Our story begins nearly sixty-four years ago outside of South Boston Virginia as twelve-year-old Ken Laird drove his mule wagon through tight rows of sticky, fit-to-be-harvested tobacco leaves. As the gooey bundles were thrown up onto the wagon, little Ken led his mule team to the curing barn. It was there, with his grandmother, great uncles and cousins, they would stoke smoky curing fires for their prized tobacco. Ken would be the third generation Laird to carry on the farming tradition.
While growing up to be a big city mechanical engineer in New York City, Ken held on to family tradition by buying his first Napa Valley parcel in 1970. This neglected piece of land, adjacent to Tubbs Lane in Calistoga, held 70 acres of worn-down prune trees. With Prohibition forty years gone and Napa Valley positioned to re-emerge as viticulturally significant, Ken decided to develop the orchard into a grape vineyard. While knowing just short of nothing about viticulture, Ken was also $150,000.00 short to properly develop the orchard into a respectable vineyard. Picking up a tattered phone book, Ken went to the yellow pages and found eight listed wineries…Robert Mondavi being the only one he recognized.
With a phone call, Robert Mondavi himself agreed to walk the property. After the two men discussed soils, vines, yields, irrigation, and proper pruning, Robert agreed to finance a deal with Ken if he would plant 50% Gamay. The deal was struck with a resulting vineyard of 50% Gamay and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr. Mondavi guaranteeing Ken’s Cabernet “to be the highest harvest price paid in the Valley.” The support and encouragement of Robert Mondavi would allow Ken to return to his passion: his family farming heritage.
And the rest is history.