Just east of the city of Napa, the foothills of the Vaca Mountains soon gather to form a west-facing horseshoe – and embraced at its center is Coombsville. A young appellation (though commonly referenced by name as early as 1914), Coombsville is often described by its topographical resemblance to a “cup and saucer.” The ancient geological events by which we can account for this unique display are still enwrapped in speculation, however there is evidence of an abrupt and volatile past: volcanic eruption and collapse, uplifts and landslides, and the massive deposit of debris. These events established a niche within the Napa Valley, a quiet harbor for unique climatic and geologic character – and, resultantly, an equally compelling terroir.
If we are to understand terroir as placeness, let us then further regard our glass of wine as a reflection of those who have settled there. Their history, their ideology, their dedication. It is here at the center of Coombsville that, some one hundred and fifty years ago, the Carbone family, believed to be the earliest Italian immigrants to the Napa Valley, chose to settle. Natives of Genoa, they planted the first commercial vegetable gardens in Contra Costa and Napa counties. In 1870, they purchased 125 acres in Coombsville, which would eventually become the Antonio Carbone Wine Cellar and Italian Garden. Here the Carbones produced wine, sold before Prohibition at a rate of “3 or 4 carloads a month.” Their Italianate stone cellar and residence, constructed in 1886, continues to stand today – prepared again to be a family home and winery. It is here that Annie Favia and Andy Erickson have chosen to set up shop.
The two began Favia Wines in 2003, amidst myriad responsibilities at Napa’s most lauded wineries and vineyards. After tutelage in the cellars of John Kongsgaard and Cathy Corison, Annie dedicated nearly a dozen years to hands in hallowed soils as a viticulturist under David Abreu. Andy, meanwhile, can draw a map of the valley using his résumé as a legend. To start, his voice has echoed in the cellars of Screaming Eagle, Ovid, and Dalla Valle. Their commitment to Coombsville, however, began first with a family home more than a decade ago. In alignment with biodynamic principles, they devoted much of their first property to the production of food: fruit trees, vegetables, honey, eggs. And, finally, Annie planted an acre of dry-farmed Sauvignon Blanc – a vineyard of her own. But Favia Wines was still without a home.
The historic Carbone property, now 6.5 acres along Coombsville Road, then presented Annie and Andy the opportunity to sharpen their vision for Favia Wines with the privilege to own both a winery and home in Coombsville. Using a trove of historical documents and testimony from descendants of Antonio Carbone, they embarked on a full restoration of the original residence – and now live above their resting wine barrels. The historical documents have taken Annie and Andy into the fields, too, with comprehensive logs of the Carbone’s produce. In addition to the existing two acre walnut orchard, they have planted fruit trees, and an olive grove. But their engagement with the property extends beyond providing sustenance – and further back to before the arrival of the Carbones. The property is bisected by Witweather creek, which is all but dry by late spring. Always with water consciousness at the forefront of their decisions, the Favia-Ericksons have restored the local ecology with native plants, many of which historically provided utility to indigenous people. As relentless students, their approach to the vineyard and its surrounding lands is holistic. In service of “the whole household of nature,” they ask, how will seemingly localized decisions ultimately affect the vineyard, and further out, the appellation, and yet further, the valley and the Bay Area?
The Favia team adheres strongly to these tenets: a reverence for craft, a celebration of time and place, a commitment to self-reliance. This is not as an exercise or performance, but a time-proven ideology and a way of life. The hope is to create a legacy that carries on these principles.