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Under New Leadership, Sullivan Rutherford Estate Receives Accolades from Top Voices in Wine


(August 26, 2022; Rutherford, Calif.)—Joshua Lowell, General Manager of Sullivan Rutherford Estate, is pleased to announce that the Napa winery has been recognized by Wine & Spirits Magazine as one of the Top 100 Wineries of the world of 2022. This news comes on the heels of the recent San Francisco Chronicle article that highlighted Sullivan as one of eight “power players” who are reshaping the future of Napa Valley wine.

Each year, Wine & Spirits Magazine designates its top 100 wineries. Members of the magazine’s tasting panel, including staff, sommeliers and trusted tradespeople, tasted close to 10,000 wines from around the world to develop the list. General Manager Joshua Lowell and Winemaker Jeff Cole will attend the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting in San Francisco, CA on October 13, to pour the winery’s flagship wines—the 2019 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2019 J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot—named eponymously after the winery’s original founder and visionary, James O’Neil Sullivan. To attend, visit: https://www.wineandspiritsmagazine.com/top100tastingsf.

Founded in 1972, Sullivan Rutherford Estate came under new ownership in early 2018. Under the leadership of Managing Partner Juan Pablo Torres Padilla, who brought together a world-class executive team including General Manager Joshua Lowell, Winemaker Jeff Cole, Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf, and Estate Director Lisa Barker, the Sullivan team has gradually and deliberately initiated a series of consistent milestones to further elevate a five-decade foundation of hard work, vision and pioneering spirit in the pursuit of excellence. Together, the team endeavors to be at the forefront of innovation and quality in vineyards, and to produce memorable wines and experiences, while staying authentic to the classical winemaking traditions.

“We’re humbled by the recent recognition Sullivan has received from industry leaders such as Wine & Spirits Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle as an acknowledgment of the milestones achieved in our endeavor to create a true Merlot-based “first growth” Estate in the Napa Valley,” says Torres Padilla. “We could not achieve our goals without recognizing and building upon the work of those before us. We are building upon nearly 200 years of history on this property,” he adds. 

The heritage of Sullivan Rutherford Estate dates back nearly two centuries to 1821 when ownership of California transitioned from Spain to Mexico. At that time, the Napa Valley was divided into two parcels—Rancho Caymus to the South, and Rancho Carne Humana to the North. Sullivan’s northern property line lies right at the center of this division, which defines the historical and geographic center of Napa Valley. In 1918, French immigrant Virgile Galleron Sr. acquired just over 400 acres in Rutherford with the purpose of farming the land. In 1952, the role of Virgil Galleron Jr.—who became the president of the historical Napa Valley Co-operative winery for 30 years— was instrumental in reaching an agreement with Gallo winery that would become one of the cornerstones of modern Napa. Nearly 20 years later, James O’Neil Sullivan founded the estate in 1972, and in 1978, he acquired the 26-acre Rutherford property from the Galleron family. Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines were first planted per the encouragement of legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff, a friend of J.O. Sullivan.

Since acquiring the Sullivan property in 2018, the team has taken a holistic approach to build upon the foundation of the Rutherford-based Estate. With the guidance of Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf, in early 2019 they purchased a 12-acre parcel of land in the Soda Canyon area, located in the eastern foothills of the Napa Valley between the Stags Leap District and Coombsville. This land was developed the following year with an emphasis on planting Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In September 2021, the team also acquired the renowned Criscione Vineyard in St. Helena AVA, located at the base of Howell Mountain in a small valley influenced by the cooling breezes from the Bell Canyon Reservoir, which has a history of producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon. The Criscione property is 18 acres with roughly half under vine. The winery’s trajectory was recently referenced in the Wall Street Journal through the Dow Jones Media Group luxury magazine Barron’s Penta, highlighting the Estate’s 50-year history and future plans for a broader, more extensive identity.

In the near future, Sullivan plans to break ground on a state-of-the-art winery and hospitality facility, designed by renowned architect Hans Baldauf of BCV Architecture + Interiors and currently being further refined and developed by seasoned architect Orla Huq of Orla Studios. Upon completion within the next three years, the Estate’s name will officially transition to PA Vinea, an extended identity that represents the culmination of the vision and innovation of pioneers that have shaped Rutherford’s history over the past two centuries. The flagship J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings will continue to represent the core wines produced at the property, connecting the vision for the present and the future with the estate’s history.

As quoted in Abby Schultz’ Barron’s Penta article, Torres Padilla states,“[We’re] really aiming at building a Napa Valley first growth based on 200 years of history.” 

For more information about Sullivan Rutherford Estate, please visit: www.sullivanwine.com.

About Sullivan Rutherford Estate

Situated in the heart of Napa Valley, Sullivan Rutherford Estate has been Rutherford’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot hideaway for five decades. Founded in 1972, during the apex of the boutique winery movement, by James O’Neil Sullivan, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines were first planted on the 26-acre estate in 1978, per the encouragement of Rutherford’s legendary winemaker, André Tchelistcheff. In 2018 Juan Pablo Torres Padilla led a family partnership to purchase Sullivan Rutherford Estate, and quietly assembled a world-class team of exceptional individuals in the wine industry, including General Manager Joshua Lowell, Estate Director Lisa Barker and Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf. Winemaker Jeff Cole, who joined Sullivan in 2013, is dedicated to crafting world-class wines that reflect a traditional style and a mastery of today’s finest winemaking techniques. Sullivan produces a J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve tier offering, produced from the top percentage of vineyard blocks on the estate. This includes the J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Merlot ($280) and the J.O. Sullivan Founder’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($280). Additional offerings include an Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($130), Coeur de Vigne ($120), Merlot ($85), Estate Chardonnay ($65) and Rosé ($45). Located at 1090 Galleron Road, Sullivan Rutherford Estate is open for visits daily by appointment. Reservations or requests for private appointments can be made by calling the winery at (707) 963-9646, emailing [email protected], or on Tock.

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