Lail Vineyards was founded by long time Napa Valley vintner Robin (Daniel) Lail and her family. Robin’s history in the Napa Valley is significant and deeply rooted. Her great-grand uncle was Gustave Niebaum the founder of Napa’s iconic Inglenook Winery. Her father was John Daniel Jr. who inherited the great Inglenook winery from his father (and was instrumental in helping put Napa Valley on the wine map in many ways). Robin co-founded Dominus in 1982 with her sister Marky and famed winemaker Christian Moueix (General Manager of Château Pétrus in Pomerol), co-founded Merryvale Vineyards with Bill Harlan – where she was President of the winery for 12 years, was general manager at the prestigious Meadowood Resort and was Robert Mondavi’s personal assistant for a number of years… the list goes on.
Well regarded Philippe Melka has been their winemaker since the beginning; in fact, Lail Vineyards was his first wine consulting job in the Napa Valley. Today Philippe is the winemaker for a number of small premium producers mostly based in Napa. In the past he has been voted American Winemaker of the year by Robert Parker in Food & Wine Magazine. Philippe has a geology degree as well as a degree in enology and agronomy (he knows his Napa terroir very well) and especially enjoys working with Napa hillside vineyards. For someone with such recognition, he is one of the most down to earth winemakers we have met on this project.
Lail owns and uses fruit from two estate vineyards; the Totem Vineyard in Yountville was part of the original Inglenook vineyard estate. This vineyard is named after a totem pole that the founder of Inglenook Winery, Gustav Niebaum (Robin’s great-grand uncle) gave the de Young Museum in San Francisco (see below for description and photographs of this totem pole). Their Mole Hill vineyard is located high on the slopes of Howell Mountain at about 1600 feet. The name of this vineyard has interesting origins. When Napa pioneer Louis Martini first made red wine locally, John Daniels decided to make some home red wine and included an image of a mole on his label with a cute saying on the back “Mole Hill Red, A Wine You Will Gopher!” Today this small vineyard is planted entirely to Cabernet Sauvignon and is farmed organically.
Matthew Perry, National Sales Manager for Lail Vineyards, began his wine career at the age of 19, working at a prestigious wine shop in Miami. He took his love of wine to Argentina where he led sales for a young producer. Returning to the U.S. Matthew continued his career in the distribution tier, selling fine wines in South Florida. Opportunity presented itself and Matthew became regional manager for an importer of superb Greek wines, managing wholesalers along the East Coast.
Located in the heart of Raleigh at Five Points, Bloomsbury Bistro has served nationally renowned cuisine in a comfortable neighborhood setting for well over a decade. Critics and food writers agree that the Bistro has a firm grasp on the entire dining experience. With a seasonal menu that changes every six weeks, chef John Toler stretches the bounds of traditional French cooking by incorporating vibrant ethnic flavors into the Bistro’s globally inspired menus.
Chef John Toler, a West Virginia native, completed his formal training in classical French cuisine as first in his class at L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Maryland. Before settling in North Carolina, he worked with several well-known chefs in the Washington DC area. John’s relocation to Raleigh coincided with Rick Robinson’s decision to open Mondo Bistro in Chapel Hill where John served as sous chef from the restaurant’s inception until early 1995 when he left to open Bloomsbury Bistro. Chef John Toler’s entrees are French in style, but they meander into Southern, Asian, and other cuisines that liven up the recipes and produce multitudes of quotation marks on the menu descriptions, because nothing is done quite in a traditional manner. Both John and the Bistro have become recognized locally and nationally for his innovative menus and the Bistro’s sophisticated, yet comfortable dining atmosphere. Publications such as USA Today, Bon Appétit and Southern Living have cast a flattering spotlight on Chef Toler’s cooking style.