From North Bay biz, "Hidden Gems: A World Away":
Bill Cadman, winemaker and owner of Tulocay Winery, moved to Napa in
1971 after noticing its wine quality was improving. “I grew up in
Oakland, but not with wine. I was working at the Pacific Coast Stock
Exchange when my boss and coworkers got me into it. We could buy a case
of Bordeaux at 10 Minna Street for an affordable price.” And that was it
— he decided to be where the action was.
“I got hired at Charles Krug because it was harvest and they’d hire
anybody [because harvest is always short-handed],” he says. In 1972,
they purchased property in Coombsville. Cadman worked at Clos du Val,
Beringer and Heitz Cellars before a friend suggested he use the two
outbuildings on his own property to make wine. He installed water and
electricity, purchased the necessary equipment and was good to go. “It’s
why we buy all our grapes,” he says. “I procrastinated buying
vineyards, and I’m still waiting for the prices to go down.
“It was easier to start a winery back then,” he adds. “We liked it here
because Napa was a backwater agricultural town. If you went to work in
San Francisco and said you’d been in Napa, they’d think of the mental
hospital. Napa wasn’t synonymous with wine until long after we got here.
People were into jugs back then.”
He says Coombsville is still a lot like those days — very quiet, without
any resorts or hotels. At night, there’s an occasional coyote howl. And
there are a lot of quail, wild turkeys and deer running around.
The first wine Cadman produced was a 1975 Pinot Noir from Haynes
Vineyard, and he’s used grapes from that same block ever since. (Ancien
also uses Haynes Vineyard fruit). “One thing that led to the consistency
in our Pinot Noir was that it’s come from the same family vineyard,
managed by Fernando Delgado, this whole time. It’s sold to the same
family winery,” he says. The result is truly lovely, with great acidity,
a nose of cherries and red fruit with a hint of earth and a lively feel
on the palate.
Up until now, he’s also purchased Chardonnay grapes from Haynes (among
other vineyards), but this year, it will come from another Coombsville
vineyard called D’Ambrosio.
The winery produces two labels of Chardonnay: Cadman and Tulocay. Cadman
is steel fermented but has a lush, rounded mouthfeel, while the Tulocay
label sees both new and neutral oak. Both are true reflections of where
they came from — elegant, well balanced and absent of flab.
For Cabernet Sauvignon, he’s purchased grapes from various locations
over the years. Since 2013, grapes have come from a vineyard only a
half-mile from his property. Cadman also produces Syrah (also from
Haynes, it has juicy, blueberry elements and is well rounded and
perfectly dry — a classic, cool climate offering) and, occasionally,
Zinfandel (that he sources from out of the area). His daughter, Brie,
relocated to Coombsville last year after finishing her studies at UC
Berkeley. She took winemaking and viticulture classes at Napa Valley
College and started winemaking with her father in 2012. “My sister and I
have been on the bottling line since we could stand,” she says. “Now I
live here and do it full time." She’s also assistant winemaker at Judd’s
From "The Characters of Wine Country: An Insider’s View — The Bold Italic — San Francisco":
the quirkiest character I’ve met is Bill Cadman, the founder of the
very first garage winery in Napa (established in 1975 before the Paris Wine Tasting).
Back then he worked as a tour guide for Robert Mondavi until he was
inspired by one drunken Sunday spent with friends and decided to turn
the dilapidated buildings on his property into a winery. That Monday he
went to the county to get an application for a winery permit. It was one
page long, with an $80 filing fee....
day I asked Bill if I could stop by the winery with my friend Michelle.
I planned to bring a lunch that would pair with his wine (my secret
passion). I spent the morning preparing foods for each of the wines I
knew Bill would serve. When Michelle and I arrived, there was Bill at
his front door, waiting to greet us in his customary sweat pants and
Hawaiian shirt. I greeted Bill and said, “Hello, Bill, I brought lunch!”
Without missing a beat, Bill looked right past me, stuck his hand out
toward Michelle and said, “Hello, Lunch, I’m Bill — let’s eat!”
Bill Cadman, the owner of Tulocay Winery, is a treasure of
information about wine. He is also a witty, humorous and thoroughly
entertaining gentleman. Well, the “gentleman” part might be a bit of a
stretch. Bill is old-time Napa, with not an ounce of pretentiousness
Nowhere else can you sit down with someone as knowledgeable or as
approachable as Bill Cadman. He simply does not have a snobbish bone in
his body. His irreverent, light-hearted take on the business of
winemaking, however, belies his superior skills. This is seriously good
wine. He doesn’t even maintain a pour list. He’ll just ask what you like
and open bottles accordingly.
