Mahoney Vineyards: Modern Wines with a History
Francis Mahoney can claim over 36 years of experience growing and producing wines in the Carneros region.
He established Carneros Creek Winery in 1972 with his wife Kathleen and partner Balfour Gibson. With the
goal of making Burgundian-styled wines, the trio built a winery in 1973, the first new winemaking facility in
Carneros since the repeal of Prohibition. The photo below shows Francis Mahoney at the Legends of Pinot
Noir Seminar during the 2009 Pinot Days in San Francisco.
Mahoney was unique among Pinot Noir pioneers of the 1970s in that he realized besides climate and soil,
clones were an important factor in creating great Pinot Noir in California. From 1975 to 1985, Mahoney and
Curtis Alley, a professor at the University of California at Davis and a viticulture specialist, conducted
experiments on a small 1.5-acre plot planted to various clones near the Carneros Creek Winery. The Carneros
Creek Winery Clonal Trial was meant to compare clones from the University of California at Davis (so-called
“clean-stock”) with clones not sourced from the clean-stock program. Valuable data was collected on clonal
performance and many other vineyards were planted with budwood from this trial. No single clone was
considered best. Mahoney remarked, “We liked different clones like we like different children. They had their
own personalities and a little bit of this with a little bit of that makes a more interesting wine. We concluded that
we would not just plant one clone in a vineyard.” Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the study followed.
Mahoney was instrumental in founding the Carneros Quality Alliance (now the Carneros Wine Alliance), an
organization of winegrowers and wineries in Carneros. During the 1980s and 1990s, Mahoney planted the
Mahoney Ranch Vineyard surrounding his home, and Las Brisas Vineyard on Ramal Road. In 1998, he sold
his majority share in Carneros Creek Winery to investment banker Bill Hambrecht. The winery subsequently
passed through several hands and is now owned by Briarcliff Wine Group, LLC. Mahoney founded Mahoney
Vineyards and today shares the Carneros Creek Winery facility with Briarcliff. Mahoney hired Ken Foster, a
former winemaker at David Bruce Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains, to head the winemaking program at
Mahoney Vineyards. Since his hiring, the winery has made significant strides in quality, as the reviews of the
wines below testify. Mahoney has always emphasized wines of elegance, balance and true varietal character,
reflecting their Carneros heritage.
Mahoney now owns 162 acres of vineyards in Carneros, 149 acres of which are planted to multiple selections
of Pinot Noir. Mahoney supplies fruit to Carneros Creek Winery and several other producers as well as
Mahoney Vineyards. Mahoney Vineyards currently releases four Pinot Noirs: a Carneros appellation blend,
and vineyard designates from Las Brisas Vineyard, Mahoney Ranch Vineyard and Haire Ranch Vineyard.
The Mahoney Vineyard wines are available for tasting at the Oxbow Tasting Room at 708 1st St. in Napa and
may be purchased from the winery’s website store at www.mahoneyvineyards.com. The winery produces a
wide range of varietals, but is best known for Pinot Noir. A very affordable early drinking second label, Fleur de
California, is very popular and widely distributed.
2007 Mahoney Vineyards Carneros Pinot Noir
13.8% alc., pH 3.65, 1,570 cases, $22. 7 Pinot
Noir clonal selections from the Mahoney Ranch and Las Brisas Vineyards. Aged 14 months in
French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Persistent aromas of black cherries,
raspberries and Red Vines that hold up nicely over time in the glass. Well-composed and tasty, this
pleasing wine features a moderately weighted core of cherry, raspberry and currant fruits with
undertones of spice and earth. The finish is marked by intensely aromatic cherries. A solid daily
2007 Mahoney Vineyards Las Brisas Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
14.5% alc., pH 3.57, 230 cases, $32. This vineyard is named
for the winds that cool the vines. Aged 15 months in French oak
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Typical Pinot
nose with bright cherry, Herbs de Provence and oak aromas that
maintain intensity over time in the glass. Delicious black cherry fruit
flavor explodes in the mouth, with an impressive intensity and
persistence, but the wine remains delicate and charming. A hint of citrus and
oak in the background adds interest. Very good.
2007 Mahoney Vineyards Mahoney Ranch Vineyard Carneros Pinot Noir
13.7% alc., pH 3.65, 230 cases, $32.
Aged 15 months in French oak barrels.
garnet color in the glass. Complex aromatic profile featuring
notes of black cherry, allspice, MuShu plum sauce and boot
leather. Layered dark stone fruits on the palate with nuances
of earth, grilled mushrooms, cola and subtle oak. The wine
rises to the occasion and becomes better and better in the glass with swirling.
An admirable grip of acidity provides a refreshing finish. A very easy drinker that
will please any pinoriste. Still fine the next day from a previously opened and recorked
2009 Mahoney Vineyards Gavin Vineyard Carneros Chardonnay
13.8% alc., pH 3.54, 230 cases, $18. Produced only in outstanding
vintages. Barrel fermented and aged 9 months sur-lies in French oak
Light straw color in the glass. A perfectly fine Chardonnay
especially at this price. Lovely scents of citrus, white peach and vanilla
pudding. Tasty Asian pear and white peach fruit with a hint of citrus
peel. Light and subtle with a good acid spine typical of Chardonnay from
Carneros. An exemplary daily drinker.
2008 Fleur de California Central Coast Pinot Noir
13.5% alc., pH 3.67, 2,300 cases, $15.
Aged 9 months
in neutral French oak. Moderately light in color. Shy but pleasant aromas of strawberries and raspberries.
Light and smooth in the mouth, with some pretty red berry fruit that tails off quickly over time in the glass.
Minimal tannins and easy drink-ability. Decent.
2009 Fleur de California Carneros Pinot Noir
13.8% alc.,pH 3.65,
6,700 cases, $17. Aged 9 months in neutral French oak barrels.
Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Welcoming fruity aromas
of black cherries and dark red berry jam echoed on the palate. Toasty
oak adds interest in the background, supple tannins soften the wine,
and bright acidity clings to the finish which shows some aromatic fruit
persistence. One of the few under $20 California Pinot Noirs that is worth