Napa Valley’s Favia Makes a Play for the Future

Favia's Andy Erickson and Annie Favia are partnering with the Huneeus family to set up shop in Napa's prestigious Oakville AVA

Napa Valley’s Favia Makes a Play for the Future
Winemaker Andy Erickson and his wife, Annie Favia, plan to build a new winery. (Leigh Ann Beverly)
Jan 10, 2023

When I got a text from winemaker and Favia co-owner Andy Erickson at 6 a.m., telling me he had some big news he wanted to share, I half-joked, “Are you the latest addition to the LVMH portfolio?”

There’s a recent trend in Napa Valley that’s seen some noteworthy family-owned wine labels, new and old, purchased by larger corporate entities. From Diamond Creek to Shafer Vineyards, Joseph Phelps and more, Napa Valley is drawing lots of outside investment, and the face of the valley is changing.

A boutique (2,000-case) label with the star power of Erickson and his wife, viticulturist Annie Favia, would seem like an obvious target in the ongoing game of Who’s Next to Sell? (I even talked about that with him in the premiere episode of Wine Spectator’s free Straight Talk podcast.)

But Erickson laughed it off. “Nope. Even better than that,” he said. “Favia is getting a new home.”

That home is a prime 86-acre parcel in the Oakville AVA, located on the north side of the Oakville Crossroad and situated between Opus One and Groth. The property, formerly owned by Clark Swanson, was purchased by the Huneeus family of Quintessa in 2018.

In a partial-ownership deal with the Huneeus family, with whom they are longtime friends, Erickson and Favia will move their Favia operation out of the 1,500-square-foot basement of their Coombsville home to a yet-to-be built winery on the property. They’ll also manage the newly planted vineyard, which will form the base of their production going forward. (But the couple will keep their current grape contracts.)

 Favia's new home in Napa's Oakville AVA is still being replanted.
Favia's new home in Napa's Oakville AVA is still being replanted. (Matt Morris)

‘”The move allows us to not only expand on what we’ve started with Favia but also ensure it continues after us,” says Erickson. “When we talked with Agustin Huneeus Sr. about it, he talked in terms of generations. And that makes us feel comfortable.”

Annually, Favia makes about 2,000 cases of wine representing four bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon– and Cabernet Franc–based blends from both the Oakville and Coombsville AVAs. While growing the Favia label is an inevitability as the new vineyard comes online, the couple stresses that they will be moving slowly.

“It’s more about setting up Favia to be a true estate for the future,” says Favia. “We’ll grow the label, but only as long as we can maintain or improve on the quality we have now.”

The couple suddenly has a lengthy to-do list. Though the property had vines during the Swanson ownership, the Huneeus family pulled everything out, and have only partly replanted it after allowing it to lie fallow, a rarity in Napa Valley, where vineyards are typically replanted immediately after being pulled up. About 40 of the estate’s 68 plantable acres have now been replanted.

“It’s pretty much a blank slate,” says Favia, pointing out the numerous rows within the vineyard that will be planted to wildflowers and trees for biodiversity. The property is being farmed organically and Favia will also employ biodynamic and regenerative farming practices, all of which dovetails with the Huneeus approach (their Quintessa and Faust properties are both farmed biodynamically).

“The winery will also be solar-powered. The tractors will be the new Monarch electric tractors. We’re also going back to the old ‘California sprawl’ approach, with wider row spacing to maximize shade between the rows, while also tilting the row orientation to balance the morning and afternoon sun,” says Favia, ticking off a number of viticultural techniques either returning to fashion or newly trending in the valley as grapegrowers attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“I love that with this project there are now more questions to answer. ‘What are we not seeing?’ is one of the questions that I love to ask myself every day,” Favia continues. “That and so much more is going to make this next chapter for Favia so much fun.”

The first fruit off the vineyard will come this year and will go to experimental vinifications while they get a handle on the property. A new winery could be in place as sson as harvest 2025, though the couple are focused on getting the vineyard up to speed first.

Erickson and Favia are one of the valley’s highest-profile winemaking/farming teams. As their own project hits its 20th anniversary, it would be easy for them to sit back and field buy-out offers, of which there would no doubt be many.

Instead, they’ve decided to take a bigger bite and build on their approach. To be able to base their estate on such a prime valley floor property is an opportunity very few will ever get. The couple is embracing the chance to use such a prominent property as a roadmap for not just their, but the valley’s future.

“I look at it as an opportunity to shake up what we do in the valley,” says Favia. “To farm with intention and see how alive we can make this place.”

“Why change or take on something new when what you have is already good?” asks Erickson rhetorically. “Up until a few months ago, we never thought of selling or doing anything like this. But now we realize we can wake up every day and look at something with fresh eyes, while building on what we’ve done for 20 years. It’s super exciting.”

Follow James Molesworth on Instagram at @jmolesworth1, and on Twitter at @jmolesworth1.

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