In 1972, Bill brazenly bought an old chicken farm and began pestering
the local wineries for a job. He started his career by operating the
crushers at Charles Krug. From there he went on to enjoy a long history
in the industry, working for the likes of Robert Mondavi, Joe Heitz and
other giants of the winemaking world. In 1975, after consuming copious
amounts of wine one evening, he made the presumptuous decision to open a
winery himself. “My friends looked at the old chicken coops and
declared them perfect for a winery. In my altered state, I agreed!” What
ensued was the creation of a refreshingly relaxed wine country
experience and a Pinot Noir that would launch his career. He has been
enjoying the heck out of life ever since.
In Very Napa Valley magazine, Bill Cadman answers such pressing wine-related questions like…
"We noticed that you seem to constantly be accompanied by a rather
loud and obnoxious little black dog. Does he influence your winemaking
decisions as well?"
"Does anyone know that your daughter Brie is the brains behind this operation? Or should we keep that a secret?"
"The Napa Valley has been labeled as an 'adult Disneyland.' Is that disappointing?"
Read the entire article here.
Seven Reasons to Revisit Napa Valley
Huffington Post Blog
Tulocay Winery, Napa — Get off the beaten Highway 29 and
book a tasting at Bill Cadman's Tulocay Winery. Once you've found the
right narrow dirt road in a residential area east of downtown, there are
no signs or rows of parked cars to guide you. Just Bill, his dog Buddy,
and several bottles of something red on an outdoor table in front of
his home, where he's been making wine since 1974; before that, Bill
honed his craft at Krug, Clos Du Val and Mondavi. Come for the Pinot
Noir 2009 ($35) and Cabernet Sauvignon Sarco 2006 ($39) and stay for the
entertaining conversation, generous free tastings, and a goodbye hug
from Bill. And if you're likeable enough, you might even get invited
back to bottle (and drink) the wine. By appointment only.
The Good Life in Napa Valley
An interview with Tulocay owner Bill Cadman
by Anna Maria Knapp
When Bill Cadman tells the story of his life in the Napa wine business,
the serious and the comic blend seamlessly into a chronicle of more than
three decades in the Valley during a time of enormous change. In 1971
without prior experience, he wandered around the Napa Valley, found employment
initially with Charles Krug, then Heitz, Clos du Val, and Mondavi. He
bought a home with additional buildings on the property, and sitting
around with friends one weekend, he decided to start a winery in his
ample backyard. The rest of the story he tells in his own inimitable
words, with minor editing for added clarity.
Tulocay is an unusual name. Is it an Indian word?
Yes it is. The winery is on the Tulocay land grant. Back in the old
days, the Indians owned “Alta California,” not “northern
California.” Then the Mexicans stole the land from the Indians.
Then the Spaniards, the Conquistadors, stole it from the Mexicans. Three
hundred years later after the revolution, the Mexicans took it back.
And then after the Gold Rush, European settlers stole the land from the
Mexicans. Land was virtually worth nothing at the time. Before the Gold
Rush, you could go to the Mexican governor, who was in Sonoma, and petition
for a land grant to develop a rancho. A local guy named Don Gitano Juarez
(I always liked that name, especially the “Don.”) did that
and later gave part of his land to the City of Napa to build the cemetery
on Coombsville Road, where the winery is. It was called the Tulocay land
grant, and I always thought that Tulocay and Winery went well together,
a rather mellifluous sound, Tulocay Winery. But when you use a name like
that, you have to do some research and find out what it really means.
You want to make sure that it doesn't mean “man who has sex with
a sheep” or something like that. You might be getting a thousand
labels printed, and then someone points out the real meaning. You’d
have to stop the presses. So I went to the local library and looked up
the word. Tulocay is an old Indian word and means “fine wines at
reasonable prices,” so I decided to use it.
What were the next steps after you found a name?
I went down to the county courthouse to get permits, which was a lot
easier back then because not everybody was trying to start a winery.
