in the finished wines. We find this classic style to be an excellent dining companion. And many top sommeliers agree--please see our restaurant list.
The Virage wines are produced at a shared facility, in what Emily calls a "hair salon model." Our unique styles are created in a space where others share the common equipment, as stylists in a salon share the dryers, sinks and storage areas. This method of production keeps us on our toes, as employees are answering to many clients and the equipment is not owned by our brand alone; yet, this is the ultimate "green" production method, where tools that one brand would use only once or twice a season are shared by many. Unfortunately, due to restrictions at our current facility, we cannot offer winery tours and tastings.
Along with former wine educator and Napa Valley consultant Emily Richer, Virage has been influenced by many consulting winemakers including Aaron Pott (who worked with Emily at Quintessa) who gave his seal of approval to the plan, Rodrigo Soto who walked the ground with unmatched sincerity and truly understood the mission and listened to endless concerns at his family's kitchen table, and master blender and Michel Rolland disciple Jean Hoefliger (winemaker for Alpha Omega), who showed Emily how to approach the practical task of blending, which he assisted with in the 2010 vintage of Virage and from which we carry on now with our own style. Our work depends mostly upon thoughtful vine care by local growers willing to collaborate on our stylistic goals and incorporate that into the many farming choices made throughout a growing season. We're particularly grateful when our grapes are harvested by the same dedicated team that farms the vineyards during the year. While limited geographically, a small team of talented wine distributors who sell Virage wine to restaurants and retailers outside California are noted on our restaurant list.