How an Idealistic Portuguese Farmer Came to Run One of Napa's Elite Estates

Posted October 14, 2015

Giovanni Sabree


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Since my trip to Napa in August of this year, I cannot get the sexy and seductive wines of Gandona Estate off of my mind, especially the captivating 2012 Encosta red blend.

“Growing up in Portugal, I spent summers on my grandfather’s Quinta in the famed wine region of Douro. There, I made a promise to one day live life working on the land”­ - Manuel Pires of Gandona.

Never could owner and vintner Manuel Pires have imagined how his “promise” would come to shower success on everyone around him in less than ten years’ time. From the first release of the 2009 Gandona Cabernet Sauvignon to the current 2012 offering, this Pritchard Hill Estate has received phenomenal scores on their truly age­ worthy Cabernet Sauvignons.

Backstory: From Quinta Fraga do Arco to Gandona Estate

Growing up in Portugal, Pires had a different take on life and what it meant to be happy. Early in his youth, he found a genuine joy in the art of cultivation and the diversity of land. His memories of working in his grandfather’s estate, Quinta Fraga do Arco, in the Douro Valley are very close to his heart; and the valuable hands­-on experience he had as a youth, such as growing and selling grapes and olives, sparked a flame within Pires that relentlessly burned well into his adulthood. After sinking his feet into his role as President and Co-Proprietor of Morse Watchmans (one of security managements most recognizable companies), his promise came to fruition through the purchase of nine acres on top of Napa Valley’s Pritchard Hill. Three years later the first release hit the market and hit it big!

A hands-on team of innovators

While the successful purchase of land on Pritchard Hill guaranteed diverse terroir, its correct expression was paramount in the assembly of a logical yet intuitive team.

Philippe Melka’s ubiquitous resume reveals a winemaker in high demand and craftsmanship. From Bordeaux to Western Australia, Italy to the Napa Valley: names like Chateau Petrus, Dominus Estate, and many others proved invaluable in the development of this superstar. With an undeniable foot in the old world and another in the new, Pires’ addition of Melka was right on.

And finally, we must bring it back to Vineyard Manager Jim Barbour: A grape grower just like Manuel Pires who grew up growing grapes and other crops with a love of the land and its produce. This intrinsic passion lead Barbour on his successful path to becoming the ‘It’ viticulturist in Napa Valley. Estates like Von Strausser, Pride, and Grace Family exemplify his talent in the vineyard and the asset he truly is to any project – especially within his comfort zone of California.

“Time and the demands of corporate life are no longer my master but instead the persistent arrival of another growing season”, Manuel Pires.

Clearly, Pires’ calling and love of the land can be realized in his spectacular lineup of wines.  Click here to learn more about this wine.


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Product Label.

Gandona Encosta Cabernet Sauvignon

91 Robert Parker - Robert Par...

Item: 88634

750 mL

Retail: $109.99

$87.98 per btl