It was a different world. It was 40 pounds ago. So anyway, you can imagine
the taxes, and forms, and permits that you need if you want to make an
alcoholic beverage. The federal forms were still post-Prohibition with
questions like “Have you ever stood on the running board of a 1929
Packard with a violin case in your hand, driving at high speed, trying
to cross the Oklahoma boarder?” I was like, “No.” OK,
good. That’s the right answer to that question. “You know
anyone named Frank Nitti?” I said, “No, I don’t.” It
was pretty much a shoe in at the time. You just filled out the permits
and wrote checks for very little money. When you start a winery, three
big questions are pricing the wine, the labels, and the name. If you
price it too high or too low, it won’t sell, and that’s serious.
If you price it too low, people think, “Oh, this wine is not very
good. We’re not going to buy that.” You always wonder if
it’s too expensive. $30’s too much; $20’s not enough.
And getting a label design that someone beside the label designer’s
mother likes is a tough one too. It’s a 4-inch square piece of
paper, and you think anybody could do it. How difficult can it be? But
some labels are great and some aren't. And then naming the winery is
tough too. So many wineries have very comparable names, like Stony Hill,
Rocky Hill, Stony Road Ridge. So many names meld together, and you forget
them. I should have called it the Bill Cadman Winery. Honestly, people
identify with a product named after the person who is behind it. It’s
like finding out that there’s a real Betty Crocker.
What was your vision for the winery when you started?
I think that what I wanted to do when I started the winery was (1) have
fun, and (2) I liked the idea of doing almost everything myself. My business
card says , and it’s not a joke. I enjoy having a small operation
and pursuing all sides of the wine business. I wanted to make wines with
good varietal character. These days, you find a lot of Pinot Noir that
is inky black and tastes like it’s mostly Syrah. I wanted a Pinot
Noir with flavor that you instantly identify as Pinot Noir. At the beginning,
I liked the idea of making wines that were unfined and unfiltered. One
important event in my winemaking life was visiting Joe Swan. In the early
1970s, a lot of young kids were getting into the business. Bruce Neyers,
Mike Richmond come to mind. But at the time, Joe Swan was what would
now be called a cult winemaker. I remember going over to see him with
my wife and my infant daughter at the time. Joe Swan was making wine
under his white Victorian house in Forestville over in Sonoma. He had
white overalls on, because he was a Western Airlines pilot, but everybody
thought of him as being only a winemaker. It was like going to Mecca
to see Joe Swan. He was making wines that were a leap ahead of anything
else that people were making. He was a real milestone in my winemaking
life because he was what I wanted to be, a guy who’s making ten
to 12 barrels of great wines under his house. At the time, wineries were
still making big volumes of wine, but he was hands-on. He was very enthusiastic
about French Burgundy and handcrafted wines, but back then, winemaking
was still being done, in Sonoma especially, in the big volume Sebastiani
style. You put Zinfandel in a 3,000-gallon redwood tank. You let it sit
for ten years until no fruit was left, and the wine was really brown,
and then you bottled it and called it “Reserve.”
What details have you discovered over time that have had an
important impact on your winemaking? Can you think of an example when
a light came on?
At my age more lights have gone off than have gone on. The lights are
dimming all over Cadman. She’s nodding her head. You’re talking
epiphanies, lights going on. Instead, there was a slow realization that
it’s a simple process. If you grow the right grapes in the right
place, and the weather cooperates, and you harvest at the perfect time,
the rest is simple although not easy. The two most important decisions
in a winemaker’s life are when to pick a specific vineyard, the
timing of picking the grapes, and who to choose for a divorce lawyer.
Those are the two number one things that you have to worry about. Everything
else just falls into place. I think that winemaking is about detail,
and I have an eye for detail just by nature. When I first got into the
industry, there were a lot of romantic attitudes about winemaking, which
I tend to pooh pooh. At the time, I though winemaking was about simply
crushing gapes and making wine. My conclusion though, at this time, is
that there really is a certain magic in the process if you think about
the idea that grapes are a god-given present. People didn't create wine
grapes. We selected the best quality fruit years ago, and took the grapes
that made the best wine, and cultivated them, and duplicated them, and
that’s the magical thing. I think if you get good quality fruit,
and you pay attention to detail, and keep the equipment clean, you can
make good wine. Paying attention to detail is important. “William
Cadman CFO,” which I quickly point out to people stands for Chief
Anna Maria Knapp, Owner
75 Pelican Way G1
San Rafael, CA 94901