I moved to Calistoga in 1984 to help my mother organize her affairs subsequent to my fathers death in June 1983. Within a month of my arrival my mother collapsed and died from lung cancer. Voila! I had just inherited, with my brother, a forty acre hillside former chicken hatchery. What to do?? Of course when in Napa do as Napans do and establish a winery. Only problem I knew nothing about good wine or wine making of any sort and I had not inherited the one million dollars cash needed to start even a small winery. My brother allowed me to start with out buying his share of the property, so part of the money problem solved, I would just have to do with out enough money. To solve the knowledge problem I took one course at the local college on wine making, spent many weekends at Davis Oenology Department Seminars, I bought some small wine equipment, acquired the necessary permits and purchased three tons of grapes to start.
Everything went according to plan in the beginning, I found a compatible consultant, won some medals at wine competition, Dan Berger, a wine writer, picked my 1986 Cabernet Sauvignon as the wine of the week in the Los Angeles Times, and my plan was working. Then I decided to buy out my brother, my marriage went crazy and the economy collapsed, bye bye winery. I met Colleen Moore six months before my winery was repossessed. She was so impressed that she offered me a place to stay for me and my dog Jack if I would make wine on her property in Napa. I jumped at the chance and Graeser winery moved to Vallejo Street in Napa, a much smaller operation but just right to keep an old winemaker occupied and engaged in the world.
Hands on small Batch Winemaking
I decided at the outset that I would make wine in the old fashion
European Bordeaux style, so I planted my vineyard to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The Napa Style was morphing to High Alcohol, high extraction in your face fruit bombs, even though this style was becoming dominant and popular I would follow my heart and find a niche. All of my wines are below 14% Alcohol and the grapes are picked as close to 23.5% sugar as possible.